Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Death Of John Shockey, Part One

Yesterday at 12:40 p.m., a citizen came rushing breathless up to Officer Schmidt on Broadway, and told him there was a fire. Without further ado the officer ran to a fire alarm box, but it would not work, and then to a second, which he found in like condition. At last he managed to get an alarm from box 386, on Broadway and Angelica street, and the Department, with Chief Sexton at its head, responded.

The building that was ablaze was Philip Scholz's picture frame manufactory, or rather finishing establishment, at 113 and 115 Bremen avenue. It consisted of two parts, the main building, to the east, being a two-story frame, 25 X 85 feet, and the addition adjoining, to the west, 16 X 24. The whole formed, as may be judged from these dimensions, a rather irregular-shaped structure. It was situated in the very heart of a conglomeration of wooden buildings, and there was every prospect of another conflagration. Happily this was averted.

How the fire broke out no one could tell. Mr. Scholz, the proprietor, said that he, the foreman, the driver at his mill, and one other workman, had been sitting in the work-room of the addition preparatory to packing up goods to ship Tuesday. There was no fire around. The varnish, of which there was but a small quantity, not more than fifteen gallons, was stored in a separate building in the rear, and not a drop of it was destroyed. Ten minutes after they had left the building some outsiders saw smoke pouring from every crevice in the main building and the flames burst from the first floor. The result was that at least two-thirds of the main building was laid in the ashes, and about one-half of the addition was ruined both by fire and water...

The loss is estimated at $1,500 on the building and about $2,000 on frames...

Unfortunate as Mr. Scholz was, three of the firemen, William Kemper, of No. 8; James King, foreman of No. 19, and Assistant Chief John Shockey, were more so, for in the exercise of their duty they received more or less serious injuries.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 26, 1881

Born in Pennsylvania in 1839, John W. Shockey was the nephew of Henry Clay Sexton and a playing member of the Empire Club. An outfielder, he served as one of the club's two field captains in 1869. Like many members of the club, Shockey was employed with the St. Louis Fire Department and rose to become Assistant Chief.

On October 2, 1881, Shockey died as a result of injuries he suffered while attempting to put out the fire at Scholz's picture frame factory. Over the next few days, I'm going to detail the events of the fire, Shockey's injuries, and his death.

The image at the top of this post is a lithograph of Phelim O'Toole and Michael Hester, members of the St. Louis Fire Department at the same time as Shockey, that I found at History's Time Portal to Old St. Louis.

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