An explosion that rocked the Whitebreast Creek valley and killed four south of Newbern on April 1, 1893, reportedly was heard for miles --- and we still talk of it sometimes, especially when visiting Mount Zion Cemetery, a lovely place on a bluff above the Whitebreast where the victims are buried beneath a unique tombstone.
The victims were Henry McKinnis, 51, and his three eldest children: John, 19; Henry Jr., 12; and Billie Ted, age 10. The source of the explosion was the stationary steam engine used to power a portable sawmill that provided the family livelihood. And Henry was probably to blame --- although all who were there at the time of the blast were killed. Impatient and apparently careless in maintaining and operating the boiler, it is believed he instructed son Henry Jr.to climb up and pour a bucket of cold water into a hot, dry boiler --- resulting in a blast that blew the boy to bits and killed the three others.
I've pulled earlier posts about that tragedy together into one, now, which can be accessed here.
Mount Zion also contains the remains of another Lucas County sheriff shot and killed in the line of duty. My next goal is to update that post.
I've been watching the mass (peaceful) demonstrations this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, resulting from Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to eviscerate the collective bargaining rights of public employees. The Saturday crowd reportedly reached 70,000. And Democratic senators have fled the state to prevent quorum and stall legislative action. Another example of that tactic I can call to mind happened some years ago in Texas. Texas-style politics have come to the Midwest, apparently.
Do you suppose Lucas County's native son, John L. Lewis (born Feb. 12, 1880 in the mining ghost town of Cleveland) is rotating in his grave over there in Springfield, Ill., where the family moved after leaving Lucas County and where his body was brought for burial? Lewis, you may recall, is a founding father of the American labor movement. If you didn't remember that, shame on you.
The idea that public employees (and everyone else for that matter) should be denied collective bargaining rights has long been an element of the GOP agenda and several other states now ruled by Republicans apparently are eyeing Wisconsin to see what happens.
I'm sure Iowa's public employees are targets, too. Gov. Terry Branstad's spokesman Tim Albrecht, for example, pulled out of his hat recently the false allegation that Iowa state employees make 47 percent more than comparable workers in the private sector --- a lie. They actually, as a rule, make less.
Albrecht pulled that figure out of hat during a somewhat tortured explanation of why his boss fell justified in continuing to double-dip --- collecting a $50,000 annual pension for past state service in addition to his current $130,000 salary --- while asking others for sacrifice. Interesting.