Adams County History & Genealogy

Adams County, Ohio Articles

Nitroglycerine Explosion Kills William Cooley

Loss of $100,000. The Devastion Resembling the Wreckage of an Earthquake

William Cooley, a venturesome Manchester boy, less than twenty years of age, after risking his life a thousand times in all parts of the world, met death last Saturday evening in a most horrible manner. He had been engaged to flat-boat 1200 quarts of nitroglycerin, the most dangerous explosive made, from Shamokin, Penn., to Burning Springs, W.Va., upon the waters of the Ohio and Little Kanawa rivers. At Marietta the consignee met the boat and relieved the boy of 400 quarts of his dangerous cargo. When he got to Parkersburg where he was to leave the Ohio river, he found that the ice he was keeping about the explosive was almost exausted.

The red flag he was compelled to carry upon his dangerous cargo was watched at ever point and when he attempted to land near Parkersburg was ordered not to come ashore. He attempted another landing a short distance up the Little Kanawha, but was again warned to keep back. He again daifted out into the Ohio and was preparing to leave his dangerous cargo in a skiff. Eye witnesses say that he droped an oar into the explosive and there was a fearful crash that shook the earth for twenty-five miles around. The city of Parkersburg sufferd damage to the extent of $100,000; two steamboats were recked and there was not a splinter to be seen of the boat in which the explosive was carried. A search for the body of the boy revealed but two inches square of his skull, the rest of his body being blown to atoms. Had the explosion occured on land it is said that the destruction to life and property would have been incalculable.

William Cooley was the oldest son of William Cooley Sr., a member of Co. D 24th O.V.I, who died about a year ago at his home in Manchester where his widow and her family still reside with many other relatives, among them David Pennywitt his aged grandfather, and were young William made his home.

At an early age of ten years he began a nomadic life, going wherever his curiosity led him, never thinking of the needs of money, always dressing well and feeding upon the best the land afforded. He has not only thoroughly canvassed the United States, but he had made frequent trips to Hawaii and upon his visits home, reproted that he had crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Travels, no matter where or under what circumstances, had no terror to him and it was this disposition that ultimately cost him his life.

The family have the sympathy of their many friends in their sad bereavement.

SOURCE: The People's Defender, West Union OH; June 6, 1895