Big Springs Explosion Kills Two in 1901


Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 8/20/1901.

A Horrible Accident
Buhrs in Johnson's Mill at Big Springs Exploded,
Killing Two Men and Seriously Injuring Two Others

Was It Dynamite?

The Dead
George Richards, Miller
Jake Knight, Farmer

Charley Harris
_____ Reese

One of the most terrible accidents that ever occurred in this county, was the explosion of the burh-stones in the Johnson mill, at Big Springs, a little village about two miles east of the Metz oil field. It occurred last Friday evening, and as a result George Richards and Jake Knight are dead, and Charles Harris and a Reese boy are seriously, though not fatally injured, and the mill is a wreck.

The details of the calamity are as follows:  The workmen had just gone into the mill and turned the power on to the burhs preparatory to grinding some grain.  George Richards was attending to the burhs, and had ground one grist, and put the second into the hopper, when the explosion occurred.  There were in the mill at the time the four men above named, and a deaf mute by the name of Wilson, who escaped unhurt.  The mill was running with about 75 lb. of steam pressure, and at what was not considered dangerous speed, when, without a moments warning, the stone burhs gave way with a tremendous sound that could be heard for a great distance, and stone and iron and splintered wood filled the building.  Richards and Knight were on opposite sides of the mill, about an equal distance from the burhs.  Richards was struck on the breast with some heavy weight, crushing in the bones and terribly bruising him.  It is not likely that he ever knew what hurt him, as he never regained consciousness.  He died within half an hour.  Knight was struck on the right shoulder, crushing the shoulder, the breast and collar bones; and also received a long deep cut across the left side of the abdomen through which the entrals protruded.  He lived a while longer than Richards, but didn't regain consciousness. Harris was struck about the knee by some flying timbers or stone, causing a painful wound.  He was also otherwise bruised up considerably.  Reese received a severe blow in the face knocking out his teeth, and badly mashing and bruising his face.  A messenger was sent here immediately for medical aid, and Dr. Ireland responded, but Richards and Knight had both died before he arrived.

There is a diversity of opinion as to the cause of the accident; some claiming there was dynamite in the grain which was being ground, while others attribute it to running the burhs too fast.  This latter theory seems to be the correct one, as it was reported that W.C. Wilson was in the mill just a moment before the explosion, and becoming alarmed at the speed at which the burhs were being run, went out, and had just got beyond the mill when the accident happened.  It is also reported that the deaf mute who was in the mill at the time, claims he saw dynamite in the grain just before the explosion.  The accident caused great excitement and hundreds of persons visited the scene of the disaster.  Pieces of stone fragments of iron and splintered timbers line the interior of the mill and are scattered for rods around in the mill yard.

George Richards, the miller, was one of the most popular young men in the county.  He was conscientious, honest, was shrewd, a great worker and was in many respects more than an ordinary man.  Every one who knew him, liked him, and his acquaintance was large.  His untimely and sudden death is a great shock to all, and his young widowed wife has the sympathy of everyone.