Benton Harbor, MI Yore's Opera House Fire, Sep 1896
ELEVEN FIREMEN KILLED.
CRUSHED BY THE WALLS OF YORE'S OPERA HOUSE.
A FIRE AT BENTON HARBOR, MICH., WHICH RESULTED IN A GREAT LOSS OF LIFE -- THE WALLS OF THE BUILDING FALL AS THE FIREMEN WERE AT WORK --FIFTEEN OF THEM BURIED BENEATH THEM, AND ONLY FOUR RESCUED WITH THEIR LIVES.
Benton Harbor, Mich., Sept. 6. -- Yore's Opera House and adjoining buildings were burned early this morning, causing the death of eleven firemen and injury to a number of others and entailing a loss of about $65,000.
The killed are:
EDWARD H. GANGE, married, St. Joseph.
ARTHUR C. HILL, married, St. Joseph.
LOUIS HOFFMAN, single, Benton Harbor.
JOHN HOFFMAN, married, Benton Harbor.
THOMAS KIDD, single, Benton Harbor.
WILL MATTEN, married, Benton Harbor.
SCOTT RICE, single, Benton Harbor.
ROBERT ROLFE, single, St. Joseph.
FRANK SEAVER, married, St. Joseph.
FRANK WATSON, married, St. Joseph.
FRANK WOODLEY, married, Benton Harbot.
The seriously injured are:
Ex-Fire Chief JOHN A. CRAWFORD, Benton Harbor; burned and overcome by heat and smoke.
WILLIAM FREUND, St. Joseph; cut about the head and burned.
JACK McCORMICK, Benton Harbor; legs broken and internally injured.
FRANK PAGET, St. Joseph; legs mashed by falling brick.
Several others were injured by falling walls, but will recover.
Shortly after midnight YORE'S Opera House, a large four-story brick structure, was discovered to be on fire. It had gained much headway before the alarm was given, and when the city firemen arrived the building was a mass of flames. The St. Joseph departments were sent for and arrived soon after. The fire continued to gain and was spreading to other buildings when the hook and ladder companies went to the rear of the building, hoping to be able to direct a stream into the mass of flames from a second-story window.
Hardly had they arrived there when the wall with a mighty crash came down upon them, burying fifteen men under the red-hot bricks. Other portions of the wall were wavering, and the rescue of the imprisoned firemen was deterred some time, as it was expected every moment the remainder of the wall would fall. Finally some of the crowd rushed into the mass to rescue the shrieking and struggling men. FRANK WATSON of St. Joseph was the first man reached, but he was dead and his body was a mass of broken bones and mangled flesh.
The search continued until 5 o'clock, when the last victim, ARTHUR HILL, was removed. They were carried to offices and private houses, where doctors from both cities were in waiting to render aid. Some of them died en route, and others while being cared for. The dead were taken to the City Hall, which was turned into a temporary morgue.
Some of the men were so badly mangled that identity was only had by letters and papers in their pockets.
After the falling of the rear wall the roof and other walls soon collapsed, one of the side walls falling upon a two-story brick building owned by WILLIAM FRICK, completely demolishing it and its contents. The fire had not been confined alone to the Opera House, but had crept across the alley, and soon the rears of the two-story buildings were aflame. The fire, however, was gotten under control before it reached the main part of the buildings.
The loss to PATRICK YORE on the Opera House Block is $40,000; insurance, $19,000. WILLIAM FRICK, brick block and stock of shoes, $10,000; Evening News plant, $3,000; J. A. SIMON, scenery in opera house, $500; S. M. AUSTIN, building and grocery stock, $2,000; D. HUNT, building and grocery stock, $1,000.
The origin of the fire is unknown, but GUY PRESCOTT, who stated today that he knew how the fire started but was not going to give any one away, was arrested. The wardrobe of the KATIE PUTNAM company, which gave a performance for the benefit of the firemen in the evening, was burned. The two cities, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, are draped in mourning in honor of their dead. The funerals will be held together Tuesday.
The New York Times New York 1896-09-07