Saturday, September 3, 2011

Miami Powder Company

Near the village of Goes Station in Greene County, along the banks of the Little Miami River there once was a thriving gun powder plant. It provided good paying but dangerous jobs.

A dam and millrace on the Little Miami were constructed for a scythe factory about 1825 by the Chapman brothers. It supplied water power to the industry.

A few years later the Little Miami Railroad was built. This provided the site with convenient transportation.

The scythe factory was purchased about 1846 by Alvin and Lorenzo Austin and Benjamin Carlton. They founded the Austin & Carlton Powder Company.

Joseph W. King bought an interest in the company in1852. Then, in 1855, he purchased full rights. King renamed it the Miami Powder Company. He bought new machinery and built more buildings

During Miami Powder Company’s first year 4364 kegs of rifle powder and 1303 kegs of blasting powder were produced. In 1864, during the Civil War, the factory supplied black powder to the Union Army. The total production was 10,000 kegs of rifle powder a year, and 3,800 kegs of blasting powder.

After the war, the demand for rifle powder remained about the same and the output of blasting powder increased.

In 1871 steam power was installed in the factory.

About 1877 J. W. King left the company and founded King’s Mills in Warren County.

Through the years the powder company was safety conscious. They constructed separate structures for different phases of the production process. Only a few employees worked in each building. Horse drawn trams were used to move product from one building to the next.

Workers were paid high wages but knew it involved great risk. They were instructed to wear shoes without metal nails and not to carry pocket knives. Wooden tools were used in the production process.

In spite of the precautions, several fatal explosions did occur at the plant. One of the largest explosions happened on March 1, 1886 about 10 in the morning. A dry house containing around 50,000 pounds of black powder blew up. Three men were killed in the blast which was heard over 100 miles away. In Xenia buildings shuddered and there were many broken windows. People ran outside and saw a huge white cloud of smoke north of the city.

At the explosion site there was a fifteen foot deep hole in the ground where the dry house had stood, debris in the river, and a damaged bridge.

The building was rebuilt and work continued at the site. The factory went through several different name changes through the years as it was bought and sold. Two men were killed in a 1920 blast. Then, following a major explosion in 1925, which destroyed most of the structures, the business was closed.

Today two buildings near the bike path are all that remain of the once thriving business.

1 comment:

  1. Rosalie, can you contact me for a story I am doing on this subject for WYSO?