New Haven, CT Steamboat GLEN ISLAND Fire, Dec 1904 - Nine Lives Lost
Panicky Man Felled.
The boats had just been launched. "Women first" had been Capt. MacAllister's order, and the crew had formed in line to pass one of the girls down, when a terror-stricken man rushed up and tried to get down first. One of the crew struck him a blow in the face that sent him reeling backward, and the women were handed down rapidly into the first boat.
Mrs. Silken had come out of her stateroom and Stewardess Sarah Smoot was showing her the way to the deck when Mrs. Silken remembered that she had left her money in the room and she dashed back after it. When the second lifeboat was filling up and the woman had not reappeared, Fireman Newman Miller went below to look for her. The whole boat was a roaring furnace by that time, and both fireman and passenger perished. O'Brien remained at the wheel until the flames began to lick up around the pilot house. Assistant Engineer Hendrickson was burned at his post in the engine room.
When the two boats at last pushed off the Glen Island was a blazing mass. Those members of the Larchmont Yacht Club who happened to be at the clubhouse had an unobstructed view of the brilliant spectacle, and in the clear night the lurid sight was easily seen at Bayside across the Sound. Both on the Connecticut and Long Island shores hundreds gathered to watch the burning steamboat and wonder which of the Sound's night fleet it might be. No whistles of distress sounded.
One Lifeboat Leaked.
In the first of the Glen Island's lifeboats were seven persons and in the second fifteen. Hardly had the first boat one of the plugs in the bottom was out, and that the water was pouring in. Men used their hats to bail out, but the water kept gaining. Dubin tore a collar out of Levin's coat and tried to cork up the hole, and still the water gained. Dubin took his handkerchief and with succeeded in stopping up the plug hole. Then it was possible to bail out the boat.
The scantily clad company huddled together to keep warm, and all overcoats in the first boat were wrapped around women, who shivered in the bitter wind. Both boats rowed out about a cable's length from the burning Glen Island in the hope that passing vessels would be attracted by the flames. Meanwhile they looked carefully for anybody who might be swimming.
It was not long before the tug Bully, bound east with a tow, hove in sight. Casting off her tow, the Bully steamed over to the blaze and found the lifeboats. All in those boats were taken aboard and carried down into the engine room to get warm. A negress who was employed on the Glen Island, and who came away in her night dress, obtained an overcoat and a pair of trousers from one of the tug's crew, and the half-frozen woman was only too glad to get into the garments.
Modest Tug Skipper.
In the hope of meeting the Erastus Corning, another Starin Line steamboat, which was on her way from New Haven to New York, the Bully drifted about until 1:30 o'clock, when the Corning appeared. Capt. MacAllister, as a precaution had brought the Glen Island's stern lights along with him, and with these he signaled the westbound Starin boat, which ran alongside the tug and took aboard the lifeboat company. Capt. MacAllister and Capt. Hubbard of the Corning were profuse in their thanks to the Bully's Captain, who, however, could not see that he had done anything unusual, and even declined to give his name.
The Glen Island in the meantime, had drifted aground on Captain's Island, where she burned to the water's edge.
The wreck later drifted ashore off Glen Cove, L. I., near the Dana estate. At a late hour last night none of the bodies had been brought ashore at Glen Cove, and only a couple of oyster boats were standing by the wreck. It was reported that the Merritt-Chapman Wrecking Company would start to-day to dismantle the boat. At high tide little but the smokestack and whistle of the boat could be seen.
The passengers and members of the crew who escaped reached Pier 13 North River at 6 o'clock yesterday morning, and immediately hurried to get food and sleep and to replenish their wardrobes.
The passengers without exception were loud in their praises of the coolness and bravery of the crew. "The crew," said Arthur Wallace, "behaved splendidly through it all." "All of us, I am sure," said Mrs. Duke, "appreciate the heroic conduct of the Captain and crew of the Glen Island, who did all in their power for us."
Vassar Girl's Story
Miss Emeline Street had come down from college to meet her mother and sister Grace, who attends the New Haven High School here, to do some Christmas shopping. Her sister Bertha also was in New York, and intended to go back, too, on the Glen Island, but decided at the last minute to remain. Of her experience the Vassar girl says:
"We were in our rooms, when my father awakened us by saying that there was an accident on board, but for us not to get frightened, but to hurry and come to the saloon. I was in my nightdress, but slipped a raincoat over it, and went out in my bare feet. My sister and mother did the same.
"We had hardly gotten into the saloon when the lights went out and the cries of 'Fire!' and the excitement began. We groped our way to the deck, and the deck was certainly cold on our feet, but father kept us together, and we got into the boats. I got separated from the rest of my family in getting into the boat, but when we were leaving the boat I was not worried, as I knew we were all saved. When the boats got near enough together to make it possible the sailors passed me into the other boat so that we could be all together and not get separated by the boats possibly drifting apart.
Santa Claus Cheated.
"We go on the Corning after the adventures which you know, and came to New York, which we had left. I had come here with my family to buy a number of little presents for Christmas gifts to my girl classmates and other friends and they are all lost. I guess now I will have to look for more clothes instead of gifts, but hope to get some more before I return."
The Glen Island was a sidewheel steamboat, and was built in Philadelphia twenty-four years ago. In her career she had been called the City of Richmond and the William G. Egerton, and her name became Glen Island when the Starin Line began to use her as an excursion boat between this city and Glen Island. She was 238 feet long, 35 feet beam, 12.2 feet in depth, and her gross tonnage was 614. She was running temporarily on the New Haven route in place of the John H. Starin, which is undergoing repairs.
Dynamos Held Responsible.
The belief that the fire originated in the dynamos is due to the fact that the sudden extinguishing of the lights all over the boat was the first indication that there was anything wrong. Moreover, those who saw the first of the blaze say it came from that section of the boat where the dynamos were.
Additional inquiry at the office of the United States Steamboat Inspectors elicited the fact that the Glen Island was last inspected on May 25, 1904, or less than a month before the Slucum[sic] disaster. After the burning of the Slocum, Supervising Inspector Ira Harris said, the boat was supposed to have been reinspected, but a careful search of his office, he added, failed to reveal any record of such a reinspection.
As to the statement of one of the passengers to the effect that a plug was missing in one of the boats, Capt. Harris said that all plugs are in place when boats are inspected. The steamboat men, he said, take the plugs out themselves, because in spite of tarpaulin covers rain leaks into the boat, and the removal of the plug does away with the necessity of bailing. Because of this practice the plugs frequently are lost, particularly in times of hurry and excitement, when, of course, the plugs are most needed.
2,017 Life Preservers.
The Glen Island carried 2,017 life preservers, three metal lifeboats, three wooden lifeboats, and three life rafts. She had two fire pumps, 100 feet each of 2Â½ and 1Â½ inch hose. She also was equipped with an antiquated fire-fighting apparatus, six water barrels, three water tanks, and eight axes.
The certificate of inspection was issued to run until May 25, 1905, and was signed by Inspectors Dumont and Barrett, who were removed on charges growing out of the General Slocum fire. The boat was examined by Assistant Inspectors C. H. Smith, and J. H. Gunn.
Besides the loss of cargo and boat a considerable amount was lost by the ten passengers and the twenty-one members of the crew in the way of clothing and baggage.
Capt. MacAllister, for instance, saved nothing but trousers, overcoat, and an undershirt. He lives in Albany, and was on his last trip previous to taking a two week's vacation after a year's work. He has his shore clothes in his cabin ready to put on, and a clean white shirt with his diamond studs in it was hung up in readiness. Everything there was lost, including a sum of money and some jewelry which he had aboard with him.
The New York Times, New York, NY 18 Dec 1904