The Families of Adam Keith

“Once upon a time ...”, family facts and tales


Gunpowder house explodes

Henry Keith Painter [1826-1900]


Ancestry: Adam Keith1>Johann Michael Keith2>Henry Keith3>Catherine [Keith] m. [Andrew Painter4>Henry Keith Painter5


Mansfield [Richland Co. OH] Evening News June 4, 1890


[Henry] Painter Farm Explosion


Wreck and death from the terrific explosion of over 5,000 pounds of gunpowder a bolt of lightning strikes the powder-house on the painter farm it is blown to atoms and two adjacent dwellings are wholly destroyed.


A flash of lightning, a peal of thunder, followed immediately by the shock of a terrific explosion! Even before the reverberations of such a conflict of elements had died away two houses were razed to the ground, a mother and little daughter were buried in the debris, seriously injured, while the baby lay dead in the garden 50 feet distant. There was a call for help from alarm box No. 63, at the Newman Street school house. The department promptly responded.  When the firemen reached the Ohio Valley stove works they learned that the powder magazine on the Painter farm had exploded and as they could be of no service they returned to the station house.  Chief Knofflock went to the scene of the disaster and assisted in removing the victims from the debris.


The powder house was a small brick building 12 feet square and 10 feet high.  The roof was made of tin and the building was a safe repository for explosives so far as protection against ordinary forces was concerned.  It stood on a lot 30x60 feet on the east side of the road leading to Bowers' stone quarry, which is platted in the Syndicate addition as Fifth avenue. The property is owned by the Hazard Powder company, for which Tracy & Avery are the local agents, and for a number of years was used as distributing headquarters, but the past few years it has been used only as a storage magazine for local trade.


Adjoining this lot was the Painter family burying ground where sleep about 15 members of that family. A year ago last spring Henry Roost purchased of the Syndicate Land Company a lot on the west side of the road directly opposite the magazine.  He had been cautioned against choosing such a location on account of the danger he would be exposed to should any accident ever occur, but none ever had occurred and he did not apprehend that anything would happen so he built him a home 14 x 26, one and one-half stories high, containing four rooms.  He moved in with his family and lived undisturbed either by fear or accident until yesterday.  Roost is an industrious German.  He was employed as a laborer in the foundry of the Humphreys pump works.  He borrowed $400 of the Citizens' loan to purchase the lot and build him a home and he has paid into the loan nearly the entire amount.


The shower that passed over this city about 4:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon was by no means a heavy one.  There were a few flashes of lightning accompanied by thunder, when suddenly a shaft descended with deadly aim upon the magazine.  In an instant the destructive agent had done its work leaving behind four trails leading to each of the four points of the compass.  This was due to the walls spreading apart opening four channels for the enormous charge to vent itself. The charge that went east passed, over a depression so that it did but little damage yet the lower branches of a maple tree that stood in its path were swept by the violent current of fire while the upper branches were not harmed the least.  This indicated the immeasurable force of the explosion for it traveled several rods without expanding or reaching an altitude above 50 feet.  The volley that went southward did little damage other than to cover the cornfield with brick and scraps of tin, many pieces being thrown a distance of half a mile.


The northern volley plowed its way through the pasture until it reached the brow of the hill at the ravine, a distance of about 10 rods. At no place was the track of the demon over 20 feet wide and the hill on the opposite side of the ravine was honey-combed as though shells had been fired into it from a cannon in a heavy siege of bombardment.


Fortunate is John Shaw that his new home was still unoccupied.  Not so with Henry Roost who was toiling away at the shops to provide for the wife and little one he had left comfortable and happy in the morning.  Little dreamed he that ere the hour should arrive for the works to close for the day that he should be called home to see his house a total wreck, his wife and little girl mutilated and bleeding and his little baby boy a corpse.


Why should Jove's bolt descend upon this little building in such close proximity to two larger ones, and containing an immense quantity of one of the most destructive agencies ever created by the genius of man?  Why should nature apply the match to over 2½ tons of powder that it might demolish a happy home, of honest, hard working people when there were tall forest trees near by, that might have attracted the electrical current?  These are circumstances the scientists cannot explain and for which the philosopher can gives no plausible reason. The deadly work was done though no one knows why it should be so.


Mrs. Roost was taken to the home of Charles Eichacker where Doctors Ecki and Loughridge gave aid.  She was inside the house when the explosion happened and was found among the debris by those who soon arrived.  The little daughter, Annie, about two years old, was recovered from the debris and also taken to Eichacker's house.


In the garden lay the mangled corpse of Willie, the baby, about a year old.  The skull was crushed in and death was undoubtedly instantaneous.  The child's remains were taken to the home of J. [Jacob] K. Painter where it was prepared for burial.


The physicians who attended Mrs. Roost and the little girl were unable to determine at the examination immediately after the calamity, the extent of the injuries.  Dr. Loughridge visited the injured this morning and made a thorough examination of both.  Mrs. Roost was badly injured about the face, the left eye is swollen shut by an ugly bruise and it is not known whether the sight is impaired or not. She suffers a general contusion of the body but her injuries are not considered fatal. The little daughter, Annie, received a lacerated wound of the scalp extending from the right ear to the center of the forehead furrowing the outer table of the skull. She is badly bruised but will possibly recover.


John Humphryes was one among the first to arrive at the scene of the disaster.  He has taken a deep interest in the afflicted family and besides engaging Dr. Loughridge to attend the wounded, has secured a house for them to move into until the shattered home can be rebuilt. Both Shaw and Roost had their homes insured against damage by fire or lightning but under the circumstances neither of them can obtain any damage from insurance companies.


Charitably inclined people have started subscription papers for the relief of the Roost family and a large amount has already been subscribed.  Subscriptions may be left at the office of the Richland Mutual insurance company, at the office of Tracy & Avery or at the NEWS office.  All subscriptions will be duly credited.  Up to the hour of going to press about $200 had been subscribed.


Jake Lowmaster [Henry Painter's son-in-law] is more shirtless than shiftless.  His family washing with that of Henry Painter's washing, had been sent to Mrs. Roost, who had it hanging upon the line.  The explosion of the powder magazine carried away wash, line and all.  One of Painter's shirts lodged in the top of a tree, the only remnant left by the wreck."