Baltimore, MD Powder Mill Explosion, Nov 1846



On Monday morning last, the city of Baltimore was startled by a sudden shock, which was followed in quick succession by two others, causing houses to tremble as by an earthquake. A cloud of smoke immediately arose in the north-west, and the alarm of fire was raised. The smoke indiciated that some terrible catastrophe had occurred at the extensive Powder Mills of Messrs. William Beatty & Sons, at the junction of the Falls Turnpike and the Susquehanna Railroad, about seven miles from the city. All doubts were soon removed by the intelligence that one of the Mills had exploded, followed by a distressing loss of life, and great destruction to property.
The explosion took place, according to the Clipper, in the graining mill, in which were five persons, all of whom were instantly killed. Their bodies were dreadfully mangled, some of their limbs being suspended on the adjacent trees. FRANCIS WOODWARD, a youth, was found completely naked, with one of his legs blown off, and had his head dreadfully mashed; JAMES BUSH, a young man, aged about 21 years, was blown a distance of five hundred yards. When found one of his arms was off, and a part of his chest completely gone; NELSON MINGER, a colored man, was blown to atoms, scarcely a part of his body left. A German, named KANOOT, and a youth named WILLIAM BRADEN, were buried under the ruins. Their bodies, after removing the remains of the building, were found in quite a mutilated state. Mr. Wright, the superintendent of the mills, and another person, had left the room but a few yards from the building and were thrown to the ground by the shock, but not injured. Great damaged is done to the houses in the neighborhood.
The house of Capt. Purviance, although strongly built, is much shattered, his windows are blown in and much of his furniture destroyed. Mr. Lyons' house is a perfect wreck. In Mr. Armacost's the sash was blown in -- his house and furniture much injured. The houses of Messrs. Pickering, Sweeny, Barnes, the Relay House, and, in fact, all the tenements within the circumference of a mile from the mills have had the glass broken in the windows and otherwise damaged. Mr. Pickering's field is strewed with fragments of the powder house, and one of his houses blown down, although three-quarters of a mile from the scene. In short so general a distruction has seldom or never been visited from such a cause. The powder house is totally annihilated. It was an awful scene. The gathering of the scattered limbs of those destroyed, and the screams of the women in search of their sons and relatives, were awful and terrible. The explosion is supposed to have been caused by the wind blowing sand among the powder, whilst being ground, by which friction was produced. The quantity of powder in the mill must have been great to have produced so tremendous an explosion, and to have done so much damage. Considering the extent of injury done to dwellings in the neighborhood, it is fortunate that no more lives were lost. In some places doors were forced in, locks and bolts being torn away, but happily no persons were in reach of the flying fragments.
A negro hut, about three hundred yards from the mills, was set on fire and burned down. Several hose-carriages belonging to our fire companies proceeded to the spot, but could render no service.

Republican Compiler Gettysburg Pennsylvania 1846-11-30