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The Fire at Cocheco Mill Number 1

January 26, 1907  at 6:30 pm fire broke out on the fourth floor of Cocheco Mill Number 1. The sprinkler system was under repair so the fire spread rapidly. Power was shut off, leaving panicked workers attempting to escape in darkness and smoke. The building had only one fire escape, many workers were injured when they leaped from windows. Fire fighters batted the flames for thirty-six hours. Their efforts were hampered by-30 degree temperatures. It was so cold that water from the fire engines froze almost immediately. Some of the fire hoses were accidentally cut by the buggy wheels of sightseers. In the end, four lives were lost and the building was a million dollar loss. Just a few days before the fire, the Mutual Insurance Company proclaimed the Cocheco Mills "excellent".

(additional photographs of the Mill fire here)
Composed and written by a prisoner, overlooking the scene of conflagration, from his cell window in Dover Jail.

        Twas on a January morn
        And work had taken regular form.
        The factory bells had rung their final call.
        When the cry of fire quite shrill
        Rang through No.1 Cocheco mill,
        The beginning of what proved a terrible pall.

        Quick the cry was passed along
        Through that terror stricken throng;
        No pen, what followed after, can describe.
        Fighting wildfire, shrieking childlike,
        vainly trying to escape
        In that frantic, groaning, seething, human tide.

        Firemen grieving and struggling bravely,
        People running, rushing madly,
        Hear the shrieks amid that chaos of despair.
        Some are helping, toiling blindly,
        Others soothing in tones kindly,
        Oh, God, tis more than human eyes can bear.

        What a sense of sickly terror,
        Heart strings broke in silent horror,
        A melancholy spell hands in the air.
        See the flares keep leaping higher,
        Dancing around that funeral pyre,
        Leaving nothing but the brick walls grim and bare.

        Then a wild yell, long and loud,
        Issues from that surging crowd;
        Women swooned away, and strong men's courage failed.
        See a wild-eyed, pale-faced lad,
        Begging, pleading, almost mad,
        To be taken from that roaring seething hell.

        Soon a ladder is extended
        Through smoke, flame, and water, blended
        Into  color that defies the painters art.
        He is saved, but many more
        Lie upon that upper floor,
        And the gaping crowd falls backward sick at heart.

        There's no time for idle theory,
        How to reach them is the quary,
        But the firemen see the folly of such pains.
        For, although they may be living,
        That no other power, save Heaven,
        Can save them from that cruel heartless flames.

        Women shrieking, wildly sobbing,
        Black despair their senses robbing,
        Calling, calling for their loved ones but in vain.
        For their spirits have departed
        Leaving friends here heartbroken
        Full of death-dividing anguish, grief and pain.

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