Famous Disasters of the Gilded Age

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Aug 29, 2000
Today marks the anniversary of a disaster, said only to be second to the assassination of Lincoln in nineteenth century press coverage- the Johnstown Flood of May 31, 1889. There was an excellent television program tonight at 8 p.m. on the disaster which took 2200 lives, many from heavy debris battering those in the water. The blame was assigned to a local fish and gun club, who had raised the reservoir for sporting purposes, using the weakened dam. They never paid out any damages.

Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
As of 1989 there were at least three survivors left, and their profiles can be found in the Gilda Radner memorial issue of People Magazine which featured excellent flood anniversary coverage. A series of beautiful photographs of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club before the disaster ran in American Heritage at about the same time, under the title of "Scene of the Crime" which offended the descendent of the club member who donated the photos. David McCullough's work The Johnstown Flood remains about the best writien of all disaster themed books and is not to be missed.

Chad Goodwin

Aug 2, 2006
Chicago Fire.....hurricane of 1900 that almost wiped Galveston Texas off the map......the great blizzard of 1888......sorry...this is one of my favorite subjects

Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
ST MARY'S ORPHANAGE Galveston, September 1900.

The Galveston Walmart has, of late, picked up a certain amount of fame/notoriety for its alleged "haunting" (No comment. Okay. It's a bunch of garbage. I've commented) stemming from the tragedy which took place on its site during the 1900 hurricane.

St. Mary's Orphanage was located on a 35 acre plot, on the beach, three miles west of the city line. As of September, 1900, there were as many as 94 children and young adults, plus teaching nuns, lay teachers, three servants and a Mother Superior in the main structure, which consisted of a chapel, a boys dormitory wing and a girls dormitory wing.

That morning, September 7, 1900, Sister Elizabeth Ryan and two of the older boys, took the orphanage wagon into the city to purchase the day's food. The weather had turned decidedly foul before they completed their shopping, and nuns from St. Mary's Infirmary asked Sister Elizabeth and the boys to wait out the storm there. Sister Elizabeth refused, on the grounds that if they did not return to the orphanage the children there would have no food. She, and her helpers, did not make it back to the orphanage, and were never seen again; probably overwhelmed by waves in the flat, and sparcely settled, three miles between the city and Green's Bayou, where St. Mary's stood.

As for the others, when the sea-front wing of the orphanage collapsed late in the afternoon, the nuns and other adults moved the children into the upper floor rooms furthest from the beach. Clotheslines were cut up, and each of the adults had as many as nine children tied to them, mountaineer style, presumably to make it easier to keep everyone together when the building fell, as they all knew it would.

The structure seems to have collapsed in the early evening. Perhaps 3/4 of the residents of the rural west end, at least 1500 people, were blown across the island and drowned in the bay. St. Mary's mortality was even higher, with only three of the 100+ people known to have been in the building surviving. The others, staunchly tied together, were first pinned under the ruins of the orphanage, and then washed across the island and into the bay.

The three boys who got clear spent the night holding on to an uprooted tree. It was rumored that a fourth child washed ashore alive, but if it was true, his or her identity was never published.

Only a few bricks remained of the St. Mary's complex. One nun and nine children, still tied together, washed ashore dead. If any of the other bodies were found, the fact seems not to have been publicized.

A new, brick, orphanage was built on the site in 1901. This, in turn, was replaced by a modern structure in the 1950s, which was replaced by the WalMart.

Earlier tonight, I compiled as complete a list of those in the structure as possible. These children, and adults, are those who were enumerated on the 1900 census, in June. It is likely that a few of these children might have been placed in domestic service in the interem, and it is definite that other orphans and abandoned children were enrolled during July and August.

The survivors are marked (*)

Mother Mary Gabril 55 Mother Superior.
Vincent Cottier 45 Needlework
Catherine Hebere 43 Needlework
Elizabeth Ryan 35 Teacher
Michal Mc Cartey 30 Teacher
Raphael Elliot 27 Teacher
Evangel O’Sullivan 33 Teacher
Genevie Davalar 27 Needlework
Finlaer Creedon 20 Teacher
Benegum Doran 23 Cook
Augustin Sapierre 68 Servant
Henry Edword 40 Handyman

(*)William Murney 13
Joe Murney 8
John Toncy 14
Bennie Grube 15
Eugene Grube 14
Robert Clark 12
Albert Beaudreaux 13
Teresa Beaudreaux 12
William Scopp 13
Emma Scopp 15
(*)Albert Campbell 13
Maggie Campbell 12
Frank O’Neill 11
James O’Neill 9
Daniel O’Neill 6
Eddie Moore 10
Arthur Moore 3
Maude Moore 6
William Johnson 10
Andrew Johnson 9
Charles Fisher 12
Jerrie Fisher 13
Peter Chainer 13
Pete Faulkie 9
Katie Faulkie 10
Josephine Louis 9
Jana Lambert 11
Edna Lambert 15
May Lambert 11
Margaret Lambert 4
Frank Matcheck 11
Joseph Matcheck 9
Margaret Matcheck 5
Claude Kerr 8
Robert Calmer 10
Williss Rugnuke 9
Alice Rugnuke 10
Charles Simpson 8
John Simpson 4
Clement Beardsley 9
Harold Beardsley 8
Joseph McKale 9
Agnes McKale 14
Hugh O’Donell 9
Willie O’Donell 12
Charlie Gross 7
Andrew Fox 7
Henry Fox 5
Alma Fox 9
Michal Zackerary 7
Anastasia Zackerary 14
May Zackerary 6
Charles Sharkie 5
Herbert Sharkie 3
Henry Goldman 13
Loved Goldman 10
Annie Ryan 17
Nellie Ryan 16
Bessie Ryan 13
Maude Peopler 15
Daisy Raymond 14
Lizzie Linstrum 13
Lulia Linstrum 12
Maggie Linstrum 10
Lizzie Cook 15
Maria Bulamin 8
Vincent Bulamin 11
Stephen Bulamin 3
Joseph Bulamin 7
(*)Francis Bulamin 13
Lillie Lawson 13
Bennie Ward 12
Teresa Donsbruhup 11
Barbara Johnson 6
Antonett Herris 9

Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
BOYERTOWN OPERA HOUSE FIRE: Possible Titanic connections.

A mostly forgotten Edwardian disister is the fire which gutted the Boyertown, PA, opera house on January 13, 1908, with the loss of 169, or more, lives.

A large audience had gathered to see an interactive performance of "The Scottish Reformation." A lecture, and stereopticon slideshow, interspersed with local talent, wearing elaborate costumes, provided by the producers, in what appear to be tableaux vivants, went horribly awry when the gas stereopticon sprung a leak. Then, one of the amateur performers knocked over a footlight and set the stage on fire while everyone was trying to determine what the massive hiss coming from the direction of the stereopticon was. When the gas reached the flames, the air above everyone's heads ignited, and the 300 or so people in the room had to dash for the stairs or the windows.

Among the fatalities, was 23 year old Irvin Clemmer, from Bally, Pennsylvania, the next town up the road from Boyertown. Also lost from the community were Dr. Charles Mayer, and his daughter, Gwendolyn. His wife, the former Irene Funk, daughter of local orchardist John Funk, escaped.

Now, to determine if Annie Clemmer Funk, Titanic victim from Bally, was related to either Irvin Clemmer or Irene Funk.
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