It was in 1918, at 7:40pm when the first of a series of explosions spanning two days went off in Building 6-1-1 of the TA Gillespie Shell Loading Plant in rural Morgan, NJ. The building contained equipment which melted and poured Amatol - a Trinitrotoluol (TNT)-based explosive - into 155mm artillery shells for shipment to France for use in WWI.
The remains of 14-18 unfortunate souls, who were so badly disintegrated by the blasts, were buried in a mass grave in nearby Ernst Memorial Cemetery (Parlin, NJ). The task of trying to identify the unidentifiable and to witness & certify each burial fell to South Amboy resident, Michael Nagel, who later became the Commander of American Legion Luke A. Lovely Post #62.
In 1929, 11 years after the blast, the South Amboy Lions Club erected this monument at the site of the 20' x 35' grave.
Narrative adapted from Morgan, NJ website.
Photos courtesy of:
Gillespie Explosion crater 1918 & Power House - Atlas Obscura
Locomotive - National Archives
Morgan residents fleeing - New York Times
Monument - NJ State Historic Preservation Office