Seattle, WA Madison Street Cable Road Fire, Aug 1892



From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Aug. '15.

Three two-story frame buildings at the Lake Washington terminus of the Madison Street cable road were burned yesterday afternoon about 5:30 o'clock. Two bears, which were kept in a cage close by were wild with terror, and it was due to the presence of mind of Joseph Charters that the bears were saved and a general stampede averted.

The crowd had not had any special amusement till the bears began to howl. Jack, the big fellow, would rush from one end of the cage to the other, grab the bars, and howl in an appealing manner. Susie, the little one, was almost frightened to death and trembled like a leaf. The crowd yelled, "Let 'em out, let 'em out!"while the answer from those near the cage was "No, no!"

Under Charter's direction, the veranda which was around Rockenfield's store was pulled down and thus more room was made between the fire and the bears. In the midst of the hubbub Officer Stepler elbowed his way through the crowd.

"Let out the bears!" yelled the crowd.

"Not in this crowd," yelled he, as he brought a shotgun to his shoulder and aimed at Jack. The bear kept jumping and the crowd was howling. He could not get a shot, and was finally persuaded to let the animals live. A man came up with an axe and started to cut away the bars of the cage. A row followed, in which the axe man was knocked out by one blow by a man who did not want to be bears' meat.

The building was burning rapidly and the heat was becoming intense, so much so in fact that the that the bears were frantic. Some men ran a rope around the cage and were about to pull it over, when Charters pleaded with them to stop, saying that he could save the bears. They stopped and aided him in getting the animals into a little shed at the rear of the cage. Then the door was dropped and they were shut in for the night. Charters and McCay then got rugs and carpets, saturated them and covered the little house. A garden hose played water upon it, and although Charters was scorched somewhat and McCay's hand was burned, the bears were saved.

The New York Times, New York, NY 22 Aug 1892