Seven Die in Chinatown Fire - 1908

Evening Democrat - Thu 3/12/1908, p1 - Six Chinese Dead As Result of Morning Blaze - Incendiary Fire in Chinese Quarters in Early Morning Involved Destruction of Human Life and Out of Seven in Building Six are Among the Dead - The Victims Perish From Suffocation and Within a Short Distance of an Exit - At an early hour this morning, and to be more particular, at about 3:45 o'clock, Marysville was visited with a holocaust that involved the destruction of six human lives.  The sounding of the fire bell at the fire house indicated that a fire had broken out at the corner of First and Oak streets.  The building is a two-story brick structure and the lower story had until recently been occupied for a Chinese restaurant, but recently the lower floor of the building was in process of remodeling with the idea that it would be converted into what was popularly known as "cribs," to be rented to women, irrespective of race.  The upper story at the time of the fire was used for lodging and restaurant purposes and at the time of the outbreak of the fire seven persons were asleep in the building. - It was apparent that the victims of the fire did not come to a realization of the terrible situation in which they were placed until they were awakened by the flames and smoke and then it was impossible for them to escape in their bewilderment.  That which is peculiar is that there was an avenue for escape and the inmates of the building were in the hallway of the upper story of the structure and were apparently suffocated there with smoke and perished. - That which is remarkable is the fact that a doorway that led to the back porch was within ten feet of where their outstretched bodies laid. - A Horrifying Scene - When the members of the fire department arrived on the scene their attention was directed to fighting the flames in the lower story and no one thought for a minute that there were any humans in the story above.  It was about an hour after that the attention of the fire chief was called to the fact that there were persons in the upper story and this information was conveyed by some Chinamen and a woman of the tenderloin.  The front of the building on the lower floor was guarded by iron doors and there was considerable difficulty in breaking them open, but this was finally accomplished and then the members of the fire department passed up stairs and discovered in the hallway that is about four feet in width the prostrate bodies of six persons, four of whom were dead, they having been suffocated by the smoke, but were not burned.  As well there were two who were animated and they were removed and revived, but since one has succumbed. - Another incident in the tragedy was that of a Chinese who apparently was endeavoring to make his escape with his trunk.  His dead body was found in the kitchen in the rear of the building with his hand grasped on the handle of a trunk.  It was evident that he as well had encountered death from suffocation and over the spot where he met his death the firemen had played on water without any knowledge of his presence. - Bodies Removed From Burned Building - Among the two who were living that were rescued was Hon Goo, the wife of Day Ah Toon.  She with her little child of seven months were taken from the building in an unconscious condition and were as soon as possible removed to the home of Kim Wing on First street, where every possible attention was paid to them.  And there is one incident in this connection that is deserving of commendation - some of the women of the tenderloin brought in blankets and administered as well as they could for the alleviation of the sufferings of the mother and the child.  Notwithstanding all that was done the mother died at the home of Kim Wing this afternoon, making the sixth of the dead.  The child in all probability will recover.  The baby was seen this afternoon by a representative of the Democrat at the store of Ah Fee on First street.  It was crying and sobbing and was being cared for and nursed by a number of the Chinese.  This means the extinction of a Chinese family so far as the parents are concerned, but fortunately the life of the child was saved and the little brother is visiting with relatives at La Porte.  The third child however, is among the list of dead. - Origin of Fire - The origin of the fire is a mystery that may in time be cleared.  The blaze originated in the rear of the lower portion of the building where there has been no cooking done for over three weeks, and that fact would indicate that is origin was incendiary.  There is the theory and one that seems to be well founded that it was started by a Chinese who owns property in that vicinity and across the alley.  The suspicion is that his motive was to prevent opposition in his peculiar line of business.  On investigation the Democrat reporter learned this morning that certain Chinese had made the statement that the new house would never open for business, and this matter will be thoroughly investigated by the police authorities and Fire Chief Divver for if it is possible that so infamous an act should have been committed as the firing of the building at so early an hour of the morning in which so many were sleeping with the result of the destruction of so many human lives, no punishment could be too severe.  However, we await until after there will be a full investigation before expressing a definite opinion. - Incendiary Theory Reasonable - As we stated there were no fires burning in the lower story of the building where the fire originated and therefore there was no possibility for its outbreak to come from internal sources. - After entrance was effected and the firemen reached the upper floor they discovered that of the prostrate bodies lying in the hallway, two showed indications of life and they were hurriedly removed to the sidewalk and physicians summoned and at the same time the coroner was notified of the deaths that had occurred.  The bodies of the dead, five in number, were removed to the morgue.  They were three men, one woman and a child about three years of age. - The Dead and Their Names - The identification of the dead on investigation proved to be as follows: - Chin Que, a gardener employed on I street.  It is understood that he has a brother who resides at Timbuctoo and he as well as his brother is well known in that section of the country. - Day Ah Toon, a restaurant keeper and cook, who had been employed in the building as a cook. He has a brother named Que Tong, who is engaged in the general merchandise business at Smartsville. - Yee Wing You, substitute at the United States hotel.  He leaves relatives at San Juan and they have been notified of his death by Coroner Kelly. - Tung Que, wife of Ah Jim, a well known local Chinaman, who is now ill at San Jose, where he went on account of ill health a few weeks ago. - Yee Ah Quong, the three-year-old son of Yee Wing You. - Carpenters have been at work on the interior of the building for the past two weeks fitting it up for six "cribs,"to have entrances on Oak street.  Instead of first cutting out the necessary brick in the wall for the doors, the interior work of the building was done first and the carpenters were just getting things in shape for the installation of the doors.  Therefore there were a number of entrances into the building from the Oak street side. - Discovery of the Fire - It was about 3:45 o'clock this morning when a woman of the tenderloin district opened her front door and observed the flames shooting out from the doors of the lower floor of the building and she cried fire.  About the same time Joe Johnson, a bartender in Ed's Place, at the corner of First and Oak streets, made the same observation and Joe Slattery, who was with him, hurried to the corner of D and First streets and turned in an alarm.  The fire department responded promptly, but had no suspicion that there were persons in the upper story until their attention was directed to the fact by a Chinaman and then all efforts were made to rescue, but as has been indicated all had suffocated, but two and one of them since died.  The building was owned by the Foot You Tong of San Francisco and was managed by J. Sid, better known as "Buskirk," and who is employed as a cook at the United States hotel.  It was insured but in what sum is not known at present. - Fire Chief Divver picked up from the floor of one of the rooms in the upper story a twenty-dollar gold-piece that had evidently been dropped by one of the men in his flight and it is reported that in the trunk that Yee Wing You was trying to take away there is $300, but that fact has not been determined for the reason that the trunk is in the custody of the coroner and will not be opened until the time when the inquest will be held, which in all probability will take place tomorrow. - The tragedy came as a shock to the people of this city and the Chinese population, in particular, regard it in the full sense of being a calamity.  The persons whose lives were destroyed were of good repute among their own people and if it is possible that the cause of the fire was incendiary there is no question but what a rigid investigation should be made in the end that justice will be done to whoever may have been the guilty party.  From all appearances it could have not originated except by intention.  No arrest has been made, though as indicated, there will be a thorough investigation.

Daily Appeal - Fri 3/13/1908, p1,8 - Six Meet Death In  Fire - Fire of Unknown Origin in Chinatown Yesterday Morning Results In The Death of Six Chinese, Three of Whom Belonged to One Family - As the night clerks in the various hotels were pressing the buttons for the 4 o'clock calls yesterday morning, a bright red glare illumined the sky in the southern section of the city and the early morning risers who hurried to the scene of the fire witnessed a disaster in which the lives of three Chinamen, two Chinese women and a chubby Chinese babe were snuffed out. - When box 14 hit in the fire boys knew that they had a Chinatown blaze to contend with and they made good time to the scene of the conflagration at First and Oak streets, where they found the building on the southeast corner a mass of seething flames. - Crowds of babbling, chattering, excited Chinese poured out of the nearby buildings, dragging their belongings after them, and those who came from houses further up First street stood in front of the burning building and shouted in pigeon English with accompanying excited gestures for the police and firemen to go on the inside and rescue those whom they knew to be in the building. - The women of the half world, who were housed across the narrow alley from the fire rushed from their cribs dragging their trunks and endeavoring to shield themselves with blankets and cloths from the intense heat as they made their way towards First street or the levee. - Although the scene was one of intense excitement and brought back vividly the day of the terrible disaster in April, 1906, at San Francisco, when the whites and Chinese alike were driven from their homes by the terrible fire king. - The fire, which is said to be of incendiary origin, started in the rear of the building, which was used as a lodging house and chop suey restaurant in the upper story and on the first floor several cribs were being fitted up with entrances on Oak street. - The doors for the cribs had recently been cut and allowed considerable draft, which fanned the flames and the blaze had gained rapid headway by the time the firemen arrived on the scene. - The fire was discovered by Joe Slattery, who was walking along First street, and he pulled the box at the corner of D. - Officers McCoy and Sayles were on the scene before the firemen arrived and assisted by several bystanders, they scaled ladders and awning posts to the second story in an endeavor to arouse any inmates who were in the building asleep.  The heat and dense smoke drove back the rescuers and they were unable to get to the rear of the building where the unfortunate victims were found. - Although the firemen who were at work with streams on the rear of the building did not know that there were several unfortunates imprisoned in the flames, Officers McCoy and Sayles were aware of the fact, having been informed by Chinese who knew, and they did all in their power to rescue the unfortunates while the fire boys were flooding the building from the rear. - A second line with a deluge nozzle was thrown on the building in front and after fifty minutes' hard fighting the blaze was gotten under control. - It was then that the gruesome search for the victims of the fire was taken up and the firemen found two Chinamen, two women and two children lying in a narrow hallway at the rear of the building on the upper floor.  It was seen that the men and one of the women were dead, but as the other woman and two children showed signs of life they were carried hurriedly across the street to Phil McCune's cafe and the work of resuscitation was taken up by several women of the tenderloin.  These women deserve great credit, as they worked unceasingly under the direction of Drs. Barr, Powell and Worthington in an endeavor to restore to consciousness the unfortunate whose lungs were filled with the terrible black smoke which issued from the blaze. - Yee Ah Quong, a little 4-year-old child, died in the arms of one of the women about five minutes after being taken from the building, but after an hour's work its mother, Mrs. Yee Wing You, showed signs of life and was removed to the home of Kim Wing, the prominent merchant, a few doors distant.  The little Chinese mother, however, could not stand the shock and died at noon. - Her little seven month old baby, which was found lying alongside the wall shielded by the body of its mother, was taken in charge by the Chinese and last evening was apparently as chipper as ever.  With a mother's care for the safety of her children the little Chinese mother put the baby near the wall and by covering the child with her body prevented the babe from inhaling the deadly smoke and this act saved the baby's life. - Chin Que, an aged Chinese gardner [sic], who was one of the victims, died only after making a terrible struggle for his life.  When his body was carried out into the early morning light the distorted features of the dead Chinaman gave mute evidence of the terrible struggle he had made against the relenting smoke that poured into his lungs as he fought to crawl through the narrow hallway.  He was quite well known in this city and had the reputation of being a gun man.  In the last highbinder war, about two years ago, he was shot in the left arm. - Day Ah Toon, who owned the noodle restaurant in the building, and Mrs. Ah Jim were evidently almost unconscious when hauled from their bunks by the other Chinese, as they both died peacefully, a smile being on the features of Toon. - A brother of Day Ah Toon, who conducts a store at Timbuctoo, arrived in this city last night and will take charge of the body. - The husband of Mrs. Ah Jim is at present in San Jose, having gone there some time ago for his health.  He was employed in this city as a cook by Sol Lewek of the United States hotel. - About an hour after the bodies had been taken away by Coroner Kelly a telephone message came to his office notifying him that another body had been found in the extreme rear of the building.  Kelly found upon investigation that the body was that of Yee Wung You, who was employed as cook at the U.S. taking the place of Ah Jim.  This victim had evidently tried to make his escape with his trunk, as his body lay near a stairway and his right hand still clutched the handle of a small trunk which he had evidently dragged from his room.  He was the father of the two children who were found in the building and his wife was the little Chinese woman whose life the women of the tenderloin tried to save. - Yee Wing You was one of the largest Chinamen in Marysville and considerable trouble was had  in getting his body out of the building on account of the rickety stairways and beams which had fallen across the hallways.  - Yee Wing You's body was the only one that was burned, the others dying of suffocation.  It is probable, though, that he was also suffocated, as the burns of the body were of a trivial nature.  The dead cook comes from San Juan, where he has a number of relatives.  Yesterday they were notified of his death and last evening his mother and father arrived by wagon, having made the long drive in about eight hours.  They viewed their son's body at Kelly Brothers and the scene was a pitiful one as they wept over the remains. - It was rumored last evening that Joe Hay, who owns a number of cribs on the opposite side of the alley from where the fire occurred, had set fire to the building in order to prevent the opening of the new cribs which were being built in the burned building. - After making an investigation it was found that the alleged firebug had been aroused from his slumbers by one of the women of the cribs and this fact, coupled with the statements of several other women who saw him coming from his room, clears him from all blame of starting the fire. - The building in which the fire occurred was completely gutted and the contents of the two adjoining buildings were somewhat damaged by the smoke and water.  The burned building was owned by Foot You Tong of San Francisco, whose property interests in this city are managed by J. Sid, better known as "Buskirk."  The damage to the building amounts to about $3000, which was partially covered by insurance. - The building was a veritable fire trap, as are nearly all of the buildings in Chinatown, and the loss of life came as no surprise to those who are familiar with the actions of the Chinese, when excited and caught in a trap such as the building was that burned. - The tragedy came as a severe blow to whites and Chinese alike, as all of the victims were well and favorably known in this city. - All day yesterday the curious visited Kelly Brothers' parlors where the bodies were taken and view the remains. - The Chinese will bury their dead with much pomp and ceremony just as soon as Coroner Kelly holds an inquest.

Daily Appeal - Sat 3/14/1908 - Will Offer Reward For Alleged Firebugs - The Chinese held a meeting yesterday afternoon and agreed to offer a reward of $500 for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who they believe set fire to the building on the corner of Oak and First streets that resulted in the death of six of their countrymen Thursday morning.  Many of the Chinamen are certain that the fire was the work of an incendiary, although there are about as many who believe it was purely accidental. - No suspicions are entertained and no complaints have been made to the officers.

Evening Democrat - Sat 3/14/1908, p1 - Death Claims Seventh Victim of Chinatown Fire - The final episode of the terrible calamity that was the result of the fire in Chinatown early Thursday morning was in the death of the eight-month-old son of Yee Wing You and Hom Goo.  It will be recalled that in the building that was burned among the victims there were Yee Wing You and his wife and their two little boys.  The husband and one of the boys was suffocated, but the mother and the little one were living when the firemen entered the upper story of the building and they were removed to the side walk and from thence to the home of Kim Wing.  Every endeavor was made to restore them and for a time the chances looked favorable, but the mother did not rally and died about noon.  There was considerable hope that the child would recover and its death was indeed unexpected in that it had survived so long a time, but it passed away at 1:30 o'clock this morning at the home of Ah Fee on First street.  This makes the seventh victim of the fire and includes all who were in the illfated building. - The tragedy is one unusually appalling and the fact that it was unquestionably the work of an incendiary has aroused as naturally it should the indignation of the Chinese population.  As we stated last evening a meeting of the Chinese was held yesterday and arrangements made for the raising of a substantial sum to be offered as a reward for the apprehension and conviction of the party or parties concerned in the destruction of the building and the consequent destroying of the lives of seven people.  It is now understood that the money that has been raised that amounts to something like $600 and that which will be hereafter contributed will be turned over to Marshal Maben and it can be said that the local police will lend ever endeavor to apprehend the incendiary.  So indignant are the Chinese that they have brought the matter to the attention of the Chinese Consul at San Francisco that he may take official action to the end that justice will be done in avenging so terrible a wrong as has been perpetrated.

Daily Appeal - Sun 3/15/1908, p1 - Seventh Victim of Chinatown Fire Is Dead - The seventh victim of the recent fire in Chinatown died yesterday morning.  It was the eight-month-old son of Yee Wing You and Hom Goo.  The little one was believed to be getting along nicely and no danger was apprehended.  Its death came suddenly yesterday. - With the death of this infant the entire family of Yee Wing You is wiped out.  This made the fourth and only remaining member of the family. - Coroner Kelly will hold an inquest over the bodies of the seven victims Tuesday afternoon at 2 o'clock.

Evening Democrat - Tue 3/17/1908, p1 - Victims of Chinatown Fire Will Be Buried Wednesday - Entire Chinese Population Is In Mourning For Victims of Holocaust - The funeral of Gee Wing You, wife and two small children, who were victims of the fire in Chinatown last week, will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o'clock from the undertaking parlors of Kelly Bros.  This will be the largest Chinese funeral ever held in the city of Marysville.  The remains of Day Ah Toon were shipped to Timbuctoo yesterday for interment, and the bodies of Chin Que and Fung Que were interred in the city cemetery yesterday.