St. Louis, MO House Explosion, Nov 1887


The Terrible Effects of a Mysterious Explosion in St. Louis.

Nearly a Dozen Persons Hurled Without Warning Into Eternity - The Havoc Visible a Block Distant from the Scene.

ST. LOUIS, Nov. 1. -- At ten minutes past two this morning and explosion at No. 7 South Fourteenth street hurled a family from their peaceful sleep into the dreadful slumber of eternity. The premises above mentioned - a two-story brick structure – was occupied by MICHAEL NEWMAN and his family, the first floor as a grocery store, the upper story as the sleeping apartments of the family. MR. NEWMAN was a man of about fifty-five, his wife was aged forty, and the children were MAMIE, a girl of twenty; JOHN, eighteen; NELLIE, fifteen; EDWARD, twelve; and KATE, ten. All of these were buried in the wreck.

The cause of the explosion will perhaps never be known; its effects can alone be measured. These were frightful in the extreme. The entire front of the house was shattered into fragments and the bricks thrown far out into the street. Not a stone was left in place and the timber in the building was dashed into a thousand jagged splinters. The explosion was distinctly heard as far east as the leves[sic], and every pane of glass within a radius of two blocks was completely shattered. Surmises were freely made as to the origin of the catastrophe. MR. NEWMAN'S stock was such as is usually found in small groceries, and included the usual assortment of oils and gasolines.

Almost simultaneously with the crush that told of falling walls, a bright sheet of flame flared up, and in a second the seasoned timbers, finely splintered, began to burn furiously. By this time an officer had turned in an alarm, and an engine responded. The firemen worked with an energy born of a desire to rescue fellow beings from a death whose horrors are indescribable. Above the crackling of the flames could be heard the moans and cries of the imprisoned unfortunates, some of whom were pinned to the earth by heavy beams, and others of whom were buried beneath a mountain of brick, mortar and debris. One man seemed to emerge from the very jaws of the fiery furnace and his appearance was greeted with the heart-felt cheers. By this time other engines were at hand, several streams were playing and a number of ready hands were pulling away at the encumbered wreck. The flames were quickly quenched and the work of extricating the dead and wounded was at once commenced by the firemen.

Pieces of bricks, glass, window sashes, doors, _____ frames and every thing used in the construction of a building were scattered in profusion on Fourteenth street, as far north as Chestnut street and south to Walnut. On Fourteenth street, immediately in front of the razed building, which, but a few minutes before stood firm enough to stand any ordinary shock, the saddest sight was yet to be seen, and upon approaching the wreck the heartrending cry was heard: "For God's sake, take me out; I am smothering."
On the arrival of the fire department the debris presented a fearfully confused state. There was but little fire apparent, and that was in the rear of the ruins near the narrow street which runs directly behind the buildings. The No. 14 Engine Company extinguished it in a few seconds, while the other firemen who responded to the alarm were busily engaged digging in the debris for the bodies of the unfortunates who were quietly sleeping in their apartments when the fearful explosion occurred. The rescuing party could hear the victims groaning under the ruins, and worked like only determined men can work when occasion of the kind renders it a necessity. MRS. WILSON was assisted out of the ruins, with several cuts on her face and head, and fainted several times. She was taken to a drug store, and on recovering sufficiently to speak said the NEWMAN with his wife and six children were buried under the ruins. She also said that she feared that MR. AND MRS. C. N. DEVERE, MISS BRYAN and MISS BERZELY of No. 9 were also buried. This information was given to the firemen, and they redoubled their energies to rescue the victims before it was too late. MISSES BERZELY and BRYAN were taken out only slightly scratched, but nothing could be seen of the DEVERE. The firemen working working in the north corner of the ruins were at work only a few minutes when they lifted out the body of MISS MAMIE NEWMAN, aged fifteen years. She was burned and mangled in a horrible manner, but was still conscious. She was placed on a stretcher and tenderly removed to an ambulance, which conveyed her to the dispensary. She was removed to the hospital in a dying condition. Her elder sister, NELLIE, aged eighteen years, was next taken out in the same corner. They had shared the same room and bed and were only a few feet apart when reached by the firemen. MISS NELLIE was taken to the dispensary in an extra ambulances which had been called out for the removal of the bodies, and she was conscious and begged to be turned over on her side, as her back was paining her terribly. She was sent to the hospital only a few minutes after her unfortunate sister.

At 3:15 a. m. the force of firemen at work in the center of the wrecked store in which the victims slept had cleared away with the use of axes, saws, grapling[sic] hooks and ropes a space probably ten feet square. A faint cry of agony suddenly was heard as heavy timbers were removed. A bed, crushed to the floor, was found, on which the mangled, bloody corpses of MICHAEL NEWMAN and his wife ANNIE lay lifeless. The cry that had been heard came from a child, not yet reached. The remains of NEWMAN and his wife were soon extricated, carried out on a mattress, placed in an ambulance and driven to the morgue.

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