On October 22, 1913, 263 miners died when a massive explosion ripped through a mine operated by Phelps, Dodge & Co. in Dawson, New Mexico. Ten years later, a second blast claimed the lives of another 120 men.

Today, the only hint of what was once considered the largest company-owned town in the Southwest can be found at historic Dawson Cemetery, where a haunting sea of white iron crosses memorializes the 383 miners killed in the two explosions.

In Crosses of Iron: The Tragic Story of Dawson, New Mexico, and Its Twin Mining Disasters, longtime journalist Nick Pappas tells the tragic story of the old coal town and how the strong, determined residents of the community coped with two heartbreaking catastrophes.

For many AHEPA members, this is a familiar story. In 2013 and again in 2023, the organization designated the centennial anniversaries of the two tragedies as national projects and organized graveside memorial observances at historic Dawson Cemetery.

This past February, His Grace Bishop Constantine of the Metropolis of Denver presided over the service along with the pastors of the state’s two Greek Orthodox churches and another from Colorado. The service was attended by national and regional representatives of AHEPA, as well as family members of the lost miners. Among them: Past District 21 Governor Robert Sexton of California, whose grandfather was among those killed in the 1913 explosion.

Greek immigrants play a prominent role in the book – the words “Greece” and “Greek” are mentioned more than 100 times – in part because, next to the Italians, they suffered the greatest losses in the two explosions among European immigrants: 36 in 1913 and another 15 in 1923.

Among the storylines in the book:

— The six Greeks from a village on the island of Karpathos – including two brothers – who were in the mine the day of the 1913 explosion.

— The secret visit by Louis Tikas, a Colorado strike leader who would be killed six months later in the Ludlow Massacre, into Dawson on the night of the 1913 incident to console his fellow Greeks.

— And the Greek immigrant who was one of only two survivors of the 1923 disaster, miraculously walking out the mine 16 hours later into the arms of his wife and two young children.

Crosses of Iron was published on Oct. 1 by the University of New Mexico Press. It is available in three formats — paperback, e-book and audiobook – and can be purchased through UNM Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers, as well as at selected bookstores in New Mexico.