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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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This article was contributed by Lori Hogan

Sheboygan Press

Sheboygan Wisconsin, Saturday Evening April 10th 1915

Stack Falls Yesterday

Badger State Tanning Co. Employees have Lucy Escape

Were preparing to lower steel chimney when it fell with a crash and three men just had time to get out of way.


Three men narrowly escaped death and a number of workmen escaped probable serious injury at 4:30 O’clock yesterday afternoon when a heavy steel smoke stack on the engine room of the Badger State Tanning Company’s plant crashed to the ground. The three are:

Adolph Hoelle, engineer

Charles Hamelau, fireman

Herman Hoelle, electrician

The three men were standing directly below the spot where the heavy stack struck the ground but sounds of breaking steel carried with them a warning of the danger and the men leaped out of harm’s way just as the big chimney was littered over the ground.

Engineer Hoelle and others observed shortly after the squall yesterday that the stack had cracked in one of the sections about twenty feet above the roof of the boiler room, and later began to lean to one side. Preparations were being made to lower the stack when it gave way and fell.

The stack was 150 feet high and about 100 feet of it fell. It is built of many sections. Five feet in diameter and weighed several tons. With the drawing power of the stack gone, the dense smoke rolled out in great volumes, enveloping the factory and causing much alarm to residents in that vicinity. Immediate attention was given to the fires so that no trouble would be encountered in the engine room.

When the crash came Engineer Hoelle and Fireman Hamelan were standing west of the engine room door on the outside of the plant. A workman was preparing to loosen a guy wire on the side toward which the stack leaned. The men had been watching the chimney and observed that it was leaning more.

Suddenly there was a sharp crackling sound overhead and the men looked up to see the big structure telescope at the damaged section and topple over. Engineer Hoelle ran west and Fireman Hamelau darted to south just in time to avoid being struck. Heavy pieces of steel, broken off when the chimney struck the roof, struck on the spot where both men stood.

Believing that there would be an explosion, Engineer Hoelle ran for a distance of seventy-five yards before stopping to witness the result of the accident. Other workman in the vicinity ran from the spot with warning cries. Electrician Hoelle was just adjusting a ladder preparatory to removing electric light wires so that the stack could be thrown when the breaking steel warned him that it was falling and he leaped into a doorway in the bark room on the north “in the nick of time.”

A portion of the stack went through the roof of the engine room and damaged a lead pipe on the side of the boiler with the water column. Debris was scattered over the top of the boiler and there was a large and ragged hole in the roof as evidence of the strong force with which the chimney descended.

A piece of steel smashed a window in the top of the bark room, but the flying glass struck nobody. A wire connecting the fire alarm system was also broken by a flying piece of steel. The wire was immediately repaired so that an alarm could be given in case of possible fire.

The damage amounted to little in dollars and cents, as the smokestack was considered a loss before it fell. The factorymen consider themselves and the company fortunate that nobody was injured or that no serious damage was done to the engine or boiler. Had the steel struck the main water pipe over the boiler the plant might have been shut down for several days.


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