Menasha, WI Explosion And Fire In Mill, Aug 1888

Menasha WIS Whiting Paper Mills Fire 8-24-1888.jpg

PLUNGED IN DEEP GRIEF.

AN AWFUL CALAMITY BEFALLS A WISCONSIN COMMUNITY.

FATAL EXPLOSION NEAR MENASHA.

THE BOILER OF THE WHITNEY PAPER-MILL EXPLODES DURING THE BURNING OF THE STRUCTURE -- FOURTEEN MEN KILLED AND MANY OTHERS INJURED.

A Deplorable Affair.
Milwaukee, Aug. 24. -- A special from Neenah, Wis., to the Evening Wisconsin says: At 11:30 o'clock Wednesday evening the large paper mill owned by GEORGE WHITNEY, situated on the island between this city and Menasha, was destroyed by fire. While the burning structure was surrounded by a crowd of spectators the battery of boilers exploded. The roof and the walls were thrown outward, sending a shower of brick and timbers among the spectators. Fourteen persons were killed, seven fatally injured, and a number less seriously hurt, several of whom may die. The mill was a three-story structure, built four years ago at a cost of $100,000, and was operated day and night. When the flames broke out about fifty men were in the building. The fire alarm brought several hundred people to the spot, who crowded as close to the burning building as the intense heat would permit. About 1:30 o'clock, while the building was a mass of flame, the explosion occurred without warning. The roof of the building was thrown upward and outward, the walls of brick crumbled and crashed into the street, and in an instant scores of men were buried by the heavy debris. There was a moment of silence and then a cry of horror went up from the multitude. The first strong impulse to fly from possible further danger was soon overcome and hundreds began the work of recovering the bodies of the dead and rescuing and caring for the injured. Body after body was found, crushed and mangled by the great timbers and masonry almost beyond recognition, and then removed to the City Hall. The injured were carried to neighboring residences or to their homes as soon as their identity could be established. Following is a list of the dead:
JOSEPH BRUEGGIN.
WILLIE BUBLITZ, JR.
JOSEPH EUL.
JOHN HOFMAN.
HENRY KOELKE.
SEBASTIAN LIEBHAUSE.
MICHAEL MENDTAER.
GILBERT MURRICH.
JOHN MOHR.
LOUIS REESCH.
FRANK SANBORN.
JACOB VEDDER.
JOHN WEAVER.
The severely injured are:
THOMAS JORDAN, side hurt, it is thought fatally.
MYRON C. FISHER, of Bachelder & Fischer, right leg broken twice.
WILL KRAUZ, leg broken and afterward amputated.
AUGUST HECKNER, laborer, head badly cut.
COLLY SCHOEAFER, arm broken and head hurt.
D. TEUCHSCHER, head and leg cut.
FRED HELBACH, back hurt.
P. V. LAWSON, ankle injured.
DR. F. BURROUGHS, back and arm hurt.
JOHN LULL, arm hurt.
J. KOCISCH, leg cut.
ALICE LANDICK and MRS. ARFT, slightly injured.
EDWARD LEIPHAUSER, side and back injured.
N. WAGNER, knocked down from a car and badly hurt.
JOSEPH DRYER, leg badly bruised.
A. FRAZIER, back struck by a plank.
The loss on the building is $100,000, insurance, $50,000.
The fire caught in the boiler room, in a large quantity of fuel, shavings, etc. The fireman, PETER NELSON, had been out during the evening and a friend had worked for him. About 12 o'clock he went from his post to get a drink of water, and on looking back into the boiler room found flames among the piles of shavings. Before he could get the hose or pull the whistle to give the alarm the flames rushed through the room and drove him out. When the department arrived and began playing upon the fire the mill was doomed. The immense revolving bleach was in the heating room adjoining the fire room. It was filled with straw and rags. When the roof over the heating room fell in the firemen turned the hose over the bleach, and instantly an explosion occurred and ten tons of boiler debris shot out of the building and across a sidetrack through a throng of spectators, mowing them down like grass. The immense mass of iron shot out into an open lot 200 feet away. In its passage it struck the heads of the onlooking bystanders, as nearly all the killed and injured were hit on the head. The scene was indescribable. The blow, so sudden and crushing, stunned those it did not kill and maim. But presence of mind soon prevailed, and strong men hastened to the relief of the wounded and cared for the dead.
The cause of the calamity is traced directly to the iron bleach. It is said that this was full of steam and rags and had become superheated. When the cold water from the fire engine struck it the explosion followed instantly.
All of the killed will be buried at the city's expense, as they were all in poor circumstances, and some of the families of the killed are almost destitute. Mayor LAWSON has appointed a committee to solicit aid for the families of the killed, and already a good deal of money has been subscribed. There is nobody who can describe the explosion, as those who were nearest and could see were either killed or injured badly. Every factory in the city is closed and will remain so until after the burials. Flags are at half-mast on all the public buildings. The City Council will hold a meeting for the purpose of taking some action in regard to the funerals. The city officers will, probably, have full charge of the funeral arrangements, and the burial will, probably, occur next Sunday.
The destroyed mill was built by WILLIAM GILBERT, of Chicago, and GEORGE A. WHITNEY, of Neenah, in 1882. It was understood at the time the mill was built that it cost between $55,000 and $60,000. The members of the firm had business differences and dissolved about two years ago, GILBERT retiring. It is impossible to learn what the mill was valued at then by either party, but it is surmised the figures $60,000 are about right.

The Republican Freeman Waukesha Wisconsin 1888-08-24

Comments

Menasha, WI Explosion And Fire In Mill, Aug 1888

Either the original newspaper article is wrong or the transcription has errors. The mill that exploded was the George WHITING mill, not the WHITNEY mill.