Cook County, Illinois
Genealogy Trails
Genealogy and History

Fires, Floods, Train Wrecks
and Other Calamities
News Stories

These are in Date Order
©unless otherwise noted, transcribed by KT

Cholera on the Lakes
As the steamer Nile was recently passing up Lake Huron, with about one hundred Swiss emigrants on board, the Cholera broke out among them, in a very malignant form, and before the boat arrived at Chicago, eight had died, and were buried in the Lake. There were fifteen others laying, most of them, in a collapsed state. They were promptly taken to the Hospital by the authorities of Chicago. These emigrants were bound to Henry county, Illinois, where there is a large settlement of their country-men. The Cholera was still prevailing at Mackinac, at the latest accounts. [The Daily Crescent [New Orleans, La.], October 17, 1849]

Five Persons Drowned.
Chicago, July 10. On Thursday last, Rev. Mr. Nichols, wife and child, Mr. Cleveland, wife and two daughters, and a brother-in-law, of Minneapolis, while bathing in Calhoun Lake, got beyond their depth and all but Mr. Nichols and an infant daughter of Mrs. Cleveland were drowned
[Campaign Atlas and Bee, Boston, Sat. July 14, 1860 - Submitted by Src #22]

The four-story brick building, on Monroe Street, Chicago, occupied by the National Printing company and Bradner, Smith & Co., paper dealers, burned on the morning of the 30th. The losses are estimated at $370.000. [Mower County Transcript (Lansing, MN), April 8, 1885, page 1]

A Four-Story Chicago House Comes Down with a Crash, Nearly Catching the Ten Inmates-Too Much Weight at the Top

CHICAGO, Oct. 1. - A little errand-boy employed about the aerated bread department of the Dake bakery, housed in the tall four story rear building at 196 and 198 Clark street, notice about 2:30 Wednesday morning that the walls of the huge pile were behaving curiously. His sharp ear also caught the faint cracking noise of heavy timber. The little fellow was scared and confied his fears to Dan McCabe, the engineer in the basement floor, who laughed at him and told him he "must be sick" and "had better see the doctor in the morning."  A moment later McCabe heard a crushing sound, and, looking up, noticed that the cap surmounting the wooden column supporting the ceiling was crushed into fragments. He at once yelled out to his fellow-workmen: "Run, boys! Get your coats and run!" The men, ten in number, made their escape, those in the rear just getting clear as the roof and west wall of the building fell in with a resounding crash, plainly heard in the stillness of the night for blocks away, calling fourth a heterogeneous crowd from every night resort in the neighborhood. An alarm of fire was turned in, and the department and police responded. While the alley adjoining the structure was filled with firemen, police,and reporters, a portion of the north wall came crushing down, and a panicky rush followed, which, considering the vast crowd, was miraculously enough not accompanied by loss of life.  The building was occupied as follows: Basement and second floor by H. H. Kohlsaat, who also occupies the building 196 and 198 Clark street as a lunch-room. The latter was connected with the collapsed building by an elevated walk and a basement entrance, standing about twenty-five feet to the west of it. Cottrell & Sons used the first floor as a general repair shop for printing machinery and the manufacture of electrotypes and stereotypes. The third floor was occupied by Bingham Sons, manufacturers of printing rollers, who used it for storage purposes. The fourth floor was jointly occupied by J. D. Cox & Co., bookbinders, and a tinsmith, C. B. Richart. [The Argus (Rock Island), October 1, 1885, page 1, Sub by src #211]

Chicago, July 17 - a boy's curiosity "to see if it would burn" yesterday set the Chicago river on fire. It occurred near the stock-yard where the river has long ceased to be water and is in reality nothing but grease and animal fats which have found their way from the slaughter houses. A lighted match thrown into these ingredients soon had the river blazing for several blocks and the fire boat and two locomotives succeeded in keeping the flames from the more valuable property, but not until the $500 worth of dockage had been destroyed. (The Daily Northwestern Oshkosh, Wis., Tuesday, July 17, 1888 column 1; Submitted by Diana Morse)

The new seven-story brick building, Nos. 298, 300 and 302 Fourth avenue, Chicago, owned by John C. DALE, of Chicago and S. E. HART, of Marietta, Ohio, was burned a few evenings since, causing a loss of $250,000. patent medicine, bookbinding and printing firms were the principal occupants, and their inflammable stock fired so easily that nothing could be done except try to save adjoining structures. The building was worth $115,000, and is nearly a total loss. It was insured for $40,000 [Jan. 18, 1888, The Newton Press, Jasper County, IL Newspaper; Sub. by source #23]

Forty people narrowly escaped being burned to death in a fire in a big apartment house in Chicago a few night ago. [1 Feb. 1888 The Newton Press, Jasper County, IL Newspaper - Sub. by source #23]

Chicago, Sept. 19 - Joseph Zeller, Emil Strake, P. Strake, the two-year-old son of Emil, and an unknown man were drowned in Lake Michigan off the Sixteenth street pier this afternoon. The skiff in which they were riding was capsized by the waves of a passing steamer. None of the bodies have been recovered. [New Ulm Review (New Ulm, MN) Sept. 21, 1892, page 3]

Three Persons Struck by Lightning in Lincoln Park.
CHICAGO, June 17.—three persons were killed, two seriously injured and the Grant monument slightly damaged in a short but fierce thunderstorm which visited this city to-night. The dead are: Lewis Meyer, Mrs. Shelby and an unknown man. The injured are: Harry Phillips and Mrs. Mattie Olsen. The catastrophe was the result of a bolt of lightning which struck the monument in the corridors, in which nearly fifty persons had sought shelter. At the first signs of the approaching storm Lincoln Park, in which the monument stands, was covered with people who had prepared to enjoy the cool of the evening. The storm began with a sharp shower which rapidly developed into a small hurricane, accompanied by a downpour of rain, vivid flashes of lightning and terrific peals of thunder. When its fury was at its height a blinding flash struck the statue, faking its course directly through the little crowd who had sought safety in its enclosures. Everybody with the exception of three men were thrown to the ground, but ail were uninjured except those named. The bolt did not strike the bronze figures of Grant and the damage to the monument will be covered by a few dollars. [New Ulm Review (New Ulm, MN) June 22, 1892, Sub by RL]

FOUR KILLED By the Railroad Accident at Chicago.
An incoming passenger train on the Grand Trunk road ran down a crowded street car Monday night at Chicago, killing four people and injuring a number of others. The dead are Charles Perkins, John Dillon and two unidentified women.
The injured are, Wm. Buhllman, left leg broken and internally injured, may die; Mrs. James Sanderson, head and body bruised; J. C. Smith, internally injured and skull fractured, may die; Mrs. James Sanderson, head and body bruised; J. C. Smith, internally injured and skull fractured, may die. Mrs. Carrie Mitchell, bruised about the body; Mrs. S. A. Lee, bruised about head and body; Mrs. Vanderberg, head and body bruised; Frank Vanderberg, her 3-year old son, body bruised; Jennie Blakeley, head and shoulders cut.
The collision occurred at the Forty-ninth street crossing, which is a network of tracks, and has always been regarded as dangerous. A long freight train had just passed and the towerman had raised the gates. This was taken as a signal that the way was clear and the driver of the street car started to drive across the track. The passenger train was rapidly approaching, however, and just as the car reached the track the train struck it in the center. The car was turned entirely around and hurled 30 feet away. Some of the 46 passengers saved themselves by jumping, but the majority were caught. Perkins and Dillion were frightfully mangled. The tower man states that he did not see the train until it was too late to lower the gates. Engineer Jones says that he did not notice the street car until the horses were in front of the train. Engineer Jones, Fireman Campbell and Henry Hughes, who was riding in the cab of the engine, were arrested. [Bangor Whig Courier (Bangor, ME) July 19, 1893, page 3; Sub by #211]

On the Grand Trunk road a fast train struck a street car in Chicago and Thomas Perkins, John Finn and Grace Hunt were killed and ten other persons were injured, some fatally. [The Aitkin Age (Aitkin, MN) July 22, 1893, page 2]

Fire in Chicago Building Results in a Panic.

Chicago, Jan. 30.- Not withstanding recent experience with smoke and flame tenants of the Masonic Temple. a twenty-story structure, failed to scare when a fire broke out in the Cosmopolitan building adjoining. The occupants of the Cosmopolitan made a hasty exit. On the upper stories of the Cosmopolitan a number of women became hysterical and, blinded by the smoke, made efforts to spring from the windows. Cooler heads, however, prevented this and the women were carried down the fire escapes.  Mina Herma Verba was so severely burned that it is believed she cannot live. Chemicals she was mixing on the sixth floor exploded and caused the fire. The woman in a dying condition was carried down a fire escape by C. W. Randolph, secretary and treasurer of the Cosmopolitan Light company. Several other persons were burned, but not seriously. The fire was confined to the fifth and sixth floors.  Edward Stokes, who assisted in the rescue of Miss Verba, was probably fatally burned and was taken to the county hospital. Of the thirty-five people on the floor where the fire started twenty-five were girls and women. [The Bemidji Daily Pioneer (Bemidji, MN), January 30, 1904, page 1, Sub by #211]

 Joseph ALLEN and Carl HOLDEN, 1311 E. 55th st., rescued from helpless gasoline launch in Lake Michigan by Jackson Park lifesavers. [Source: "The Day Book," Chicago, IL, 20 June 1912; tr. by Src #211]

2,000 Persons Watch Thrilling Battle and Cheer Officer as He Rescues Youth
Auto Parties See Fight
Plank Pushed Into Lake From Cornelia Street by Boys Using It as a Raft
Fully 2,000 spectators, including many members of the North Shore social set, from their automobiles yesterday witnessed a desperate battle by Lincoln Park Policeman Philip Versgrove to save two boys clinging to a plank, five hundred feet out in Lake Michigan, at the foot of Cornelia street. Men and Women stoop [sic] up in their autos and cheered when the policeman, weighted by his heavy uniform and breasting the waves that tossed the small plank like a leaf on the waters, gained its side and took one of the little fellows from his slender refuge. They cheered again when he reached the s hore with his burden and turned bravely back to rescue the other, though as events proved he was too late to save him. The boy rescued was Roy Noreen, ten years old, 3243 Wilson avenue. He was wandering along the shore with his playmate, Harry Eeneberg [sic], 3307 Osgood street, when they found an oak plank and pushed off on it as a raft.
There was not much wind when the boys started out on their plank, and they had poled off shore several hundred feet before the breeze began to roughen the waters. Then they realized their danger, and yelled for help. Versgrove, a probationary Lincoln Park Policeman, who has served but eight months, heard their cries, and, peling [sic] his coat, he started after them without waiting to doff his helmet.
But the policeman could save only one boy at a time and he took off Noreen, who was clinging to one end of the plank. The boy was unconscious when he reached shore, b ut a dozen men and women stood ready to give first aid to the injured and Versberg [sic] dropped his burden and staggered back into the water to get the second boy. Noreen soon revived.
The waves had weakened Harry Eneberg's hold on the plank and he had sunk for the first time when Versgerg reached him. Avoiding the unwieldy timber, the policeman dived t wice and the second time he came up with the boy. He was almost exhausted whe n he reached the short and placed the limp form of Ereberg [sic] on the grass.
Willing hands gave first aid to the unconscious boy and an autoist raced for a resuscitating machine, but it was used in vain. As a last hope they boy was taken in one of the autos to the Alexian Brothers Hospital, but the surgeons failed to revive him. [Chicago Examiner, Chicago, IL, Sunday, May 24, 1914, tr. by Transcribed by Genealogy Trails Staff]

Five persons were killed and 18 others injured here during Sunday automobile accidents, bringing the fatality to totals for the year to 597. The dead included Captain Peter Christensen, 53, head of a fire company -which was responding to a false alarm. His truck struck a taxicab, the driver of which was released. Three other firemen and two women taxicab passengers were injured in the crash, none seriously.  [San Antonio Light, 17 Nov 1924 - Submitted by Src #104 ]

Squad Car Collides with Another Auto
One person was killed and five were injured yesterday when a squad car collided with another auto as a policeman chased the driver of a stolen car. William Fessett, 40, of 1835 W. 58th st., a machinist, who was driving the auto which was struck by the squad car, died two hours after the accident. [dod May 12, 1963] Policeman Victor Vega, 26, of 1204 N. Karlov av., was critically injured.
2 Thrown from Car
Four of the six passengers in Fessett's car were injured. They were his wife, Lottie; his sons, Kenneth, 16, and Gary, 4; and Mrs. Catherine Havelka, 40, of 5338 S. Wolcott av. The injured were taken to Presbyterian-St. Luke's hospital, where Fessett died. Vega was taken to the University of  Illinois research hospital. Fessett and his son, Kenneth, were thrown from the car when it was
struck by Vega's northbound squad car at Oakley boulevard and Van Buren street, according to Sgt. Nicholas Miljanovich of the Maxwell street traffic unit. Miljanovich said Vega observed two cars drag racing at Harrison and Leavitt streets and pursued them. One of the cars suddenly stopped in Harrison street, its driver ran to the other car, and it sped off, turning north in Oakley boulevard.
Runs Into Building
The car being pursued sped thru Van Buren street intersection at Oakley boulevard, but Vega's car, close behind, slammed into the Fessett auto. The squad car then careened into the side of a building at 2300 Van Buren st. before coming to a halt.  Miljanovich said the car abandoned by the two drag racers was stolen May 9 at 2521 S. Harding av. The car that got away, a 1957 red Chevrolet, also was believed to have been stolen, he said.
[May 1963, Submitted by Source #96]

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