November 9, 1914; Six men trapped in Sibley Mine near Ely

On this day on the Mesabi Iron Range near Ely, six miners were trapped when timbers of the Sibley underground mine gave way and the tunnel collapsed. The miners included Gideon Oinonnen, Fred Antonsinch, Frank Antonsinch, George Floridan, John Homer, and Joe Scufska. Two men, brothers Joseph and John Liebe, managed to escape but Joseph was injured so badly he was not expected to survive. A team of thirty rescue workers dug frantically to get to those under ground while “weeping wives and children lingered about the entrance to the shaft.” The shaft was 750 feet deep, and the miners were thought to be about 150 feet down. Six crews worked around the clock to reach their fallen comrades. Meanwhile the Humane Society stepped in to take care of Oinonnen’s seven children, who they had found in a state of “abject poverty”—their mother had previously been committed to an asylum in Fergus Falls. By the 13th, rescue workers estimated they were still six days from finding the bodies. After five days of digging, they finally reached the entombed miners—and discovered that Joe Scufska had survived. He had been standing between two timbers when the cave-in occurred, and this piece of luck likely saved his life. His legs, however, were pinned between two timbers and had to be amputated to save him.

Sibley Mine, date unknown. (Image: Public Domain)