Massive explosion near Williamstown smashed buildings, jolted residents awake in November 1900

In the early morning hours of Monday, November 12, 1900, the towns of Williamstown, Wiconisco, and Lykens were jolted awake by a massive explosion.

The Harrisburg Telegraph has the story, written for an evening edition of their newspaper.


There was a terrific explosion of powder in the Upper End of the county today and much excitement was created.

The “Telegraph” received the following telegram from Pottsville:

“Three hundred kegs of powder blew up in a magazine at Bear Valley, in Dauphin County at 2 a.m. today. The shock was felt here, a distance of thirty miles, with great mountains intervening. Albert Price, an engineer at work pumping at the colliery, was seriously injured by flying pieces of timber which were thrown all around him by the concussion. Buildings collapsed and others were badly shattered.”

That no more people were hurt in considered remarkable as a number live near the mine. The magazine was located some distance from the mine and this precautionary measure saved much property. Not many men were at work owing to the lateness of the hour on Monday morning.

Folks were badly frightened by the explosion and glasses were broken while movable objects jumped. Many people were awakened and for a while there was excitement. Williamstown felt the force of the explosion and some houses suffered. Lykens and other places also received shocks.

The explosion is thought to have been caused by the temperature of the magazine, which is heated by steam, becoming too high. The force of the explosion tore the blacksmith shop to pieces, damaged the engine-house and its valuable machinery and injured the tower on top of the shaft to a considerable extent. Other property was damaged. This morning repairs were begun and work in the mine went ahead.
In addition to Price, one other man, employed on the rock bank, was hurt, but not seriously. Price is married and has a family.

The Bear Valley Colliery is one and one-half miles from Williamstown and is in Lykens township, and is at the northern end of the famous tunnel through Big Lick Mountain. This tunnel was driven through the mountain from the Summit Branch Colliery and is used to bring the coal from the Bear Valley Mine. The Pennsylvania Coal Company operates the colliery and it is considered a valuable one.

A photograph from the village at Bear Valley. (Williamstown – My Hometown)

Featured Image – The machinery atop the shaft in Bear Valley, photographed in the early 20th Century (Williamstown – My Hometown)

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