Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January 20, 1909 -- Crib Fire off Seventy-First Street

January 20, 1909 -- Over 50 laborers perish in the intermediate crib of the George W. Jackson tunnel building company, 1.5 miles from the Chicago shore at Seventy-First Street as it is engulfed in fire. There were only a few windows in the structure, which served as a base in the tunnel building effort to supply the south side of the city with fresh water. Men fought one another to jump into the freezing lake waters in order to escape the flames. Survivors said some men even jumped down the 180-foot shaft connecting the crib with the tunnel under construction. Some made for shore; one man with one eye dangling from its socket was rescued clinging to an aerial tramway connecting the crib to shore. The tug T. T. Mumford, tied up at Sixty-Eighth Street, made for the scene as quickly as it could in the ice-coverted lake, arriving to find naked men, awoken from their sleep, clinging to ice floes and shouting for help from the water. The tug managed to pick up over 40 survivors, dropping the less grievously injured off at the Sixty-Eighth Street crib before continuing to shore with the most severe cases. In the meantime fireboats had arrived to find the crib totally ablaze. As the day wore on it was clear the death toll would be high. Not a single body that was recovered was identifiable. 45 victims were buried in Mount Greenwood Cemetery.

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