THE BOWEN-MERRILL FIRE
The fire began at 3:08 PM on this memorable St. Patrick's day, volumes of smoke rolling up from the basement of the Bowen-Merrill book house, located at 16-18 West Washington Street where great quantities of paper were stored, attracting the attention of passersby as it came through the grating to the sidewalk. The loss of property to this and adjoining establishments exceeded $200,000, the Bowen-Merrill loss being $87,224; that of H. P. Wasson & Co. and others does not appear. It is pathetically significant that the record of this fire is incomplete in the books at Department Headquarters. The clerk who kept, and still keeps, the record was unconscious under the fallen wall, with dead and dying comrades around him. He fortunately escaped with his life, after hovering for months on the brink of death. This break in the record remains as but one of many reminders of the great disaster.
It was not at first thought the fire would be a serious one, but as the volume of smoke increased and it was seen that great columns of flame were shooting upward from the basement through sky and elevator shafts to the roof, it became evident that a very determined effort would be required to keep the fire within the walls where it started and to prevent it from spreading to adjoining buildings to the imminent risk of perhaps destroying the entire block extending from Meridian to Illinois Streets, one of the most valuable in the city, filled with merchandise of great cost. Upon the roof, the better to fight this fire, a number of the fireman had gathered, while others in the less exposed parts of the building had entered the windows. At about 5:30PM without a moments warning, owing doubtless to the great weight upon the floors by reason of the water soaked paper and the insufficient support given by the columns, the floors from bottom to top gave way and the roof fell in. Eleven firemen were taken out dead from the ruins and a thrill of sympathy for their bereaved families went through this community, extending outward from here until it spread all over the land. "Honor for the brave dead who died at their post of duty; let us see that their loved ones do not suffer," was the cry at once taken up.
Those killed were:
Chauffeur, Thomas A. Black: Truck Co. No. 3.
Private John Burkhart, Sub Engine Co. No. 1.
Andrew O. Cherry, Superintendent Fire Alarm Telegraph.
Chauffeur, George S. Falkner: Engineer at Engine House No. 1
Private Ulysess G. Glazier, Sub Engine 3 (Nephew of Chief Daniel Glazier, LODD 03/11/1873).
Private, Albert Huffmann, Pipe-man at Hose Co. No. 10.
Private, David O.R. Lowery, Pipe-man at Engine Co. No. 2
Private, Espy Stormer: Pipe-man at Engine Co. No. 1
Chauffeur, Anthony Voltz: Truck Co. No. 2
Private, Geo. W. Glenn, Pipe-man at Hose Co. No. 10.
Private, Henry D. Woodruff, Pipe-man at Engine Co. No. 5.
Private, William F. Jones Engine Co. 1 remained buried until about 3:30 AM March 18 and died at his home on March 22nd 1890
Captain William McGinnis, Station No. 8 when injured. "head and chest bruised and injured internally".
Died from his injuries on December 1892.
Pipe man, Louis F. Rafert: Engine Co. No. 3,
Died of his injuries on April 7th, 1903.
2nd Assistant Chief and Captain Albert Muerer, of Hook & Ladder Co. No. 2. "Head and face bruised, and arms cut".
Died of his injuries on March 22, 1904
Private William. A. Hinesley: Stoker at Engine Co. No. 1 "Three ribs broken, face and head cuts and bruised". Died of his injuries on July 8th, 1914
On January 7th, 1893, Frank Harvey of engine 3, still despondent over the fact he had taken the day off and Ulysess G. Glazier was killed in his place, took his own life.
Private Harvey had rushed to the scene after hearing of the fire and assisted in the rescue efforts including the recovery of Ulysess Glazier.
The spontaneous cry that the dead should be buried with appropriate ceremony, that the wounded should be well cared for and that the widows and children of the dead should not suffer because of the loss of their bread winners took form in a popular subscription. The response to the appeal for funds was nobly generous. The newspapers helped with the good work, and everybody helped. The Widows mite and the hundred dollar or two-hundred-dollar contribution went inside by side. In addition to the thousands contributed freely by citizens of Indianapolis, large amounts came from other cities, many being from brother firemen, and the chord of sympathy was touched as far away as London England, whence came a goodly sum as a contribution from insurance companies doing business in this country.
A relief committee, with Mayor Sullivan as chairman, was chosen to make proper distribution of the fund, which amounted to $52,433.49. The committee did this service to everyone's satisfaction, the greater part of the amount being used to purchase annuities for the widows and orphans of those who were killed.
Hence the beginning of our pension fund.