St. Louis, MO Mill Creek Sewer Explosion, July 1892




Houses Demolished -- Railroad Tracks and Trains Swallowed Up -- Several Persons Killed and Injured -- Miraculous Escapes and Rescues.

St. Louis, July 27 -- The most terrific explosion in the history of St. Louis occurred at 4:25 o'clock yesterday afternoon, in the vicinity of Fourth street and Chouteau avenue. Three people are known to have been killed, four seriously injured, and two persons are missing. The explosion is thought to have been due to the gereration of gas in the Mill Creek sewer, one of the largest in the system, presumably the result of the recent disastrous fire at the WATERS-PIERCE Oil Co.'s works.

Three muffled reports similar to distant connonading, and a shock as if an earthquake had occurred, startled this portion of the city at the hour named. Immediately the earth opened in a chasm 15 foot wide, and extending over the greater portion of four blocks. Starting at 1014 South Fourth street, the first floor of the wholesale liquor house of CARL FUCHS was blown clear of its supports and a number of men were thrown in the air only to fall into the yawning sewer which flowed under the house. This was the first of three explosions. In instantaneous succession there followed a second and third explosion and a train of cars and 200 feet of railroad track were lifted in like manner and then sank into the earth.

The force of the explosion was terrific. Mill Creek sewer is constructed with arch stones averaging eighteen inches square. They apparently offered no resistance to the more than dynamite force. For twenty feet on both sides of the sewer the earth was seamed with apertures from one to three inches wide. The worst effects were felt from Fourth street to the river, but as far up as Twelfth street houses were severely shaken all along the passage of the sewer and the earth was cracked.

Standing at the bar at 1014 South Fourth street, just before the explosion, were three or four men besides the bartender, CHARLES MILLER, and the proprietor CARL FUCHS. When the explosion occurred they were all hurled upward and fell under a mass of debris into the immense sewer beneath. So far as is known only one escaped alive, R. J. TUNSTALL. He was carried away by the rushing water, disappeared underground for a distance of 100 feet, and was rescued on his reappearance at one of the large holes caused by the explosion below. He was badly injured and will likely die from these and the inhalation of gas. Upstairs lived a family named TEMPE, consisting of MR. and MRS. TEMPE and two children of 8 and 10 years of age. MRS. TEMPE was seated on the back porch. She was hurled through the air a distance of fifty feet into the alley, and received injuries from which she died a few hours later. She was removed to SCHNAKLER'S hotel, a few door's south, and physicians ineffectively endeavored to save her, but the shock and her age in addition to internal injuries rendered all efforts unavailing. The two children, a boy and a girl, escaped with slight injuries. MR. TEMPE was asleep in the rear of the third story and suffered no injury. The only other occupant of the house, DR. BOWLER, was unhurt.

The demolition of the first floor was complete. The front was blown into the middle of Fourth street, sixty feet distant. The rear was blown far out into the Iron Mountain yards and scattered over two blocks of territory. In the cellar were stored a hundred or more barrels of liquor. They, with the floor of the first story, the bar and fixtures and the great rock forming the arch of the sewer were piled in indescribable confusion upon each other, and under them lay MILLER, FUCHS and the men who had been drinking at the bar.

The heaviest pressure of the gas lay between Fourth street and the river, because there was no considerable damage done above Fourth. At Seventh and Gratiot, Engine-house 24, in the alley back of the morgue, Seventh and Poplar, Twelfth and Pine and at Twelfth and Spruce the heavy caps over the manholes were blown off, and the sidewalks around them were torn up for some distance.

The first man to be extricated from the ruins was JACOB MAGLOY. He was pinned down by an eight by eight beam which fell across his leg. He was delirious from the inhalation of gas and the shock and fought the firemen after his release. His leg was broken, but he was otherwise uninjured. He was removed to the City hospital, and at last accounts was resting easy. He is supposed to be one of the party drinking at the bara when the explosion came.

Decatur Daily Republican Illinois 1892-07-27