In its mid-1800s industrial heyday the Bronx River was host to a wide variety of industries. Among them were a number of gunpowder mills, whose operations sometimes led to lamentable results.
One of them, the Bronx River Powder Mills up at Moringville (today’s Hartsdale) proudly advertised its own “Bronx Sporting” brand of black powder for muzzle-loading huntsmen. Unfortunately, in the spring of 1847 an estimated three tons of gunpowder went off and blew the place to smithereens, killing one man and injuring several.
Perhaps the worst accident happened in 1876 at the Jupiter Powder Mill located by Muskrat Cove, just north of the junction of the Harlem and New Haven Railroads. A worker named David Riehl slipped out the doorway for a quick smoke, but the match he struck ignited the gunpowder particles in the air, and set off a massive explosion that left a ten foot deep crater. The force of the blast hurled the unfortunate smoker into the Bronx River, and two additional men died in the catastrophe.
The Jupiter explosion, along with other accidents, including a blast in a dynamite factory near West Farms, soon brought to a close this brief but combustible chapter of Bronx River history.
Stephen Paul DeVillo