Hoboken, NJ Hotel Colonial Fire, Jan 1921

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With twelve lives as the toll of the tragedy, an investigation was begun yesterday to learn the cause of the fire which swept the Hotel Colonial, 39-41 Newark Street, Hoboken, early yesterday. A second inquiry, to be conducted by Prosecuter of the Pleas PIERRE P. GARVEN of Jersey City will determine the manner in which the hotel was conducted.
The bodies of four victims were identified at Bosworth's Morgue, where hundreds, unable to recognize charred remains, sought to identify the dead through some garment or trinket gathered up by police and firemen. Throughout the day an anxious throng stood about the morgue. ANother group stood in front of the four-story structure in Newark Street, its front, excepting for a few broken windows, giving no hint of the destruction within.
Of the five who were removed to hospitals, MRS. MARY SCHUMAKER, 42, of 217 Second Street, Jersey City, died in St. Mary's Hospital, Hokoken, at 7 o'clock last night. Others are near death at St. Mary's. The known dead are:
MISS DAISY GREY, 27, 321 Pacific Avenue, Jersey City, a divorcee, formerly MRS. CHARLES MAY.
FRANK LOGAN, 36, 221 First Street, Hoboken, married.
HERMAN LINEE, 32, 519 Grove Street, Irvington, N. J.
MISS HESTER CONSTANCE PETERSON, 26, 539 Fortieth Street, Brooklyn.
JOSEPH RIKER, 29, 109 Oak Street, Jersey City.
E. G. SNIDER, 560 Fifth-second Street, foreman of air brake inspectors of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Railroad.
MRS. MARY SCHUMAKER, 217 Second Street, Jersey City, died in St. Mary's Hospital.
The Injured:
RICHARD GIERKSEN, dishwasher at the Hotel Colonial; mentally deranged from burns and shock; probably will recover from the burns; St. Mary's Hospital.
BLANCHE KAEHLER, 76 Maderson Street, Jersey City; not expected to recover; St. Mary's Hospital.
JOSIAH RIDER, 1,750 Boulevard, Jersey City; not likely to recover; St. Mary's Hospital.
Following are partial descriptions of the unidentified bodies at Bosworth's Morgue:
WOMAN, about 25 years old, five feet eight inches tall, brown hair, good teeth, wearing cameo ring on forefinger of right hand and diamond cluster ring in Tiffany setting on engagement finger.
MAN, about 40 years old, five feet six inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds, gray eyes, black hair, partly bald, good teeth, gray union underwear.
WOMAN, about 40 years old, five feet seven inches tall, weighing 180 pounds, brown or auburn hair, gold capped teeth right and left upper jaw, gold ring set with white stones on third finger of left hand.
MAN, five feet nine inches tall, weighing about 150 pounds, eyes and hair badly burned. Bridgework containing four plain and three gold capped teeth in upper jaw.
WOMAN, five feet eight inches tall, weighing 150 pounds, hair burned off, gold bridgework on upper jaw containing five teeth, one broken tooth in left lower jaw.
The fire, according to the best information obtainable, started in Room 12, one flight up, across an areaway from the linen room, and not far from the desk. This room had been occupied by a couple that left the hotel in the evening.
"The night clerk, GEORGE GROLL, called me on the house telephone at 11:35 o'clock last night," HENRY SCHARSHING, manager of the Colonial, told the police. "GROLL had discovered the fire and sent JOHN ROSS, the night man, to notify the policeman on post. I phoned Fire Headquarters and ordered the clerk to ring connections in every room. There is a main switch in the office which rings every connection. All the rooms were notified, and ROSS and I went through the hotel shouting 'fire'. ROSS was overcome on the top floor, but I got him down to the first floor where I, too, was overcome for a moment, but soon revived and brought ROSS to safety."
GROLL said he first saw smoke pouring from the linen room, a step or two away from his desk. He threw open the door and spent several minutes emptying the linen room of its contents. He found no fire there. He finally located the flames in Room 12, abutting an areaway, through which the fire quickly shot to the top floor, where it mushroomed.
All of the forty-six guest rooms and the six employes rooms were occupied with the exception of Room 12. About ninety-five persons were in the hotel. Several families occupied rooms, it was learned, but the police were handicapped in their efforts to check up because the register was destroyed in the flames.
Firemen and other rescuers quickly reached the scene, but the fire had gained such headway through the airshaft that those occupying the upper floors were trapped. A single fire escape at the rear of the building saved the lives of many. Several of those now believed to have been among the dead appeared at windows, but the firemen were powerless to rescue them.
Hoboken's two Fire Department chaplains, the Rev. EDWARD KELLY and the Rev. CHARLES MacDONALD, entered the building with the rescue squad and administered the last rites of the Church to several and made a number of rescues.
The injured were removed to St. Mary's and to Christ Hospitals.
When the firemen were occupied in "washing down" the building, long after the flames had been checked, RICHARD DIERKSEN, employed in the Colonial as a diswasher, was found in an employe's room on the top floor.
"I'm in hell, get away from me," the man shouted as he attempted to drive away his rescuers. He punched and kicked the firemen and police who bore him to the street. He was removed to St. Mary's Hospital in an ambulance. There it was said DIERKSEN probably would recover from the severe burns he suffered, but doubts were expressed as to whether he would recover immediately from a mental derangement caused by his experience.
Many pairs of shoes and other articles of wearing apparel as well as bits of jewelry found in the fire-swept rooms were salvaged by the police and in several instances proved valuable in identifying the dead.
In the corridor leading to Room 29 was found the body of a man later identified as that of FRANK LOGAN, 36, of Hoboken. MRS. MARY SCHUMAKER, who died in the hospital, was found in Room 20. She was identified by MRS. ELIZABETH DAVIS of 217 Second Street, Jersey City, with whom she had lived. MRS. DAVIS also identified LOGAN'S body. He was a chum of her son's, she said. MRS. SCHUMAKER had been living apart from her husband for eight years, according to MRS. DAVIS. Four or five weeks ago, she told the police, MRS. SCHUMAKER received a letter from her husband in Akron, Ohio, and she thought they had met recently. As far as MRS. DAVIS knew, MRS. SCHUMAKER had never been away from home at night until Saturday.
The body of E. G. SNIDER was identified by his wife. Earlier in the day SNIDER'S effects had been identified by GEORGE McDONOUGH, "of Thirty-ninth Street," Brooklyn. SNIDER had occupied a room with a woman companion, the police said. The woman is among the dead.
When JEFFERSON FEELEY, an attendant in Judge Blair's Court, Jersey City, called at Hoboken Police Headquarters to claim a set of flase teeth recovered from the room he had occupied he identified a pair of woman's shoes.
He told the police the shoes belonged to a young woman with whom he had registered as "Mr. and Mrs. James J. Lyons, Tappan, N.Y." His companion was badly burned, and when they made their escape, FEELEY said, he took her in a taxicab to the Ackerson Sanitarium, Jersey City, for treatment. The woman, whose real name FEELEY said, was MARGARET O'HARE, had registered at the sanitarium as "Mrs. Kelly."
The body of MISS DAISY GRAY, 27, of 321 Pacific Avenue, Jersey City, was identified by MRS. MAZIE LEMARRE of 1,207 Willow Avenue, Hoboken, a friend. That of MISS HESTER CONSTANCE PETERSON, 26, of 539 Fortieth Street, Brooklyn, was identified by her stepbrother, OSCAR HANSEN, and her uncle, GUSTAVE JURGENSEN, of the same address.
One of the seven bodies at the morgue was identified last night as that of HERMAN LINEE, 42, of 519 Grove Street, Irvington, by SAMUEL RICE of 229 South Sixth Street, Newark. RICE would not discuss his friend's fate.
MISS BLANCHE KAEHLER, 76 Maderson Street, Jersey City, who is unconscious in St. Mary's Hospital, was identified by means of a note the police found among her effects. In this note the man who later made the identification disclosed his address in Jersey City.
Questioned by detectives, he said he had an appointment with MISS KAEHLER Saturday night, but had failed to keep it because he overslept. Little hope is held out for MISS KAEHLER'S recovery.
ROBERT WALTER, who lived in the Colonial, was in New York during the fire. He returned to find his clothes in the hands of the police. He asked to examine the shoes. After a few minutes examination of the collection WALTER extracted his savings, $430, intact, from the toe of a shoe.
A man appeared at the Morgue, in the morning and identified a body as that of his nephew, THOMAS A. McGOWAN, 571 Leonard Street, Brooklyn. Not long after the identification had been made McGOWAN himself appeared with a young woman he described as his wife, MRS. MABEL McGOWAN, of 469 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn. The young man said he had been secretly married recently and spent his weekends with his bride. They were at the Colonial and escaped with only their outer clothing. The young woman identified a pocketbook, a watch, diamond ring, and several articles of apparel, which were turned over to her.
Late last night EDWARD RIKER, of 169 Oak Street, Jersey City, identified the body bearing two stars as that of his brother JOSEPH, a war veteran, who was wounded twice at Chatcau Thierry. He is a member of a prominent Jersey City family. Saturday was the first night he ever remained away from home. JOSEPH lived with his widowed mother. His body was that mistakenly identified by EDWARD McGOWAN earlier in the day as that of his nephew.

The New York Times New York 1921-01-31