Fontanet, IN DuPont Powder Co. Explosion, Oct 1907

Fontanet IND Oct 1907 explosion.jpg





Brazil, Ind. --- From twenty-five to thirty persons dead and dying, 100 persons injured, and every house in Fontanet destroyed, rendering several hundred people homeless, is the result of an explosion of powder in the mills of the Du Pont Powder Company, near Fontanet, at 9:15 o'clock Tuesday.

The first explosion occurred in the glazing mill of the plant. Quickly following the other mills blew up, there being three distinct concussions at intervals of a few minutes.

In the mills at the time seventy-five to eighty men were at work. When the glazing mill went up, the men ran for their lives from the other mills and many thus escaped death, but received serious injuries. At the first explosion the inhabitants of the town ran from the buildings and thus saved themselves. No one was killed in the town, although there is not a building left standing.

Magazine Blows Up.
At 10:45, ninety minutes after the first explosion, the heat from the burning mills exploded the great powder magazine situated in a hollow several hundred yards from the mills. It contained many thousand kegs of powder and the concussion was even greater than those from the explosions of the mills.

Among those injured from the magazine explosion were several physicians who were at work among the dead and dying.

A freight train standing on the siding leading to the powder mills was partly destroyed by the concussion and took fire.

The heat from the burning mills and freight train was so great that it was impossible to remove many of the bodies from the wreckage. Eighteen mangled bodies were taken to the morgue to await identification. Injured were found scattered everywhere and were collected and ( ? ) given as rapidly as possible.

Not a House Standing.
Not a house is left standing in the town. Fronts, roofs, sides and even the foundations of many buildings have been blown to atoms. Great holes are torn in the ground, fences have vanished and house goods from the ruined homes are in confused heaps of debris in all directions.

The people of the town, who had rushed from their homes at the first explosion, were saved because of this. The shock from the exploding magazine wrecked the buildings in the town.

The first body taken from the wrecked mills was that of DR. CARROLL, an employe [sic]. It was burned almost to a crisp, but the man was still alive and begged for someone to shoot him and put him out of his misery. He lived but a few minutes.

Father and Son Die Together.
The bodies of two other employes, VES DIAL and his SON, were found near CARROLL. WILL DALTON was found unconscious, his body badly mangled. He cannot live. CHARLES WELLS, engineer on the freight train is badly injured. He is burned and his left leg is fractured.

A brick school building a quarter of a mile from the mills, was wrecked and many of the children within were injured, some seriously, but none fatally. A farmhouse three-quarters of a mile away was totally destroyed.

Fontanet is a mining town of 800 inhabitants, situated on the Big Four railroad, eighteen miles east of Terre Haute and twelve miles from here.

The explosion interrupted telephone communication with outside points. Assistance was asked for at once and physicians with bandages left both places in carriages and automobiles to render aid.

Superintendent MONAHAN of the mills is missing and is believed to have been blown to pieces and his body burned.

Basalt Journal Colorado 1907-10-19

Continued on Page 2.


Fontanet, IN Powder Mill Explosion, Oct 1907

FONTANET, Ind., Oct. 16 .... Thirty bodies have been identified, ten probably never will be, and 250 persons are in improvised hospitals....

There is no sadder story in connection with the disaster than that of the tragic death of Superintendent Monahan and his family. Men, who were intimately acquainted with Monahan, say that during the last few months he has spoken off times of a desire to quit. Not a week ago he occupied a seat in a train with Homer Talley, a Terre Haute coal operator. Mr. Talley said to-day that Mr. Monahan remarked then that he had written two letters of resignation to the Dupont company and had been promised a successor, but he did not come. He will have to come now if another powder mill is built in the Otter Creek ravine.

Fate of Monahan.
Monahan was either burned to death in his office or his body blown to atoms. Mrs. Monahan and her two sisters and a niece were burned to death in the superintendent's home which stood on the hill overlooking the mills. It was a cottage and was a part of the mill property. When the explosion occurred it must have carried force sufficient to stun the women in the cottage. There was a fire in the kitchen stove. The stove must have been wrecked and the ashes set fire to the wrecked house. The wreckage caused a funeral pyre.

Fred Smith Lumber Company shipped a carload of building material to Fontanet to-day and sent a gang of men who volunteered to help rebuild the shattered houses.


The following is the list of identified dead:

George Hodge, Arthur R. Monahan, superintendent of the mills; Mrs. Arthur Monahan; Earl Wood, John Gray, Don Dial, Vess Dial, Frank Dial, James Biggs, Fred Cress, Samuel Nevens, Edward Nevens, Samuel Ingalls, Frank Ingalls, Miss Susie Biship, Willie Hodge, George Justice, John Bobo, George Bobo, William Sherill, Henry Harrington, Adam Webster, William Yates, T. T. Kellup, Wilmington Del., representative of the company; Henry Chandler, W. E. Griff, L. J. Carroll.

The cause of the explosion was a hot box, friction on a shaft in the glazing mill causing sparks to fall into loose powder.

William Sherrow, a workman in the glazing mill, where the first explosion occurred, recovered consciousness in the hospital to-day and said: "The explosion was caused by a loose boxing on the shaft. The day before we had to throw water on it, when friction made it hot. This time it got too hot and sent off sparks that caused the explosion.

Wilkes-Barre Times, Wilkes-Barre, PA 16 Oct 1907