by Michael Roman, Greek Catholic Union Honorary Editor and Knight of St. Gregory the Great
The Funeral of St Nicholas and the Saving of the Miners
Icon in St. Nicholas Chapel, Beaver, Pennsylvania Image: Greek catholic Union
Used by permission
The lives of many Greek Catholic Union members, living in Van Meter and Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania, were spared because they attended religious services on the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas instead of going to work.
They were employed by the Darr mines and were requested to work on December 19, 1907 (when the Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated according to the Julian Calendar). And despite the fact that work had been slack, they refused and attended the Liturgy that day instead.
That very day a huge mine explosion occured, snuffing out the lives of approximately 200 men. Spared were the Greek Catholic Union members and others who decided instead to attend the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Saint Nicholas.
The following account appeared in the area newspaper:
JACOBS CREEK, PA, December 19—Religious fervor is due to sweep through the Youghiogheny Valley as never before as a consequence of the Darr disaster. Today was a holiday of the Greek Catholic Church, and as such it was observed by many of the men who usually work in the Darr mines. Usually about 400 men toil within the mine. On account of the religious holiday—it was the Feast of St. Nicholas—this number was nearly cut in half, and these, almost two hundred men, who were saved by religious devotion, will certainly be more devout than ever, after the extent of the mine's horror is fully realized.
A marker erected at the entrance to Olive Branch Cemetery in Rostraver Township gives an account of horrific occurrences in local coal mines:
On Dec. 19, 1907, an explosion killed 239 men and boys, many Hungarian immigrants, in Darr coal mine near Van Meter. Some were from the closed Naomi mine, near Fayette City, which exploded on Dec. 1, killing 34. Over 3,000 miners died in December 1907, the worst month in U.S. coal mining history. In Olive Branch Cemetery, 71 Darr miners, 49 unknown, are buried in a common grave.
More information about the Darr Mine Disaster
Earlier the same year, 1907, on December 6th St. Nicholas Day, the worst US mine disaster ever, took place in Monongah, West Virginia. Sixty to one hundred miners were spared as they observed the feast day, not reporting to the mine.
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From Saint Nicholas of Myra: More Blessed to Give than to Receive by Michael Roman, copyright © 1996 Greek Catholic Union of the USA. Used by permission.