Phoenix Powder Co.


This undated photograph shows a group of workers at the Phoenix Powder
plant in Westmoreland. Who knows? Some of these men may have
 been victims in a deadly series of explosions at the plant.
Courtesy of James E. Casto


In August 1890, the Continental Powder and Manufacturing Co. purchased 50.25 acres
 of land at the mouth of Twelve Pole Creek along the Ohio River in a neighborhood
 that would become known as Westmoreland. The company used the site for
 construction of a plant that would manufacture gunpowder and other
 explosives. Continental Powder later was
 merged into the Phoenix Powder Co.

In their history “The Gates of Westmoreland,” Dr. Willard F.
 Daniels Jr. and Paul N. Fulks wrote that the powder plant
 was in operation by early 1891 but from the start
was plagued with accidents and explosions.

On Aug. 14, 1891, a building containing about 100 kegs of powder exploded,
 leaving no trace of the structure or the two employees who were working
inside it at the time. On Jan. 25, 1892, eight men were killed in
another explosion. At least two other explosions shortly
 followed, although they apparently caused
 no deaths or serious injuries.

Prior to the coming of the powder plant, the neighborhood’s children
 attended a one-room school known as the Washington School.
 The third explosion at the plant damaged the school building,
and the Ceredo Board of Education sued the Phoenix
 Powder Co. for the cost of repairs.

In an out-of-court settlement, the company bought the school
 building, demolished it and funded construction of a new
 school at a safe distance from the powder plant. In an
ironic twist, the new school was named for
 the plant’s manager, F. Laflin Kellogg.

According to Daniels and Fulks, it’s not known when
the plant closed, but in 1913 the land was sold and
 soon subdivided for residential construction.


Note:  This Article and picture appeared in the Herald-Dispatch Newspaper on Feb. 22, 2022.


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