Submitted by Norma Knotts Shaffer.
On Thanksgiving 1945, America and Calhoun County had much to be thankful for. For the first time in four long years the nation was finally at peace. World War II was over, our servicemen were returning home to resume their lives, shortages were beginning to ease and the nation was converting to peace-time economy and a prosperous future.
The tranquillity of the evening was suddenly broken as a brilliant orange flash of light illuminated the night sky and a few seconds later a deafening noise and concussion rumbled over the countryside. Customers in the drug store which was located in the building now occupied by Mid-State Auto Supply noted that when the blast reached Grantsville the entrance doors of the drug store were forced partially open.
Imaginations virtually ran wild as fearful residents attempted to find an explanation. Many thought that the county was being bombed, some feared that the biblical prophesy of judgment by fire was being fulfilled. At a time when all telephone communication was handled through the "central" operator, the local switchboard began to light up as residents attempted to obtain information on what was happening. Within a short period of time, the Grantsville Volunteer Fire Department assembled and as the fire truck headed out of town and down the river, the word began to spread, "Cabot Station has blown up and is on fire."
By this time some of the Hope Station employees had almost instinctively realized what had happened and were already on the move to lend assistance at the station. The huge compressors that pumped the gas through the transmissions lines were fueled by gas, and until the valves shutting off the supply of gas to the station could be closed, the fire would be fed a continuous supply of fuel. One valve was located near the plant, and the other on the opposite side of the river. Three men crossed the river by boat to shut off the valve located across the river. The river was "running bank to bank" as a result of storms the previous day. Once the valves had been closed, the fire could finally be put under control, using water from the water tank on the grounds and the station's cooling tank. The force of the explosion destroyed the buildings and the fire was of such magnitude as to be seen as far away as Harrisville. On tower at the time of the explosion were: Isaac Davis, foreman; Elijah Nester, engineer; Harry Howell, oiler; and Claude Osborne, oiler. Four houses east of the plant were occupied by Junior Hawkins, Carl Blosser, Frank Hefner and Marshall Limer. Elijah Nester and Junior Hawkins lost their lives in the explosion and fire. The cause was never determined, but was believed to have been caused by a spark generated by metal to metal contact. The following is from The Calhoun Chronicle Thursday, November 29, 1945: Last rites were held for Junior H. Hawkins, 42, Sunday, and for Elijah D. Nester, 50, Tuesday, at the Grantsville Methodist Church with Rev. Herald Grandstaff and Rev. Aldine Poling officiating at both services.
Mr. Hawkins was instantly killed when a terrific explosion of natural gas occurred that almost completely demolished the compressor station of the Hope Natural Gas Company at Cabot Station, near Grantsville late Thursday night. Mr. Nester, who was seriously burned in the explosion, died at midnight Saturday in St. Joseph's hospital in Parkersburg. Marshall Limer, chief engineer, Harry F. Howell and Isaac Davis were treated for shock and burns caused by the explosion.
Mr. Hawkins, son of Charles H. Hawkins of Fairview, is survived by his wife, Margaret, and three daughters, Merna Rae, Sylvia and Melba Jo. Other survivors are one sister, Mrs. Geraldine Jenkins of Charleston and one nephew, Ronald Jenkins. He was born at Fairview and had lived at Grantsville for the past 10 years.
Mr. Nester, a veteran of World War 1, was a member of the Grantsville Methodist church and a member of the Masonic lodge here. He had been employed as an oiler at the Cabot compressor station for the past several years.
He was the son of the late Samuel and Frances Carpenter Nester and was born in Spencer. He was married to Suddie Blosser of Portland, Ohio, who survives. Other surviving are one son, Junior Ardell Nester, seaman 1/c, aboard the USS Tennessee on the way home from the Pacific, and one daughter, Mrs. Geneva Siers, at home.
The remains of both men were laid to rest in the Bethlehem Cemetery with Stump Funeral Home in charge.