Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Explosion Abba Owen Wrote About

Readers will recall that Abba recently wrote about a big mill explosion. She wrote:

Tuesday Oct. 16th: This has been a very pleasant day but the wind blew very hard one of the trees in front of the Normal blew down. There was a great accident happened this morning about half past eight at the Peninsular Paper Mill. One of the boilers blew up killing one man and injuring another. It spoilt the boiler next to it sending it into the wall and knocking a hole into it. Papa, Grandpa, Eber and Richard rode up to see it and I ahall go up tomorrow and can write more about it then.

This was not the Peninsular mill but the onetime Lowell mill upstream. The blast was so violent that the boiler's wall spread out flat, flew eight rods (one hundred and thirty-two feet) through the air, and hit a tree so hard it wrapped the metal around it (!)

Article: "At about 8:15 Tuesday morning, one of the gang of boilers in the Ypsilanti Paper Comany's Lowell mill exploded with terrific force, throwing the other three boilers from their foundation and utterly demolishing the boiler room.

"Luckily the direction of greatest force was away from the main buildings, which contain all the manifold machinery used in paper making and in which most of the employees were at the time, else the damage and loss of life must have been much greater.

"The only person in the boiler room when the explosion occurred was Jacob Slawson, who was temporarily filling the position of fireman. He was instantly killed, his frightfully disfigured remains being found shortly after the explosion, minus part of one leg, and the back of his head. Frank Sinulki, the engineer, was the only other person injured. He was found unconscious, wedged between a heavy lathe and a pump, and buried under bricks, mortar, and other debris three feet deep. He was recovered after about an hours hard work, and, strange to say, not a bone in his body was broken. Although severe internal injuries were for a time feared, he is now convalescing and will be up again in a week. That he escaped instant death is little short of a miracle.

"The 75 horse power boiler which burst parted just back of the crown sheet, and also ripped open lengthwise. It spread out into an immense sheet of iron which flew a distance of some eight rods [one rod is 16.5 feet], across the railroad track, cutting the telegraph wires asunder, and struck a great elm tree in a neighboring field with such force as to wrap itself almost completely around the trunk. The flues were all bent nearly double. The foundation of the immense smoke stack was torn away, so that, though it is still standing, it will probably have to be rebuilt.

"The loss we have heard variously estimated. Probably $20,000 would cover the amount, except the damage to business. The Paper Company we understand has $15,000 insurance in the Hartford Steam Boiler Insurance Co. The mill will probably not be in running order again until the middle of December.

"The cause of the explosion is unknown, though it is supposed to be low water. Nothing definite will ever be known, however as the only man who could give testimony on the point, is dead."

---October 19, 1888 Ypsilanti Commercial.

1 comment :

Dusty D said...

As the linked article notes, the mill was rebuilt but then burned in 1906. When it burned, it was not rebuilt and the little settlement of Lowell faded away...