Columbus, OH Natural Gas Explosion, Jan 1890





Columbus, O., Jan. 25. -- There was a scene of death's destruction in this city last night, whose horrible features and sickening details are surpassed only by the Johnstown flood. Never in the history of Ohio has such a dreadful disaster occurred as that which sent thrills of horror through the thousands who witnessed it last night. A double explosion occurred and it dealt out death with dual force.
A few moments after 5 o'clock an alarm of fire sounded, calling out the entire department. The streets were thronged with the thousands of toilers who were returning to their homes from workshops and factories and quickly spread the news that a frightful calamity had happened in the southern part of the city. The streets leading to that section were soon crowded with people going to the scene. Their presence there heaped horror upon horror as will be seen later on.
The explosion had occurred at the double residence of MESSRS. MICHAEL BOWERS and JOHN MARRIOT, at the corner of Wall and Noble Allies. The cause of the calamity was an accumulation of natural gas in the cellar of the house referred to. The city has recently been supplied with natural gas, and leading past the house occupied by MARRIOT and BOWERS is one of the mains through which the commodity is furnished to the public. The pipes had leaked, and the explosive fuel had found its way through fissures in the ground to the cellar, which was the seat of the horror. It became ignited in some unknown manner and exploded with terrific force, wrecking the building and filling the air with debris. MRS. MARRIOT was blown out of the house and a man named FOULDING, who was standing near the structure, was blown across the street.
MRS. MARRIOT was carried across the street and into the residence of WILLIAM JAMES, a bookkeeper for the book firm of Glock & Beck. Dr. Wissinger, a prominent physician, was called to attend her injuries. The house where the injured lady lay was soon crowded with people attracted by the accident, and it was soon necessary to close the doors that no more might enter. Little known those scores of spectators were standing in a death trap, which was then on the verge of carrying them into eternity. Suddenly the air was rent by a thunderous explosion, which made the earth quake, and filled the air with flying timbers, bricks and debris of all kinds. Darkness ensued and then a deathlike stillness reigned for a few moments. It was broken by shrieks and death groans.
The house in which lay the powerless form of MR. MARRIOT had been blown to atoms and its occupants buried beneath the wreck. Hundreds of spectators, who lined the sidewalks, were knocked violently down by the shock and laid powerless. Then to cap the climax, a team of spirited horses attached to one of the fire department ladder trucks, became frenzied by the explosion and dashed away into the crowd, carrying death in their wake. They ran over and injured scores of people. A beautiful little babe was knocked from its mother's arms, and falling beneath the merciless wheels of the vehicle, was crushed to death.
As soon as the maddened steeds had disappeared in the darkness, many of the spectators and firemen who had been uninjured by either of the horrors, turned their attention to digging out the persons buried beneath the ruins of the house, and, guided by the cries and moans of the mangled and dying, men groped in the darkness, pulling out a dead body here and a mangled yet living form there, and conveying them to resting places. Groups of men, women and children gathered around the prostrate forms, and blood-curdling shrieks made the awful scene more revolting as friends recognized friends injured or dead; parents found their mutilated children, and vice versa.
It required several hours to remove all the dead and injured from the ruins and it is not yet known who, or how many are the victims.
Following is the list of killed and wounded so far ascertained:
The killed are:
Infant son of CHARLES BERRY.
JAMES SEYMOUR, colored boy.
An unknown white man.
An unknown babe.
The injured are:
DR. T. K. WISSINGER, badly and probably fatally burned and bruised.
HERMAN BAKER, badly burned.
DANIEL CHERRY, burned painfully.
CHARLES WOODRUFF, cut and bruised seriously.
MRS. FULLY, burned and injured internally; probably fatally.
PATRICK SUISKIE, cut on head.
AARON BEENS, cut on face and head.
BENJAMIN MORGAN, gashes on head and internal injuries.
CHARLES LOWRY, burned and bruised.
ALBERT TICKLIDER, bruised and cut.
_____ BRADY, burned and cut.
EDWARD VIEMER, cut and burned.
_____ WOLF, cut and burned.
MISS BELLE SMITH, badly hurt.
MRS. CORN, badly burned.
PETER MERRIOT, terribly burned about shoulders and neck.
TOM DOYLE, hand burned partially off.
EMMA BOWERS, probably fatally burned.
MARSHAL KILBOURNE, horrible injuries on neck and head.
WILLIAM BRADY, probably fatally suffocated.
WILLIAM JAMES, hands and face roasted; will die.
MRS. WILLIAM JAMES, badly cut and bruised.
_____ BLANKINGER, horribly burned and cut.
Many others were badly injured, but were carried away by friends and their names cannot be learned. The houses for several blocks around the scene of the explosion have been made into hospitals, where many are being cared for.
MISS BELLE SMITH, who was badly injured, had gone into the doomed house just prior to the explosion. Her face was badly bruised, and she was suffering from many bruises about the body. She was almost completely buried in the debris and had to be dug out. The doctors pronounce her injuries serious, but thinks she will recover.
ELMER GATES, a young man, was standing opposite the house when the second explosion occurred, and was struck by a missile which broke his leg.
A young man named MESHLIDER, who is a resident of Granville, O., was severely burned and shocked.
PAT MERRITT, a 16-year-old girl, was seriously burned about the shoulders and chest. When she reached the street she was almost naked. Her life was saved by turning a stream of water on her.
DR. T. K. MESSINGER was in the JAMES house when he was hurt. He was attending a patient who was hurt at the other place, when the second explosion occurred. Those who heard him talk, say he said he suddenly saw the flames creep along the floor of the room and immediately threw himself under a table and placed his hands over his eyes to shield them.
BENJAMIN MORGAN, also a spectator, was badly injured. He was knocked down by one of the hose carts in the general rush for safety, after the first explosion and then run over by the mad crowd. MORGAN lives at Shawnee, and was a delegate to the miners' convention which has been in session here. He is thought to be internally injured.
THEODORE SHOUTING was watching the fire across the street when the explosion occurred. The blaze and falling debris frightened the horses of the hose cart, which wheeled and ran onto the pavement. The gentleman was knocked down and had one leg broken in two places.
TOM DOYLE, a saloon porter, was burned in a horrible manner. When the impromptu bandages were removed from his hands, the flesh dropped off in many places leaving the bones exposed.
Police Officer LYSKY was in the house at the time it fell, and was badly injured.
PETER MARRIOT, a lamp lighter, occupied one part of an adjoining house which was wrecked. He has four children and all of them were badly injured. Another part of the same house was occupied by a widow, who disappeared when the explosion occurred and cannot be found.
ARCHIE McNEIL had his leg broken and was otherwise badly bruised.
MR. McNEIL was one of the bystanders who was caught by the falling walls.
The saddest case was that of EDWARD PFEIFER. He was struck by the falling timbers and was terribly cut about the head, and the shock of the blows rendered the man a raving maniac for the time being. It required the united efforts of several men to hold him on the seat of the patrol wagon as it dashed up the street.
At midnight a half dozen persons were unaccounted for, among whom were the widow TULL and her son, who occupied a part of the first house that exploded.
The scenes at the morgue are ghastly. The remains of those killed are cut and burned almost beyond recognition.

Jeffersonville Daily Evening News Indiana 1890-01-25