The General Slocum Steamship Disaster Wiped Out Entire Families – June 15, 1904
Earlier that day, June 15, 1904, the General Slocum excursion boat caught fire. Women and children who comprised the majority of the passengers, were burned alive or drowned.
As news filtered in to the newspapers, the death toll continued to mount. The number of victims would rise from hundreds to over 1,000.
There were no records of the passengers on board that day, so the exact number of dead was never positively ascertained. Entire families were wiped out and scores of bodies were never recovered. It is estimated at least 1.020 people perished.
We covered the tragedy previously from the standpoint that there were incredibly survivors of the 1904 Slocum disaster that lived into the 21st century.
The aftermath of the Slocum disaster has faded as the years wore on and survivors and their families died off.
The largest number of Slocum casualties are interred at Lutheran Cemetery (now All Faith’s Cemetery) in Middle Village Queens with 660 burials, There is an annual memorial ceremony held at the cemetery.
A startling reminder of the totality of the effect the Slocum had on some families is on display the Evergreens.
The Heuer’s of 129 Division Street have five family members together in one plot. In most newspaper accounts the family was identified as “Hener.”
Inscribed on their plaque in German:
Hier Ruhen in Frieden
Dorothea 39 Jahre Alt (years-old), Marie 17, Herman 10, Dora 7, Emilie Lang 15 .
Umgekommen Bei Der Slocum catastrophe am 15ten Juni 1904
which translates to:
Here Rest in Peace
Perished at the Slocum catastrophe on 15 June 1904.
Emilie Lang who lived at 154 E. Broadway was most likely a close relative of the Heuer’s.
Father Herman Heuer (b. 1862) did not accompany his family on the trip, but obviously lost his wife and three children. Uninjured in the tragedy was 14-year-old Adolph Heuer, who described to the New York Times the following year on the anniversary of the fire how he survived.
“I ran aft and got on a camp chair.” He said, “and tried to get the life preservers down. I tried to pull down about twenty of them, but only got one down. The others fell apart in my efforts, the straps tore from them, and the granulated cork fell over me. A woman took the life preserver from me and I jumped overboard and was picked up by a tug. My mother, brothers, and sisters, six of them in all – were lost.”
When he says” six of them in all,” Adolph must have been referring to Emilie Lang and another relative who was on board the Slocum.
Herman Heuer remarried in 1907. Son Adolph was married in 1916. He named his first child born in 1918 – Dorothea.