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Fall River MA, 19 September 1874



This morning, a little before 7 o'clock, an alarm of fire was sounded from boxes 72 and 74, and it was soon found that Granite Mill No.1 was on fire in the central part - the spooling room in the fifth story. The fire is supposed to have been occasioned by the friction of one of the mules. It spread so rapidly that the help were immediately bewildered and panic stricken, and could not avail themselves of the fire escape, which was ample to save all. The room was instantly filled with smoke, and the help huddled into the south end where the flames had not come.

Men, women, and children rushed to the windows gasping for air, pushed their arms through the glass and screamed for help. Some in their desperation broke through the glass and frames, and pitched themselves headfirst to the ground, where they were killed instantly or shattered in a terrible way. The sight to the spectators was sickening in the extreme. The screams of the injured and the groans of the dying with the roar and crackle of the flames made a scene of horror which was terrible to every beholder. 

As soon as the flames had been partially quenched, firemen and police, with willing help, rushed into the charred house, and began the dread work of recovering the dead. They lay in every conceivable posture - scorched, bleeding, strown about the floor, and especially near the windows. By means of ropes, the mutilated forms were let down to the ground, and if they were recognized they were taken to their homes, or if burnt beyond recognition, to the Mission chapel, on Pleasant Street, or to the station house.

The streets were filled with those who had lost friends, or believed they had; and sobs and shrieks of the bereaved were the most heartrending portions of the scene. 

Haggard faces scanned each bloody quilt or gunny sack which covered the mute forms as they were borne to the chapel, and new victims added new anxiety to those who as yet had no tiding of those who were missing. The killed were mostly women and children -and they naturally suffered most from the panic, yet a few men were among the victims. The following are the casualties as far as we have been able to learn:

James Smith, son of Robert Smith, worked in the mule room, was suffocated and burned. Residence Tremont Street. 

Margaret and Kate Murphy, daughters of Mrs. Mary Murphy, on Quarry Street, aged 20 and 16, were thrown from the fifth story windows and are both dead. Another sister of these girls was taken to the Police Station, and afterwards recognized and taken to her home. Thus the three sisters in one family are taken by a flash.

James Turner, about 50 years of age, tended the elevator. His body was taken to the station house before it could be recognized. He resided at 188 Bedford Street and leaves a widow. It is supposed he jumped from the window.

Thomas Kaveny, aged about 35, spinner, killed by falling from the window. Residence at 28 Robeson Street. Leaves a widow and mother.

Annie J. Smith, Granite Street, aged 18, worked in the spooling room and was killed by jumping from the window.

Edson B. Keith, aged 18, son of Wm. H. Keith, worked in the dressing room, slid part of the way down a rope; is injured internally. Resides on Maple Street.

Hannah O'Brien, worked in the spooling room, jumped from the fifth story; spine severely injured and is not expected to recover.

Joseph Ramsbotham, Twelfth Street, worked in the fifth story, made fast one end of a rope to some machinery, and slid down as far as the second story, when he supposes he let go, as his hands were blistered. His right leg was broken near the ankle and his back sprained. Two or three others were saved by means of this rope.

A girl residing at No.9 Town Avenue, had a fracture of the right leg, above the knee.

Alfred J. Biddiscomb, a shoe maker, doing business on the corner of Fourth and Pleasant Streets, was slightly injured about the head in trying to rescue some of the sufferers.

Marie Brodeur and her brother John, both injured, the former with a broken leg and a bruised face, and the latter, head and face badly cut and bruised.

Arebellar Keith, daughter of Wm. R. Keith, 20 years of age, jumped from the window and is so severely injured that she cannot recover. 

Isabel Moorhead, No. 1 Fifth Street, 38 years of age, working in the spooling room; jumped out of the window, broke her arm, and was seriously injured internally.

Ellen Jones, corner of Third and Rodman Streets, 27 years old, worked in the spooling room; came down on a rope and fell two stories; injured seriously.

Anne Dwoney, corner of Third and Morgan Streets, 16 years old, worked in the spooling room; jumped out of the window; bones broken and seriously injured; unconscious.

Maggie Dwoney, 12 years old, worked in the spooling room; jumped out of the window; arm broken and considerably bruised. 

Delia Beaunoyer, missing; Victorine Beunoyer, severe contusion by jumping from spooling room; Delia Poitras, badly wounded; Maggie Lannigan, contused wounds; Maggie and Katie Sullivan, sisters, Ford Street, fatally injured; two children of Christopher Haley, Bedford Street, fatally injured. Horace Coffey, missing; Kate Harrington, Six and a Half Street, hand burned; John Corbett, 8 years old, pitched from a window, was not much hurt.

Charles Lawton caught a girl in his arms as she jumped from the upper story window, and carried her bleeding across the street into a dwelling house, and cared for her. She begged him to stay by her until she died.

Ellen Jane Hunter, daughter of William Hunter, 15 years old, missing. At noon there were eleven dead bodies in the mission chapel.

Mr. Charles Brett, overseer of the spinning room, where the fire originated, positively denies the rumor afloat that the operatives were unable to escape from the mill on account of locked doors. Mr. Brett informs us that there was no door locked in any part of the mill, and every possible effort was made to assist all in danger to escape from the burning building. There was no door in the mill that could be locked but the lower one on the ground floor, and that was never fastened except at night.