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Flood of 1907: Wheeling Daily News Article from March 16

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▼ 1907 Flood News Articles

- from Wheeling Daily News, Saturday, March 16, 6:00 p.m. edition.


Victims' Bodies Are Recovered

Up to Four O'Clock 3 Bodies Had Been Taken Out of the Water — 13 Syrians Met Awful Fate

Three bodies of those who were drowned in Paper Mill alley had been found at 4 o'clock this afternoon. The first corpse found was that of the infant; Alton Petries, at Twenty-fifth and Main streets at noon. An hour later the body of the father, Mike Petries, was found by Ed Collins at alley 19 and Main streets. A few minutes afterwards the body of Mrs. Satti was found at the same site. The receding waters disclosed the corpses to view. The search for the other bodies is being continued along South Main street, but it is believed that most of the victims have been swept into the river.

Thirteen known dead, four others reported drowned, and a half dozen persons missing is the appalling record of a single night of horrors on the South Side. Most of the deaths resulted from the panic which followed the gas explosion which partly destroyed the Warwick Pottery, at the junction of Alley 18 and the river front.

The known dead (according to the police authorities) are:

  • Mike Pretries, aged 30.
  • Alton Pretries, aged 9 months.
  • Simon Allis, aged 2 years.
  • Badray George, aged 10 months.
  • Badray Tomhas, aged 5 years.
  • Effie Tomhas, aged 3 years.
  • Annie Yesbitt, aged 20 years.
  • Philip Cusman, aged 43.
  • Mrs. Cusman, aged 41.
  • Four Cusman children.

All these are foreigners, mostly Syrians residing on Main street between Papermill alley and Twenty-second street.

The missing, according to information gleaned by News reporters on the South Side on Saturday morning are:

  • Rosa Luswic, aged 9.
  • Mrs. Peter Satti, aged 24.
  • John Festicci, aged 45.
  • Unknown Foreigner, aged about 30.

Among the missing are Watchman Matthews, middle-aged, of the Warwick Pottery, and a number of foreigners.

Developments may show that a greater number have lost their lives, as so much confusion and excitement reigns in the foreign element that but little can be ascertained from them.

Many Causes.

The seven known dead, lost their lives through suicide, capsized boats and accidental drowning.

Mike Bretries, in the plain view of Detective Kelly, who was rushing to his rescue in a skiff, leaped from a second story window of a foreign boarding house with his infant child in his arms. He disappeared [...] once. A search was made for the bodies, but in vain.

There in the water, darkness, which appeared hideous blended with the lurid glow from the pottery fire, a terrible fight for life was witnessed by a dozen persons who were powerless to take action. The frenzied foreigner grabbed Detective Kelly by the neck and dragged him beneath the water. Kelly finally caught a hold on a telegraph pole and fought with the man until assistance came.

In a yawl from the ferryboat Charon, Charles Wolfe, a man named Kindelberger, and a man from Bridgeport, rescued scores of people from certain death. They were at Bridgeport, doing all they could to save the people whose houses were being burnt when they saw the flames shooting from the pottery building.

Back through the swift-flowing river they came at wonderful speed. They risked their lives wherever the occasion demanded. Big sums of money were offered them, but not a cent did they take.

Detective Kelly, Detective Frazier, Lieutenant Hastings, and all the fire men did heroic work.

At an early hour this morning, Edward Johnson, at the instance of the police, began grappling for the bodies. With the assistance of a crowd he kept up the grappling for a short time when he was forced toe desist on account of the current. The search for the dead will be resumed as soon as the current permits.

Infant Swept Away.

Simon Allis and Bradley George, two infants, were swept out of a boat while their mothers were jumping into it from a second story window. As their little bodies drifted rapidly away, it was all the rescuers could do to keep the distracted mothers from leaping into the raging waters after their loved ones.

Thomas George himself told to a News reporter how his two children were drowned. He said that he had lowered the two children down to some men in a boat with his wife, when a frantic woman shoved him away from the second story window and leaped into the boat. She struck the boat, upsetting it. The woman and the other occupants of the boat, except the children were saved.

Annie Yesbit is said to have been drowned while being towed on a raft from a flooded house down Main street. It is said that there were three young men on the raft with her. Whether or not they escaped is unknown.

Rosa Luswic and Mrs. Petar Sutti, who resided on Main street below Papermill alley, are said to have fallen from capsized boats and perished before any help could arrive.

John Festicci, an Italian living on Main street in the Sixth ward, fell off a raft early last evening. His body is said to have drifted out into the swollen river at once.

Not a single body has yet been recovered.

An unknown foreigner, wearing hip boots and dressed like a merchant, attempted to wade across the creek bridge by walking alongside the railing. He stepped into a deep hole near one of the new B. & O. piers at the north end of the bridge and disappeared. This accident happened before 7 o'clock this morning.

Upturned Canoe.

On Twenty-first street the police found an upturned canoe. It is their opinion that the owner of the boat was drowned.

Scores of foreigners escaped death only through the heroic daring of the firemen and citizens. Officer Kelley himself came within an ace of being drowned while rescuing a burly foreigner. The detective saw the foreigner floundering helplessly in the water and plunged in from a boat after him.

There in the icy water, in the darkness, made horribly weird and uncanny, by the lurid glow from the burning pottery, the screams of terror-stricken men, women and children, Kelly and foreigner fought a terrific fight. It was a fight for both their lives -- and Kelly won.

The fear maddened foreigner caught Kelly around the neck and bore him beneath the water. He clung to the detective with death grip. To the dozens of persons who looked on in helpless dread, it seemed certain that both would be drowned. Kelly finally grasped a telegraph pole and managed to hold up the foreigner until help arrived.

And there were heroes in a-plenty — men and young boys who risked their lives every instant to have others. There were scores of them. Detectives Kelly, Frazier, Lieutenant Hastings, the firemen, and the police officers covered themselves with glory.

In a yawl from the ferryboat Charon, Charles Wolfe, a man named Kindelberger and an unknown man from Bridgeport, did heroic work.

The crew went to Bridgeport early in the evening when fire was gutting the Scott lumber yards and the houses in the vicinity. There they saved a number of lives. The blaze at the pottery brought them scurrying across the swollen Ohio. Like flood angels, they came just in the nick of time. They saved at least two score of lives during the pottery fire panic. Several large sums of money were offered them — not a cent did they take.

Speaking of the night of horrors, Detective Kelly said it was the most hideous imaginable. All along the Main street on both sides of the flooded thoroughfare, women and children, and even men stood, knelt, screaming piteously for help. It was a scene not to be forgotten.

Occasionally a dull splash would be heard. It meant that another person had leaped into the water. Many of those that jumped into the water were saved, but how many were drowned, unbeknownst to the rescuers, is unknown.

Early this morning, Edward Johnson, at the instance of the police, began grappling for the bodies. He was assisted by a big crowd of citizens. The work, however, had to be abandoned after a short time on account of the current. The work will be resumed as soon as the current permits.

At noon it was reported that the body of one child had been washed into sight near Twenty-fourth street. Whether or not it was caught cannot be ascertained at this hour.

Family Perishes

It was reported at noon today that the entire family of Philip Cusman, consisting of father, mother and four children, perished in the current sweeping down Main street during the fire panic in Papermill alley shortly after midnight this morning.

According to stories told at Ebeling's pharmacy, cor. Market street and Alley 18, by a crowd of foreigners who claim to have witnessed the wholesale drowning, the family had crowded into a small johnboat. A weighty woman tried to get into the boat, upturning it. The News' informant says that all of the family were swept away in the water.

At police headquarters the reported wholesale drowning had not been reported. It may be that some names have been confused by the foreigners who reported the first list of drowned.

At noon today the work of grappling for the bodies of the drowned was resumed under the direction of the police. Four boats, provided with long hooks and chains, are skirting along the edge of the river. The current is still strong and but little progress can be made.

At 1 o'clock it was reported that the remains of another of the drowned infants had been sighted in the driftwood near Twenty-seventh street. At this hour, however, police authorities have not yet been apprised of the finding of the body.

The police say that the work of grappling for the bodies will be continued all day and as far into the night as possible. Their intention is to get as many bodies as possible before they are swept far out into the river by the receding waters.

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