Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, January 01, 2010

1886 Dynamite Explosion in Baychester Kills Four and Shakes Residents of Bartow-on-the-Sound in Pelham

I have previously written about a massive explosion that occurred on April 5, 1890 at a dynamite works in Baychester that killed two workers and shook the countryside.  See Thursday, October 22, 2009:  Dynamite Explosion in 1890 Breaks Windows and Shakes Residents of Bartow-on-the-Sound in Pelham

It seems that the massive explosion was not the first at the dynamite works.  Another such explosion occurred four years before that when two squirrel hunters were told to leave the area and, in a huff, fired a shot into the works causing a massive explosion that killed four men.  It turns out that only a short time before that sad even, another explosion had occurred at the establishment.  The article below describes the event.

Four Victims of a Tremendous Explosion at Baychester.
Pieces of Charred Bodies Gathered in a Heap -- The Terrible Effect of an Angry Sportsman's Shot -- Heavy Damage to the Ditmer Dynamite Works.

NEW YORK, Sept. 30.--It is reported that the dynamite works at Baychester blew up this morning and that several persons were killed.  Baychester is on the Harlem railroad, eight miles from New York.


BARTOW, Sept. 30.--A terrific explosion occurred at the Ditmer powder works at Baychester, on the Harlem river branch of the New York and New Haven railroad, about 10 o'clock this morning, resulting in the instantaneous death of four men who were employed in the factory.  The explosion occurred in the packing house, a one-story frame building 20 by 30 feet in the centre of the grounds, and about 200, yards from the main factory, a large building near the water where the bulk of the giant powder and nitro-glycerine used in the new aqueduct works is manufactured.  The men were hard at work putting up and packing cartridges when suddenly the explosion occurred, shattering the building to splinters and blowing four men to fragments.  The exploding powder, of which there was a large quantity, shot up in the air as high as 50 feet and splinters of the building were blown a great distance.  The names of the men were Ernest Dralen, John Rusch, Max Shafbolt and Reinhart.  Nothing was left of them except fragments of their bodies.  Hands, legs, feet, arms, pieces of skulls, backbone and charred bits of flesh were scattered in every direction from 500 to 600 feet from the packing house.  Max Cruger, foreman of the works, says the explosion was caused by two fellows shooting into the building.  He was in the packing house and going out found two fellows who said they were shooting squirrels.  He says he threatened them with arrest and they became impudent.  As the explosion occurred the fellows were seen hurrying away.  H. R. Stansfield, superintendent of the Thorite powder company, near by, picked up a boxful of fragments of dead men and others assisted in the work and the remains were all put in a heap to await the action of the coroner.  One man had a family in Germany and the others were said to be single.


The main factory of the Ditmer works was nearly wrecked, one end being blown to pieces, exposing the interior.  After the explosion the lower timbers of the building took fire and burned fiercely.  A large tree near by was torn up by the roots and branches of other trees were blown away.  The ground for half a mile was strewn with fragments of the dead, splinters, packing paper, etc.  The violence of the explosion shook the houses in Bartow, across the creek from Baychester.  Many windows in Elliott's hotel at Pelham Bridge, over a mile away, were shattered.  Ditmore's blacksmith shop at Westchester shook like straw in the wind and the windows in many houses in the same village were shattered.  This is the second explosion that has occurred in these works this year, the one last winter blowing a man to fragments.  The window sashes and doors in the railroad station at Baychester, not far from the powder works, were blown to gragments and the windows in other houses were damaged, but happily no one was hurt.


NYACK, Sept. 30.--Just about 10 o'clock this morning a heavy shock resembling an earthquake startled the people here.  The shock is supposed to have been caused by a heavy explosion of dynamite somwhere."

Source:  Blown to Fragments, Albany Evening Journal, Vol. 57, No. 61,676, Sep. 30, 1886, p. 1, col. 4.

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