Vol MMXIII, No 77
March 18, 1937
Gas Explosion at New London School Kills Hundreds
Odorless Gas Leak Blamed
On this date in 1937, a spark from a sander in the manual arts lab of a new school in New London (Rusk Co), sets off gas from a leaky pipe, resulting in an explosion that lifted the roof off the school, and within seconds the sides of the school colapsed on students and teachers.
Heavy equipment from nearby oil fields was brought in to assist in the rescue effort. Volunteers arrived from as far away as Louisiana to do whatever they could.
It was later learned that school staff had tapped into a gas line to bypass a meter in hopes of saving the school money. Over 300 are found dead in thisl, the worst school disaster in American History. Later, the Texas legislature would require a chemical (Mercaptan) be added to natural gas to give off a "rotten egg" odor that would warn of leaks. Natural gas up until that time was distributed odorless.
Nearly 73 years later, Carolyn Jones Frei, a survivor of the New London school explosion, is still calling for safer schools and pushing for the nation to recognize March 18 annually as a date to put sharper focus on school safety issues.
Col. A. H. Belo Installs Telephone in Galveston
On this date in 1878, Colonel A.H.Belo had a telphone line installed between his home and the Galveston News, which he owned. Belo would expand his new enterprise, which eventually became one of the largest news/broadcasting companies in America, the Belo Broadcasting Company.
Soon the demand for telephone service in Galveston led to the first telephone exchange (switchboard) in August of 1879. Demand reached Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. By 1882, exchanges were open in Waco, Brownsville, Brenham, Cleburne, Colorado, Corsicana, Gainesville, Greenville, Jefferson, Marshall, Paris, Palestine, Sherman, Denison, and Texarkana.
American Express forms Wells Fargo
On this date in 1852, two directors of the California based American Express, Henry Wells and William Fargo, formed Wells Fargo.
At first, Wells Fargo merely rented space on other Stagecoach lines, but soon the new company acquired it's own lines, first by purchasing Pioneer Overland Stage Lines in 1866, and later the Holladay Overland & Express Company.
In the late 1860s, Wells Fargo operated 180 stage depots throughout the West. In 1861, due to the Civil War, the US Post office closed the southern Overland Route. By 1869, the trans-continental railroad was completed, and Well Fargo was all but shut out of the express mail business.
With now Wells Fargo stock heavily deflated Lloyd Trevis of Pacific Union Express (Wells Fargo's chief competitor) bought up the company. In 1870, Trevis, moved the company's home office from New York to San Francisco. Since then, the tales of Wells Fargo have become legends of Old West.