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BURNING OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC ORPHAN AYSLUM.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
November 11, 1862
Destructive and Fatal Conflagration.
BURNING OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC ORPHAN AYSLUM.
TWO CHILDREN BURNED TO DEATH.
MEETING IN AID OF THE HELPLESS LITTLE ONES.
THE CORORER'S INQUEST.
About two o'clock on Sunday morning a fire occurred in the Roman Catholic
Orphan Asylum in Bedford avenue between Willoughby and Dekalb avenue,
caused, it is supposed by a defect in one of the flues, and before flames
could be extinguished the entire building was destroyed, and two of the
orphans, whom it so kindly sheltered, were burned to death.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BUILDING.
The structure is brick 150 feet front by 100 in depth and five stories in
height. The grounds attached comprise fourteen lots, and extend from
Bedford avenue to Spencer street, affording ample space for exercise in
fine weather. About 159 feet in the rear is a wooden shed about 30 by 75
feet in extent, which is designed for a playhouse in inclement weather. The
main building is divided into apartments for the accommodation of the
superintendents and assistants, and conveniences are provided for 350
children. The second, third, and fourth floors were used as sleeping
apartments. Heat was furnished by means of furnaces, two of which were
located in the basement under the south wing. The main entrances in front
and rear of the centre building, the halls, and stairways, were all of wide
dimensions, and to this feature, together with the presence of mind and
activity displayed by those in charge it is mainly owing that the
conflagration did not result more disastrously.
The Asylum was in charge of Mr. Thomas Brady as principal, Alexander J.
Rooney, James P. Barry and Walter Hoyle assistants, while 14 of the Sisters
of mercy acted as teachers, and otherwise assisted in the management of the
institution, nursing the sick, ministering to their wants, and doing
everything which self-sacrificing women could do to make them comfortable.
HOW THE FIRE WAS DISCOVERED.
A little after 2 o'clock on Sunday morning one of the "Sisters," who had
been attending at the bedside of one of the sick boys, smelling something
burning, hastily got up and went out into the hallway to see what was the
matter. On opening the bedroom door she was nearly suffocated by the thick
volume of smoke with which the hallway was filed, and immediately
perceiving that the building was on fire, ran back, took the sick boy up in
her arms, and then alarmed the inmates of the institution. There were in
the building at the time 240 children all of tender ages, and none of them
capable of acting for themselves in this dilemma, and it is creditable to
the officers of the institution and the Sisters of Charity that with
exception of two named Michael Carrick and Daniel McMann, all were got out
of the building safely, and the officers of the building supposed they got
all of the children out, but the deceased must in their confusion have
wandered away from the others to the upper stories, where their bodies were
At the time of the fire the wind was blowing strongly from the northwest,
and the rain was falling in torrents. The ground was covered with snow and
slush, and through this the children were compelled to wade, barefoot and
in the night clothes, to the play house in Spencer street, which proved a
temporary place of refuge from the elements. Subsequently they were
conducted to the neighborhood residences, and everything possible was done
(with one exception) by all to relive the little one of their sufferings.
In consequence of the early hour and the disagreeable state of the weather
comparatively few citizens gathered about the scene of the disaster. The
duty of saving the inmates therefore devolved almost exclusively upon the
superintendent and his assistants.
ARRIVAL OFTHE FIREMEN.
Before the firemen had arrived on the ground the flames had spread so
rapidly that the entire building was enveloped. The floors and woodwork of
the building were constructed of pitch pine, which burned with great
rapidity and defied all the effects of the firemen to suppress them, in
fact the fire seemed to burn more fiercely, when water was put on it, and
not until the interior was completely gutted, did the devouring element
cease its ravages.
THE BODIES DISCOVERED.
As we before stated the managers and assistants of the Asylum, had acted so
promptly and effectively in taking out the children, that they supposed not
one of them had remained in the building, in fact ,they had examined every
room in the upper stories, and when the firemen arrived on the ground in
reply to the questions the officers of the Institution, stated that all the
inmates had been got out, and the firemen then exerted themselves to save
the building but without avail.
Some to hours thereafter Mr. James Gille, of 13 Hose Co., discovered
crisped body of a child on one of the upper floors, and Messrs. Brady of
Engine 9, and Walden, Start, and Colyer of Truck 3, found another and
conveyed them to the 9th Ward Station house. The children had doubtless
become bewildered and ascended to the upperfloors instead of coming
Nearly all the books and papers were consumed. A record of the names of all
the children was saved, and on calling the roll, all answered but the two
In the hurry and confusion of getting the children out, but few of them had
time to get all of their clothing, and none of them their shoes. Their
sufferings when exposed in that condition to the storm which raged at the
time was very intense. Many of the families in the neighborhood took the
little suffers in and warmed them, and otherwise provided for them. There
was, however, we are sorry to say, one exception, at least it is so
represented to us. In one house (the names of the occupants we shall at
present suppress) about twenty-five of the children were placed out of the
storm by the firemen, but in a few moments they were turned again into the
storm by the "lady" of the house. As soon as the firemen heard this, they
broke the doors and windows of the house in their anger at the inhumanity
of the act. We understand that Coroner Norris is to look into the matter,
and if the matter turns out as represented to us, we shall most assuredly
publish the names of the actors, and this most contemptible piece of
CAUSE OF THE FIRE.
The furnaces and flues on the building had been introduced last week and
the fire is supposed to have originated from a defect in one of them, and
owning to their being enclosed, in some places, in light pitch pine
material, the fire spread rapidly.
The loss, including contents, amounts to about $35,000, upon which there is
an insurance fo $15,000 in the Montauk Firemen's, Mechanic's Brooklyn and
The Coroner's Inquest.
Coroner Norris will empanel a jury to-day, and will commence an
investigation into connected with the affair this evening at 7 1/2 o'clock,
at his office. He has been busied this morning in collecting information
and getting the names of witnesses. The investigation will occupy four or
five days probably.
Meeting in Aid of the helpless Little Ones.
The regular monthly meeting of the R. C. Orphan Asylum Society, was held on
Sunday November 9, 1862, in the Male Schoolroom attached to St. James
Cathedral, Jay street, at five o'clock.
F. G. Turner, Vice President in the chair, and a large number of members
The minutes of the proceeding meeting were read and approved.
The Chairman called attention of the members to the destruction of the Male
Orphan Asylum, which was destroyed by fire in the morning, leaving 242
children thrown destitute upon the community, he hoped some action would be
taken by appealing to the sympathies of the public towards their relief.
On motion of Mr. J. O'Mohony, the Secretary, was directed to have notices
printed in the Brooklyn papers, soliciting donations for the destitute
orphans whose home had been destroyed by the fire, designating the various
places where donations of money or clothing will be received.
It was agreed that each member of the society be authorize to receive,
donations and subscriptions, and that they procure books signed by the
President and Secretary showing that they are proper persons to receive the
same, as the pubic might be deceived by evil disposed persons.
On motion of Mr. J. O'Donnell, a subscription was then opened and the
following members subscribrd as Follows:
R. R. Bishop Loughlin $100
K. Egan 50
J. O'Donnell 25
Dr. Thos. P. Norris 25
Thos. Lamb 25
Thos. Carroll 20
Thos. Everet 20
J. W. Shanahan 10
C. Bradley 10
Jno. McDermit 15
F. G. Turner 5
J. L. Doyle 5
J. Cunnion 5
J. O'Mahony 5
Thos. Dillon 5
D. Boyle 5
Wm. Duncan 5
Jas. Downey 5
Thos. A. Gregory 5
Michael Kelly 5
Thos. Kane 5
A Friend 5
Andrew Dwyer 5
Patrick Fagan 5
Phillip O'Riley 5
Michael Banacle 3
Jas. Sullivan, Jr. 3
F. Curren 3
Eugene O'Keeffe 3
Thos. Kelly 3
P. F. Mohun 3
T. F. Fitzgerald 3 1/4
Jas. White 2
Thos. Maguire 2
Miss Kengan 1
Jas. Crumey 1
P. J. O'Conner 1
John Mullin 1
D. Doherty 1
John Farrel 1
J. Doherty 1
Ed. Ryan 1
Thos. Brady 1
J. Fitzpatrick 1
A Lady 1
Donations through Right Rev. Bishop: $36.50
Donations through Michael Phelben: 458.25
After the transaction of some routine business the society adjourned to
meet at the rooms of the catholic library, 22 Court street, this (Monday)
evening, at eight o'clock, where all those sympathizing with the destitute
conditions of the orphans, in this their great calamity, are earnestly
invited to attend.
Thanks to :
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