FIRE BREAKS OUT-HUNDREDS IMPERILED BY FLAMES-THE CITY THREATENED-70,000 IMPRISONED BY THE WATER-“SEND US FOOD!”- PATTERSON CONTINUES RESCUE WORK-PHONE OPERATOR BELL A HERO-EXPERIENCES OF THE SUFFERERS-INSTANCES OF SELF-SACRIFICE-LOOTERS AT WORK
Scarcely had the appalling horror of the flood impressed itself on the stricken people of Dayton before a new danger arose to strike terror to their hearts-fire that could not be fought because there was no way to reach it and because the usual means for fire-fighting were paralyzed.
FIRE BREAKS OUT
One fire started from the explosion of an oil tank containing hundreds of gallons which bumped into a submerged building.
The fire started in a row of buildings on Third Street near Jefferson, right in the heart of the business section, and nor far from the Algonquin Hotel, the Y.M.C.A., and other large buildings.
The report of the fire was sent out by Wire Chief Green, of the Bell Telephone Company, who said the fire was then within a block of the telephone exchange in which was located John A. Bell, who for more than twenty-four hours had kept the outside world informed as best he could of the catastrophe in Dayton.
A. J. Seattle, owner of the house in which the fire started after a gas explosion, was blown into the air and killed instantly.
Mrs. Shunk, a neighbor, was blown out of her homeinto the flood.After clinging to a telegraph pole for half an hour, she finally succumbed and was sucked under the waters.
The explosion blew a stable filled with hay into the middle of the flooded street and this carried the flames to the opposite side.
The next house to burn was Harry Lindsay’s.Then Mary Kreidler’s and then the home of Theodore C. Lindsay and other houses that had been carried away from their foundations floatedinto the flames and soon were on fire.
The floating fires burned without restraint and communicated flames to many other buildings where families awaited help.
The Beckel House was threatened and Jefferson Street was on fire on its east side from Third Street as far down as the Western Union office.Refugees driven from their places where they had sought safety from the flood were leaping from roof to roof to escape the new terror.The fire was rapidly approaching the Home Telephone plant.
HUNDREDS IMPERILED BY FLAMES
Another fire which started from an explosion on the Meyers Ice Cream Company place, near Wyoming Street, spread and burned the block on SauthPark, a block from Wyoming.
Flames, starting at Vine and Main Streets, jumped Main Street and the houses on the other side were soon aflame.In the middle of the street were a few frame houses that had been washed from their foundations.These were swirled about for a time, and, as though to aid in the passing of the section by fire, they were cast into the path of the flames.Persons hurried from their roof tops, where they had been driven by the flood, to the roof tops of adjoining houses.
A fire that appeared to threaten the entire business section was confined to the block bounded by Second and Third Streets and Jefferson and St. Clair Streets.In the block were the Fourth National Bank, Lattiman Drug Company, Evans’ Wholesale Drug Company and several commission houses.This fire subsided somewhat by evening.
Fire broke out in the buildings on Broad Street and many who had taken refuge in the upper floors were threatened with death in the smoke and flames.
Sixteen persons were housed in the HomeTelephoneBuilding with a block and tackle rigged as a means of egress if the fire pressed them.
GOVERNOR COX AIDS
It was reported to Governor Cox that some had leaped from the buildings into the flood.The Governor received word via Springfield that 10,000 to 12,000 persons were in the burning buildings, fighting the fire by water lifted in buckets from the flood.
Governor Cox asked the Associated Press to notify its West Virginia Correspondents to get in touch with natural gas companies supplying Dayton with gas and ask them to shut off the supply of gas in Dayton, as the gas was feeding the conflagration there.
Pleading that troops be sent to Dayton to relieve the flood supperers, saying that their need was imperative, and that the town was at the mercy of looters and fires, George B. Smith, president of the chamber of commerce of Dayton, who escaped from the flooded city, wired Governor Cox from Arcanum.
Governor Cox following the information that Dayton was on fire and that those who had sought refuge in the upper stories of buildings were in danger, determined at to reach Dayton with troops and assistance.
THE CITY THREATENED
It was impossible to get within two miles of the fire, and from that distance it appeared that explosions, probably of drugs, made the fire seem of larger proportions than it was.It appeared to have about burned itself out, and it was not believed it would spread to other blocks.
It was impossible to ascertain, even approximately, the number of persons who might have been marooned in this section and who died after being trapped by flood and fire.
The flames at night case a red weird glow over the flood-stricken city that added to the fears of thousands of refugees and marooned persons, and led to apprehension that there might have been many of the water’s prisoners in the burned buildings.
Fire started anew at none o’clock at night and burned fiercely.
The men, women and children marooned in the Beckel Hotel were terror stricken when fire threatened the building for the second time at night.Since Tuesday morning two hundred and fifty persons had been in the place.
Crowded in the upper stories of tall office buildings and residences in Dayton, two miles each way from the center of town were hundreds of persons whom it was
impossible to approach.Hundreds of fires which it was impossible to fight were burning.The rescue boats were unable to get farther from the shore than the throw line would permit.They could not live in the current.
At midnight residents of Dayton watching the course of the flames from across the wide stretch of floor waters believed that the fire got its new start in the afternoon in the store of the Patterson Tool and Supply Company, on Third Street, just east of Jefferson, whence it ate its way west, apparently aided by escaping gas and exploding chemicals in two wholesale drug establishments.
Through the night fires lighted the sky and illuminated the rushing waters.Fifty thousand people were jammed in the upper floors of their homes, with no gas, no drinking water, no light, no hear, no food.
THE CREST OF THE FLOOD
The crest of the Dayton flood passed about , but the next few hours allowed no appreciable lowering in the water.Wednesday morning brought little hope of immediate relief to those who spent the night in horror, however, and it was feared that the number drowned had been greatly increased during the twelve hours of darkness.
Cloudy skies and a cold drizzling rain added to the dismal aspect of the city in the morning.The temperature fell steadily all night, and when daylight came the thermometers showed that it was only three degrees above freezing.The condition was welcomed, because it was expected that a hard freeze would aid materially in holding back the innumerable tributaries of the flooded streams and assist the earth in retaining the moisture that had been soaked into it steadily for the last five days.
By ten-thirty the water depth had lessened about two feet.All stores and factories in the main part of town were flooded to a depth of from eight to ten feet.Numerous residences and smaller buildings collapsed, but any estimate of the property loss was impossible.
A morgue was established on the west side of the city, and efforts to recover the bodies and aide the suffering were pushed as rapidly as conditions permitted.Relief trains began to arrive in the stricken towns.
Adjuvant-General Speaks, with a small detachment of troops and a squad of linemen and operators, left Columbus early Wednesday in an effort to reach Dayton.The attempt was made by means of motor boats and automobiles in the hope to establish adequate telegraph or telephone communication with Dayton.
MARTIAL LAW ESTABLISHED
A message from Governor Cox ordered the entire Ohio National Guard to hold itself in readiness to proceed to Dayton as soon as it was possible to enter the city.
Soon afterward notice was posted in headquarters of the emergency committee announcing that the city was under martial law, and several companies of soldiers arrived from neighboring Ohio cities.
The soldiers were employed to patrol edges of the burned district, and prevent looting of homes freed from the floods.
Forty boats were requisitioned by the city authorities and were patrolling the city in an effort to save life and property.These craft were manned by volunteers.
In front of the Central Union Telegraph office the water was still running so swiftly that horses could not go through it without swimming.One boat went by with two men in it, rowing desperately, trying to keep the bow to the waves.The boat overturned, but both men escaped drowning by swimming to a lamp post.They clung to the post for half an hour before a rope could be thrown to them.After repeated casts the line fell near enough to them to be caught, and the men were drawn into the second story window of the building.
The telephone employees in the building fished chairs, dry good boxes and a quantity of other floating property from the flood.The debris swept down the main business street with such force that every plate glass window was smashed.
Only one sizable building had collapsed up to so far as the watchers in the telephone office could learn.This structure, an old one, was a three-story affair, near Ludlow Street, occupied by a harnessmanufacturing concern.
70,000 IMPRISONED BY THE WATER
More that 70,000 persons either were unable to reach their homes or, held in their waterlocked houses, were unable to reach land.
When those marooned in the offices and hotels were in no immediate danger of drowning there was to way food or drinking water could reach them until the flood receded.Those in residences, however, were in constant danger both by flood and fire.First the frailer buildings were swept into the stream, many showing the faces of women and children peering from the windows.These were followed by more substantial brick buildings, until it became evident that no house in the flood zone was safe.
The houses as a rule lasted but a few blocks before disintegrating.
Incidents without number were narrated of persons in the flooded districts waving handkerchiefs and otherwise signaling for aid, being swept away before the eyes of the watchers on the margin of the waters.Many of the rescue boats were swept by the current against what had been fire plugs, trees and houses.They were crushed.Canoes and rowboats shared the same fate.What life existed in the district which the water covered was in constant danger and helpless until the flood subsided.
Bodies were found as far out as Wayne Avenue, which is more than a mile from the river.At Fifth and Brown Streets the water reached a height of ten feet.At least one of those drowned met death in the Algonquin Hotel.
Although it was impossible to reach the hospital, field glasses showed that the building was still standing.The water was not thought to be much above the first floor of the building, and it was hoped that the patients had not suffered.
Dayton was practically cut off from wire communication until late in the afternoon.Then two wires into Cincinnati were obtained and operators plunged into the great piles of telegrams from Dayton citizens, almost frantic in their desire to assure friends outside of their safety.Operators at opposite ends of the telegrams were piled up at relay offices.These were from people anxious over the fate of Dayton kinsman.
Two oarsmen who braved the current that swirled through the business section of the city reported that the water at the Algonquin Hotel, at the southwest corner of Third and Ludlow Streets, was fifteen feet deep.From windows in the hotels and business buildings hundreds of the marooned begged piteously for rescue and food.The oarsmen said they saw no bodies floating on the flood tide, but declared that many persons must have perished in the waters’ sudden rush through the streets.
Oarsmen who worked into the outskirts of the business section at night reported that two hundred and fifty persons were marooned in the Arcade building and two hundred imprisoned in the Y.M.C.A. building were begging for water.
“SEND US FOOD”
Before the terror of fire had dwindled, gaunt hunger thrust its wolfish head on the scene.Famine became an immediate possibility.All of the supply and grocery houses were in the submerged district and there was not enough bread to last the survivors another day.Every grocer in the city was “sold out” before .
The flood came with such suddenness that food supplies in homes were whisked away by the torrent that reached too second floors in almost the flash of an eye.Skiffs skirted the edge of the flooded districts attempting to take food to those whom it was impossible to carry off, but the fierce current discouragingly retarded this work.
“Food, food, food,” was the appeal that reached the outside world from the portions of Dayton north of the rivers.The plea came from a relief committee which started out in boats and met an employee of the American Telegraph and Telephone Company, who attempted to drive to Dayton. The telephone man immediately “cut in” on a line and transmitted the appeal.
The relief committee had progressed less than two miles from Dayton when they met the telephone employee.They told him that any and all kinds of provisions were needed and could be distributed, but the relief must come soon if indescribable suffering was to be avoided.
Police officers of Dayton who were able to get about at all were swearing in all available men as deputies, commandeering provisions and charging the expense to the State of Ohio.The available supplies were so slender, however, that thousands of persons on the north side of the river were already destitute.Efforts to learn the condition of the 2,500 inmates of the old soldier’s home on the west side brought a report that the institution was in no danger because of its location on a high hill.
Leon A. Smith, one of the relief committee in North Dayton, was sworn in as a deputy justice of the peace with power to enlist other deputies to preserve order, guard against crimes and relieve distress.
“What we need most,” said Mr. Smith over the telephone, “is food for the living and assistance in recovering and burying the dead before an epidemic sets in.”
Farmers in the vicinity offered their teams to haul towards Dayton any supplies that could be gotten together, and the housewives of the countryside denuded their pantries.
Relief committees issued the following statement:
“An awful catastrophe has overtaken Dayton.The centers of Dayton and the residence district from the fair grounds hill to the high ground north of the city are under water.
“Bring potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, meat and bread and any other edibles that will sustain life.
“We have cooking arrangements for several thousand.We are sending trucks to nearby towns, but ask that you haul to us, as far as possible.”
The first trainload of provisions from Cincinnati, with a detail of policemen to help in the rescue work, reached Dayton after being twelve hours on the road.This, with two cars from Springfield, relieved the immediate suffering.Word also was received that a carload of supplies was on the way from Detroit.
Encouragement was received in a message from the Mayor of Springfield, who said he was sending six big trucks loaded with provisions that should reach Dayton early Thursday.With the arrival of motor boats Wednesday night it was hoped to begin to distribute provisions among the marooned early next morning.
Messages from the flood’s prisoners in the business section said children were crying for milk, while their elders suffered from thirst that grew hourly.Volunteers were called for to man boats and brave the dangerous currents in an attempt to get food to the suffering.
PATTERSON CONTINUES RESCUE WORK
Rescue work efficiently managed, in which John H. Patterson was a leading spirit, proceeded smoothly throughout the day.A boat, which was engaged in rescue work, capsized, and all of the crew by Frederick Patterson, son of John H. Patterson, were drowned.Young Patterson acted as captain of the crew.
Missing members of families were restored to their loved ones through human clearing houses established at several points in the fringe of the flood district.Great ledgers filled with names presided over by volunteer bank clerks were at the disposal of persons seeking missing kinsmen.If these had registered in the clearing house their addresses were quickly given to the inquirer.
Up to in the evening three thousand of the homeless were housed in different places of refuge, most of them being cared for at the plant of the National Cash Register Company.Scores of the waters’ victims were being carried from their places of imprisonment late in the evening, and leaders of the rescuing parties were arranging for relays of torch bearers to light the work during the night.
The powerful current on each cross street made it impossible for those manning the rowboats to pass a street crossing without the aid of tow ropes.Lines were stretched in many places and trolley boat paths brought many victims out.Every automobile in the city was pressed into service and used to meet paths and take refugees at once to the hospitals.
“Our greatest need is a dozen motor boats and men to run them,” was the message contained in an appeal sent out by Mr. Patterson.Skiffs and rowboats could not live in torrents rushing through the city’s principal streets.
Two expert oarsmen, Fred Patterson and Nelson Talbott, conquered the current for a short distance on Main Street late in the afternoon.
“We penetrated to almost the center of the city,” said Mr. Patterson.“Everywhere people yelled to us to rescue them, but it was impossible, for we were barely able to keep afloat.Large sums of money were offered us to take persons from perilous positions.The windows of the Algonquin Hotel seemed filled with faces, and the same conditions prevailed at most of the buildings we passed.We did not see any bodies, but the loss of life must have been great.”
At Xenia a relief committee was organized to send supplies to Dayton.All the churches were made ready for Dayton refugees.
PHONE OPERATOR BELL A HERO
Two employees of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, John A. Bell, wire chief at Dayton, and C.D. Williamson, wire chief at Phoneton, Ohio, by unprecedented devotion to duty kept Dayton in touch with the world.
At they had been on duty continuously for forty-eight hours, and, although there was no prospect of their being relieved, they gave not the slightest indication of any inclination to leave their posts.
Bell reached the Dayton office before the flood broke on Tuesday morning.The water came with such suddenness that all batteries and power were out of commission before any measure could be taken to protect them.This left the wires without current and effectually cut off Dayton.Bell rummaged around and found a lineman’s “test set.”With this he made his way to the roof of the building, “cut in” on the line to Phoneton and reported to Williamson, whose batteries were still in condition.Over this meager equipment messages were exchanged by means of the underground wires of the company, which held up until after the hour Tuesday before the cable in which they were incased gave way.The break, however, was south of Dayton, and Phoneton was still in touch with the flood-stricken city.
Except for brief intervals, Bell remained on the roof of the building suffering the discomforts of pouring rain and low temperature, in order that the waiting world might have some word from Dayton.
EXPERIENCES OF THE SUFFERERS
Late in the afternoon several refugees told stories that gave an insight into conditions in East Dayton, hitherto unexplored.The flood victims declared they knew of no loss of life in this section, because a great number of people had availed themselves of warnings and fled.
A Mrs. Van Denberg, who remained until the flood enveloped her home, when rescued declared she had seen no bodies in the flood.
Sixty-five persons were marooned in the central police station.Nothing had been heard from Mayor Phillips, of Dayton, or from Brigadier-General Wood, marooned, it was believed, in North Dayton.
The whole story of the Dayton disaster probably never will be told-the heroism of men; the martyrdom of women; the mad hysteria that seized some and caused them to jump into the flood and death; the torture of despair that gripped those who, imprisoned in their homes by water, waited in vain for help until the advancing flames came and destroyed them.The most heartrending feature of the situation was the pitiable terror of the women and children.Many of them sat up and sobbed through the night refusing to believe that their fathers had been drowned in the satanic waters.
Mrs. James Cassidy and her three childrenwere brought from the flood last night.Mrs. Cassidy was grief-stricken over the report of the death of her husband by drowning.Even as she was being registered there was brought into rescue headquarters a drenched man who had to be carried.
“Jim! Jim!” suddenly shrieked the woman.“That’s you, Jim isn’t it?You aren’t dead, Jim.Say you aren’t dead.”
Jim had been rescued from drowning.The return of James Cassidy was the one bit of joy in the awful gloom at the rescue headquarters, where gathered the victims of flood, fire and famine.
CRAZED BY HER EXPERIENCE
A woman, maddened by the horrors of the day, fought with Bill Riley and his companion, Charles Wagner, who had rescued her in a boat.
She bit Riley in the hand and choked Wagner, who sought to restrain her.The little boat swayed and was on the point of capsizing when the woman suddenly became calm and began to pray.
A big sturdy man cried like a child in the offices of the National Cash Register Company.He had been to the hospitals, the schools where refugees are housed and to the churches—but in none of these was his family.
In many similar cases relatives of the supposed dead were uncertain as to the fate of the missing.The money loss was heavy, but nobody cared about money loss, though it ran into the millions.
In this hour of Dayton’s woe money apparently was the most useless thing in the world.
A graphic story was told by Edsy Vincent, a member of the Dayton fire department.His engine house was within a few doors of Taylor Street, where the break of the levee occurred.
The department watchers, fearing being flood-bound, sounded the fire call simultaneously with the break in the levee.
“When the horses, which were hitched in record time, reached the street,” said Vincent, “we were met by a wall of water which must have been ten feet high.The driver was forced to turn and flee in the opposite direction to save the team and apparatus.”
INSTANCES OF SELF-SACRIFICE
The dark colors in these incidents were lightened here and there by stories of bravery exhibited by many of the flood prisoners.
A woman with three children marooned in the upper floor of her home on the edge of the business district called to the oarsman:
“I know you can’t take me off!” she cried, “but for the love of humanity take this loaf of bread and jug of molasses to Sarah Pruyn down the street; I know she’s starving.”
Twice the boatman attempted to take the food, but waves that eddied about the submerged house hurled them back.
LOOTERS AT WORK
Numerous stories of looting were told, and many prisoners were locked up.In most cases these had entered houses and had been searching for valuables.A gang of roughs went through the southern part of the city late at night instructing people to extinguish all lights for fear of a gas explosion and then began raiding.The police dispersed them.
All day and all night strings of automobiles were going back and forth.Those coming to Dayton were seeking friends or relatives.Those going back had people to take back with them.
At night the temperature dropped suddenly.A blinding snowstorm and high winds followed close upon the fall of the thermometer.The blizzard weather caused added suffering.Survivors who escaped the horrors of a flood and fire stricken city at night were huddled roofless in an arctic storm.Countless men, women and children were marooned in the storm who had had no warm food or clothing since Tuesday morning.