Friday, May 15, 2009

Hunter Family of Greene County, Indiana

The Bloomfield Weekly Democrat 1877
Harvest of Death
Terrible Boiler Explosion!
Greene County’s Horror!!
Fearful Loss of Life
Particulars, Incidents, & C., & C.

Never before has it been our duty as a newspaper reporter to chronicle a more sudden, brief, and terrible disaster, in which the elements of horror, pain and suffering were more closely interwoven, than in describing the awful death that befell almost a score of our fellow citizens on last Friday morning. While the storm clouds of Heaven were marshalling their forces for a terrific war of the elements, and a deep unnatural gloom was settling down upon the earth like a funeral pall, the boiler in the mill of Hunter Bros. Situated about nine miles northeast of this place, exploded, and carrying, in all its terrible force, death and destruction to many of our fellowmen.
During the past week some new grinding machinery had been placed in the mill, which was formerly a saw mill and a number of the neighbors gathered there on Friday morning to see the machinery work. The day was cold, disagreeable and rainy, and those who were present naturally gathered about the engine and boiler to warm, when without a moments warning the boiler exploded, wrecking the building completely and killing twelve persons, and wounding eight. The machinery was thrown in every direction and not a particle of the mill left standing. The cause of the awful accident was beyond question, a dry boiler, and someone one doubt connected with the mill discovering this, commenced pumping water into the empty boiler with the above fatal result. The following is complete list of those who were killed: Abner Vandeventer, aged 60 years cut in two; John Speltz, aged 75 years gash in the forehead; John Wilkie, aged 30 years crushed with a mill stone; James Hunter, aged 34 years cut in abdomen; Irwin B. Rea, aged 20, portion of the head severed from the body; John Hunter aged 20 years head blown away; Wash Bender, aged 13 years, leg blown off, John Hamilton, aged 15 years, head blown entirely away; Ed Hunter, aged 7 years, and Howard Hunter, aged 5 years, portions of their heads severed from their bodies; Owen Sarver, aged 14 years, head blown off; Jacob Brubaker, aged 14 terribly mutilated, died the next day. The wounded are Walter Hunter, aged 7 years right arm fractured and body badly scalded; John Bender, aged 11 years not seriously injured; Wm. Bland, aged 20 years, leg injured; Henry Bland scalded, Ahart Brubaker, leg scalded. Those who are wounded will probably recover, although some are seriously injured and may yet die.
This is beyond question the most horrible and fatal accident that ever occurred in Greene County, and has desolated many homes, and caused mourning in many hearts. Four of those who were killed were heads of families; the rest young men and boys.
No one in or about the mill escaped death or being wounded. A man, who was unloading corn at the time, was killed and his wagon torn to pieces, strange to say, his horses escaped without a scratch.
Three little boys were seated on a bench on top of the boiler warming themselves when it exploded. One was killed instantly, and the other two badly wounded and scalded. One boy was thrown into a tree and fell from there into a branch of water by the mill, and was one of the first to escaped and tell the story of the great horror.
The scene of the disaster was pitiable in the extreme. Pieces of men’s bodies, torn clothing and portions of the machinery were all thrown promiscuously together. The greater number of those killed were buried Sunday and a gloom sorrowful beyond expression seemed over the entire community. The wreck was visited by hundreds of people during Saturday and Sunday, and the sympathy of many hearts flowed out to the afflicted and bereft relations of those who had been so suddenly called away from earth. Death is terrible at any time, even when we watch at the bedside of those who we know are doomed to die. We feel that he is truly the “king of terrors,” but when our loved ones go from us in the morning well, happy, and the promise of long life before them, and before the noon are brought back mangled corpses, then and then only, can we measure the depth and extent of the suffering the stricken relatives of those who were killed in this disaster must experience.
It will long be remembered as a “black Friday” in the history of Greene County, and we indulge the hope that we may never again be called upon to write such a story of suffering and sorrow.

The above article copied word for word from a single column article that originally appeared in the publication “The Weekly Bloomfield Democrat,” the year 1877, day and month are unknown.
This copy transcribed by Benita Sheets Steyer, from copy obtained from Norma Purcell by Mable Crites Johnson in Greene County, Indiana May 2008.

The following lists the names of the deceased, approximate dates of birth and death, age at the time of the explosion, family relations, Civil War connections, and burial information:
(George)Wash (ington) Bender, b. 30 Sep 1864 d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 13. Son of George W & S Bender. His father George Bender served with Co C 71st Regt Cav Civil War. Buried Tulip Cemetery, Bloomfield, Greene County, Indiana.
Jacob Brubaker, b. 1863 d. 17 Mar 1877 at age 14. Son of Jacob Brubaker.
John Hamilton, b. 1862 d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 15. Son of John Hamilton & Mary Melissa Davis. John Hamilton served with the 97TH Regt Ind Vol Civil War. John’s sister Elvira Jane Hamilton married Isaac Hunter13 Nov 1878.
(Daniel) Edward Hunter, b. 1869 d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 7. Son of David Lindley Hunter & Celestia A. (Roberts) Hunter. Edward’s father David Hunter served with Co I 146th Regt Ind Vol Civil War.
Howard Hunter, b. 1870 d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 5. Son of David Lindley Hunter & Celestia A. (Roberts) Hunter. Howard’s father David Hunter served with Co I 146th Regt Ind Vol Civil War.
James Starks Hunter, b. 25 Mar 1826 d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 34. James served with Co D 59th Regt Ind Inf Civil War. Son of Daniel Hunter & Lurania Starks Hunter. James S. Hunter served with Co D 59th Regt Ind Infin the Civil War. Buried Mt. Calvary/Hunter Cemetery, Highland Township, Greene County, Indiana.
John Elmer Hunter, b.1857 d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 20. Son of William James Hunter & Emily Buckner. His father William James Hunter served with Co. C 59th Reg Ind Vol, Civil War. Buried Buckner Cemetery, Highland Township, Greene County, Indiana.
Walter Hunter, b. 6 Feb 1861 d. 20 Apr 1877 at age 16. Son of James Starks & Mary Ann (Clark) Hunter. Walter’s father James S. Hunter served with Co D 59th Regt Ind Infin Civil War. Buried Mt. Calvary/Hunter Cemetery, Highland Township, Greene County, Indiana.
Irwin (Irving) B. Rea, b. 1857 d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 20. Son of George and Sarah Ann (Jewel) Rea.
(Oren)Owen Sarver, b. 1 Sep 1862 d. 16 Mar 1877 at age14. Son of Henry H & Chimera Sarver. Oren’s father Henry H Sarver served with Co I 146TH Regt Ind Vol Civil War. Buried Tulip Cemetery, Bloomfield, Greene County, Indiana.
John Speltz (Spelts), b. (2 Sep) 1802(1807) d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 75. John was born in Kentucky. Married to Elizabeth Harrison.
Abner (Absalom) Vandeventer, b. 13 Jul 1817, d. 16 Mar 1877 at age 60. Civil War Pension File #232.701326.294. Married to: 1. Susanna Coghill 2. Mary Ellen Elizabeth Huffman. Buried Mc Intosh/Light Cemetery Highland Twp., Greene, Indiana.
John Wilkie, b. 1847 d.16 Mar 1877 at age 30. John Wilkie served with Co E 59th Ind Inf Civil War. Buried Wilkie Cemetery, Greene County, Indiana. Son of William & Sarah Elizabeth (Buckner)Wilkie. Buried Wilkie Cemetery, Greene County, Indiana.
The Wounded included:
John Bender, b. 24 Nov 1864, d. 26 Jul 1946. He was 11 years of age when the explosion occurred. Married Lucy Jane Arthur Nov. 30, 1893 in Greene Co., Indiana. Buried Grandview Cemetery, Greene County, Indiana.
William Bland, b. 12 Nov 1856, d. 2 Jun 1910. He was 20 years of age when the explosion occurred. Son of Simon and Rachel (Mock) Bland. He married Elmira Goodwin, 2 Mar 1879. Buried Stalcup Cemetery, Greene County, Indiana.
Henry Bland
Ahart Brubaker
The Hunter family were often told by Grandma Hunter that after the men had served in the Civil War they survived only to be killed in the explosion.
Daniel Washington & Lurana (Starks) Hunters had a family of thirteen children, twelve boys and one girl. Their sons; Afred, William James,Hiram, Columbus Jefferson, James Starks, George Washington, and David Lindley all served in the Civil War. Two other sons had died of measles brought home by two of their sons from the Army training camp at Gosport, Indiana.Almost all of the men and boys that died in the Hunter Mill explosion either served in the Civil War or their fathers served in the Civil War.


  1. What a beautifully written account of a very sorrowful and horrific event that affected so many lives. Thank you for sharing! I look forward to your future posts.


  2. Hi,
    Thank you for visiting/following my blog and I'm happy to have found yours. I enjoyed this first entry and am looking forward to reading more.
    Kind regards,
    Linda :)

  3. Thank you for your comments. An event that our family will never forget.

  4. Very interesting. I lived on the road that this happened on for 24 years (my ex still lives there). We always knew it as Shingle Mill Road but never heard of the explosion.