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Terrible Explosion at Granite Mountain

Source: (Reprinted from Marble Falls Standard, Aug. 30 1896),
transcribed by Lisa Bass, <number1mamabass @>, April 2004

[See also Information on People named within the Article: "Terrible Explosion at Granite Mountain", original research by Lisa Bass, April 2004]

Terrible Explosion At Granite Mountain

Never in the history of Marble Falls has such a week of fatality been known as the week just closed. Four times has the tolling of the funeral knell announced the flight of a departing soul and only one of the four victims of the fel destroyer Death, has died from disease.

When the news of CLINTON CLAYPOOL having been crushed by the machinery of the water works was made known and the people as a single man became grief-stricken mourners, no one dreamed that this was but the beginning of the awful disasters to which our community was doomed. Friday evening when Mrs. T.M. YETT, after a protracted illness, peacefully passed away, and the town again enveloped in gloom, it seemed that the grim monster had satiated his greed for human life, but hardly had the last vehicle that joined in that long procession turned homeward, till a rumor that a terrible explosion had occurred at Granite Mountain began to be circulated. Messengers in search of medical aid confirmed the worst fears the rumor had occasioned.

Today the bodies of THOMAS CONLEY and SAMUEL PETERS lie stark and cold in death and GEO. DARROUGH, FRANK CHAPMAND and LEWIS BALL are writhing in agony from serious burns while SHELBY BALL and JAS. McCLISH are suffering more or less severely from the effects of the explosion.

The following story by JAS. McCLISH is a complete narrative of what occurred at DARROUGH'S quarry at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday:

"We were loading the holes after having chambered them with dynamite and were at that time using black powder. We were just loading the last of the three holes. Each was fifteen feet deep. On pouring in the powder it failed to run more than a foot into the hole and we raked it out with our hands to find out what obstructed the hole and kept the powder from running down. Finding nothing, we proceeded to blow the powder out with steam, dried the hole and proceeded to pour the powder in again. Finding the hole obstructed a second time, I suggested we burn the powder out to prevent wetting the hole again, which we did. After this TOM CONLEY immediately picked up the powder can to load again. I, realizing the danger stepped off a few steps. I waited a moment or two. Finding that the powder hadn't yet ignited, as I feared, I started back to where the men were congregated near the hole. On getting within eight or ten feet I stopped again to give it yet a moment's time. Seeing the flash, I dodged back into the blacksmith shop and instantly heard the report and feared the men must be badly hurt. My worst fears were realized. I found the men scattered around in a solid blaze of fire uttering dreadful cries of distress. The first man I caught was FRANK CHAPMAN. I dragged him to the slake tub and extinguished the flames, then ran and seized GEO. DARROUGH and did the same with him. I then jumped into the tub to extinguish the flames from my own clothing. I then hastened with a bucket of water to where TOM CONLEY lay, throwing it about the waist-band of his pants, his other clothing being entirely burnt off. Someone cried out: 'For God's sake throw no water on him.' I don't know why, but threw the bucket down and ran to SAM PETERS. I tore off his clothing. By this time others had arrived on the scene and I, being considerably exhausted, stood aside. Both DAROUGH and CHAPMAN were running and screaming in a frenzied manner when I first discovered them. When I took hold of GEO. DARROUGH the skin slipped off his hands. I do not remember what followed."

Drs. T.M. and J.R. YETT and Dr. S.B. HAYGOOD, Dr. W.D. FRANCIS of Naruna, and Drs. WESTFALL, DORR and BROWNLEE of Burnet, were immediately summoned, and every possible attention was given to the sufferers.

The Drs. YETT and Dr. FRANCIS were first on the ground and they dressed the wounds before the others arrived. A sickening scene met the eyes of the medical attendants. TOM CONLEY's body was burned to a crisp form his hips to the top of his head. His eyes were nearly burned out. He was taken to Green's hotel where he remained in a rational state till 10 p.m. He died at 3 Sunday morning. He had inhaled the flames and burned his lungs which was the most potent cause of his death.

SAMUEL PETERS was more disfigured if possible. His mustach, eye brows, and eye lashes were burnd off. His entire face was burned to a crisp. His bowels were terribly burned and it was this that caused his death. He was rational until eight o'clock Sunday morning when he died. The poor fellow's agony was terrible. He seemed famishing for water. D. FRANCIS gave it to him repeatedly, but his thirst was unquenchable.

GEO. DARRAGH, Son of THOS. DARROUGH SR., proprietor of the mountain, had his eyelashes and eyebrows burned off and his eyes injured. His hands were burned very badly, and also his neck and face. His lips show an inflamed condition which leads to the suspicion that he too inhaled some of the flames. He is at this writing laying in quite a serious condition. There are hopes for his recovery.

FRANK CHARPMAN was burned to a crisp on his face, neck and hands. He was also badly burned on his back and shoulders. His condition also is very critical.

LEWIS BALL had both hands burned to a crisp and his face was badly burned &endash; in fact he is totally unrecognizable. His condition is hardly less serious than that of DARRAGH or CHAPMAN.

SHELBY BALL and JAS. McCLISH are also badly burned. McCLISH's burns and the burns on SHELBY and LEWIS BALL's hands were made while tearing the clothing from the other sufferers and the scars will remain as badges of honor and relics of herioic self sacrifice.

The bodies of TOM CONLEY and SAMUEL PETERS were interred at the City Cemetery Sunday at 4 p.m. with appropriate religious ceremonies conducted by Rev. J.M. SHIRLEY.

Two lessons are deeply impressed by the recent accidents: the uncertainly of life and the importance of carefulness around public works. The first has been fittingly emphasized by those who cannot be too well remembered. Machinery is merciless, has no soul or sympathy, powder is an implement of destruction. Properly employed, these two agencies greatly benefit mankind, carelessly used, they deal unmercifully with the race.

The question why the old adage:

"Misfortunate never came singly" and its recent sad verification will present itself.

It seems there are times when the air gets sluggish and the mind and badly sub-normal. It is at such times that discese overcomes the patient and death is inevitable. It is at these times when men in full vigor, grow languid, thoughtless and restless: when nerves grow unsteady and irritable. It is then that petty quarrels often provoke desperate deeds such as murder, and accidents become more frequent, "Death lurks in the atmosphere" is a far more accurate saying that "Fate is against us".

But why need we reason or seek for a cause, 'Twuer more fitting to employ our sympathies and good offices to assuage the grief and assist in shedding a ray of cheer and comfort through the cloud of gloom to the bereaved ones. Let it be so.


[Transcriber's Note: This article was also reprinted in the Marble Falls Messenger June 20, 1963, according to a hand-written side notation on my copy of this story. All typographical errors and spellings of people's names within this article are from the original article, not from my transcription. Lisa Bass]

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