SURVIVOR OF THE ARGOED HALL COLLIERY DISASTER OF 1837
Ken E. Hughes.
Henry Hughes was my great-great-grandfather and he was one of the very fortunate children who survived the disasterous flooding of the Argoed Hall Colliery in May 1837. He had been born on Christmas Day 1825 in Mynydd Isa – a very small hamlet in Argoed township, Mold parish – and within a stone’s throw of the coalmine. With a family of six children to feed his parents, Robert and Martha Hughes, found it necessary to send the young Henry to earn his keep down the Argoed Pit at the tender age of 9 years.
We know nothing of his formative years apart from the fact that he got trapped underground with the early morning shift on 10 May 1837, miraculously surviving death when stronger and more experienced workers were not so fortunate. Whether he returned to work at the pit is unrecorded. I rather suspect that he did, because, an entry in his journal that has survived the ravages of time tells us that, at the time, ‘I had no fear of Death and in fact an idea of it never Enterd my mind.’ This was probably true as one witness relates how completely oblivious the children were to the seriousness of the situation. Other snippets of positive information tell us that he ‘Had made a narrow a Escape For my Life.’ Indeed, the fact that he left the area for the Staffordshire coalfield of England in 1842 seems to corroborate this. After five years in the Potteries he moved to the north-east, to the Grange Colliery at Wingate, County Durham. There aged twenty-four, he met and married Ann Howell on 24 November 1850. She may well have been of Welsh extraction, (Howell being an Anglicised form of the Welsh masculine name Hywel ) . With their eyes upon a better life the young family, now with a son called Henry (born 14 June 1852), set sail from the port o f Liverpool for the United States of America in the passenger ship Falcon on 28 March 1853. They settled in the State of Utah. Henry senior paid a return visit to Wales in 1873 and sought out the home and haunts he left when fifteen years old.
TRANSCRIPTION OF THE JOURNAL OF HENRY HUGHES
Reproduced as written in Henry’s Journal
Henry Hughes . June 15th 1862
I H Hughes the son of Robert Hughes and Martha Reed Born in Flint Shire Near Mould North Wales December 25th (1825) and lived at Mold until I was 15 year old and worked in the Coal mine when I was 9 year old and did not see Day Lite only on Saturday and Sunday in the Winter cisin-1 Fellt thankful! to the Lord for mv mountain Home Wher I can Bring my Farnely up with out Sending t/iam to the Coal Files For I Hade money narow a Escaspe For my Life on wich. I Repurt to Hear wich take Pleas in – 1837- on the 9 day of May at the Argoyd Collirey about I mils Distant from mould on the 9 Day of may in that year thirty two Souls man and Boys including my Salf Descended the Shaft which was Seventy yardes Deep to work there was an old Deserted Pit Close to the one where we worked Sixty five years before Had Suddenley filled with, water Some of the men had been wernd not to work too near to tiie old Pit for fear the water would Breake through and flood the one whare we were working at about eight a Clock on the morning of the above Date the man and Boys was called out as the water had began to Brake through from the old Pit and Was Coming in on us when However we got to the Shaft to be Hoistoud up a man named John Owens Told us to go Back as there was no danger So we Returned and Resumed work in two Hours afterwardes the water Rushed in in Such quantity and force that Seven of our number were Drownded and the Rest of us with the Exception of too Rushad to a position in the Highiasl part of what is Cat lad the air course Twanty two of us all Huddled together without any way of Escape with no air to Breatlw and nothing to Eat Dalh Seemad to Stare us in the face in a Short time our Lights went out for want of Are and to add to the Horrors of the Situation we ware Lafl in Totaldarknnass Never Shall I forget the fearful picture of Human Despair which was presented by a young man named William Hatiute whan he Realiced His awful Situation he utterad Shriekes of agony he callad over the names of His young Wife and his Little children and Plunge His hands into His hair and tore it from his
Hade in Handfulls Some Sat Silani and. gloomy Speaking not a word Apparently awaiting the visit of the grim monster death Others wept and I noticed two men nomad Respectively Thomas Jones and William Williams they went of a few Feel aside from the others and Prayd these two Last died in a few Hours Afterwards to add to the Horror of our position the mud was Six incltis Deep where we were Among our number was a young man named John Jones wo liad always manifested great interest and affection for me this affection Remained with Him till Death as will be seen by the Following incident in order to Keep me out of the mud he Took me in his arms and Laid me across his Lap in this position I want to Sleep and whan I awoke my Dear Friend was Dead the Breathing of the gas which Hcul gathered in die place where we were imprisoned caused a Kind of Stupor to come over us aiul it was well that it was So else we might Have been Tempted to Drink Some of the Sulphuric water with which the pit was flooded which, would Have proved cartain Death, as it was our minds were so Derangad that Although Suffering with Burning thirst we did not Know Enough to go and Drink it. we remained in this Terrible condition for three Days and two nights. During which lime twelve of our Number Dide A portion of the Time I Lay on four Dead Bodies, the people out side meanwhile Had Not been idle, they Had been Doing all in thirpower to rescue us by Emptying the pit of water as fast as possible. On the Tlierd Day Relife Arrived the first person who came to us was my Brother John Hughes, who was then a young man. the first man he Reachad was John Candrick and the first word he said to Him were is Henry Alive Candrick Answered He was a Short Time Since. My Brother John Continued to Crawl over bodies of my fellow work man shaking thorn as he want to see whether tliey were alive till he got to myself lie He Shooke me and called me by name and I answered by making a mournful wailing noise he Took me in his Arms and as the water was onley about afoot from lite Roof he got on his back and paddled Himsalf along Hoilding me above the water till we got to the Shaft those of us who were a Live were Taken up a Short Distance at a time if we had been Teking up loo Sudnley into fresh air it might Have caused instant Death After we were taken up we were carefully nursed and fad Sparingly until our Strength Returnad I was amongst the first to Recover the incidant caused grate Excitement all ovear that part of the Cuntrey there was a great fair being Held at Mold on the 12th of May when we were being taking out of the pit and all the people Laft the Fair so that it was completely Deserted and com to See us and when we reachad the Top if the Shaft the Assemble^ Crowds rent the air with Defening cheers and many of the peopley wept for Joy Two man wor were in a Nollier part of the pit were found Dead 11 Days after we were Taken out During all the Time I was imprisoned in the Pit I had no fear of Death and in fact an idea of it never Enterd my mind
Henry Hughes 15 June 1862
I, H Hughes, the son of Robert Hughes and Martha Read. Born near Mold. Flintshire, North Wales, 25 December [ 1825| and lived at Mold until I was 15 years old and worked in the coalmine when I was 9 years old, and did not see daylight only on Saturday and Sunday in the winter season. I felt thankful to the Lord for my mountain home, where I can bring my family up without sending them to the coal pits, for I had many a narrow escape for my life which I report to here. Which lakes place in -1837- on the 9th day of May at the Argoed Colliery, about 1 mile’s distance from Mold. On the 9th of May in that year thirty-two souls, men and boys, including myself, descended the shaft, which was seventy yards deep, to work. There was an old deserted pit close to the one where we worked, which, sixty-five years before, had suddenly filled with water. Some of the men had been warned not to work too near to the old pit for fear the water would break through and flood the one where we were working. At about eight o’clock, on the morning of the above date, the men and boys were called out as the water had begun to break through from the old pit and was coming in on us. When, however, we got to the shaft to be hoisted up, a man named John Owens told us to go back as there was no danger. So we returned and resumed work. 1n two hours, afterwards, the water rushed in , in such quantity and force that seven of our number were drowned, and the rest of us, with the exception of two, rushed to a position in the highest part of what is called, the air course. Twenty-two of us all huddled together without any way of escape, with no air to breathe and nothing to eat. Death seemed to stare us in the face. In a short time our lights went out for want of air, and to add to the horrors of the situation, we were left in total darkness. Never shall I forget the fearful picture of human despair which was presented by a young man named William Flewitt. When he realized his awful situation. He uttered shrieks of agony. He called over the names of his young wife and his little children and plunged his hands into his hair and tore it from his head in handfuls. Some sat silent and gloomy, speaking not a word, apparently awaiting the visit of the grim monster, death. Others wept and I noticed two men, named respectively, Thomas Jones and William Williams. They went off a few feet, aside from the others, and prayed.
These last two died in a few hours afterwards. To add to the horror of our position, the mud was six inches deep where we were. Among our number was a young man named John Jones who had always manifested great interest and affection for me. This affection remained with him till death, as will be seen by the following incident. In order to keep me out of the mud he took me in his arms and laid me across his lap. In this position I went to sleep, and when I awoke, my dear friend was dead. The breathing of the gas, which had gathered in the place where we were imprisoned, caused a kind of stupor to come over us. And it was well that it was so, else we might have been tempted to drink some of the sulphuric water, with which the pit was flooded, which would have proved certain death. As it was, our minds were so deranged, that although stiffening with burning thirst, we did not know enough to go to drink it.
We remained in this terrible condition for three days and two nights. During which time, twelve of our number died. A portion of the time I lay on four dead bodies. The people outside, meanwhile, had not been idle. They had been doing all in their power to rescue us by emptying the pit of water as fast as possible. On the third day relief arrived.
The first person who came to us was my brother, John Hughes, who was then a young man. The first man he reached was John Kendnck, and the first words he said to him were, “Is Henry alive?” Kendrick answered, “He was a short time since.” My brother John continued to crawl over bodies of my fellow workmen, shaking them as he went, to see whether they were alive, until he got to myself. He shook me and called me by name and I answered by making a mournful wailing noise. He took me in his arms and as the water was only about a foot from the roof, he got on his back and paddled himself along, holding me above the water, till we got to the shaft. Those of us who were alive, were taken up a short distance at a time. If we had been taken up too suddenly, into fresh air, it might have caused instant death. After we were taken up, we were carefully nursed and fed sparingly, until our strength returned. I was among the first to recover. The incident caused much excitement all over that part of the country. There was a great Fair being held at Mold on the 12th of May, when we were being taken out of the pit. And all the people left the fair, so that it was completely deserted, and came to see us. And when we reached the top of the shaft the assembled crowds rent the air with deafening cheers, and many of the people wept for joy. Two men who were in another part of the pit were found dead, 11 days after we were taken out. During all the time I was imprisoned in the pit I had no fear of death. And in fact, an idea of it never entered my mind
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