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Local History Index: Business Index

Champeny Creamery Explosion

Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly

Last Revised 11/29/2005

Also read Creamery Business History

Killed In Creamery
Separator in Menomonee Bursts With Fatal Results
Three Men Meet Death.
Edward Wirth and James Pyburn Torn to Pieces. William Butler, Jr. Dies From Injuries.

   
A terrible accident occurred at the Lisbon Creamery in the town of Menomonee at 8 o'clock Monday morning resulting in the death of three persons and the serious injury of one other. By the bursting of a separator, Edward Wirth, married, aged 45 years, a patron of the creamery, was instantly killed; James Pyburn, single, aged 27 years, the operator, died from his injuries half an hour after, and William Butler, Jr., married, aged 40, was so badly hurt that his death resulted twenty-four hours later. A farm hand of J. J. Connell was also seriously cut about the head.
    The patrons of the creamery have been in the habit of holding their milk cans under the spout of the cream separators instead of allowing the skimmed milk to run into the vat intended for that purpose, thus saving the time and trouble of dipping out the milk. It is supposed that the bowl of the separator was not running true and from the position of the bodies, it seemed that the operator, James Pyburn, had been standing over the separator holding it down by the center bolt while it was running at full speed, between 7,000 and 8,000 revolutions.
    Mr. Wirth was filling his cans from the spout and Pyburn had evidently turned to speak to some one when the accident occurred. A portion of the separator frame struck Wirth in the face just above the mouth and almost completely severed his head from the body. Some idea of the force with which he was struck was gained from the way in which his head was battered. Brains and flesh were strewn about the floor, walls and ceiling of the building.
    The bowl of the separator struck Pyburn in the back and practically passed through his body, then struck a side wall leading to the basement, while still in rotating motion, then glanced off at a right angle and struck William Butler, Jr., shattering his leg just below the thigh. Several others had narrow escapes, having just passed out of the building before the accident.
    Butler was taken home, while the bodies of Wirth and Pyburn were taken to the home of Aaron Berringer, just across the road. Pyburn lived for half an hour. The first word he uttered after the accident was "Shut off the engine". He had been for some time in poor health and had repeatedly said that he wished to die. His home is in Dane county. He was a member of the Modern Woodmen lodge at Marshall, Wis., and was a brother of Chief Templar Thomas Pyburn of the Tenth district of Wisconsin.
    Mr. Butler's injuries were at once seen to be very serious. His leg was so badly crushed that amputation was necessary above the knee. Dr. Hoyt of Menomonee Falls performed the operation assisted by Dr. Campbell. The patient had not the strength to rally and died Tuesday morning at 8 o'clock. Mrs. Butler is in feeble health and has but recently returned from a Milwaukee hospital. They have one child.
    A coroner's inquest was held Monday, Justice E. L. Nehs presiding. John Martin, C. A. Foster, Henry Stark, C. W. Fraser, John Parsons and Nick Rudolph, all of Menomonee Falls, acted as jurors.
    The building was of stone and beyond a few broken windows remained uninjured. It is owned by the Champeny Creamery company which recently went into the hands of a receiver. Source: Waukesha Freeman, February 14, 1901, page 1.

A Shocking Death

Aaron Beringer Cuts His Throat in This City Monday...A Pathetic Tragedy

    Aaron Beringer, aged 38 years, committed suicide at 8:30 Tuesday morning at the home of his brother-in-law, Dr. W. H. Rowe, Clinton street. Beringer was insane and has frequently made threats against his life. He was examined Monday afternoon in the county court before Judge Griswold and was declared to be insane by Drs. Hodgson and Jacob. The order for his commitment was issued and he was to have been taken to the Northern Hospital for the insane at Oshkosh Tuesday morning.
    In the morning, shortly after 8 o'clock, Dr. Rowe decided to go to the barber shop and get shaved. Mrs. Rowe and Clara Jones, a domestic, were in the house, but Beringer was alone in the kitchen. He took the bread knife of the Christie make, and drew it across his throat, severing the wind pipe and (Note: the following is very obscured in the paper and transcribed as best as possible by the editor) jugular vein and the carotid artery, then opened the door and staggered along the sidewalk to the barn, He got a hold of the carriage but fell to the floor due to loss of blood where he was found in a dying condition by Dr. B. Jacob.
    Miss Jones was the first to give the alarm. She opened the kitchen door and discovering that the floor was covered with blood, screamed, attracting the attention of Mrs. Rowe, who surmised the situation and summoned Dr. Jacob. Later, Dr. A. J. Hodgson was sent for, but the man was almost dead before Dr. Jacob reached him. The doctors say that it is a wonder that Beringer ever reached the barn as from all appearances he had lost the greater portion of blood before leaving the house.
    A coroner's jury consisting of C. H. Gilman, O. O. Larson, Samuel Hadfield, M. L. Butterfield, J. B. Muir and George L. Dwinnell was empanelled. They viewed the remains and then adjourned until 1 o'clock in the afternoon, at which time they met at the office of Justice of the Peace, M. L. Snyder. The jury returned a verdict that deceased came to his death by a wound or wounds inflicted by his own hand, while laboring under a fit of insanity.

    Beringer's insanity was caused by the nervous shock occasioned by witnessing the killing of the three men at the explosion of the cream separator at the Champeny creamery in the town of Menomonee on the 11th of last February. Beringer's house is right across the road from the creamery and he was standing near a man by the name of Edward Wirth at the time of the explosion. Wirth was killed and Beringer was spattered with blood, fragments of brain tissue and pieces of clothing. This caused a great shock to his nerves, and the other things connected with the tragedy so preyed on his mind as to drive insane. The bodies of the three men who were killed were also brought to Beringer's house and this was another circumstance which tended to bring on an attack of insanity.

    Beringer was a farmer in the town of Lisbon and he is survived by his father, J. B. Beringer, the widow, and two sons, Maurice and Lesther, aged 11 and 9 years, respectively. Mrs. Beringer and the children came to this city yesterday morning to bid their husband and father good bye before he left for the asylum, only to be informed upon their arrival of his death. Beringer has three sisters in this city -- Mrs. W. H. Rowe, Mrs. A. J. Smith and Mrs. Burt Bancroft. Source: Waukesha Freeman, December 19, 1901, page 1.

Town of Lisbon 1900 Federal Census
Aaron S. Beringer, b. Sept 1863, Wisconsin
Carrie, nee Keebler, wife, b. July 1868, Wis
Lester, son, b. Jan 1891
Maurice A., son, b. Dec 1892
Fredrick Keebler, father-in-law, b. Mar 1827, Germany

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