Dunning, IL Hospital Fire, Feb 1912


Emergency Hospital at Dunning Ill., is Destroyed.


Steward of Institution Struggles for Life With Crazy Man 75 feet in Air--Police Stops Scores From Suicide.

Chicago. -- Hundreds of men and women, insane and tubercular patients of the Dunning (Ill.) institute for the insane, were driven screaming from their rooms when the infirmary building known as the old poorhouse, was destroyed by fire.

The 270 inmates of the building were, in spite of their infirmities of mind and body, with one exception, taken to places of safety in the other buildings.

The fire was characterized by almost innumerable act of heroism on the part of underemployed (sic) and attendants.

One man was leading a group of patients across the bridge leading from the main structure to a wing that had not been attacked by the fire when two of their number tried to run back into the flames. Thomas Edgar, attendant in charge, ran after them, seized both and endeavored to drag them back to safety.

The two patients turned on him and struck, bit and kicked him in an effort to drive him away. Failing in this they tried to throw him over the high railing and down to the ground, 50 feet below.

They had succeeded in pushing him to the top of the railing when he broke from their grasp, knocked down one of the men and forced the other into the wing in which he was caring for his quota of patients. Then he carried in the other man, still kicking and biting.

The entire population of the Dunning group of institutions was slightly more than 2,700 patients and 435 attendants. With the exception of Mrs.
Mary Leagh, fifty years old, mildly insane, every one of these 3,135 men and women are accounted for.

Many of the patients fought with all the fury of insanity when the attendants or others sought to rescue them.

When some of the patients saw the flames and heard the clanging of the bells on the arriving fire engines they began to fight.

Like horses, for which flames appear to have mad fascination, some of them started to run in the direction of the fire, while others rushed to windows and tried to leap out.

The police, with drawn clubs helped to form lines of the patients and to keep the violent from committing suicide or injuring those who were trying to save them.

Many policemen, firemen and attendants, both men and women, bore deep scratches and bruises as mute witnesses of the terrific struggle they had.

The Nashua Reporter, Nashua, IA 1 Feb 1912