The Final Letters and Sermon

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Elmer Miller survived, but not all were so lucky. Manus Duggan, a nipper, and J.D. Moore, a shift boss, saved the lives of thirty-one men, by instructing them to build bulkheads made of lagging timber, canvas pipe and their own clothes. Without the bulkheads, gases from the fire would have killed them all. Manus Duggan saved the lives of twenty-five men, but he lost his own. J.D. Moore saved the lives of six men, and he too lost his life. When their bodies were recovered, letters written to their wives were found by their sides. Given the conditions, a man writing to his wife must have known something was terribly wrong. Listen and learn what it is to know death may be near.

Manus Duggan, the beginning

"Sunday morning, 8:45. Have been here since 12 o'clock Friday night. No gas coming through the bulkhead. Have plenty of water. All in good spirits."

Duggan realizes he's nearing the end

"I realize that all the oxygen has just been consumed. Everybody is breathing heavily. If death comes it will be caused by all oxygen used from the air in the chamber.

"By the time all the men were rounded together Friday night we were all caught in a trap. I suggested we must build a bulkhead. The gas was everywhere. We built a bulkhead and then a second for safety. We could hear rock falling and supposed it to be the rock in the 2400 skip chute. We have rapped on the air pipe continuously since 4 o'clock Saturday morning. No answer. Must be some fire. I realize the hard work ahead of the rescue men. Have not confided my fears to anyone, but welcome death with open arms, as it is the last act we all must pass through, and as it is but natural, it is God's will. We should have no objection. -Duggan."

Duggan reads his will

"To My Dear Wife and Mother: It takes my heart to be taken from you so suddenly and unexpectedly, but think not of me, for if death comes, it will be in a sleep without suffering. I ask forgiveness for any suffering or pain I have ever caused. Madge, dear, the place is for you and the child. -Manus"

J.D. Moore's first letter to his wife

"Dear Pet—This may be the last message you will get from me. The gas broke about 11:15. I tried to get all the men out, but the smoke was too strong. I got some of the boys with me in a drift and put in a bulkhead. If anything happens to me, you had better sell the house and go to California and live. You will know your Jim died like a man and his last thought was for his wife that I love better than anyone on earth. We will meet again. Tell mother and the boys goodbye. With love to my pet may God take care of you. Your loving Jim, James D. Moore."

Moore's second letter to his wife

"Dear Pet: Well, we are all waiting for the end. I guess it won't be long. We take turns rapping on the pipe, so if the rescue crew is around the will hear us. Well, my dear little wife, try not to worry. I know you will, but trust in God, everything will come out all right. There is a young fellow here, Clarence Marthey. He has a wife and two kiddies. Tell her we done the best we could, but the cards were against us. Goodbye little loving wife. It is now 5:10."

Moore knowing the end is near

"Seven o'clock, all alive, but air getting bad. One small piece of candle left. Nine o'clock, in the dark, all is lost."

Manus Duggan and J.D. Moore lost their lives. When men die, loved ones are left behind. The North Butte Mining Company compensated some wives with $4,000 payable in installments of $10 per week for 400 weeks. The city of Butte, always known for its tough demeanor and caring heart, came to the aid of families who lost their loved ones. Historic Columbia Gardens closed and the Finlen Hotel stopped the music from its cabaret. Stores stayed open twenty-four hours a day to accommodate families preparing for funerals and some even donated their profits for a day. Sympathy also came from across Montana and from around the country. Missoula sent flowers to the bereaved families and the United Mine Workers Union donated $2,000 to help stricken families.

"With help, the people of Butte started their lives over. An excerpt from the sermon given by Rev. Lawrence A Wilson of the People's Church on June 10, 1917 best explains the attitude of survivors."

"Where is god? Here is the great-hearted city of Butte, athrob with sympathy and tenderness. Here is the spirit which rises universally in acclaim of every act of heroism. Do you not see God here? Wherever you find a self-sacrificing spirit, such as is universal in Butte today, there you see God."