Ansonia, CT Fire, Mar 1882




New-Haven, March 27.--Fire broke out at 8:45 o’clock this morning in George Hall’s meat market, at Maple and High streets, West Ansonia. It was fully half an hour later before the firemen arrived and got to work. The three frame buildings just west of the Ansonia upper bridge were then in flames. The ground floor of the first building was occupied by Ying Lee, a Chinese laundryman; that of the second by Hall, the butcher, and Walter W. Betts, a harness-dealer, and that of the third by Daniel McCarthy, a saloon-keeper. The buildings burned like so many tinder-boxes. No wind was blowing, but the fire spread rapidly, and an hour after the alarm the three buildings were level with the street. Over the laundry lived Mr. Betts and his family. They saved none of their household effects. Mrs. Hall and his family lived over the harness shop and market. They escaped in their night clothes. The third building was the highest of the three. In the second story lived Mr. And Mrs. F. L. Nichols, and adopted child, and several boarders. JAMES and ELLIOTT BASSETT, brothers, respectively 21 and 19 years old, slept in the attic chamber above.

Aaron Fox, one of the boarders, was the first one in this building to hear the cry of fire. Mr. Fox said to-day: “I supposed I should have plenty of time to get out of the house and save my things. I awoke my son and dressed, and then began collecting my effects. This took me two minutes or more. Then I looked out of the window and saw a sight that frightened me. The flames were pouring in volumes from the market against the side and lapping around the front of the boardinghouse. I went to the head of the stairs, but the smoke drove me back. I knew then that the only way of escape was by the piazza roof.

My son Oscar and I stepped out on the roof and found Mr. And Mrs. Nichols and their adopted daughter there, in their night clothes. The little girl sat on the edge of the roof, and two or three men in the yard below were urging her to jump. She finally did so, and was caught by some one below. Then the rest of us jumped. While we were standing on the piazza the face of one of the Bassett boys--Elliott, I think it was--appeared at the attic window overhead. He was deathly pale and kept groaning. We called to him to jump. I supposed he was going to and braced myself by grasping the window casing so as to keep him from rolling off the sloping piazza roof when he fell. But after staying at the window a few seconds he disappeared inside. When I got down on the ground I ran across the street to get help and could hear him groaning and calling for help at the back window, which was hid in smoke. We suppose he left the window to try and arouse his brother, being unwilling to jump and leave him there to perish. Soon after--all this happened in less than five minutes--Elliott appeared at the front window again. A ladder had been brought from a building that is being erected close by, and it was put up against the burning house so that the boys could get out. It was too short, and did not quite reach the attic window. Mr. Nichols ascended it, and, standing on the top round, could just touch the sill with his hands. He called repeatedly to the boys, and had they come to the window they could have escaped by the ladder. Elliott stood there an instant, groaned in a despairing sort of a way, and then disappeared. This was the last we saw of him. Mr. Nichols waited until the fire and smoke made it impossible for him to stay any longer. We all felt then that the boys were lost. I think James was asleep at the time, and that his brother, being unable to arouse him, and so lost his own life.”

Weston Hurd, a fireman, reached the scene soon after Mr. Nichols’s attempt to save the boys. He climbed to the other window and shouted, but got no response,. A bottle was standing on the sill and this he threw down inside. There was no sound on its striking the floor, and he therefore, concluded the floor had been burned through and gave up the attempt. The bodies of the Bassett boys were found in the ruins, close together, at a spot directly below where the bed had stood. It is inferred that Elliott was at his brother’s side endeavoring to rouse him when he, too, was overcome by the smoke. Both bodies were burned to a crisp; the head and limbs of James’s body were entirely consumed. James Bassett had been employed in Jackson & Smith’s grocery store, across the street from the burned buildings. Elliott was employed in E. M. Palmer’s market. Both were steady, exemplary young men, and bore a high reputation in Ansonia. They were sons of the late Elliott R. Bassett, of Great Hill, Seymour. A sister teaches school in one of the Ansonia districts.

Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Whitman, boarders with Mr. Nichols, escaped by jumping. Mr. Whitman attempted to improvise a rope for his wife by means of blankets, but she lost her hold and struck on the railing of a stairway: no bones were broken, but she received internal injuries, and appears to be partially paralyzed . Two of the burned buildings belonged to Charles H Stillson. His loss is $6,000, and he has an insurance of $3,000. Timothy McCarthy owned the other building, and loses $5,500; his insurance is $2,500 in La Confiance and Hamburg-Magdeburg. Hall loses nearly $4,000. His stock and fixtures were insured for $1,000 in the Home of New York. Betts loses $1,500 and has an insurance of $500 in the Commercial Union of London. Daniel McCarthy loses $1,000, and has $500 insurance in the AEtna. The others have no insurance.

New York Times, New York, NY 28 Mar 1882