COMPANY 4 FIREFIGHTERS
While fighting a three story building fire in 1855 the following firefighters of Company 4 were killed when a wall collapsed:
(Source: The Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser)
Saturday last was a sad day in Alexandria. The cheerless aspect of the day accorded with the feelings of our citizens. A great calamity had happened, and the sternest wept at the spectacle they were forced to behold. We have never known our whole community to be more deeply affected.
In the dead hour of night on Friday night - about 12 o’clock the city was alarmed by the cry of fire. It was soon found that smoke and flames were issuing from the third story of the large brick warehouse occupied as a china store by J. T. Dowell, on the north side of King Street, between Fairfax and Water streets. Upon entering the house it was seen that it had been deliberately fired in several places - candles, wick saturated with camphene, and trains of gunpowder leading to the crates being found. - The incendiary had prepared for a speedy and sure destruction of the building and its contents. He had left nothing undone to effect his fell purpose. The firemen and citizens soon assembled in large numbers, and worked with the greatest energy and perseverance to arrest, if possible the progress of the flames. They succeeded to a great extent. The large wholesale drug store of Peel & Stevens, adjoining, in the upper story of which building is the office of the Southern Churchman, was saved. Many of the goods of Peel & Stevens were moved - and there was some damage by breakage - but their loss is not great. The churchman office was not materially injured. The frame buildings on the west side belonging to the estate of Mrs. Stewart, were also saved. The fire thus confined to the building in which it originated, the firemen redoubled their exertions to save as much of it and its contents as possible. The large stock of China, Glassware, & c. - however, amounting in value to some $16,000 or $18,000, was almost wholly destroyed, and the interior of the building burned out completely. The building was owned by James P. Smith - The goods were insured, we believe, for some $20,000; in the Fire Insurance and Potomac offices of this city, and in the Albemarle, of Charlottesville, and the Mutual of Richmond. The building was, also, insured in the Mutual Insurance Company of Richmond for $6,500.
And now we have to record the most melancholy part of this sad affair. About 4 o’clock on Saturday morning, while the fire was raging in the upper part of Mr. Dowell’s store, a large number of citizens, several of them members of the Star Fire Company, were at work in the interior, assisting in attempting to extinguish the flames. At this moment the west gable wall of the warehouse fell in with a tremendous crash, bursting through the second and first story floors KILLING SEVEN of our valued and respected citizens, and wounding several others. A cry of horror rose at this catastrophe. The stoutest hearted quailed under the suddenness and fearfulness of the calamity.
Measures were immediately taken to rescue the bodies from the ruins, and to see who were dead and wounded. These exertions continued until about 11 o’clock, on Saturday morning, when the last body was found. It was then ascertained who the unfortunate victims were, and this is the list:
Mr. George Plain, who was in the upper part of the building, holding a hose pipe in his hand when the accident occurred.
Mr. Robert I. Taylor, Pavior.
Mr. John A. Roach, He was taken out alive, and expired in a few hours.
Mr. James W. Keene, who has been engaged in selling wood near the Rail Road Depot
Mr. William S. Evans, Plumber
Mr. J. Carson Green - Son of Mr. Edward Green
Mr. David Appich, a son of Mr. Gotlieb Appich, Confectioner.
Besides these killed, there were several citizens quite severely wounded.
Messrs. Francis A. Marbury, Richard E. Stone, Wm. H. Lambert, Charles J. Wise, and David Williams, were bruised and hurt, and narrowly escaped death, and John Dogan, a colored man, was buried in the ruins - but was subsequently dug out, without being seriously injured.
As the bodies were successively brought from the mass of burning materials, the most intense grief was exhibited by the hundreds assisting in the melancholy duties of the occasion. The victims were all much bruised, and burnt, and mangled. The remains were carried to the homes of the deceased followed by weeping crowds. And Ah! Who can paint the desolation of those homes! Who can tell the grief of the bereaved widows, the fatherless children - affectionate fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. Mr. Plain, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Roach, Mr. Keene and Mr. Evans were married men with families. The other victims were young men in the pride and prime of life. When their epitaph is written let it be - "they died at the post of danger and of duty."
Profound grief reigned over this city. The calamity was so sudden and severe, that it seemed as if the citizens could scarcely realize its horrors. Business stopped its wheels - and the most careless were brought to reflect seriously on such a melancholy event. What must be the feelings of the incendiary - if he has a human heart in his bosom?