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Sydney Tyler.

San Francisco's great disaster; a full account of the recent terrible destruction of life and property by earthquake, fire and volcano in California and at Vesuvius .. online

. (page 13 of 25)
Online LibrarySydney TylerSan Francisco's great disaster; a full account of the recent terrible destruction of life and property by earthquake, fire and volcano in California and at Vesuvius .. → online text (page 13 of 25)
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hours, and were glad to lie on a comfortable mattress in
one of the cottages of his employees.

"At no time have we felt any fear — the whole thing
seems perfectly natural. When everybody is suffering
from the same cause, one's personal sensations are mini-
mized. One feels very small. As I lay in my bed at the
first shock I took mental notes, as I shall probably never
see another earthquake, and I am not sure I want to."

EXPERIENCE OF ADOLPHUS BU8CH.

This is the story of his experience sent by Adolphus
Busch to friends in St. Louis:

*T left San Francisco this morning with my family,
Henry Nicholaus and Carl Conrad. The earthquake which
shook San Francisco made all frantic, and was undoubtedly
the severest ever experienced in the United States. The



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Ii20 SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER.

beautiful Hotel St. Francis swayed from south to north like.
a tall poplar in a storm. Furniture^ even pianos, was
overturned, and people were thrown from their beds.

"I quickly summoned my family and friends, and
urged them to escape to Jefferson Square, which we
promptly did.

"An awful sight met our eyes. Every building was
partly or wholly wrecked, roofs and cornices were falling
from sky-scrapers on lower houses, crushing and burying
the inmates.

"Fires started in all parts of the city. The main water
pipes burst and flooded the streets. One earthquake fol-
lowed the other. The f>eople became terrified^ but all be-
haved wonderfully calm.

"Over 100,000 persons are without shelter, camping
on the hills. There is no light, water or food.

"Fortunately, martial law was declared at once, and
the regulars and militia maintained order and discipline,
otherwise more horrors would have occurred, and riots
might have prevailed.

"The fire spread over three-fourths of the city and
could not be controlled, no water to fight it, no light, and
the earth still trembling.

"Building after building was dismantled to check the
progress of warring, seething flames, but of no avail. We
were fortunate to secure two conveyances, and fled to Nob
Hill^ from which we witnessed the indescribable drama.
Block after block was devastated. The fires blazed like vol-
canos, and all business houses, hotels, theatres, in fact, the
entire business portion lay in ruins and also two-thirds of
the residences; but I trust 'Frisco will rise a phoenix from
its ashes, that a new and more beautiful San Francisco will
be born, and that the generous American nation will give



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SAN FRANCISCO S GREAT DISASTER. 221

it the support and financial assistance it so fully deserves.

*'After a night of horrors we boarded the ferry for
Oakland^ where my private car had been since Tuesday.

**We are now en route home with nothing saved but
what is on our backs, but extremely happy at having es-
caped unharmed.

ADOLPHUS BUSCH."

Arthur Welshans^ the dramatic critic, who was in
the midst of the disaster wrote this of his experiences.
"The flames have been conquered and the pall of disaster
is now lifting from the ruins of the city^ leaving bare to
the gaze of the world a specter of desolation such as the
people of the United States have never before witnessed.
The flames were checked north of Telegraph Hill, the
western boundary being along Franklin street and Cali-
fornia street southeast of Market street. The firemen
checked the advance of flames by dynamiting residences.
Many times before had the firemen made such an effort,
but always previously had they met defeat. But success
at this hour means little for San Francisco. It stands for
but the conquering of flames after the battle had been lost.
Long ere the final struggle came San Francisco had been
lost, its greatness had been lowered, its future terribly
blighted.

"The flames are still burning fitfully about the city,
but the spread of fire has been stopped. It is the end of
losses, but for many days there will be smoke to carry its
message aloft into the skies, and for months will be the
ruins to bring their reminder of holocaust.

"Oakland has become the nearest and the logical
place for refuge for the homeless thousands who are leaving
the doomed city across the bay by every boat. Thirty



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222 SAN FRANCISCO^S GREAT DISASTER.

thousand homeless ones found shelter and comfort in
churches, halls and private residences of the city.

"The horrors of the scenes and the terrible suffering
occasioned by the lack of water can perhaps be imagined
by this statement — when a small stream of dirty water
spurted up through the cobblestones and formed a muddy
pool at the comer of Powell and Market streets, hundreds
of men and women, rich and poor, old and young, knelt
:»nd drank to quench their terrible thirst."

Mrs. Hannah Frank, a visitor in San Francisco from
Chicago, said:

"My room was at the St. Francis hotel. When I was
awakened by the terrible rumbling and shaking the walls
seemed to be falling around me. Somehow — I don't know
how — I got dressed and went out to the street, and there,
as soon as people began to realize what had happened, a
party of the hotel people was made up and we secured a
delivery wagon, and then by some roundabout way got to
the ferry.

"I have seen two eruptions of Vesuvius, but neither
of them was anything like the experience that I passed
through in San Francisco. In 1900, at the time of the
eruption, I was at Recina, Italy. I used to think it was a
terrible experience, but as I look back at it now it seems
nothing but a trifling adventure."

SAW HIS COMPANION KILLED.

Mr. Egbert H. Gold, president of the Chicago Car
Heating Company, Railway Exchange building, said:

"I was asleep in a room on the sixth floor of the Pal-
ace Hotel when the quake came. It threw me out of bed
and rc41ed me over the floor back and forth like a ball. The
walls of the room crashed forward with a grinding sound.



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SAN FRANCISOO'S GREAT DISASTER. 223

covering me with plaster. I hurriedly made my way down-
stairs, and was the first to reach the office. There was no
one there but the night clerk and two men who had been
scrubbing out. One of the scrubbers seemed to have gone
crazy. He was rushing about wildly with a i>ail of water in
ont hand and scrub brush in the other, shouting:

" 'Dis am de end ob de worl', suah.' The other one
said: 'This is the worst ever/ as though he had passed
through earthquakes before.

"I remember everything that occurred perfectly well,
although I must have been excited. My next recollection
is I was running down the street as fast as I could run in
my pajamas. Walls were falling about me in Market
street. The gfrinding and rumbling noise continued. A
wall dropped across the street directly in my path. At
the same instant I noticed that my feet were full of glass
and I had no clothes on. I walked slowly back to the
hotel, thinking I was several miles away from home and
without any money and I'd better go back after some.

"The women were crying when I returned to the
hotel, but they all seemed safe, so I hurried back to my
room, packed all my clothes, got my money, and escaped
without as much as the loss of a collar button. I had my
camera with me and it occurred to me that it would be a
good time to get some photographs, but I dismissed the
thought as I had more important things to think of.

"As I was leaving my room with my suit case in my
hand I heard cries in the adjoining room: *Let us out! Let
us out! We'll die!'

"A man and his wife were in the room and the earth-
quake had twisted the wall so they could not open the
door.

"I put my shoulder to the door and succeeded in open-



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224 SAN Francisco's great disaster.

ing it a few inches. With the man and his wife pulling with
all their might we soon had the door open enough to let
them out. I advised them to pack up their clothes, but
they ran downstairs without paying any attention to me

"I was with another man from the hotel, whose name
I did not know. As we proceeded we saw a number of
dead men lying in the streets and one woman. One man
had been flattened out by a falling wall. I turned to mj'
companion as we passed this g^ewsome sight and saw him
pitch forward. His head had been taken off cleanly by a
falling stone."

H. R. Crockett of Southampton, England, who was
on a trip around the world and was in the Occidental hotel
during the earthquake, said:

"Pve seen enough of America, and propose to gtt
back to England, which if it is a little island as they say,
at least is not disturbed by such convulsions of nature as
I saw out here. I have lost my baggage and become sepa-
rated from two companions with whom I was going
around the globe. I was in an earthquake in Italy, but it
was nothing like this.

"Falling plaster and the swaying of the bed awoke me.
and while I knew what it was I had no conception of the
ruin it had wrought."

A WOMAN'S DESCRIPTION.

A woman's description of the scenes of horror fol-
lowing the earthquake was furnished by Mrs. Mary Long
street, a San Franciscan. Mrs. Lxjngstreet said the burning
city "was like a picture of hell." This is her story:

"We were all on the eighth floor of the hotel, and were
awakened when the building began rocking like a ship.

"Suddenly, as we were standing there, the entire city



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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 227

seemed to catch fire. In all directions and as far as wc
could see the great tongues of flame leaped into the air.
Terrified as we were, we stood by the window. In less time
than it takes to tell it the entire part of the city between us
and the ferry was ablaze. It was a beautiful yet terrible
sight. We remained in the hotel till 10 o'clock, and at that
time succeeded in getting a carriage and an automobile.
We then left the hotel and drove to the home of a friend
a mile away. When we got there we found the house in
ruins.

"We then went to the home of the Tevises and re-
mained there until we were driven out by fire. Finally we
found refuge at the residence of J. F. Winslow, on Nob
Hill.

"We slept on the floor that night, but they had no
food, and after scouring the city over my brother managed
to purchase ten ship's biscuits and four boxes of sardines,
and after eating these we made beds on the floor and tried
to sleep. We had a little candle in our room, but that wc
did not need.

"The hundreds of fires made the city light as day, with
a ghastly, sickening glow that made one tremble with fear.

"Words cannot describe human emotions at such a
time as that, and I wish I could shake off that feeling that
has clung to me ever since the first shock of the earthquake
aroused me from my slumber.

"I saved some things — three pairs of shoes, I believe.
I put the shoes in a bag and brought them along. My
diamonds and money I left in the hotel. But we all did
that. No one at such times cares for their effects. We
expected death at any minute, and were surprised that it
did not come. Can you wonder that I saved the shoes in-
stead of my valuables?



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228 SAN Francisco's great disaster.

"You would never know San Francisoo now. It is
nothing but ruins. Did you ever see a child build a house
with blocks and then knock it down? Well, that is the
way buildings fell all over the city during the earthquake

"I cannot describe it." said Mrs. Wilcox who shared
the ordeal with Mrs. Longstreet. "I awoke at the fir^
tremble, and, oh, what a terrible sensation! Plaster fell
from the walls, and I expected at any second to see
the St. Francis Hotel crumble to the earth. With the
earthquake came that horrible roar. It sounded like thou-
sands of violins being played on the bass strings, and all
at a discord.

"Did you ever see the picture of 'Hell,' which hangs
in the Santa Barbara Mission? It was something like that,
only a thousand times worse. We had a hard time getting
to Oakland, where we caught a train. The railroad people
deserve great credit. Once on the train we were shown
every courtesy. If people did not have money they were
taken along just the same. Money was no object at that
time."

SHOT TO END THEIR AGONY.

"Soldiers shot living beings to save them the torture
of death in the flames/' said Miss Margaret Underbill
"The horror of it all was so overwhelming^ that the sight
of the dead became commonplace.''

Miss Underbill told of her escape after the first shock
from a three-story frame building, which later collapsed
It adjoined the Sacred Heart College.

"We stopped to watch the soldiers, men, and police-
men, who, with timbers from the wreckage, were at work
upon the front of a burning frame building," she said. "The
front of the three-story structure had fallen outward.



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SAN FRANCISCO'S GREAT DXSAfiTBR. 229

"Pinned beneath the structure was a man who pleaded
piteously with the men who worked to release him. His
head and shoulders projected froiii the wreckage. With
his free arm he tried to help the workers by pulling at the
timbers. His eyes bulged from their sockets. One by one
the men weriC driven back by the flames until only one was
left, a soldier.

"From where we stood we could see the very timber
that held the man down, smoke. His hair and mustache
were singed.

"For God's sake, shoot me/ he begged. His voice
rose clear above the roar of the flames. The soldier
turned and went back.

"Shoot me, before you go," the man yelled. The sol-
dier turned quickly, his rifle at his shoulder. The rifle
cracked, and the blood spurted from the head of the man.

"I covered my eyes and walked on."

THE STORY OF A PRISONER.

Harshly graphic is the story told of the earthquake
by Detective Sergeant Theodore F. Snyder, of the New
York Central Office, and his prisoner, Edward E. Qark,
twenty-one years old, whom Snyder went to San Francisco
for, to answer a charge of grand larceny. The detective
sergeant got to the city of tragedy a few hours before the
great quakes began, while young Qark was one of the 150
prisoners in the Hall of Justice, which was crumbled by
the shock. The narration of experiences of each man
makes a dreadful story.

Early on the morning of April 18, Clark, whose cell
adjoined a myriad of the same on the top and fifth floor of
the Hall of Justice, awoke from a sound sleep, with the



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230 SAN Francisco's great disaster.

noise of falling masonry in his ears and the frenzed cries
of more than seven score prisoners, similarly locked in their
narrow cells, clamoring for help. Among the men was a
murderer, who was to meet his punishment the next dky,
and it popped into the minds of the jailed beings that his
confederates, in a desperate plan, had blown up the place
in an effort to liberate him. No one seemed to know what
became of the man to be hanged.

To render their misery the greater the prison guards,
almost to a man, Clark declared fled from the building, but
Judge Cavanaugh, with several police officers, arrived at
six o'clock, less than an hour after the great shock, and
calmed as well as possible the terror of the inmates, ex-
plaining that an earthquake had taken place but succor was
to be attempted in that every man would be taken from
the building immediately. Hurriedly the Judge dis-
charged all prisoners who were locked up on petty charges.
The rest, in charge of the militia, hastily summoned, were
marched to the comer of Broadway and Trade street.

Passing through Kearny street, said Qark, a man
could be seen beneath the wreckage of a building, begging
piteously for relief, by being shot, if necessary. Then, ac-
cording to Clark, a policeman fired twice at the man under
the debris, but did not appear to have given him a mortal
wound, whereupon the man's own brother snatched the
revolver from the policeman's hand and himself fired a bul-
let into the brain of the unfortunate, whose rescue was im-
possible. Later, Clark was told, the man who fired the
fatal shot gave himself up and was discharged.

For fifty-two hours, the men in the band he was with
had no water or food. They were taken first to the Broad-
way county jail, which used to be an ancient Spanish
prison, but the fire menaced this structure and the pris-



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SAN Francisco's great disaster. 231

oners were taken on a steamer in the afternoon to Fort
Mason, seven miles away, whence they were shipped to
San Quentin, where the warden denied them entrance on
the ground that they were federal prisoners, in the charge
of troops. The steamship took the men again toward San
Francisco, but as it entered the harbor the thousands of
persons who lined the wharves, holding out entreating
arms and pleading to be taken aboard and away from the
scene of destruction, caused the captain to steam away,
finally landing the prisoners at Alcatraz Island, a solid rock
whose center had a g^eat fissure caused by the earthquake.
There Clark was when Snyder got him and brought him
to New York.

The detective sergeant told of having reached San
Francisco at half-past one o'clock on the morning of the
shock, taking a room at the Netherlands Hotel He was
shaken out of bed by the quake a few hours lat^r. and ran
out into the hallway, where the first man he saw <cried out
that an earthquake had come and every one had better run
for his life. Snyder got his clothing on partially 'md seized
his baggage, a grip, with which he ran down «tairs with
the crowd. He went to the Hall of Justice at a few min-
utes after six o'clock, when Mayor Schmitz h'^A arrived
with Chief Dinan, of the Police Department, and Snyder
was told by the latter to help Detective Sergeaj^it Edward
Gibson, of the San Francisco police, to get as^ many au-
tomobiles as possible and bring them to the Hall of Justice.
The two men requisitioned quite a number, which were at
once put to use.



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DEATH PENALTY FOR LOOTING.

A disaster such as that which overwhelmed San Fran-
cisco brings out the nobility of some men and opens the
way for revelations of the depths to which others are sunk.
Thus, in the very midst of an heroic battle against nature
and fate, waged by some, others give thought only to the
advantages of such an hour for theft and deviltry. Mayor
Schmitz and General Funston joined in prompt and drastic
measures to halt the thief and looter. Orders were issued
to the policemen, troops and citizen guards to shoot on
sight any one seen in the act of robbery. Fourteen paid
the penalty of death for violation of the mandate that they
must not steal. This is one of the sad chapters in the human
side of the catastrophe which San Francisco would willingly
forget.

Public opinion everywhere sustains the order and the
men who carried it out. In critical hours little things may
destroy the last vestige of law and order and introduce a
reign of anarchy. In a city of more than four hundred
thousand persons there is bound to be a large number, need-
ing only a leader, to profit by any nefarious scheme which
may be safely carried out under cover of the universal con-
fusion. A single theft, against which no strong arm is
raised, can easily lead to a thousand. Under such circum-
stances the sanctity of property becomes a tenet which it is
tenfold necessary to uphold. The slow process of arrest, in
the midst of disorganization, such as inevitably follows in
the trail of great public disasters, is practically out of the
question. The fact that troops take the place of civil officials
in the preservation of order is significant of the need of all

«33



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234 SAN Francisco's great disaster.

of the rigor that military jurisdiction means. The "strong
arm" of the military is the loaded gun. The civil tribunal
as well as the civil official must give way and in place of
judge and jury must be substituted the death-dealing ball.

The men upon whom it devolved to defend and protect
the public in the midst of the great disaster, to preserve, de-
spite the difficulties, some form of stability and organization,
took the inevitable step of demanding obedience on pain of
death. It was the fate of the community in the balance
against the individual and the latter must go down in such
a crisis. Ample warning was served. The men who were
killed, knew the fate that would follow detection. They
deliberately put their lives in the scale against the chance
of securing a handful of gold. It is a tribute to the excel-
lence of the provisional government that not one such es-
caped with his life. San Francisco's chief executive and
General Funston could not protect property against earth-
quake, nor could they guarantee that this or that should not
be burned, but they did insure every fragment that was not
burned from the depredations of thieves. It cost fourteen
lives to achieve this. San Francisco is better off without
fourteen so lost to shame, and dead to honor.

Every great calamity, such as that at San Francisco,
proves how truly narrow the border between the "rights"
of the State and the "rights" of the Federal Government.
Four thousand United States troops, backed by the authority
of the United States, have invaded California, and insofar
as they have shot down fourteen citizens, have made war on
the Commonwealth. They were rushed into the city by the
commanding general without orders, in violation of ever;
law which governs the States and governs the army. And
yet, they were hardly less wefcome than tfie trains of food-



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SAN FRANCISCO'S GRXAT DISASTER. 237

Stuffs, and the general who sent them will receive only
connnendation. When the crisis has passed, the troops
will return to the government reservation and the State
and Federal Government will resume all of that separate-
ness w^iich the law demands. A month later, if a detach-
ment from the Presidio were desired by the city or State
officials for participation in a local Fourth of July celebra-
tion, it would take a week of correspondence and "red tape"
before a single trooper could be moved. It is said of the
laws of the Medes and Persians that they "varied neither
jot nor tittle," but new ideas have been bom with the un-
folding of civilization.

General Funston will not be courtmartialed and dis-
missed from the army, though he has broken more army
law probably than any officer of a century; California will
not summon her militia to repel Federal invaders; there
will be no demand for indemnity for her citizens shot down,
by what, in law, amounts to a foreign foe. And when
another great calamity is visited upon an American city
some soldier of equal valor and initiative as Funston will
do the same thing, or receive the universal condemnation
of his countrymen. These events at San Francisco call
attention once more to the Imitations upon the most
solemnly enacted law and prove that only one law is uni-
versally stable, the unwritten law of self-preservation and
that other which places upon the shoulders of all, responsi-
bility for all of the great brotherhood of man.

Prompt action on the part of the military authorities
and the Governor resulted in the maintenance of order.
The regulars sent by General Funston were supplemented
bv marines from the six men-of war in the harbor. These



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238 SAN Francisco's great disaster.

cooperated with the police and the city authorities. There
were also militia ordered out by the Governor.

THIEVES HANGED BY CIVILIANS.

Oliver Posey^ Jr., said:

"Were it not for the fact that the soldiers in charge
of the city do not hesitate in shooting down the ghouls
the lawless element would predominate. Not alone do the
soldiers execute the law. On Wednesday afternoon, in
front of the Palace Hotel, a crowd of workers in the ruins


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Online LibrarySydney TylerSan Francisco's great disaster; a full account of the recent terrible destruction of life and property by earthquake, fire and volcano in California and at Vesuvius .. → online text (page 13 of 25)