Explosion brings sting of death to 3 families
by Polla Drummond Horn
For the FROSTBURG EXPRESS
LOAR, SMITH, & DODDS
Where, O, death, is your victory?
Where, O, death is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:5
The sting of death was felt by three local families on Saturday, August 1, 1948 at Waynesburg Mine at Knapp’s Meadow. Eleven year old George Loar, now a retired minister, had gone groundhog hunting with his grandfather that morning. Seven year old Bruce Smith was doing what most boys do on a summer Saturday morning. Twelve year old Polly (Dodds) Cave was playing with her two year old sister. It was just a routine summer day until an explosion ripped through the mine at 9:15 AM. Soon the peace and quiet of the whole Georges Creek Valley was shattered by the wail of sirens and flashing red lights. Fire trucks and ambulances rushed up and down the “Creek” to aid in the rescue of George Loar, 38; Bernard “Barney” Smith, 46; and Robert Dodds, 42. The three men, all mine bosses, had gone into the mine early to rock dust the mine workings to make it safe for their fellow miners. Rock dusting is a safety measure used to prevent coal dust explosions. The blast was so powerful that it threw Nelson Thrasher, working outside the mine, high into the air. He survived, but houses shook and windows rattled for miles around the mine. The blasted area, 2,000 ft. inside the mine, showed very little damage. No rocks fell and no wires were broken, but a trap door 40 ft. from the entrance was blown off. Bill Rankin, John Smith, Russell Keister, William Moffitte, and George Truly, all mine employees, began retrieval operations immediately while waiting for rescue teams.
The first body to be found, 300 yards inside the mine, was that of Bernard Smith, who was in a crawling position with his miner’s lamp still burning. George Loar was discovered 100 feet away, also in a crawling position. Robert Dodds was found at the head of the mine. What started out as a routine day turned into one of the most devastating mining disasters in the Georges Creek Valley.
In a recent note from Polly (Dodds) Cave, she tells of her two- year old sister standing by the window for three months, waiting for her daddy to come home. She also writes: “God bless you for all you are doing to remember our Lost Miners.”
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the crossroads of state Route 36 and the National Road in Frostburg. A bronze statue will honor all of our George’s Creek Valley Miners, and name those who perished while mining. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to
The Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765 Frostburg, MD 21532.
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