17 February 2013

Who the Victims Are (Terrific Explosion Finale)

[The beginning is here.]

"Who the Victims Are.
Photo by James Allen
Mr. John McDonnell, who was killed, leaves a widow and a babe 11 months old. He has resided in Macon about ten years. He has a number of relatives in Knoxville, Tenn., and a brother who is a machinist in the navy yard at Washington, D. C. He has a sister at Knoxville. Two relatives will be here from Knoxville, and the brother will come from Washington, so that the funeral cannot be held until Saturday morning. Mr. McDonnell's father cannot come, because he is quite ill. Deceased was a member of the International Association of Machinists and of the Hibernian Benevolent Society. He was 36 years old, and in full bloom of manhood. Few men had made so many friends in Macon in so short a time. His exemplary conduct was always an inspiration to others. He is a brother-in-law of Messrs. James E. Reid, T. C. Hickey and W. M. Dewberry. His residence is at 2001 Fourth street.

Photo by James Allen
Mr. Edmond William Hodges was 50 years old, and he leaves a widow and four children, Willis, Earle, Frank ad Martha. He resided at 117 Bellevue avenue, Huguenin Heights, and the funeral will occur from there today, as per funeral notice in another column. He has spent the greater part of his life in the service of railroads at Macon, going into the shops at Macon years ago at the same time that Sheriff Westco[l?]t entered to learn his trade. Deceased was a brother of Messrs. Robert and Ollie Hodges, and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of all who knew him.

Uriah Cornelius, the negro who was on the engine when the explosion occurred, and who was blown to pieces, was a fireman. He will turned over to the colored Knights of Pythias for burial, as he was a member of that order. He came to Macon from some point above Cochran.

Mr. R. L. Willis, who was injured, is thought to be in a fair way to recover. He is an alderman, representing the Fourth ward. His excellent race for that position in the recent municipal election will be recalled by all. He was taken to his home immediately after the accident.

Mr. Henry Fox is one of the oldest employes [sic] in the shops. He is 58 years old. He is highly esteemed by all who know him, and many prayers were offered last night for his recovery.

Mr. W. M. Wilson had just moved to Macon from Jones county, and accepted a position with the road the day before the accident. He has a wife and children in East Macon. He is a brother to Police Officer Wilson.

Mr. James O'Neal is a young man hardly 21 years old. He has a devoted mother residing in East Macon. His sister died a short time ago.

Mr. Ed Hambrick resides in East Macon. He was one of the carpenters on the shed near the engine. It is thought he will pull through without difficulty." [Macon Telegraph (Georgia), 3 January 1902, Pg. 5 -- Viewed online at GenealogyBank.]

All Posts in Series:
- Terrific Explosion Followed by Death
- I Cannot Live; You Cannot Do Anything for Me
- A Leg Bone was Found Just Over the Fence
- The Deceased Came to Their Death from the Explosion of an Engine Boiler
- Both Men were Blown Away, and Killed Instantly
- Who the Victims Are

16 February 2013

Both Men were Blown Away, and Killed Instantly (Terrific Explosion, Pt. 5)

[Part 1 is here.]

"Theories Advanced.
The testimony of the foreman showed that at 7 o'clock he had noticed two gages of water in the boiler and twenty pounds of steam. Thirty-five minutes later the explosion occurred. It was thought to be impossible that the water supply could have diminished to the danger line within that time or that the steam could have been run up to the 160 pounds pressure point.

Several engineers who went out to the scene of the wreck and examined the pieces of the boiler give as their opinion that the metal had been "cooked," and that steam did not cause the explosion. "I have worked on an engine twenty-five years," said one, "and I never saw steam shatter a boiler in that manner. I never saw gas fail to shatter one in that way. What I mean by gas is that peculiar kind of force that is generated when cold water is poured on red hot metal. The steam presses against all side of the boiler at one time, and with equal force in all directions. It bursts out at the weakest place, and may blow a hole or crack that boiler and all the water and steam will rush out; but when you see the boiler shivered and blown to atoms, it is a pretty good indication that the contact of cold water and red hot iron had something to do with it."

The railroad authorities combat this theory with the statement that there is a soft metal plug in all locomotives hollers, and when the water gets below a certain point this plug is exposed to the fire, melting immediately and preventing an explosion. Boiler-makers say, however, that these plugs often become encrusted with dirt and rust and cannot be melted out. The only men who could throw any satisfactory light on the subject are dead. They are the negro, Uriah Cornelius and Mr. McDonnell.

Others who undertake to arrive at a cause reason it out this way:

That is was necessary for the negro to get up to 160 pounds of steam before Mr. McDonnell could see the pop valve at the proper point, and in trying to accomplish this in the quickest possible time, he forgot to keep up his water supply, and that the less water he kept in the boiler the faster he would accumulate steam; that with the blower on, the two gages of water were quickly consumed, and when he looked and saw that the supply was low he turned in more water, as he had done perhaps thousands of times before without serious results. That the sheets in the boiler had already become heated and the contact of the cool water did the work. Both men were blown away, and killed instantly. It is claimed that this is a more plausible theory than the one that Mr. McDonnell's pop valve refused to work and caused the steam to burst the boiler.

However, the matter is simply one for conjecture, and men may always differ about it.

Mr. McDonnell was putting in a new pop valve, because on the day before the old one refused to work. It was necessary to set the new valve, and 160 pounds of steam was needed. Then, after it was set, the valve would open whenever 160 pounds of steam was accumulated, and there would be no danger of a steam explosion.

Condition of the Boiler.
After the explosion it was found that the top of the boiler was turned back at the front end, although at that point 150 bolts had held down the top." [Macon Telegraph (Georgia), 3 January 1902, Pgs. 1 & 5]

The finale is next with "Who the Victims Are."

15 February 2013

The Deceased Came to Their Death from the Explosion of an Engine Boiler (Terrific Explosion, Pt. 4)

[Part 1 is here.]

Early 1920's Ambulance.
Image from Library of Congress
"Ambulance Kept Busy
As soon as the news of the explosion reached the city authorities, Chief Boifeuillet sent the ambulance to the scene. Mayor Smith tendered Superintendent Epperson the use of the police force to keep the crowds of curious people out of the way, the ambulance and patrol wagon, borrowing a driver from the fire department for it, carrying the wounded to the hospital, and also the fire department wagons for the same purpose. In this way there was no delay in conveying the wounded men to the hospital. The ambulance purchased by the city has paid for itself dozens of times, it is claimed, and the fact that it is given by the city to hospital use is greatly appreciated by the general public.

Coroner's Investigations.
Coroner Davis arrived on the scene soon after he was notified, and he summoned a separate jury for each of the three dead men. The bodies had been taken to Wood's undertaking parlors, and the inquests were held there.

The evidence developed in the cases was identical. It threw no light on the cause of the accident, and fixed no responsibility, the verdict being: "We, the jury, find that the deceased came to their death from the explosion of an engine boiler. The cause of the explosion we cannot ascertain." [Macon Telegraph (Georgia), 3 January 1902, pg. 1 -- Viewed online at GenealogyBank.]

Next up: "Theories Advanced" and "Condition of the Boiler."

14 February 2013

A Leg Bone was Found Just Over the Fence (Terrific Explosion, Pt. 3)

[Part 1 is here.]


The Explosion Was Heard Seven Miles from the City -- Glasses Broken.

The explosion occurred at 7:35, according to the timepiece of the railroad men. Its effect on the surrounding country was very much like that of an earthquake. Many people explained it that way. Window glasses were broken, trees were seen to vibrate, plastering cracked, and general alarm was caused.

People who came in from the country during the afternoon inquired to find out what had happened. They declared that the shock could be distinctly felt seven miles out.

Harrowing Scenes Followed.
The news of the tragedy spread like wildfire throughout the city. Those familiar with the location of the round house noticed immediately that a great cloud of smoke and steam hovered over it, and many guessed that an explosion had occurred.

Every man in the employ of the shops has a family, or large family connections, and it required but a few moments for hundreds of these to gather about the gates of the shop yards, and plead for admission and for information. They were quickly joined by several thousand other people seeking information. But nothing definite could be learned. And for an hour or more it was impossible to tell how many men employed in the yards escaped injury, or whether any of them had.

Pieces of the wrecked engine were scattered all over the adjacent territory, and here and there a bone or a particle of brains or flesh added to the gruesomeness of the situation. A leg bone was found just over the fence, and a piece of the engine weighing upward of three thousand pounds was found 150 feet from where the explosion occurred. A negro found a handful of brains 100 yards away. A piece of the boiler about the size of a man's hand was picked up at the brewery, about three hundred yards distant. As these things came to light, the weeping of the mothers and sisters, wives and children, fathers, sons and brothers, who were in great mental distress because they had either heard the sad news from their loved ones or else because they could not get satisfactory information, beggars description." [Macon Telegraph (Georgia), 3 January 1902, Pg. 1 -- Viewed online at GenealogyBank.]

Next up: "Ambulance Kept Busy" and "Coroner's Investigations."

13 February 2013

I Cannot Live; You Cannot Do Anything for Me (Terrific Explosion, Pt. 2)

[Part 1 is here.]

"Location of the Injured Men.
The engine was standing over a pit in the portion of the yard where the circular sheds forming the round house fail to meet. Two long tracks enter there from the yards, and there are four of the pits in the open space.

The engine which blew up was in one of these and two pits further to the right, looking toward the swamp, Mr. R. L. Willis was at work under an engine. There was another engine over the pit and between him and the exploding engine. The boiling water and deadly steam broke by the intervening engine, and reached Mr. Willis, burning his arms and stomach. His face was also scalded, and his eyeglasses were blown away. They have not been found. They were all that saved Mr. Willis from from the loss of both of his eyes, for the hot water burned deeply above and below each eye.

Mr. Willis' assistant was James O'Neal, who was standing just outside of the pit in which Mr. Willis was at work. The concussion forced him against the engine and the debris piled on him. He was taken out in such condition that many supposed he was dead. That he was able to breathe was not known to his associates until some time afterward.

Mr. Henry Fox was inspecting an engine near by, and was struck by the flying debris. When taken out he said: "I cannot live; you cannot do anything for me. Go and help somebody who needs help."

Mr. Wilson was a carpenter at work on the roof of the circular shed near Mr. Willis. He and those who were assisting him were blown a considerable distance, but if he escapes death those who were with him are thought to be safe."


No. 1 is where the engine stood before the explosion occurred.  It is a
pit with two tracks over it, so that when the engine is back on it, men
can get under the engine and work.
No. 2 is the pit in which Mr. Hodges had been at work.  No. 5 is where
Mr. Hodges was found after the explosion.  He was crossing the open
space presumably to attend to some matter in another part of the yard.
No. 3 is the engine under which Mr. Willis had been at work.
No. 4 is the location of the engine that was between Mr. Willis and
the exploding engine.  It was badly wrecked by the explosion, as was
also the engine under which Mr. Willis had been at work.
There are engines on the two blank tracks, but they were not hurt, the
force of the explosion seeming to go toward the right.  The missile
which struck Mr. Hodges, however, went to the left.  It was never
identified, and probably struck a glancing blow and passed on.

[Macon Telegraph (Georgia) 3 January 1902, Pg. 1]

Next up: "Like an Earthquake" and "Harrowing Scenes Followed."

12 February 2013

Terrific Explosion Followed By Death, Pt. 1 (Tombstone Tuesday)

Photo by James Allen
The next several posts will be comprised of a newspaper account of a horrific explosion in a Macon railroad yard. Two men, John McDonnell and Edmond Hodges, were killed instantly and rest in Rose Hill Cemetery. I intend to share all the details, knowing what great interest this should be to many. Railroad yards were places of occupation for numerous ancestors in a myriad of families. Yet the danger of such is not often spoke of.


An Awful Catastrophe at the Central Railroad Shops Here Yesterday Morning -- Engine was Blown to Atoms and Two Men were Instantly Killed, One More Died Soon After, and Three are Supposed to be Fatally Injured -- Six Others are Painfully Hurt -- Theories as to the Cause of the Explosion -- Harrowing Scenes when Loving Ones Gathered About the Yards.

The Telegraph's extra yesterday morning told in detail the story of the disaster at the Central of Georgia Railroad Company's shops, and more than one thousand people rushed for the extras as fast as they could be issued from the press.

The explosion was heard for more than seven miles in the country, and the havoc wrought was almost complete.

The dead are:
JOHN MCDONNELL, engine inspector, who was on top of the engine.
URIAH CORNELIUS, a negro who was in the cab assisting Mr. McDonnell.
E. W. HODGES, who was crossing the yard about 100 feet from the engine.

J. I. O'NEAL, machinist, comminuted compound fracture right elbow; lacerated wound back of head; brain injury; will die.
R. L. WILLIS, blacksmith, scalded.
HENRY FOX, engine inspector, comminuted fracture both legs below knee; compound fracture right ankle; lacerated over symphis [sic] pubis; condition bad.
E. D. HAMBRICK, carpenter, lacerated wound of face and head.
W. M. WILSON, carpenter, fracture right rib; lung injury; serious.
J. M. MEADOWS, carpenter, lacerated wound right ear; contused right hip and knee; bruised all over.
PETER HAMMOCK, col., scalp wound; contusion of left hip, and right side of head.
WESLEY JOHNSON, colored, cut right side of face; right hip bruised; not serious.
PETER ADAMS, colored laborer, contusion of right shoulder.

All except R. L. Willis and Peter Adams are in hospital.

Mangled Remains.

The body of Mr. McDonnell was broken to pieces. The bone in each leg was broken in several places. The head was cut away so that only a small portion of the rear skull remains. The face was torn off and destroyed. Mr. McDonnell was at work on top of the engine, trying to adjust the pop valve, which had on the day before been found defective. The negro Cornelius was assisting him by firing the engine and getting up steam so the pop could be set to go off at 160 pounds pressure. It was necessary to get up that much steam in order to set the valve at that [?].

Cornelius was broken up as badly as Mr. McDonnell. His head was blown away and his ribs were broken. These two bodies were found nearly a hundred feet from the engine.

Mr. Hodges was crossing the yard in front of the engine and about 100 feet distant when the explosion occurred. He was not killed outright, but some huge object struck him in the side, breaking three ribs, and something else broke his leg. The wound in the side was fatal, and he died soon after being taken up from where he fell." [Macon Telegraph (Georgia), 3 January 1902, pg. 1 - Viewed online at GenealogyBank.]

Next up: "Where the Explosion Occurred" and "Location of the Injured Men."

02 February 2013

Another Old Citizen Gone to Her Reward

Photo by James Allen


Another old citizen, one of those who grew up with Macon, died yesterday afternoon.

This was Mrs. Julia A. Fenelon, who died at her home, 1921 Third street, in South Macon, after an illness of three months.

She was the widow of Thomas Fenelon, one of Macon's best known railroad men, and was the mother of Mrs. Jas. E. Reed, Mrs. T. C. Hickey, J. T. and J. S. Fenelon, Mrs. J. McDonald and Mrs. W. M. Dewberry.

Mrs. Fenelon lived nearly all her life in Macon. By her good deeds she numbered her friends by the score, and the news of her death will bring sorrow to many households.

The funeral will take place from St. Joseph's Church at 3:30 o'clock, with Father Madden officiating. [Macon Telegraph (Georgia), 7 September 1907, pg. 6 -- viewed online at GenealogyBank.]
Census records suggest Julia was born about 1839 in Virginia. She and her husband Thomas rest in the Eglantine Square section of Rose Hill Cemetery.

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