The town of Bear Creek in south-central Montana is home to the once prosperous Smith Mine #3 which is remembered today as the site of one of the worst mining disasters in American history.
On February 27, 1943 74 miners perished when the mine they were working in exploded due to a build-up of methane gas. The comparatively small crew had descended at least 7,000 feet below the surface when the accident took place. In their report of the incident, the Billings Gazette claimed that many people around the vicinity of the mine didn’t even feel the massive explosion since it was so deep.
A full 77 men had entered the mine and three of them were able to escape alive, but the rest were killed either by the blast or from suffocation from the gasses that were released. While it only ranks as the 43rd worst mining disaster in American history, it easily tops out as the deadliest coal mine catastrophe in Montana history.
The remains of the miners killed in the explosion were all taken out of the underground deathtrap and the mine was closed. A memorial stone was put up with the names of the deceased and the state of Montana razed most of the buildings from Smith Mine #3 but many still remain, silently rusting. The ghostly site can be seen just off the road by anyone meandering their way north from Bear Creek towards Red Lodge.