It was about 7:20 a.m. on May 19, 1902, when an explosion ripped through a coal mine in Fraterville, Tenn. The powerful blast instantly killed most of the 216 miners who had just started their shift.
There were 26 men and boys who survived the blast, but they were trapped underground as their meager air supply ran out.
At least 10 of the miners were still alive seven hours after the explosion, but all of them suffocated before help could reach them. A few of those men wrote notes to tell their loved ones goodbye.
Jake Vowell was one of those men. He was trapped with his dying 14-year-old son, Elbert, who was also a miner. As the air ran out, Jake wrote to his wife, Ellen, adding more thoughts — in increasingly shaky handwriting — about what he was thinking and feeling.
Jake knew that he and Elbert were about to die.