SCENES OF TERROR AT
Heroic Rescues and Lucky Escapes From the Burning Buildings
CRAZED IMMIGRANTS SHUT IN
A Round-up of the Foreigners and the Attaches of the Station This morning Finds All Safe – Rescue of the Hospital Inmates – Dr. Senner’s Dog Saves an Attendant – Several Attempts at Suicide In the Flames by Immigrants Frenzied With Fear – A Mother Casts Her Baby Into the Burning Grass and Rushes Aboard the Boat. The Child Rescued – Provision for The Shelterless Occupants of Ellis Island – The Place a Waste of Smoking Ashes – Loss Estimated at $1,000,00 – The Big Building In Which the Fire Started Was a Tinder Box of Pine – Origin of the Flames an Electric Light Wire.
Viewed from the barge office at the
immigration commissioner, is one of the busiest men in
To an Eagle reporter this morning Dr. Senner said: “I have officially reported at
Ellis Island a Mass of Cinders and Blackened Ruins.
A number of reporters, officials and a few outside visitors were taken to the island on the ferryboat John G. Carlisle. All that was standing was the great engine house and electric light and steam plant, and Dr. White’s house, which is the old Mason mansion. The lower portion of the hospital still remains standing as the walls were three and a half feet thick; the upper structure of woodwork was entirely destroyed.
The buildings entirely consumed were the main building, which was 750 by 250 feet and three stories high; the detention penm which was recently reconstructed; the restaurant, the laundry building, the record building and storage house. A conservative estimate of the loss. including buildings, supplies, railroad tickets and cash, is $1,000,000.
The disinfecting plant, which was not yet complete, and upon which $25,000 has been expended since Dr. Senner’s return from Europe, and which contained machinery recently brought from Camp Low, at Fire Island, was entirely destroyed. The southwest landing pier, which had been recently been reconstructed and covered at great expense, was demolished. Only the lower old stone portion of the hospital and the lower portion of the detention pen remain. Two months ago the government built a crib which was filled in at an expense of $25,000, and which added nine acres to the original two acres of the island; it is more or less damaged.
Felix Livingstone and Amelia Schwab, the concessionaires, place their loss of supplies and equipment in the restaurant and culinary department at $2,000.
F.J. Scully, who has the privilege of the money exchange on the island, places his loss at $10,000 in paper and gold, although it may be less when the safe, which has been discovered, is recovered and opened.
Thomas S. Faulkner, agent of the Immigrant Clearing House, of the Trunk Line Association, had two safes, one of which was recovered this morning. It has been burst open and about $300 was missing. The other safe, which is buried under the ruins, contains several thousand dollars worth of tickets.
Surgeon White’s Story of the Fire.
Past Assistant Surgeon of the Marine Hospital
Service Joseph H. White, who has charge of the medical department at
“I, my wife, Miss Humber, my wife’s sister, my boy, aged 4, and my three girls, aged 7, 9, and 11 respectively, were asleep in the old Mason mansion at the time of the fire. Frank Gibson, the apothecary of the medical department, ran into my house, hammered at my door, and said: ‘Doctor, for God’s sake, get up! The main building is on fire!’ I ran to my office in the main building in order to secure my official and private papers, but found it impossible to enter on account of the flames. I then ran back to my house, and got my family out. Five minutes later I got my family out. Five minutes later I directed the rescue of the women and children who occupied dormitories in the hospital. This took about 15 minutes. After depositing my baby on the ferryboat, I ran back to the main buildings and saw the tower near my house and near the laundry and the morgue was in flames and about to fall. By this time there was hardly anything left of the main building and the firemen had their choice of endeavoring to save either my house or the engine hose. They played or a few minutes on my house and succeeded in saving it, although it is pretty badly injured. In the hospital last night were 57 persons; 20 men, 20 women and 17 children. The most severe case was that of a handsome young woman named Hielson, who arrived on the Norge and then had been in the hospital four days. She had typhoid fever. Another sad case was that of a boy who is dying from an incurable disease at the age of 19. Most of the patients were carried out on the shoulders of the attendants.”
United States Commissioner John J. Quinlan, who is the supervising inspector, stated that 100 passengers were landed yesterday from the Furnassia, Alsatia and Spaarndam.
“Many of these were cleared,” said the
commissioner, “by 5 o’clock last evening.
All told there were on the island last night 250 persons, which includes
Of the immigrants, two-thirds were male, and one-third women and
children. Some of these were awaiting
deportation, and some were merely detained for twenty-four hours until the
Board of Special Inquiry had an opportunity to investigate their qualification
for admission to the
From my investigation this morning I have reason to believe that the fire originated in the statistician’s department, from an electric light wire. Statistician George Eichler informs me that he has reason to believe that all the records and statistics were burned up, as he can find no trace of the safe or the vault in which they were contained.
“Treasurer Lee’s safe has been recovered and is sound. The safe of John E. Moore of the railroad-steamboat service was found, almost uninjured, although some of the papers were scorched. It contained but 26 cents.
“There are 185 officers and employes in the department of immigration.
“Since the federal government left
“The average annual expenditures of running
Ellis Island are $170,000 per year; the average receipts are $450,000, leaving
an average profit of $270,000, which goes into the
“I am distinctly in favor of building fire proof structures so that there cannot be a repetition of the desolation upon which we are looking to-day.”
Assistant Commissioner McSweeney’s Graphic Narrative.
Edward F. McSweeney,
assistant commissioner of immigration, said:
“The detention pen, which was entirely reconstructred
at great expense three months ago, was three stories high and L shaped. It ran 200 feet northerly with a 100 foot
wing. The women slept on the upper third
floor, the men on the lower floor and families in the L wing. There were sleeping accommodations for 400
people. Dr. Senner’s
The night watch number fifteen people who were last night under the command of Captain William Burke and Matron Sophie Ruf. At night, in addition to the watchman, gateman, engineer and four firemen, there was the hospital force, which made an aggregation of thirty-five persons to rescue the 215 immigrants sleeping on the island. Every second day we had a fire drill in the department, which I organized two months ago, and from all I learn the brigade did excellent service.
“Among the immigrant’s held over yesterday were eight Hindoo’s, thirty young Mormon girls from the Furnassia and two Italian women, with babies two days old.
“One of these frantic women, in her hysterical excitement, threw away her baby into the tall grass and rushed on board the ferryboat. A deckhand, Joseph Kelly, who had witnessed the act, ran into the burning grass and rescued the child from its perilous position and carried it aboard the John C. Carlisle.”
Felix Livingston, the concessionaire, stated
that the food for the immigrants will be cooked at the Eastern Hotel at the
Loss Estimated at Nearly $1,000,000.
Supervising Inspector Quinlan and a number of government officials from the federal building, including two appraisers and insurance adjusters, went over on the John G. Carlisle early this morning and to the best of their ability, amid the smoke and confusion, made an approximate estimate of the loss. In rough numbers they place it at between $900,000 and $1,000,000.
Chief among the latest improvements was the
disinfecting plant, the building of which cost $25,000 and the machinery,
between $15,000 and $18,000. This plant
was considered to be the best disinfecting plant in the world and was devised
by Professor Roeser of the
Among the patients who were taken to
The following boats went over to the island this morning to lend a hand to the wrecking tugs and the fireboats: The Carlisle, the John E. Moore, the Emmons, the Hazel Kirke, the George Starr and the Water Witch.
The main building, which was totally destroyed, was constructed of Southern white pine, of the most inflammable nature. Prognostications of its destruction have been frequently made and many criticisms have been made concerning its unsafe character. Just such a disaster as happened last noght has been predicted and when the fire once got headway it had plenty of material to work upon.
F.J. Scully, the money changer for the immigrants in the main building, had a safe in which he says was contained $10,000, mostly in foreign coins and drafts. Many streams were played upon this part of the building, and ot required six hours to get the safe in a cool enough condition to handle. An improvised derrick pulled the safe out of the embers and it was broken into by expert safeman. All the contents were found unimpaired and Mr. Scully stated that all the money was safe and that not one cent had been lost or destroyed.
How the Fire Was Discovered.
The fire was discovered by the night watchman in the northeast corner of the main buildings. He was making his rounds when he detected smoke. He carried a lantern with him and could not plainly discern the cause of the smoke, but the further he got into the building the thicker the smoke became, and soon he discerned flame. He immediately notified the other watchmen and they hastened to get the inmates out of the building. Joseph Kelly, Samuel Christensen and Edward Goetty were the first to apprise the inmates of their danger.
The immigrants were all asleep and when the men raised the cry of a fire a scene of indescribable confusion ensued. Most of the men had undressed and all the children were lightly clad. Most of the women had on all their clothing. So great was the confusion and excitement that the rescuers met with great difficulty in the getting he immigrants out; some of them had to be forcibly ejected. Kelly’s first load was five children, two of them clinging to his neck, one under each arm and one holding on to his coat. The women were most difficult to handle, some of them absolutely refusing to move and they had to be carried out bodily.
Several of the women became hysterical and tore
the clothing from their persons in their paroxysms of fear. Owing to the difficulty of getting those on
the island aboard the boat the special officers on the island and the deckhands
lined up along the gangway to prevent any of the half crazed immigrants from
jumping into the water. A pandemonium reigned on the
On the trip over from the island a peculiar scene ensued. Finding himself free from any danger of fire the immigrants gave way to religious expressions of gratitude.
The new dock on the island is almost completely destroyed, so that in making landings long boards have to be laid in order to prevent accidents. The piles underneath the bridge and the wharf of the structure are burning yet and it is difficult for the fire boats to get at them, though they continually drench the entire structure with water.
Clothing Furnished by the Missionary Society.
Shortly after 10 o’clock this morning Agent McCool of the Missionary Society appeared with a large amount of clothing. Joseph Gidofsky, a Pole, was the first man to be dressed from the box. He had lost his trousers in the fire and all he had on wsa a coat, a pair of drawers and long stocking and he assumed the appearance of a bicycle sprinter. The only clothing that would fit him were ecclesiastical garments that had been discarded by one of the neophytes of the Catholic Church. Cidofsky, with a long flowing beard and a Hebraic cast of countenance, cut a peculiar figure in the official garb of the Catholic Church. The party of Hindoes, seven in number, three of the family of Sahib Ali, and four of the family of Osman Ali, presented a picturesque spectacle in the barge office. The leader was dressed in a highly colored robed, embossed with suns and moons, and his long patriarchial beard gave him the aspect of an ancient seer.
When the bread and coffee were passed around, these
Hindoos refused to partake of it. Father Henry, pastor of the
The Hindoos referred
to had been excluded by the commissioner of immigration on account of their
being paupers and contract laborers.
They were under contract to go to
Early this morning Miss Irma Butler, the
The physicians from
In addition to the six patients taken direct to
the hospital, forty-seven persons were taken there this morning and left on the
dock at the foot of Esat Twenty-sixth Street for
transportation to Randall’s
Washington, D. C., June 15 – The destruction of
the immigration station on
Ellis Island is regarded by the officials as the
best and most available site for an immigrant station in the vicinity of