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Newhall House Fire

Milwaukee County Wisconsin Genealogy

Table of Contents
SUMMARY OF NEWHALL HOUSE
HISTORY
VICTIMS OF THE FIRE
BURNING OF THE NEWHALL HOUSE INTRODUCTION
BURNING OF THE NEWHALL HOUSE
PECUNIARY DAMAGES
THE INQUEST

 

Summary of the Newhall House

The Newhall House was constructed abt. 1857 and was the original home of the Milwaukee Chess Club until the fire.

The Newhall was on the northwest corner of Main (now Broadway) and Michigan Streets, where later (1886) the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. erected a fine stone building, its second in Milwaukee. The building is now referred to the Loyalty building at 611 N. Broadway. (see a photo)

The fire of the uninsured six-story wood frame Newhall House occurred Jan. 10, 1883. The lives of 71 of the 300 people in the hotel were claimed. The fire started on the first floor and spread up elevator shaft to all floors.

Guest General Tom Thumb of P.T. Barnum fame & wife escaped unhurt. FF Hermann Strauss carried 16 servants girls located on top floor to safety. He carried them over a ladder that was laid over a 20 foot alley from next building.

48 of the dead were unidentified.

 

HISTORY OF THE NEWHALL HOUSE

Source: Burning of the Newhall House, published by the Bleyer Bros., Cramer, Aikens & Cramer Printers, 1883

The Newhall House was built by Daniel Newhall and others in 1857, and was opened to the public with a grand banquet on the 26th of August of that year. The building, which was of Milwaukee brick, occupied a frontage of 180 feet on Broadway and 120 feet on Michigan Street. It was six stories high, contained three hundred rooms, and at the time of its construction was considered the largest and finest hotel in the West. The cost of the building was 155,000, the lot on which it was erected was valued at $50,000, and the first lessees furnished it at a cost of $70,000. The house, finished and furnished, therefore represented an investment of $275,000. The structure was originally surmounted by a shapely wooden cupola, as is represented in the illustration on the title page of this book, but shortly after the Chicago fire this was removed in order to reduce the fire risk. On the 14th of February 1863, the hotel had a narrow escape from destruction by fire. The blaze originated in a room occupied by a newly married couple, and before it was extinguished about nine apartments were burned out. In August 1865, Daniel Wells, Jr., S. S. Sherman and C. D. Nash bought the property. In 1866 the rooms in the upper part of the stone bank building, on the corner of East Water and Michigan Streets, were fitted up for hotel purposes, and the two buildings were connected by a covered passage of wood, which bridged the alley on a level with the third floor of the Newhall House. At the same time, or probably a little later, with a view to facilitating escape in case of fire, the fourth fifth and sixth floors of the hotel were connected with the bank building. The passage from the fifth floor of the hotel was nearly on a level with the bank roof, and consisted of a bridge with a handrail on each side. A short ladder connected this bridge with the sixth story. In May 1869, Messrs. Wells, Sherman and Nash leased the hotel to John Plankinton for a term of years, giving him the privilege of closing it if he deemed best. The public objected to having the house closed and sought a purchaser for the property. Finally S. N. Small became the owner of the hotel, several prominent citizens advancing him $100,000, taking 100 bonds of $1,000 each as security. The public spirited Mr. Plankinton kindly relinquished his lease in the interest of the movement. In November 1873, Mr. Small having defaulted in the payment of the interest on the bonds, the bondholders arranged with him for the conveyance of the property to them. Soon thereafter the Newhall House Stock Company was formed and the bondholders became stockholders in the association, C. D. Nash being the president and managing officer. In 1874 the Broadway water=main was connected with standpipes on the north and south end of the building, extending to the sixth floor. Fireplugs and hose were attached to these standpipes on every floor. In 1874 the elevator was put in. The building was provided with two fire escapes, one on the north end of the Broadway front, and the other near the corner on the Michigan Street side, the corridors of the hotel extending to each. On the morning of January 9,1880, the structure had another close call. A spark from the cooking range ignited a wooden ventilating shaft, and four apartments on the third and fourth floors, on the north end of the building, were destroyed. Instead of replacing the burned rooms, which had always been considered dangerous, and open court was substituted for them, reaching down to the office, where there was a skylight. The court was enclosed by brick walls on its east, and north and west sides, and by an iron sheathed wall on the south. The corridor running east and west on the north side of the sixth floor was also provided with a door as a means of exit to the roof of the rear part of the building, which was only five stories in height.

The history of the Newhall House covers a period of over a quarter of a century. During the time it was managed by the following named firms and individuals, in their order, as near as can be ascertained:
Kean & Rice
Rice and Andrews
A. Kingsbury & Son
Kingsbury & Johnson
Bentley and Son
Groff & Hamlin
Charles Andres
Lansing Bonnell
John F. Antisdel. The hotel was never a paying field for landlords. Many of those who attempted its management met with heavy loss. The Bentleys, who had mad a success of the Walker (now Kirby) House, lost $16,000 in one year in the Newhall. John F. Antisdel, the lessee of the hotel at the time of the fire, had the common losing experience. He assumed the management in May 1874, and from that time until the fatal 10th of January, 1883, fought hard, but unsuccessfully, against the financial difficulties which seemed always to beset the house.

 

The Victims of the Newhall House Fire

Newhall House Fire
The Lynchburg Virginian
January 23, 1883

The Newhall House Holocaust
Milwaukee, Wis., Jan 21, -- The experts appointed by the county authorities finished the examination of the forty-eight charred remains, ascertaining that said remains answer for so many human remains. This makes the loss of life by Newhall house disaster not less than seventy-four.

From the Index to Milw. County Coroners Records 1873-1890
Jan. 24, 1883 Victims of the Newhall House Fire

NAMES UNKNOWN:
(Boxes 3, 5 and 25 were likely identified)

Box 1
Box 4
Box 6-Box 21
Box 22/d. Jan 24, 1883/unknown
Box 23-Box 24
Box 26- Box 30
Box 31/d. Jan 24, 1883/unknown
Box 32
Box 33 d. Jan 24, 1883/starvation
Box 34-Box 42
Box 43/d. Jan 30, 1883/injuries received while escaping fire
Box 44-Box 47
Box 48/d. Jan 24, 1883/starvation

In Forest Home Cemetery there is a monument that was erected for the victims of the Newhall House fire. The monument was designed by Henry Ogden Avery It is composed of an elaborate octagonal shaft, twenty six feet in height, which rests on two bases by twelve containing the engraved names of the seventy one victims. It terminates in a flame rushing out of a cone. New York Times, March 1, 1883

NAMES OF THE LOST

BURNING OF THE NEWHALL HOUSE
Published by the Bleyer Bros.
Cramer, Aikens & Cramer Printers
1883, pg. 40

Taken to the morgue on the morning of the fire

MRS. L. W. BROWN
MAGGIE SULLIVAN
MRS. JOHN E. GILBERT
AUGUSTA GIESE
MARY CONROY
BRIDGET O’CONNELL
MARY McMAHON
JULIA FOGERTY
MARY McDADE
ANNA HAGER
MARY ANDERSON
WALTER H. SCOTT
OTTILIE WALTERDORP
THOS. E. VAN LOON
BESSIE BROWN
DAVID G. POWER

TAKEN TO OTHER PLACES
KATE LINEHAN
ALLEN JOHNSON
MRS. ALLEN JOHNSON
JUDSON J. HOUGH

DIED OF THEIR INJURIES
JULIA F. GROESBECK
THEO B. ELLIOTT
AKA BLEEKER
LIZZIE ANGLIN
WM. H. HALL

TAKEN FROM THE RUINS AND IDENTIFIED
MARY MILLER
ROBERT HOWIE
DAVID H. MARTELLE
WILLIAM C. WILEY

Pg. 41
THE UNIDENTIFIED
LIBBIE A CHELLIS
Q. C. BROWN
NORA FLANAGAN
GEO. G. SMITH
ROSA BURNS
JUDGE GEO. REED
ANNIE McMAHON
CAPT. JAS P. VOSE
MARGARET OWENS
L. K. SMITH
MARY OWENS
J. H. FOLEY
LIZZIE KELLY
PROF. B. MASON
JANE DUNN
GEO. LOWRY
ANN CASEY
JUST HAAK
AUGUSTA TRAPP
W. E. FULMER
KATE MONAHAN
EMIL GIESLER
AMELIA KRAUSE
FRED BARKER
MAGGIE FINNEGAN
WALTER GILLON
KATE CONNORS*
WILLIAM GILLON
MARY BURKE
DANIEL MOYNAHAN
MARTHA SCHLOESSNER
GUST. FREDERICKS
J. BRADFORD KELLOGG
ERNST SCHOENBUCHER
RICHARD GOGGIN
C. KELSEY

The foregoing list contains sixty-four names of unfortunates who are known to have lost their lives by the fire. Coroner Kuepper took official cognizance of twenty-eight identified bodies and forty-three that could not be identified, a total of seventy-one, which leaves seven whose names cannot be recalled. The list of unidentified dead was made up from memory by Ben. K. Tice and John H. Antisdel, clerks of the ill-fated hotel, and is the only record that can ever be made of those who were cremated in the hot ruin. The register of the hotel, priceless on an occasion like this, was over looked during the excitement and lost; with it was erased all trace of unfortunates who may have been totally incinerated.

The body of Kate Connors, whose name is marked with an asterisk, was identified after the public funeral by her mother, who recognized her daughter’s gold ring among the valuables held by the Coroner. Miss Connors’ remains were buried with the unidentified at Calvary Cemetery.

Source: Chester Times (Chester, Pennsylvania) 1883 January 16

Seven More Bodies Recovered from the Newhall House Ruins

Milwaukee Jan. 15-When the large force of men engaged in removing the debris of the Newhall House fire quit work this evening twenty-six bodies lay in the temporary morgue, seven bodies having been taken from the ruins to-day. All day the same excited crowd has blocked the streets in the vicinity of the ruins. None of the bodies have been identified that were recovered to-day. The ruins will not be fully cleared out for a week, and until then the matters concerning the origin of the fire will remain in status quo. The bodies will all remain at the temporary morgue until that time unless positive identifications are made. In such cases the identified bodies will be given to friends. It was reported this afternoon that the insurance on Robert Howie's life would not be paid unless the body could be identified. If the report is true it is quite an important piece of information. Many of the lives of missing people are known to have been insured. the bodies so far recovered number 55, as the following shows: Taken to the morgue, 16; received from the ruins, 26; since died, 8; dead not taken to the morgue, 5; total, 55 This does not include the fragments of bodies found. About forty people reported as missing are as yet unaccounted for, which swells the list to ninety. It is almost a sure thing that over 100 people lost their lives by the calamity.

Others that Perished

Judge George Reed
From "History of Manitowoc County" by Dr. Louis Falge, 1912 1883, Jan. 10 – Newhall House, Milwaukee destroyed by fire, about 70 persons perished, among these George Reed with many valuable railroad records.

P. 317

The enterprising village of Reedsville is situated on the Chicago & Northwestern railroad about midway between Manitowoc and Kaukauna. It is named after Judge George REED of Manitowoc, who lost his life in the burning of the Newhall House in Milwaukee, in 1883. more about Reedsville, Wisconsin


 

Mrs. John (Sutton) Gilbert
Hunterdon Democrat
Flemington, New Jersey
January 16, 1883, Forty-Fifth Volume, No. 22

Terrible Disaster
The Newhall House, a three-story brick building, at the corner of Michigan street and Broadway, Milwaukee, Wis., was burned to the ground on Tuesday morning. The fire was discovered at 4 A.M. In less than half an hour the whole building, long designated "a death trap," was enveloped in flames....
Mrs. John Gilbert, of the Minnie Palmer Troupe, married only two days ago, was burned to death in sight of the multitude. She was a Miss Sutton, of Chicago.

Review (Decatur, Illinois)
1883 January > 31

Will "Grin and Bear It."
Milwaukee, Jan. 30-John Gilbert, the actor, who lost his young wife and himself badly injured at the Newhall house fire, was last night for the first time informed of the death of his wife. He had spoken of her several times, and when told she was killed he turned pail and sat immovable as a statue. To a rporter he remarked laconically that he would have to grin and bear it. Gilbert will leave Milwaukee this week, to join a troupe now in Denver. The remains of Mrs. Gilbert are to be taken to New York.


"The Portrait and Biographical Album of Rock County, Wis." (c)1889, pp. 229-231

David JOHNSON and his wife were the parents of ten children...one of whom, David MARTELL, was a railroad conductor and was a victim of the Newhall House disaster in Milwaukee, a few years since;...


From: Claims Covering the Business Loss
By Ken Brownlee, Contributing Editor
http://www.claimsmag.com/Issues/dec02/adate.asp

The deaths were 56 more than the previous record number of 71 hotel fire deaths in the burning of Newhall House in Milwaukee in 1883. Of the dead, 114 had been identified. At least 25 or 30 persons lost their lives by leaping from windows of the flaming building,” the Times reported. “Many other guests were carried to safety down firemen’s ladders or jumped into fire nets. Some of those who perished were burned beyond recognition, and it appeared that several days might be required before their identities were established.”

According to the Times, authorities believed that the fire began on the fourth or fifth floor. “The flames, however, apparently had made great headway before the alarm was given. Persons on the upper floors could be seen at their windows pleading vainly for help. Several guests crawled out on ledges waiting for firemen to rescue them. Some were observed lowering themselves from one floor to another on tied-up bed clothing. Several were seen to die when their grips gave way or the knotted sheets broke under their weight or were burned by the flames.” Among those found dead was 70-year-old William Fleming WINECOFF, who had built the hotel 33 years earlier.


The Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Massachusetts) > 1883 > September > 18

Odd Fellows Reunion

The report of the Odd Fellows made note of the death of Grand Representative Theodore b. Elliott of Wisconsin, who lost his life on the morning of the Newhall House fire.


The Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Massachusetts) > 1883 > January > 23

Losses reported to date of the Travelers Insurance Co. in the Newhall House fire;
Judson J. Hough, Insurance Agent, Maroa, Ill., $5000
Allen Johnson, Commission Merchant, Milwaukee, Wis. %5000
Robert F. Howie, Passenger Conductor, Wisconsin Central Railroad, $5000
William E. Wiley, Passenger Agent, Michigan Central railroad, Mich. $2000
Total $17,000


Saturday Herald (Decatur, Illinois) 1883 March 3

Prompt Payment

S.P. Hoy, agent for the Northern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, called at the HERALD office Wednesday, and showed us two checks for $2,000 each,drawn in favor of Mrs. J.J. Hough, of Maroa, in payment of the policies held by her husband at the time of his death in the memorable Newhall House fire. One of the policies he had held for about eighteen months and the other but five days, the making out of which was one of the last business transactions of his life. The promptness of this old reliable company in settling, is commendable.


Saturday Herald (Decatur, Illinois) 1883 May 19

The Newhall Fire Romance

Manitowoc, Wis. May 14, A check for $5,000 was receipted by Miss Elsie Barnes on Saturday to an insurance company in Milwaukee which deals in accident policies. She was betrothed to Robert T. Howie, a Wisconsin conductor, one of the victims of the Newhall House fire, in Milwaukee, He had the policy made out to his sweetheart shortly before the fire as they were to be married soon.


Source: Oshkosh Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) 1885 February 14

A Detroit paper tells the story of a an in that city who has gone crazy as a result of the Newhall House fire in Milwaukee a friend and boon companion.. They both went on a spree and got a little boozy. Finally the now deranged drummer took his friend to the Newhall House and put him to bed, locking the door on the outside to prevent him from going out in the night in his condition. Before morning the hotel burned and his friend perished, as his door was locked and the key on the outside. The Detroit man has gone crazy brooding over the affair.


Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana) 1883 January 17

Jno. C. Clark whose name appears among the number rescued from the Newhall house fire at Milwaukee, was a former resident of this city, and who is now located at Wausau, Wis.


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