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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Go Ahead and Jump

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

"If I could forget one face, one harrowin’ moment, it would have been when a young girl dove head first from an attic window. Time was suspended in a vacuum of silence. We locked eyes. I think I could have touched her. With the hem of her skirt engulfed in flames, like a shootin’ star, she fell to the earth. I held my breath and watched. It wasn’t until a group of people rushed to her aid that the shrieks of devastation resumed." ~Sarah Hodgdon, September 19, 1874~ Fall River, MA THE ANGELS' LAMENT Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series - Book Two ___________________________________

The research surrounding this chapter was intense. The images, profound and to this day, remain with me. As I poured over newspaper articles and related documents, all I could imagine were the horrific choices that these workers (women, children, and men) had to make. Did they: ✓Jump to their deaths or possibly survive with devastating injuries? ✓Burn alive? ✓Or, attempt to climb down to the ground via ropes?

As the records indicate, many jumped. This tragic fire occurred at Granite Mill on September 19, 1874.

In American history, catastrophic incidents such as this may bring about policy change. This event was one of them. _________________________________________ Granite Mill Fire The holocaust known as the Granite Mill fire occurred in the early morning of Saturday, September 19, 1874. It is the most appalling disaster in the history of our cotton manufacture.

The barn-shaped roof was the sixth story of the mill; the only exit was a staircase in the tower of the mill. When the fire occurred it quickly cut off access to the tower and operative s in the sixth floor were obliged to jump from the windows to save their lives.

In attempting this method of escape, thirty operatives were killed and many more suffered serious and life long injuries. The fire is supposed to have been caused by a friction spark which kindled some cotton; the fire department ladders were not long enough to reach the sixth floor and fire nets were not available. Such improvised nets (such as blankets and sheets which were spread out by the firemen below) were no obstacle to the force of gravitation after a fall of approximately sixty or seventy feet. The mill itself was gutted and had to be rebuilt.

As a result of this fire, all mill buildings were required to have more than one exit; outside fire escapes of metallic construction were required to supplement the interior staircases; wooden ladders were discontinued and almost immediately the system of automatic sprinklers was invented and applied.

The safety measures introduced after the "Granite" fire have prevented other serious holocausts. Emergency and safety devices against fire and government inspection have been made compulsory by legislative acts (141). PHILLIPS HISTORY OF FALL RIVER <>

Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series (Book One) The Angels' Lament (Book Two) Book Three Coming Soon


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