During the month of November, the Fairmont State University School of Fine Arts and the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folk Life Center will be commemorating the 50thanniversary of the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster. This event had a devastating effect on Marion County and the surrounding area, but it also brought about changes in mine safety.
Ten years ago, Dr. Francene Kirk served as the mentor to three students, Celi Oliveto, Samantha Huffman, and Jason Young, as part of an undergraduate research project. Together, they interviewed people who remembered the Farmington Mine Disaster and conducted additional research. With the help of Steve McElroy, a local playwright and graduate of the theatre program, the show was created. It was performed in Fairmont State’s Wallman Hall and the Culture Center in Charleston, WV.
Ten years after its debut, the play, “Remembering No. 9: Stories from the Farmington Mine Disaster” will be performed in the North Marion High School auditorium on Friday, November 16, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 17that 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, November 6 at 7:00 p.m., at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on the campus of Fairmont State University, the cast will be reading selected scenes from “Remembering No. 9.” The readings will be accompanied by a panel discussion about the writing of the play.
On Wednesday, November 7, Bob Campione, a local photographer, will talk about the images he took during the Farmington Mine Disaster while free-lancing for the Fairmont Times. Campione’s talk will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center. An exhibition of Mr. Campione’s photographs will run in November, December, and January in the Folklife Center.
Also, on Tuesday, November 13, Reverend Richard Bowyer will be presenting “The Farmington Mine Disaster 50 Years Later.” Bowyer was sent to Farmington by the Fairmont Clinic, a partner of the UMWA. Bowyer tended to victims of the disaster. He will be discussing what he saw in the town of Farmington during and after the terrible event. Rev. Bowyer’s presentation is supported by the West Virginia Humanities Council.
All of these events are free and open to the public.
In the town of Farmington, WV, an explosion in Consolidated Coal’s No. 9 mine occurred on Wednesday, November 20, 1968. Seventy-eight miners were killed of the 99 that were working that day. Twenty-one men were rescued from the mine. Due to the vigorous spread of the fire, the mine was sealed off ten days after the explosion. This disaster led to the creation of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. By 1978, 59 bodies of the 78 men left in the mine were recovered.