Search Local History Articles
- Community Services
- Crime & Public Safety
- Cultural Diversity
- Disasters & Calamities
- Executive Order 9066 and the Residents of Santa Cruz County
- In the 19th Century
- In the 20th Century
- Libraries & Schools
- Making a Living
- Recreation & Sports
- Religion & Spirituality
- Spanish Period & Earlier
- Unusual & Curious
- Weather & Pop. Stats.
- World War II
Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living
The Press Mill
by Barry Brown
Photograph from the John Carney Family Collection
In the photograph to the left is the Press Mill, located in what is now Paradise Park's Picnic Grounds. It was here that, Mill Cake, the soft gray paste made in the big Wheel Mills, was spread in 2in. layers upon 2ft. square copper sheets which were then covered with 2ft. square pieces of canvas. About forty of these layered trays were stacked and placed between the jaws of the Mill's hydraulic press and squeezed under 20 tons of pressure. The purpose of the process was to remove moisture and create a more compact and powerful explosive. The resulting product was called Press Cake. While compacting explosives under tremendous pressure was inherently dangerous, great effort was made to make the process as safe as possible. However, on June 8, 1907, the Santa Cruz Surf reported:
Photograph from the Paradise Park Masonic Club Collection
An explosion occurred at the Powder Works last night, in which two of the oldest hands, Thomas Kearney and William Manseau, lost their lives. The Mill that went up was the black powder press, it being the first time an explosion of a press since the works were established in 1862. There were about 12,000 pounds of powder in the Mill at the time, which accounts for the loud report which was heard and felt for several miles. Mr. Kearney was found at the side of the heavy dismantled press, his wrist being hooked to a nail. He was 55 years of age, a native of Ireland and had resided in Santa Cruz for about thirtythree years. He leaves a wife and seven children. Mr. Manseau was thrown just outside the building, and an arm and leg were broken. William Manseau had been employed at the Works since a boy and was 40 years of age. His father, A. Manseau was one of the pioneer powder makers at the Works and retired a few years ago.
The Coroner's Jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and like so many accidents at the Powder Works, the cause of the explosion was never determined.
>>Return to Home Page of The California Powder Works
>>Forward to The Corning Mill
It is our continuing goal to make available a selection of articles on various subjects and places in Santa Cruz County. Certain topics, however, have yet to be researched. In other cases, we were not granted permission to use articles. The content of the articles is the responsibility of the individual author. It is the Library's intent to provide accurate local history information. However, it is not possible for the Library to completely verify the accuracy of individual articles obtained from a variety of sources. If you believe that factual statements in a local history article are incorrect and can provide documentation, please contact the Webmaster.