Coal Mine Explosion Rocks Chatham County

An image of the Coal Glen disaster’s aftermath from the UNC Photographic ArchivesOn May 27, 1925, the Carolina Coal Company experienced a massive explosion at Coal Glen in Chatham County. That morning, an eyewitness recounted that the first boom of the explosion split the air and smoke began to fill the sky and women began to scream. People knew immediately what had occurred and rescue efforts began very quickly. By nightfall, 5,000 people waited silently at the mouth of the mine for word of survivors.

Almost as quickly the explosion became headline news across the country. While some of the miners were from communities in other states, just about everyone in the small village of Farmville knew someone who died. Fifty-three victims died in the worst mining disaster in North Carolina history. It took five days to remove the bodies from the mine.

The Carolina Coal Company was established in 1921 near the Chatham County village of Farmville. It was about two miles east of another operation known as Cumnock Mine. In a News and Observer article written shortly after the explosion, the event was erroneously called the Cumnock Mine Disaster. The 1925 disaster is still often referred to by that name, but it is more accurately called the Coal Glen explosion.

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