Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Newspaper Miscellanea

I found this article in items one of my sisters handed off to me. It involved an explosion that killed six men working on a water intake tunnel in Detroit on June 9, 1930.

(Undated and unsourced. Probably about 6/10/1930.)


    Plas Tollison, of Sparta, Tenn., veteran foreman of blasting crews, was responsible for the dynamite explosion that killed six men, including himself, 215 feet below the bed of the Detroit River, off the eastern end of Belle Isle.

    This was the statement of five of the six men injured in the blast.

    Statements from the injured were taken today by Lloyd A. Loomis, assistant prosecutor, in St. Mary's Hospital. A statement also was taken from Alvin Smith, night foreman, in the huge water intake tunnel in which the explosion took place.

    "It is difficult to place blame so far as the investigation has gone," Loomis said. "The evidence points to Tollison, however. Smith said about two loads of dynamite failed to explode Saturday night when the last blast was set off.

    "One of these two caches of dynamite killed the six workmen. About 30 pounds of dynamite exploded.

    "It was the duty of Tollison, as day foreman, to investigate the result of Saturday night's blasting. The five injured men I talked to said Tollison had done so and was drilling to dislodge the unexploded dynamite. They said to drill around dynamite, to dislodge it, was the customary procedure, and is considered safe.

    "The theory of these men is that the electric drill in Tollison's hand slipped, striking the fuse cap on the dynamite."

    Fifteen men who were in the tunnel and escaped injury were among workmen who went down into the huge bore this morning when R. S. Morroe & Son, the contracting firm resumed operations.


    Meanwhile, investigators for the police department, the prosecutor's office, the mayor and the county coroners were preparing formal reports. These reports are to be given to the mayor and prosecutor.

    Autopsies were completed today on the bodies of the six dead, and they were turned over to relatives. The autopsies revealed death in each case to be due to external blows or concussion.

    Coroner James E. Burgess was to set a date for the inquest.

    Investigators scoffed the theory that the dynamite could have been placed in the tunnel maliciously. This theory was advanced when it was recalled a mysterious explosion occurred two weeks ago at Water Works Park, damaging equipment of the construction company.
Being the curious person that I am, I had to find out who Plas Tollison. I did find him, only his name was Pleas, not Plas. And he was from Sparta, Tennessee, a fact that really intrigued me since I live north of there in Cookeville. I found a link to him on Find-A-Grave and the FAG poster actually put one of Pleas' great-granddaughters in touch with me. She is going to end up with whatever I find on him, since he is not related to me at all.

It also led me to Gendisasters, events that touched our ancestors lives. There are some really great links here. And of course, one of the links is to this accident under the Detroit river. My readers might remember that my grandfather was an engineer for the city of Detroit and was supervising engineer on the water intake tunnel projects.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. Came over from MAW's site.

    Don't you love investigating things like this? I can spend hours looking up family history, anyone's family history.

  2. Michele: That's what I do. I love family history and it doesn't have to be mine. Who knew I loved research so much?

  3. My Grandfather was James Harper who was one of the men killed in the accident. I recently saw the newspaper article that described the accident. My Grandmother kept it in the family Bible and passed it on to my father.