Asheville, NC Explosion, Dec 1897


A Can of Powder Exploded in a Large Crowd at Asheville, N. C.


Was Revealed When the Smoke Cleared Away.



The Accident Was the Result of Loading Christmas Cannon Without Swabbing It – Sparks Ignited the Powder Injuring About Forty Persons.

Asheville, N. C., Dec. 25. – A crowd of one hundred or more men and boys were firing a Christmas salute from an old cannon on the outskirts of the town today, when a can of thirty pounds of powder exploded in the thick of the crowd. Thirty or forty persons were injured, but none, it is believed, fatally.

The cannon was fired several times and then Joseph Finch, an employe (sic) on the Southern railway, picked up the powder can and began to reload the cannon The gun had not been swabbed and the moment the tiny stream of powder struck the heated metal there was a flash and the powder exploded with a report that made the earth tremble.

A moment later there was a scene that made sick the hearts of those watching from a nearby hill. In the smoke that rose from the explosion they saw human beings run blindly here and there over hill, falling and rising only to fall again as they frantically rushed about, blinded and powder-blinded, madly trying to extinguish their flaming clothing.
Those who were unhurt ran to the aid of the unfortunate ones, smothering flaming garments or cutting the clothing from their bodies. One man was blown or rolled completely down the high bluff two hundred feet, nearly to the river.

People in the neighborhood ran to the scene and the work of giving assistance to the injured began. The hill was covered with blackened, groaning figures, some of whom lay almost perfectly nude. A number of the injured were able to walk from the scene, while cots were provided and gentle hands placed the more seriously wounded on them and conveyed them to an old residence near by which was improvised into a hospital. Those injured the worst are:
Joseph Finch.
Edward Miller.
John Ingle.
Barton Means.
Clarence Ladford.
Vernon Sentell.
Charles Earwood.
Hay Eaton.
Eugene Wynne.
D. Bennett.
Dexter Aldrich.
John Powell.
Henry McIntyre.
Buck Trivett.
Del Bishop.
B. L. Gowam.
G. Eaton.
J. E. Hamilton.
James Warren.
Frank Pratter.

Joseph Finch is among the more seriously hurt, his nose and mouth are torn out of shape and he is probably blinded.

Clarence Ledford, who stood near the cannon when the powder ignited, was thrown more than fifty feet. His clothing was torn and burned entirely off and a part of the skin on the forehead was burned loose.

Charles Earwood and John Ingle are also seriously hurt, and several others probably will lose their sight or be disfigured for life.

The Macon Telegraph, Macon, GA 26 Dec 1897