January 22, 2023 - Yesterday marked the 64th anniversary of the Knox Mine Disaster when the Susquehanna River broke through flooding the mine essentially ending the mining industry in Greater Pittston.
Much has been written and said as well as plenty of documentaries over the years, the latest by Wyoming natives, brothers David and Albert Brocca in 2019.
The mining catastrophe took place approximately 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 22, 1959, when miners excavating anthracite coal came dangerously close to the bed of icy Susquehanna River near the coastline of the Port Griffith section of Pittston.
From this file photo from 2018, Bob Wolensky, author of two books on the Knox Mine Disaster, points out the deceased listed on the monument that died on Jan. 22, 1959. The disaster essentailly ended deep coal mining in the Wyoming Valley.
Photo: Tony Callaio, For Sunday Dispatch
The river broke through causing an estimated 10 billion gallons of water rushed into miles of mine shafts and veins thus ending mining in Wyoming Valley forever.
Of the 81 miners below, 69 escaped and 12 men never made it out being entombed to this day.
As water inundated the mines, a chain reaction occurred submerging joining shafts all over the valley. More than 5,000 miners lost their jobs causing widespread financial stress in the area.
This photo, courtesy of the City of Pittston shows the gigantic whirlpool at the Susquehanna River at Jenkins Township on Jan. 22, 1959 when the river broke through into the Knox Mine.
One Knox Mine expert and the last survivor from the disaster, the late Bill Hastie, passed away in 2020 at the age of 101, played an important roll in rescuing miners who were trying to climb their way out of the 50-foot vertical Eagle airshaft.
Robert P. Wolensky, co-author of Voices of the Knox Mine Disaster, saw his book come to life on screen with the Brocca project.
In a Sunday Dispatch and Times Leader interview, Wolensky said, “The Knox Disaster is not just a mining disaster, it’s become a symbol, a bigger than life indicator of not just the end of the mining industry in the Wyoming Valley, but the causes of it that had to do with illegal mining, corruption, up and down the scale from management down to the ordinary mine worker.”
Each year, a brief ceremony marking the date is conducted at the monument at Main Street, Jenkins Township, in front of Baloga Funeral Home.