Philadelphia, PA Church Fire Panic, Jan 1906



By Publishers Press Direct Wire.
Philadelphia, Jan. 22. -- The building inspectors are blamed for the panic at St. Paul's African Baptist Church, at Eighth Street and Girard Avenue, in which eighteen negroes were crushed to death and over 60 injured yesterday.
Coroner Jerome will hold a thorough investigation and he will be aided in this by the police authorities.
Superintendent of Police Taylor and Captain Hamm made an examination of the heater and the flue from which the fire originated. It was found that the flue was defective, and that the heater pipe came within six inches or less of a wooden joist.
"The blame for this is not upon us," said Superintendent of Police Taylor. "It is up to the Board of Building Inspectors. Why should they permit a heater pipe unprotected to come within six inches of an open wooden joist?"
A revised list of the dead was given out at 10 o'clock today.
It is as follows:
RUTH TRAINER, Watts Street.
SARAH RUFING, 4262 Parkside Avenue.
MRS. LAWRENCE, Tenth and Thompson Streets.
MRS. KATHERINE SEWELL, 904 Alder Street.
MRS. NANCY MEDDOCK, 907 North Thirteenth Street.
Two women, unidentified.
JOHN BERRY, 40, 1812 Ringgold Street.
EMMA ALEXANDER, 40, 1613 Darlen Street.
LIZZIE HOLMES, 21, 8 Butler's Avenue.
MAMIE McKENNA, 21, 1012 Master Street.
Fourteen son of Charles Gardner, of 1411 Warcock Street.
Boy named SLAUGHTER, probably 3 years old.
FRED FRAZIER, a small boy, 934 Poplar Street.
LULA STRINGER, 934 Poplar Street.
MRS. JAMES JOWELL, Eleventh Street above Oxford Street.
MRS. LAWRENCE, Alder and Thompson Streets.
One woman unidentified.

Scenes At Morgue.
The scenes at the morgue, where the bodies were brought from St. Joseph's and the Children's Hospital today are even more pathetic than those enacted at the two hospitals last night. Patrol after patrol brought its sorrowful burden of the dead. The bodies were taken into the court yard and at the rear, where they lay covered on stretchers. Agonized friends and relatives clamored for admission, but the smallness of the yard space would not allow of any one being admitted. A crowd of a hundred and fifty soon gathered, and as each body was carried in from the patrol they begged piteously to be allowed to look at the corps in the hope of finding one who was missing.

Preacher's Topic.
Strangely enough, the preacher had chosen for the subject of the night's sermon, "Why Sit We Here Until We Die?"
The congregation numbered between four hundred and five hundred. When the smoke filled the house and the flames began to get there way into the auditorium the members of the congregation lost their presence of mind. They jumped from their seats and rushed for the doors. The preacher did his utmost to reassure them, and the ushers strove to calm them. The worshippers would not be quieted, however, and the four hundred persons fought, pushed and struggled toward the doors.
It is a striking commentary upon the action of the panic-stricken congregation that only one man was among the dead, the others who perished in the crush being women and children. In nearly every instance the clothing was ripped and torn, showing the terrible struggle made by the wearers to escape from the crush. In nearly every instance, also, bones were broken and crushed and the features battered and scratched. Perhaps the least signs of injury were upon the body of the little child who was found at the bottom of the heap on the floor of the church. Its clothing was unsoiled and it had evidently been caught beneath the pile of human being and smothered to death, while its body was screened from the trampling feet that inflicted injuries and in some cases caused the deaths of others.

Trenton Times New Jersey 1906-01-22