THE BODIE DISASTER. – July 14, 1879

The Bodie Disaster - July 14, 1879 - original article | Bodie.comA Complete Account of the Disaster at Bodie — Full Particulars — The Correct List of the Killed and wounded.

The Bodie papers have come to hand, filled with the particulars of the terrible explosion of the magazine at the Standard mine last Thursday evening. About 8 o’clock a great cloud of smoke was seen from the streets of Bodie, rising from the summit of the hill on which were situated the Standard works and the powder magazine. Immediately afterward came the terrific roar of the explosion, attended with a shock like that as violent earthquake. The jar was so great twenty-five miles away that at Bridgeport it was mistaken for an earthquake. The whole population of Bodie was thrown into a fever of anxiety and excitement. The nature of the disaster was at once realized, and the hill leading up to the Standard site was soon covered with people struggling to reach the summit. Many lights had been extinguished, and windows broken in the town below by the shock. Stores and houses were left open and empty, while men, women and children joined in the mad race for the scene of the calamity. The old Standard works were now blazing, and the flames served to light up the fearful spectacle in the gathering darkness. Where had stood the magazine now yawned a gaping pit. A few yards distant the old works were burning. All around were lying the wrecks of minor buildings and of ruined cabins. Crawling about among the ruins, were the BLACKENED AND WOUNDED MEN, dazed and speechless from the shock. The shaft did not take fire, as at first reported. The men in the mine knew nothing of the explosion, and were safe in any event, as escape was easy through the connecting drifts into the Standard Con. The loss of life was supposed to be very great, but the actual number of deaths, including the missing men, and those who died after the explosion, did not exceed six. About forty men were wounded, almost all of whom are expected to recover, although some are yet in a dangerous condition. It appears that the destruction of property has been greatly overestimated. The machinery of the old Standard works was ruined, and the buildings destroyed. At the Summit works, about 400 feet from the magazine, the building was blown down, but the machinery was not seriously injured. The roof of the Standard Con. building, 600 feet to the westward, was crushed in, and the building badly shaken, but the machinery was left in working order. The buildings of the Jupiter, Dudley, Tioga, Bechtel and old Bodie works had doors and windows broken, but sustained no great injury. The foregoing includes all the damage of which any account has been received. The magazine contained about three tons of giant powder.

THE CAUSE OF THE EXPLOSION can never be more than surmised. The Bodie Standard makes the fol- conjectures in regard to it:
“As near as can be ascertained the magazine must have been fired by the dropping of a cap by William O’Brien, the man who carried the keys and had charge of it. It seems that Chas Malloy was sent from the Standard Con. for fuse, and applied to O’Brien, who was also carman of the old works. O’Brien then proceeded to the powder house. This was the last ever heard of the two men.

The bodies of Malloy and O’Brien had not been found at last accounts. The following is the complete list of those known to be killed, and the names, as far as reported, of the more seriously injured;

Killed — Frank Fiele, Thomas Flavin, Hugh H. McMillan, Wm. O’Brien, Charles Malloy, John McCarty.

Wounded — Wm. Hedges, engineer of the Summit, arm broken and head badly injured, but resting easy. Mrs. McKinney and child severely injured; was thought they could not live through the night, but both will probably recover. Hugh McMillan (second) seriously injured internally, leg broken and otherwise injured. Richard Palmer hurt in arm, badly injured. Jack Dempsey cut about the head and internally injured. H. H. Hemsast, shoulder fractured. Dan McDonald lost one eye and received other injuries. Alexander McGregor, badly bruised. J. C. Shreves, terribly cut about the head and face. Tom Murphy, arm fractured, eyes out and otherwise injured. John Hickey, brother of the foreman, badly hurt. James Hickey, foreman Standard mine, said to be badly injured in foot and body.

from the Reno Gazette-Journal, Monday, July 14, 1879

Back to Top