Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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St. James Hotel Fire, 1890

- Mansfield -


THE MANSFIELD HERALD:  13 February 1890, Vol. 40, No. 13


Submitted by Amy



Ninety People Have A Narrow Escape From Burning Alive

A Fire Guts the St. James Hotel -- Heroic Conduct of Several Persons Prevents a Great Calamity -- Solon Lacky's Bravery

Friday evening ninety guests and employees retired to their rooms in the St. James hotel, filling every room in the building but three.  About three minutes of five o'clock the next morning the house was emptied of its army of people in less than five minutes.

At eight minutes of 5 o'clock, Officer John ENGLEHART went to the water closet where he remained about five minutes.  When he went in the room was perfectly clear and the gas was burning as usual.  When he returned the wash room was filled with smoke, and he hastily informed the night clerk, Charles KELLY, that the house was on fire.  Mr. KELLY, who was dusting off the furniture in the office, thought the smoke came from the range, but on the assurance of the officer that this could not be the case, the two started to investigate, the clerk first throwing on the switch of the private fire alarm.

They found the dining hall dense with smoke, as was also the kitchen.  They found the fire to be in the drying room, from which a huge blaze was shooting up through the building.  The clerk and policeman, with Robert HARTMAN, an employee, ran upstairs and through the halls crying "fire" as loud as their voices would permit.  They also pounded and kicked on the doors so that every person in the house was aroused.  The halls were stifling with smoke and the three persons names were in imminent peril.

Some of the guests ran down the front stairway, while others were rescued by ladders.  Few had time to dress till they got into the street or office of the hotel.  The female servants fared worse than any others, several of them loosing nearly every article of clothing to their names.  The girls went in many directions, some down the front stairway, some by a rear fire escape, jumping about twelve feet from the foot of the ladder, and two with several men got on the roof of Miller's Opera House and climbed down the fire escape of Clapp & Wise's block.  Following is a list of the employees in the building at the time of the fire, all of whom had narrow escapes:

Misses Lizzie LEDERER, Nannie BRANNAN, Ellen O'ROURKE, Ellen O'ROURKE Jr., Mary WHEPLER, Anna CA-AN, Lizzie MICHAELS, Lizzie HUBER, Callie HUBER, Emma GART, Minerva HAYNES, Mrs. BROWN, Mrs. Mary DUERR, Assistant Cook PEARMAN, Adolph FEHRIE, Peter YOST and Frank NEFF.

Lizzie LEDERER became smothered as she went down the stairway and fell.  Chief KNOFFLOCK found her and took her to a place of security in the nick of time.  

Mrs. Mary DUERR has been sick for three or four weeks from rheumatism and her escape from death is miraculous.  Two employees of the house attempted to force their way through the darkness to her room, but were driven back by the stifling smoke.  The colored porter Solon LACKY, who had gone over from the Wiler HOuse, make a most courageous and daring effort to rescue the woman.  He dashed through the smoke into the room where she lay and as he grasped her arm to drag her out he almost fell from exhaustion and suffocation.  He made another superhuman effort and with his arms under her shoulders he got her into the hallway.  Here he had another hard time to keep from smothering, but finally succeeded in getting the woman into a place of safety.  To the brave Solon LACKY she owes her life.

Mary WHELPER and Lizzie MICHAELS in jumping from the ladder in the rear of the building to the ground, each injured their shoulders, one of them having had a rib broken in the fall.  Mrs. BROWN was prostrated and with the two above named and Mrs. DUERR went to bed in the Wiler House.

A most nervy feat was the escape of Miss A. WALKER, secretary of the Baker Stone company, of Lucas.  She was on the fourth floor in the front room next to Miller's Opera House building.  She placed a rope around her body and, climbing out the window on the cornice, cooly walked to the north end, where she waited till the fireman put up a seventy foot ladder down which she climbed.  She became entangled in the telephone wires and the heroic ENGLEHART gallantly went up the ladder and helped her down.

Huntington BROWN was also rescued from the fourth story by the same ladder, as was also C.W. FRENCH, president of the Baker Stone company.  Willis LAIRD got some of the guests into his room, where they remained quiet till they were rescued.

The firemen and entire police force did yeoman service.  Several lines of hose were laid and the fire finally put out about 10 o'clock in the morning.  The part of the building touched by the fire was completely gutted.  In nearly every bed room there is some evidence of the fire.  In several even the bedsteads, clothing, etc. were entirely consumed.  Chief KNOFFLOCK received a stream of water in the breast while in the upper hallway and narrowly escaped being thrown to the ground.

One of the West Fourth street newspaper gang furnished the boys on the street with considerable amusement b standing at the window and calling to them to catch his trunk.  Some heartless person in the crowd cried "dump'er out;  she'll float"  Out "she" went and it was so light that it would scarcely fall.  It is said the same fellow lost his entire stock of poker chips.

Harry WADE put all his valuables in his pantaloons' pocket, and threw his vest out the window.  When he got to terra firma he found that some vandal had stolen the vest.

Several parties claimed to have lost diamond studs and some jewelry.

A person passing by the hotel on Main street would not be able to notice that the house was damaged the fire having been confined to the rear part.

The site occupied by this popular hostelry has a history.  For many years it has been hotel property.  The first tanner, Samuel BUKIAS, in Mansfield, had his shop on the corner where the office now is.  He owned two small frames adjoining each other.  They caught fire and burned down.  BUKIAS afterwards died, and the widow married a man named Felix LEITER, who started the first hotel on the St. James site in 1830, a frame building, which also burned.  In 1844 Mr. TEEGARDEN erected his Teegarden House.  Subsequently it was enlarged by James WELDON and called the Weldon House.  About 1860 the property was purchased by Mr. Louis VONHOF.  It was again enlarged and remodeled under the supervision of Mr. VANHOF and Mr. S.E. BIRD, and rechristened the St. James, the name St. James having been selected by the gentleman who became the chief clerk, and who later for a number of years was clerk at the Neal House in Columbus.

Hotel property in Mansfield, as elsewhere, has frequently been visited by fire.  The Phoenix hotel, at the corner of North Park and East Diamond streets, was thus destroyed in 1866.  The Tremont House, while under the management of the late John McSHERRY, was badly damaged by fire.  Two fires have occurred in the Sherman House within the past three years.  The Wiler House has luckily escaped.

The insurance on the building is as follows:  American of Philadelphia, $1,000;  Knox Mutual of Mt. Vernon, $2,000;  Richland Mutual, $2,000;  Western Mutual of Urbana, $1,000;  Columbiana Mutual of New Lisbon, $3,000;  total $9,000.

The insurance on contents is as follows:  Merchants and Manufacturers $800;  Ohio Mutual $2,000;  Lancshire of England, $1,500;  Liverpool London and Globe, $1,000;  total $5,300.

M.E. DOUGLASS for the M. & M. M.I. Co. sent $25 for the benefit of the girls and Officer ENGLEHART collected quite a sum in addition.  Messrs. VONHOF and BIRD only took possession of the hotel two days before and their misfortune is therefore particularly distressing.  The loss cannot well be estimated, but it is thought to be fully covered by insurance.  It was the purpose of the proprietors to make extensive improvements in the hotel next spring and it is now quite probable that the work of remodeling will commence soon.

The proprietors request that persons who took baggage away to a place of security shall return the same to the Wiler House, as several pieces are missing and wanted by the owners.

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