Richmond, VA Spottswood Hotel Fire, Dec 1870

Telegrams.

Destruction of the Spottswood Hotel in Richmond by Fire.

Seven Persons Known to Have Been Burned to Death.

Five or Six Others Missing.

A Fearful Scene of Panic and Dismay Among the Guests.

The Latest Aspect of the European Difficulties.

Terrible Fire At Richmond.

The Spottswood Hotel Burned to the Ground-The Guests Roused From Sleep-A Fearful Scene of Panic and Dismay-Several Persons Known to Have Perished, and Others Still Missing-Heavy Pecuniary Losses.

Richmond, Va., Dec. 25.-Last night was the coldest for thirteen years. The ground was covered with hard frozen snow, and the thermometer indicated 5°.

At 2 ¼ o’clock this morning, just as the porter and commenced waking passengers for the southern train, the Spottswood Hotel was discovered to be on fire on the lower floor. An effort was immediately made to wake the guests, and the scene became indescribable. Men were rushing about trying to save their baggage, and the women, nearly naked and barefooted, fleeing into the snow-covered streets. The steam engines were promptly on hand, but the water being frozen it was some time before it could be thrown on the building. In twenty minutes the flames spread to such an extent that escape by the staircase was cut off. The guests then commenced leaping from the windows. P.P. Clarke, of Philadelphia, the steward of the hotel, leaped from the third story, receiving fatal injuries. The most fearful scene of the disaster was the appearance of Mrs. Emily Cornelius, of Baltimore, the housekeeper, at the window in the fifth story, with one or two other ladies, screaming for help. The fire companies’ ladders were put up, but failed by two stories to reach the window. While the firemen were endeavoring to lengthen the ladders, the crying women disappeared in the thick smoke and were lost, the room brightening up a moment after with the flames. Up to noon today the only persons burned whose names are known are: ERASMUS ROSS, a clerk of Libby Prison during the war; MRS. EMILY CORNELIUS, the housekeeper, who leaves a family in Baltimore; SAMUEL W. ROBINSON, a clerk with Euker & Bro., and SAMUEL HINES, a clerk with Melhiser & Co.

The register of the hotel was consumed, and it is possible to give the names of strangers who may be lost. Several are believed to have perished, as there are about a dozen unclaimed trunks belonging to persons from New-York and other Northern cities. It is a notable fact that the only building on the block that escaped the flames is the corner store that stopped the conflagration at the time of the evacuation of Richmond by the Confederate troops. The weather was so intensely cold that the telegraph wires in front of the burning buildings were covered with ice, and the fire steamers were encased in ice an inch thick. Among the remarkable escapes was that of C. Shefter, attached to the office of the State Printer, who was in the fourth story, and escaped by dropping from window cornice to window cornice until he reached the ground. He was badly burned however. The correspondent of the New-York Herald had a narrow escape. The guests lost all their clothing, and the ladies had to walk barefoot over the snow to places of shelter. The total loss by fire is $300,000. The insurance is mostly by Northern companies.

Samuel Hines, clerk, and Samuel Robinson, boarder, and Mrs. Emily Cornelius, the housekeeper at the hotel, were burned to death. Erasmus Ross, clerk of the Libby Prison during the war, is missing, and is supposed to have been burned. The business houses destroyed were Messrs. Branch & Currant’s crockery store, Adams Express Company’s office, Howe’s machine store, and other smaller stores.

The National Insurance Company, of Baltimore, loses $8,000, and the Continental, of New York, $3,000. All the goods ready for delivery in the cellar of the Southern Express Company were destroyed. The Company’s money safes are buried in the ruins. An incident of the fire was the appearance of a man at one of the upper windows, paralyzed by fear, who sat tearing paper into small pieces and throwing them out of the window till he fell back into the flames.

Among those who had very narrow escapes were M. Maillefert, of New-York, engineer of the James River obstructions; S.A. Pearce, of Columbia, S.C., private secretary of Senator Sprague, and Mrs. E. Magill, proprietress of the theatre. The De Lave Troupe lost their baggage. The hotel register was found tonight, and there are only six strangers not accounted for. It is probably some the citizens have taken some of them to their houses. The name of the housekeeper burned was Mrs. Emily Kennearly. The following are the names of the missing strangers: J.H. Wilcox, of Lynchburg; N. Bedistein, of Washington; A. Leil, of Tampa, Florida; George and E.H. Andrews, of Syracuse, N.Y.; H.G. Krotte, of New-York, and John H. Holman, Jr., of Jackson, Tenn.

Later.

Richmond, Dec. 25.-The following are additional names of persons who are known to have been burned to death in the Spottswood Hotel; H.A. Thomas, agent for the panorama of the Pilgrim’s Progress’ W.H. Pace, of Danville, Va., Unites States mail Agent, and J.B. Fariss, messenger of the Southern Express Company. The Spottswood Hotel was valued at $140,000 and insured in Northern Companies, represented by D.N. Walker, for $60,000. Messrs. Branch & Currant were insured in the North British and Mercantile for $5,000. Messrs, Surtell, Luck & Co., proprietors of the Spottswood, had their furniture insured for $20,000 and their wines and carpets for $7,000, in the North British Company.

The New York Times, New York, NY 26 Dec 1870

Continued