Never Play with Fire… Or Dynamite

The morning started as any other on December 11, 1907. Nothing was amiss… until an explosion rocked Bristol, Virginia. The Benjamin Shipley home was just obliterated. The roof was blown off, the walls imploded, and a terrible fire consumed the remains.

No one understood the sudden tragedy, and most were too afraid to approach the burning house. Authorities finally arrived and began the grisly process of dousing the flames and sifting through the ashes. John Duff and family had occupied the house.

John was at work. The bodies recovered, either partially or intact, were: Mrs. Nathanial Barnes, Mrs. Elijah Moody and her baby, and William “Willie” Duff. Another small son of Moody was found attempting to crawl through the ashes, but the poor child was fatally injured. He died later. Most of the bodies were “cremated” in the ruins.

Eventually, the authorities narrowed down a shocking, tragic timeline. Willie Duff, 16, had snuck some dynamite home from a nearby railroad camp. He was handling the dynamite in his bedroom, and it detonated.

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