Frightful Explosion at Nashville

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: Memphis Daily Appeal
Place of publication: Memphis, TN
Date of publication: Apr 26, 1869 11:50 pm

Frightful Explosion at Nashville.
Yesterday morning, about 11 o’clock, the residents of the south side of the city were startled by two deafening reports in rapid succession, resembling in volume the discharge of a twenty-pound Parrott gun, and which caused a general stampede and turnout in that vicinity. The noise, or reports, proved to be the explosion of a large copper still at the Tennessee Oil Refinery Works, located on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, about two miles from the city. From H. T. Yaryan, superintendent of the establishment, we gather these particulars: At the hour before mentioned, Tom Robertson, a colored man and an employee of the works, was engaged in running oil in a small stream into a large copper still for the purpose of generating gas for the Refinery buildings. By some mishap Robertson either let air into the still or it was filled with air at first, and the gas from the oil coming in contact with the air and the hot still, in an instant exploded with a deafening report, sending a large iron cap placed over the top, weighing two hundred pounds, fully five hundred feet in the air, and causing it to fall to the earth with a fearful velocity, burying itself out of sight in the ground fully one hundred yards distant from the place it started from .
Robertson, at the time, was standing near the cap, but fortunately it was blown in an opposite direction from him. However, it had a serious effect on him, for the force of the explosion hurled him high in the air and landed him at least twenty feet from the still, horribly burned and blistered from head to foot, and his clothes torn into mere shreds. His sufferings were intense, and when assistance got to his side it was found that the blood was oozing from the pores of his skin like perspiration. His left arm was broken and badly mutilated. His eyes were closed, but, it is believed, were uninjured and he was suffering with a general contusion consequent upon so frightful a journey through the air. Medical assistance was procured as quickly as possible, and from the consultation and examination of the attendant physicians we understand that hopes are entertained of his final recovery.
A very fortunate incident occurred regarding the explosion, which might be related: Only a few minutes before had Mr. Yaryan and Mr. Felix R. Rains left the top of the still, the latter remarking as he went down the steps that he was “afraid of an explosion,” and at the time of the occurrence was seated in the office reading the morning Banner, and thereby fortunately escaped. Mr. Yaryan was engaged in arranging the cocks belonging to the gas apparatus and also got off uninjured.
The second explosion we speak of can be accounted for in this way So soon as the first discharge was made the gas reaccumulated and fired a second shot. It might be well to remark that this occurrence does not prove the explosiveness of coal oil, and that almost any oil coming in contact with gas, air and water would have done likewise
-Nashville Banner, of Saturday