Burlington, IA Tenement House Fire, May 1893



Burlington, Ia., May 1. -- Shortly after 2 o'clock Sunday morning an old brick tenement house at 855 Jefferson Street was destroyed by fire and six of its inmates burned to death. The lodging house was conducted by a Mrs. Judson. She and a young servant girl named Maggie Bailey were the only women in the building.
The lodgers were of the poorer class of laborers and mechanics, about twenty of whom occupied the various rooms upstairs. The building was a veritable fire-trap, consisting of winding hallways and dark landings, some of the rooms being without windows. So quickly did the fire spread that the unfortunate victims were caught like rats in a trap.
The names of the dead are as follows:
MICHAEL HINES, a transient lodger.
MICHAEL LEE, of Chicago, a stove molder.
JOHN MORGAN, a stove molder, residence unknown.
F. G. SCHUMANN, a carpet weaver.
JOSEPH SWINDLER, of Burlington, a plasterer.
CHARLIE _____, a boiler-maker, supposed to be from Chicago.
All were burned in a shocking and almost unrecognizable manner. MORGAN'S feet were burned off, and SCHUMANN'S body almost fell to pieces when removed. Maggie Bailey and Mrs. Judson had to leap from the window to the pavement below in their night clothes. A son of Mrs. Judson rushed to the doors of the various sleeping rooms, attempting to arouse the occupants. He thus saved a number of lives, but many had narrow escapes, almost all having to leap from the windows in their night clothes. A sickening sight met the gaze of the firemen and policemen when the flames were sufficiently subdued to permit their entrance. At the foot of the stairway was the roasted body of SCHUMANN. In a room at the head of the stairs, which had no windows, were found the bodies of MIKE LEE and JOE SWINDLER. LEE was kneeling as if in prayer, with his hands gripping the bed railing as if in a vise, while SWINDLER lay in a distant corner, where he apparently had wandered in the darkness with his clothes in his arms.
In the room next to this, with a window opening on a rear shed, was found MIKE HINES, dressed and evidently within an arm's length of liberty when overcome by the flames. He was lying within a few feet of the window, and the other roomers who escaped at that window must have stepped over his body.
In another room without windows, only accessible from the stairway by a long winding hall, were found the bodies of MORGAN and the man known as CHARLIE. MORGAN'S feet had become tangled in a chair, while CHARLIE, with a pair of pants wound about his head, had fallen over MORGAN.
There are several suspicious circumstances connected with the fire which the coroner will investigate Monday.
The loss on the building and contents was probably $2,000, with small insurance.

Maysville Record Kentucky 1893-05-01