Mt Vernon, WI Burning Cavern Explosion, Jun 1854


A letter in the Philadelphia Ledger, dated Mt. Vernon, Wisconsin June 23, says:
A sad accident occurred near this village on Sunday, the 11th inst. A number of years ago, when this part of the country was a howling wilderness, a very rich gentleman had wandered here for the purpose of hunting foxes, &c. One day in one of his rambles he came to the foot of a high perpendicular rock (about 80 rods from where now stands the village of Mount Vernon) while he was exploring the crevices, &c., in search of fox holes, he found a large cavern which led straight into the bluff --- he procured a torch and proceeded to explore it --- he had not proceeded far before an explosion of the gases took place, which ended his life.

It has been visited since that time, but with no fatal consequences, (being careful to carry no fire, except in a glass lantern,) till last Sunday, when a number of persons being assembled at the house of JOEL BRITTS, on a visit, they concluded to take a ride to the village, and to visit the “Mammoth Cave,” which they did. They had taken the necessary precaution, with the exception of a pipe that remained in the mouth of the wife of JOEL BRITTS.

So they all went in, twelve persons, comprising the following named, viz: JOEL BRITTS and wife -- CAROLINE BRITTS and her son, CYRUS two years of age --- JOSEPH BRITTS, EDWARD BRITTS, DAVID SMITH and wife --- HARRIET LYEAN, LOUISA LEE, JAS M'NAB and RHODA CARLIN, the two latter of this village. I was standing about forty rods from the place when I heard an immense explosion, after which I hastened to the spot, and what a heartrending scene met my eye --- it may be imagined, but not described. All of the before named persons, except the three latter, were burned and bruised to death. JAMES M'NAB, LOUISA LEE and MISS CARLIN lay with their clothes burning and bodies mangled frightfully. They were placed under the care of the village physician, who thinks they will recover. It is to be hoped this will be received as ample warning to all persons who wish to visit the “Burning Cavern.”

The Erie Observer Pennsylvania 1854-07-08