Boston, MA Schooner SARAH Explosion, Sep 1835



On Saturday afternoon, about five o'clock, a fire was discovered on board the new schr. Sarah, Capt. GRISWOLD, of and bound for Hartford, Conn., lying at the head of Central wharf, contiguous to India street. How the fire originated we have been unable to ascertain -- but when first discovered, smoke was seen issuing from the main hatchway, where about 100 bags of saltpetre had been stowed -- some of the bags were immediately removed by the crew and thrown over board -- but finding the fire had already spread too extensively to be extinguished in this way, the hatches were closed, in hopes they might succeed in smothering it. Meanwhile the cry of "powder" having been raised, the truth of which seemed to be confirmed by some slight explosion, the crew left the vessel for the wharf, and luckily it was for them that they did so. By this time, the firemen and citizens generally had collected in great numbers, and though some of them were induced to hold back, deterred by the cry of powder, and the fear of consequences, still an immense number had already throunged, and were still thronging forward, and had filled the wharf and adjacent streets to the number probably of 1500 or 2000, when a most terrific explosion took place in the vessel, completely tearing the deck and scattering the burning fragments, as also many heavy articles of her cargo, in every direction. That there were not fifty or a hundred people killed upon the spot, is wonderful indeed, nay, more -- it is miraculous !
We never witnessed any thing so awfully sublime in our lives. On the deck of the schooner were 18 hogsheads filled with old copper, weighing probably from 500 to 600 lbs. each, and these were scattered to the four winds -- 6 or 8 of them were thrown upon the wharf, a distance of 3, 4 and 5 rods -- being smashed literally to atoms by the concussion and the fall -- but that one of them was thrown upon the roof of a four story store, is altogether idle. Truth itself in this instance is wonderful enough without exaggeration. It was one of the carlines of the deck that fell upon the roof of No. 8, Central wharf, breaking away a large piece of the gutter near the coping stone, and not a cask of copper. Another piece of carline, from 12 to 15 feet long, was thrown upon the roof of No. 44 India street, a four story store occupied by GAY and BIRD, at a distance of 25 or 30 rods from the scene of the devastation. A piece of plank upwards of 7 feet long and 6 inches thick, was broken off and thrown upon the roof of Parker's observatory, half way down Central wharf, and a number of larger and far heavier pieces were thrown completely over the stores, falling on the north side of the wharf, and into the dock between Central and Long wharves, and the docks in all directions were covered with broken fragments; indeed, to enumerate every circumstance of this description that fell beneath our notice, would take more time and space than we at present have at our command.

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