Burrer Mill Tragedy - 1886


Caught on a Revolving Shaft
and Thrashed to Death.

The following has been preserved in the 'Townley-Ports' Scrapbook in the historical files at the Community Library.


Last Friday morning about 1 o'clock the terrible news flashed from mouth to mouth that Sprague Burrer, the 10 year old son of G. J. Burrer had been killed by machinery in his father's mill.

We immediately went to the house and there in the mangled form of that child beheld the most horrible and sickening sight it has ever been our lot to witness.

It seems that he with his brother, still younger, and two of S. S. Gammill's little boys were playing in the basement of the mill; and had put a string around the end of a shaft to see it wind up. When trying to get the string off, the shaft caught in his loose waist and wound it up in such a manner as to bring the shaft under his left arm, and there he whirled at the rate of from 150 to 200 revolutions per minute, his feet striking four times every revolution, first against a sill overhead, then an upright beam, then the floor, and last against the corner of a rack suspended from the ceiling, breaking and tearing them off almost piece by piece and throwing a circle of blood and pieces of flesh on everything near.

His father and uncle, John Burrer, were in the mill just above and hearing him striking against the floor thought some of the machinery had broken and both hurried down to see what it was, and not until they saw him in that horrible position did the awful truth dawn upon their minds with almost a paralyzing shock. The father rushed back to throw the belt from the pulley, and the other to the engine to stop it, then back again just as he was going around the last time. He tried to pull him off the shaft but could not until he turned him back three or four times to unwind his clothing. As he was being carried across the road he put his arms around his uncle and spoke for the first time saying, "Oh, Uncle John!" and from that time on till he died, about five hours later he knew all that was being done. Drs. Williams and Mosher were immediately summoned and did everything in their power to relieve his suffering. On examination they found that both feet were torn off at the ankles, and were just hanging by a little flesh, the ribs on the left side were crushed in and some of them broken in several pieces.

Stimulants were constantly given him but he did not rally and continued to grow weaker until about half past two o'clock when his spirit left the body and returned to God who gave it.

All the assistance that could be rendered by sympathizing friends was kindly given the bereaved parents. The funeral was held at half past two o'clock at the M. E. church Sunday afternoon, Rev. Jas. Matlock officiating. The church was crowded with the many friends who had assembled to pay their last tribute of respect, and almost as many remained outside the church."


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(04/01/2006 )

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