Waterbury, CT Judd House Fire, Feb 1833
At two o’clock on the morning of February 25, 1833, occurred one of the saddest tragedies found in the chronicles of Waterbury. The Judd house on West Main street caught fire, probably from the funnel of a cooking-stove, and amidst a wild snowstorm was burned to the ground. Of the nine occupants of the house six escaped, while two children and a young man thirty-one years of age, perished in the flames.
At the time of the discovery of the fire by Mrs. Israel Holmes, flames were bursting from the front windows of the house. She had barely time to seized her two youngest children (Latimer, a boy of nine months, and Eliza, a year or two older), and make her way in safety from the burning building. Olive and Hannah Judd, who were daughters of the well-known Captain Samuel Judd and aunts of Mr. Homes, having sleeping-rooms on the ground floor, also escaped unharmed. On the floor above slept Miss Harriet Nichols, also John N. Tuttle, the young man already mentioned, and Mr. Holmes’s two elder children, Harriet, aged seven, and Margaret, aged five. Hearing the alarm given, Tuttle called to Miss Nichols to escape through the window, and then fought his way amid the flames to the room of the sleeping children, where in the heroic attempt to save their lives he lost his own. When the bereaved father returned on the morrow from a journey, he found his stricken wife mourning beside the smoking ashes of their desolated home.*
*The sermon preached at the funeral of the victims of this fire was published in a pamphlet of twenty-four pages, with the following title: “Chance and its Design. A discourse delivered a the Interment of the Remains of John Nelson Tuttle and Hannah Ardelia and Olive Margaret Holmes, By Joel R. Arnold, Pastor of the First Church of Christ in Waterbury, Conn. New Haven: Printed by Baldwin and Ellis, 1833.” An appendix, pp. 22-24, gives an account of the fire, and adds: “The parents of the children have great satisfaction and consolation in the character of their oldest daughter, having reason to hope that she was interested in that religion by which they have themselves been sustained in this severe affliction. The hope is cherished by those who best knew Hannah, that she was the subject of renewing grace when about five years of age.” From an article by Charles U. C. Burton in The National Magazine for October, 1857, pp. 290, 291, we learn that “the citizens of Waterbury erected a monument upon the spot where the three victims were interred in the old burial ground.” Mr. Burton says further: “An old elm which stood nearly in front of the house, and had extended its shadows over the heroes of the Revolution, struggled manfully for life after the fire, notwithstanding its seared condition. Although it presented on one side only a charred trunk, it continued to send forth fresh branches and verdure; but within the last two or three years the old tree has disappeared, and with it the last vestige of the old Judd place.”
The town and city of Waterbury, Connecticut : from the aboriginal period to the year eighteen hundred and ninety-five, pages 111-112