Today marks the 125th anniversary of the Great Dynamite Explosion, which killed 58 people. On January 15, 1895, a fire broke out in the Kenyon-Connell Warehouse and the Butte Hardware Company. The Fire Department was alerted of the fire from Box 72, located at the corner of Utah and Iron streets. Nine firemen, drawn by four horses, responded to the alarm: Chief Angus Cameron, Assistant Chief John F. Sloan, George Fifer, Dave Moses, Ed Sloan, Sam Ash, Dave Magee, John Flannery, and Peter Norling.
Shortly after arriving at the fire, an explosion occurred, killing all but two men of the Fire Department, Flannery and Magee. Magee’s life was saved because he was blanketing two of the horses when the explosion went off. One of the horses was killed, falling on Magee and breaking his leg and pinning him to the ground. As people came rushing to the scene to help after the first explosion, a second explosion occurred.
Unknown to the members of the Fire Department and those who tried to help after the explosion was that an illegal amount of dynamite was stored in the warehouse, surrounded by rabble heads and iron, which became shrapnel during the explosion.
On January 18,1895, a funeral was held for the nine firefighters who died during the explosion, as well as those who were unidentified or did not have family.
An inquest of the Kenyon-Connell Company and Butte Hardware Company was set for January 21, 1895. Crowds filled the proceedings held at City Hall. The examination lasted 10 days, looking into the quantity of explosives stores and the methods of handling them. On January 21, 1895, the jury concluded the Kenyon-Connell Commercial Company and the Butte Hardware Company were criminally negligent and careless in their storing of dynamite.
Today, Butte Historical Memorials, Inc. is working to build a memorial to those lives lost in the explosion at the Butte Fire Department. The group has also published Out of the Ashes: The Forgotten Story of the 1895 Butte Explosion, which goes into the lives of the victims of the explosion and the events of January 15, 1895. We recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more.
The Archives also has photographs, newspaper clippings, and publications on the explosion that can be viewed anytime.