Kingsland, NJ Munitions Explosion, Jan 1917
NEW JERSEY ARMS PLANT BLOWN UP;
LOSSES ARE HEAVY.
EXPLOSION DOES $12,000,000 DAMAGE;
800 ARE HOMELESS JERSEY CITY VICINITY ROCKED BY BOMBARDMENT.
Jersey City, N.J., Jan. 12. -- Intermittent explosions, caused by bursting of stray shells, could still be heard early today in the wreckage of the plant of the Canadian Car and Foundry company, destroyed late yesterday with a loss estimated at $12,000,000.
Stored in two concrete buildings, as yet undamaged, were tons of prinytrotoluol -- the most powerful of explosives -- used in making high power shells.
Had this been reached by the fire which swept the plant untold damage would have resulted. Danger of the powerful explosive letting go now is believed to have passed.
The town of Kingsland and the surrounding country today bore every mark of having been thru a terrific bombardment.
Some houses showed gaping holes, thru which the cold wind whistled. Roofs of others were perforated. Windows were out. The hard rock road near the big munitions plant was pitted with shell holes, anyone of which was big enough to bury a dog in. The Delaware and Lackawanna railroad tracks were torn up for a distance of two miles. Rails were twisted and ties blown out of place.
Early reports that a number of men were killed proved to be erroneous. Later reports declared about sixteen men "missing" but Mayor Clay today declared all had been accounted for. With the checking up of the company's list, only two men were shown to have been killed.
But for the fact that fuses had not yet been attached to the high explosive shells, the property damage in the vicinity of the plant would have been much heavier and the loss of life would probably have been great. The shrapnel shells exploded, scattering bullets broadcast. The high power shells merely shot up in the air, however, and fell without exploding. They would have done heavy damage, had they let go.
In all, about 500,000 shells were destroyed. They were the last of a $83,000,000 order the Canadian company had taken from the Russian government. The last shells completing the order would have been finished this week. The shells which bombarded Kingsland and the surrounding territory were about half shrapnel and half of high explosive type.
Mayor Clay of Kingsland, the county authorities and officials of the company started an investigation today. Clay declared it had been virtually established that the fire and subsequent explosion was caused by an electric wire falling into a vat. This started a blaze.
The fire quickly spread and within a short time the first explosives were reached. In rapid succession the thirty-nine frame buildings, comprising the plant, were set ablaze and the explosions of the shells stored there could be heard for miles.
With the issuance of orders for the people of Kingsland to leave their homes, the police were instructed to shoot down possible looters who refused to surrender upon command. About fifty arrests were made. Most of those taken into custody, however, were merely suspects and were released today.
Wisconsin State Journal Wisconsin 1917-01-12