Newspaper Articles

The Evening News
Wednesday, May 16, 1917
Front Page
(submitted by Aaron Sweeney)


Condemned fireworks which have been in Haller Block basement for years explode; Three dying instantly;
Coroner's Jury is now investigating accident.


With four men dead and four others lying in the Soo hospital with only a fighting chance for recovery from their injuries, a coroner's jury of which L. C. Sabin is foreman is investigating the cause of the explosion at 8:15 o'clock this morning, which wrought havoc at the east end of Brady Pier, and resulted in the worst disaster the Soo has had in many years.

The explosion of part of five boxes of Acme torpedo caps occurred while Robert Gray, Basil Bunno, and John Parr, employed on the garbage wagon taking refuse from the Haller block, were dumping the load into the river from Brady pier.

At 2 o'clock this afternoon it was said at the hospital that Joseph Bossineau, and Basil Bunno, two of the injured men, were in critical condition. The chances for their recovery are slim. The other two injured men, George Lawrence and Frank Buvia, who were taken to the Carbide hospital for emergency treatment and later to the Soo hospital, have even chances for recovery.

The dead are; Thomas Cennell, married, 427 Dawson street, employed as launch engineer by the Oscar Daniels Co. John Parr, 16 years old, employed on the garage wagon, son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Parr, 1056 Cedar Street. James Cook, 34 years old, married, carpenter, United States Coast Guard. Robert Gray, 50 years old, employed on garbage wagon.

The injured are; George Lawrence, United States Coast Guard, Joseph Bassineau, Oscar Daniels Co.; Basil Bunno, employed on the garbage wagon.

All the dead with the exception of Gray were killed almost instantly. Cook's body was hurled several hundred feet out in the river. The body of Parr was thrown against a warehouse on the dock. Gray died in the hospital at 10:30 this morning.

Coroner R.C. Winslow impaneled the following jury; L.C. Sabin, foreman, Joseph Scales, Thomas Mitchell, W.S. Edwards, George Kemp and William Welsh, which met this morning at 11 o'clock. After an examination of the scene of the accident the jury viewed the bodies of the men.


Thomas Mitchell, a member of the jury, an expert on explosives employed by the Foundation Company, after an examination of the holes blown on the dock by the explosion, and the debris, said the marks were not those left by dynamite. Although not stated officially by the jury the caps are thought not to contain dynamite but some other high explosive. The jury has in its possession three and one-half boxes of the cane torpedo caps, which did not explode. Four or five boxes were sent down on the garbage wagon. The jury adjourned to meet at 2 o'clock at old Fort Brady where a number of the caps were fired as a test. The cane torpedo caps were from the Haller Block, and were stock owned by the Haller Book Store. According to Eugene Haller, proprietor they had been in the building for the past 14 or 15 years, their use and sale as Fourth of July novelties having been prohibited.


"When I told the garbage collector about cleaning the rubbish out of the basement I said there were four or five boxes of torpedo caps, which I wanted taken away," said Mr. Haller this morning. "I explained to him what they were and told him to handle them with the utmost care. I presumed that he would take them outside the city limits and bury them. I was not present when they were taken away."


Lester W. Smith, who is in charge of two wagons collecting garbage, one of which took the boxes of caps to the dock, received the order from Mr. Haller last night. "I was told to clean the rubbish from the Haller block and also to take away several boxes of Fourth of July novelties," he said. The wagon carrying the rubbish and the five boxes of torpedo caps reached the dock as Thomas Cennell, Frank Buvia and Joseph Bossineau, working on the Oscar Daniels company launch arrived there to ship away several steel plates. The Oscar Daniels company has permission to use the portion of the dock as a shipping and receiving station.


There were also two men, employees of the Coast Guard, Cook and Lawrence, on the dock. According to the latter, from whom has come the only eye witness story, the boxes were unloaded first and piled up on the dock. Lawrence remembers vaguely that Cook was standing near the boxes a few minutes before the explosion, with the other men and himself not far away. Whether the boxes fell or were struck he does not know.

Lawrence was thrown under the dock, but was able to crawl to the top before he became unconscious. The other men were thrown in the air, two of them to a distance of two hundred feet. One horse belonging to the team was injured and later shot. The other horse was not injured.


Captain R. H. Burdeno of the lighthouse tender Clover was one of the first on the scene. He saw Cook's body fall in the water and the other men lying on the ground. His first act was to telephone physicians and send in a call for the ambulance. J. H. Engle, superintendent of the Michigan State Fish Hatchery was thrown against the wall of his room when the explosion occurred. The concussion broke nearly every window in the hatchery besides shaking the building so severely that Mr. Engle is certain all of the 5,000,000 brook and lake trout eggs have been destroyed. The shock broke windows within a radius of nearly a mile. A window of the Man's store in the Canadian Soo was shattered by the explosion. A team of horses on Water street was thrown to the ground, and Waldron Matthews, a Western Union telegraph messenger, was knocked from his wheel. He was riding on Water Street. Many persons swarmed to the river front after the explosion which was much more violent and louder than any occurring when excavation work for the fourth dock was under way. The first rumor was that dynamite had been "set" to destroy the Mackinac. At 8:15 the Mackinac was not at her berth at this dock, but was above the locks.

A detachment of soldiers under the command of Major Wilson were rushed in automobiles to Brady pier, which was placed under armed guard. All persons have been kept away from the immediate vicinity of the explosion until it is known there is no danger from another explosion from caps scattered in the debris.

For two hours after the explosion the Michigan Telephone exchange broke all records for the number of calls received, according to Charles H. Adler, manager. Extra operators were rushed into service, calls were routed by "supervisors" and all other steps to speed service were taken.

Two of the dead men leave families. James Cook leaves a wife, and a mother, Mrs. Jane Cook, who make their home at 1503 Seymour Road. Cook had been in the service 15 years and was one of the best liked men in the Coast Guard. "He was one of the best men who ever stepped on a boat." said Lieut. Addison, in charge in this district. Thomas Connell is survived by a wife and three children. Their home is at 427 Dawson Street.

The coroner's jury this afternoon witnessed the explosion of a number of small boxes of dynamite caps on Brady field, some that were found in the scene this morning, exploded by batteries in charge of Thomas Mitchell, of the Foundation company and a member of the jury. The explosions clearly showed that the caps were powerful enough to cause this morning's explosion.

All of the explosives which were not set off this morning were thoroughly wet by the officials, it being shown that a dampened box would not explode. The jury did nothing officially this afternoon but will meet in the circuit court room, county building, at nine o'clock Thursday morning to take up the investigation.

If you would like to submit newspaper articles for this page, please contact the coordinator. Please note that articles published before 1927 may require clearance from the publisher and may not be able to be posted. Thanks!

Untitled Document

Site Last Updated: Tuesday, 11-Sep-2012 15:53:42 MDT
Contact the Website Coordinator: Temporary Coordinator

Chippewa County MIGenWeb Home Page
MIGenWeb Project * USGenWeb Project