August 20, 2016

23-Ton Blast Shakes Yavapai County

United Verde Mine  Jerome, Arizona
December 20th, 1925 seemed a day like any other. People were busy getting into the Christmas spirit; making final preparations.

A train, about an eighth of a mile outside of Jerome, AZ, was taking on water, when one of the train's engineers noticed some smoke rising at the United Verde Mine. When he looked more closely, he noticed that the roof of the powder house was on fire!

Quickly, he climbed into the  train's engine compartment and pulled on the whistle for all it was worth.

Shortly, people in the town of Jerome started coming onto the street, curious as to what the fuss was about. They, too, noticed the mine's powder house roof on fire.

Everyone realized that in a matter of a few short minutes, 23-tons of TNT would explode violently.

Word of the impending disaster spread quickly throughout the mine and the town. People prepared the best way they could.

Then at 2:45 p.m., the massive explosion occurred. People as far away as Mayer felt the earth shake. In Humboldt, the quaking was so violent, that the entire town exited their shaking structures for the open street.

In Prescott, the sound of the explosion was so great that "many people fled into their basements thinking that their furnaces blew up."

In Jerome, the concussion of the blast acted "in a peculiar manner," as it "evidently ricocheted from side to side down the main street of Jerome breaking the windows in alternating stores and mostly only the windows on one side of the doorways." Windows that were parallel to the street faired far worse than windows that were at an angle.

Seeing the smoke rise over Woodchute Mountain, those in Prescott thought that the town of Jerome must have been flattened. However, "telephone calls to friends 'over the hill' soon dispelled the anxiety."

This lack of damage was due to the foresighted construction of the powder house, itself. It "had been built in a gulch and against a hill opposite from the direction of (Jerome)," causing the blast to be directed towards Lonesome Valley, instead.

The explosion also blasted out the front and rear doors from a neighboring powder magazine. "One box of TNT was found intact, blown some distance from the scene of the explosion."

ALSO ENJOY: The Great Date Creek Train Wreck 
The story of what was at the time the worst train wreck in the history of the Peavine Railroad.

The cause of the initial fire that produced the blast was a complete mystery. "The officials of the company are puzzled," the paper reported, "as the house itself was of concrete and the utmost care was observed in methods of fire prevention."

Perhaps it was a freak accident. Perhaps it was a lone, disgruntled worker. After visiting the site of the blast, it was quickly concluded that the mystery "would never be solved."

The heroes of the incident were the observant locomotive engineers. The train's whistle alarm "was ample enough to prevent injury and loss of life. When the great blast came, there was no person close enough to sustain injury."

This, in conjunction with the wise placement of the powder house, turned what could have been a nationally remembered disaster into nothing more than an intriguing story in Yavapai county's history.

Tourist Tips:
The Jerome State Historic Park, (CLICK HERE), offers a tour of the Douglas Mansion, (who owned the mine,) as well as a 3-D model of the shafts in the mountain. There is also an interesting mineral exhibit and a beautiful picnic area with a stunning view.

Also be sure to stop at the Audrey Shaft head frame to stand on plexiglass and look down the 1900 foot shaft!

Prescott Evening Courier. 12/21/1925 Pg. 1 col. 8



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