New Haven, CT Steamboat GLEN ISLAND Fire, Dec 1904 - Nine Lives Lost


The Glen Island Goes as the Slocum Did.


Dynamos, Supposed Cause of Fire on Converted Excursion Boat, Not Examined---Crew of Heroes---Twenty-two Saved.

While the Starin Line steamboat Glen Island, whose regular business in Summer was to carry throngs of women and children from this city on the excursion route to Glen Island, was on her way up the Sound to New Haven just after midnight yesterday morning a fire started below decks. Just as the flames ate up the General Slocum last June, the fire spread through an inflammable cargo and the flimsy, tinder double-deck superstructure of the Glen Island until, within five short minutes, nine persons had been burned to death.

Twenty-two others aboard made their escape by the narrowest of margins almost without clothing.

Seven of those who perished belonged to the crew---an engineer, four firemen, and two deckhands, who were below. The two others were passengers. In a brave effort to save one of these, a woman, one of the firemen lost his own life. The name of the other passenger, a man, is not known.

The dead are:

SILKEN, Mrs. ROSA, 66 years old, 206 Hamilton Street, New Haven.

HENDRICKSON, W. E., assistant engineer.

BUSH, FRANK, fireman.

BURKE, JOHN, fireman

BURKE, JOHN, fireman.

OLAFSON, OTTO, fireman.

MILLER, NEWMAN, fireman.

BURNS, PETER, deckhand.

BERG, OTTO, deckhand.


At the time of the fire the Glen Island was about three miles this side of Greenwich, and was near the Connecticut shore. In other words, she was midway between Execution Light and Captain's Island.

As nearly as can be ascertained the fire started about midships below, and was caused by the crossing of electric wires. When Supervising Inspector Capt. Harris was asked later about the condition of the Glen Island it developed that the records did not show that dynamos or wiring for electric lights ever had been inspected by Government officials.

"If they were tested," said Capt. Harris, "probably no on but the underwriters have ever done so."

He added:

No Electrical Inspection.

"The local boards of Inspectors in the steamboat service do not inspect electrical equipment on any vessels. There has been no occasion to do so, and the Government has had no electricians members of the boards capable of doing it. We do not even make a record whether a boat is wired for incandescent electric lights, whether it has a dynamo or whether there is a motor aboard, and in fact the electrical plant of a ship is entirely ignored by the Government."

The inspector advised that electricians be appointed to the board at once and the inspection of electrical installations be made rigid and frequent.

There were only ten passengers on the Glen Island when she left Pier 13, North River, on Friday night, on her trip to New Haven. There was much ice floating about the river and in the Sound, and for that reason the boat proceeded leisurely. She passed safely through Hell Gate at about 10 o'clock, and shortly after that all of the passengers and all the crew, save those on duty, turned in.

The boat passed Execution Light an hour later, and it was just about midnight, when she was about two miles off the Connecticut shore, and when Pilot Thomas McMullin and Quartermaster John O'Brien were in the pilothouse, that suddenly the electric lights went out. O'Brien, who was steering, kept at the wheel, but two minutes later it blocked. The pilot and the quartermaster both were working frantically at the wheel when a moment later the fire alarm bell in the pilothouse began to ring.

McMullin dashed out to see what the trouble was and he was met by a cloud of smoke rolling through the upper saloon. There he met Capt. Charles E. MacAllister and Mate Larsen, who had been in their rooms, calling the crew to quarters for fire drill. The Captain was clad only in trousers and overcoat.

Tinder for Flames.

The flames already had reached the cargo, in which there was much flimsy Christmasware in boxes, and in a minute the heat and smoke were suffocating. The Captain saw at once that there was no chance to save his boat, and little time to save the passengers, so under his orders gongs everywhere were set a-ringing to wake the passengers, and lifeboats were unshipped with all dispatch. The first passenger to appear was Arthur W. Wallace, a son of R. Wallace of R. Wallace & Co., the silver manufacturers of Wallingford, Conn. Mr. Wallace had been in New Orleans for his health, and was on his way home. He took his place with the crew and obeyed orders with them.

Nathan Dubin of 252 Cedar Street, New Haven, and Max Levin of 234 Monroe Street, New York, occupied adjoining staterooms, and in the hurry and darkness put on such articles of each other's clothing as came nearest. Levin got Dubin's stockings, and Dubin, who emerged stockingless had on on Levin's coat.

Among the women were Miss Emeline Street, a Vassar girl, and her sister Grace, who had been shopping in New York and who were going back to New Haven with their mother and father, Frank B. Street, who is the junior partner in the wholesale grocery firm of James D. Dewal & Co. With the exception of Mrs. Silken, the Streets and Mrs. Samuel Duke of 113 West One Hundred and Thirty-fourth Street were the only women passengers aboard. They had time enough only to throw coats over their night robes. Then Mr. Street and a deckhand led them through the smoke up to the deck.