Tag Archives: General Slocum Disaster

The 1904 General Slocum Disaster Had Survivors That Lived Into The 21st Century

Catherine Connelly & Adella Wotherspoon, General Slocum Survivors, Lived To Ages 109 & 100

The Story of The General Slocum Steamship Disaster

General Slocum Disaster

June 15, 2014 marks the 110th anniversary of what had been New York’s biggest disaster and loss of life until the September 11 attacks occurred. We think it is worth remembering the ill-fated General Slocum steamship fire. Here is the story of the General Slocum and  a brief summary of the lives of the last two survivors of the disaster who amazingly lived into the 21st century.

A Beautiful Day For A Picnic

“Kleindeutchland,” as the area of Little Germany was called on the lower east side, was bounded approximately by the East River and Third Avenue and stretched from Houston Street to about 23rd Street. It was a working class, close-knit community of laborers and business owners. The German families that lived in this neighborhood made Tompkins Square Park their center for congregating and relaxation. But for special occasions they would embark on a trip to get out of the city.

Wednesday, June 15, 1904 was a sunny day and the members of the Sunday School of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at 323 E. 6th Street were looking forward to a day filled with games, music and a large picnic for their 17th annual excursion to bucolic Locust Grove, Long Island.

To get there, the church had chartered a steamship built in 1891, the three decked white paddle-wheeler, General Slocum.

Sudden Disaster

New York Tribune June 16, 1904 (click to enlarge)

New York Tribune June 16, 1904 (click to enlarge)

The General Slocum was filled with around 1,400 passengers, mostly women and children as the men generally had to work on a weekday. The Slocum headed out from its berth at 3rd Street on the East River at about 9:30 am with a band playing and the passengers joyously celebrating the smooth ride and beautiful weather.

Thirty minutes after setting out, the ship caught fire Continue reading

North Brother Island

A Close-up Look At Hidden New York: No People, But Lots Of Abandoned Buildings, Neglected Structures And A Safe Haven To Birds.

Having lived in New York City my whole life, there are places that I have never visited by choice and others that I have never been to because they are off-limits.  One of those off-limits places is North Brother Island, which is a small island just off the southern coast of the Bronx near the entrance to Long Island sound.

North Brother Island, if known by the general public at all, is famous for two reasons:

1-   In 1904 the excursion boat General Slocum caught fire and was beached near the island. The fire took the lives of over 1,000 people, mostly women and children going on a church outing to Long Island. Heroic rescuers who worked on North Brother brought many of the victims to the shores of the island.

2-   Mary Mallon a.k.a. Typhoid Mary who was a carrier of typhoid and spread disease and death in turn of the century New York. She was quarantined there until she died in 1938.

I am fascinated by abandoned structures. North Brother Island is chock full of history. Presented here is the link to the fabulous web site The Kingston Lounge which has done a phenomenal history and photo essay of the decaying remains on this forgotten section of New York City.

The 19.3 acre island is now controlled by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and since its human abandonment in the 1970’s has become a bird sanctuary.