Courtesy photo : Claud Easterly
Donna Hunt Recalling Denison's worst disaster
On the left is an ice house operated by Southern Ice Company
on the northwest corner of the Morton-Maurice intersection.
Across the avenue is Fisher Grocery and a Texaco service station.
years ago on November 21, 1944, what began as a fender bender
turned into a fiery holocaust that engulfed a one-block radius of the
accident scene, the worst disaster in Denison's history.
was about five minutes until 5 p.m., just two days before Thanksgiving
when a Dodge sedan passenger car rear-ended a butane gas truck at the
intersection of Morton Street and Maurice Avenue. Two minutes
after the accident, fumes exploded setting fire to everything around.
people eventually lost their lives in the butane explosion on what has
been called "Denison's Black Tuesday". The Denison Herald
reported in the next day's paper that the accident between the car and
the gas truck broke a drain pressure in the tank and vapor spewed
through the broken pipe.
Whitfield, driver of the butane truck, realized what was happening and
ran, yelling a warning to everyone in sight before the explosion
occurred. He was joined by Earl Vick, employee of the Fisher
Grocery Store at 1431 W. Morton. Of the fifteen injured,
Whitfield was among the least seriously hurt.
told the paper that he ran from store, urging other to follow him.
He ran east on Morton as fast as he could, calling to people
looking toward the collision to run because there might be an
explosion. He said he could feel the heat on his back when he
heard the blast. He threw himself to the ground and he said the
"earth rocked from the concussion".
Dodge sedan was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. John Marshall and Mrs. Otto C.
Ahlers of Sherman and Mrs. R.B. Marshall of Dallas, who were returning
to Sherman after visiting a relative in Durant, Okla.
others who lost their lives were among a half dozen people in the
Fisher Grocery at the time of the wreck and who fled from the building
seconds before the blast rocked the neighborhood. F.L. Nix was in
the store and ran to a small warehouse east of the grocery story
where he lost his life.
newspaper reported that a white vapor spread across the block.
Butane is heavier than air and settled to the ground where it
eventually hit a spark and exploded.
reported seeing three major explosions. Demolished were a nearby
warehouse. A newly-painted home and garage apartment were
stripped of their paint. Seven separate buildings also caught
fire and were burning when firemen arrived. Fire Chief Pat Lowe
said that five different water lines were laid to handle the flames and
all available fire equipment was rushed to the scene. The Chief
of Police ordered the fire department to tow the butane truck to the
tall hill to the west of the intersection.
Air Force Base sent military policemen, ambulance and medical personnel
to help with the emergency and ambulances also came from Sherman to
help carry the injured to the hospital.
the plate glass windows in the Fisher Grocery located next door to
where the blast occurred were not damanged, a horse in a barn a block
away was blown through the wall and through a fence, yards away, by the
extra edition published the next morning told of the blast and reported
that 14 persons were seriously injured and taken to three hospitals.
The 2,000 copies of a 4-page extra run of papers sold out quickly
and the demand for more continued well into the night.
West Morton Street at North Maurice Avenue
21 November 1944
people died that first night at the Katy Hospital and six others passed
away during days after the blast. Last to die was a 12-year-old
boy, Lonnie Jo Hammons, who had been sent to the grocery store by his
mother for a can of tomatoes. He was the only youth involved in