Welland History .ca

Historic EVENTS in and around Welland


[People’s Press, 12 August 1919]

             Ten were killed, the bodies of two of them not yet having been recovered, in the disastrous explosion of the Canadian government elevator at Port Colborne at 1.15 last Saturday afternoon. In addition to those killed three others are so seriously hurt that they may not recover and a number of others were hurt less seriously. As it was Saturday afternoon, the full works staff was not at work and for this reason the list of casualties is as light as it is. On Saturday morning a gang of thirty men had been engaged in chipping the outer walls of the elevator, working high on the building, preparing to re-coat the outer surface with cement. This gang went off duty for the week at noon. Had they been working when the explosion occurred, every man of them would have been killed.

             Port Colborne is a town of sad homes, practically all of the killed men having been old residents of the port town who were well and favorably known. In some instances the killed were life-long friends, and in one case two of them were brothers-in-law for whom a double funeral is being held. Following are the particulars concerning those dead and injured.


             Alfred Leslie of Port Colborne was killed instantly by falling concrete. He had been on the dock near the boat and his body was completely cut in two. He was a married man and leaves a wife and two children. He had been employed by the elevator as a rigger and was 32 years of age. He formerly resided at Lowbanks and his funeral will be held at that place on Wednesday afternoon at three o’clock.

             Lorenzo Dunham had lived in Port Colborne for many years. He was 65 years of age and leaves a wife and a family of nine, five boys and four girls. His home is at the corner of Ferris and Omar Street, Port Colborne. He was a member of the K.O.T.M. His funeral was held yesterday afternoon at 1.30 o’clock to the Port Colborne Cemetery. He met his death from falling debris and was also badly burned.

             Joseph Hanham, who was reported missing until Sunday morning, was found dead in a bin by the searchers about four a.m. He was the spouter at the elevator and was engaged in managing the loading spout in the bin when the disaster occurred. He was partially buried by the falling timbers and concrete and it was therefore difficult to locate his body. Mr. Hanham formerly resided in Welland having left here about twenty-four years ago to live in Port Colborne, where he operated for several years the Lakeview Mills. He was forty years of age and is survived by his widow and one child, a boy. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge under whose auspices the funeral will be held at 2 o’clock this afternoon to Overholt Cemetery. He was also a member of the Independent Order of Forresters. He resided on Clarence St., Port Colborne.

             Clarence Hart of Port Colborne was seriously injured and on Saturday taken to the Welland Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries Sunday morning. He was among the first of the injured to be taken from the ruins of the elevator.

             Joseph Latour, a French Canadian residing in Montreal and mate of the steel barge the Quebec, was instantly killed by falling debris. He was the son of the captain of the barge, the latter having sustained a broken nose in the accident. The dead son was 30 years of age and leaves a wife and three children at Montreal. The body was sent to Montreal yesterday afternoon at three o’clock.

             Elijah W. Michener was among those at first reported to have been missing, but his body was later found in the ruins. He was employed at the elevator as a sub-foreman in one of the departments. His home is at Gas Line and he is survived by his widow and three boys and one girl. He was 36 years of age.

             William Cook was weighmaster’s assistant and was killed instantly, his body having been found shortly after the wreck. He resided on Kent St., Port Colborne and is survived by his wife and two children, girls. He was aged thirty-eight and was a member of the Oddfellows, Beacon’s Lodge, Port Colborne. The funeral was held yesterday afternoon at four o’clock.

             Charles Aston, chief weighmaster at the elevator died on Sunday morning about four o’clock as a result of his injuries and he was buried yesterday at four o’clock with Mr. Cook his assistant, who was his brother-in-law. He was 42 years of age and is survived by his wife and one child who reside in Port Colborne. Mr. Aston was born in England. The double interment took place at Oakwood Cemetery at Port.


             The bodies of Alex Beck and Sidmont Dunlop have not yet been recovered although they are known to be dead.

             Sidmont Dunlop was a young man of 22 years who despite his youth had spent over four years overseas and had won the Military Medal at Amiens on August the 8th last year. He served with the 13th Canadian Battalion and was twice wounded in action. He was an assistant spouter at the elevator and is survived by his mother and two sisters and one brother of Port Colborne. He was not married.

             Alex Beck was an assistant shipper at the elevator and was engaged in assisting the loading of the Quebec when the explosion occurred. His body is believed to be in the canal. He was a man 45 years of age and is survived by his widow and family who reside on Welland St., Port Colborne.


             On Saturday night Coronor Mckenzie of Port Colborne empannelled a jury which after viewing the bodies that had been recovered adjourned until August the 29th at seven in the evening when an inquest will be held in the Police Court Building at Port Colborne.


             D.S. Harvey, the general foreman of the elevator is so seriously injured that he is not expected to recover. He is suffering from severe burns which he sustained in the explosion. He and his family live in Port Colborne.

             S. Mouck was also hurt so badly that he is not expected to recover. His injuries are chiefly from falling debris. His house is in Port Colborne.

             William Rambeau, a French Canadian whose home is in Montreal, was employed on the barge Quebec and is also seriously injured, his physicians stating that his recovery is doubtful.


             Harold Armstong, a young man whose house is in Port Colborne, and who served overseas during the war, was badly hurt in the arm, shoulder and face, and sustained no less that 14 wounds from falling pieces of concrete. After having his wounds dressed he was able to be about however.


             Of all those who escaped injury perhaps the most miraculous and inexplicable escape was that of Mr. Ellery Neff who was working on the dock at the vessel’s side directly beside Alfred Leslie who was killed. His hair was slightly singed by the heat from the explosion but otherwise he did not have a scratch.

             Geo. Aitins was burned about the hands and face but his injuries are not serious.

             John Glenn, William Roach, George Upper and Robert Blackall, the remainder of the men who were in the elevator when the accident occurred, escaped without the slightest injury although some of them were in the midst of falling debris.

             The office staff, consisting of W.F. Fawcett, superintent of the elevator, Miss Ada Catherwood, stenographer, and Jno. McKie, accountant, had not returned from lunch when the disaster occurred.

  1. On 11 March 2015, Daniel Harvie Anderson Said,

    The general foreman of the grain elevator was Daniel Stryker Harvie, my grandfather.
    He is mentioned above as “D.S.Harvey”. He did survive his burns and raised a family in Port Colborne. His younger daughter, my mother, was Beatrice Harvie, who became a dietition in Jamestown New York. His son, Allin Harvie, became the chief engineer of the Inco plant in Port Colborne.

    Daniel S. Harvie received a medal from the queen for his bravery.

  2. On 25 March 2015, B Said,

    Hello Daniel

    Thank you so much for the added information on your grandfather. One of the reasons we started the website was to honor those who helped establish our area in earlier times.

  3. On 25 May 2015, Laurie Dougherty Said,

    My grandmother Zella (Hanham) Dougherty’s brother was Joseph Phillips Hanham. He is listed in the article as one of the men lost in the explosion. His wife was Ella Louisa Reichman and their son was Vern William Hanham. The 1911 census shows that they lived in Port Colborne on Catherine Street beside his parents Hiram and Margaret Hanham. Hiram Hanham moved from Trafalgar Township (near Oakville) sometime before 1893. He is listed in the County of Wellan Municipal Council Report as being given a contract to repair O’Reily’s Bridge in that year.

  4. On 3 June 2015, B Said,

    Hi Laurie

    Thank you for taking the time to add this vital piece of information. It all helps to develop the picture of Welland County in its early years.

  5. On 28 May 2017, Sue Beck (Ceply) Said,

    I’d like to get in touch with Laurie Dougherty if possible, I’m Vern Hanham’s granddaughter

  6. On 28 May 2017, Barbara Ceply (Hanham) Said,

    Yes, I would also like to get in touch with Laurie Dougherty. Vern Hanhan was my father. My father, Vern, was born in the house on Catherine St. He and his father, Joseph, built three houses on Clarence St..They lived in the middle house, 258 Clarence St., at the time of his tragic death. I would also like to get in touch with Azella May Dawson, or family.

  7. On 29 May 2017, Barbara Ceply (Hanham) Said,

    I also have a copy of the original paper “Port Colborne Citizen” dated Thursday, August 14, 1919

  8. On 29 May 2017, WellandHistory.ca Said,

    Hello Barbara.. Thank you for your additional comments as per below:

    Thank you for putting this site together. Very Interesting and a lot of work has been put into it. Got me looking at all the old information my father left. I have a copy of the original Port Citizen Paper. My father never talked to us about the incident. My mother just shared that my Grandfather Came home for lunch that day and decided to go back early. That is when it happened. My mother stated that my father, Vern, went to the elevator looking for his father and never found him. It did state in your information he was found on Sunday. I remember when the Maple Leaf Mill had the fire. He lived on Gravely Bay overlooking the Mill. He called us to come and watch and I know during that time it was very difficult for him as it brought back memories of the Government Elevator explosion. Thank you. Barbara Ceply

  9. On 10 August 2017, Ann Russell Said,

    Hello my name is Ann Russell the youngest grand daughter of Alfred Leslie one of the men tragically killed in the elevator explosion Thank you for this piece of History These 10 men are all heroes I would like to meet the families of the other men killed along with my grandfather sadly I never met him I would love to see a copy of the actual newspaper article if anyone has one or if there are any other photos My parents are both gone so I don’t know alot of the accident but I would be interested to talk to anyone who is still around and knows about it

  10. On 30 October 2017, Laurie Dougherty Said,

    Hello Welland History!
    Would it be possible to reply to Barbara Ceply (Hanham) and Sue Beck (Cephly) on my behalf and give them my email address? They have indicated that they want to get in touch with me. My grandmother Zella Hanham Dougherty was Joseph and Vern Hanham’s brother and nephew.
    Thank you.

  11. On 6 November 2017, Barbara Ceply (Hanham) Said,

    Thank you Laurie Dougherty for wanting to get in touch. Yes My daughter, Sue Beck and I would be very interested in getting in touch with you. You may have my email address. Let me know how I can arrange this. Thank you and anxious to get in touch. Barbara

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