Victims of 1895 Butte warehouse explosion honored and remembered by descendents

Descendants of 1895 Kenyon-Connell Warehouse Explosion visit Butte
Posted at 4:34 PM, Jul 02, 2024

BUTTE — The old grave of Fire Chief Angus Cameron no longer bears his name. It was placed in Butte's Mount Moriah Cemetery upon his death in the 1895 warehouse explosion that wiped out the warehouse district and most of Butte's fire department after illegally stored dynamite caught fire.

To honor Cameron's service, a new granite headstone now rests beneath the original. A local history group honored Cameron and others on June 29 with a tour of the town, including the site of the explosion and a newly erected monument. The last stop was the graveyard where descendants from as far away as New York City paid their respects.

"It makes me feel proud that my ancestor Angus Cameron was here and was the head of the fire company and went in bravely during the fire and, you know, I hear the stories about him and his leadership and it reminds me a lot of others in my family," says Beverly Johnson, the great-great-granddaughter of Cameron. She made the trip from New York City to gather with about a dozen members of her family who also traveled long distances.

"You know, it’s where I began. This is what happened and the courage that still runs in my family, it all started back here. You know, the willingness to help and just that courage to be part of a community," says Joan Robins, the great-granddaughter of Edwin "Two Bear" Robins. She made the journey from Arizona to take part in the event put on by the Butte-Silver Bow Archives and Butte Historical Memorials.

"So much of history, for me, of these periods is black and white because all the pictures are black and white, and so when I stand here and look around and I try to imagine those people here seeing these same mountains—I mean, really you do feel connected to the previous generation. It’s really, it’s been very special for me," says Mary Petlin Curran, WHO made the trip from Oregon with her husband to honor her family member Charles Alston who was only 16 when he was killed in the explosion.

Beverly Johnson, Joan Robins, and Mary Petlin Curran are part of the group of 50 family members of different individuals lost in the explosion. Butte Historical Memorials says this is one of the final pieces to the project they have been working diligently on for the past decade.

Jim McCarthy, the history club chairman spent most of the nearly six-hour tour walking around with a voice projector and headset as he and others from the group showed the families around town so they could learn about their connection to the Mining City and their ancestors.

"We kind of thought it would kind of complete things if we could have some kind of ceremony or some kind of an event that’s kind of a closure for them as well," says McCarthy.

"It’s just so wonderful to have this connection with my great-grandfather," says Joan Robins as she runs her hand across his tombstone.

More information on the Kenyon-Connell Warehouse Explosion of 1985 can be found on the Butte-Silver Bow Archives webpage. Descendants also got to view a PBS documentary detailing the disaster.