Hartford, CT Park Central Hotel Collapse and Fire, Feb 1889
The finding of Louis H. Bronson and his wife was attended with the most pathetic surroundings. The father of the unfortunate woman, Gen. Charles P. Graham of the Connecticut Guard, watched the men with the deepest interest. The officers of the National Guard were at his side and directed the work. When Bronson's body was lifted up the face was unrecognizable, being so badly bruised and disfigured. Mrs. Bronson's hair was matted with the mortar from the walls, and her face was shockingly crushed. Gen. Graham stooped down and touched the head with the utmost tenderness, saying, "It is her hair." He was also able to identify his daughter by the earrings she wore. Her left hand was charred, and the right one was clasped in a death grip. The two bodies were side by side in the ruins. Their only child, a girl of 6 years, was not found until dark. Mr. Bronson was the son of Willis S. Bronson of this city, one of the most noted Sunday school workers in the Baptist Church in New-England.
There is no doubt that the Rev. Dr. Perrin and wife are in the ruins. Dr. Perrin is one of the clerical members of the Yale Corporation and a distinguished Congregationalist. He is the Treasurer of the National Congregational Council and the analyst of the Connecticut Congregational churches. He was in the pastoral work at New-Britain and Torrington for years. His only son is Prof. Peonadotte Perrin of Western Reserve College.
Andrew F. Whiting, the actuary of the Hartford Life and Annuity Company, was a prominent Mason and was to have taken the degree of Knight Templar in Washington Commandery to-morrow evening. He belonged originally in Norwich, which was also the native place of Engler, the first victim recovered from the ruins.
Dwight H. Buell was a member of the Hartford Club and of the Veteran City Guard. He was prominent socially and unmarried. He had been in the jewelry business here for 25 years. He was expecting to leave for New-York this morning. His Sunday afternoon was passed with his sister, the wife of Major J. G. Rathburn, and he was in his rooms at 9 o'clock.
Max Galody, editor of the Hartford Herold, was in the hotel with his wife. Both perished in the ruins. Galody was a prominent German resident.
The night porter, George Gaines, was mangled terribly. He brought his wife and child here from the South two months ago, and was urged to remain at home with her last night, but could not leave his work.
The bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Bronson and child, Max Galody and wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Whiting were found in the basement near the front entrance to the hotel. The victims occupied some of the best suites of rooms in the house, and the three floors on which they were situated fell into the basement.
S. C. Pendleton of Indianapolis, who was here Friday during the session of the Legislature to obtain subscriptions for the Hendricks monument, was a guest at the hotel through Sunday. Senator E. S. Cleveland, who is assisting his work, saw him enter the house during the afternoon, and it was feared until this evening that he was lost. It has since been ascertained that he left for New-Haven last night and is safe.
As soon as possible after the work of rescue was fairly under way, an unsuccessful effort was made by the authorities to ascertain who had been in the hotel at the time of the crash. The registers and the other books had been either destroyed or buried many feet below in the cellar of the hotel. The proprietor, Mr. Ketchum, with his family were in the ruins. The night clerk was dead. The day clerk, Edward Murphy, left the hotel at 10 o'clock last night clerk was not aware how many persons had come to the house after that hour. At the time he ceased work there were 35 guests in the hotel, but there were many more, it is believed, who came into town by the midnight train and went to the Park Central because of its nearness to the station. Thus it is impossible to determine how many persons there were who were in the house or who suffered death. An accurate determination of this must be left to the time when the debris has been all cleared away.
At present the cause of the crash and the subsequent explosion is unexplained, though the engineer has been arrested and is now in jail. He did not succeed in obtaining bail. He refused to make any statement, save that he left the hotel at the usual time and that the fires were then properly banked. He declared that there were 60 pounds of steam on. He shut all the dampers of the furnace and then went to bed in the annex.
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