Peoria, IL Fatal Whiskey Warehouse Fire, Jun 1904

Ten Men Killed By Explosion of Whisky

Warehouse of Corning Distillery at Peoria Completely Wrecked.

Many Cattle Burn To Death

Dozen Large Barns Destroyed by Fire- Six Persons Injured-Loss is $1,000,000.

Peoria, Ill., June 4.-An explosion which occurred in the eleven-story warehouse of the Corning Distillery, the second largest in the world, this afternoon, completely wrecked the building.

The ruins immediately took fire and communicated to three adjoining buildings, burning them to the ground. Ten men were buried beneath the ruins and burned to death and six others were seriously injured. The loss on buildings and whisky and spirits stored will approximate $1,000,000.

The fire spread in the stock yards district, where a dozen large cattle barns, filled with cattle for market, were burned. The cause of the explosion cannot yet be determined.

The wildest excitement prevailed after the explosion. The immense plant was surrounded by thousands of people, who however, were unable to get close to the structure on account of the intense heat.

The warehouse, containing in the neighborhood of $30,000 barrels of whisky, was instantaneously a seething cauldron, and it was seen that no one inside the big structure could escape.

The warehouse, in crushing the smaller structure near by, set that on fire, and the whisky from the bursting barrels flooding everything in that section. Large streams ran down grade toward the river, and in a short time there was a foot of whisky in the cattle pens east of the warehouse, where 3,200 steers were chained fast.

Their distress lasted but a few moments, however, for they were soon roasted to death or suffocated. They were the property of Dodd & Kiefer of Chicago. It is impossible to compute their loss, but it will amount to thousands of dollars.

The two fermenting houses were speedily food for the flames. They were structures of good dimensions, and both of them were destroyed.

The firemen got near the fire with difficulty and the water had little or no effect. A high wind was blowing and fanning the flames in the direction of the Monarch Distillery, and for a time it was feared that the fire would sweep along the entire river bank. However, the heroic work of the firemen began to tell, and at 7 o’clock the flames seemed under control.

The New York Times, New York, NY 5 Jun 1904

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Ten Men Burn With Whiskey and Cattle

Explosion in Peoria Warehouse Causes Large Loss of Life and Does Property Damage to the Extent of More Than $1,000,000.

Thirty Thousand Barrels Of Liquor And 3900 Cattle Lost.

Thought That The Death List May Be Increased as a Score of Persons Were Injured-Whiskey Was a Foot Deep in the Cattle Pens-One Man Washed to Safety on a Stream of It-Cause of Explosion Not Known.

Peoria, Ill., June 4.-Ten men killed, a score injured, 30,000 barrels of whiskey destroyed and 3900 cattle burned to death as the result of an explosion at the plant of the Conring Distillery Company this evening. The immense warehouse in which the explosion occurred was destroyed and three other of its buildings were gutted by flames.

The property loss is more than $1,000,000. It is thought the death list will be increased. The Conring Distilling plant is said to be the second largest in the world.

Men Are Buried Beneath the ruins.

The then men were buried beneath the ruins by the explosion and burned to death. Six others were seriously injured. The loss to the distillery will approximate $1,000,000. The fire spread to the stock yards, where a dozen large barns filled with cattle, were burned. The loss to the stock yard is $250,000. The dead:
FRED NOLL.
LOUIS BEHEREND.
JOHN HOLSECKER.
JOSEPH ZIMMERMAN.
LOUIS SAAX.
WILLIAM FINLAY, Jr.
E. BROWN.
M. CROWL.
JOHN LEPPING.
WILLIAM FIELD.

The injured: Adam Werner, Edward Werner, Wilmer Hogan, J.B. Marshall, James M. Miller, Allie Feinberg.

Whiskey Ran a Foot Deep.

The explosion occurred in an eleven-story warehouse, the third catastrophe in less than a year to overtake the distillery. Two other explosions followed in rapid succession, but their cause has not been determined. Fire followed the explosions. The plant was soon surrounded by thousands of persons, who were unable to get close to the structure on account of the heat. The warehouse, containing in the neighborhood of 30,000 barrels of whiskey, soon was a seething cauldron. The warehouse, in crumbling, set fire to the smaller structures, while whiskey from the burning barrels flooded the street and ran in streams toward the river. In a short time there was a foot of whiskey in the cattle pens east of the warehouse.

The whiskey river burned furiously and the bawling of the 3900 tearstained fast, was pitiable. Their distress lasted only a few minutes however, for they were soon roasted or suffocated in the deadly fumes.

Carried to Safety by the Whiskey.

Two large fermenting houses were soon food for the flames, being almost destroyed. The firemen made a gallant fight against great odds. A high wind was blowing and fanning the flames in the direction of the Monarch distillery. For a time it was feared that the fire would sweep along the entire river bank but by 7 o’clock the fire was under control.

ELMER HOGAN was at work in the warehouse when the collapse came. He was washed out through a break in the building by the big stream of whiskey. He was carried 75 feet towards the river before being lodged against a fence, from which he escaped before the fire overtook him. He can not recover.

Fred Knoll and William Findley had just left the building when the explosion and collapse came. Findley turned just in time to see the wall fall on his companion. It is believed that all the Government men have escaped.

Was an Eleven Story Structure.

The warehouse where the first explosion occurred was an eleven-story frame structure. It was 100x200 feet, and contained 30,000 barrels of spirits. Another warehouse, containing the cistern room was a three-story brick building 100x200 feet. It contained in the neighborhood of 52,000 gallons of spirits. In the two fermenting rooms, which were 100x180 feet, were eighteen tubs with a capacity of 1000 bushels of mash each.

They were all filled and contained about 5000 gallons of spirits each. All this went up in flames and added to the general loss.

The houses of Daniel Giese and John McDonald were burned and their families had narrow escapes.

The Daily Express, San Antonio, TX 5 Jun 1904