The New York Times
May 30, 1875
The Holyoke Disaster
The Victims Buried With Impressive Ceremonies
An Immense Crowd Attend the Funeral—An Imposing Procession—The Service in the New Catholic Church—A Remarkable Mishap—Full Lists of the Dead—The Wounded.
Special Dispatch of the New York Times.
Holyoke Mass., May 29.—Such a funeral as that which took place here to-day was never before seen in this part of the Union. Forty-eight bodies were in one cortege, followed by more than one hundred vehicles containing mourners. The people were astir early, believing that the observances would begin before the time appointed, 9 o'clock, whereas they did not commence for an hour later. Nevertheless, long before either time thousands of persons had congregated in and around the new church building of which only one story has been erected. This had been prepared for the ceremonies which were to take place. The basement chamber wherein these occurred is in the form of a Greek cross, measuring 70 feet across the front and 91 through the arms. It was roughly covered with boards over the rafters of the first floor, and the ground was hidden in the same way. In the centre of this compartment was a sort of rude catafalque made of pine boards about a foot from the floor and the bodies were ranged in twos upon it.
A Remarkable Incident.
They were scarcely all in place when an accident occurred characteristic of the manner in which things are done in this neighborhood, and likely to have caused serious difficulty from another panic. The platform of the bier, flimsy as it was, gave way under the weight of the bodies and settled with a loud crash, alarming the audience and throwing several women into hysterics. This fright was soon got over, and the congregation, certainly not less than 2,500 people, bowed their tear-stained faces when the first solemn tone of the bell announced the beginning of the requiem. It was celebrated by L. G. Garguier, of Springfield; assisted by Rev. J. B. Primeau of Worcester, C. Bouchier, C. Crevier, and C. Oudreau. The altar was an improvised affair of pine boards, covered with black as was most of the church. The music was sung by the surviving members of the choir, a small melodeon furnishing the accompaniment. The Irish, German, and other Catholics were present, and the services were among the most solemn ever witnessed. Rev. G. B. Primeau preached the funeral service in French, selecting for his text, "In Rama there was a voice heard ... Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because they are not."
He said: "I pity these people who have among them heart-broken worshipers. The exterminating angel has passed through their midst and left mourning in every house. Hearts are broken and hearts desolated by the hand of Him who chasteneth whom He loveth. 'Tis a sad day for you this day of general national mourning, but of all the rest of the towns of Holyoke and Chicopee have, the saddest Decoration Day indeed. In your presence, dear stricken friends, I feel as the friends of Job felt, who, coming to comfort him in his distress, were constrained to silence by excess sympathy. I cannot say naught to you concerning your loss, dear sufferers, except to call your attention to the consolations of your holy religion. You must find comfort in the Lord, who having given has also taken away. Blessed be his name forever."
During this brief address the audience were moved to tears and the sobs and groans of the multitude filled the building. After the service the last farewells were taken of the coffins.
A Proclamation by the Mayor.
The following proclamation was issued by the Mayor of Holyoke this morning:
To the People of Holyoke:|
A calamity almost unprecedented in the history of this, or any country, has fallen upon a portion of our community, destroying alike the aged and the young, rendering many homes desolate, and carrying sorrow to many hearts. In view of this great disaster, as a token of respect for the unfortunate dead, and sympathy for the living, I would request that all places of business be closed as far as practicable, on Saturday, during the burial services, which will commence at 9 o'clock A.M.
W.B.C. Pearsons, Mayor.
In accordance with this notice, and in deference to the widespread grief caused by the calamity of Thursday night, the stores and houses of the city were generally draped with mourning, and by 9 o'clock all business had been suspended. It was not until after 11 o'clock that the procession formed which escorted the forty-eight bodies to their last-resting place. As the long line filed away from the new church the mass of spectators (of whom there were probably five thousand) melted away, some following the designated route or the procession, and some returning to their homes. First in the procession came a body of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, sixty-five strong, who acted as an escort. They were followed by six hearses and twenty-five business wagons of all kinds, used as hearses, in which were carried the forty-eight coffins, on many of which were laid wreaths of flowers. Beside those walked a large number of members of the Society of St. Jean Baptiste, who acted as pall bearers. All wore crape emblems of mourning on hat or arm, as did the most of those in the procession. Following these were over a hundred carriages containing the mourners. The whole procession, nearly half a mile in length, passed slowly around the main streets of the village, watched with keen interest by knots of townspeople on every corner. The unusual character of the melancholy scene gave the simple procession an indescribable dignity which approached grandeur.
After passing through town, the cortege proceeded across the river through South Hadley to the new Catholic Cemetery on the Granby Road, where all the remains were placed in one inclosure, in which is to be erected a monument commemorative of the burning of the church.
A Complete List of the Dead.
Christine Dion, Mrs. Piron, aged fifty-five; Malvina La Chance; Joseph Diagneau, thirty-six; Ellen Blair; twenty, daughter of Louis Blair, painter; Angelique Froment; Saline La Plant, eighteern; Matilde Daigneau; fifteen; Louis Desjardin, fifty-four; Finnie Tatrault; Benjamin Fortier, twenty, resided at No. 20 Lyman street; Hermille Baguin, twenty, wife of H. Baguin, Potvin Block, Lyman street; Elfonade Fortier, eleven, No. 20 Middle street; Delia Coache, sixteen, Potvin Block, Union street; Victoria Davie, eleven, lived at "Bush;" Zoe Ford, forty-eight, wife of Abram Ford, Park street, leaves nine children; Cora Ford, eleven; Jacob Terrieo, sixty-four Monat's Block, leaves twelve children; Olive Emond, fity-five; Asilda Desjardin, eighteen; Adele LaChapelle, sixteen; Josephine Pagula, fourteen, Potvin Block, Lyman street; J. B. Langevine, forty, boarded at Chicoine's, Park street; Justin Bresson; Gaspard Pellerin, twenty-three, Monat's Block; Phebe Dupont, fifteen, daughter of Joseph Dupont; Armine Marin, twelve, Potvin Block, Lyman street; Joseph Monsieur, forty-six, corner of Union and Fountain streets; Delina Cote, wife of Victor Cote, Union street; Rosalie Lagassie, Cumming's Block; Mary Perry, lived in Perry's Block, High street; Edmund Roberts, son of J. B. Roberts; Mary Louise Gyotte, fifty, widow, leaves seven children, Potvin's Block, Lyman street; Mary Greenwood, fifteen, No. 12 Lyman's Block; Isaiah Morin, lived over Guyet's, Lyman street; Dometille Barchemon, Azile La France, twenty-seven, Middle street; Ella Lavienne, lived in Lapoint's block; Delina Bodard, Marie Lacoste, Mrs. Paul Jeter, thirty-one, Fountain street; Antoin Ozier, seventy-five, "Bush" canal street, leaves widow; Alphonse Moreau, Josephine Viger, forty, Potvin's Block; Louise Payette, seventeen, Virtue's house, "Bush;" Pierre Daigneau, Potvin's Block; Ida Meunier, nineteen, daughter of Prosper Meunier, lives near J. McCabe; Fabien St. Pierre, Gates' block, Park street; Exilde Ladly, died at Nicholas Prew's this morning; Joseph Chatelle, twenty, teamster for E. Chase & Sons; Mrs. Caliste Laribee, fifty, leaves two children; Matilde Payette, sexiten, Berger House, Canal street; Exilde Lacoste, sixteen, Auberton Block, Union street; Celine Roberte, nine, daughter of J. R. Roberte; ______ Tautrault; Julia Girard, sixteen, Doucette Block; Mrs. Louis Desjardin; Celina Doucette, twenty; two daughters of Louis Desjardin; Mrs. Briggs leaves seven children; Fabien Moreau, fifty-four, miller for Mosher, Wait & Co.; Mary Pinon, thirty-seven; Mercentine Dufresne; Mrs. Beaudreau, leaves five children.
Condition of the Wounded
The wounded are all doing well, those whose injuries were fatal having already passed away. Benjamin Fortier had escaped once from the church, and re-entering it to save his sister both were lost. Ida Meunier, who appears in the list, was the organist of the church. She is said to have fainted where she sat, being frightened at the fire. She was found sitting on the organ stool where she had been suffocated by the smoke. One man in the gallery was with his wife and four children. He retained his presence of mind and keeping the little group together in the corner he waited until the crowd had passed them. Then he got to a window and dropped the little ones one at a time to the ground. This family all escaped, unhurt. Very many of the bodies were so badly burned that the only means of recognizing them was by the clothing or jewelry. Incidents of the occasion are discussed eagerly on every corner, and one can hardly hear anything else but the great fire talked of.