Mathews Court House, Mathews County, Virginia
- The Mathews Journal (Mathews Court House, Va.), June 14, 1906, p. 1, col. 3.
"Fatal Fire in a Big Tenement
Four Persons Are Known to Have Perished.
Several Brave Firemen Suffer.
The Building, in Which Two Hundred Persons Are Said to Have Lived, Was Quickly Enveloped in Flames, and Many Thrilling Rescues Were Made—Woman's Desperate Efforts to Save Her Baby.
New York (Special).—Four persons were killed and two severely injured in a daylight fire that swept a big tenement at 209 East Ninety-seventh Street. Death and destruction were worked in scant 20 minutes, and the firemen had the flames conquered almost as soon as they could stretch their hose.
The blaze started in the apartment of Angelo Pallidino, a real estate dealer, who lives on the first floor. Pallidino, according to the story that he later told the police, deals in bric-a-brac, as well as in land, and his rooms were stuffed with goods of the most inflammable sort. The doors and windows of the upper floors and the scuttle leading to the roof were open, and flames shot with frightful rapidity to the fifth and top story.
As three policemen, who had gone through the house, leaned over the airshaft between the two tenements they heard a cry for help, and saw a woman leaning from a window on the third floor of the burning building and attempting apparently to throw something across the airshaft to the window on the other side. Calling to the woman to hold out one more minute, the policemen hurried to the third floor and prepared to make a rescue across the shaft. It was a wee baby boy about 18 months old that the woman held in her arms, and she held it out with so much appeal in her face that the policemen stopped trying to form their bridge across the chasm, and Sackett, held by his companions, swung over the window sill in an attempt to rescue the child. Just as he held up his arms a gust of smoke and flame burst from the window in which the woman was standing. As she reeled back unconscious the child slipped from her grasp and fell to the bottom of the airshaft, three stories below.
Meanwhile the firemen had answered the alarm, and Vincent Cahill, of truck 31, had swarmed up the fire-escape in answer to the cries of the crowd that there were still several people in the burning building. A burst of smoke and flame struck Cahill full in the face as he leaped forward to enter the window. He lost consciousness and fell to the pavement. His skull was fractured and an arm and leg were broken. James Laugher, of engine 34, was struck by the same blast of flame while climbing a ladder and he tumbled into the street. He had several ribs fractured and was injured internally. Both men were hurried to the Harlem Hospital.
As soon as the streams had swept the flames from the stairways the firemen made their way to the various floors. On the third floor was found the woman who had been overcome with smoke while attempting to save her child. She was badly disfigured and none of the excited tenants could identify her. On the fourth floor, near the stairway, were found the bodies of two little girls about three years old. They, too, were badly scorched by the flames, and no one could say who they were. It seemed strange at first that no one could be found to identify the dead, but when Coroner Harburger, who arrived early at the fire, started an investigation that brought out the fact that over 200 persons had lived in the five-story tenement, it did not seem so strange that some of them should have been strangers or that a baby or two should have been overlooked in a hurried flight."
[Transcriber note: I can't find anyone in our database to correspond to the policeman named Sackett. There is an Alonzo Sackett, 25, living in New York in 1900 on East 91st Street, which would be fairly close to the location of this fire, but no one in the database matches his age, occupation (truck driver), or the names of his wife and children. An account of the fire in The Sun (New York), June 12, 1906, mentions "Policemen Battchmann, Kennedy and Sackett of the East 104th Street station house…."]
Website Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/). (Researched & transcribed by Jean Carpenter).