Maccabee Dynamite Explosion

1894 -- Newspaper article about the Maccabee dynamite explosion at
        Blacks Run, Pa. Acme Powder Plant, involving Nitro-Glycerine.

                5/1/99 12:23:45 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From John L. Snowden. Originator: (KarenKirkpatrick)


                             "BLOWN TO ATOM
           Ten Thousand Pounds of Dynamite Explodes at Blacks Run
                          FIVE PERSONS KILLED
                 Four of the Bodies Torn into Minute Shreds
                      Four Buildings Demolished"

"Terrific Catastrophe at the Acme Powder Works, Near Hulton--Two Explosions
Occur About an Hour Apart--Narrow Escape of a Gang of Men Who Were Hunting
for the Dead Bodies--No Cause Known for the Accident

Five persons killed and four buildings utterly demolished, is the result of
an explosion of 10,000 pounds of dynamite at the Acme Powder Works at
Blacks Run yesterday.

The works are owned by the Acme Powder Company, whose office is at 806
Duquesne Way, this city.  Blacks Run is the name given to a little stream
that comes down through a narrow ravine and flows into the Allegheny River
about one mile above Hulton.  The works are situated back from the railroad
about four hundred yards and in full view from the trains of the Allegheny
Valley railroad.

Going up the hollow from the railroad the first building met is the
boardinghouse where the hands in the dynamite factory housed.  It is about
200 yards from the railroad.  About 100 yards further up was the packing
house, where the dynamite cartridges are made and packed.  Across the gully
to the left and seventy five yards away was the wheel house, or mixing
house, where the explosive is mixed.  Another one hundred yards up the
valley was the engine house and the same distance above that is the
nitro-glycerine factory.  Of these buildings, no trace of the packing house
and the mixing house is left.  The packing house was 100 feet long by 30
wide and the mixing house 50 x 25.  They are completely blown away, 
nothing but splinters  about the size of ordinary kindling wood and the
fissures made in the ground by the explosion being left to tell where they
stood.  Pieces of the broken machinery are scattered  about the hollow and
hillsides for a half mile or so about the scene, while all the trees and
ground for hundreds of yards around are covered with a white dust, the wood
pulp and lime used in mixing the dynamite.

There were two explosions.  The first took place at 7:30 and it was this
one that caused the deaths.  The second occured at 8:21 and was the result
of fire started by the first explosion.  The employees had only been at
work since 7 o'clock.  William Arthur and his wife were in the packing
house with Charles Robbins and Sadie Remaley, a sister of Mrs. Arthur. 
Robbins and Arthur were in the second story at the lower end of the
building. Mrs. Arthur and her sister were in the lower story making
cartridges.  Matthew Fentzel, the engineer, was standing in the doorway of
the engine room and Simeon Bradley and James Mooney, floor manager of the
works, were in the nitro-glycerine house.  Mooney, Bradley and Fentzel are
the only persons about the works at the time who are left alive.  The dead


Arthur and his wife kept the boarding house which stood down towards the
foot of the gully.  While they were working in the packing house, Mrs.
Arthur's sister, Nellie Remaley, kept house for them.
She was in the house at the time of the explosion. It was blown to pieces.
Nellie Remaley had both arms broken, her skull fractured, and she received
internal injuries.  She was placed on a train and taken to the West Penn
Hospital in this city, where she died at 9 o'clock yesterday morning.

The bodies of those who were killed in the packing house were blown to
pieces.  Two headless and limbless trunks were found lying on the hillside
about 100 yards away.  One of the trunks had a part of the neck and back of
the skull still adhering to it.  Part of the scalp covered with long brown
hair enabled friends to identify this as the body of Sadie Remaley.  The
other trunk is believed to be that of her sister, Mrs. Arthur, but is so
blown to pieces that there is no positive assurance whether it is hers or
that of one of the male victims.  Only a few shreds have been found which
have been identified as parts of Arthur and his wife.  A left hand and foot
have been found of Charles Robbins.  These with fragments of flesh picked
up by the searchers for hundreds of yards about the scene of the disaster,
is all that is left of the ill-fated workers in the packing house.

The statement made by James Mooney to Deputy Coroners Morehand and Kosslow
is as follows.  He was in the glycerine house preparing to mix
nitro-glycerine when Bradley came in and gave him the keys.  He told
Bradley to go to work and clean up all of the buildings.  Bradley turned
and to go and just then a red glare and puff of smoke came from the upper
end of the packing house.  Both started to the door, Bradley shouting
"there's a fire."  They had not completed the first steps when the
explosion occurred.  Both men were thrown to the floor and the force of the
explosion tore out all the lower end of the building they were in. 
Fortunately there was but a very little bit of nitro-glycerine in the
building, although the tubs were full of oil of glycerine and sulphuric
acid, prepatory to mixing.  None of this exploded, however, it is looked
upon  as a miracle by all of those acquainted with the stuff.  For a while
both men were terribly stunned but soon recovered.  Fire broke out
immediately after the explosion and the survivors, aided by assistance
which began to arrive a few minutes later,  went to work to extinguish the
flames.  It was not for over half an hour that Mooney became aware that he
was badly injured in the left thigh.  Something, he ddoes not know what,
penetrated his thigh to the bone and made a great gash a couple of inches
long.  Under the excitement of the moment, he never knew that he was hurt
and it was only when he became weak from the loss of blood that he became
aware of the fact.  He was taken to Verona and given medical attention. 
His injuries will lay him up for some time.

Matthew Fentzel, the engineer, was in the engine-room, 100 feet from the
packing house, when it blew up.  He was standing near the door and facing
the packing house.  Suddennly a brigh red glare seemed to light up the
whole interior of the building.  Then came a puff of of smoke and an awful
roar, followed by an explosion that was like thunder.  He had started
towards the door, but was thrown back and over a large kettle.  The next
instant the building was falling down and he was pinned down beneath the
wreckage.  Some way he worked himself loose and at once ran to the whistle,
which he started to blowing.  Just why he sounded the whistle seems a
mystery to him, but he had an indistinct impression that something should
be done to call assistance.  In this he was successful.

The roar of the explosion, followed by the shrieking of the whistle,
attracted the attention of the residents for miles around.  Within a few
minutes they were flocking to the scene.  A large gang of railroad laborers
who are cutting away the hill to make room for a double track on the
Allegheny Valley railroad were the first to arrive.  They were at once put
to work by their foreman at fighting the fire.  This work was continued for
about a half hour when it was believed to be all out.  A short time later,
however, it broke out again in the ruins of the mixing house.  Several
thousand pounds of dynamite were in this building and the men were at once
notified to run.  Hardly had they reached places of safety when another
explosion occurred, and where the mixing house had stood was nothing but a
ragged hole.

The force of the first explosion was terrific.  Its energy seems to have
passed down the hollow towards its mouth, where it is several hundred yards
wider than at its head.  To this fact is attributed the escape of Mooney,
Bradley and Fretzel, they being in the glycerine house and engine room
above.  The boarding house was directly below and in line with the packing
house.  The concussion literally tore it to pieces, throwing it down,
grinding it to splinters and sprinkling them for a hundred yards down the
valley.  At the railroad is a storehouse for keeping wood pulp and another
for storing dynamite.  The pulp house was crushed in on two sides and the
tin roof torn off.  It is fully 400 yards from where the explosion
occurred.  Scattered over the hills for a mile or more around are pieces of
wood and machinery, scraps of paper and other refuse from the explosion. 
Arthurs had a lot of chickens.  They were all killed.  One of them had all
the feathers, except the long wing feathers, stripped off it perfectly
clean, but there was no mark of injury on the body.  The skin was not even
broken, but the flesh looked black as though powder burned.

Samuel Robbins, brother of Charles Robbins, who was killed, was
superintendent of the works. He was at New Texas, thirteen miles across the
country.  He heard the sound of the explosion at 7:23 and divined at once
that it was the powder works.  He started to drive for the works at once,
driving so hard that his horse dropped on him just about a quarter of a
mile from the scene.  When he reached there the fire and everything was
over and searchers were gathering up the bodies bit by bit. 

The sound was heard for miles about the country and windows were broken for
several miles around.  At Harmarville all windows facing the river were
broken.  The town is right across the river from the site of the powder

The bodies of the victims, or what was found of them, were taken to R. L.
Kents undertaking rooms in Verona.  The Acme Powder Company ordered Mr.
Kent to arrange them for burial, providing a coffin for each one.  The
bodies of Arthur, his wife, and her sisters will be taken to the Remley
home at Johnston station, one and a half miles above on the Allegheny Valley
railroad and young Robbins body will be taken to the home of his parents,
104 Madison avenue, Allegheny.

The cause of the explosion is a mystery.  There was no fire in any of the
buildings, nor had there been any nearer than the engine house for several

Coroner McDowell will hold the inquest at 11 o'clock Monday morning."

Back to St Mark's Cemetery Listing

Back to Tombstone Inscription List

Back to Home Page