1918 Semet-Solvay Plant Explosion

Victims of the Semet-Solvay Plant Explosion

July 2, 1918
Split Rock, Onondaga Co., New York


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Split Rock, New York

July 2, 1918


A fire at this plant began about 8:40 p.m. on the evening of July 2, 1918 - the main explosion occurred at 9:30 p.m., shaking the entire village and was followed by several smaller blasts.

Witness Burton J. Hall of 1012 Montgomery St. stated that the explosion was in his nitrofier at Plant No. 1, where over a ton of TNT was in the manufacturing process. Men in this plant were given a warning to "get out" at 8:40 p.m. Many men rushed out but returned to fight the fire - during this firefight the main explosion occurred. Flying debris was the cause of death for many.

Even some neighbors were injured by the blast. Mrs. Nellie Martin who had a view from her kitchen window of Plant No. 1. She was later found unconscious under furniture and a fallen ceiling.

First reports indicated 65 dead - due to difficulty in identifying victims, this number is generally agreed to be 50-52 deaths.


Do you have any stories or memories of those on this list? This is a list of some victims - there are more not listed. If you have information on this, please send it to me so that I can add your information to the list.

Any stories, memories, or photos of the victims you wish to share are welcome. for all items received, a rose will be placed in that person's memory next to the information.


Memorial to Victims of the Explosion


The Dead

Partial List

William A. ALDRICH - age 26 - 1204 W. Colvin St., Auburn - funeral by members of the Masonic fraternity at 2pm 7/6/1918 and 4pm at Fort Hill Cemetery / Bradley Chapel in Auburn - survived by widow Dorothy I. ; daughter Elizabeth ; son Charles ; parents Jerome & Edith Aldrich of Poplar Ridge ; 2 sisters Mrs. Thomas Ingram and Mrs. Ethel Padington

Charles Glenn BATES - 1249 W. Onondaga St. (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster) - Funeral services 7/7/1918 at Bellevue M.E. Church - According to accounts, he died at the post of duty and was last seen pointing a hose toward the fire. He had come over from another plant to help fight the fire.

Harmon G. BAXTER - 108 Englewood Ave (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

Charles BLAKEMAN - 414 E. Willow St. - Funeral 7/6/1918 at 2pm at home of his parents in DeRuyter - survived by widow Ida Blakeman ; stepdaughter Marion Town ; parents Mr. & Mrs. Alfred Blakeman of DeRuyter ; and brother Floyd of New Haven, Connecticut

Otto BLEICH - 473 Whittier Ave (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

Isaac H. BLESSING - 305 Glenwood Ave - Previously known as "Unidentified No. 35" - Identified by his brother and a dental chart - Funeral services on 7/7/1918 at Lafayette Ave. M.E. Church

John W. BROWN - 118 Barnes Ave. (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

Samuel CROUSE - age 45 - 226 Cortland Ave - Funeral 7/6/1918 at 9:30 am at home of his mother Mrs. Pauline Gries, 315 Turtle St. - also services at 10 am at Church of the Assumption - Survived by 3 sons Fred, Louis, and Samuel ; daughter Mrs. Frank Hines ; mother Pauline Gries ; four sisters Mrs. R. Behling, Mrs. William Decker, Mrs. August Brooks, and Mrs. Cornelius Price ; two brothers Frank and Henry Gries. Samuel was a member of Loyal Order of Moose, No. 625, Fraternal Order of Eagles, and past president of the cigar makers union.

William A. CROWLEY - Watertown

Robert P. DECKER - age 28 yrs., 11 mos. - 119 W. Newell St. - Funeral 7/6/1918 at 2pm at home of his parents Sgt. & Mrs. August Decker ; survived by widow Florence, infant son, parents Sgt. & Mrs. August Decker and 2 brothers Charles (serving in Army in France) and Donald, and one sister Mrs. Frank Bishop - was a member of Lincoln Lodge No. 180, I.O.O.F., and Canton Lincoln

Vernon S. DILLON - son of Martin F. Dillon of Skaneateles

Samuel DUHAMEL - Split Rock club house

Andrew DUNN - Marcellus

Floyd EASTMAN - Info Submitted by Betty Butler 

Frederick Wellington EDGETT - Deputy Sheriff - age 54 - 338 Fitch St.- double funeral with Harold N. Edgett on 7/4/1918 at Fanchers Undertakers Rooms , 112 Seymour St. - Burial at Sandy Creek

Harold N. EDGETT - age 21 - 403 Seymour St. - son of victim Fred Wellington Edgett - double funeral with Fred W. Edgett on 7/4/1918 at Fanchers Undertakers Rooms , 112 Seymour St. - Burial at Sandy Creek

James B. FERRIER - 161 Onondaga St. - Known as "Unidentifed No. 18", James was identified after several days by his mother Mrs. Lillian Ferrier of West Haven, Connecticut and by his barber, who had cut James' hair that day.

William FITZPATRICK - 400 Helen St.. - Funeral 7/5/1918 at 2:30 pm - Burial at Woodlawn Cemetery

La Vern C. GIBSON - 2505 James St. - Funeral 7/5/1918 at home of his parents - burial at Morningside Cemetery

Thomas F. GRAY - age 31 - 121 Furman St. - burial in St. Agnes Cemetery

Willis Gaylord HALL - age 25 - 436 Rich St. - funeral at his home 7/6/1918 at 2:00 pm - burial at Baldwinsville


Wardell HASSETT - 102 Fountain St. (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

John W. HAWKINS - age 40 yrs., 10 mos., 12 days - 940 Grape St. - Funeral 7/6/1918 at 2:00 pm at Snyder's Undertaking Rooms on E. Genesee St. 2:30 pm at Bethany Baptist Church - survived by wife Harriet A. Hawkins - Burial at Oakwood Cemetery

Frederick D. HODGE - (African-American) - age 28 - Split Rock - services 7/6/1918 at home of Mrs. Mae Green 312 E. Washington St. - buried in Woodlawn Cemetery

Orin JOHNSON - 731 E. Washington St. (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

J. Warren JONES - 201 Caroline Ave., Solvay (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster) - Body discovered week after

Mike KASHMAREK - Split Rock (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

Francis J. KEEFE - 601 Cannon St. - age 20 (Missing and presumed dead at time of funeral)

James KING - Skaneateles (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

John P. KOHLES - age 42 - 1805 Park St.

George MESMER - 1411 Grape St. - services 7/6/1918 at home of his sister and at Cathedral of Immaculate Conception - survived by widow Catherine Mesmer ; five brothers Joseph, Maurice, Edward, William and Frank (in the service); two sisters Mrs. Frank Singer and Mary Mesmer ; bearers James Mesmer, Michael O'Brien, Frank Boyle, Rhody Evan, and John Dwyer - burial in St. Agnes Cemetery

Milford O. MOORE - 149 Gifford St. - Body sent to Wellsboro 7/5/1918 - survived by wife Minnie Moore ; 3 sons LeRoy, Milford, and Earl ; daughter Irene ; and parents Mr. & Mrs. Merton Moore of Wellsboro

Clarence MUNDY - 324 Stuart Ave. (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

Bernard PIQUET - 114 Lilac St. -age 46 - born in Cicero - survivors were wife, two daughters Marie and Clara, son Bernard, one sister Mrs. J.F. McGarry, one brother, Charles J. Piquet of Boston - funeral 7/6/1918 at 8:30 am at his home at at 9am in Church of the Assumption

Stanley W. PRETTYMAN - 723 E. Washington St. - Funeral 7/5/1918 at Chapel of C.C. Carroll & Co., Undertakers - burial in Myrtle Hill Cemetery

Claude RICKERT - (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

David RUSH - 1012 Montgomery St. (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

George S. SCHNEIDER - age 41 - 623 North Salina St. - died at Crouse-Irving Hospital - funeral at family home 107 Pond Lane 7/6/1918 at 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 am at St. John the Baptist Church - burial in Assumption Cemetery

Chester C. SHARE - 1034 Montgomery St.

Harold J. SHOEMAKER - 715 S. Warren St. / 430 Hubbell Ave

Theodore SILVERSTEIN - 637 Harrison St. (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

George SITTERLEE - 251 Tennyson Ave (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

Arthur D. SMITH - 1301 North State St. - player and manager of a baseball team - burial St. Peters Lutheran Church

Robert VAN SLICK - Los Angeles (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

Frank WALKER - 600 Park St. - Funeral at Church of Assumption 05 Jul 1918 at 3:30 p.m - survived by widow Alice Walker, mother, and 3 sisters - brother of victim George S. Walker

George S. WALKER - 111 Mulberry Rd., East Syracuse - Identified by sister Elizabeth Walker - brother of victim Frank Walker

John WESTMAN - 319 E. Genesee St. (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

John Westman who was killed in the explosion at the mine in 1918 was my uncle. I am doing a family genealogy and received information concerning his life. I know that he was born in Ireland. And that he came to the United States in 1886 and married a lady by the name of Helen Gates. I hope this information is helpful.  Courtesy of Arthur Westman.

Joseph H. WHITE - Elmira (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

George WOOD - 412 Abell Ave (*Missing and presumed dead week after disaster)

Homer WRIGHT - Marcellus


The Injured (*Note that injured names were taken from hospital lists immediately following explosion, not necessarily an indication that they survived)

Benjamin BARNARD - age 43 - 107 Grant Place - Fireman - injuries minor - bruises and cuts - Good Shepherd Hospital

Edward COLLINS - (African-American) - age 20 - Split Rock - bruised right shoulder

C. J. COUGHMAN - Rich St. - Serious condition - Peoples Hospital

Charles CRANE - Split Rock - minor cuts - Crouse Irving Hospital

Frank CUNNAN - Split Rock - Serious condition - Peoples Hospital

Loren CUYLER, Split Rock - Cuts and bruises

Joseph DECOWSKI - 213 Sackett St. - Back and head injured - St. Josephs Hospital

Edwin EDMUNSON - (African-American) - age 34 - 826 E. Water St. - Laborer - Perforated intestines / punctured lung - condition very grave - Good Shepherd Hospital

C. L. FELLOWS - 203 Rich St.

Michael FELICE - age 22 - 219 No. Crouse Ave. - cut legs

Michael GOVE - age 21 - 537 Burnet Ave. - bruises

William GRAHAM - (African-American) - age 23 - Split Rock - Laborer - minor cuts and bruises - Good Shepherd Hospital

Burton J. HALL - 1012 Montgomery St.

Esa HASKIN - age 34 - 109 Bristol Place - Right temple cut - bruises

James HAZEL (African-American) - 326 Green St. - One amputated leg - one badly injured leg - Syracuse Memorial Hospital

Frank HOFFMAN - Reed Ave. - Serious condition - Peoples Hospital

Paul HOLIHAN - age 20 - 28 W. Genesee St., Baldwinsville - Chemist - Abdominal perforation and internal injuries - may be blind - condition very grave - Good Shepherd Hospital

"My father was one of the injured at the 1918 Semet-Solvay Plant Explosion. His name was Paul Holihan from Baldwinsville and according to the hospital report he was gravely injured with internal injuries and might be blind. I am happy to tell you that he survived the blast without any eye problems however he did have quite a lot of scarring on his torso. He was very conscious of this and used to keep a shirt on at the beach (he was a red head with fair skin so could do this without too much explanation). He rarely talked about the accident and was more apt to say that he regretted not being able to serve in the First World War because he was the sole caretaker of an ailing mother. After her death he moved to New York City where he met and married my mother. They went on to have four children and he lived to be 79 years of age surviving several heart attacks and various ulcer related illnesses. A true survivor. " Memory Submitted by Mary Holihan Rogers

Leslie M. HOYT - age 32 - Skaneateles - Chemist - Shock - Good Shepherd Hospital

Herman JAEGER - Patrolman - Split Rock - cuts - injured right leg - Crouse Irving Hospital

Charles JONES - (African-American) - 147 Walton St. - Laborer - minor cuts and bruises - Good Shepherd Hospital

Charles KAUFMAN - Rich St.

David KAZEAN - E. Genesee St. - Serious condition - Peoples Hospital

John KENNEDY - age 40 - 401 No. West St. - Laborer - skull laceration / broken ribs / punctured lung - Condition Grave - Good Shepherd Hospital

John KING - Marcellus - Chest and leg injury - St. Josephs Hospital

Herbert KNAPP - age 34 - 22 Seymour St., Auburn - TNT Acid Plant - Injuries minor - Good Shepherd Hospital

Wilbur KUBLA - Split Rock - cuts and bruises - Crouse Irving Hospital

Robert LAWTON - 205 Rich St. - burned and injured

Mrs. Nellie MARTIN - Split Rock - bad bruises / shock - Crouse Irving Hospital

Walter MCBURNEY - age 25 - 847 S. Clinton St. - TNT Acid Plant - Scalp cuts and bruises - Good Shepherd Hospital

T. Arthur MCCLARITY - 1001 Cumberland Ave. - Leg fracture - St. Josephs Hospital

Charles W. NASH - age 34 - 912 Danforth St. - scalp wound / internal injuries - Good Shepherd Hospital

Morris O'REILLY - Camillus - R.F.D. No. 1 - Right forearm cut

Halagian PARSEK - age 40 - Split Rock - P.N. - bruises / shock - Good Shepherd Hospital

William PRICE (African-American) - 625 E. Washington St. - Head injury - St. Josephs Hospital

Frank RIVERA - 534 Cedar St. - Head Injury not serious - discharged - St. Josephs Hospital

William RYAN - age 40 - 116 Eldorado St. - Patrolman - head cut - injured right knee - discharged

Hammond SAMPSON - Patrolman - 345 Hudson St. - bad bruises - Crouse Irving Hospital

Judson J. SCOTT - 518 Wyoming St. - Face & body cuts

Fred SMITH - Split Rock - bad cuts on head - Crouse Irving Hospital

Howard SOTHERDEN - age 19 - 324 East Castle St. - bruises - discharged

George W. WILDRIDGE - Ryder Ave. - Peoples Hospital

George WILSON (African-American) - 518 E. Washington St. - Shock - St. Josephs Hospital

Charles W. WOOD - Skaneateles - internal injuries - serious - St. Josephs Hospital