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Rockland, DE Dupont Powder Mills Explosion, Oct 1890

POWDER MILLS BLOW UP

A Terrible Explosion Near Wilmington, Delaware.

Over Ten Persons Killed and a Village Destroyed.

At 3:23 o'clock on a recent afternoon Wilmington, Del., was shaken by a series of terrific explosions, which caused every house to tremble to its foundations. People rushed out of their houses and inquired the cause. Every one suspected that the powder mills of E. Dupont & Co., on the Brandywine River, about four miles from the city, had exploded. The report was soon confirmed, and people flocked to the upper yard of the powder works. There a terrible sight met their eyes.
The large upper yard, covering over five acres, was a complete wreck. Two magazines, a packing house, a dry house and the separating and corning room had exploded one after another. They were completely wrecked. Of two of the buildings nothing was left but holes in the ground. The others were a heap of stones. Twelve men who had been at work in and about the mills and one woman had been killed. The soda mill, the charcoal mills and the numerous other buildings in the yard had their roofs and sides blown in and were wrecked.
The little village of Dupont's Bank, situated on the hill overlooking the river and mills, was completely wrecked and women and children buried in the ruins. It contained about thirty houses and not one was left habitable. Roofs are torn off, sides are crushed in, lathing and plastering torn away, the floors up-heaved, and in every way the fearful force had done its dreadful work. Women and children were standing in groups, crying and lamenting the loss of husbands and fathers and the total destruction of their homes.
Doctors were summoned from Wilmington and administered to the wants of the dead and dying. Fortunately the large magazine of corrugated iron used as the main storehouse for powder, escaped, as did also a smaller sporting powder magazine, both of which were about two hundred yards from the blown-up buildings.
The first explosion came from one of the magazines in which prismatic powder was being packed. The concussion of the first explosion, or the flame from it, sent the others off. WILLIAM R. GREEN, an old and very careful employee of the company, was at work packing the prismatic powder in tin cans soldering a sheet of tin over each layer. It is supposed that his irons got too hot and ignited the powder.

Following are the killed:
JOHN NEWELL
WILLIAM GREEN
MARTIN DOLAN
PATRICK DOUGHERTY
JAMES DOLAN
WILLIAM McGARVEY
JOHN DIETZ
JOHN HURLEY
MICHAEL HURLEY
EDWARD GRANT
JOSEPH HARZAR
DANIEL HARKINS
MRS. OWEN DOUGHERTY
EUGENE DUPONT, a member of the firm, was missing after the explosion, and it was feared that he met his death with his employees.
It was reported from Chester, Penn., that the shock created a panic in a school and that seven children were killed and a number injured.
Colonel H. A. Dupont said that the loss would reach $1,000,000 and perhaps exceed that amount.
Immediately after the explosion a large building known as the "refinery," located near the centre of the village, took fire. It was a matter of life and death to the whole population that this fire should be extinguished before it communicated with the powder the building contained.
Taking their lives in their hands, the Dupont Fire Brigade fought the flames which had caught the roof. It was touch and go between success and destruction, but the firemen won.
Had the roof fallen in it is doubtful if any man, woman or child in the vicinity would have escaped death or serious injury.
About fifty families are rendered homeless by the disaster, and many are so dazed by the terrible events of those few seconds as to seem hardly conscious of where they are or what they are doing.
The bodies of only two of the killed were found. While daylight lasted portions of other bodies were being collected, a limb here, an arm there, a piece of the trunk in another place.
The Dupont Powder Works were established in 1802 by Elenthere Irene Dupont de Nemours, a Frenchman who came to this country in 1798 to escape Jacobin persecution.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1890-10-10

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article | by Dr. Radut