Pleasant Ridge, OH Outhouse Floor Collapses, Sep 1904




Cincinnati, Sept. 23. -- Nine little girls were suffocated in a vault, and a score of others narrowly escaped the same horrible death, at the school at Pleasant Ridge, seven miles north of this city, today. The disaster occurred at the forenoon recess, and throughout the remainder of the day the village was wild with excitement, sorrow and indignation. Tonight those who openly charge the calamity to official negligence are making serious threats, among them being many women.
A list of the dead follows:
MARTHA BUHR, aged eight; father dead; mother Ella Buhr.
FAUSTA and CHARMIAN CARD, aged eleven and nine, respectively; both daughters of William Card.
LORETTA FINKE, aged twelve; daughter of Henry Finke, of the Schroth Packing Company, Cincinnati.
HAZEL GLOVER, aged eight; parents dead.
AMELIA HESSE, aged nine; daughter of Herman D. Hesse.
EMMA STEINKAMP, aged thirteen; daughter of John Steinkamp.
EDNA THEE, aged ten; daughter of John Thee.
LILLIAN WITHAM, aged thirteen; daughter of W. A. Witham.
The large building is used for a high school as well as for all lower departments. All of the victims were from primary grades. On opposite sides of the grounds in the rear of the school building are two outhouses. At recess about thirty of the smaller girls were in the outhouse assigned to them, when suddenly the floor gave way, precipitating them into the vault below. This vault is twelve feet deep and walled up with stone like a well. It contained four feet of water, which would have been over the heads of the children had they fallen into it singly, but those who fell first partially filled up the vault, so that the others were not entirely submerged. The girls fell eight feet from the floot, and the struggling of those on top kept at least nine under water until they were dead. The frame sheds of these vaults were about twenty feet square, without windows, and only one narrow doorway, so that only one girl escaped from the door. She ran into the school building and told the teachers what had happened. The principal and other teachers rushed to the rescue. The screams of the girls in the vault were faintly heard, and most of them were unable to speak when rescued. The teachers were soon reinforced by the entire population of the village, the police and fire departments rendering effective service. The firemen drained the vault, to be sure that the rescue was complete.
Those engaged in the rescue work tell of ghastly experiences. Even those rescued alive presented such an appearance as to make many of the spectators faint, but the sight within the vault beggared all description.
Among the first to come to the relief of Principal Zimmerman were the Rev. I. D. Lambert, of the Presbyterian Church, and Frank S. Johnson of
"The Herald and Presbyterian," of Cincinnati.
James Smith, fourteen years old, one of the pupils, climbed to the roof of the schoolhouse, untied the flags and ran to the vault. By means of this impromptu rope several were rescued. Marshall Wood had great difficulty in keeping the crowd back and from interfering with the rescuers. The importunities of friends, especially of the weeping mothers, were almost beyond the control of the officers. Doctors and their assistants used the school building for a hospital and a morgue until after the dead and the rescued were taken to their homes.

New York Tribune 1904-09-24