News - from the past & the present

Over one-hundred years ago, a tragedy took place in Bibb County, Alabama


(transcribed from -Blocton Enterprise, Thursday, 26 October 1916

On last Saturday afternoon about 2:42, a terrific explosion occurred at Marvel mines, and the lives of 18 men were snuffed out in a moment. The explosion was felt all over the countryside, and in a short time, the mine entrance was surrounded by a throng of white-faced men, weeping women and children. President B. F. Roden was actively engaged in directing the work of rescue. Mr. George Jones of Garnsey, one of the men engaged in rescue work, fell and was killed, thus bringing the total number of victims to 19.

Photograph of mining operations at Marvel, Alabama 1920 by Davis Advertising & Sales Company (Courtesty of Birmingham Public Library)Photograph of mining operations at Marvel, Alabama 1920 by Davis Advertising & Sales Company (Courtesy of Birmingham Public Library)

Cause of explosion unknown

The cause of the explosion is not known. Mr. M. A. Lowery one of the dead men, is said to have inspected the mine early Sunday morning and reported it free from gas.

The following is a list of the dead:


  1. George Jones, who gave up his life trying to rescue others;
  2. W. F. Cochrane, master mechanic, married;
  3. W. B. Freeman, chief electrician, single;
  4. Grover Finley, boss driver, married;
  5. Bruce Finley, single;
  6. M. A. Lowery, married;
  7. D. N. Ogletree, battice man, single;
  8. Dewey McDonald, single;
  9. Mose Harwell, machinist, married;
  10. George Liddle, pumper, single;
  11. H. F. Lowery;
  12. Dave Pervis.


  1. John Stoke,
  2. Roscoe Robinson,
  3. Early Collins,
  4. Lindsey Martin,
  5. John Bell,
  6. Sim Wells
  7. Kinney Martin.

The news of the explosion reached Blocton about 5 o’clock, and a large crowd from here left immediately for the scene of the disaster, and to aid in the rescue. All of the bodies were not recovered until about 11 o’clock Monday. The bodies of Messrs. Grover and Bruce Finley were brought here Monday afternoon on a special train and were interred at Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

Two brothers killed

The Red Men and Odd Fellows were in charge, and Revs. Sandlin and Crim being the officiating ministers. There have been few sadder sights in Blocton than that of two brothers being carried, one behind the other, to their last resting place. Mr. Finley their father, had a blacksmith shop for several years in the lower end of town. The sad catastrophe has cast a gloom over the entire district, and the little city of Marvel mourns indeed for her dead.

Bibb County Courthouse & Jail, Courthouse Square, Centreville, Bibb County, AL

Marvel is located less than two miles east of the Cahaba River near Woodstock. The coal mine operated from the early 1900s to the 1950s. Marvel was a thriving community in its ‘hey day’

The photograph below, made in 1993, is the unusual water tower at Marvel which has a crenelated top. (photograph from Library of Congress)

Marvel water tower



Many families arrive in Bibb County, Alabama as groups and often married close neighbors. Some descendants in this Volume moved further west or elsewhere in the state or Alabama.

Several children moved to Milam, Texas and Falls County, Texas. Many burial sites and census records are included whenever possible.




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Compiled Records of BIBB COUNTY ALABAMA PIONEERS VOLUME III (Kindle Edition)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R
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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Am learning so much through these articles. Thank you.

    1. Great! We’re glad you enjoy them.

  2. As homeschoolers, we love learning more about our great state and home, Alabama. Thanks

    1. I’m glad the stories are helpful. We’ve found there is so much information most people do not know about Alabama and we love finding and sharing these historical gems.

  3. Thank you for all the hard work you do Donna and for the research aids you give freely to everyone. You are a true Southern Gem. SMB

    1. Thank you! Your comment made my day. Donna

  4. Joel Dickey… Did you know there was a Bibb county in Ala?

  5. Really enjoy learning more of Alabama’s history. Thanks so much.

  6. My Grandparents were from West Blocton and some from Bibb ! My Dad was a Locke and my Mother was a McCulley !! Just wandering since u are a Locke that is not a common name !!

    1. We have a Locke Family History group, my mom & grandma was Locke’s…

    2. I am kin to the locks my grandmother is a lock im a reed but my great grandmother maiden name was broadhead the locks were a very respected familey in those days and still are.

  7. Growing up in the area I’d heard stories about the explosion. My father worked in the mines at Dogwood, Maylene, Marvel, and Blocton from the 20’s until they all shut down in the 50s and he had many harrowing tales of igniting gas pockets which would blow out his light and knock him to the floor of the shaft. Those were tough times to be a coal miner.

  8. A great-uncle I never new perished in this disaster.

  9. I imagine some of the black miners had wives, children or maybe some kind of description for their lives. But that didn’t MATTER then I see.

    1. Sadly, there was little report other than names in newspaper accounts about the black miners.

    2. Only in Alabama! Do you not see the last 2 names on the white list. I don’t guess they mattered either! SMDH! Get a life

  10. My Great-Great Grandfather was killed at Marvel due to a rock fall. His name was Emmit Broadhead and he left behind a wife and two children, one being Fred Broadhead ( my grandfather) and Audie Broadhead Martin my Great Aunt.

    1. Thanks for posting this Randy. I have a picture of his wife (Charlsie Thames Broadhead Campbell) with Fred and Audie as young children. Charlsie was my grandmother

      1. Name is Peggy Bean

  11. I still live in Marvel.So much history out here.Wish I could learn more.

  12. I know just where this bridge was in Marvel. It has since been torn down but we used to wonder about the history of that old bridge. It was great to see it in use and know that I once was dumb and climbed up that structure.

  13. How accurate is the spelling of some of the names? My family name is Cochran, no “e” from Marvel. My great grandfather worked in the mines but did not perish in the explosion. Wondering if maybe another relative.

  14. As citizen of West Blocton, Alabama, I have heard many stories about how this small town got its name. One was about how this explosion destroyed the whole town except for the west side, hence the name West Blocton. I am glad to finally know the truth… But I am sorry for the families who lost husbands, brothers, sons, and uncles back then. West Blocton, Alabama is filled to the brim with beautiful countryside if you know where to look. This is just beautiful place to live and I’m glad to call it home.

  15. I saw this posting 11-16-2015. I lived in Marvel from 1941 to 1949, when the mines stopped. My father was a carpenter for the Rodens. Those were the happiest days ever. Thank you.

  16. did you know Bibb County was name after two governors,with the name Bibb

  17. it is just great to see historical notes show up and fill in the history of where we grew. How can you decide that a particular note is valid or gossip? I think I will enjoy future storied of Alabama.

  18. Were the Lowerys, that died. not related al all, that seems strange.

  19. My grandmother & other family moved to Marvel from W.VA. I pretty much grew up in Marvel. My dad & his dad had lots of stories of Marvel. Thanks for sharing!!

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