Riverside Park fireworks tragedy recalled

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier. This is the last of a series of articles dealing with the history of Findlay’s Riverside Park.




A complete history of Riverside Park must include information with regard to a tragedy that took place at the municipal resort July 4, 1936, when an aerial bomb which was part of an Independence Day display of fireworks suddenly exploded, resulting in fatally injuring one man and injuring at least 15 others.

An aerial bomb that failed to gain altitude descended prematurely and exploded with terrific force in the midst of the large crowd watching the fireworks display.

Frank Harris, 58 years old, lost his life as a consequence of the explosion. He died a few days later at the hospital. He suffered a compound jaw fracture, deep lacerations on his neck and numerous cuts about his face.

Fifteen were taken to the hospital after the explosion. There were others who were only slightly hurt and did not go to the hospital.

Mr. Harris was the manager of McComb operative elevator at Hancock Station, which had been destroyed by fire only a few days before the Riverside Park explosion.

The fireworks were being set off from the north bank of the reservoir, as had been the case in all previous July 4 programs of this nature. The force of the explosion knocked a number of people to the ground in the area.

The fireworks were furnished by the United Fireworks Company of Dayton, Ohio, which had been furnishing the Findlay July 4 fireworks for some years. A representative of the company set them off.

Those taken to the hospital for the treatment of minor injuries were released in a couple of days. One woman remained a little longer, it is understood.

The July 4 tragedy immediately prompted agitation for a complete ban on Findlay fireworks. Such action was eventually taken by city council and the ban continues today (1972).

The old files of the Findlay newspapers always contained numerous articles immediately after July 4 of injuries received in fireworks accidents. In 1904, an explosion tore a hand off a Findlay woman. There were frequent cases of injured eyes from such mishaps.

IN 1904, THE CIVIL WAR Veterans of Findlay and Hancock County persuaded the United States government to send 38 headstones to the city for previously unmarked graves of veterans of the war at Maple Grove Cemetery.

The veterans functioned through the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic. E.T. Dunn, Findlay lawyer and veteran of the Civil War, and Eli Dukes, another veteran, were in charge of the project.

The memorial headstones arrived in Findlay in a railroad boxcar early in July. The names of the veterans for whose graves they were intended were engraved on the headstones, together with the designation of the regiment and company in which they served, as well as age figures. The stones were 3 feet high and 18 inches wide.

Most of the headstones went on graves in the plot in the cemetery where only Civil War veterans are buried, just north of one of the old mausoleum buildings. Civil War veterans were mostly buried in this single area, it is understood, because at that time in the first half of the 1860s, the cemetery was less than half a dozen years old and most families to which the dead veterans belonged had not as yet chosen family grave sites yet. The cemetery was opened in the late 1850’s. Previous to this, the town’s cemetery was along Eagle Creek just west of South Blanchard Street.

In recent years, there has been established a plot for burial of veterans of succeeding wars, and quite a number of interments have been made there now in this connection.


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