Rockaway Park, L. I., NY Orphan Asylum Fire, Sep 1909

Birth, Marriage & Death Records

NUNS FAIL TO SAVE SEVEN FROM FIRE.

CHARRED BODIES FOUND IN ORPHAN ASYLUM RUINS.

750 MARCH TO SAFETY.

LITTLE VICTIMS, CRAZED BY FLAMES, DROP FROM RANKS AND HIDE UNDER BEDS LIKE DUMB ANIMALS.

New York, Sept. 1. -- Firemen making a casual survey in the buildings of St. Malachy's Catholic orphan asylum, Rockaway park over which the smoke of a dead fire was hanging, came upon the charred bodies of seven children.
News of the discovery shocked the little community, because it had been assumed that all the 750 or so of little ones who were in the orphanage Monday night had been saved by the heroism of the Sisters of St. Joseph and neaby residents.
Crowds which had waited throughout the night near the scene were thrilled by the tidings of the discovery.

Causes Great Excitement.
Relatives and guardians among the watchers, who had been unable to find their children because of the confusion attending the distribution of orphans after the fire, were frantic with anxiety and the excited scenes of several hours before were renewed.
The dead were:
JOHN CATALONETTA, aged four.
MATTHEW CRUSE, aged three.
STEWART HARRIS, aged four.
JOHN JONES, aged five.
EDWARD MULLIGAN, aged five.
IGNATIUS TRAPER, aged six.
ANTONIO VANDERMILLER, aged three.

Had Left Marchers' Ranks.
Sister AMBROSE, the mother superior, announced after the fire that there had been no loss of life, the 25 sisters under her charge having reported that each started from the dormitories with all the children under their respective care. These sisters, working with splendid courage, had failed to see several of their little charges drop out of the marching ranks.
Each nun was resonsible for from twenty-five to forty children, and each knew the exact number is her dormitory. In response to the call to quarters the sisters ran to the dormitories, hustled out of their cots the small children who had been put to bed, and counted them as they passed through the dormitory door and halted awaiting the order to march down stairs and to the street. Once in the street the children bolted when possible, and it was impossible to keep accurate count of them.

Act Like Dumb Brutes.
It was proved by the discovery that when the sisters ran to the head of the lines formed for fire drill children in the rear ranks crazed with fear, acted as do dumb brutes. They plunged back into the flames, burrowing under mattresses or getting behind doors.
Five children had concealed themselves under mattresses and two hid beneath clothes in a closet. All were suffocated, physicians say, before the flames reached their bodies.
Three children among five missing after the roster was called were found in Tent city, where they had hidden. Two unaccounted for remain in hiding. Sister AMBROSE is sure.

Logansport Reporter Indiana 1909-09-01