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J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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Monday the First Congregational church, at the corner of Ann and West Wash-
ington streets, was taken possession of, in the name of the City of Chicaga, by
C. C. P. Holden, who was president of the Common Council and next in authority to
the mayor. 11 During the morning he had driven through the outskirts of the
burned district and had seen the awful distress of hundreds of families whose
homes were burned, among them the sick and those injured in flight. Something
must be done immediately, and it was decided by Mr. Holden to establish a relief
station on the West Side. Word was sent to the mayor, who was helping to fight
the fire in the North Division, to the city clerk and to a number of men of promi-
nence to be at the church by 12:15 p. m., and at 12:45 the church was occupied by
this volunteer relief society. The carpets were taken up, chairs and tables made
ready for use, and the doors opened to those asking help. At once the unfortunate

10 Report of Chicago Relief and Aid Society, p. 20.

11 Narrative of C. C. P. Holden, in Andreas' "History of Chicago," II, 762.



CHICAGO: ITS HISTORY AND ITS BUILDERS 221

began to come. Messengers were sent out as widely as possible to announce that
here the sufferers could obtain aid. Those who carried the word were told to re-
lieve urgent and extreme cases of suffering, and to bring helpless ones to the
church, as far as possible, in the vehicles which were gathered together for the
purpose. The Green street church near by, at that time vacant, was used as a
refectory and provided with cooking stoves; other churches joined in the relief
work and were made branch stations.

About five hundred citizens in each division of the city were sworn in as special
police, and given a badge a square of white cotton cloth with the word "Police"
printed on it. This enlarged force was thought necessary to protect the city from
incendiarism and the acts of violence which are the result of periods of public con-
fusion. An order had previously been given that all fires should be extinguished
until the supply of water was renewed, an exception being made of the bakers who
furnished bread to the city, and of those cooking at the relief workers' refectory.
For the immediate distribution of water over the city, water brigades were organ-
ized in every district, with instructions to press into their service all wagons or
vehicles necessary for the work. Those in charge of the work, being Park Com-
missioners, knew how and where to get the water, which was one of the first ne-
cessities of existence. In a short time a system of regular water carts was es-
tablished and maintained until the city was again supplied through the water
pipes.

SHELTER FOR THE HOMELESS

For the temporary shelter of homeless people the public school houses that
were not burned down were opened at the relief committee's request, and on Mon-
day night were filled with those who had no other place in which to sleep. Great
numbers had fled to the outlying parts of the city, where they finally settled ; while
many others went to the West Side to stay with friends. Some made their way
to the prairie west of the city, and built for themselves temporary dwellings of the
roughest kind. These were mostly day-laborers and the poor of the city, who
were, in the long run, the greatest sufferers by the fire, having neither the priv-
ilege of credit, so necessary to many at this time, nor the spirit of initiative and
self-confidence.

The tax upon the relief committee's resources was immensely relieved by the
departure from the city, on Monday afternoon, of about fifteen thousand persons,
it was estimated, and on Tuesday the same number. Thus about one-third of the
homeless ones sought refuge elsewhere, filling up train after train that was leav-
ing the city. Those who wished to go applied to the relief committee for the means
to travel, and were given requests upon the railroads for free transportation to the
designated points. These requests were honored by the railroad companies. By
Tuesday morning printed slips had been prepared, which were filled out by the
authorities and used as passes.

When Mr. Holden and his associates began the work of relief at noon of Mon-
day, October 9, they had scant means for furnishing the applicants for assistance
with what they would ask for. There was, it is true, plenty of help offered by
those who were willing to devote themselves to the sufferers ; there were also a
few vacant buildings in which to shelter the homeless ; it was possible to help others



222 CHICAGO: ITS HISTORY AND ITS BUILDERS

to leave the city; but of food and clothing, the most immediate necessities, there
was no supply. The little that was brought in during the first afternoon was quite
inadequate to the demand, which was increasing enormously every hour. Soon,
however, the first carload of provisions arrived in the city, coming from towns
within a distance of eighty miles from Chicago, and from that time the supplies
came in steadily, bringing cooked food of all kinds, clothing, blankets, bedding,
stoves, money anything that could be of use. The first measures of relief taken
were necessarily indiscriminate, as there was no time in the urgency of feeding the
hungry people to inquire into the worthiness of each request. As the work pro-
gressed, however, a system of accounts and registration was evolved that made the
work judicious as well as thorough.

The churches that were used for refuge were quickly made ready for the great
numbers of distressed who were pouring in. Beds for the sick and injured were
improvised from chairs and benches, tables were prepared both for the distribu-
tion of food and for the convenience of the doctors who had come to offer their ser-
vices. Everywhere there were lost children crying piteously, who were comforted
and fed until they might be returned to their parents. Here was a German woman
with her brood of nine children, complaining that her husband was lost in the
flames while carrying her feather bed to a place of safety ; she bewailed the loss
of the feather bed much more bitterly than the fate of the husband, who, she said,
had drunk so much that he could not "go fast" with it. In one corner was a
woman with her baby wrapped in a shawl, weeping for her husband and four
children, all lost in their burning home. When the flames were discovered, she
seized her baby, called to her husband to bring the other children, and fled from
the house. The sympathetic helper offered to take the baby while the mother lay
down to rest; she unwrapped the shawl and quickly closed it again in horror,
but not before the distracted mother had seen that this last one of her beloved
children was dead in her arms. Her reason left her, her eyes wandered, and she
was cared for as were others whose sorrows on that awful day were too great for
conscious endurance.

Little groups of children were here and there under the protection of an elder
sister or brother, some playing carelessly, others wailing desolately ; on one of the
benches all by itself lay a little baby a few months old, contentedly sucking its
thumb and gazing up at the stained glass windows in meditative interest. A dis-
consolate Norwegian woman who had saved none of the furniture but the cook
stove gathered her children about it, and sat near by, in glum despair. When she
was told that she could have a pail of hot soup, free, every day during the win-
ter, she wept in an abandonment of joy, shook hands with everyone in the room,
and set to polishing her stove with all her might.

ALL CLASSES IN NEED

Among the people who came to ask for clothing the contrasts were just as
strange here was a woman in a handsome black velvet gown which she had put
on that she might thus save it ; she had come to ask for clothes more in keeping
with the sombre day; then came a group of unfortunates who had long known the
wretchedness of begging and who now asked for clothes because they had fled from



CHICAGO: ITS HISTORY AND ITS BUILDERS 223

the Poor House, which burned. And there was a judge of the Supreme Court,
and near him a young English couple who were visiting America on their wedding
tour, and had lost their trunks in escaping from the burning hotel. Though they
were given the best there was, they found themselves wearing strange bridal gar-
ments. The greatest demand was for clothes for babies, babies from two hours
to two vears old, many of the orders calling for outfits for twins. 12

On that evening hundreds were given their first good meal after the age-long
night and day of flight and terror and exhaustion. It was a democratic feast; the
mayor of the city was there, as glad of his plate of cooked beans as was the cheer-
ful Irish washwoman who thanked the good God for her slice of sirloin of beef, a
more bountiful meal than her wonted fare of potatoes and bread; the hungry
banker crowded onto the bench with the hungry teamster, and they were all served
by the men and women who had come to offer their time and efforts for whatever
period they could be helpful. The next day, with the assistance of the Lost and
Found Department which had been established, great numbers of little children
who had been lost were restored to their parents ; many there were, on the other
hand, who hunted in vain for their dear ones, visiting those places which had been
made repositories for the dead bodies found among the burned ruins.

ASSISTANCE SENT FROM ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD

The carloads of food and clothing sent by towns in the vicinity of Chicago
brought to the city the first relief from outside. During the day of the fire the
news of it had spread abroad, and the whole civilized world was aroused. Begin-
ning on October 9, and continuing thereafter for many days, telegrams came in
to the mayor from cities of every country, offering assistance of any kind, send-
ing assurances of sympathy and of help already on the way, or notifying the
mayor of appropriations made for the benefit of the sufferers. Committees were
sent from cities in all parts of this country and Canada, well prepared to give
needed assistance. On Wednesday morning, October 11, it was estimated that
representatives of over one thousand committees had visited the relief head-quarters
since Monday noon. The governors of many of the states came, to see what was
needed and offer words of encouragement. This but indicates the universal expres-
sion of sympathy and helpfulness that followed what General Sheridan had well
designated in his telegram to Secretary of War Belknap as a national calamity.

By Tuesday evening the work of the General Relief Committee was progress-
ing with systematized efficiency. The records showed that $1,500,000 had been
received from people all over the country; that six hundred and fifty wagon loads
of cooked provisions, clothing, bedding, etc., had been delivered to the homeless;
that two thousand and fifty-four wagon loads of women and children had been
brought to the churches, schoolhouses and other places of shelter. Besides, there
were probably at the same time two thousand private vehicles carrying homeless
people to places of safety, and taking supplies from the cars to groups of the
needy. This good record of accomplishment gave the workers much encouragement.
By Wednesday an abundant supply of cooked food had come in, and the storage
rooms were well stocked. As many families had obtained permanent shelter and

'-The Great Conflagration, p. 307.



224 CHICAGO: ITS HISTORY AND ITS BUILDERS

had been given cooking utensils, there was a diminished call for prepared food; it
was therefore recommended by the committee from abroad that the provisions sent
to these be henceforth uncooked. The misery throughout the city was greatly al-
leviated by a limited water supply pumped from the river in small quantities by
the fire engines and other engines loaned for the purpose. In some streets the
water was carried through mains laid on the surface of the ground. With this
scant water supply, which could not be forced above the basement and lowest
stories, continued watchfulness was necessary lest there be another outbreak of
fire. Conditions were further improved by the fact that homes for some of the
families were now ready for occupancy on the outskirts of the town. An order
had been given on Monday for the construction of houses, very simple and small
they were and on Wednesday it was reported that thirty were finished, and two
hundred more under way.

A feeling of security and of order restored was prevalent in the city when the
announcement was made on Tuesday, October 10, that the headquarters of the
mayor and health department had been established at the corner of Ann and Wash-
ington streets, that police headquarters were located at Union and Madison streets
and that the military and police power would combine to preserve order. Here
was indeed a sturdy and cheerful people who could turn from so overwhelming a
catastrophe to the establishment of new foundations and the continuance of former
institutions.

PROGRESS OP RELIEF WORK

The relief work during the first few days had been conducted by volunteer work-
ers, self-organized in the urgency of the moment, who had assumed the name of Gen-
eral Relief Committee. Into their hands were given all sums of money sent to
the city for the sufferers, as well as the carloads of supplies which came during
the period of their management. During the existence of this committee Mr. Or-
rin E. Moore acted as chairman; the duties of treasurer were undertaken by Mr.
C. C. P. Holden until, at a meeting of the organization on Wednesday, he resigned
as treasurer, and moved the appointment of David A. Gage, the city treasurer, to
the position. This motion was carried, and contributions were then receipted by
Mr. Gage. Upon the request of a number of members of the Chicago Relief and
Aid Society, it was decided by the mayor to transfer the entire work of relief over
into their hands, as being an incorporated institution of long standing. Accordingly
on Friday, October 13, the contributions were transferred to the Society by procla-
mation of the mayor, and accepted by it two days later. To cope with the immense
work, a general plan was prepared by Wirt Dexter, chairman of the executive com-
mittee, and adopted by the Society. In accordance with this plan, many were added
to the force of the Society, its system was enlarged and extended, and to secure
efficiency committees were appointed to receive and handle the supplies; to pro-
vide shelter in tents and barracks to the homeless ; to find employment for able
bodied applicants; to manage transportation, the distribution of passes and freight
accommodations for supplies ; to receive visitors and acknowledge telegrams and
letters; to distribute food, clothing and fuel; to have charge of sick, sanitary and
hospital measures; to administer the large affairs of the Society. 13

13 Report of Chicago Relief and Aid Society, p. 137.



CHICAGO: ITS HISTORY AND ITS BUILDERS 225

Immediately after the fire the Health Department began gathering together the
sick and injured who could not find shelter in private families, and sheltering them
in the churches and schoolhouses, where they were cared for by physicians and
volunteer helpers. A few days later, under the management bf the Relief and
Aid Society, the city was divided into districts, a medical superintendent with a
number of visiting physicians appointed for each district, dispensaries established,
and hospital accommodations provided for. With the care that was exercised dur-
ing the months following the fire, the death rate was diminished.

The employment committee, with Mr. N. K. Fairbank as its chairman, was a
sort of labor exchange to which both employers and workmen applied. In the
large plans for rebuilding, there was at once a great demand for unskilled labor,
which was easily met. The next need was .for mechanics, many of whom were un-
able to work, having lost their tools in the fire. In hundreds of cases, by furnish-
ing a skilled workman with from ten to twenty dollars' worth of tools, he was
given the means to find immediate work and support himself and his family. For
the benefit of unemployed women special relief societies were organized. Abundant
work was found for seamstresses, and sewing machines were provided for those
to whom they were necessary as the means of support.

CARE OF THE HOMELESS

At once the most difficult and imperative of all the questions which must be
considered by the Relief Society was that of sheltering the thousands of people
who were camped in the door yards and empty lots of the city, and on the prairie
west of the city. These people were literally on the ground, with no covering
to protect them from rain or cold. Many of the homes on the West and South
Sides were already sheltering friends or strangers ; the suburbs of Chicago were
at that time so few and so distant that but a small number had found refuge there;
the winter was imminent. The easiest solution of the difficulty lay in the plan
to build barracks, but this plan was recognized as a bad one, its fulfillment lead-
ing to disease and discomfort and vice; at best it would be but a temporary ex-
pedient. It was therefore decided to house in barracks only those who could not
otherwise be provided for, and to provide for the rest small but comfortable cot-
tages. So well organized and efficient was the work of the committee on shelter
that their labors were more successful than the most hopeful of them had ex-
pected.

The houses that were given to applicants were of two sizes; one, 20x16 feet
for families of more than three persons; the other, 12x16 feet for families of
three. The floor joists were of 2x6 inches timber, covered with a flooring of
planed and matched boards ; the studding was of 2x4< inches, covered with inch
boards and battened on the outside or with planed and matched flooring; the in-
side walls were lined with thick felt paper; and each house had a double iron
chimney, two four-panelled doors, three windows, and a partition to be put up
where the occupant pleased. Many of the houses were afterward shingled, painted
and plastered. The establishment was completed in a simple way that was suf-
ficient for comfortable living by the addition of a cooking stove and utensils, sev-
eral chairs, a table, bedstead, bedding, and sufficient crockery for the use of the



CHICAGO: ITS HISTORY AND ITS BUILDERS



family; the total cost of the house when thus furnished was one hundred and
twenty-five dollars; exclusive of furniture, the cost was about one hundred dollars.

The majority of those who received the prepared material for these houses
were mechanics enough to put them together for themselves, or had the means to
hire builders; but for the large class of widows, infirm, or otherwise helpless per-
sons, the house was built and put in complete readiness by the committee. Be-
tween October 18, 1871, and May 1, 1873, the Shelter Committee built 7,983
houses, thus providing, at the estimate of five to a family, good homes for more
than thirty-nine thousand people. Of the number of houses built, 5,226 were con-
structed within a month from the time the committee commenced work. It was
estimated that the rental of these houses might be valued at ten dollars a month;
in no case, however, was rent taken from the occupants, the houses and furniture
being given outright to those found worthy. By wise forethought the committee
secured the lumber for these houses at a price which anticipated the rise in the
price of timber due to the great amount of it burned in Chicago lumber yards and
in the forest fires of the regions supplying the city.

Besides these houses there were four barracks in different parts of the city,
each one accommodating twelve hundred and fifty persons. Each family in these
barracks had two rooms furnished in the same way as were the isolated houses.
Each community was under the careful and constant supervision of medical and
police superintendents, and as most of the dwellers in these barracks had before the
fire been occupants of tenement houses, their moral and sanitary condition now was
unquestionably better than formerly.

THE WORLD'S CHARITY

A report of the Chicago Relief and Aid Society was printed in a bulky volume in
1874, from which we quote the list of contributions in money received for the
relief of the sufferers by the Chicago fire. The report referred to also gives a
list of supplies contributed for the same purposes, the printed list of which occu-
pies forty-six pages of the volume.



SOURCES AND AMOUNTS OF CONTRIBUTIONS IN MONEY



United States

Maine

New Hampshire

Vermont

Massachusetts

Rhode Island

Connecticut

New York

New Jersey

Pennsylvania

Delaware '. . .

Maryland

Virginia

West Virginia



J 21,043.47

22,727.15

5,789.43

629,672.41

59,507.33

107,183.92

1,358,451.50

158,397.75

482,976.72

8,070.70

182,122,30

11,362.66

15,596.10



Foreign

Canada

Nova Scotia

Newfoundland

New Brunswick . . . .
British Columbia . . . .

Island of Cuba

Mexico

Central America

Venezuela

Brazil

Argentine Republic . .

Uruguay

Peru .



153,462.78

6,707.63

1,090.00

9,4 11.6*

640.70

16,393.37

2,272.25

402.25

295.63

10,677.21

868.45

1,441.05

10,311.41






CHICAGO: ITS HISTORY AND ITS BUILDERS



227



United States




Foreign




District of Columbia ....


94,470.48


Sandwich Islands


1,635.00


North Carolina


115.00


China


2,897.70


South Carolina


1,117.55


India


2,325.32


Georgia


2,065.75


England


435,023.18


Florida


1,049.23


Wales


3,163.46


Alabama


5.00


Ireland


74,161.36


Mississippi


65.00


Scotland


75,315.62


Louisiana


28,933.96


F'rance


62,782.80


Texas


8,110.11


Belgium


131.00


Ohio


75,882.25


Holland


241.35


Indiana


46,751.62


Germany


81,393.29


Illinois


66,527.18


Austria


3,801.50


Kentucky


27,769.20


Switzerland


15,740.95


Tennessee


23,856.70


Russia


145.91


Michigan


38,414.64


Italy ,


847.71


Wisconsin


422.90


Portugal ,


317.28


Minnesota


24,417.90








Iowa


17,648.60


Total, Foreign


. .$ 973,897.80


Missouri


67,504.25






Arkansas


2,725.85






Kansas


21,231.85




"


Nebraska


17,470.32






Colorado Territory


12,835.85






Nevada


1,505.83






California


168,512.43


Total, United States . .


. .$3,846,032.71


Oregon


13,883.52


Total, Foreign


. . 973,897.80


Dacotah Territory


90.00


Sundry, Unclassified .


217.65


Washington Territory ....


1,509.83








Utah Territory


15,381.11


Total Sum


. .$4,820,148.16


Wyoming Territory


800.00






New Mexico


1,495.50






Miscellaneous


561.56







Total United States $3,846,032.71

It should be remarked that as the above list includes contributions of money
only, while many states made large contributions of supplies the value of which
cannot be given exactly, no just comparisons can be made on the basis of the
amounts of the money contributions only. It is estimated that the contributions,
including both money and supplies, reached a total of five millions of dollars.



CHAPTER XXXIII

CHICAGO FIRE CONTINUED

THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF SYMPATHIZING KKIENDS EDWARD EVERETT HALE's APPEAL

STIRRING ALLUSIONS TO THE DISASTER NEWSPAPERS RESUME PUBLICATION PROP-
ERTY LOSSES LOSS OF LIFE DESTRUCTION OF LIBRARIES AND ART GALLERIES

DESTRUCTION OF CHURCHES SERVICES HELD IN THE OPEN AIR EFFECTS OF THE

FIRE OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION INTO ITS ORIGIN CONDITION OF THE FIRE DEPART-
MENT TRIBUNE'S REVIEW ONE YEAR LATER CHARACTER OF LOSSES CHICAGO'S

RECUPERATIVE POWER RECORDS OF LAND TITLES DESTROYED LEGAL REMEDIES BY

THE LEGISLATURE PROFESSOR SWING'S "MEMORIES OF THE CHICAGO FIRE"

SWING'S DESCRIPTION OF THE FIRE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES DEMEANOR OF THE

PEOPLE INCIDENTS OF THE FIRE RETREAT AND FLIGHT ASPECTS OF THE CON-
FLAGRATION LOSS OF VALUABLES SAFETY UNDER THE OPEN SKY "ALL LOST, BUT

ALL HERE" THE WORLD'S CHARITY WHITTIER'S POEM ON THE CHICAGO FIRE.

THE GENEROSITY OF THE GIFTS

total amount of money sent for the relief of Chicago was $4,820,148.16,
of which $973,897.80 came from foreign countries. It would be diffi-
cult to estimate the value of contributions in the form of carloads,
wagonloads, barrels, and boxes of supplies of every kind. There were
all sorts of things, from a shipment of fifty-nine barrels of syrup to a



Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.2) → online text (page 31 of 55)