On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. So, check back often for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 1917
Under a gray rainy sky today 12,000 mourners gathered at Chester Rural Cemetery to bury 52 unidentified employees killed in the explosion at the Eddystone Ammunition plant on Tuesday. The deep sadness of those assembled was palatable. The dead were laid in chestnut and silver caskets and upon each one roses, lilies and orchids were placed. American flags were also draped over the caskets.
Fifty clergymen from 30 of the churches of Chester, Philadelphia and the surrounding area came to pray and offer comfort. Priests of the Catholic Church stood side by side with Protestant ministers reading prayers and performing the last rites of their respective creeds. There was no division by sect today. The living were as united as will be the dead who will lie together forever in the mass grave.
The ceremony began with the caskets being brought by an honor guard of 175 members of the Eddystone Ammunition Company’s security force. The caskets were laid in the 20’ x 30’ grave. Then the clergymen walked to the edge and began to pray. Despite the rain every man removed his hat and all the assembled bowed their heads. When the prayers ended the mourners filed past the edge of the grave. Most were weeping openly.
The family members of those being buried stood closest to the grave site. Of course their cries were the deepest and most pitiful. And not knowing in which casket their loved ones lay could only make their grief more profound. As the last mourner passed the grave site a heavy downpour of rain and hail began to fall.
Among the mourners were representatives of the city of Chester including Mayor McDowell. Alba Johnson, President of Baldwin Locomotive Works and other officers of that company paid their respects. Representatives of the Eddystone Ammunition Company were also there. The company paid for today’s funeral and has promised that a monument will be erected to those who lost their lives in this tragedy. Also a relief fund has been organized for the families of those killed. As of today $12,000.00 has been collected. And the merchants of Chester have promised to forgive all debts of those killed.
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