Thursday, September 17, 2015

LODD Update - Harry Benninger

LODD Memorial List Update - Harry Benninger

Newly Uncovered Line of Duty Death

     Members of Hook and Ladder Co.1 experienced a horrible accident on December 17th 1914.  Harry Benninger, a member of Engine 34 who had been detailed to the ladder company for the day, was returning from lunch.  As he walked down 6th Street toward the Gift's Firehouse an alarm of fire sounded.  He rushed toward quarters arriving as the ladder was pulling out.  As the truck turned west on 6th Street Benninger jumped for the running board.  In his rush to join the company he slipped.  Before anyone could react the apparatus had rolled over him.  A wheel passed over his head and chest crushing him.  The sidewalks were busy with pedestrians who were sickened to witness the accident.  Patrons of the Palace Hotel restaurant were also able to see the scene from their seats.  Harry was immediately carried to the City Hospital but doctors were not able to save him.  He was pronounced deceased on arrival.

Cincinnati Enquirer - 18 December 1914

     The alarm of fire the companies were responding to originated at the May, Stern & Company store.  It proved to be a false alarm triggered by an overheated system.  Benninger lived at the Delmar Flats on Telford Street in Clifton with his elderly mother.  Chief Bunker personally made the trip to her apartment to pass along the news of her sons death.

Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum
Hook & Ladder Co.1 pictured here in 1900.  The scene of the accident would have looked very similar to this.
Ladder 01 was not mechanized until 1917.

     Two days later the funeral procession passed Engine 34s quarters as it made the trip to Spring Grove Cemetery.  Harry's four brothers attended the service along with their elderly mother.  Members of E34 along with Chief Bunker and several assistant marshals stood at attention outside quarters as the group passed.

Find a Grave Index
Harry Benninger - Spring Grove Cemetery section:  LN-31-2-15

Spring Grove Cemetery - Burial Record

     The following information has been added to the Cincinnati Fire Department Roll of Honor:

Harry Benninger
Firefighter - Engine Co.34 (Detailed to Hook & Ladder 1)
Died 17 December 1914
Accidentally crushed under apparatus while jumping on board

     Training note for active firefighters >>> Vincent Dunn's book Safety and Survival on the Fire Ground identifies attempting to jump on or off a moving apparatus as a highly dangerous practice.  Firefighters are reminded to always be aware of their surroundings, things they may trip over, and the location of the apparatus while on the fire ground...particularly when the apparatus is moving.  The most dangerous position for a firefighter is to be inside the turn of an apparatus.  In this position the firefighter that is too close to the apparatus has a high likelihood of being run over by the rear wheels in the event that he should fall.  Dunn notes, "firefighters have been crushed to death beneath the wheels of moving fire apparatus after failing in their attempts to jump aboard."  We owe it to those that came before us and lost their lives to learn from their experiences so that we might not repeat the same tragic mistakes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

1938 Parade and Demonstration

Cincinnati Celebrates 150 Years - The Sesquicentennial Parade 

     The City of Cincinnati celebrated its 150th birthday on Tuesday October 11th, 1938.  The centerpiece of festivities was a great parade with floats designed to capture the history of the city.  Leading the parade was a prominent Cincinnati businessman dressed as Cincinnatus and riding in a Roman chariot.  Among the most interesting parade entries was an original Wells Fargo stagecoach on which can be seen scars from bullets and arrows earned in its earlier working life on the frontier.

Original Wells Fargo stagecoach

     The fire department marked the occasion with old fire apparatus.  Members dressed as old time volunteers.  The fire department band lead the group followed by a flat bed with the original fire drum which served as the first city fire alarm.  Hand pulled pumpers and horse drawn steamers joined modern apparatus in the parade.  After the  parade the fire department put on a display at the public landing.  A hand pulled pumper was rushed to the water followed by a horse pulled steamer and both were put in operation recalling the great battle that took place on New Years Day 1853 between Union Fire Co.9's powerful hand pumped apparatus "Ocean" and Shawk and Latta's new horse pulled steam apparatus the "Uncle Joe Ross."

     The events were well documented and we are left with some fantastic pictures from the event.  Better still is the surviving video which captures the demonstration of fire apparatus at the public landing.  Check out the link to the video at the bottom of the post!!!

The original fire alarm - The fire drum

Chief Barney Houston pictured on right

Horse pulled steamer rushes to the water at the public landing

Hand pumper pulled to the waterfront with runners

CHECK OUT THE VIDEO HERE...1938 Steamer Demonstration Video

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cincinnati's September 11th Tragedy

Cincinnati's September 11th Tragedy

     Long before Americans witnessed the terrible losses of 9/11/2001, the Cincinnati Fire Department experienced a tragedy of its own on September 11th.  The year was 1899.  Fuel Wagon Driver Thomas Bland was going about his business at Engine 08's quarters when Officer Lowenstein came running down the street calling for help.  The officer had heard screams just around the corner from the firehouse and he rushed to there to alert the firemen.  Bland heard the plea and raced to the scene by himself.

     Carl Dent was likely clinging to his mother's side.  She was beside herself with fear for her other son Monroe. Carl the oldest at five years of age was playing with four year old Monroe in the back of the family home, a two story brick tenement at 727 Clinton Street.  Behind the building was the privy house.  Carl and Monroe were hanging on the swinging door of the outhouse.  His arms draped over the door, Monroe got tired and tried to lower himself to the ground without falling.  He lost his balance and fell into the privy vault some 30 feet below.  Carl rushed to his mother's side and it was her call for help that alerted Officer Lowenstein to the trouble.

Sanborn Insurance Map - Engine 08 is shown at the corner of Laurel and Cutter.  The scene of the accident, 725 & 727 Clinton Street , is
pictured at the top of the map.  Thomas Bland's residence is just in view as well at 710 Clinton Street.

     Bland would have been very familiar with the location.  He lived just a few doors down the street at 710 Clinton with his wife and two children.  He stepped into an intense scene.  By now others in the neighborhood had heard the commotion and made their way to the backyard and alley to see what was happening.  Bland took action immediately.  He recognized the need for help and sent a boy rushing back to the firehouse to get another firefighter.  The boy found firefighter Harry Heinsheimer, a regular at E08 for about two years now and a resident of the firehouse.  Heinsheimer ran to the scene and found Bland lowering a cistern ladder into the vault.

Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum Collection
Engine 08 at the corner of Laurel and Cutter (See above map) as pictured in 1897.

     Harry decided he would make the rescue attempt.  He started down the ladder but it soon began to sink in the muck below.  He rushed back up.  Bland was wearing boots and said he would give it a go.  When he reached the bottom of the ladder he found Monroe.  He took the child in his hands and called for a rope.  Harry lowered one.  Moments later he started to pull the rope when it was jerked from his hands.  A splash followed.  Harry recognized immediately that his partner Thomas had likely been overcome by gasses and collapsed.  He feared both Bland and the child may be lost.

     By now Dr.Wiggers had made it to the scene.  He saw Harry preparing to mount the ladder and warned him that he could easily be overcome as well.  Harry decided to risk it and started down the ladder.  He had nearly reached the bottom when he too was overcome.  The large and growing crowd of onlookers gasped as another splash was heard.

     By now the entire neighborhood was on hand.  Notification had been made to the fire department and members of E08 and Hooks 06 along with Assistant Marshals Campbell and Donovan arrived.  While waiting Officer Lowenstein recognized the need to allow the gasses to vent from the vault.  He took an axe and knocked the privy house down.  Members of Hooks 6 lowered a larger ladder into the vault and Captain Romer tied himself off with rope and brought down a second line.  He descended and found the men floating in the filth below.  After a rope was tied around Heinsheimer he was pulled out and immediately rushed to a nearby fuel house were several doctors started to work on him.  Soon after Bland was pulled up and also taken to the fuel house.  Both were alive but unconscious.  Sadly the child, four year old Monroe Dent, was brought from the privy lifeless.  Soon after both Heinsheimer and Bland were lost.

Cincinnati Enquirer 12 Sept 1899

     Word spread rapidly through the department and city.  Bland and Heinsheimer were hailed as heroes the next day in the papers.  Harry Heinsheimer was buried at the Walnut Hills Jewish Cemetery several days later with a large group of firemen attending the service.  Harry, as a regular member of the department was entitled to benefits paid by the Firemen's Protective Association.  These were rapidly paid to his mother who arrived in town for the service.

Cincinnati Enquirer 12 Sept 1899
Headline that appeared in the Enquirer the day following the tragic loss of Bland and Heinsheimer

     Thomas Bland was also buried on the same day in St Joseph's Cemetery following services at St Xavier Church.  His situation was more complicated than Harry's.  Though a long time member of the department, he was not a regular firemen and therefore not technically entitled to benefits.  The Protective Association recognized immediately he had died while serving in the capacity of a firefighter and voted to pay his widow the firemen's death benefit despite his official status.

Chris & Robert Klein Collection
The headstone of Thomas Bland located in St Joseph's Cemetery, Price Hill

Cincinnati Enquirer 28 May 1900
This is the inscription of the memorial placed in honor of Harry Heinsheimer at the Walnut Hills Jewish Cemetery
A community activist raised money via private subscription to erect the tribute.

Photo: JPeter Collection
Harry Heinsheimer Monument & Headstone
United Jewish Cemetery, Walnut Hills

     Mary Bland suffered through the incident.  She was left alone to raise her two children.  The year had already been tragic for she and Thomas.  Several of their young children had recently died.  Mary herself was also confronted with her crushing past.  Mary's father was William Kelly, was one of the five Cincinnati Firefighter killed at the Gay Fire while working with Engine 04 on December 11, 1880.  This was the single deadliest event in the history of the department.  Mary found herself directly connected to two major losses sustained by the CFD.  She also had to fight for a pension that was needed to help her cover expenses without her husband's income.  Since he was not technically a regular firefighter the state legislature had to pass a resolution directing Cincinnati to add his name to the pension roll.  The bill was widely supported by members of the department and found champions in both chambers of the legislature.  A few voiced opposition fearing it would establish a precedent that could drain the system but their view was not widely held.  After months of fighting, Mary finally won her claim to a widows pension.

UC Cincinnati Birth & Death Index
Harry Heinsheimer Death Index Card - Cincinnati Vital Statistics

UC Cincinnati Birth & Death Index
Thomas Bland Death Index Card - Cincinnati Vital Statistics

UC Cincinnati Birth & Death Index
Monroe Dent Death Index Card - Cincinnati Vital Statistics

Overlay of the old Sanburn map of the location of 727 Clinton Street with the current Google Map of the same area.
Betton Street was formerly Clinton Street.  Location of accident indicated in both by red dot.
 Street Name Changes (Old > Current)
Laurel > Ezzard Charles
Cutter > Laurel Park Drive
Clinton > Betton

Google Street View
The site of the rear of 727 Clinton Street as it appears today - Clinton Street is now known
as Betton Street.  The frontage of 727 Clinton is approximately the same location as 713 Betton.  Pinecone Lane 
roughly corresponds to the location of Wise Alley.  The Privy house was in the rear of 727 Clinton near Wise Alley.

Thomas Bland & Harry Heinsheimer can be found among the names

The Roll of Honor also contains the name of Mary Bland's father William Kelly