Clinton County, PA Sawmill Explosion, May 1901

Man's Head Blown off By Explosion

Horrible Accident in Clinton County, in Which Two Others Were Hurt and a Saw Mill Wrecked.

The holler in the steam sawmill of Frank Swartz in Gallagher township Clinton County exploded late Friday afternoon killing the fireman George Helms injuring Harry Cryder and Andrew Conway, and completely wrecking the mill.

The explosion is said to have been caused by low water in the boiler. The inspirator had refused to work satisfactorily and while Fireman George Helms and Harry Cryder were working at it and trying to get it in operation the boiler let go with terrific force. Helms was killed instantly. A large fragment of the boiler struck him on the head tearing it from his body. His right arm was also torn off. Cryder was struck on the back of the head by the steam whistle which went flying through the air. His injuries are not serious.

All the clothing was torn from Frank Swartz the proprietor of the mill but he escaped injury. The mill was located on the Swartz farm and along the public road near Caldwell postoffice. The distance to the mill from Lock Haven is about nine miles. The boiler is said to have been about thirty horse power. The mill was a frame structure and the outfit included a circular saw planing and shingle machine. Seven men were employed in and around the mill but all escaped injury except Helms Conway and Cryder. From the description given by those who visited the scene afthe [sic] the explosion occurred it is little short of a miracle that more of the employes were not either killed or badly injured, as the mill is a complete wreck.

George Helms, who lost his life by the explosion, was aged about 60 years and is survived by his wife and several children. He was formerly a resident of Lock Haven and for a number of years lived in Dunnstown. He was an industrious man but had met with numerous accidents. After the flood of 1889 while assisting in removing timber from the public road in Lockport he had one of his legs broken and was laid up for several months. Mrs. Sarah Barrows, formerly of Lock Haven, but now of Williamsport, is a sister of Mr. Helms.

The headless body of Helms was a horrible sight. The mutilated head was found about 40 feet away from the body.

Daily Gazette and Bulletin, Williamsport, PA 3 Jun 1901