Tricounty News

Boiler explodes at Kimball Creamery, 1954

Reprinted from the Tri-County News Sept. 6, 2001.

Kimball was shaken Friday morning, Dec. 24, 1954, about 11:30 when a large boiler at the Kimball Creamery and milk drying plant exploded and shot into the air, landing in the driveway between the creamery and the drug store.

The force of the explosion tore the roof from the rear of the building, crumbled the walls, and a fire was started. At the moment of the explosion, only two men employees were within the building. Tony Pelzer received wounds in the abdomen, and burns and lacerations about his face and arms. He was taken by Granite City Ambulance to the St. Cloud Hospital where he had surgery to determine the extent of the abdominal injury. His condition proved to be not serious, and it was thought he might be released by Wednesday.

Oswald Hemple received injuries to his back, and he received x-rays here at the doctor’s office. Pete Borman also suffered an injury to his back and was x-rayed.

Fire departments from Watkins, Annandale, Maple Lake, Litchfield, and St. Cloud responded to the call for help. The rapid, efficient action of the local department served to start checking the fire, and helped to avoid it spreading to other buildings.

Steps were taken at once to make arrangements for the disposal of the milk until it could be again taken care of locally. In a surprisedly short time a temporary boiler was installed in the driveway between the drug store and the creamery. The work of clearing the wreckage and restoring as much as possible the operation of the creamery is moving at a remarkable pace.

Large crowds have been in town daily to view the wreckage.

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The following letter to the editor was published in the Tri-County News Sept. 13, 2001.

How well I remember the creamery boiler explosion. I had been unsure of the date until your recent article. The microfilm record of the Kimball Newspapers does not include the issue in which the explosion was written up, and so I have never seen any information.

My father and I had been in Annandale early that day for an appointment with Dr. Bendix. As we were returning to Kimball, we noticed a large column of black smoke that seemed to be coming from Kimball, and at the time my dad was wondering if there was a problem at the school. We drove into town and saw that the creamery was involved. Since this occurred during Christmas vacation, I was able to spend time downtown looking at the damage. Even at that early age, I was most interested in steam engines and boilers and was fascinated by the damage that had been done. The boiler that exploded was of the “locomotive” type that had an enclosed firebox and one pass of flues. The water level in the boiler had dropped below the level of the top of the firebox, and so this metal had overheated. It was thought that the water supply pump had then turned on and flooded water over the red hot steel in the firebox and that this had caused a tremendous increase in boiler pressure which could not be relieved by the safety valve. I remember that the longitudinal seam of the boiler barrel had ripped open and that as a result, the boiler acted like a rocket-propelled device. The boiler could have gone a few more feet to the south and then would have caused lots of
W-Creameryexplosion284 damage to Abbott’s drug store.

At the time of the explosion, our good friend Gilbert Ahlstrand from Cyrus, Minn., had at least part ownership of the creamery. Later operations of the creamery were moved to the Paynesville creamery, I don’t remember when the creamery was closed in Kimball. I do remember very well watching the buttermaker take butter out of the large churns and form it into blocks. Our home in Kimball had two garages and for a time the single garage was used to store products while rebuilding was taking place downtown.

If I was closer to Kimball, I would attend [Kimball Area Historical Society] meetings but I do anxiously await the issues of the paper that carry articles you prepare. Your work is very important!


Dr. Gerald Gysler Parker

Casselton, N.D.

Many people stopped to observe the damage of the Kimball Creamery boiler explosion the morning of Dec. 24, 1954. The location of the creamery was in the place where the kimball Post Office is now located.



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Annual Meeting Tuesday,
Oct. 22, featuring “Memories of Kimball” from 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and more including his early ancestors on Maine Prairie to the present. Now returning from Africa again with his history and family stories, come build another memory Oct. 22, with Michael Stanley. It’s in Kimball’s historic City Hall at 7 p.m. Refreshments and fellowship follow. There is no charge. Bring family and friends. Everyone is welcome.

Coming soon.  It’s time to start thinking about our Seventh Annual Holiday Potluck. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, and these events are the last for 2013.

For new or renewed memberships, only $10 for single, $15 for family, $25 for business, all tax deductible. Your support helps to ensure that Kimball Area Historical Society will continue to present innovative educational programs that give children and adults an understanding of community responsibility articulated so eloquently by our early settlers.

For information, please contact at Box 55, Kimball MN 55353, or call (320) 398-5250, or 5743, or e-mail us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.