Thursday, September 29, 1898:
Three Killed and Two Wounded
M. T. GEE'S CAMP IN ATOMS
Eight Hundred Pounds of Powder Set Off by a Spark From the Blacksmith Forge - One of the Wounded Men May Die - Three Horses Killed.
Three killed and two seriously wounded are the casualties of a terrible explosion that occurred at Contractor GEE's camp on the Blaine-Ferndale road yesterday afternoon. The dead are:
John SWANSON, laborer, aged 35.
Michael GEE, son of M. T. GEE, age 16.
Sydney McCULLOCH, aged 5, son of John McCULLOCH of Custer.
The wounded are:
John McCULLOCH, cook, who may not recover.
Dan SANDSTROM, laborer, injured about the head; left forearm broken.
The news of the accident reached Whatcom about 3:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon by a telephone message from Ferndale which stated that fifteen men were killed and injured. At 4 o'clock a Reveille reporter in company with Dr. VAN ZANDT and Coroner VAN REYPEN were on the way to the scene of the accident which was reached about 6 o'clock. The camp at noon yesterday was located at the foot of a hill at about the halfway point in the three-mile gap of road yet to be completed. The camp was moved to this location but a few days ago and the men were hardly settled. A long shed-like building was constructed in the field on the west side of the toad, part of which was used for a stable and part for a blacksmith shop. Along side of it was the eating house and about fifty feet further in the field was a substantially built building, of two rooms which was used for a cook house. On the east side of the road, a hundred feet from the blacksmith shop, were two tents used for sleeping rooms. Saturday the powder was all piled up in one corner of the blacksmith shop, about ten feet from the forge, to keep it out of the rain.
The camp today is a frightful wreck. Nothing but a few timbers and a mass of debris marks the spot occupied by the stable; where the blacksmith shop stood is a big hole ten feet across and three feet deep. The cook house is a total wreck, and cooking utensils, tools, timbers, with flour, bacon, and other articles of food, form an intricate heap of debris. Not a vestige remains of the eating house.
The following is Foreman Chas E. LIND's description of the explosion. He said:
"The explosion occurred shortly after 2 o'clock. It was just 7 minutes to 2 when the men quit work on account of the rain, and most of them were in the tents. M. T. GEE, Bert HENDRICKSON and I were in the blacksmith shop doing some work. We had a fire in the forge, which was about ten feet from the powder. There were about fifteen fifty-pound boxes of Champion blasting powder and a box of dynamite. One of the powder boxes was open and half empty, and as the wind was blowing the rain in on it and some of the sparks from the forge were blowing that way, I told HENDRICKSON to cover the powder up. He went over to it, but jumped back, with the cry, 'It's already on fire.' We all rushed for the door. There was a pony in the doorway, brought in out of the rain. He became frightened and plunged around, blocking the door. GEE was trying to climb over the kicking horse, and we were all wedged in the doorway awhile, when I dropped to the ground and crawled out under his legs and a plank that was across the door. I don't know how the others finally got out. I ran down the road, shouting, 'The powder's afire; run, boys!' and was about one hundred yards away when the powder exploded. I didn't fee much concussion and the report did not sound loud to me. We went back to where the camp had been. We found the cook, about dead, lying almost out in the road, a hundred feet from where he had been standing. Mike and SYNDER, who I think, were also in the cook house at the time of the explosion we found half way out to the road, both dead. SWANSON and SANDSTOM were lying in the door of one of the tents, across the road and had evidently been just starting to run. Both were alive, but SWANSON did not live long. The pony and another horse were both killed instantly and a third horse was so badly injured we shot him. I think it was about two minutes before the powder exploded after we discovered the fire."
The body and face of young GEE, are terribly disfigured. Little Sydney McCULLOCH was evidently killed by a body blow though his face has many splinter marks on it. SWANSON's death was apparently caused by concussion, as there are no disfigurements. He is a single man and owns a ranch near Welcome. McCULLOCH is terribly scared and burned about hips, thighs, arms and head. He is also injured internally, but how seriously cannot yet be determined. He will be brought to St. Joseph's hospital today if able to be moved. He was conscious last night but did not seem to realize the nature of the accident. He asked for his little boy Sydney and also his wife. The former is dead and the latter is ill at their home about three miles from the accident. McCULLOUGH is a nephew of E. L. GAUDETT, the logger. Dan SANDSTROM will no doubt recover. He was resting easily last night. Doctors SUTHERLAND and KING of Blaine and Doctors VAN ZANDT and CROSS of Whatcom were all in attendance on the wounded men who were taken to the house of I. JANACK near the camp.
The force of the explosion seemed to go east, south and west. GEE, LIND, HENDRICKSON and the other men luckily ran north and there is hardly a splinter lying in that direction. The house of I. JANACK stands on a hill 250 yards east of the camp. Nearly all the windows on the west side were broken. Mrs. JANACK was standing looking out of the window and saw the flash. The glass crashed in and the shock of the concussion knocked her down. She was not hurt. The board sides of the woodshed and barn were blown loose in many places. Mr. and Mrs. JANACK turned their residence into a hospital for the wounded, and an eating house for the road-men, doctors and others. Coroner VAN REYPEN will hold an inquest at the district school house today.
Friday, September 30, 1898:
Coroner's Jury Reports on Explosion.
Coroner H. G. VAN RYPEN returned yesterday afternoon from the scene of Wednesday's explosion. Yesterday an inquest was held in the Pleasant Valley school house. The evidence submitted showed that there had been gross carelessness in stowing the powder in the blacksmith shop, but who moved the powder and who ordered it moved could not be ascertained. The powder, it was claimed, had never been stored in the blacksmith shop before, but as the camp was just moved, there was no other shelter available. The evidence also showed that the man who first discovered the fire was not smoking but that it evidently caught from the forge. The jury brought in the following verdict:
Pleasant Valley School House, Whatcom County, Wash.,
September 29th, 1898.
In the inquisition on the bodies of John SWANSON, Sidney McCULLOCH and John Michael GEE, we the jury find that said John SWANSON, Sidney McCULLOCH and John M. GEE came to their death by the explosion of a large quantity of Champion and Giant powder stored in the blacksmith shop at the camp of M. T. GEE, cause of explosion unknown.
J. T. EVERETT, Foreman, John F. TARTE, E. A. NICKSON, C. H. WOOLDRIDGE, D. L. ANNAND, G. T. MARKWOOD.
Te two wounded men were brought down to St. Luke's hospital on the train yesterday and have a good chance of recovery. The dead were buried yesterday in the Enterprise cemetery.
Friday, December 23, 1898:
Samuel STUBBS died yesterday afternoon between 3 and 4 o'clock after a long and lingering illness. Mr. STUBBS was a shoemaker and worked in the little shop next to GREENBERG Bros.' store, where, during his good health he could be seen busy from early morning till late at night. The confinement and stooping posture necessary to his work are believed to have caused his illness - consumption - and the end has been expected for some time.
Saturday, December 24, 1898:
Charles BLACK, a resident of Blaine, died at St. Joseph's hospital Thursday, of Hemorrhage of the lungs. His body was shipped to Blaine yesterday. He was 40 years old.
Sunday, December 25, 1898:
Mrs. John C. MONAHAN died Friday afternoon at St. Joseph's hospital of heart disease. Mrs. MONAHAN was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward CONNELLY of Fairhaven, and had lived on Bellingham Bay for twenty-five years. She has been the wife of Mr. MONAHAN for about eight years and leaves one child - a boy of 5. She was 35 years of age.