The Knickerbocker Landslide of 1915
August 2, 1915 proved to be a tragic day at the Knickerbocker Portland Cement Company (later Lone Star Cement) along Route 23. At 5:50am, a strange rumbling sound was heard that was quite unlike the normal grinding and blasting noises at the plant. Then the earth trembled. As workers watched in horror, the land dropped 25-30 feet and then began to roll eastward towards Claverack Creek. The plant’s buildings, including the men and machines inside, were crushed by the movement of the earth. As the Register-Star reported, “the morning light changed into pitch dark as earth and debris filled the air. The dull roar of buildings collapsing, the crashing of machines, the piercing cries and shrieks of workers trapped in the fallen buildings, and the streaks of fire as well as clouds of smoke and steam from the ruined powerplant all made it a scene from hell.” Fortunately, the landslide had occurred during a shift change so not as many workers were in the buildings, but five men still lost their lives. The landslide was later determined to be a completely natural event exacerbated by heavy rains and some seismic activity.