March 23, 1880: A Fatal Accident at Gabel's Mine Takes the Life of John Ayres


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

March 23, 1880: There has been a fatal accident at Gabel’s Mine. The mines in the Boyertown area featured vertical shafts, reaching a depth of as much as 900 feet. The miners were transported in a crude elevator, like a large bucket, which was also used to move the iron ore.

At the close of their shift tonight, five men, John Quick, Peter German, Benneville Schoch, Horatio Skean, and John Ayres got into the bucket from one of the middle depths of the mine and signaled to the engineer to lift them to the surface. The engineer received the proper signal; but when he started the engine, the bucket in which they were riding suddenly plummeted straight down the shaft and into the water at the bottom, which was about nine feet deep.

Four of them were saved but one, John Ayres, was drowned. An inquest was held, and the survivors testified that after the bucket plummeted to the bottom, three of them managed to remain in it, and the engineer was able to raise them to safely.

The bucket was then lowered down to the water level with rescuers who were able to drag Skean into the apparatus, but Ayres, who had been desperately clinging to Skean, had disappeared under the water and was lost. The 34-year-old Ayres, a native of Cornwall, England, leaves a widow and young child.

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