Saturday, August 9, 2008

Philip Olyer Burned to Death Lumbermill 1920

A tragic story of the Family life, Genealogy and dangers of the lumbering trade at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the 20Th century.

The Olyer family settled in the northern part of the Adirondack mountains of New York state to work in the two most dangerous occupation of the time Lumbering and mining.

Our subject Philip Louise Olyer jr., was no exception. born in 1854, at Moores Fork, N.Y. the 5Th son of Philip Olyer and Lucretia Fanny Leach.

When a teenager he worked on a farm for Rollin Brown. As soon
as he was old enough he went to work for the Chateaugay Iron
and mining co. as a coal burner. A terrible job were wood is
burned to make charcoal, or in later years, coal was burned in a
process to make coke both the charcoal and coke gave off more
heat when used in the smelting furnaces. Every minute that you
were there, the air was full of charcoal dust, you are in constant
danger of explosion and fire.

Philip married Henrietta Battman about 1875, she was born in Canada abt 1858, there first child Wilbur F. born 1876, Henry 1878, Carrie 1879, Caroline 1880, Jerry 1882, Emma 1883, Maud 1884, George 1886, and Matie 1888.

About 1900 the work around the charcoal dust and fumes were just to much for Philip and he went back to farm labor, he was approaching 50, the coal burning had taken it toll.

Henrietta passed away 1912, in Rochester, New York ; Philip now in his 60's had brother John Vernon Olyer, who's wife Charlott Scutt, had brother, Leslie Ulysess Scutt, operating a saw mill in Long Pond, Main. Philip is offered a job.
The saw mill was water powered with a line shaft running on the ceiling full length of mill, from this, pulleys and belts, ran all the saws and conveyors. As a log came in on a dolly it passed by a 48 inch saw and a slab was taken off one side, the log was turned to rest on the flat side and by another dolly passed a Gang saw blade that cut it up, into either 1 inch or 2 inch planks. As these fell off they dropped on a conveyor and went to another saw were the edges were sawed off- then out the door to a yard crew that stacked them to air dry. This operation created a lot of waste material -saw dust and slabs with bark edges. Running below the saws was a series of conveyors that carried these waste items to the main belt this went out the side of the building in a 300 ft long conveyor, two ft wide, to a point about 30 ft above the ground. At the top, as the chain went over a pulley, it dropped the load into a huge pit that was kept burning continually, to get rid of the scrap, several foot deep and about 30 ft around of burning wood. The photo is a
modern conveyor, presently the scrap material is not burned.
Philip's job was to watch the dozen or so small conveyors to be
sure the material was not falling off and was dropping on the main
belt. You can imagine the noise inside this building with a dozen
or more saw blades wining through the logs, plus the noise of the
belts and drive lines.
Some how Philips jacket got caught on the main conveyor. His
cries for help could not be heard, he was carried out the door, up
the ramp incline-just before he reached the top, the fire tender saw him coming-his attempt to shut down the chain driven belt was hopeless and Philip was dropped into the burning pit, with saw dust and slab wood. According to newspaper article, by the time they could get him out all of his clothing was burned off, he probably died within seconds, burning sawdust and slabs would ignite immediately when they hit the burning mass.

There are several family stories about this accident but the end result is the same-this was taken from newspaper account in 1920 Oct issue Chateaugay Record.

Today this would not happen, now the sawdust is contained in pipes, the slab wood is ground into chips and all the material is reused to produce other wood products. see photo

This was a very dangerous occupation, So far in my research, I have not found any of the Olyer family members still working in this field.

1 comment:

Rosebud Collection said...

I have to tell you, this story is so sad..I just can't believe the horror that poor man went through..God Bless his Soul..