Sunday, October 14, 2012

Remains of the Rand Powder Plant, Fairchance,Pa

On Sept. 9 1905, the Rand Powder Mill near Fairchance, Pa exploded killing 19 men.  The initial explosion which took place in the plant that manufactured black powder for explosives, also ignited nearby train cars of TNT, essentially destroying the mill.  Today, by request of our pals Rich and Doug, we headed into the woods near Fairchance to find the mill.

 After talking to some nice local folks who not only gave us directions but let us park in their yard, we headed out on our search.  We walked for awhile before we realized...we were headed in the wrong direction. We headed back toward the road, ready to call it quits. We were almost back when we decided to give it one more shot.  We re-routed and in about another half hour we started finding building remains.I'm not sure if all the ruins we saw were related to the powder mill or not.  If so, it was pretty big!

 As you can see from the photos and the video,  most of the wood framed buildings have collapsed into themselves but many concrete foundations remain as well as the smoke stack.   A local man we met told us he grew up in the area and there were buildings scattered all over the area.

We don't have as much information on the mill or the explosion as we would like.  If you know any more about it, please email us and we'll post it up! We plan on going back when its a little cooler, so look for part 2 soon!

 Oh, and Rich...sorry I called you Frank in the video!

A screen shot from Bing maps.

Our guide out.  Always trust a man w/ a pistol in his back pocket.


  1. Looks like some hard work. Nice job, and thanks for posting.

  2. Good stuff. Found this NYT article on the event. Link should prompt you to open a PDF of the article.

  3. No worries on the name. I've been called a lot worse. ;)
    Glad you found it!


  4. I saw your youtube vids today. I live about 1/2 mile from the powder mill on Mountain Rd. It was the Rand Mill until it blew up in 1905, then became the Dupont Powder Mill. They were in the same location. Dupont Mill was in operation until the mid 1940's. It is now all part of Forbes State Forest, so don't take your ATV's on the land unless you want to get a hefty fine from the DCNR. Many of us in the area used to enjoy riding our ATV and dirt bikes on the property which was privately owned by James Ruanne, but unfortunately the state of PA doesn't like to give us places to ride. They would rather make money on the taxes they get when we buy the ATV's, the title and registration fees we have to pay, then they spend the money to keep us off the property. They say we are hurting the environment but then will allow the gas/oil companies to lease land, clear acres, and drill. Go figure. Not to say I'm against gas wells because I'm not, but enough of the BS. It all comes down to money as always. Needless to say many of us in the area are very upset due to the fact that the trails on this property were used by some type of motorized vehicle since the early 1900's. Descrimination at it's finest! Join the Blue Ribbon Coalition! Also look up White Rocks and Polly Williams. I can show you guys where it's at, not too far from the Powder Mill.

  5. James,
    Thank you for your comment.We hit this spot on a Sunday afternoon whim and didn't do as much research as we would have liked.We plan to go back soon,so we may call on you to show us some other cool spots.As far as the DCNR goes,we agree.It seems funny that ATVs are a threat to the land but drilling rigs,acid mine drainage and completely abandoned industrial complexes aren't. Oh well,we'll discuss that over pizza and a few cold ones!

  6. I am very thankful that I got to explore this area via 4WD before the state removed all the fun. That is how I originally heard about the place. Questmaster immortalized this and two others in his fairchance three:
    Scattered Remains
    Polly and White Rocks
    Cache Twenty Two

  7. The original link does not seem to be working but three cheers for the Wayback Machine!

    as reported in the Genius of Liberty New Paper
    Transcribed by Janet Szymanski 6/2002
    Killed were two sons and a son in law of
    James Albert and Mary (Wilson) Walters.
    James Walters was the brother of
    Great Grandmother Jenny Walters Ryan.

    John William Walters (Age 29)
    Killed 2/20/1911


    John Phillips and William Walters killed at DuPont Mill Saturday.

    Fairchance, February 20, 1911

    Funeral services for John Phillips and William Walters, who were killed in the DuPont Powder mill explosion Saturday afternoon, will be held from their home Tuesday afternoon. Norman Collins, the survivor who was badly burned, is at the Uniontown hospital, and although conscious his condition is not very favorable. Collins was blown through an open door and burned and stunned. He is 26 years of age. If Collins improves and is able to attend Deputy Coroner, Dr. S.E. Hibbs will set the date for the coroner’s inquest. The explosion was in the corning mill, a 16 x 24 building, which was completely demolished. The damage was confined to this mill and will not amount to more than $1000. No cause is assigned and it will have to be developed at the inquest. The corning mill will be rebuilt at once.

    Note: William Walters was buried on his 29th birthday.

    Fairchance, February 21st, 1911

    Monday was a day of funerals in Fairchance and four solemn, sorrowful processions wended their way to different cemeteries to lay loved ones at rest. During the morning the funerals of the two victims of the DuPont powder mill explosion were held, bot at White Rocks church, with intement in the church cemetery. Rev. W.G. Cole of the M.P. Church officiated at each service. The funeral of John Phillips occurred at 9 O’Clock.

    Then at 11 O’Clock were the services for William Walters. This was made more impressive by the presence of the Patriotic Sons of America, who attended in a body. The pallbearers were Oliver Balley, E.F. Gribble, Jonathan Laughrey, Guy A. Wilson, Russell Humphreys and Harry Shananberger.

    At 1 o’clock in the afternoon Dr. W. M. Ryan, Baptist minister of Smithfield officiated at the funeral of the two year old child of Mr and Mrs Sturgis Miller at the Baptist Church. Burial was in Fairchance cemetery. Services for the late Albert G. Moore were held at 3 o’clock at the Tent Church. In charge of Dr. Ryan, assisted by Rev. McKim, Free Methodist minister. Interment was in Tent Cemetery and the pallbearers were six nephews, Otto Hustead, Dr. J. Byron Ache, Fred and Clyde Weltner, James Nieman and Grove Moore. ...end

  8. hi nice videos. my folks live not far from the powder mill i remember when i was a kid every Sunday after church ( Little white Rock Church) we would take walks back to the chimney and the pond. Boy how i can still see my grandfather standing by the chimney and has he said " talking to the Old Powder Miller" that what he used to tell us.

  9. Do you happen to have GPS coordinates for this location?

  10. My great grandmother was thrown a cross the room and lost the child she was pregnant with due to this explosion

    1. chris, I am sorry to hear this. I couldn't imagine being near by when the explosion went off...


  11. STOY

    great great videos! I grew up in fairchance and have walked to white rock, wolf rock, and rabbit rock many of times. if I would've known about the mill when I was younger, im sure my friends and I would've made it there too. I would love to explore the forest and mountain behind my parents house again! that would be a lot of fun and bring back a ton of memories. going to white rock was one of the best memories I have. about 10 of us, all teenagers hiked to white rock.

  12. I ran into family today in Kingwood, WV that had grandparents from the Fairchance area near where this plant was. Over fifty years ago I remember we walked to this area but the strange thing is I remember seeing a very large factory type building commensurate with that large smoke stack.