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            The evening of the Fourth, preparations were made for an elaborate display of fireworks at the state house.  Shortly after 7 a heavy rain storm came up which lasted until after 8 o’clock.  It was thought for a while that it would interfere with the evenings programme, but the weather cleared off, and by 8:30 the shooting of rockets and the display of varied colored lights began.  A very large crowd was attracted to the brilliant spectacle at the state house.  The rockets, bombs and Roman candles and various set pieces were all of an unusually good character, and the display was in every way entitled to hearty praise.  Many private residences also gave elaborate displays during the evening.  It was said by many who had seen the display of preceding years, that Springfield receded all previous records on this Fourth of July.
Illinois State Journal
- July 8, 1888

Instant Death of Mr. Noah M. Rickard and William Martin – Blown to Atoms and the Bodies Mutilated Beyond Recognition – William Yocum Fatally Injured – The City and County in a State of Consternation and Grief Over This Frightful Occurrence

            A horrible accident occurred yesterday afternoon near Sherman, seven miles northeast of this city, caused by the bursting of the boiler of a portable engine, which resulted in the instant killing of Noah M. Rickard, of this city, and William Martin, of Sherman, and probably fatal injuries to William Yocum, also of Sherman.  One mile east of Sherman there is a saw-mill operated by a portable engine, the outfit being owned by Martin Uhler, of this city, and operated by Noah M. Rickard, who received half of the profits.  Yesterday afternoon Mr. Rickard was in charge of the engine, the engineer, William Martin, being indisposed.  There were also in the mill Will Yocum, an employee.  About the time the accident occurred there was a pressure of 110 pounds of steam registered by the gauge and the water in the boiler was almost exhausted.  In order to replenish the boiler, Mr. Rickard, despite the warning of young Yocum, so the latter says, turned on the water.  The result was fatal.  There was a sudden rush of steam, a tremendous explosion, and for the height of many yards the air was filled with the fragments of iron and human flesh.  The horrible spectacle was witnessed by Frank Yocum and Houston Dunlap, two employees of the mill, and Matthew Sparks, a farmer residing in the neighborhood, who were standing near some logs thirty or forty feet west of the mill.  All the pieces of iron and the bodies of Rickard and Martin, the engineer, who happened in the moment the explosion occurred, were blown toward the east, so those west of the mill escaped without injury.  These men went to work at once to render what assistance they could, but, unhappily in two cases the victims were beyond earthly aid.  Mr. Rickard was found near a tree 150 yards from where the boiler had stood.  What was left of him presented a sickening sight, blackened, bleeding and mutilated beyond recognition.  His head and legs had been blown from his body and brains and flesh were glued to the tree.  One thigh was gone and along his chest was a deep gash.

            The body of young Martin was found 100 yards from the place of the explosion.  Like Rickard he had been instantly killed, but his body though blackened and bruised was otherwise unmutilated.  William Young (Yocum?) was discovered lying in the midst of the debris and was gotten out as soon as possible.  His head was badly cut, there was a gash across his throat, both legs were broken and he was injured internally.  It is hardly probable that he will live, and if he does he will be a cripple for life as both legs would have to be amputated.  A messenger was dispatched to Sherman and from there a telegram was sent by the C. & A. wires to this city to S. E. Prather.  Coroner Elkin was at once notified and left at 8 o’clock accompanied by Martin Uhler, Will Connelly and J. G. Watson.  Coroner Elkin viewed the remains and will hold an inquest at 1 o’clock this afternoon at the County Court House.  Dr. Seifert, of Cantrall, arrived at the scene of the accident about 5 o’clock in the evening, being the first physician that could be obtained, and Dr. Wilcox, of this city, reached there an hour later.  Both did everything in their power for the relief of Mr. Yocum.  Mr. Rickard had in the pocket of his trousers a purse containing two silver dollars, two 10 cent pieces and a copper cent, all lying flat against each other.  They struck the tree with such force that the copper cent indented the coin lying next to it, leaving the mark of the whole face of the cent.  The larger pieces were all dented.  The news of the awful accident was received here with feelings of horror and regret, as Mr. Rickard was well known and universally liked, being a man who, in every occupation and position he has held, has exercised the strictest integrity and shown the greatest fidelity to his trusts.  He was a genial, kind-hearted gentleman and a most affectionate husband and father.

            Noah M. Rickard was born March 8, 1845, in this county, a short distance west of this city on the Jacksonville road, and was the second son of Noah Rickard, who died during the infancy of the subject of this sketch.  His surviving relatives are George Rickard, of East St. Louis; Mrs. Daniel Jones, residing near Pawnee, and Mrs. John Johnson, residing at No. 905 South Spring Street, and his mother, Mrs. Harriet Rickard.  Noah was born and reared in this county and his first business pursuit was to engage in the mercantile business in Curran, in which he was occupied for several years prior to 1883, when he was appointed deputy under Sheriff Malone, holding the office until January 1, 1887, when Sheriff Condell succeeded Malone.  As deputy sheriff he gave the utmost satisfaction and was one of the most efficient and popular officers Sangamon County has ever had.  Since his retirement from office, he has been engaged in the lumber business.

            In 1865, he was married to Miss Mary Patterson, daughter of Marian Patterson, a highly esteemed citizen residing a half a mile southeast of Springfield.  He is survived by his wife and four children:  Charles M., a surveyor, aged 21 years; Richard, aged 13; John, aged 8; and Fannie, aged 5 years.
Illinois State Register - August 31, 1888

Reviving the Fearful Story of an Incident of Fifty-two Years Ago

            Fifty-two years ago today occurred perhaps the most sudden change in temperature ever known in Illinois.  All old settlers remember it as the “sudden change,” and numerous are the tales in regard to it, which those yet living can tell.  It was general throughout central Illinois.  Men were caught on horseback on the country highways, after the fashion of the Dakota blizzard, and literally frozen to their saddles.  The experience of Washington Crowder is a fair example.  He was caught on horseback about four miles southwest of Springfield on his way to get a marriage license for himself.  He first saw a threatening black cloud rapidly approaching from the northwest accompanied by a roaring sound.  By the time he had lowered his umbrella the wind and rain struck him, and when he picked up the reins of his bridle, a few moments later, icicles dropped from them.  He managed to get to town and rode up in front of a store on Fifth street, between Adams and Monroe.  On attempting to dismount he found that he was frozen to the saddle.  The girth was loosened and the saddle was carried, with Mr. Crowder still on top, into the store, where they were thawed out by the fire.  The cold wave is suppose to have had a velocity of 70 miles an hour.  The suffering of the time was intense.  Chickens and geese, hogs, cattle and sheep were frozen fast in the slush where they happened to be caught, and there they had to stand and perish, unless relieved by having the ice chopped away so that they could get out.  “The sudden change” is a matter of history which will always come up about this season, as long as people take an interest in the story of Sangamon county.
Illinois State Journal - December 20, 1888