New York, NY Greenfield Candy Factory Fire, Dec 1877 - Dead & Missing

One More Body Found.

The Work At The Ruins Yesterday Demolishing the Walls Of The Ruined Buildings-The Body Of Greenfield’s Engineer Found In The Ruins-Friends Looking For Their Missing Relatives-The Cause Of The Explosion Not Yet Ascertained.

The work of demolishing the dangerous walls of Greenfield’s candy manufactory, in Barclay Street, was continued yesterday until nightfall, when the task was completed. This duty was intrusted (sic) to the members of Hook and Ladder Companies No. 10, Capt. Monroe, and No. 8, Lieut. McDonald, with a detail from Hook and Ladder No. 11, and Engine Company No. 32. It was found necessary to demolish the side wall of the College-place building and portion of the rear wall of the Barclay Street structure. The work was very difficult owing to the impossibility of getting near enough to the threatening walls to use slings, and the firemen were compelled to overthrow the walls by pressing against them with long ladders. A great deal of work had to be done from the roof of the Grocers’ Bank building, and this rendered the task more difficult and dangerous. After the walls of these buildings were leveled, the upper stories of the bank building were examined and, as they were found to be in a dangerous condition, they were demolished down to the fourth floor. Fortunately, all this dangerous work was accomplished without any accident.

Meanwhile the search for the bodies of the missing persons who are supposed to be buried beneath the debris was continued without interruption. A gang of 50 laborers delving among the rubbish by the light of huge bonfires which had been prepared to enable them to search. Chief Rowe personally superintended the labors of these men. The rubbish was removed on hand-barrows and dumped in the roadway. There the bricks were picked out and piled up in the middle of the street. The efforts of the men who were directed to the east side of Greenfield’s building, where it was believed the remains of the missing engineer would be found, and this conjecture subsequently proved correct. The men who had worked all night were relieved at 9 o’clock yesterday morning by a gang of fresh men. The work was necessarily tedious owing to the confined space in which the labor was prosecuted. At 3:40 P.M. Lieut. McDonald, of Hook and Ladder Company No. 8, noticed a shirt sleeve among the rubbish, and on trying to disengage it found that it was attached to some body that could not be easily moved. While examining the spot more carefully McDonald noticed a strong odor of decomposing flesh, and then became satisfied that the body of a human being lay beneath the rubbish. The labors of the workmen were temporarily suspended, and Capt. Monroe and Lieuts. McDonald and Cook armed themselves with shovels and proceeded carefully to remove the rubbish. After a few minutes this employed they uncovered the charred stump of a human arm, to which the shirt adhered, and soon after they unearthed the charred and mangled remains of a man. The body presented a sickening appearance, and the workmen drew back in horror when the remains were brought to the surface. The corpse was that of a short, slim man. The face and head were so burned that the features were beyond recognition. Both arms were burned off to the elbows, and one leg was burned off at the knee. The trunk is comparatively intact. When found the corpse was lying extended on the back, at the bottom of the stairway leading from the engine room, and the charred stumps of the arms were drawn up over the face, as if to protect it from the flames. There is no doubt that the body is that of Phillip Hertzberger, the missing engineer of Greenfield & Sons, and from the position in which the remains were found it is evident that he had endeavored to make his escape up the stairway leading to the first floor, but had been thrown down on his back at the foot of the stairs and had met his death there. The remains were sent to the Morgue and Coroner Woltman was notified that the body had been found. At 4 o’clock the laborers in the employ of the Fire Department were discharged, as young Mr. Greenfield informed President King that he could take charge of the search and had made arrangements to set a large gang of laborers at work immediately. The work of overhauling the debris was only suspended for a short time and at 5 o’clock Greenfield’s laborers resumed the search.

During the afternoon Mrs. Grissich, the wife of Thomas J. Grissich, who has been missing since the fire, visited the ruins in search of her husband. She stated that she had been living in New-Brunswick, N.J., and had not heard of the disaster until yesterday. Her husband was 29 years of age, and had been working in Greenfield’s establishment for several months. He was employed in the gum-drop department and worked on the second floor of the Barclay Street building. Mrs. Grissich was accompanied by Mrs. Kerber, wife of Frederick Kerber, who doubtless lost his life at the fire. Kerber was also employed in the gum-drop department and worked with Grissish on the second floor. Grissich boarded with the Kerbers at No. 96 Orchard Street. Mrs. Kerber, who was in great distress, said that she had not seen either of the men since they left her house to go to work on Thursday morning, and she had no doubt they had both perished in the flames.

A brother of Miss Josephine Sheppard was also at the scene of the explosion searching for tidings of his sister. Miss Sheppard was 22 years of age, and lived with her parents at No. 16 Franklin Street. She was employed at Greenfield’s in selling candy. Her brother stated that he had learned beyond a doubt that his sister was in the basement of the Barclay Street building when the explosion occurred, and it is conceded by all that she must have perished, as it was impossible for any person to escape from that portion of the building.

The cause of the explosion is as much involved in mystery as ever, and no further light was thrown upon the matter yesterday. No additional examination of the boilers has been made, and it is still contended by those who saw them on the previous day that they are intact, and that the disaster was therefore not caused by their explosion. Mr. Nelson Greenfield said positively yesterday that there were but two boilers in the buildings and those were the two under the sidewalk which it was believed had exploded. He said that he was positive the boilers had not exploded, but he could not account in any way for the disaster. In regard to the theory that the explosion had resulted from the ignition of gases in the flue leading from the boilers, Mr. Greenfield would not venture an opinion. He said that the flue was solidly constructed of brick, and was 50 feet long and 4 feet in diameter, and ran along close to the east wall. He felt certain that there was no defect in its construction. It was reported yesterday that there was a large quantity of chlorate of potash in the building on Thursday, used by the firm in the manufacture of lozenges, and it was suggested that the chlorate exploded and caused the disaster. On being questioned by a Times reporter, young Mr. Greenfield said that they did not manufacture chlorate of potash lozenges to any great extent. They did not keep them in stock, but only manufactured them to fill orders as received. There was but a small quantity of chlorate on hand, possibly two or three pounds. The last purchase of the drug made by the firm was about a year ago. At that time they purchase 30 pounds, a full year’s supply. They manufactured these lozenges under a special permit, as it was a violation of the law to manufacture them without having first obtained the necessary permission. The cause of the explosion will probably not be discovered until the cellar of the building is cleared of the rubbish, which now fills it, so as to allow a thorough examination of the boilers and the flue.

A number of men were employed yesterday in searching for the two safes belonging to Greenfield & Sons, which were buried beneath the debris. They succeeded in recovering a small safe, and from its appearance it is believed that its contents, consisting chiefly of the books and papers of the firm, are well preserved. A larger safe is still beneath the debris, near the angle where the Barclay Street building was connected with the College-place structure.

The operations of the firemen and laborers were witnessed yesterday by large crowds of spectators, who stood all day long outside the Police lines, although they could see very little of what was going on. Capt. .Sanders and Sergt, Heape, of the Twenty-Seventh Precinct, had charge of a large force of Police on the ground, preserving order and regulating the traffic in Barclay and Greenwich streets.

The following persons, who are known to have been in the building when the explosion occurred, are missing, and there is no doubt that their bodies are in the ruins:
DREXLER, AUGUST, aged 13, of No. 515 Fifth Street.
GRISSICH, THOMAS J., aged 29, of No. 96 Orchard Street.
KRUMERY, ALBERT, aged 13, of No. 84 Avenue B.
KRUMERY, GEORGE, aged 16, of No. 84 Avenue B.
SHEPPARD, JOSEPHINE, aged 22, of No. 16 Franklin Street.
STARK, WILLIAM, aged 28, of No. 529 Fifth Street.

The New York Times, New York, NY 23 Dec 1877