Newport, KY Saw Mill Boiler Explosion, June 1854


From the Cincinnati Times, June 10.
About 9 o'clock this morning, the residents of Newport and Covington, and of the lower portion of this city, were startled by a sudden shock, accompanied by heavy noise. The general impression at the moment was, that the boilers of some steamboat on the river had exploded, but it was soon ascertained to have emanated from the saw mill of WALKER & LIVZEY, situated in Newport, on the bank of the Licking river, a short distance above the suspension bridge. While the mill was in full operation, one of the two boilers attached to the works, exploded with a tremendous noise. The boiler was situated in a wing outside the mill, and seemed to part in the middle, one half being shattered and thrown some distance, eastwardly, and the other half sent whirling upward, and thence Westwardly, into the Licking River. The great force of the explosion seemed to be upward and westwardly. The west end and south side of the mill were shivered to pieces.
Eleven men were working in the mill at the time, a number of children were in the immediate vicinity, and though brick and fragments of iron and wood were hurled in every direction, no one was killed, and only one person was seriously hurt. Considering their numbers and close proximity to the boilers, this is really astonishing. We were early upon the scene of disaster, and found a large number of persons in attendance, searching the ruins for supposed injured persons. The following, as near as we could learn, are the particulars:
GUSTAV ADALF STRIEFER, a German boy, aged about eleven years. He was gathering chips a few feet north of the boiler, and when found was lying on his back, bleeding and insensible. A sharp piece of wood had penetrated his jaw, breaking the bone, and passed on up through his cheek and right eye. He was also struck on his head with some heavy substance, which fractured his skull. His cap was found several feet beyond, and his basket still farther off, both having been thrown there by the force of the explosion. He was carried into a neighboring house, and a surgeon immediately attended to him, but it is thought impossible for him to survive his injuries. He remained insensible until we left, about eleven o'clock.
DAVID CHILLIS, the engineer, is badly scalded in the face and neck, and is also injured in the back. He was in the engine room, directly south of the boilers, working at a vice, at the time of the explosion. He was thrown over the work bench, and found himself lying in a mass of timber and bricks. He was soon extricated, and it seemed a miracle that he was not killed.
ISAAC HARRISON, the fireman, was standing near MR. CHILLIS, and was also thrown among the ruins. He is but slightly hurt.
MR. JAMES MARSH, of Covington, had his right cheek bone broken. He was on the steamer Yorktown, on the opposite side of the Licking River, where he had been placed as watchman by the Sheriff. At the time of the explosion he was facing the mill, and a brick struck him with great force in the face.
JOSEPH and IGNATS GOODFRIEND were working in the upper part of the mill, and near the spot where the crash took place. One of them was struck on the head with a brick, but the injury is very slight. The other had one of his legs scraped by a piece of timber.
Two little daughters of MR. GOOGLE, who lives in the immediate vicinity, were playing near the mill, and were picked up for dead. THey were worse frightened, however, than any one, one of them receiving merely a slight burn on her left arm, and the other having no outward sign of injury.
MR. STEWART, the clerk of the establishment had a narrow escape from instantaneous death. At the time of the explosion he was sitting in the door of the office, about a hundred feet from, and almost directly east of the boiler. He instantly jumped under the desk of the counter, and had no sooner left his seat than the heavy safety valve fell through the roof of the office, passed directly through the chair on which he was sitting, into the floor. Had he remained on the floor a moment later, he would have been crushed.
MR. STEWART states that a number of children were playing on the space between the office and the mill, and it is astonishing to him that more were not hurt.
When we remember that the remaining boiler was thrown directly into the engine room, through the spot where the engineer and fireman were standing, it is astonishing that they were not crushed to death. They appear to have been thrown by the force of the explosion a distance of several feet.

New York Daily - Times New York 1854-06-17