|A typical Allegheny County mine entrance|
From western Pennsylvania comes one of the most unusual and curious stories we have stumbled across. A man named John Nevin made a discovery beneath the ground that was so bizarre, it caused him to faint. So what did he find? The November 10, 1892 edition of the Pittsburgh Dispatch explains:
Half sitting, half hanging was the dressed and booted skeleton of a man found in a coal mine in Braddock township. Tuesday evening John Nevin discovered this weird, ghastly spectacle. As his little lamp revealed to him the hideous sight, Nevin fell in a faint.
This is the most complete mystery unearthed in Allegheny county for many days. The district where this case comes from is well suited as a birthplace of mystery. The skeleton was found in Corry's deserted coal mine. The old pit is on a hill above Copeland station and a half mile back from the railroad. It has been over 11 years since any mining has been done there, the opening having become dangerous. The land up on the hill belongs to J.B. Corry. His tenants have for years been digging coal for their own use in the abandoned mine. They never ventured far into the bank, through fear that the roof may cave in.
John Nevin Exhausted by Fright
Tuesday evening John Nevin went to the mine to get his usual allowance of fuel. For some reason he did not stop at the entrance, but went on in. By the aid of his little lamp he groped his way several hundred feet into the depths of the pit. Here the first room leads off and it was there Nevin stopped. He took his lamp from his hat and holding it above his head peered into the room. The flickering coal oil light revealed a ghastly sight.
Suspended to the roof by a rope and slightly swayed by the breeze was a long haired whiskered skeleton. Nevin was held spellbound by the scene for an instant, and then exhausted by fright he fell to the floor. Recovering, he made his way out and spread the news of his awful discovery. Later a party of men entered the mine. They had given little credence to their neighbor's story, thinking that it was an optical illusion, but they soon saw for themselves.
A Bearded, Booted Skeleton Found
As these four or five sturdy countrymen stood in the doorway of that underground room, their nerve for a time departed. Several minutes elapsed before any of them had the courage to approach the object of their fright. Then one by one they entered. The man had evidently committed suicide from the position he was in. The room was not much over four feet high and the skeleton measured five feet nine inches. Death had been caused by hanging. The rope was still around the man's neck and securely tied to a timber in the roof. The skeleton was in a crouching position, the man having evidently thrown himself forward. The legs were crossed in front, and the arms hung down at his sides. The fingers showed that there had been convulsions. The flesh had entirely left the body save on part of the face. The head was covered by a heavy and long growth of sandy hair, while the curly beard and mustache of the same color looked as natural as those on a living man.
He Died With His Boots On
The poor fellow had died with his boots on, and in fact all his clothes. He wore a brown suit, made with a cutaway coat, a brown chinchilla overcoat, a checkered cheviot shirt and heavy topped boots, with his trousers tucked in them. His clothes were badly rotted and nearly ready to drop off. The only things in the room save the skeleton were a black stiff hat and a small upright lamp. The latter was sitting off in one corner, the oil had all been burned out and only a little piece of the wick was left. There was nothing in the pockets of the man's clothes.
The skeleton was cut down, removed to the outer world and the Coroner notified. Coroner's Clerk Grant Miller spent the greater part of yesterday investigating the case. Though all the people in that neighborhood were questioned no one could solve the mystery. From the fact that the man was clothed for winter weather it is thought he must have been in the mine for a year at least. It is altogether probable that the suicide was committed two years ago from the condition of the skeleton, while no one has been in that room for a longer period than that. The man is supposed to have between 45 and 50 years of age. He would've weighed about 175 pounds.
Late last night the skeleton was identified as the remains of James Bartin, who left home last February, taking with him the lamp and the rope, but his wife has always discredited the idea that he had committed suicide. Bartin was 60 years old and a division boss on the Pittsburg, Virginia and Charleston Railroad. Since his disappearance his wife has been making her home with a sister at Salt Works station.