PEABODY, KAN – About 9 o’clock yesterday morning, a loud sound of explosion was heard, coming from the vicinity of the depot. A crowd of people hastened in that direction and it was found that the boiler in the new corn-grinding mill, formerly owned by Mess. Smith and Nellands, had exploded.
Mr. Charles Smith, one of the owners, Mr. Rankin, temporary engineer, Mr. J. B. Semple, miller, and Mr. David Kettle were in the mill at the time of the explosion.
Mr. Rankin, who stood near the furnace, was thrown through the engine house, over a coal house about 12 feet high, and struck the ground about ninety feet from the mill. He was instantly killed, and his body was badly mangled, one arm torn off. He was a native of Indiana, from Milford, Elkhart county, and was in this country without money, having worked in the mill only one day. He was unmarried, as was Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith was thrown about thirty feet from the mill, and his body horribly mangled, his jaw bone being broken in two places, one eye torn out, his skull badly bruised, and it is probable that other bones were broken. He died after breathing about two hours, being unconscious to the last. Mr. Smith had two brothers here.
Mess. Semple and Kettle miraculously escaped without serious injury. The former was knocked down and dragged some distance by a belt in which he became entangled. His injuries are a badly bruised leg, a cut on the head, and a painful eye filled with dust.
Mr. Kettle was badly stunned and he received a hard blow on the arm. Drs. Huffman and Buck attended this gentleman. Mr. Nellands happened to be detained at his house by the rain, the unfortunate man Rankin being in his place.
The interior of the mill was thoroughly riddled. The boiler was thrown from its room to the farther end of the main building, about twenty feet, the boiler head was found about forty rods from the mill and portions of the building were thrown in every direction.
The causes of the explosion were high pressure of steam, and low water. As is too often the case, this shocking occurrence is the price paid for the handling of steam power machinery by inexperienced men. There is not a practical engineer connected with the mill. – The Peabody Gazette, Peabody, Kansas. Thursday, February 15, 1877. Page 3. © Transcribed by Darren McMannis for Prairie Wind Publications.