Vigo County Indiana




Latest Details Add More and More to Horror Of Yesterday's Explosion
Governor Hanly's Quick Action Prevents Fearful Explosion of Naptha

The residents of Fontanet, when they awoke this morning encountered a much different situation then they had been accustomed to in the past. Instead of a quiet country town and pleasant scenery to greet their eyes, desolation was at hand. Soldiers of the Indiana state militia were on hand and had stood guard through the night.
Details as to what caused the terrible catastrophe of yesterday, when the Dupont Power mills blew up, killing probably 35 and injuring some 400 persons, were lacking. No one connected with the powder company could ascribe any reason for the explosion. Several rumors were current, out of the most probable circulated was that the machinery in the the glazing mill became overheated from friction and set fire to some loose powder.
The glazing mill was the one first to blow up. The other sections of the plant followed in rapid succession, a number of people of this place were able by patching up their houses to pass a fairly comfortable night. The remainder were accommodated with sleeping rooms on cots placed in tents brought here by orders of Governor Hanly. Systematic efforts are going forth and within a short time it is thought most of the houses will be repaired in such a manner as to permit the re-occupancy of them by their tenants and owners.
The officers  of Company B. Indiana National Guard which went from Terre Haute last night report that the night passed, without disturbance of any kind. The soldiers were distributed so as to guard as much of the town as possible. The guardsmen were instructed to shoot at sight any attempt   at looting,  but no one was found in a dastardly object of this kind and the soldiers failed to got any opportunity to do any shooting. It is understood the state authorities will immediately begin an Investigation of the use of the disaster.
The injured passed a fairly comfortable night and no additional deaths at the place are reported
Systematic efforts to search for victims among the debris in the powder mills were begun this morning. Men were distributed so as to make a thorough search for further victims of the disaster of yesterday.
The total number of dead will probably never be known and it will be several days, before the exact amount of property loss care be figured out.

Scene of Desolation

Darkness settled early over the scenes of wreckage and suffering at Fontanet last night and filling the hollows and covering the hills with an impenetrable gloom as deep and dark as that which filled the minds of the stricken people. Early in the evening lanterns were at a premium and their glimmer could be seen singly and in two and threes, as the bearers wandered  about over the wide district of the razed town. Here  and there through, the darkness an oil lamp shone and dimly, lighted some home where begrimed persons moved. slowly back and forth ministering, to the suffering of some Injured man of woman. The fronts of wreaked  stores rooms exposed the Interiors and the proprietors doled out their scant stores of canned stuffs to hungry sightseers.

At the foot of the hill, just north of the railroad, was the morgue where the bodies of eleven dead lay, out of their suffering. It was a ghastly sight The bodies were almost unrecognizable, some blanched and bloodless, others blackened as if made up for some great carnival, still others so  disfigured that kindly friends had sewed the charred pieces in canvas sacks, while nearby was a great mass of human remains gathered from the wreck, not recognizable as human remains and being the last earthly remains perhaps of several people. Packed in a small room the bodies lay so close together that only a path was between them. .

Lying in the next room moved by delirium was Harrison Lambert, trustee of Nevins township at the point of death from typhoid pneumonia, his watchful wife expecting  to breathe his last at any time The walls of his home sagged and leaned out as though ready to tumble in on the sick man at any time. Groups of curious people stopped in front of the house and like specters in the dark pointed at the little office that held the dead.
People stood about and talked, their faces begrimed and black from the dust and dirt; of the day's labors and of their crumbling homes, At midnight women with babes wrapped close to their bosoms in warm shawls tramped silently home from vigils by the side of suffering friends or sought a place to spend the rest of the night About, the wrecked saloons groups of former habitues sat with dry lips and distressed and horrors of the day.

To add to the gloom of the night of horrors a drizzling rain set in early in the evening. Off to the south the sky was red with the glare of the conflagration that consumed the last  of the wrecked mill and perhaps bodies of some of its workers. The fumes of sulphur and other chemicals still filled the air and penetrated lungs of the stragglers who wandered through the village.

It was with a weird feeling that one passed through the deserted streets looking into the homes through gaping holes In the wall or broken windows innocent of glass upon the sleepers and moving restlessly as if the dreadful scenes of the day were still before their eyes in their dreams.

No Martial Law At Fontanet

It is reported this morning after Company B arrived at Fontanet, that, martial law had been declared. This is an  error. The guards are being used an guards only, and martial law was not necessary.

Many of the people of Fontanet rather resented the sending in of troops insisting that they were not needed, and objected to being placed under martial law.

Council Appropriates $1,000,

Last night at a special call of the mayor the city council met and appropriated $1,000 for the immediate use of the Fontanet sufferers. The terrible disaster that had overtaken the village was the sole topic of conversation and no other other business was considered  at all. Some of the councilmen had been to the scene of the explosion and were filled with the sorrow of  the scenes there.

Will Collect Supplies

Mayor Lycas announced today that any persons  who might desire to give assistance to the sufferers at Fontanet should call telephone No. 83 an what ever they had to give would be collected by the committee and used to the best advantage. Money, clothing or food of any sort will be acceptable

Governor Hanly Spent Night Here.

Governor Hanly was met at the station on his arrival here at 11:30 o'clock last night by the mayor, Councilman Nattkemper, Valentine and Cowan and City Clerk Jerome Perry. He was taken in a carriage to the Filbeck house where he spent the night. The governor was worn out after the long evening spent in tramping about the village.

There was no place where supper could be obtained and the highest official of the state was obliged to satisfy his hunger with a a box of sardines and some crackers while he sat on a  goods box in one of  the wrecked stores  with the debris all about him. He said he did not sardines, but those tasted exceptionally good.

Contemplated Resigning

Superintendent Monahan had very frequently remarked on the danger of the plant of late. After the explosion there a few months ago, in which two were killed, and injured him, he remarked to friends in the city: "I can't keep that mill on the ground, and I am going to resign." This remark was made the morning after the explosion. He remarked that the work was too dangerous. some of his friends asked him if he had any life insurance and he said he had none, and they urged him to take out a policy. He did this just a short time before the tragedy in which he lost his life

When in town Monday he told some of his friends that he was making arrangements to engage in other work.

When he left the Terre Haute house of the Brazil Interurban on Monday evening at 7:30 he asked if arrangements had been made for the funeral of James Hunter, and when told that they had not, he remarked to R.G. Watson: "I will call you up between 9 and 10 Tuesday morning and find out when the funeral will take place, as I wish to attend."

Monahan Feared Explosion,

Only a few days ago, A. B. Monahan, superintendent of the powder works was talking to this writer about danger at the plant. He remarked that the unusually long spell of dry weather was making it dangerous, and that he feared an explosion might occur at any time. "There is always danger about a powder. plant," he said," and we use every precaution. In dry weather we are always more apprehensive  than at other times, on account of the Increased danger of fire, or danger of explosion from friction."


The body of A. B. Monahan was taken at 2:30 o'clock today to Bellefontaine, O., by his brother and his nephew. The two half-sisters of Mr. Monahan, who were rumored killed yesterday, escaped unhurt. The younger a girl of 16, tried to run from the house, when the first explosion occurred. She stated that for some reason her shoes stuck to the floor and she had to pull her feet out of them before she could got away. She escaped just before the house collapsed.


The last dangerous explosions at the powder mills took place January 29, last and two men were killed. The one previous to that happened on August 12, 1904, in which one man was killed.


But for the prompt action of Gov. Hanly in ordering the removal from the Big Four yards of naphtha another explosion tanks of naphtha another explosion might have been added to Fontanet's tragic history today. The tanks were consigned to the Dupont Powder company and were awaiting delivery to the powder mills, one of their was leaking and the governor ordered that a guard be thrown around them until they could be removed.


Late this afternoon the number of known dead from the explosion of the powder mills is 37, all identified but two bodies, the fragments of which are in a sack at the morgue here,

A.B. Monahan, general superintendent, Fontanet, aged 41
Mrs. A. B. Monahan, Fontanet
Mrs. Ethel Taylor, niece of Mrs. Monahan.
John Bobo.
George Bobo
William  Sherrill, employed in press room.
Henry Harrington, electrician at mill
Sam Corktrill could be Corktail-
Sylvester Dial, aged 48
Ad Webster
Sammy Nevins
Harry Yates
Three identified Dead
Will Dalton, age 17, died at hospital
Sam Cockett
Sylvester Don Dial aged 17
James Biggs, age 50 employed in the mill yards
W.E.C. Cress, Rosedale, aged 21 died at St. Anthony's
Harry Chandler, Fontanet, died at St. Anthony's
T.J. Kellum, Wilmington, Del. burned in office near mill, with Superintendent Monahan
Samuel Morris
Henry Cunningham, aged 38, employed in mill
P. J. Carroll,
George Hodge.
Frank Dial
Frank Ingalls.
Willie Hodge aged 5
Sam Ingalls
Fred Cress, died at St. Anthony's.
August Girard.
Frank Cookerell
Fred Nevins,
Mrs. Ousley.
___Ousley, child of Mrs. Ousley.

Official List of Injured
The following official list of injured was made by Dr. W.F. Willien, chief surgeon for the Dupont Power company at this place, and forwarded to headquarters at Wilmington, Del. last night.
Fred May, Fontanet, aged 23, serious injuries
Andrew Peterson, Fontanet, aged 50, at the time of the accident injuries not serious
L.J. Harris, Terre Haute, aged 42, injuries not serious
William Shearros, Fontanet, aged 30, injuries are very serious
Miss Anna Hines, Fontanet, aged 19, injuries not serious
Mrs. Elizabeth Brannon, Fontanet, injuries not serious
Mrs. Rachel Montgomery, Fontnet, dislocation of left hip and contusions, injuried serious
Mrs. Mary A. Parr, Fontanet, aged 39, injuries not serious
Miss Grace Brannan, Fontanet, aged 17, one eye punctured and sight may be lost other injuries
Miss Elizabeth Bobo, Fontanet, aged 71, injuries serious
John Bright, Fontanet, left leg amputated, injuries serious
Willie Hodges, Fontanet,aged 15, perforated wound in right eye, injuries serious
Harry Kelsaw, Fontanet,  aged 41 injuries serious
Samuel Walker, Fontanet, aged 17, injuries not serious
John Harslaw, Fontanet,  aged 22, injuries not serious
Albert Webster, Fontanet, aged 41, fractured leg injuries serious
G.M. B. Hedges, Fontanet, aged 53, injuries not serious
A.L. Overholtz, Terre Haunte agent Big Four railroad at Fontanet, injuries not serious
Frank Dial, Fontanet, aged 16, injuries not serious
Charles Wells, Fontanet, aged 28, compound fracture of left lower femur. Artery ligated to prevent bleeding to death, injuries very serious
William Harrold, Fontanet, aged 12, injuries not serious
Jesse Clark, Fontanet, aged 25, injuries not serious
William Walker, Fontanet, aged 37, injuries not serious
Dr. Moore, Fontanet, injuries not serious
Dr. E.C.Newlin, Fontanet, aged 50, injuries not serious
Mrs. F.C. Moore, Fontanet, aged 22, injuries not serious
Miss Nora Lang, Fontanet, aged 21, injuries not serious
Mrs. Charles Wells, Fontanet, aged 21, injuries not serious
Miss Susie Bishop, Riley, aged 23 teacher in Coal Bluff School.  Concussion of the brain, and severe contusions? Condition very serious.
G.S. Walker, Fontanet, aged 50, injuries not serious
C.E. Riddle, Tere Haute, aged 22, condition not serious
Alba Edwards, Fontanet, aged 12, injuries not serious
John Nevins, Transient, aged about 40, injuries not serious
Carl Hamrick, Fontanet, aged 21, injuries not serious
James Thomas, Fontanet, injuries not serious
James Gibbs, Fontanet, aged 14,  injuries not serious
Louis Mix, Fontanet, aged 24, Condition serious
William Dalton, Sr. father of William Dalton Jr. who was killed, Big Four Engineer, injuries not serious, and he went home yesterday
Charles Nash, assistant superindent at the mill, head cut and contusions on body. Not serious
John Grey, fatally injured, expected to die

Ohers Injured
The following list of injured was obtained from other sources:
Marion Kingsley, employed in mill, eyes burned
Anna Whitney, arem broken
Rose Lannigan, wrist broken
Child of George Roberts, severe contusions on body
W.P. McCoy, scalp wounds
Willard Carroll,scalp wounds
Prof. J.R. Shoptaugh, teacher at Fontanet school, contusions and serious bodily injuries
George Stewart, internal injuries
Mrs. Ada Wosteler, very serious internal injuries and will probably die.
Alexander Biddle, contusions and lacerations, not considered serious
Edward Cross, external injuries not serious
James Thompson, external injuries. Not serious
Mrs. Huldah Dalton, cut about legs with glass, not serious
Chauncery R. Dalton, cut by glass not serious
Harry Edwards, contusions on face and head. Not serious

Source The Tere Haute Tribune Ocotber 16 1907
Submitted by Muriel White who's grandfather was hurt in the explosion
Thirty-Eight Were Killed Details of Fontanet Explosion Confirm Reports in All Particulars.
Fontanet, Ind.. Oct. 16—Thirty eight killed, 600 injured, of whom 50 were seriously hurt, and a property loss of approximately $750,000. the latest estimate of the destruction wrought by the explosion at the Dupont powder mills yesterday.
From William Sherrow, a workman in the glazing mill, it was learned today that a "hot box," which was caused by too much friction on the shafting, causing sparks to be transmitted to loose powder, was in all probability the cause of the terrible catastrope.
Another company of state militia arrived from Indianapolis this evening. The town  under martial law, two companies of state troops being in full control control.
Coroner Leavitt, of Vigo county, spent the entire day irnestigating the accident. He thinks not more than 30 men were at work at the time of the explosion. The injured at this place and Terre Haute are getting along nicely and it is thought no more deaths will occur.
Alfred G Dupont, vice president of the Dupont Powder company, who yesterday married Miss A. Bradford Maddoz in New York and who intended to lake a long motoring trip as his honeymoon, was informed of the explosion at Fontanel immediately after the wedding. Mr. Dupont at once canceled his intended trip and wired $5, 000 to Governor Hanley of Indiana for "the immediate relief of the sufferers. He authorized the governor to use any amount In excess of the $5,000 if necessary Mr. Dupont left today for Fontanel to supervise the work there. He was accompanied by Frank L. Connable, general manager of the Dupont company in Wilmington.
Date: October 17, 1907 Location: North Dakota Paper: Grand Forks Herald
Terre Haute Ind, Oct. 15.—The large mills;and store-houses of the Dupont Powder Company at Fontanet, sixteen miles from here, blew up at 9:15 this morning, wrecking the town of Fontanet, killing over half the employes at the mills and resulting in the death of many men, women and children in the village.
With forty bodies discovered up to noon, and with one train load of Injured brought to the hospitals here, the work of rescue Is still going on.
The death list will grow to almost 100 persons is the belief of the rescuers.
The severe shock of the explosion was felt here, and for a distance of sixty miles in a circle in and about the village
At Crawfordsville, 35 miles away, the electric light office building: was wrecked, the walls cracking and the marble floor linking at least an inch.
Employees of  the Sumerville Building rushed Into the streets screaming, thinking an earthquake had struck the town.
At Bloomington, the seat of Indiana University, recitations were Interrupted when the big building moved slightly,leaving cracked walls.
In this city, window panes were shattered and chimneys tottered and fell. More serious.damage Is reported at Brazil. Goal Bluff. Burnett- and Rosedale, towns In the immediate vicinity.
The greatest loss of life is in the public school building, a two-story structure, in which 200 pupils had just assembled.  The  building collapsed, burying all of them.
The general store and several other buildings collapsed, burying occupants and leaving only the less, seriously injured  to extricate the dead and injured.

Nothing of  the Immense powder mill could be found. A vast hole in the earths showed, the scene of, the explosion. A  spectator from Coal BIuff who had  just returned to that town for medicine and further relief says injured  mothers crowded around  the school building trying: to find their, children and paying little attention to their own Injuries.
The arrival of the special train with physicians from.Terre Haute came as a God-send. for there were practically none In the village able to carry on the work of rescue. Not one of the employes of the powder-mill could be found.
Fontanet is a coal miners village, the Dupont Powder works being the only, other Industry, in that locality. :
Mills of the powder company were located two miles north of the village. Seventy men were working: there at the time and parts of forty men  have been identified.
A carload of coffins was shipped there from Terre Haute, with the first relief train the cause of the explosion probably, will never be known.
The first train to return from the scene of the accident arrived here at 11 o'clock; bearing 53 terribly, injured men. Some of them were employes of the powder works and were picked up many feet  from the scene. They were badly burned and lacerated. On the train were several Injured residents of. the village near the mills.
Great loss of life was first received from the Fontanet Public School building, which collapsed burying almost two hundred children, who had just assembled for recitations.
Nearly all of the children are known to have been Injured and some loss of life will result. No dead bodies had been taken but up to noon.
The general store also collapsed killing at least two people .
Not a person, In Fontanet escaped without Injury or death.. First reports were that miners in the vicinity were. Entombed.  Some of these reports have been verified, but no deaths are known,to have occurred.
Automobiles  filled with doctors left here Immediately after the news; of the accident was received. The shock was felt as far away as Hamilton Ohio.
Newspaper: The Evening Journal
Date: October 15, 1907 Location: New Jersey Paper: Jersey Journal

Personal Note
I only copied those pages because my grandfather was hurt in that accident, and the small home he and his wife lived in was blown completely apart. They lived right off the corner of that little town, and my grandmother was in the home when the explosion occurred.... she was hurt, but nothing serious. He on the other hand, worked for Dupont, and lost his foot during the explosion, walked on it dangling from his leg, helped another miner to be (unpinned) his brother in law, was crushed by a huge bolder, got him free still not realizing his foot was dragging. He was hospitalized 18 months, while they kept cutting off his leg to stop the gangrene, inch by inch, until it reached his knee. He walked on a "peg" leg the rest of his life. Sure Dupont purchased an artifical leg, but he could not abide it, preferring to walk on the wooden peg... It was an interesting article but I don't expect you to re-type it line by line. Whow! there were hundreds of articles about that explosion!! You will be there typing 2 or 3 years from now...... What I am telling you is not in those articles, but the incident was a special article for me, but not for everyone else. Yes, they have a "bean dinner" there to remember that accident..
Muriel White


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