We are not fans of big cities but some of them that we visited in our travels did impress us. One of them was Boston, Massachusetts. We love the history of the old city and have spent many hours exploring from Bunker Hill to the waterfront, to the different ethnic neighborhoods. We once stumbled into a street fair in one of the Italian neighborhoods, where everyone insisted we join in the revelry and the food.
As history nuts, we know all about Paul Revere and the Battle of Bunker Hill, and all the other important events that happened in Boston leading up to the Revolutionary War. But history continued to be made in Boston long after those first patriots were dead and buried. And not all of that history was pleasant. Take for instance the Great Molasses Flood.
It was 100 years ago this week, January 15, 1919, at just after noon, when people later reported hearing a rumbling sound and then the ground shook as a huge storage tank at the Purity Distilling Company in the city’s North End ruptured, spilling 2.3 million gallons of sticky molasses into the streets.
The thick fluid quickly flooded neighborhoods around the tank in a 40 foot high wave moving at 35 miles per hour, crushing everything in its path. A truck was thrown into the harbor, a railroad car was pushed off its tracks, buildings collapsed, and people ran for their lives to escape the dense onslaught.
But not everyone escaped. Horses, men, women, and children were stuck and unable to fight their way through the molasses, which at one point was over three feet deep in many areas. In total, 21 people lost their lives in the flood. The oldest of them was Michael Sinnott, age 78, while the youngest were Maria Di Stasio and Pasquale Iantosca, both 10-year-old schoolchildren. Estimates at the time said as many as 150 people were injured by the waves of molasses or by being struck with objects thrown by the crushing flood.
Immediately rescuers came to the aid of those in peril. 116 cadets from the training ship USS Nantucket, police officers, firemen, and everyday people waded through the sometimes waist deep molasses searching for survivors and struggling to pull them free. They worked through the night, wrestling those they could from the molasses’ sticky grip and bringing them to a makeshift field hospital set up nearby.
Once all those who could be saved had been saved, the cleanup began. It was an arduous task. Crews of men worked day and night shoveling and washing down the streets and buildings still left standing. Local lore says that on hot summer nights for many years afterwards, the aroma of molasses could still be smelled all through Boston.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the Purity Distilling Company paid out well over half a million dollars in damages. It’s been said that the relatives of those who perished in the flood received approximately $7,000 per victim.
Though the Great Molasses Flood, as the disaster came to be known, happened a long time ago, there are still some old-timers around who remember their parents and grandparents talking about witnessing the tragedy. It had to be the stuff of nightmares.
The next time you are in Boston, pay a visit to the intersection of Commercial Street and Copps Hill Terrace in Boston’s old North End, where a small green and white plaque tells the story of the tragedy.
If you would like to learn more about the event, a good book about the disaster is The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919, written by Deborah Kops.
Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Gecko In The Corner, the second book in my John Lee Quarrels mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – My goal this weekend is to move just enough so people don’t think I’m dead.