Richmond, VA Theatre Fire, Dec 1811
The following is an extract from a gentleman of Richmond, giving an account of the afflicting fire at that place, on the night of the 26th December.
"RICHMOND, Dec. 27, 1841 "Last night, about 11 o'clock, the theatre took fire, while the players were performing a pantomime; which was the after piece. The fire was communicated to some light paper scenery, used in the representation, to which a lamp was suspended, and which being drawn up, communicated to the roof of the house, the rest of the scenery, and the painted canopy It had complete possession of the shingles before it was discovered, and indeed was first discovered by the flakes which fell on the stage. The flames, with the rapidity of lightning, passed along within the roof of the building, emitting a thick, black and noxious vapor, which tended greatly to suffocation. The house was uncommonly crowded. In the consternation and hurry with which the audience attempted to effect their escape, many were trodden under foot and perished. The flames approached with such velocity, that the clothes of those in the rear caught fire; this impelled them to rush forward, even over the heads of the crowd in front, pressing under foot all the weaker part, particularly the women and children. With those who were thus trodden down, and who fell by suffocation, the narrow, intricate, and winding stairs, were choaked[sic] up and even the passage thro' the doors obstructed. All within perished. Many escaped through the windows, some without injury, others with broken limbs. The ladies who lept[sic]the windows sustained the least injury, owing to their being buoyed up by their clothes. Some few died, immediately on their being dragged from the heap of suffocated bodies; but the greater part, who fell on the stairs, were burnt to ashes, except the spiral bone and the intestines; the skulls of many have also been found.
There is a total suspension of all business. The legislature have adjourned till Monday next. The extent of the loss is not yet ascertained; upwards of sixty are known to have perished; and it is supposed that many others from the country, and single persons concerning whom no enquiries have been made, have shared the same fate.
"Among those whose loss is clearly ascertained, are the following, in addition to those mentioned in the public papers; Mrs. Heron and one of her daughters, Mrs. Robert Greenhow; Mr. Edwin J. Harvic expected to die every moment.
"Several members of the legislature are slightly hurt, but none suffered seriously."
RICHMOND, December 27
Last night the playhouse in this city was crowded with an unusual audience. There could not have been less that 600 persons in the house. Just before the conclusion of the play, the scenery caught fire, and in a few minutes the play, the scenery caught fire, and in a few minutes the whole building was wrapt[sic]lames.
In addition to this list now given, it is believed that at least 60 others perished, whose names are not yet ascertained.
GEORGE W. SMITH, governor, A. B. VENABLE, president of the bank. BENJAMIN BOTTS , wife and neice[sic] S. TAYLOE BRAXTON, MRS. PATTERSON, MRS. GALLEGO, MISS CONYERS, lieut., J, GIBBON in attempting to save MISS CONYERS, MRS. E. PAGE, MISS LOUSIA MAYO, MRS. Wm. COOK, MISS ELVIRA COUTTS, MRS. JOHN LESLEY, MISS M. NELSON, MISS PAGE, WILLIAM BROWN, MISS JULIA HERVEY, MISS WHITLOCK, GEORGE DIXON, A. MARSHALL, (of Wythe) broke his neck in attempting to jump from a window, MISS ANN CRAIG, MISS STEVENSON (of Spottsylvania) MRS. GIBSON, MARIAN HUNTER, MRS. MARY DAVIS, MISS GERARD, THOMAS LECROIX, JANE WADE, MRS. PICKIT, MRS. HERON, MRS. LAFOREST and neice[sic] JO. JACOBS, MISS JACOBS, MISS A. BOUSMAND, MISS M. MARKS, ED. WANTON, jr., two MISS TROUINS, MRS. GERER, MISS ELLICOT, MISS PATSEY GRIFFIN, MRS. MOSS and daughter, MISS LITTLEPAGE, MISS REBECCA COOK, MRS. GIRARDIN and two children, MISS MARGARET COPELAND, MISS GWATMEY, MISS CLAY, daughter of M. CLAY, member of congress, MISS GATEWOOD, MRS. THOMAS WILSON, Wm. SOUTHGATE, MRS. ROBERT GEEENHOW, MR. DUNVERT and child, MISS GREEN, MISS C. RA[ineligible].
At a meeting of the commissioners appointed by the Common Hall to superintend the interment of the remains of their friends and fellow citizens who unfortunately lost their lives in the conflagration of the theatre, the following resolutions were adopted.
1st. That the citizens of Richmond and Manchester, and the citizens at present residing in either of those places, be requested to assemble to-morrow the 28th inst. at 1 o'clock, P. M. at the Baptist meeting house, for the purpose of attending the funeral.