Sparkill, NY St Agnes Convent and Orphanage Fire, Aug 1899

Heroic Work of the Sisters in Rescuing Their Young Charges -- Fire of Incendiary Origin?

Blauvelt, N. Y., August 28 --- The entire group of buildings with the exception of the hospital, which comprised the St. Agnes Convent and Orphanage, in charge of the Dominican Sisters, situated about half a mile from Sparkill, were burned early this morning. As far as is known five lives were lost and many were injured, two of whom will probably die.
The fire was discovered about 1 o'clock this morning and in a short time all the buildings with the exception of the hospital, were burning fiercely. The fire started in the lavatory at the northwest corner of the group of buildings, nine in number, which faced the road to the south. It soon communicated to Building No. 1, which was occupied by the older boys.
The lads were quickly awakened and soon rushed to Building No. 2 and in this manner word was quickly passed through the nine buildings and the sisters in charge of each soon had all the occupants of the dormatories [sic] out of bed.
Along the back of the buildings a covered archway extended the entire length of the structures and from this archway the entrances to the several buildings opened. The fire spread with extraordinary swiftness through this arched hallway, which acted as a flue, and the flames were fanned by a northwest breeze which forced them onward in their destructive sweep.
The work of getting the children out of the building was heroically performed by the sisters in charge. They were ably assisted by some nurses and monitors as well as by many of the older boys. In the meantime the alarm had been spread and people from the surrounding neighborhood quickly gathered and helped in the work of rescue. The alarm of fire was sent by telephone to the nearest towns, but when the fire company from Piermont arrived all but the hospital building had been destroyed.
All of the children were taken out alive, but two little ones, HELEN BROWN, aged 6 years and EMMA MACKIN, 7 years old, died of convulsions after they had been rescued. THERESA MURPHY, aged 16, returned to the building to save a baby and perished. An aged woman nurse known as JANE, who is said to be 70 years of age, is supposed to have perished in the building, where found. All the other inmates have been accounted for.
KATE McCARTHY, a servant, died about 11 o'clock from shock.
Six of the sisters jumped from the second, third and fourth floors of the buildings, but only one of them was dangerously injured. This is SISTER BERTRAND, who is suffering from concussion of the spine and consequent shock.
SISTER MARIE, who, the doctors say, will live, is severely burned and SISTER CATHERINE had an arm broken. SISTER SIENNA, who assisted in the work of rescue, showing wonderful nerve and courage, collapsed after the children were gotten out and remained unconscious for several hours. SISTER AGNES, who climbed out of a fourth story window, had a miraculous escape from injury and possible death. After climbing out of the window she took hold of the shutter and after swinging herself free of the building, dropped to the ground, four stories below, and alighted without apparent injury.
In all there were 326 children, of whom sixty were girls, in the institution when the fire broke out. There were also forty sisters in charge under the direction of Reverend Mother Peters. Most of the children were sent to the orphanage through the Gerry Society and police magistrates.
The parent house of the sisters is at 329 East Sixty-third street, New York, where Mother Superior Dominick resides. All of the sisters and children, as well as the wounded, are being taken care of at the Blauvelt Convent, which is about two miles from the scene of the conflagration.
About twenty-five of the children received injuries, none of which, the doctors think, will prove fatal.
The damage is estimated at $100,000 and it is believed that the fire was of incendiary origin.
The removal of all the children to the Blauvelt Convent overcrowds that institution and this afternoon fifty children will go to the New York House of the Sisters of St. Dominic, at 329 East One Hundred and Sixty-third street and fifty to the Convent at Nanuet.
The sisters controlling the destroyed institution belong to the third order of St. Dominic.
The Dead:
HELEN BROWN, aged 6.
EMMA MACKIN, aged 7.
"JANE" a pensioner, aged 70.
The Missing:
MARY BROWN, aged 4.
Seriously Injured.
SISTER SIENNA, shock and collapse.
SISTER MARIE, burns and concussion.
SISTER BERTRAND, concussion of spine and shock.
HANNA SHEA, leg broken.

Brooklyn Eagle New York City 1899-08-28