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New-York tribune. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, June 16, 1904, Image 1

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VOlV 01 - LXIV X° 2L032.
Possibly Seven Hundred Lives Lost by
Burning of the General Slocum.
The greatest steamboat disaster ever known in this city was the burning of the General
Slocum near North Brother Island yesterday morning. Of more than one thousand persons,
whom the steamboat was carrying on a Sunday school excursion of the St. Mark's Lutheran
Church, of Slxth-st., Manhattan, to Locust Grove, Long Island, only a few hundred were
saved. It was estimated, unofficially, last night that more than seven hundred perished, either
by burnint or drowning. They were mostly women and children.
Flames on the boat started in a room on the forward part of the freight deck about
jotBL, when the General Slocum was passing the Sunken Meadows, and spread with great
rapidity, engulfing the main deck and the hurricane deck. Captain Van Schaick ran the boat
two miles to the north shore of North Brother Island, where he made an attempt to
beach her.
Mary of the people of the steamboat went overboard on the run to North Brother Island.
Hundreds of women and children on the upper decks became insane with terror, having to
choose between death by the rapidly advancing flames and almost equally certain death
by jumping overboard. In the rush toward the stern of the boat the frantic people forced
others against the railings and stanchions cf the decks with such violence as to break them
down, crowding many overboard.
Before the shore of North Brother Island was reached hundreds had dropped from the
decks, and when the boat grounded nearly fifty feet frcm land hundreds moie threw them
selves off the decks. The rest of the people were burned to death on the steamboat.
Heroic work of rescue was performed by nurses and helpers on North Brother Island
sad by persons in half a dozen boats that got near the steamer while she was blazing at the
shore, and about three hundred people were saved and sent to hospitals.
Before the General Slocum burned to the water's edge she drifted away from the North
Brother Island shore and sank opposite Hunt's Point. Before her decks were covered with
water many burned corpses were in view.
Bodies were being recovered from the water near North Brother Island rapidly all the
afternoon. At 6 p. m. more than three hundred bodies had been carried out of the water
and stretched on the lawns. After being tagged for identification by the coroners, one hun
dred and thirty of the bodies were sent to the Morgue at Twenty-sixth-st. Some bodies
•ere carried from the wreck of the steamboat to Riker's Island, and thirty-seven bodies
which bad been taken to Manhattan earlier were at the police station in Alexander-aye. at
At i o'clock this morning there were four hundred and seventy-six bodies at North
Brother Island and two hundred and sixty-three at the city Morgue, making a total of
•even hundred and thirty-nine.
The exrlft and terrible destruction of human
Me In the burning of the General Slocum yes
***4*T morning created Intense excitement in
it* city and led to widespread expressions of
horror and sympathy. Many found In the fact
■'-■ nearly aJI of the victims of the disaster
•**• women and children additional cause for
It may be days before the exact number of the
victims la known. The estimates of the number
°* th» dead kept Increasing yesterday an the
Dumber of bodies recovered from the water in
cased. Last night It was estimated unofficially
taat more than 700 had perished by burning or
tnaulug, and that about 500 were mJs"in|f and
At midnight Coroner O'Gorman gave out a
•"•■"• tot. In which he said that there were 483
l-nofi-nl -nofi-n dead In the Blocum disaster. He said
*•* 421 bodies w,ere taken to North Brother
*«lao<J. 26 to Riker's Island and 37 to the Al^x
an<!«-r-avf.an<!«-r-avf. station. He said, also, that more
*•«•• had been sighted and would \>". brought
*■ through the night.
A t n,i<ii.igi,t Police Inspector Brooks said he
thought the death list would rearh nearly one
0* rTison .'or ihr- fr.v.nl of the riisaeter was
'•be panic which pr"vnt<-r! the use of the steam
•*• lifeboats or any considerable use of iha
jto-z^: igg^sraA-a^ z^^,.
3if> preservers on the boat. Hundreds of women
and children, panic stricken by the rapid spread
of the flames while the steamboat was running
two miles for a landing plar^, crowded other
hundreds overboard before life preservers OOUld
be adjusted.
When the steamboat General Slocum left her
pier, at Thlrd-st. and the East River, yesterday
morning, to carry an excursion crowd of the
Sunday school of St. Mark's Lutheran Church of
No. 32^ Slxth-st., near First-aye.. to Locust
Grove. Long Island. 98*2 tickets to the excursion
were taken up. As more than one child had
been admitted on a single ticket, however. In
many case?, there were known to be more than
1.000 members of the excursion aboard. There
were In addition twenty-three members of the
crew, about a dozen waiters and some musicians.
Captain William H. Van Rchalck. an experi
enced and oldtime excursion boat commander,
was in command of the General Slocum.
The steamboat stopped at Twenty-third-st. at
!t a. m. long enough to take aboard a few more
passengers. Moist of the women and children on
the boat were on the main deck and hurricane
dock, enjoying themselves under the kindly eye
Of their pastor, tfce Rev. George 05 F. Haas.
NEW-YORK. THURSDAY. JUNE 16. 1904. -SIXTEEN P Mfflßj-i. n WTr'ff'-r-
wh< n ■ ■ overtook Uwn. From th* sto
rlea of BurvH'ora the flrst sign of flre seems to
h.-tve been noticed as the vessel was passing
the Sunken Meadows, off One-hundr»d-and
t wenty aacond-at.
Accounts differ as to Just where the flre
"tart"'!, some declaring It had its origin In the
forces. on the main deck, while others, the
latter being In ih n majority, say It started In
the boiler room almost amidships. The origin
of the :.:■ ■ also a matter of uncertainty, it
v;,<; n.i ; . several men who were passengers
on the beet that ■ careless bootblack left some
oily :ags near a vessel filled with benzine or
oil. whether In the forecastle or boiler room
the) could not say, a . l that spontaneous com
bustion started the blaze that had men disas
trous results. Still another version was that ■
pan of grease boiled over in ■ kitchen of ■
lunchroom on the forward pan of the freight
deck and started the blase.
The flames spread with great rapidity. Some
of ihe .-ren- s;u<l after th** disaster thai they
tried tn gel water on the (lames, ;< n-l found th.it
the pumps would not work. Some of the sur
vivors saj thai the crew became demoralised
from the start, and did little except save them
selves. The panic spread as fasi as the flames.
Captain Van Schaick was In the pilol house
with Edward L. Van Wart, the pilot. He saj i
that its soon as he was apprised of the fa< :
that the boat was on fire be gave the signal to
the crew to report, to quarters and Bghl the
flames. The captain at first though) he mighl
beach his vessel on the Sunk.!. Meadows, where
the 111-fated Seawanhaka was destroyed by tlr.'
In 1880. He found, however, he says, thai the
wind was blowing In a direction that would
cause the fire to spread more r, U irkly If he at
tempted to reach the Meadows. He therefore
signalled the engineer to put on all steam, while
he headed the burning boat for .\orth Brother
Island, the nearest available place for running
her ashore.
The speed of the boal fanned the name?, send
ing them roaring along the lower deck, t'lou.lft
of smoke almost shut the upper .le, ks from view.
Hundreds of women and children on those decks
began to rush toward the stern* of the boat
They became insane with terror as the panic
increased. The crush force.! many helpless peo
ple against the railings r,f the decks with such
force that the stanchions were broken and tl>*
railings were swept away.
Then from the decks hundreds of women and
Children were swept into the water, some falling
on one another and sinking together to drown
before any help could reach them. Captain Van
Bchaick was keeping the whistle of the general
rflocum going to attract the attention of other
boats, and several boats within sight started
toward her at full speed. In the race some of
the boats picked up people In fhe water.
In the race for the burning steamer people on
the tugboat Easy Times saw two other boats
decline assistance. Captain Churchill says he
saw the ferryboat Bronx stop on her run to
North Beach long enough to allow the General
Slocum to pass her bow. and then continue on
her trip without attempting to save any of the
people wbo were falling overboard from the
steamboat. The ferryboat people, however,
deny this. A private yacht, the name of which
was not discerned, drew out of the waj of tba
Loss of Life by General Slocum Disaster.
About 700: Injured and Missing,
About 300.
Explosion en Staten Island ferryboat WpstCeld
on July 30, 1871; fifty persons killed and hun
dreds injured.
The Atlantic, of the White Snr line, wrecked
near Halifax on April i, 1873; five hundrod and
sixty people lost.
The Ville de Havre, a French mail steam?r,
sunk on November 22, 1873, by tho Lnchearn;
three hundred and thirteen persons 1
The excursion steamer Princtsa Alire, returning
from Gravesend to London en September 3, 1898,
was run down off Barking by the By-well Castle;
about six hundied persons lost.
Burning of steamboat. Seawaahaki on June 28,
1880; one hundred and seventy-five peijorts
drowned and burned.
Sinking of the ste.ime Elbe on January 30,
1895; three hundred ar.d thirty persons lost ■
La Bourgogne sunk on July 2, 180^; fi v e hun
dred and seventy-one lost.
Burning of tke Saalc, the Brerr^n aa
Main, of the North German Lloyd line, on June
30, 1900; more thin one hundred live
Iroquois Thcaire fire, December 30, 1903; five
hundred and eighty-seven lues lost.
burning steamboat and lowered n laui h Two
men j^t into t ' from tl rachl
stead of making for Ihe General Slocum, how
ever, Ihe la hi cli carried t hi to the Bronx
sh.pif. while the yachl continued on her way
to the Sound.
Mosl of t!i.> boats v, hi. I ■ .\ ork
or rescue could not gel near the (Sen ral Slocum
until she ran aground off tl )i — •■ of
North Brother Island. Among the b ats thai
hurried to th- succor "f the stricken passengers
were several tur:? ■ ' the New-York Central U-ii'
road Company, the Health Departmeni tug
Franklin Edson, and the Charities Department
boat Massasolt. These and several rowboats
manned by willing hands approached as near
the biasing steamboat as was possible and
res<ue»l scores of people. Mosl of these were
picked out of th-^ water .-•.fter they had dropped
over the side of the General Slocum. The
Franklin Bdaon went up so Hose to the burning
steamer that her own paint was scorched. The
crew of the. tux. however, stuck bravely to
their tn?k. ano" snatched many women and
children from a terrible death.
A strong flood tM« was riiiininir when th*
General Slocum went aground OSI some rocks
nearly one hundred fed from the shore of North
Brother Island. As sho struck the rocks her
hurricane deck, on which niiiny of the panic
stricken women and children were clltici-isr, sud
denly caved ir. precipitating Its human freight
either into the blazing hold or into the water.
The water around the flaming vessel was thick
with drowning people, and. notwithstanding the
almost superhuman efforts made by the res
cuers, a large number of the perishing people
had to be left to Ihelr fate. Many of those who
jumped into the water or were precipitated over
the side of the vessel when the hurricane deck
collapsed were on flre from head t.« foot, and
they escaped one form of death only to meet
another more merciful.
A man who is serving a two months' term
on Blackwell's Island for some petty ofT-nee,
and who was detailed as a "trust j" on tha
Charities Department boat Massaaoit. proved
that he haJ good stuff in him when the emer
gency arose. He was George Dennis, and when
he saw people struggling In the water aroand
the burning boat he Jumped overboard aid
saved a woman's Ufe. The with hu clothing
soaking wet. he returned to h;3 work on th~
Stassasott Hla bravery will be called to the
attention of the proper authorities, and it is
probable thai be win be restored to Unity as
a reward.
Mary McCann. a buxom young Irish gir'.
seventeen years old. vho has not been lons i:»
this country, and who la working as a ward
helper on North Brother Island, also distin
guished herself in the work of rescue. With
more thru- a score of nurats she ran to the
water's edge, near the stranded vessel, and
plunsli ■■ ■■ swam to t'ne stern •( the boat and
brought t'> shore n woman whom she found
clini;ii!< to the rudder. She •vanned three or
four times, mm* time rescuing aome ■on,
Remarkable was the heroism of Mrs. Allen, a
workwoman employe.! on North Brother [stand,
w h--> leaped from the !'!•■»• an>i rescue.! two
women who were straggling in the water. .\n
other woman rescaer « is Paulina Puetz. a
waJtrera employed ea North Brother Island, At
the risk of her life she saved five children from
drowning. Mips Pueta mads .m enrftabte record
at Asbury Park is a life saver.
Miss Lulu MeGtbbon, a telephone operator on
the island, after telephoning the Ponce Depart
ment for assistance, ran to the beach and help--.l
in the wort! of rescue and iswiilliitlmi Among
the?-- she •!:aK?T" | i from th« water alive were
two Infants three and :-i.\ months old, respec
tively. . i
Twenty-four nurses >>n duty in the hospitals
on the Island >Hi credttabls work, under the
leadership of Mrs. K. U White, the matron.
These women waded into the river up to their
necks, and each one of them saved from four to
six live Then, with thetr clothins: dripping
wet, and In spite Ol a i ''.illy \vin«l that was
sweeping across the land, they went to work
to resuscitate the half-drowned passengers or to
assist the doctors In attending to the wounded.
rite Sreboat Sophar Mills. responding to a
call, Stopped long enough at the One-hundred
and-thirty-eiKhth-st. dock to take aboard a
squad of police and an engine company, and she
reached the burning steamboat soon after las
General si«. urn was aground. Most of th.- police
men and Bremen promptly Jumped overboard
and began rescuing people from the water. Sev
eral bodies they took oat were lifeless.
Physii lans, nurses and helpers had run from
the pavilion! on the Island, deserting for the
time the patients suiTering from contagious dis
eases, to join in the work of rescue. Several of
the women nurses helped save lives by running
ladders down into the water from ■ stone pier.
Many acts of bravery and self-sacrifice
were recorded. One girl, scarcely more than a
child, reamed a baby. The heroine was Louise
bailing, twelve years old, of Xutley, .N. J. She
had gone on the excursion with Mrs. OcrtrodJa
Brkttngti and i" the excitement following the
discovery had become separated from Mrs. Krk
ling and left with the latter's two-year-old baby
in her arms on the hurricane deck. The little
girl did not lose her presence of mind, notwith
standing the tearful scenes that were being en
acted before her. S"he managed to get posses
sion of a life-preserver, which, unaided, she ad-
Justed about her body; then, with the baby In
her arms, she went to the extreme end of the
I oul limed cv *n uii'l pig*.
Pa.«tor of St. Kara's LuUn
Cook Sana It Started in a Wwitt
( loset.
Captain w. H. Van Scttalrk, who. haa asea In
command of the Osuwal Slccum ever since ffes
was bonched, m 1801, and .«i* other msmhen ol
th- i r-'iv were take'] ro the Le'.Kinou BsapttsL
("apt.; Van Senates, and Ins ttrsi and sseond
pOota. Edward Van Wart and F.. M. Weave..
were under arres*. Among the others taken lo
the Lebanon Ho?pitnl were several deckhand
ami the i ook, Henry •*ann»ld, ■ strapping
Southern negro, who said he had been on the
boat for several seasons.
Captain Van Schalck was sufferin?r from a
fractured !■ %. conrasSoas of the head and '•
s'i'^'ht bsrn. Th«» fracture wns a result of h '.-
Jump from the pilot house after the boat was
beached. T ■ a Tribane reporter, who saw him
fi->r a moiaeni be floss he was removed to a pri
vate room, he said there a ••-■-> m passenger?,
besides th-» crew of twenty-three men. He was
pulled from the water by the heroic women on
North Brother Island, he said. Before be" ,'
taken to the hospital he made the following
statemenr regarding th«» disaster at the Alex
ander-aye. station, where he had been detained
for the coroner.
The S'.icuni left the foot of East Twoaty
third-st. at '.>■.•> o'clock this morning. Ther<»
bad been collected or board MB tickets. The
boat passed slowly up the river, through Hell
Gate and over toward Sunken Meadows, whsrs
the twanhaka was burned in 18801 When close
to the meadows an alarm of tire was given. At
that time l was In the pilot house. l jumped
down to the .l#ck and gave immediate orders for
righting the fire. The <lro drill was sounde«l.
and the crew of the boat, numbering: twenty
three men. worked like nailers to get water OB
that part of the boat which was burning.
The fire was under the forward boilers on th*
port side, as I made it out in the excitement.
My men were exerting their efforts toward keep
ing the passengers from .Jumping. The fire was
gaining rvevj Instant, and the erlss of people
suffering from burnhsg to death could be heanl
above even other discordant sound. l got th<*
boat under way direct for North Brother Island.
which was the safest place to attempt to land.
The boat was driven on under full speed, ar<t
puir-.l up sideways to the shore of th« island.
Many had Jumped prior to this. Many were
Jumping every Instant. Mv pilots. Edward Vai
Wart and Edward M. Weaver, were doing
everything t.« get safely toward shore, arvl
Engineer B. ¥ ConhMn stuck in the hold. Mnf«
Edward Fl.miiiirui had charge of the Bre
brigade', but when the ri; spread over all >\«
had to -■ t off the boat. My bat was burning
when i jumped, and l was pulled nut of the
water and hauled up «>n ss l !or»» under .x ire" bs»
fore I rfmei;:i-i- what had happened.
Canfiehl. the cook, had ■ theory as to th-i
erlgn „f the flrt> J ' e lid '•' ■ Tribune re
porte; :
The first I knew alx>ut the fire was when the
lK>at was opposite North Brofner Island. (
heard two bells sod s Jingle, and I knew that
meant there was •'somelhln" ■loin," for that
means back water pow'ful hard. 1 ran up ami
saw there was a fire, and shouted, "Boys, come
up'" I put on a life preserver and jumper! over
board. 1 can swim, so when a lot of people cm
hold "■ my preserver I unfastened it and helped
them into a boat that came along. One woman
—a handsome one she was said. "If you suvm
my life you won't have to uk the remaindah
Of yo' life." l.l like to helped her. but L
couldn't. I don't know where she is. Whcr»
did the tire start? I think it Started in tha
porter's closet, wheah they keeps the waabl aid
oil. That's a little room down below. I havn
been in it. and I don't think it was lined with
zin. as it ought to have been.
The fire, it Ls said by V. illiam Trembly. &
deckhand on the Slwum. undoubtedly was
caused by the spontaneous combustion of oil andi
ran* in the forward part of the .hold. \vbfr-»
oil was stored. The first thing known of the «i »
was when It burst out in great fury, aided by a
When Old Wine or Grape Juice are nee."
H. T. Dewey & Sons CO., 138 Fulton-3t.. N. — ■

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