This week's Historic Pinole includes our familiar source of newspaper article archives, but it was submitted by Hercules Patch blogger Dean Brightman, whose "Blast From the Past" recalls Hercules history. Our thanks to Dean and to Hercules Patch editor Laila Kearney.
Here is Dean's post:
An explosion occurred at the Powder Works on May 21, 1895, killing 13 workers. The San Francisco Call gave it prominent front-page coverage the next day. You can read the article in its entirety, including the grisly details of recovering the victims, in the PDF that accompanies this post. Be sure to note the illustrations from the Call's sketch artist.
Following are some of the more fascinating tidbits.
One of the workers killed was to be married the next day.
"Charles Venegas was to have been married to-morrow to the sister of Pedro Higuera, who works in the acid department at the other side of the hill. Miss Higuera was early on the scene, and so great was the unfortunate girl's excitement that it was necessary to restrain her from rushing into the nitrate warehouse, which was for the time being used as the dead house. But her errand there would have been fruitless. Not a trace of her lovers body had been found up to dark to-night, though the ruins had been very thoroughly searched by that time."
The sole survivor who was close to the explosion, a W.C. Bennett, recounted his experience.
"'I was working over my pans, separating the nitrate from the sulphuric acid, doing what is called reclaiming work, when the crash came,' he says. 'First I heard a loud and sharp report that seemed to come from the Mashhouse. I turned and made for the door. In flashlike succession two other shocks came, each more deafening and tremendous than the other, and before I could reach the door I was thrown violently to the ground three times. I was dazed and blind and dumb when I reached the door. My head swam, and I almost lost consciousness. The air was thick with smoke and dust and flying bits of wood and iron and debris, and the timbers of the building were wrenched. I could hear them creaking and groaning and falling. Of course, as soon as I could think at all I knew what had happened, and came down the hill to help find the dead. I have heard and seen other powder explosions, but none like this.'"
Lastly, a telegraph operator in Oakland had a very surreal experience.
"The operator at Pinole had his hands on the key when the crash came, and immediately flashed the news down the road [to Oakland]. 'It was nearly a minute after the news of the explosion had reached me by wire," says the operator [in Oakland], 'when the crash came and nearly shook me off my seat. It was the most peculiar sensation I have ever experienced‚ to know of the explosion before it impressed itself on my senses."
A special thanks to Rob Shea of the Pinole Patch, who's idea I stole from about the Lincoln Highway.
This source for this article text and PDF is the California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cdnc. The collection has digitzed more than 400,000 images from newspapers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Images dated between 1846 and 1922 are in the public domain and not subject to copyright.