Bodie, CA Mine Magazine Explosion, July 1879




Bodie, Cal., July 11. -- Yesterday afternoon the Town of Bodie was startled by an explosion which shattered windows, blew down houses, and caused the death of several people. The Standard Mine is situated on the side of a hill. In the valley between this hill and another foot-hill lies the Town of Bodie. It is a mining town in every sense of the word. Its inhabitants are miners and their wives, saloon-keepers and their wives, and the proprietors of the small stores which furnish to the miners the provisions which they require. Near the Standard incline, which is virtually a tunnel into the hill, and was run before the main shaft of the mine was sunk, stood the magazine of the mine. In this magazine was stored the giant-powder cartridges with which the blasting was done. These cartridges are about six inches in length and a half inch in diameter. They must be exploded by a peculiar kind of fuse, which is furnished with them. They are considered perfectly safe unless this fuse is applied to them. How the explosion of yesterday occurred is still a mystery to the miners of Bodie. But the fact of the explosion has left with it too terrible results to be doubted. At 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon the magazine was blown to atoms, and everything near the building was leveled to the ground. The building contained five tons of powder.
The Summit Mine Works are situated a short distance from the Standard magazine. They were shattered to pieces, and many of the men who were laboring in the works were instantly killed. The top of the timbering in the old incline was set on fire, but the efforts of the department were so prompt and effective, that the fire was soon extinguished. For a time, however, this fire bid fair to rival the old conflagration in the Yellow Jacket, at Gold Hill, Nev., where nearly 200 men were smothered in the depths below the surface. The hills around the mine were covered with the wives and friends of the miners who were known to be on the levels below. There was no possible escape for them except through the shaft, and the top of the incline which led to this was a mass of blaze. It was a time of terrible excitement for the friends of the men who were imprisoned below. Unless the fire was extinguished very quickly, it was well understood that the smoke, uniting with the gases of the mine, the lowest level of which is 1,300 feet below the surface, would suffocate the miners. The firemen, however, did their duty well, and the flames were subdued in a short time. The result was that none of the workmen below ground were injured. At the three hundred level, the men report that they felt a slight jar, but paid no attention to it. The drifts fortunately had not been connected, so that a perfect draft was created, and what smoke did penetrate below the surface found a free outlet through the drifts and up the mine shaft. No injury was done to anybody below the ground, but the shock of the explosion was felt on the surface at Bridgeport, Cal., a distance of 20 miles.
The following persons are now known to have been killed by the explosion, and the search is still going on for the bodies: FRANK FYDE; THOMAS FLAHERTY; WILLIAM O'BRIEN, and several others who are so mutilated that their identity has not yet been established. A. D. PIERCE was slightly wounded, as were also MR. and MRS. CHAFF. THOMAS MURPHY had an arm fractured and SULLIVAN, the engineer at the incline, had both eyes blown out and his skull fractured. It is impossible for him to recover. WILLIAM HEDGE had a leg broken. A Chinaman was buried under the ruins, and his body has not yet been found. The face of THOMAS GILL was nearly blown off. RICHARD PALMER'S arm was broken, and his body disfigured. HUGH McMILLAN had a leg broken, and was injured internally and has since died. JAMES HYCKEY, the foreman of the mine, was cut in the foot and otherwise severely injured. MRS. McKINNEY and her child were buried in the ruins of her house, but were extricated alive. JOHN McMILLAN was buried in his cabin, but was rescued slightly injured. The whole town was converted into a hospital last night. Rumors flew around thickly, and every moment news came of more deaths and injuries. As far as heard from, eight persons are known to be dead, and over forty wounded, with the prospect that many of them will die from their injuries. Everybody is still excited. Women and children are crying in the streets and searching for the remains of their loved ones. It is probable that manyu were blown into the air and their remains scattered broadcast. Everything is being done that kind hearts and willing hands can do. The Miners' Union Hall has been turned into a hospital, and the Masons and Odd-fellows are active in their efforts to alleviate suffering.
Later investigation adds to the list of those killed, CHARLES MALLEY, a miner, who entered the magazine just before the explosion, and JOHN McCARTHY. Among the other persons reported wounded are JACK DEMPSEY, badly; H. H. HERNSAST, slightly; MR. PYLE, badly hurt in the Standard boarding-house; MRS. SNEAD, slightly; DANIEL McDONALD, lumberman; ALEXANDER McGREGOR, HUGH McMILLAN, JR., J. C. SHREVES, and MRS. SHAY, severely. The scene at the Miners' Union Hall is of the most heart-rending character. The building is crowded with killed and wounded, and with hundreds of people anxiously seeking friends and relatives. The mine managers, surgeons, and volunteer nurses are unremitting in their efforts to alleviate the sufferings of the victims. A Coroner's jury has been impanedled, and an inques will be held as soon as possible.

The New York Times New York 1879-07-12