Danville, PA Insane Asylum Burns, Mar 1881

Danville PA  State Hospital View.jpg



Danville, Pa., March 5. -- This evening, between 8 and 9 o'clock, flames were discovered issuing from the west wing of the insane asylum, situated about two miles north of this place. Word was once distributed to the different parts of the building to secure the inmates, who numbered between 400 and 500. S. S. SCHULTZ, superintendent, did all in his power to rescue the patients, but at this writing (12 o'clock) a large number are missing. The fire burned rapidly, and before an alarm could be sent to the surrounding villages the west wing, wherein the female inmates were kept, was consumed. Aid was telegraphed for from Sunbury, Williamsport, Milton, and other neighboring towns. At 11:40 relief arrived from Sunbury, but the firemen are unable to do any service on account of the scarcity of water. The wildest excitement prevails, and it is impossible to learn any particulars as to where the patients were taken, but the majority are roaming around loose. The greatest excitement exists, as many of them will freeze before morning, if not rescued from the snow and cold. At 1 o'clock the fire is still burning, and no hopes are entertained of saving anything. The structure is over eleven hundred feet long, and three and a half stories high.
The building was constructed some years ago and furnished with all the modern improvements, costing the State over $1,000,000. It is thought that the building is covered by insurance. The fire is said to have originated from an explosion of gas in one of the rooms on the second floor of the female department. It appears that one of the matrons entered the room with a lighted candle, causing the above result. As to the number of lives lost it is impossible to state.
It is under the superintendency of DR. S. S. SCHULTZ. The fire is supposed to have originated by escaping gas in one of the rooms being ignited by an inmate entering with a light.
There were four or five hundred inmates of the asylum, of whom the greater part are supposed to be lost. Some of them have escaped to the woods and are difficult to find, but it is believed at this time that most of them have perished.
A later report says: Between 8 and 9 o'clock this evening flames were seen to issure from the insane asylum, about two miles north of this place. An alarm was quickly sounded and strenuous efforts made to rescue the inmates, of whom there were between four and five hundred. The fire spread with frightful rapidity, enveloping the entire building in flames in a very short time. Sunbury, Williamsport, and Milton were telegraphed to forward all possible aid. The fire companies were at once started to the scene, but on their arrival were of little avail, owing to the scarcity of the water. The escaping inmates scattered wildly in every direction, and ran screaming across the country through the snow. Owing to the excitement it is impossible to obtain any positive information as to the number of lives lost, and the amount of loss on property.

Janesville Daily Gazette Wisconsin 1881-03-07