A Frightful Accident

I have a collection of newspapers (The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican) from the first half of 1898, and the June 19th, 1898 issue contains a story about a terrible accident that occurred at the Hughes Electric Company in downtown Fargo.

Night Engineer Champlain of the Hughes Electric Co. Has His Left Arm Torn Off. He Was Nervy.

About 11 o’clock last night people in the vicinity of the Hughes Electric Co. were startled by a shriek. It was such a terrible one that those who heard it knew someone had been hurt, and there was a rush for the company’s plant. N.P. Officer McIntyre was the first to reach the place and found the night engineer, Boyd Champlain, with one arm in the commutator, being slowly ground to a pulp, and the unfortunate man in the most intense agony. 

Champlain directed some of the arrivals how to stop the engine, and was extricated from his perilous position. Dr. Wear was called. It was found that the flesh had been torn from Champlain’s left arm in shreds, and that the bone was crushed in a number of places, just hanging by the skin near the shoulder. An amputation was performed, and the suffering man sent to the Darrow Hospital in Moorhead.

Union Light Heat and Power Company, Fargo
The accident detailed in this story took place in an older power plant which once stood on the site of the one shown in the center of this photo. After several power companies merged, the old Hughes Plant was razed, and the one shown here was built in its place. The site, a parking lot today, was also the site of Fargo’s first significant structure, the Headquarters Hotel. On the left you can just see the end of the NP Depot, today the Fargo Park District, and at the bottom, the old Shotwell store on the corner of Broadway and Main Avenue.

Champlain was standing near the machinery, when his sleeve was caught in the commutator, going at 240 revolutions per minute. His arm was crushed down on a brush holder and ground into sausage meat. He had all the nerve that was necessary, for after shrieking to attract attention, he held himself by his other arm to prevent being drawn into the machinery and to instant death. When assistance arrived he cooly directed a man how to stop the engine, and after being released, examined his arm and discussed the accident more calmly than the majority of the spectators.

The injured man was formerly a Great Northern engineer, and came here recently to work for the electric company. He is a single man, about 35 years old, and has a farm near Morris, Minn.

George Hughes was sitting in front of the Swart House and heard the scream. He at once concluded that it was an accident at the plant, and ran to get his hat. Before he got outside a phone message came from the plant.

The accident horrified some of the spectators, and all admired the engineer’s nerve in taking things as cooly as he did. He must have received quite an electric shock, and that may have deadened the pain.

It is said Champlain has been rather careless around the machinery, and the accident may have been due to a lack of caution. He was to be married in October to a St. Paul Girl.

What do you know about Fargo history? Please leave a comment below. If you’re interested in reading more about Fargo history, check out my book, Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found.

2 Replies to “A Frightful Accident”

  1. Boyd Champlain was actually only 26 when this happened. He lived until the ripe old age of 86 after this too. 1872-1958. Died in Mankato, MN.

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