Cherry, Illinois is a small town in central Illinois Bureau County. It current population is approximately 500. In the early 1900’s, it was a coal mining town. The mine was started by the Saint Paul Coal Company in 1905. It was operational until 1927. It provided coal to the Milwaukee Railroad. In its prime, it produced 1,500 tons a day. The mine consisted of three horizontal shafts of varying depth and two vertical connecting shafts. The mine was considered to be safe at the time. It had a ventilation fan. It was thought to be fire proof. It was illuminated with electric lights. The miners were predominantly Italian immigrants. Many spoke no English. Many children some as young as 11 worked in the mine.
The mine was the site of one of the worst mine disasters in the United States at the time. It occurred on November 13, 1909. At the time there were approximately 500 miners working. There had been an electrical shortage and the mine light system was not operational. The miners switched to the old kerosene lanterns. At approximately noon, a car filled with hay caught fire and spread to the support timbers. The fire spread despite many maneuvers used to control it. There were approximately 259 victims of this disaster. Shortly after November the mine was sealed and left that way for 3 months. It was then reopened and the bodies of the missing miners.
The Saint Paul Mining Company paid $1800 to the families of the victims.