Eighty-six years after Ohio’s worst mining disaster scars persist, but life goes on

Eighty-six years after Ohio’s worst mining disaster scars persists, but life goes on

Sally Kozma, 96, glances up at old photographs of her and her husband, Bert, one of the coal miners who survived the Millfield mine disaster. (Image courtesy of Brooke Herbert Hayes | ViewFind)

In 1930, the town of Millfield, in Ohio, was shaken by a devastating coal mine explosion, considered the worst mine disaster in the history of the state to date and which killed 82 people.

Eighty-six years after Ohio’s worst mining disaster scars persists, but life goes on

Stretcher bearers recover bodies from the Millfield Mine disaster in this image from the US Bureau of Mines. (Photo courtesy of Athens County Historical Society and Museum)

The Sunday Creek Coal company operated mines all over the Hocking Hills region. The Millfield site was the hub of hundreds of shafts, one of which blew up on Nov. 5, killing workers and also some of the firm’s top executives, who were there to inspect new safety equipment.

Eighty-six years after Ohio’s worst mining disaster scars persists, but life goes on

Amber lives with her family in East Millfield. Before the mine explosion, this is where the coal miners’ families lived in the early and mid-20th century. (Image courtesy of Brooke Herbert Hayes | ViewFind)

A few hours later, 19 miners were found alive three miles (about 5 km) from the main shaft. The disaster had the effect of pressuring Ohio's lawmakers to improve mine safety regulations in 1931, but left emotional and economic scars that can still be seen today.

Eighty-six years after Ohio’s worst mining disaster scars persists, but life goes on

Sunday Creek Coal Company turned a storage room, pool hall and retail spaces into temporary morgues. Of a population of 1,500, the disaster left in its wake 59 widows and 154 orphans. (Image courtesy of Brooke Herbert Hayes | ViewFind)

In a moving photo essay published on ViewFind, a platform for immersive, visual storytelling, Chicago-based documentary photographer and video producer Brooke Herbert Hayes documented Millfield’s current struggles, but also the resiliency of those who chose to stay and reassemble their lives from the ground up.

Eighty-six years after Ohio’s worst mining disaster scars persists, but life goes on

Defunct playground equipment at the Millfield Park serves as a reminder of the vibrant community that once existed here. (Image courtesy of Brooke Herbert Hayes | ViewFind)

She shared a few images with MINING.com. You can take a look at the whole gallery here.