Hurled To His Death
John Johnson Killed In Premature Powder Explosion
John Johnson, foreman for Eden & Brown, sub-contractors, on the Elgin extension, met a horrible death Tuesday. He was out early with his gang and at about 7:30 a.m. had placed a keg of black powder ready for a blast. He used a shovel to tamp the explosive, and it is the supposition that the metalic substance came in contact with rock, produced a spark, igniting the powder. Johnson was hurled through the air a distance of 120 feet, lodging in the river along side the right of way. Companions watched his descent and rescued the bleeding, charred victim from a watery grave. He was hastened to the office of Dr. Kirby who, assisted by Dr. McNaughton, made a minute examination, finding that both legs had suffered compound fractures, his left knee crushed, skull fractured and face and hands charred to a crisp. The explosion had literally scalped the man.
The surgeons from the first were convinced that Johnson had received fatal injuries. The sufferings were untold, but willing hands, aided by medical science made death easier for the poor sufferer.
Strong men accustomed to scenes of suffering were nearly forced to abandon the scene, for the injuries were dreadful to behold. Johnson was of a splendid physic and, owing to a rugged, strong constitution, he baffled for over nine hours with death, succumbing at 4:40 p.m.
Johnson was about 40 years old, and in his incoherent moments he informed the attendants that an old mother resided on 22d street, Oakland, California, and efforts are now being made to locate her.
Johnson was foreman and ’tis said he was absolutely honest in the performance of his duty, and the appearance of one higher in authority than he would cause him to become extremely excited. Did the appearance of one higher in authority on that fatal morning cause the hand to tremble and the shovel to go wide of its mark, striking a stone with a ring, producing the premature explosion with such fearful results.
There are many who contend that Johnson was a victim of careless methods in force by contractors in general on railroad construction work. Many are of the opinion that Johnson, experienced in handling powder, was the victim of his own carelessness.
The remains were moved to J.H. Henderson’s undertaking rooms and placed beside those of J.G. Burke who was killed the day previous.
Wednesday afternoon, Rev. Parker, of the Presbyterian church, conducted short services in the presence of a few interested and kindly disposed ones, and the two bodies were consigned to graves, practically unknown.
Elgin Recorder Friday October 27, 1905