BUTTE — After five years of hard work, the Butte Historical Memorial group set up a memorial to honor one of Butte’s greatest tragedies: the Kenyon-Connell Warehouse Explosion of 1895.
“We cried, it was like magic because we worked very hard, very diligently and the people of Butte have supported us every step of the way,” said memorial group member Judy Chadwick.
The five figures in the memorial represent the animals, civilians and firefighters who were killed the evening of Jan. 15th, 1895, when a warehouse near Utah Avenue caught fire. The fire soon ignited large quantities of explosives stored in the warehouse that caused two large explosions.
The warehouse explosion in Butte was so massive that it was reportedly heard by people in Willow Creek and Three Forks more than 50 miles away.
“This had been forgotten for so long, you know, 126 years ago, 58 people died including 13 of the 15 firemen of the whole department at the time, which is pretty tragic,” said Jim McCarthy of the group.
The statues were created by Bozeman artist Jim Dolan.
There’s Jim, the department’s only surviving horse that was severely injured in the blast. Fire Chief Angus Cameron, who died with his men, Edwin “Two Bears” Robins, who was the oldest victim, and 12-year-old Gibbons Fraser, the youngest victim.
“I hope people see that Butte honored their dead, they are the people that were making a living here, and see a tragedy and also see that things go on,” said Dolan.
Even though this incident happened so long ago, the makers of this memorial want people to remember that the victims were real people and that their sacrifice and courage should never be forgotten.
“The people that died in this explosion became our family members. In our hearts they’re still with us because we’re given the honor of telling their story,” said Chadwick.
More than $150,000 was raised for this memorial and can be view in front of the Butte Fire Station on Mercury Street.