Letcher County museum sets up memorial for mine disaster anniversary

Mine disaster remembered
Mine disaster remembered(WYMT)
Published: Mar. 11, 2023 at 3:45 PM EST
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JENKINS, Ky. (WYMT) - This month marks the 47th anniversary of the Scotia Mine Disaster, where two separate explosions killed 24 people.

While 47 years have passed, images and memories still carry pain from the mining tragedy.

“When you’re in the coal fields, and you live here long, even though you don’t work in the mines, you know a lot of these people, and it’s just, it’s a tragedy in not only Scotia but all of the area,” Letcher County historian Charles Dixon said.

The David A. Zegeer Coal-Railroad Museum set up a memorial to remember those who died.

Museum Curator Kathy Hughes collected documents and pictures.

“I thought this is something we need to do. To my knowledge, there’s never been any commemorating of the Scotia mine supply since our museum opened,” Kathy Hughes said.

Some eyewitnesses from the 1976 disaster still vividly remember details from the tragedy.

“I was there at both of them. The first one, I went underground and stayed six and a half hours. The second one, I didn’t go underground, but I was there. We were supposed to go underground as the next team,” Leonard Fleming, who was part of one of the rescue squads, said.

Emotions are still felt almost half-a-century later.

“I remember sitting out there when that team went down there, the last team that had to go in, and nobody was speaking. I mean, it was just a hushed environment, and there was probably 40, 50 people there. Nobody was talking because they were worried that it might explode again or what was gonna happen,” Leonard Fleming said.

The documents and images show pain from 1976, but the museum’s goal was for each person to be impacted by important history.