Lead, SD mine explosion, May 1901


Homestake Company Suffers the First Accident of This Kind in Its History.

Ed. Brelsford Is Killed and John Cowling and Maudy Klingler Are Badly Injured.

Women Frantically Search for Husbands Whom They Believed Lost - Boiler Does the Work.

Special Dispatch to the World-Herald.

Lead, S.D., May 10. - A boiler exploded this evening at the Highland hoist, half a mile from this city, killing Ed Breisford and severely injuring John Cowling and Mandy Klingler. Breisford was married and had eight children. No cause can be given for the explosion.

The Highland hoist is one of the largest used by the Homestake company. About one-third of the ore is hoisted through it and a sawmill is also operated there, in which alll of the mine timbers are prepared. The company will undoubtedly have to close down until the sawmill can be repaired.

The hoist and mill buildings have been completely demolished.

There wree a number of remarkable escapes, a little boy was sitting on top of one of the boilers and was blown up through the top of the building, but was uninjured.

The company will sustain a loss of $200,000 to $300,000, caused principally in the shuting down of the mine. The repairs will be quickly made. Superintendent Grier stated tonight that no blame could be atached [sic] to any one. It is not likely that the mills will close down for long, for there is a good reserve of ore to work on.

The shock of the explosion was felt all over the city, half a mile away. A fire alarm was turned in immediately after the explosion and all the department companies responded. The buildings, what was left of them, caught on fire, but it was easily controlled. Fortunately there was but a small force of men at work this evening. The day shift has a large force and had the explosion occurred earlier in the day there would have been a dozen lives lost instead of one.

Breisford, the man killed, was a general favorite in Lead. He had been in the employ of the Homestake company for seventeen years. He was standing near the boiler, visiting with the fireman, when the explosion occurred. The fireman was uninjured. When the boiler went up both ends were forced out with terrific force. One end was blown clear across the sawmill, seventy-five feet, where it struck against solid timbers. Pieces of the boiler were sent flying 500 feet away and portions of the buildings are to be found nearly at the foot of the hill at Mill street.

Superintendent Grier and other officials of the company were quickly on the ground after the explosion. There was total darkness for the electric light connections had been broken. Candles were lighted and a few miners had lanterns and for a time there was a wild scene, as a hundred women crawled over the debris looking fear for their husbands.

Breisford was found partly covered over by the top of the boiler, which had pinned him down in the ground. His head was badly bruised and a rod had passed through his groin. He was breathing when taken up, but died while being carried to the hospital. He was a member of benevolent societies and is said to have some life insurance for his widow and children. The explosion occurred at exactly twenty minutes after 8 o'clock.

Glassi [sic] in all parts of the city was jarred and people on the streets felt the earthquake. The first impression was that the mine had blown up and all the horrors of such an incident presented themselves to the Lead citizens. There was a scramble for the steep hill. Hose carts were carried bodily up the long flight of steps and streams of water were soon playing on the fire.

An order for a new boiler has been wired in and all of the other boilers and machinery will be repaired with two shifts of men.

This is the first accident of the kind that ever happened to the Homestake company.

The Omaha World Herald, Omaha, NE 11 May 1901