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General Slocum, Steamboat

From Central Park Historical Society Encyclopedia

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June 15, 1904 - Steamboat, General Slocum caught fire and sank in the East River, N. Y. C. At the time of the accident the ship was carrying members of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church Sunday School, mostly women and children on an outing that turned into a disaster. An estimated 1021 of the 1342 people on board died, considered the worst maritime disaster in the cities history.

Here is an account by Jane Miller Riggs who grew up in Bethpage, her dad, Victor Miller, was teacher and principal at Powell Avenue and Broadway school. Jane passed her story on to the CPHS on how this disaster touched her life as her grandmother, Lucy Hencken, survived the disaster - sadly Lucy's mother and brother did not.

Lucy Hencken, was 15 years old, lived at 169 S. Second Street, Brooklyn lost her mother and brother Charles on what was meant to be a happy Sunday school outing. Here is her documented story on her experience. When the fire started I was sitting with my mother in the rear of the boat and my brother Charles was on one of the lower decks. As soon as we saw the smoke and heard the cry "FIRE" my mother asked me to go below and find my brother. When I got down the stairway I found three babies that were trampled and I brought them up and put them in my mothers lap. Then I continued to look for Charles who I saw as he was swept away - in the surge of men and women who were rushing from the flames. I succeeded in getting back to the upper deck, but when I went to look for my mother and the three babies, I had rescued, they were gone. With mother and brother gone from me I did not want to live any longer and I jumped into the river. As I was going down a man, Theo, on a tug boat caught me with a hook and dragged me on the boat. Without Theo I would not be here to tell this story.

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