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Pocahontas County Bicentennial ~ 1821-2021

We had a request for a copy of the following article from the August 17, 1905 edition of The Pocahontas Times. This story has been told and retold through the years, so we offer it in print, once again.


Last Monday night at 1:12 a.m., eight Italian laborers were killed by an explosion of dynamite under their camp at Dunlevie, a new town on the East Branch of the Greenbrier river in the Upper End of Pocahontas County, three miles above Bartow.

All that is known certainly concerning the terrible catastrophe is that the shanty in which the Italians lived was blow up with a charge that must have contained a hundred sticks of dynamite.

Not only was the house blown into small particles but a hole was left in the ground ten feet long, six feet wide and three feet deep.

The Italians were employed on the lumber railway being built by E. V. Dunlevie, of New York City. He has purchased the Davis timber tract and was building a road to connect with the C. & O extension. He is putting in large works to operate a $200,000 tract of timber.

There are two theories connected with the explosion. The generally accepted one is that it was murder caused by the feeling that exists in some quarters against the importation of Italian labor into this county. That such feeling exists is indicated by the attack on the Italian camp near Glady two weeks ago which seemed to be caused purely by race prejudice.

Also by an attempt that was made some weeks ago to blow up an Italian shanty on Cheat Mountain. In this instance ten sticks of dynamite were placed under the camp and a fuse thirty-five feet long was attached to it. When discovered there was evidence that the fuse had been fired and had become extinguished within a few inches of the detonator.

Another theory which seems more plausible is that the killing was accidental. Those familiar with this class of labor say that nothing is more common than for Italian laborers to abstract from the supplies of dynamite furnished by the contractors and hoard under the floors of their camps until they can sell the supply accumulated. They also use it for killing fish.

The explosion occurred on the night of the 14th on the eve of the feast day commemorating the Ascension of the Virgin Mary. This is one of the great days of the year with the Italians and much beer had been imported to celebrate the day. Some think that on this occasion that they had been drinking beer and that after they had become hilarious, some member of the gang who did not know that there was any dynamite under the camp shot through the floor in exuberance of spirits and caused the explosion. The fact that such a great quantity of dynamite exploded lends color to this theory.

Prosecuting Attorney McNeill went up to the scene Tuesday to investigate the matter. Not a man in the house escaped.
It is near the scene of the explosion several years ago where eight Austrian laborers were killed by dynamite while eating a lunch around a fire thawing out frozen sticks of dynamite.

An inquest was held by Justice Oliver which rendered a verdict of death from an explosion at the hands of parties unknown. The jury was composed of G. O. Arbogast, foreman, Markwood Herold, T. H. Rollins, A. J. Porter, John Rhodes and A. N. Canard.

The shanty was the old school house, a building 12 feet square.

The explosion was from one edge of the building exerting the force toward the river, not a particle of the building was left standing. Nearly all the men had their brains blown out.

Three bodies were found seventy-five feet from the house. Two men and two boys were blown seventy-five yards into and across the river. A ten year old boy was blown across the river and found on a large rock, without a bone broken in his body.

Another man was blown to pieces and all that was found was his legs in Granville Keller’s front yard.

The list of the dead are as follows:


The bodies were buried on A. M. V. Arbogast’s farm about 100 yards from the scene of the explosion.

Editor R. A. Kramer went to Dunlevie Tuesday and very kindly furnished us the details.

Nobody reached the scene until daylight. No money was found until 4 p.m. when a pair of pants were found containing $282 in currency and about $56 in checks.

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