Omaha, NE Dewey Hotel Fire, Feb 1913

Omaha NEB Dewey Hotel Fire 2-28-1913.jpg

Many Overcome in Upper Hallways.
From the number of men and women dragged from the front entrance by rescuers, the police believe that many were overcome in the upper hallways and died there.

E. T. Conner, of Ellenwood, Neb., who was a guest in the hotel declares he was awakened by the cry of fire. He rushed from his room and saw the hallway packed with screaming, frantic women, each trying to escape through the wall of flames and smoke. He rushed to the rear and luckily located a window near a fire escape and made his way to the street. He is positive that all of the frantic guests who were jammed in the halls perished. Late estimates of the number of bead range from 16 to 30, but it is certain that not more than thirty have been accounted for out of at least fifty who were registered.
For a time it seemed that the entire block would go but the fire was finally confined to the hotel and the stores beneath it.

Ladders Burned Under Firemen.
The hotel building burned so rapidly that ladders were burned under the firemen as they sought to reach the upper floors where frantic men and women were calling for aid.

A. R. PORTER and DWIGHT BRUCE of Broken Bow, Neb., are known to have perished in the flames. This raises the known death list to five.

The two men were in room 41 and it was in a portion of the building that collapsed first.

The firemen were handicapped by the dense smoke and were only in the building a few minutes, when ordered out just in time to escape the falling walls. All the firemen who entered the hotel tell of the great screams of the frantic women, the horror of stumbling over unconscious forms in the dark.

The work of rescue had barely started when the rotten walls gave way. Many of the firemen had narrow escapes. Scores of the fire fighters staggered forth with heads and faces burned to a crisp and overcome by the tragedy they were forced to abandon.

The women who were rescued were taken to nearby stores until the ambulance arrived. The futile attempt to drown the flames was hindered by poor pressure and the cold weather. Two nozzlemen, standing at the rear of the building, directing their streams on the flames, were unable to remove their hands from the hose. Ice had formed on the handles and encased their hands.

Acting Manager Nold of the hotel declared this morning that the entire loss, including furnishings would not be more than $200,000.

Women's Scream Awakened Sleepers.
According to guests who escaped the first intimation of the fire came when a woman's scream awakened them. The building was then filled with smoke and within half an hour it was in ruins.

MRS. C. E. WILKINS says she was awakened by her sister, MRS. BONNEVIEU and upon opening their chamber door saw the halls filled with smoke and flame. They broke a window in their room. MRS. BONNEVIEU dropped unconscious and was carried to the window by MRS. WILKINS, who was then almost unconscious. Firemen rescued MRS. WILKINS but MRS. BONNEVIEU was burned to death.

Jumped from Windows.
TINA NIELSON, a chambermaid rushed from her room to the front of the building, opened a window on the second floor and leaped out. She was picked up unconscious and bleeding. At the hospital it was said that her right leg was broken and she may have sustained internal injuries.

Shortly after the maid jumped the body of CHAS. CUMMINGS, a bartender, was picked up from the sidewalk. He had leaped from the third story in his night clothing. His body was horribly mangled.
Policeman Schwager who was called to the fire carried out two unidentified women and he himself narrowly escaped having being burned to death in attempting to re-enter the building. He said that at least a dozen unconscious persons were lying on the threshold when he entered. These were carried out by J. FOY, a broker.

Of the other unfortunates who were guests in the hotel, little can be learned. The flames spread so quickly that few could have escaped. The flames were not entirely quenched until after ten o'clock and it will be noon before any of the bodies can be recovered.
It is believed at least twenty are in the ruins.
There are conflicting stories as to the cause of the fire.

The Evening Observer Dunkirk New York 1913-02-28



By Associated Press.
Omaha, Neb., March 1 - An all night vigil with an extra squad of police, fire companies and 10,000 morbid curiosity seekers were present, brought to light but one victim of the fire in the Dewey hotel. Although it is believed a score lost their lives in the flames only four thus far are accounted for. Three of these lost their lives attempting to escape and one was taken from the ruins during the night. The one body thus far recovered was that of a woman believed to be that of MISS ALICE VONIVIE, sister of the wife of the hotel proprietor. The body was taken from the ruins early this morning burned beyond recognition. An earring wits[sic] a ruby setting was he[sic] only identifying mark. The face was burned beyond recognition and both lower limbs were burned off. One arm also was gone and the hand of the other arm had been burned off. The body was found face upward. The hair, dark in color, still retained its color and indicated that the victim had gone to her death when the floors fell in. With he back downward, the head apparently had been buried with a mass of debris and preserved the luxurious locks although the face was burned beyond recognition.

The searchers continued their work with 100 men working with picks and shovels to uncover the remaining bodies, many of which are believed yet to be buried in the ruins.

A letter addressed to MISS LAURA E. WILCOX, was found near the body recovered. It was dated Harlan, Iowa, and a return notice on the envelope gave the name of HERBERT McCONNELL, 47 Main Street, Harlan, Iowa. It was signd[sic] "Locingly[sic], Mama."

The Evening Gazette Cedar Rapids Iowa 1913-03-01




OMAHA, Neb., March 1. -- Estimates of the number of people who lost their lives in the burning of the Dewey hotel here yesterday began to shrink today when the force of 200 workmen, who dug into the ruins all night, succeeded in finding only one body. It was the body of a woman, burned beyond recognition. The body was recovered early this morning, after a large part of the debris had been cleared away. The only identifying marks were an earring and a portion of a fur coat. Some thought it might be the body of MRS. ALICE M. BONNEVIEU, sister of MRS. C. E. WILKINS, proprietress of the hotel. MRS. WILKINS is in a hospital, but was still incoherent, and physicians said it would be impossible for her to make any identification.
The body of a man recovered late yesterday was identified today as that of RENFREE H. RICHARDS, an inspector at the stock yards in Omaha.
Six persons are now known to have perished in the fire. Men directing the work of clearing the ruins today doubted that there were more than five or six bodies still buried under the debris. In some quarters, however, the number of victims was still being placed at from ten to twenty.
It is thought the wreckage will be cleared up by night.

Few More Bodies.
OMAHA, Neb., March 1. -- That final excavations in the ruins of the Dewey hotel, which burned here yesterday, will not reveal more than three additional bodies was the confident assertion of Commissioner Kugel, who has charge of the rescue work today.

Since the discovery of the charred remains early today no bodies have been brought out. The hotel register was found shortly before noon. But the fire and water had damaged it to such an extent that most of the names were obliterated. The names that are eligible, numbering six, are of people who have been accounted for.

Searchers this morning tuned up a pearl necklace with a diamond cross appended value at $1,000.

The Fort Wayne News Indiana 1913-03-01