Belleville, IL Terrible Convent Fire, Jan 1884
TERRIBLE HOLOCAUST AT BELLEVILLE, ILLINOIS, IN WHICH A TERRIBLE PANIC ENSUED.
A CONVENT DESTROYED, 27 INMATES BURNED, AND OTHERS SERIOUSLY INJURED.
A SEARCH BEING MADE FOR THE BODIES -- A SKETCH OF THE SISTER SUPERIOR.
St. Louis, Jan. 5, 12 p.m. -- A telephone message from Belleville confirms the report of the burning of the convent. The entire structure burned.
Five inmates jumped from a fifth-story window.
One was killed, and four were injured so that they will probably die.
A later message from Belleville says there were seventy people in the building.
Five of the sisters and twenty pupils are missing, and are supposed to be in the ruins.
The wildest panic ensued on the first alarm, and ten or fifteen were injured in the rush.
All the inmates were in bed, and those who escaped had only their night clothes on, and with the thermometer 21 degrees below zero are suffering from cold terribly.
Belleville, Ill., Jan. 6. -- The fire at the Convent of Notre Dame last night was the most destructive of life and property Belleville has ever experienced. When the ruins were sufficiently cooled a volunteer corps of men went to work bringing out the bodies. It was a terrible sight. At times the searchers would find two or three charred masses huddled close together, seemingly seeking protection in one another from the advancing and terrible flames. Two bodies were found in the rear part of the building, burned into an unrecognized mass; but the majority were found beneath where the dormitory was situated. They seemed to have sought shelter in this room, but too late.
SCENE AT THE FIRE.
The scene at the fire was one of the wildest excitement and terror. The streets in the vicinity were thronged with people anxious to be of service, but owing to the rapid spread of the flames were helpless to render aid, while the terror-stricken parents rushed frantically around searching for their missing children and wailing over their supposed loss. The fire department was of little avail against the mad rush of the surging flames, and in an hour the entire building was a mass of ruins.
The loss of life is much greater than mentioned in last night's dispatch. Instead of being two, as first supposed, the total number of known deaths is twenty-seven, twenty-two of whom are pupils, and five sisters. Among the latter is the Sister Superior.
ORIGIN OF THE FIRE.
The fire had its origin at the furnace in the basement, and when discovered the floor immediately above was ablaze and volumes of smoke were rapidly pouring through the stairways, corridors and halls of the building. By the time the sleepers were thoroughly aroused, all avenues of escape were filled with blinding smoke. The extreme cold retarded the work of the firemen, and even if they could have reached the scene without delay, they could have been but little service in rescuing the victims. There are no ladders in the fire department and no provision for such a deplorable emergency had been made by the managers of the institution.
A panic seized both children and sisters, and there was a wild, confused rush to escape. Forty or more pupils are known to have got out or were taken from the building and given shelter in neighboring houses. At 4 p.m. there had been eleven bodies recovered from the ruins, and sisters and friends of the unfortunates had succeeded in identifying the following:
MISS SUSIE WEIMAR, St. Louis.
MISS GERTRUDE STRUNCK, Germany.
MISS MARY MANNING.
MISS VIRGIE HEINZELMAN.
MISS LIZZIE ISCH, Centerville Station, Ill.
MISS MAMIE PULSE, Columbia, Ill.
MISS MINNIE BAILEY, Belleville.
MISS MARTHA MAUNTELL, Carondelet, Mo.
MISS MARY BARTELLS, Missouri.
MISS AGNES SCALING, St. Louis.
MISS JOSEPHINE PLOUDRE, daughter of County Commissioner Ploudre, Centerville Station, Ill.
MISS LOTTIE PIERSON, St. Louis.
MISS LAURA THOMPSON, Chester, Ill.
MISS DELPHI SCHLERNEZAUER, Belleville.
MISS MARIE BIEN, Belleville.
MISS HILDA HAMMEL, Trenton, Ill.
MISS KATIE URBANA, Vandalia.
MISS AMELIA LEONARD, Trenton, Ill.
SISTER SUPERIOR MARY JEROME.
MISS MARY CAMPBELL, teacher, East St. Louis.
MISS L. LUNTT.
The missing are:
EMMA STARK, Carbondale, Ill.
MAMIE SCALING, St. Louis.
VIRGINIA HEINZELMAN, Belleville.
MARY MANNING, St. Louis.
Several, in their fright, jumped from the windows, and were either killed or badly injured.
MISS MARY CAMPBELL, teacher, of East St. Louis, leaped from the third story and died a few minutes later.
Another, name not ascertained, climbed to the roof of the portico and either fell or was blown off and fatally injured.
DAISY EBERMAN, residence four miles from Belleville, severe contusion.
MISS AGNES SCHNEIDER, Mascoutah, bruised.
MISS LOUISA MATE, East St. Louis, spinal injuries and cut scalp.
FANNY RENKER, Washington, Mo.
DENA HORN, were seriously but not fatally injured.
SISTER REPEARTO, compound fracture of right leg, amputation probable.
SISTER MANESSA, fracture of right leg.
SISTER STYLITES, of Louisville, back injured, cannot recover.
MISS FANNIE BRINKER, broken foot.
SISTER PASCHALIS, injured back and broken wrist.
Fifteen to twenty smaller pupils were also injured.
List of the Saved.
The following is a list of the saved:
On this floor also were the following candidates for the veil, who escaped:
MISS (ELLEN) GRETCHEN.
The building and furnishings were valued at from $65,000 to $75,000. Insured for $25,000.
Oshkosh Daily News Wisconsin 1884-01-07