An explosion ripped through a blacksmith’s shop west of Pendleton on July 16, 1907, leaving two brothers badly burned and the shop incinerated.
Brothers Leon and Ed Kidder, ages 19 and 21, were working on a threshing machine in the blacksmith shop on the family farm three miles west of Pendleton along the Umatilla River in preparation for wheat harvest. A spark from the anvil off a red-hot piece of metal fell on a 50-pound can of black powder that had been stored in the shop by another Kidder brother, setting off a horrific explosion.
Leon, the youngest of the brothers, was terribly burned from the waist up and his clothing was burned completely off his body. His injuries were thought to be potentially fatal. Ed, who was further away from the powder cache when it exploded, was also badly scorched on his face and hands, but was expected to survive the blast.
The explosion obliterated the interior of the shop and set the building on fire. A Greek section crew from the O.R. & N railroad working nearby put out the fire while one of their members rode a handcar into town to summon the doctor.
Leon was taken to St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton in serious condition, where the burned skin was removed from his upper body and arms. Unable to lie down because of the extent of his injuries, he was forced to sleep sitting in a chair. Two months later, Leon returned home from the hospital to recover from his burns. His arms were still disabled, but doctors thought his injuries would not be permanent.
Older brother Ed’s burns were not considered serious, and he was ready to begin threshing wheat six days after the blast, on the machine whose repair sparked the explosion.