The Terrible Sawmill Explosion of 1906

When Tommy H. Treadway updated the records of Dogwood Cemetery near Griffithville in the spring of 2000, he noticed several graves of men who died October 11, 1906, of "sawmill explosion." The late Walter Wisdom, a former president of the White County Historical Society and husband of the organizationís long-time secretary Peggy Wisdom, remembered the disaster and wrote the following in 1987.

By WALTER WISDOM

The history of the timber industry has been very tragic at times. Many lives have been lost over the years in different kinds of accidents. I will mention a few that happened in White County.

In the early 1900s, a small sawmill boiler blew up along Bull Creek near Beebe, killing one young man. About 1908 [October 11, 1906] there was a small sawmill at Dogwood, Arkansas, in southeast White County. It was powered by a steam boiler and had a crew of eight men.

Mr. Tom Harris, who is about 100 years old and is still living in Higginson*, told me that he narrowly escaped being a victim of this accident by a few minutes. He was hauling logs to the mill with a team and wagon. He had just left the mill and drove into the woods a few yards away when the boiler exploded, knocking him to the ground and shaking him up. He got to his feet and rushed to the mill site where he saw the most terrible sight any man could see. All eight men were dead. Some bodies were badly mangled. One man who was scalded over his entire body was a few yards on the road to his home, like he might have lived a few seconds. Another body was in the limbs of a tall tree nearby. I donít remember the names of the men. Peggy and I went to the Dogwood Cemetery. She made pictures of a monument where four victims were buried in one grave.

There was another boiler explosion at Garner. I think it was in 1912. This boiler furnished power for a sawmill and cotton gin combined. Two men were killed. One man was Sloan, the other was a Mr. Wade. I heard this explosion. It was very loud at four miles away.

[*Thomas J. Harris died June 1,1991, at age 103 and was laid to rest in Dogwood Cemetery, rejoining his fellow workers who died in 1906.]