The Newtown Pentacle

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Tales of Calvary 11- Keegan and Locust Hill

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The monument to Charles Keegan is a familiar one to those who visit First Calvary Cemetery with any regularity. Close to the gates on Greenpoint Avenue, one does not need to penetrate too deeply into the viridian devastations of the place to find it. Keegan was a firefighter, a Foreman of Hook and Ladder No. 4 who was killed during the pursuit of his duties on the 15th of September in 1882 at the conjunction of Meeker Avenue and the loathsome Newtown Creek. has an article on the Locust Hill Refinery Fire, which presents the grisly details of that night and describes the tragic death of both Keegan and  Captain Stuart Duane (whose death counts as one of the most horrible exits from this mortal coil I’ve ever encountered)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before the night was over and the vast fire contained, oil barges set aflame by the terrific explosions and spreading flames had been carried all the way to the Penny Bridge, which ended up being consumed itself by fire. The far larger Standard Oil works up the Creek were protected from this spreading conflagration by an ad hoc boom deployed by Firefighters across the Creek, said boom was composed of empty barges and logs. The entire blaze began when lightning struck the petroleum reservoir tanks of Sone & Fleming at the Locust Hill Refinery sparking a fire which spread insidiously across the 18th ward, during a severe thunderstorm. has many fascinating images for the antiquarian community to marvel over, but of interest for readers of this posting will be this shot from 1852 (that’s the Newtown Creek, kids, see Calvary in the upper right corner- click image for a larger view at the site) showing the Penny Bridge that was burned away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By 1929, the independent oil companies around the Newtown Creek were absorbed by the Standard Oil Trust, parent of the modern Exxon and Mobil corporations. Standard Oil, of course was the guilty party concerning the Greenpoint Oil Spill.


William DONALD, proprietor of the Locust Hill Oil Works, where the fire originated, testified that when he reached the fire he saw the only way to save anything was to draw off the oil.  By five o’clock in the morning one-half had been drawn off.  About twenty minutes later the tank boiled over and filled the yard with burning oil.  KEEGAN was near the tank at the time, with several men employed in the works and some firemen.  They ran and escaped except KEEGAN, whom the witness afterwards heard was missing. There was about six hundred barrels of crude oil in the tank.

4 Responses

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  1. […] Tales of Calvary 11- Keegan and Locust Hill […]

  2. […] Additionally, the 1919 fire was explored here at your Newtown Pentacle, in the posting “Tales of Calvary 11- Keegan and Locust Hill“. […]

  3. […] is across the street from the Miller Building, and was where one of the greatest conflagrations in Newtown Creek history […]

  4. […] A bit further east, you’ll notice the tanks of the BP Amoco yard nearby Apollo Street in Greenpoint, which sit on part of the footprint of the Locust Hill refinery. […]

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