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Originally published in Voice of the Valley, September 16, 2008

One of the most fascinating stories to come from the Franklin coal mines involved a mule named ‘Bess,’ who was employed at the Cannon mine on the banks of the Green River.

One of the most fascinating stories to come from the Franklin coal mines involved a mule named ‘Bess,’ who was employed at the Cannon mine on the banks of the Green River.

By Bill Kombol

Coal miners Andrew Chernick and Mike Babcanik reported for work in the pre-dawn hours of February 16, 1914. Around 9 a.m., the water-soaked earth gave way and tons of liquefied mud and rock enveloped the two miners. Three days later the body of the 50-year-old Chernick was found and the 47-year-old Babcanik was presumed dead.

On that same day a story appeared in the Seattle Star exposing how mules at the Cannon mine were required to work 24 hours a day and never allowed outside. A photo of the emaciated Bess the mule appeared on the front page. Subsequent stories followed and the Humane Society eventually “arrested” the mule, releasing Bess for needed rest and forage outside the mine. (more…)

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