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Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
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January 2, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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January 2, 1997
 

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18 Thursday, January 2, 1997 Pahrump Valley Gazette "N Portland, OR Pahrump I Tonopah 174 Mineral St. 482-5598 Family Crisis Center 24 Hour Hot Line Pahrump 1061 E. 2nd 751-2900 i i Nevada then and now New Year's mine rescue by Phillip I. Earl Nevada Historical Society Nevada Historical Society Photograph: Silver City, Nevada, scene of a herioc rescue, New Year's Eve, 1938. Nevada Historical Society Photograph Saturday, December 31, 1938 dawned cold and blustery in western Nevada, in Reno, the citizens went about their preparations for ushering in the new year, but the people of Silver City spent the day pacing to and fro at the mouth of the south Comstock Mine and maintaining a silent vigil. The previous day, AI Peterson, a thirty-five-year-old miner, had become trapped in a stope between the 300 and 400- foot level of the mine when a hang- ing wall gave way behind him and filled the drift with several tons of rock and dirt. The cave-in took place about 1 la.m., but Peterson was not missed until lunchtime because he was working alone. A crew has- tened to the scene immediately and those men familiar with the old mine determined that they would have to remove some sixty feet of waste ore to get to the stope and partially retimber the drift. Several men who had previously worked the stope figured that Peterson was still alive and mine crews from Virginia City, Gold Hill and Dayton were on the scene in a matter of minutes. Once mining engineers Leland Armstrong, Ernest Harker and Wil- liam Montgomery decided that a 125 foot drift upward from the 400 foot level would be the safest means of effecting a rescue, two crews of six miners each set to work with drills, shovels, mine jacks and timbering. Peterson had neither food nor water and the men on the rescue crew were concerned about a lack of oxygen if he were to remain trapped longer than thirty-six hours. Peterson's wife and three-year-old daughter, Ethel, had meanwhile joined those on the surface and several Silver City housewives brought hot food for the men working underground. Word of the drama reached Reno, Carson City and Virginia City later in the afternoon, putting a damper on plans for parties and other New Years festivities. The rescue crews were soon reporting progress after removing one hundred cars of muck so they could start the upward drift. One miner described their efforts as being similar to, "a bunch of ants trying to climb up inside a funnel of sand" but they persisted. Matt Murphy, Nevada inspector of Mines, had meanwhile taken over the rescue operations By 9a.m. the next day, December 31, the crews had reached the stope and punched through, but Peterson refused to come out, fear- ing another collapse of the tunnel. A moment later, the drift gave way and the crew spent the next fifteen hours digging, setting their jacks and retimbering. A strange quiet had settled over the streets of Reno, many New Year's cel- ebrants sitting in the clubs nursing their drinks and awaiting news from the Comstock. Just before midnignt, a res- cue crew opened another tunnel and Peterson came through. Weakened by his ordeal, he was placed on a stretcher and hoisted to the surface at four min- utes past the hour. As the other miners cheered and women wept, he hugged his wife and daughter, assuring them that he was "feeling fine." A few min- utes later, his wife said to the other miners "We Ere grateful to the men who worked so hard and so long in that dangerous ground to rescue my husband. Their work made our New Year's celebration a happy one." Returning home a few minutes later, Peterson asked for a drink of whiskey, but he got a cup of hot chocolate instead. Word of his rescue had meanwhile been telephoned to Reno and a cheer went up on the streets and in the bars. Barkeeps served a round of free drinks and parties continuing long into the night kicked off.