A morning blast obliterated the Union County powder house outside La Grande in April of 1955 in an explosion that was felt up to 20 miles away.

H. Eugene Banton, the Union County shop foreman, went to the county’s powder house at about 9 a.m. on Monday, April 25, 1955, to check the county’s dynamite supply. He was alone at the building when the blast occurred at 9:20 a.m.

The 12-foot-square brick building virtually disappeared in the blast.

When the first investigators arrived at the scene of the explosion, they found a hole 30 feet by 15 feet wide, and 15 feet deep at the lowest point, at the former location of the powder house. Banton, obviously, was killed in the blast. Union County authorities did not know how much dynamite had been stored at the site.

The explosion shattered nearly all of the storefront windows on Adams Street in La Grande, a mile and a half from the site of the blast. A nearby farm was covered in brick dust from the disintegrated building, and a man working at the county fairgrounds, a half mile away, said he was knocked flat by the pressure wave. The blast also was felt in Elgin, 20 miles away.

Though the window damage on Adams Street was estimated in the thousands of dollars, no one else was injured by the explosion.

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