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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.

 

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My dad Keith Camelon ask me to submit to these to you They are of the Flour Mill in Almonte where my dad was an employee until it closed in 1987– Sandy Harris

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.

 

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My dad Keith Camelon ask me to submit to these to you They are of the Flour Mill in Almonte where my dad was an employee until it closed in 1987– Sandy Harris

 

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

Explosion at the Almonte Flour Mill–Rob Armstrong‎

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Explosion at the Almonte Flour Mill–Rob Armstrong‎

 

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Photo–Patrick Kruz-Doyle @kruzdoyle The Old Almonte Flour Mill

 

 

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Photo of the Armstrong family–Rob Armstrong‎

Yesterday the LCGS recieved a photo and two letters from  Rob Armstrong about his family and two company letters from The Almonte Flour Company from Almonte. The author of these letters was his Grandfather and Superintendent Ernest Armstrong.

Thank you Rob for sending these- we sure do appreciate it!

I put together a small photo blog about the company thanks to Rob’s ephemera.

Have you got any memories about the Almonte Flour Company-let me know in the comments.

 

 

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Clipped from The Ottawa Journal15 Feb 1960, MonPage 28

 

 

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Clipped from The Ottawa Journal27 Jul 1965, TuePage 4

 

 

 

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Letter from the Armstrong family collection–Rob Armstrong‎

 

 

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Clipped from The Ottawa Journal10 Jan 1968, WedPage 5

 

 

 

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The account of the dust explosion at the mill in 1968. The author is my Grandfather and Superintendent Ernest Armstrong. Letter from the Armstrong family collection–Rob Armstrong‎

 

 

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Clipped from The Ottawa Journal10 Jan 1968, WedPage 5

 

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Clipped from The Ottawa Journal15 Feb 1977, TuePage 67

 

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Sandy Iwaniw—When I first came to Carleton Place in the early 70’s, the Almonte Flour Mill used to sponsor a ladies invitational golf tournament at Mississippi Golf Club. Every lady participating in the tournament received a 5 pound bag of flour.

 

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

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

The Mules of the Number 1 Mill?

Was Working in One of Our Local Mills Like Working in a Coal Mine?

Babies in the Textile Mills

The Drought of 1871 and the Mills on the Mississippi River