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"TORN TO ATOMS!"-H.H. Youngs, the Rock Glycerine Co.'s Oil Well Shooter

(Transcribed by Karen Meisenheimer From Monday March 22, 1897 Wellsville Daily Reporter)

 


 

TORN TO ATOMS!

H.H. Youngs, the Rock Glycerine Co.’s Oil Well Shooter.

EXPLOSION OF 600 QUARTS NITRO-GLYCERINE!

Not More Than a Pound of the Unfortunate Man’s Flesh Can Be Found. – Horses and Wagon Also Disappeared.

SHOCK WAS PLAINLY FELT IN HORNELLSVILLE.

Magazine Will Be Built at Fulmer Valley, Five Miles From Wellsville. – Young’s Father distracted and Mrs. Youngs Prostrated With Grief. – 2,000 Pounds of the Stuff. – Damage to Property Here Not So Large as from First Explosion. – A Terrible Fright to Citizens. 

Details of the Awful Catastrophe. 

Funeral Will Be at Bolivar.

            Nothing more than a few morsels of flesh can be found of H. H. Youngs, the Rock Glycerine Co’s oil well shooter.  HE met this dreadful death by the explosion of 600 quarts of nitro glycerine.

            While loading his wagon from the magazine on the Fassett farm at 9:15 o’clock this morning, the whole quantity of the deadly stuff in wagon and magazine exploded with terrific force ad killed Youngs and his horses.  Diligent search for several hours after the catastrophe was unrewarded by any discovery of Youngs’ remains other than some bits of flesh.

            Pieces of the horses were found, and twisted irons from the wagon were thrown far away.  Scraps of clothing, an inch or so across, a twisted pants’ button, and a shreds of the unfortunate man’s body were picked up by the crowd that soon gathered, but nothing like enough of human remains for decent burial.

SAW THE EXPLOSION.

            Dorr Clark and Thomas Myers witnessed the explosion.  They were driving posts about 400 feet northwest of the magazine.  When Youngs drove in to “load up,” Myers said to Clark, “I’m in deadly fear of that glycerine since the explosion.  Let’s get out of here for awhile.”  Clark laughed it off and said, “Never mind,” and so they went on working with the posts.

            At 9:15 Myers was upon a saw horse mauling away at a post.  He was suddenly thrown over and over, through several somersaults.  He soon realized that the terrible explosion he had feared had taken place.  With bloody face and bruised body, and a limping gait he arose.  Smoke had ascended over the site of the magazine.   Man and horse and wagon were gone.  Clark was slowly rolling himself over on the ground and groaning from an injury in the region of the stomach.  Both men gasped for breath.  Their escape was miraculous, and silently for a time they realized it.  In ten minutes men began to arrive with panting horses which had been run by their reckless drivers to the scene of death and destruction.

            Myers ad Clark were closely questioned and told a simple story. They had seen Youngs carry several cans to his wagon which stood near the magazine door, but for a few minutes before the catastrophe had not looked toward the magazine.  Thus the direct cause of the explosion will never be known.  It may have been the dropping of a can.  It may have been leaky cans, which were jarred as they were placed in the wagon, and thus easily exploded.  There is a tradition among shooters and handlers of nitro glycerine that great fear of the stuff and consequent nervousness means certain death.

            This morning when Youngs went to get his horses and wagon at Shields’ livery barn he found that the cans used Saturday had leaked and rendered the wagon unsafe to use.  The stuff had run down onto the axles where friction was sure to explode it.  This may have unstrung his nerves.  It certainly appeared so to those who saw him start out in a borrowed wagon with a special box in the rear to contain the cans.  He was bound for Doty & Doty’s well on Norton Summit.

AN EYE WITNESS

            At the instant of the explosion D. Comstock was driving along the Brimmer Brook road directly opposite, though quite a distance from the magazine.  He was looking off to the left and distinctly saw a great cloud of debris and smoke rise hundreds of fet in the air.  Then came an awful roar and shock which sickened him, and frightened his horse into a great trembling.  The sound came several seconds after the explosion.  Through the clouds of smoke vivid flashes like lightning were noticed by the doctor.

EFFECT OF THE SHOCK

            In effect the explosion was distinctly different from the one of three weeks ago. Today the ground was softer and partially received the concussion and made the reaction somewhat less.  And a stiff breeze was blowing from the south which carried the shock northward, where it had a remarkable action.  Western Main St. was worse affected that the east end.  At Riverside and Scio a great deal of damage was done.  E.V. Sheerar’s house, at least two miles from the disaster, had twenty large windows broken out, and Mrs. Sheerar was thrown down and considerably bruised by the concussion.  In money value the property damaged will not be as great as in the previous explosion which reached $2,000 and over.  The sound and shock, however, were heard further.  In Hornellsville it was plainly felt and news of hearing it comes from 40 and 50 miles away.

CAUSED SICKNESS

            The fright and concussion together prostrated many people in Wellsville and vicinity.  Women, children and invalids were particularly affected.  At the High School the shock was a dreadful one to the children many of whom cried and shuddered for an hour afterward.  A man working in the cellar of the Duke block was taken with a serious nausea which rendered him unfit for work.  Another such affair and the nerves of Wellsvillians will be bad indeed.

2000 POUNDS OF IT.

            The storage magazine which blew up this morning contained 2000 pounds of nitro glycerine.  On Friday it had been replenished by a load from Bolivar, and it is stated on authority that 600 quarts of the stuff exploded this morning.  The magazine that “went up” stood about 100 feet from the magazine that recently exploded.  It was a small shed, loose-jointed and badly shattered by the first catastrophe.  I.W. Fassett had repeatedly warned Mr. Youngs against storing the annihilating compound on his farm, and the shooter had promised to move the same.  No move to do so was made.  So on last Saturday Mr. Fassett swore out a warrant for Youngs and he was taken before Justice Torrey.   On his solemn oath to remove the glycerine elsewhere and not store the same again on the Fassett farm, he was paroled.  This week he was to move the magazine.  But it was taken away without his help.

GATHERED THE REMAINS

            James Shields made a careful search over the ground for several hours, and was rewarded by finding, probably a pound, perhaps two pounds of Mr. Youngs’ body.  Horse and human flesh are so mixed in what was taken to the undertakers that it is well-neigh impossible to tell what to bury of the unfortunate fellow.  What there are of earthly remain will be taken to Bolivar and interred.

HAD A CLOSE CALL

            Anson Hall had a narrow escape from death.  He started out from here with Youngs on the glycerine wagon, but upon the advice and command of his father, C.S. Hall, he left his dangerous seat before the vehicle turned into Fassett farm.

THE SHOOTER’S FAMILY.

            Henry H. Youngs, the victim of this accident, was 27 years of age.  When a young lad he attended the Wellsville union school.  His mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. John Youngs, live in Bolivar, where the father is in the livery business.  One brother, a boy of 9 years, survives.

            On June 3es, 1896, Miss Minnie Fein and H.H. Youngs were united in marriage at Bradford, Pa.  They have lived in Wellsville about a year.  The bereft wife is frantic with grief.  At the warning note of the explosion she ran bareheaded, through the mud to the site of the magazine.  Picture to yourself, kind reader, her agony at the scene which met her eyes.  Pen cannot describe it.

LOCATION OF ANOTHER MAGAZINE

            The Rock Glycerine Company up to the present time have taken the protests about the location of their magazine as a great joke.  Wellsvillians got tired of this and this morning the oil producers to the matter up and James Thornton secured the signatures of prominent oil men to a practical protest.

            Duke Co., E.C. Bradley, A.S. Brown, Carpenter, Thornton & Brown, Phillips Bros., W.B. Coats, and Homer Ellicott declared to the Rock Glycerine Company that if they transported or stored away any nitro-glycerine nearer than three miles from the corporate limits, they, the signers, would cease to patronize that company.  Manager Dempsey immediately decided to acquiesce to these demands.  The magazine will immediately be built at Fulmer Valley in the heart of the Wellsville oil field.

HAVE HAD 10 EXPLOSIONS

(Bolivar Breeze)

            The Rock Glycerine Company has lost four factories and a half dozen magazines by explosions.  In all more than a dozen of the employes of this one firm have “gone up” and the same story might be told of nearly every factory in the oil regions.  When an explosion takes place, at a factory or magazine, the building is reduced to tooth picks and a great hole is torn in the earth.  The helpless employees are torn into shreds and often all that can be found of their bodies can easily by placed in a cigar box.  The earth trembles, threes are uprooted, windows rattle in casements miles away and buildings and men disappear in a cloud of dust smoke.

A PREVIOUS ACCIDENT

            The Allegany County History’s sketch of Bolivar says:

            “H.H. Youngs, better known as ‘Brig’ Youngs shoots for the Rock Glycerine Co.  The events which occasionally happen in the lives of these shooters would make the dime novel retire with a blush.  The writer vividly remembers one occurrence which took place in September, 1892, for the reason that he was one at least of a small party who wished for a few seconds they were ‘somewhere else.’  The well was located in the woods on a steep hillside.  The shooter was H.H. Youngs, who’ (upon his own statement) ‘was born lucky.’  After the shot had been successfully lowered, ‘Brig’ got into the wagon preparatory to driving the team and wagon out of danger from the falling debris which follows the explosion of the torpedo.  There were two cans in the wagon which had not been used (?_________?) on the side hill the two upper wheels left the ground, rose slowly – higher, higher, reached the line of the center of gravity, - hung there a single tremendous second as ‘Brig’ crawled upon the rising wheels and slowly forced them back to terra firma.  All others of the party had meantime made an inglorious retreat, feeling that their combativeness was not equal to the shock of the explosion of 16 qts. of nitro glycerine.  The shooter was calm and unembarrassed and the job was finished according to law and order.”

 

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