Newark, NJ Bridge Collapses, Sep 1903




The collapse of a frail gangway bridge leading from a boat house to the float opposite it in Newark Bay yesterday threw about 200 persons in the mud and water beneath. No one was drowned, but four were hurt, and all the rest had their Sunday finery ruined.
A colored Baptist congregation having a church at Avenue D and West Forty-Sixth Street, Bayonne, had planned a baptism by immersion in Newark Bay. The scene was at the foot of West Forty-Sixth Street, Bayonne.
There were twelve candidates for baptism. They and the minister, the Rev. John Thornton, were escorted from the church to the water side during the afternoon by the entire congregation and some visitors from other churches. The affair had been widely advertised and at the water front there was a crowd of 3,000 or 4,000 persons.
Just above the spot chosen for the baptism stands Meyerholz & Bressig's boathouse. This is built above high-water mark and there was a frail bridge built from it out to the float at low-water mark.
It was never intended for the use of more than a few persons at a time, but yesterday more than three hundred and fifty crowded onto it to see the ceremony, as it formed an excellent grand stand.
Many got onto the float, and others hired boats to row out into the bay and thus obtain a good view.
The first candidate for immersion was MRS. ANNIE JACKSON of Avenue D. The air was cool, and so was the water, and as they progressed MRS. JACKSON drew back. Seventy-five feet from the shore the water was up to their waists, and as the minister prepared to immerse the woman she fainted.
The minister had to struggle for a moment to keep her head above water. While he was doing this the crowd swayed to the water's edge, and those on the bridge pressed closer to the frail railing on the side best giving a view.
All were intent on the scene in the water, when, without any warning, about sixty feet of the bridge collapsed, and all on it slid into the water. The tide had fallen considerably and there was about two feet of water and as much more of mud where the crowd fell. It was a drop of but three to four feet.
Two-thirds of these to take the plunge were women and girls, and all were dressed in good clothing and many in white. Everybody screamed and many on the shore fainted, but those in the water and mud rose and scrambled toward the shore. Those who were outside in boats rowed in and aided some of the most frightened, and those who were hurt, to reach the shore. Men plunged in from the shore too, and inside of two minutes all who had been in the water were on terra firma.
Many of them were in a sad plight. They were miles from home, and their clothing was in such a state that they would not be allowed in a trolley car or carriage. For an hour the streets of Bayonne were dotted with men, women and children, wet and mud-coated, walking to their homes.
When the excitement was past it was found that four persons needed the aid of Dr. Ware, who had been summoned by someone as soon as the collapse occurred. He attended GEORGE HENDRICKSON, of 14 West Forty-Sixth Street, who was injured about the head and side, his wife MARY, whose head was cut and their son GEORGE, JR., whose legs were bruised and cut.
The most seriously hurt was MRS. G. M. PHULE of 153 Clinton Avenue, Jersey City, who had both ankles badly sprained and perhaps broken. She, like the HENDRICKSONS, was taken home.
When the collapse occurred all attention was turned to those in the water, and the minister with his unconscioius candidate sought to wade back to the shore, but found this impossible while supporting the woman. He therefore stood still until a boat loaded with crabbers rowed up and aided him.

New York Times New York 1903-09-07