AMONG THE RUINS.
ATTEMPTS TO RECOVER THE REMAINS OF THE DEAD.
ADDITIONAL ESCAPES AND INCIDENTS.
LOSSES AND INSURANCE.
Three days have elapsed since the burning of the Spotswood
Hotel, and “the fire” is still the absorbing topic of conversation on our
streets. The blackened walls and smoking debris are still an object of interest
to the curious crowd, and a detail of policemen is kept constantly on duty in
the vicinity to keep order and guard against accidents which might occur from
allowing people to indulge their morbid tastes, as well from the undue zeal of
the friends of those who have perished in the conflagration.
On Sunday afternoon, it being generally believed that
Messrs. Ross and Hines were among the killed, steps were taken by the Knights of
Pythias, to which order they both belonged, to have the bodies disinterred at
the earliest practicable moment. Nothing could be done that evening, as there
was still a smouldering fire beneath the bricks/ but on Monday the work was
The first thing done was to have the standing walls
wherever dangerous pulled down, so that men could work with safety in the ruins.
A stream of water was then turned upon the hot bricks, so that by yesterday
morning they were cooled sufficiently to allow the chain-gang and some other
hands to go to work.
The Express Company also put a squad to work with a view to
getting out their safes.
THE REMAINS OF THE DECEASED.
The task of digging up the debris in order to recover the
remains of the dead was performed under the supervision of Masonic and Pythian
committees. They were guided in this work by a diagram of the hotel in the
possession of the proprietors. Mr. Ross’s room was No. 43, just above the
Express office; so the men working under the supervision of Masons and Pythians,
and those employed by the Express Company, worked together. Several times it was
thought that the remains of one or more persons had been discovered, but the
bones having been collected in a box and examined by physicians, were pronounced
not the bones of a human being. At one place quite a number of fragments of
bones were found together, and with them some coat-buttons and what appeared to
be burnt cloth. It was finally conceded, however, that these were probably the
remains of the contents of boxes which had been burned in the cellar of the
express office. This morning the examination of the debris will be resumed.
The four safes belonging to the Southern Express Company
were extricated, apparently in good condition, except that they were all (more
or less) warped. They had not been opened at a late hour last evening. The large
money safe was taken to the new office of the company, under Virginia Hall.
The safe of the Spotswood Hotel was opened, at the request
of the proprietors, by Detectives Craddock and Parker, in the ruins where it
lay. All the books, papers, and money therein were found to be uninjured. It was
a herring safe.
It is believed that the eighth victim of the fire was John
H. Holman, of Jackson, Tenn. He formerly lived in Virginia, but has been for
several years past in business in Tennessee. On Saturday last he came to
Richmond, partly on business, but principally to spend the holidays with his
sister, who lives near the city. It is known that he registered at the
Spotswood, and as he has not yet reported to his friends, they feel sure that he
is numbered with those burned to death. He was about twenty-eight years of age.
Besides the persons generally admitted to have been killed,
the following are still missing: A. Leib, Tampa, Fla.; E. George and E. H.
Andrews, Syracuse, N. Y.; and Henry Kroth, of New York..
Mr. Clarke, the steward of the hotel, who was badly hurt in
jumping from a window, is still at the Grecian Bend Saloon, and is doing well.
His physician, Dr. F. D. Cunningham, pronounces him out of danger, so far as his
wounds are concerned.
C. B. Vaiden, of Chesterfield county, reported missing,
left for Caroline county on Saturday morning, but his name was not checked off
the register. His brother reports him safe.
W. W. Ragland, of Petersburg, Va., reported at our office
on Monday morning safe.
J. F. Wilcox, of Lynchburg, had also left the hotel before
the fire occurred.
Nathan Burnstein, of Washington city, was among those
reported missing. He has since turned up uninjured. He occupied room No. 108, on
the third floor, and escaped in his night clothes, losing only a part of his
J. McD. Carrington, Esq., late Commonwealth’s Attorney of
Henrico county, made a narrow escape. He retired at about 1 o’clock, and was
awakened after the fire had made considerable progress by hearing the noise
caused by dragging trunks down stairs, and immediately after the sound of a
woman’s cry of terror. He ran out of his room, and finding the building on
fire, made his way out without ceremony.
The DeLave theatrical troupe lost their wardrobe, as before
reported. DeLave was also burnt out at the Atlantic Hotel, Norfolk, a year or
two ago. Lila and Zoe, the trapezists, were not injured, as was at first feared.
Mr. A. Leib, of Tampa, Florida, is reported now to be in
AND OTHER INCIDENTS.
Mrs. Thos S. Dabney, of Washington city, and Miss Crozier,
her daughter-in-law, were in a room on the fifth floor, and escaped with nothing
but their night clothes. Among other valuable property they lost a diamond ring
worth about $300, two gold watches and a gold chain, and a collection of West
Indian curiosities. Ms. Dabney’s husband is the well known mail agent on the
Chesapeake and Ohio railroad. He was at Staunton when he heard the news of the
fire. The ladies are now at the Exchange Hotel.
Colonel John R. Popham, member of the House of Delegates
from Bath and Highland, woke up in time to save his life and all his property
except a pair of socks.
Mr. George Watt was boarding, together with his wife and
daughter, at the Spotswood when the fire took place. His daughter awoke about
the time the alarm was given, and having packed her own effects for removal,
with remarkable presence of mind went from door to door, warning others of the
danger. The only article of value lost in her room was a gold watch belonging to
a friend, which had been sent to Miss Watt to have repaired. Mr. Watt got out
his daughter’s trunks, containing her wearing apparel, but failed to save his
own or his wife’s, or any of their furniture. His loss is estimated at about
$1,000. But what he regretted above all was the loss of the medals awarded the
Watt plow for excellence, one of which he had just received from a Southern
Mr. W. M. Sutton and family were not in the house on the
night of the fire, but nearly all of Mr. Sutton’s personal property was in his
rooms and was destroyed. He lost a quantity of elegant furniture, silver plate,
and wearing apparel, and some valuable old family portraits and other pictures,
which cannot be replaced. His loss is estimated at not less than $2,500.
Mr. Bolling W. Haxall’s family were among the sufferers,
losing nearly everything but a little clothing and a few papers.
Mr. E. Cuthbert, correspondent of the New York Herald,
lost some articles of clothing, a library, the files of the Herald, and
an interesting letter to the paper which he represents.
Mr. Wm. Ira Smith’s furniture was insured for $800 in the
Virginia Home Fire Insurance Company.
When the ladies and children rushed forth from the hotel in
their night clothes and barefooted, several gentlemen offered to divest
themselves of their coats and shoes to shield the poor creatures from the
piercing cold. Mr. De Lave, of the troupe now performing at the Theatre, gave
his coat to the wife of Captain McPhail, having seen that his own daughter was
out of danger, and Mr. J. E. Towers supplied his (Captain McPhail’s) daughter
with shoes and carried her to a place of safety. Generous merchants sent the
sufferers word that whatever they might need could be had at their stores,
begging that nothing be said about the money. In marked contrast to these noble
deeds, however, was the conduct of a well-known dry goods merchant, who refused
to let a sufferer have anything for his family without the cash. It is hard to
resist the temptation to publish the name of such a person.
We publish this morning a corrected list of the losses and
The Spotswood Hotel, owned by the Crenshaw estate, and
valued at $140,000; total insurance, $54,800, divided amongst the following
companies: Underwriters’ Agency, New York, $30,000; Security, New York,
$5,000; Manhattan, New York, $5,000; Atlantic, New York, $5,000; and $5,000 in
the Franklin, of Baltimore (D. N. Walker & Co., agents); Mutual Insurance of
Virginia, $4,800. Furniture, etc., $33,000, amongst the following:
Underwriters’, $5,000; Security, $5,000; Manhattan, $5,000; Atlantic, $5,000
(D. N. Walker & Co., agents);Southern
Mutual, $2,000; North British and Mercantile (Thomas M. Alfriend & Son,
agents), $7,000; and $5,000 in the Royal, of London, (Peyton & Ellerson,
The two buildings adjoining the hotel, and owned by the
estate of James H. Grant, were insured for $27,200. Virginia State Insurance
Company, $8,000; National Fire, of Baltimore, $8,000, and the Mutual Assurance
Society of Virginia, $11,200.
Mr. E. Currant’s stock, estimated at $12,000, insured for
$5,000 in the North British and Mercantile, Thos. M. Alfriend & Son, agents.
Henry Hungerford’s loss $2,000. No insurance.
J. H. Marsh, music dealer, entire stock lost; value
unknown. No insurance.
W. J. Anderson, stoves and tinware. Insured for $3,000 in
the Continental Fire Insurance Company, New York; Gibson & Rose, agents.
The building occupied by Anderson, belonging to the estate
of Samuel D. Denoon, was insured in the Mutual Assurance of Virginia for $800.
Mr. Woeldecke, cigar dealer, loss about $1,000. No
Southern Express Company, loss unknown, but supposed to be
heavy; no insurance.
Grover & Baker sewing-machine company, $1,500. Virginia
State. Los over insurance about $500.
Howe sewing-machine, loss and insurance about the same as
Grover & Baker’s.
Mayor Kelly, library insured for $1,000 in Petersburg
Savings and Insurance Company, Thos. M. Alfriend & Son, agents.
[later in the same paper]
The holocaust which ushered in Christmas morning here is
not to be forgotten, nor is it to be neglected. It is a lesson to the
hotel-keepers of Richmond, but to those everywhere to whom the public entrust
their lives and property. The disaster of Christmas morning should be made the
subject of an inquest, and all the facts connected with the present system of
hotel management should be made known. It is something we owe to those seven
men, every one of them in the prime of life, who fell out of the black smoke
cloud that surrounded and stifled them into the fiery furnace beneath. It is
something we owe to that poor woman, the mother of children, who, beyond the
reach of aid, cried piteously for help until wrapped in the devouring flames.
And it is something we owe to those who are now alive - for no traveler knoweth
the hour when the same calamity may not overtake him. The sole cause of the
fearful loss of life which took place was the want of sufficient watchfulness.
It is useless to cover it up with smooth words. That is the plain English of it
- that is the fact. And yet the ill-fated hotel was no exception to the hotels
all over the country. Indeed, so confident were the proprietors in their
provisionfor the safety of their
guests that they themselves, with their families, occupied the very highest and
therefore most dangerous floor in the house.
Even with their intimate knowledge of the building, their
escape was very narrow. What, then, were the chances for a stranger? It is the
custom in the hotels now to have only a clerk and one or two servants on the
lowest floor of the house-the office-after midnight, and the four or five floors
above that are utterly deserted, except by the sleeping and helpless guests,
from that time until 6 o’clock in the morning. Should the fire commence on the
lowest floor, it would be physically impossible to get to 150 rooms and awaken
each occupant; and should it commence on the floor above the office (as was the
case at the Spotswood), the clerk himself would be ignorant of it till too late
for remedy. We are glad to learn that a bill will be introduced into the
Legislature requiring all hotel-keepers in the State to have a watchman or
watchmen, who shall visit each floor in the building every ten or fifteen
minutes during the night, see that all is safe, shut off escaping gas, &c.;
the failure to do this to be punished by a heavy fine.
To another blunder attention may be called - the ordinance
requiring the gas to be turned off from a building directly it is discovered to
be on fire. It is an ill-judged and cruel law. The stranger unacquainted with
the building, who is trying to reach the gas-light burning dimly in the dense
smoke, sees it suddenly turned out, and himself left to darkness and to death.
Let all these aids to death be taken away b the Legislature
and the Council.
[later in the same paper]
ST. JOHN’S DAY. - The Masonic celebration of St John’s
day (yesterday) was very properly postponed on account of the death of Mr. E. W.
Ross, a member of this fraternity in good standing.