Tag Archives: bakery

Thriller Thursday – The Carver Bakery Explosion

It time for another Thriller Thursday, a prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers. This week’s post is about the explosion of the Carver bakery that rocked Boyertown, Pennsylvania back in February of 1902.

It was just before 11 o’clock on the evening of February 3, 1902 when flames were spotted by the bakers working at George Carver’s Bakery on Philadelphia Avenue in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. The building was an L-shaped structure which housed the bakery in the rear and residence of the Carver family in the front. The fire had originated in the basement of the bakery, possibly in an over-heated flue.

As soon as the fire was detected, Friendship Hook and Ladder Company was summoned. The Carver family and the others in the building quickly evacuated, closing all the doors and windows so as not to provide oxygen to the fire. While waiting for the hook and ladder company, they attempted to put out the flames. However, despite their best efforts, the fire continued to spread and had reached the second floor by the time the fire fighters arrived at the scene.

At this point, the flames, which were fast approaching the roof line, were only visible from the rear of the building. So as a crowd gathered out front, the fire fighters focused their efforts and their hoses upon the rear. What no one realized at the time was that pressure was building up inside the closed building. With little or no warning, the  brick front of the building blew out in a deafening roar. The unsuspecting on-lookers were showered with bricks, timbers and other debris.

When the dust settled, four were dead and many others were injured. The dead were Henry Shaner, aged 38, who left a widow and 3 young children; Lawrence Shaner, his 14 year-old son; George Grimm, aged 35, who left a widow and 6 children; and Irvin Hough, the 13 year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Hough.

In addition to the loss of life, damage to the Carver residence was considerable. The residence portion of the building had been built the previous summer at a cost of $4000. The estimated damage was $2500. The rooms on the upper floor were gutted and the sitting room and dining rooms also damaged. The store suffered from smoke and water damage. Despite the damage, George did rebuild and continued with the bakery business.

While my main connection to this tragedy is to the Shaners. I also have ties to the Carvers. George Carver and his wife Rosa Dellicker were the parents of two sons. The elder son was Newton D. Carver. Ironically, he was born in 1888 and was about the same age as Lawrence Shaner and Irvin Hough, the two boys who died in the bakery explosion. In 1908 Newton married Susan Burdan, daughter of Henry S. Burdan and Catharine Bryan. Susan was my 4th cousin, twice removed. Coincidently, Newton and Susan named their first child Lawrence.

As for the Shaners, Henry S. Shaner was my 3rd cousin, 3 times removed. He was the sexton of Fairview Cemetery. His wife was Amanda F. Renninger. A very sad post script to this story is that Amanda and two of her remaining children, Paul and Charles, died in the Boyertown Opera House fire about six years later in January 1908.  And in November 1910 Edgar, who survived the opera house fire and was the last remaining child of Henry and Amanda, died of “lung affection.”  Though Edgar was only 17 years old when he died, he fathered a child named Catherine. Unfortunately she died of membraneous croup in 1915 at the of 5. Catherine was the only grandchild and the last member of the ill-fated family of Henry and Amanda Shaner.

If you have any connections to these families I would love to hear from you.