Located in East Texas South of Kilgore, between
Tyler & Longview.
The Tragic Events Of March 18th, 1937
New London, Texas, was known as the richest independent school district in the United States. Due to its oil wealth, the district was able to
construct a state-of-the-art, for its time, school to house grades K-11.
On March 18, 1937 students prepared for an Inter-scholastic meet in Henderson. Then, at 3:17 p.m., an instructor in the shop class turned on a sanding machine which sparked. In an instant, a good part of the building disintegrated with an explosion that could be heard for miles. Almost 300 students and teachers died in the blast. The spark had ignited accumulated natural gas from a leak in a crawl space beneath the school.
Now, more than 75 years later, the London Museum, across the highway from where the original school was destroyed, keeps alive the memory of much of a generation who died on that terrible day.
March 18th, 1937
In 1937 New London, Texas, in northwest Rusk
County, had one of the richest rural school
districts in the United States. Community
residents in the East Texas oilfields were proud
of the beautiful, modern, steel-framed, E-shaped
On March 18 students prepared for the next day's
Inter-scholastic meet in Henderson. At the
gymnasium, the PTA met. At 3:17 P.M. Lemmie R.
Butler, instructor of manual training, turned on
a sanding machine in an area which, unknown to
him, was filled with a mixture of gas and air.
The switch ignited the mixture and carried the
flame into a nearly closed space beneath the
building, 253 feet long and fifty-six feet wide.
Immediately the building seemed to lift in the
air and then smashed to the ground. Walls
collapsed. The roof fell in and buried its
victims in a mass of brick, steel, and concrete
The explosion was heard four miles away,
and it hurled a two-ton concrete slab 200 feet
away, where it crushed a 1936 Chevrolet.
Fifteen minutes later, the news of the explosion
had been relayed over telephone and Western
Union lines. Frantic parents at the PTA meeting
rushed to the school building. Community
residents and roughnecks from the East Texas
oilfield came with heavy-duty equipment. Within
an hour Governor James Allred had sent the Texas
Rangers and highway patrol to aid the victims.
Workers began digging through the rubble looking
for victims. Floodlights were set up, and the
rescue operation continued through the night as
Within seventeen hours all victims and debris
had been taken from the site. Mother Francis
Hospital in Tyler canceled its elaborate
dedication ceremonies to take care of the
injured. The Texas Funeral Directors sent
Of the 500 students and forty teachers in the
building, approximately 294 died. Some rescuers,
students, and teachers needed psychiatric
attention, and only about 130 students escaped
serious injury. Those who died received
individual caskets, individual graves, and
If anyone has a personal story or one passed
down from a survivor or rescuer connected to the
New London School Explosion, we would appreciate
Please contact us by email from the Contact Us page or write the New London Museum at P.O. Box 477, New London, Texas, 75682.
contributions will be acknowledged and credited
(if desired). Thank you.
About This Website
This website is a replacement of the original website maintained by William (Bill) N. Grigg, Jr., son of William Grigg, Sr., a survivor of the New London School Disaster. Since Bill Junior's passing on September 22, 2001, this website was acquired and built using his format as a model.
Bill was in complete charge of everything and when he died, it was believed that his website and all the information he had collected over the years was lost. After much hard work and research, it was found that the website in it's entirety had been copied and stored before Bill's passing. This new website, NewLondonSchool.org is the rebirth of Bill's dream.
Our Webmaster, Robert Hilliard, holds a MS and BS in Industrial Technology from the University of Texas at Tyler. He has worked in various capacities as a Senior Programmer Analyst since 1987 and has spent the last 18+ years as Webmaster for numerous website implementations. But first and foremost, Robert has been an active enthusiast for the New London area and its history for more than 30 years.
We will continue to be a source of knowledge concerning the New London School Explosion. There will be some modernization and updating of the site, but in respect to Bill Grigg, Jr., the site format and look and feel, will not change.