Vigo County Bicentennial: The Fontanet disaster

In Fontanet there was a factory known as the Dupont Powder Mill. In 1907 the mill caught fire. That would cause an explosion destroying the town killing nearly forty people in the community.

Posted: Sep 26, 2018 6:29 PM

FONTANET, Ind. (WTHI)- Fontanet may be pretty quiet but it used to be a busy mining town. Marietta Cooper has called Nevins Township home her entire life.

Cooper’s family still remembers the tragedy that struck over one hundred years ago.

"My grandmother was born in 1898. She was nine when it exploded. Oh, she said it was just… it was just a shock. Even the children. She just said they just stood around and cried," said Cooper.

In Fontanet there was a factory known as the Dupont Powder Mill. It produced powder to help break down large chunks of coal, but in 1907 the mill caught fire.

That fire would cause an explosion destroying the town killing nearly forty people in the community.

"There was a general store right next door to this building and there are caskets stacked out in the street," said Cooper as she showed a picture of caskets being stacked on top of each other.

The remains of the Dupont Powder Mill can still be found in the woods in Fontanet said Bill Herb who also called the Nevins Township home.

The whole situation began when a machine gave off a spark causing three separate explosions. The biggest of those being the second which was a keg mill which had forty thousand kegs of powder.

"And of course people say they had felt the concussion over in Cincinnati, but here in Fontanet it blew the windows out of all the houses, roofs off of them," said Herb.

It took months for the community to recover from the deadly explosion. People grew closer as they expressed their loss.

They shared poems and songs, like one named the “Fontanent Disaster” reflecting on the tragedy. From death and darkness, they grew new life and family.

"It’s like we're all family, we're not bloodline. It's the Fontanet family and we care about each other and it‘s what I want to keep alive."

If you would like to see more or submit your own idea for what we should cover next, Email Garrett Brown at Garrett.brown@wthitv.com.

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