Personal recollection and newspaper account of the boiler explosion of a Minneapolis return flue engine
It was September 9, 1910, when this Minneapolis return flue engine blew up. That morning was a quiet forenoon. I was painting the granary when I heard the explosion. This place is 11 miles northwest of our place and five and one-half miles from Clarkson. There was a traveling salesman on the street that day and, hearing the explosion, he said, “Another boiler went up in the air, as I heard one like that before.”
Out at the John Calelly farm, northwest of town, on Friday last the explosion of a traction engine wrought fearful havoc and cost Joseph V. Moore, a young man about seventeen years of age, his life.
On that day Hradec Bros., with their steam outfit, were engaged in threshing Mr. Calelly’s grain. A few minutes before 10 o’clock that morning a short stop was made for lunch, and all who were working about the machine, with the exception of Anton Hradec, the engineer, and Joseph V. Moore, who was in charge of the water wagon and was just hauling his first load, had retired behind the stack to eat lunch.
Hradec was urged to come with the rest, but desired to get the belt, which had slipped off, back on the machine and asked someone to come help him. In answer they told him there was time enough for that after lunch. Just then young Moore came up with the water wagon and the engineer proceeded to fill the boiler. He was standing at the rear of the engine with Moore seated on the tender when last seen by the men before the accident followed.
Just as the crowd behind the grain stack were starting to eat their lunch, there was a deafening report and immediately the air was filled with escaping steam and broken pieces of iron and steel. The top half of the stack behind which the men were seated was torn away by the mutilated parts of the wrecked engine and boiler.
When the men rushed out from what had proven their place of safety, it was a frightful sight that met their gaze. There was the wrecked engine beneath a part of which laid Joseph Moore badly bruised and scalded. A telephone call was sent to Clarkson and in twelve minutes after the accident, Drs. Allen and Humprey were on the scene doing all in their power to relieve the suffering of the victim of the disaster.
It was apparent from the first that there was little chance to save his life as a hasty examination showed that he had sustained a double fracture of the bones of one leg, a fracture of the skull, and in addition was scalded from head to foot. After making him as comfortable as possible, the physicians brought him to Clarkson to the home of Mrs. Anna Zvacek where he died at 7 o’clock that evening.
Anton Hradec, the engineer, who stood near Moore at the time of the explosion, was thrown some distance but escaped injury with the exception of having a big toe broken and sustained a few minor scratches. Little Johnnie Calelly, who was playing near the machine, had his hat knocked off his head by a piece of flying iron; the force of the explosion threw him several rods and he was picked up in an unconscious condition. The contents of a can of oil had been spilled over him and the child was covered with grease from head to foot but escaped serious injury.
All visiting the scene of the accident express amazement at the havoc wrought. They found a mighty engine of steel and iron torn into fragments as though it had been a mere plaything. Heavy parts of it had been thrown a distance of 20 to 30 rods, and one of iron passed through the side of a barn 600 feet away. Several hundred have visited the scene, and Dr. F.B. Schultz has taken some very good views. It seems hardly short of an act of Divine mercy that so many who were working about the machine were out of harm’s way when the explosion occurred. It is fearful to contemplate what the result would have been had not the stop been made for lunch.
The victim of the accident, Joseph V. Moore, was born in Schuyler on December 17th, 1893, being the son of John Moore and wife, who made that city their home for some years after his birth, later coming to Clarkson and from here moving to Bolivar, Mo., now their home. In answer to a message sent him, the father arrived here Sunday to make arrangements for the burial of his son. Mr. Moore will be remembered as a former engineer of the Clarkson mill. The boy came here just last March and worked in this vicinity during the summer, and it was his intention to return home the coming week that he might attend school during the winter.
The funeral was held yesterday afternoon at two o’clock, and the Z.C.B.J. hall was filled with friends of the young man and his parents, and the relatives who reside here. Loving hands completely covered the casket with beautiful flowers as tributes to the memory of the deceased. The services consisted of an address read by Anton Odvarka and two songs by Misses Emma Chleboun and Lois Dusatko, after which the last earthly journey of Joseph Moore was attended by the large concourse of friends who deeply sympathize with the bereaved family. The Clarkson band furnished music, and six young men acted as pall bearers who were attended by honorary pall bearers, six young girls dressed in white and wearing wreaths, and after their arrival at the City of the Dead the last sad rites concluded the services.
I agree with the man who wrote the article “Let’s Play Safe” in the July-August issue. IMARudolph Novotny is from Clarkson, Nebraska.