Peter’s Cartridge Company is a former smokeless ordnance and shot shell ammunition factory in Kings Mill, Ohio. In 1877,1 2 J.W. King and his nephew, Ahimaaz King, constructed a powder mill along the Little Miami River titled The Great Western Powder Company.(4a) The 71-acre complex was powered by a hydroelectric power station and was located on the site of a former grist mill.

The first batches or ordnance was produced in part because of a large surplus of mortar powder left over from the Civil War that the government had stored away.(4a) King purchased 832,000 pounds at a steep discount and added saltpeter to the mix that was then marketed for rifles.

On July 15, 1890, a train car collided with two load cars that were packed with 800 kegs of gun powder along the Little Miami Railroad, which caused an explosion that could be heard six miles away.2(4a) In a chain reaction, an additional 800 kegs of powder exploded. Eleven employees were killed instantly, with others dying later at a hospital. Many of the buildings on the site, nothing more than timber-framed structures, were destroyed.

The company expanded north across Grandin Road during World War I with wood-framed structures due to increased demand for ammunition.2 After the war, the temporary structures were demolished. In 1916, much of the plant was rebuilt with reinforced concrete and any remaining wood-framed buildings were torn down.

Decline and Closure

In 1934, the Remington Arms Company purchased Peter’s Cartridge and the manufacture of smokeless powder continued until the near end of World War II in 1944.1 2(4b) The plant was soon reused by Columbia Records division of RCA, who mixed plastic materials and manufactured phonograph record disks from 1944 to 1948.2 During the 1950s, Seagrams Distillers used the property as a bonded warehouse, followed by a small cabinet company that used a portion of the site in the 1970s.

In 1979, the buildings were purchased by the Landmark Renaissance Corporation and the facility was renamed the Kings Mills Technical Center.2 LensCrafters leased a part of the property for the manufacture of eyeglass lenses and frames from January 1987 to December 1991, while other smaller companies owned or leased other buildings on the site.

On October 10, 1985, the facility was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Cleanup

In 1987, as part of an environmental assessment for the center, lead contamination was discovered in the soil at depths from one to 12 feet.2 Fill materials including boiler ash and slag were found buried in layers from seven to 12 feet. As a result, monitoring wells were installed throughout the property in December 1987. This led to the detection of lead at .52 milligrams per liter (mg/l), well above the maximum contaminant level of .015 mg/l. As a result, the grounds were asphalted over in 1993 to prevent direct contact with the lead contaminated soil.

The Ohio EPA conducted an expanded site inspection in May 1999 that involved collecting sediment, ground water and fish tissue.2 Elevated lead levels were discovered along the Little Miami River, a National Wild and Scenic River that contains a fishery and several municipal drinking water wells.

In 2007, 56 acres of the property, including a portion of the Little Miami Bike Trail, was purchased by Hamilton Township using a Clean Ohio grant.1 It could only be used as green space under the terms of the grant.

On July 16, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency outlined a $5 million plan to clean the grounds of the factory through the federal Superfund program.1 The soil, contaminated with lead, mercury, copper, antimony, arsenic and other toxins, is adjacent to the Little Miami. The plan calls for the removal of 32,000 cubic yards of soil and sediment from the site, which would be replaced by clean fill. The contaminated soil would then be placed on an impermeable synthetic liner on a three-acre site on a flat section of the property, topped with clean dirt and vegetation.

Funding for the cleanup would be derived from DuPont,1 who purchased 60% of Remington stock in 1933 before fully acquiring the company in 1980.3 It became a wholly-owned subsidiary of DuPont.

Digest

  • Name: Peter’s Cartridge Company
  • Location: Kings Mill, Ohio
  • Years of Significance: 1877, 1934, 1944, 1979
  • Status:

Further Reading

  1. Peter’s Cartridge Company at Forgotten Ohio
  2. Shotshell production with a brief history of Peter’s Cartridge Company by Ronald B. Standler

Sources

  1. Kiesewetter, Sue. “Cleanup plan meeting today.” Cincinnati Enquirer 15 July 2009. 16 July 2009 Article.
  2. “NPL Site Narrative for Peters Cartridge Factory.” United States Environmental Protection Agency 30 April 2003. 16 July 2009 Article.
  3. Standler, Ronald B. “Shotshell Cartridge History.” 16 June 2006. 16 July 2009 Article.
  4. Simmons, George. King’s Powder Mills. Bellbrook: G and B Simmons, 2008.
    4a. p. 22
    4b. p. 40-43.