Minute to Minute– The Almonte Flour Mill Explosion

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Minute to Minute– The Almonte Flour Mill Explosion

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Dust explosion @ 1955 . The mill was run by Earnest Armstrong my Grandfather. They lived just south of the mill on the Mississippi river in Almonte Ont. Photos- Robert L. Armstrong

There is always more to the story, and today I got an email from Jo Camelon of the Camelon Lamp fame which I am hoping to update soon when the Middleville Museum opens.

Re: Explosion at the Almonte Flour Mill–Rob Armstrong‎

It was interesting reading the letter by Ernie Armstrong. I was hoping to see the second page of the letter to see what he had to say. I just know that one cousin ended up being thrown with the blast and ended up with broken jaw and bones. Not sure about the other cousin. I was pretty young but I remember parts of it. My uncle worked at the dairy and later my dad did too.–Jo Camelon

With files from The Almonte Gazette January 1968

Well Jo, there were three men that got injured that day at the Almonte Flour Mill. Mill employees *Bill Harris, George Dennie and Franz Klaus were taken to Almonte General Hospital suffering from first and second degree burns to their hands and face and had multiple bruises.

An exploding boiler had touched off a dust explosion, an ever- present danger in a flour mill, which sent a sheet of flame throughout the entire main building. It blew out every pane of glass, lifting the roof and heaving the solid stone, three- storey rear wall out about one foot.

A sprinkler system, installed since the last serious fire at the mill in 1937, came on immediately and kept the fire in check while the Almonte Fire Department raced to the scene. The flames were quickly extinguished, and although the firemen made a thorough search of the building for any sparks , they had no sooner returned to the fire hall at about 3:15 when another fire broke out in the cupola at the top of the main building. They had to rush back to quell the blaze, which caused heavy damage to the walls and ceiling of the elevator. The rest of the main building and its contents sustained considerable smoke and water damage and two walls were blown out of the boiler room.

One eyewitness, Howard Barr, a P.U.C. employee and volunteer fire man, was standing next to the pens at the hydro plant across the bridge when the blast occurred. He reported seeing “a column of black smoke” shooting from the chimney about fifty feet into the air and at the same time, a huge ball of fire burst through the boiler room walls and shot out over the roadway, almost as far as the dairy across the street.  Barr added “it was almost as though a napalm bomb had exploded.”

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Ingress Intel Photo–The Olde Almonte Flour Mill

Barr shouted to Frank Honeyborne to turn in the alarm and running across the bridge, arrived at the mill to see men scrambling through windows, loading chutes, and any other exit they could find in the dense cloud of smoke and steam. Twenty men were at work in the building at the time of the explosion. Several windows were also blown out of the office, adjacent to the main building, where Edna Clement was working. Miss Clement had just stepped away from her typewriter seconds before her chair was enveloped in flying glass. Mill manager, Bill Bond had been working on an upper level with some men at the time and that group escaped the building by way of a loading chute.

About fifteen volunteer firemen with three pieces of equipment fought the blaze in zero degree temperatures. Mall employees pitched in as soon as the fire was extinguished to clean up the water before it froze. Broken windows were hastily boarded up in an effort to keep steam and water pipes from freezing, and a crew of men stood by all night with a hos e ready in case the smouldering debris ignited again.

All three injured men were in different parts of the mill. George Dennie was closest to the boiler room at the time of the explosion. Bill Harris was in another room on the main floor and fell through a trap door which had been blown open onto a cement floor nine feet below. Franz Klaus was in the upper – part of the elevator where the heat was most severe.

Mill superintendent Ernie Armstrong and Stewart King had a few anxious moments when  they found themselves trapped in the basement behind a door jammed shut by the blast. They eventually managed to open it and made their way outside. Mr.Armstrong said,

“In all my years in the mills I’ve never had a fire . Well, I’ve had one now and I hope I never see another one.”

The injured men are all reported to be in satisfactory condition at the hospital. Although no exact estimate had been made, mill officials said the damage could run as high as $500,000 and that it will be some weeks before the plant is back in operation.

Update–1968-01-25

The officials of the Maple Leaf Milling Company who are the owners of the Almonte Four announced in January of 1968 that they would be rebuilding the plant. The employees who got hurt in the explosion with first and second degree burns were expected to be released from the Almonte General Hospital in the next few days. The initial quote of $500,00 of damage was yet to be determined.

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*Jo Camelon says Donnie Ladouceur was also injured with broken jaw and I think an arm. George Dennie was his brother in law.

Ken MacDonald-Don Ladouceur was injured in a separate incident he was on maintenance and was changing a belt at the time!

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)

Related reading:

Explosion at the Almonte Flour Mill–Rob Armstrong‎

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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