Denise Kendrick McNeel
Contributing Writer

Nearly 50 years ago (May 1968) John Moore, Jr., of Buckeye, was one of 25 miners trapped in a flooded coal mine in Nicholas County. The story of the subsequent 10 days is the subject of a gripping new true account, based on Moore’s handwritten notes, which he kept in his shirt pocket, and  memories shared by his daughter, Vicki Moore Rose, of Hillsboro.

The author, Tom Surbaugh, born and raised in Parkersburg, became interested in this dramatic story, when his grandfather told him of two relatives also trapped in the flooded mine. Later he was able to gain valuable background information and photos from Mike Davis, son of Franklin Davis, superintendent of the the Gauley Coal and Coke mine, who lives close to Matthews, North Carolina, where Tom and his family now reside.

Surbaugh starts by following Moore on his regular routine, rising in Buckeye at 4 a.m., eating and preparing for his work day, driving 60 miles to join the other miners of his crew at Hominy Falls.

The shift began with the uneventful man-trip into the darkness of Saxsewell mine #8 , a deep or drift mine, with three-foot tunnels.

The first group (15 men) of the two continuous mining crews were delivered to their location 3,500 feet from the mine portal, and by 7:30 a.m. the second group of 10 men arrived at their worksite 4,700 feet from the entrance.

A couple of hours later, things went wrong. The continuous miner of the group furtherest in, cut through the wall into a disused mine full of water. Water rushed in, filling the three-foot tunnel. Some men were swept away and the rest were left in the cold and dark with two lunch buckets, balancing on a ledge, and only acidic water to drink. They were deep in Sewell Mountain with no contact with the outside world. This story tells how they helped one another to keep faith that they would be rescued, and how fellow miners refused to give up the search to find them.

Truly inspirational and uplifting!

Surbaugh will hold a book signing and discussion at McClintic Library Friday, November 3, at 7 p.m.

This is his first self-published book.

Surbaugh has genealogical ties to the county through the Shoemaker family. He will generously donate a portion of the proceeds of books sold locally to the Historical Society.

Miracle at Hominy Falls is available at The Pocahontas Times; cost is $11.65.