Blown to Smithereens!
Local historian Peter Cullen, who has an immense knowledge and interest in oral history and the amazing stories of the many citizens now resting in the Toowoomba and Drayton Cemetery, told me of a most amazing case of a German-Queensland resident. The headlines of the ‘Darling Downs Gazette’ of Saturday, 15th November 1902 read:
A TOOWOOMBA SENSATION – FRIGHTFUL EXPLOSION – A HOUSE TOTALLY WRECKED – MAN BLOWN TO ATOMS – BOY TERRIBLY INJURED – MARVELLOUS ESCAPE OF FIVE OTHERS – A HORRIFYING SIGHT – HOW DID IT OCCUR? – WAS IT DYNAMITE? – THE CAUSE UNKNOWN
Mr Christie Miller who was a farmer and well-sinker living with his family on the northern edge of Toowoomba was actually blown to pieces! The newspapers of the day described in very graphic detail the absolute destruction to his premises – only leaving the house frame intact – and the dreadful time local police had in gathering the many and scattered body parts, which were delivered to the local undertakers in a wheelbarrow! His family, in the house the night of the explosion, were lucky to escape with minor injuries whist Christie was blown to smithereens. The blast was heard through much of Toowoomba. Based on the newspapers of the day, and police records and inquests, a fairly simple series of events explains the tragic explosion. Christie often used and stored sticks of explosives (used for well-sinking) underneath his house. At the time of the explosion Christy and wife had retired to bed, but was smoking in bed. It is considered likely that embers from his smoking either drifted through the floorboards to ignite the explosion – or he had actually stored some explosives under the bed! In either case the results were devastating and were the talking point of Toowoomba for many weeks afterward!
After the explosion – the remains of the Miller house at Green Wattle Gully, Toowoomba – the spot with the ‘A’ marked is where the head was recovered