Sunday, February 20, 2011

The McKinnis tragedy revisited

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 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.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Having several friends in family, including my brother, in government and several outside of government employment, I notice several differences. Those in government get pensions and for those outside, pensions have all dried up. Those in government get mandatory raises and they are set to certain levels and those outside of government earn raises on merit and the amount of raise is also base on merit. Those in government pay FAR less for their health insurance than those of us outside government who are paying more every day it seems. My insurance premiums went up for the second time this year. Those in government get far more vacation time than those of us outside government. In general, if you add up all the benefits, a typical government workers package is almost double of what the private sector person sees.

So to many of us outside of government employment who have been eviscerated for years by unions whose benefits we support through raising taxes, I'm kind of thrilled to see the playing field being leveled a bit. Let those in government have their pensions killed, their vacations reduced and their health insurance premiums raised to private sector levels.