Janis' Genealogy Site
Pottstown Daily News, Wednesday 2/5/1902
CROWDS VISITED SCENE OF THE EXPLOSION
All the Injured at Boyertown Are Doing Well and Will Recover.
FIRE'S ORIGIN A MYSTERY
Baker Carver Says There Was no Gasoline in His Building at the Time. The Victims Will Be Buried on Saturday Next.
(Special to the Daily News.)
Boyertown, February 4. Awed throngs stood before the ill-fated bakery of George Carver, on the corner of Philadelphia and Jefferson avenue, all day today, and gazed at the wide gaps in the east and west walls of the bakery from which the bricks had fallen that had carried death to four people late on Monday night and injuries to fully twice that number. Following the awful explosion that killed Henry Shaner and his son, Lawrence, and George S. Grim and young Irvin Houck, the Friendship Hook and Ladder Company battled for several hours with the flames and by 1 o'clock this morning had them apparently under control. They remained on the ground until 3 o'clock, and began to pump the water out of the cellar.
At 4 o'clock they burst out afresh among the cornices and, fanned by the brisk wind, extended to the east wing of the building. The firemen, although thoroughly tired out and with their garments frozen so that their movements were impeded, turned their attention to saving the front of the property from destruction. After an hour's struggle they succeeded in putting out the blaze.
Following the awful explosion, when the wall of the second story burst out and killed four of the spectators, the crowd was paralyzed. Charles B. Spatz, editor of the Boyertown Democrat, was a spectator of the awful accident. He said to a news man yesterday afternoon:
"I was standing not three feet from Mr. Shaner and his son when the explosion took place. He had his son by the hand and when the noise came we all started to run to safety. The fire was apparently confined to that portion of the building where the dumb waiter was, and beyond the smoke that poured out below the roof there was no trace of a fire on the Jefferson street side of the building. The bakers were at work during the fire.
"We were appalled by the sudden calamity, and the black smoke that enveloped everything for several seconds made it impossible for any of us to see what had taken place. The body of young Lawrence Shaner was first found, and that of his father was not discovered until some time later, as he had been almost covered by the flying bricks."
The bodies of the victims were taken across the street to a private residence on the corner and from there the Shaners were removed to the office of Boyertown Burial Casket Company. They were badly disfigured. The bodies of Mr. Grim and young Irvin Houck were taken to their homes. They were not so much cut by the bricks as those of the Shaners. Much sympathy is expressed for Mrs. Shaner over her double bereavement. She is left with three young children, all of whom are unable to contribute to the support of the household. The husband was a son of Mrs. Henrietta Shaner, who resides with her daughter, Mrs. M. Luther Custer, in Pottstown. His son Lawrence was in the habit of going with his father everywhere he went. There are three surviving children - Paul, aged 11 years, Edgar, aged 9 years, and Charles, aged 18 months. Darius Shaner, of Mahanoy City, is a brother. His wife, Amanda Renniger, is a sister to Mrs. Howard Hartenstine, No. 839 South street, Pottstown.
Young Irvin Houck was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Houck, and was a bright boy of 14 years. George S. Grim, the fourth victim of the explosion, leaves a widow and five children.
All the injured are getting along nicely today. Allen Fry, who was thought to have been injured internally last night, is only suffering from a broken leg. George P. Rahn and Augustus Conrad, who were injured by flying bricks, were able to be at work today. Mr. Rahn was in the dining room of the bakery when the explosion came, and hurried out the side door. As he ran the east wall fell, but the porch on the second floor broke the force of the fall, and but a few bricks reached Mr. Rahn. Had it not been for this porch Mr. Rahn would probably have been numbered with the victims.
The bakery did not present the appearance yesterday of having been the cause of the greatest accident in the history of Boyertown. The firemen had roped off the sidewalks in front on Philadelphia avenue and on Jefferson street, and the curious throngs were kept at a safe distance during the day.
The structure is a 2 1/2-story store, a brick building about 30 feet wide and 65 feet long, and is built in the form of an L. The flames originated in the cellar, near the furnace which heats the building by means of hot air. Behind the store, and in front of the L-shaped annex, there is a dumb-waiter that is used for the purpose of raising bread from the bakery in the basement. It was at that point that the flames began to creep towards the second floor, and the firemen who were in the basement believe that they gained the upper portion of the building through this elevator shaft.
When the flames were first discovered, the family of Mr. Carver and the attendants ran from the building. They closed all doors tightly and the stream of water that was poured upon the furnace by the firemen is believed to have generated steam and gas that ascended the shaft to the second floor. Finding no outlet, the force back of the accumulated gas burst out the elevator shaft and through the partitions and finally the brick walls of the building.
The force was terrific, as shown by the building today, and a gaping rent, fully 20 feet in width and extending from the floor line of the second story to the roof bears evidence of that fact. The partitions on the second floor have been torn out by the explosion and the contents of the rooms scattered about. Upon the sidewalk on Jefferson street lies a pile of furniture and bedding. It was at this point that the fatal accident occurred.
The house was built last summer by Mr. Carver, at a cost of $4000. The damage caused by the fire and explosion of last night will probably amount to $2500. All the upper rooms in the front of the building are gutted by the flames, and the store is damaged by smoke and water. The sitting room and dining room are also damaged, and the basement has been flooded to the depth of two feet.
The date for the funeral of Mr. Shaner and his son had been fixed for Saturday next. Services will be held at the house by Rev. Mr. Weber, of the Lutheran church, and the interment will take place in the adjoining cemetery. James T. Brumbach will be the undertaker in charge. The funerals of the other two victims have not been arranged.
Squire William H. Fox empaneled the following jury of inquest: Wallace Y. Lechner, foreman; John G. Sheeler, William S. Rhoads, Jarius B. Stauffer, Levi F. Lefever and Benjamin F. Nyce. They met at 6:30 o'clock this evening in the squire's office and heard testimony upon the tragic death of the victims of the explosion.
Three inquests were held, as Grim had died an hour later than the others. The jury had viewed the bodies just after the disaster. Three witnesses were heard: Augustus Conrad, Jacob Megarley and George Moore. The jury gave a verdict in accordance with the facts as previously given in these columns, and declared that the victims had come to their deaths by reason of the falling of a wall at the fire at George Carver's bakery, on the night o February 3, at 11 o'clock.
The funerals of Grim and Houck will be held on Saturday.
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