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Wester, Kevin J. (ed.) / Consumed by fire : a collection of writings about the famous Wisconsin Chair Company fire, Port Washington, Wisconsin, February 19, 1899

Milwaukee Sentinel: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Wednesday, February 22, 1899,   pp. 67-71

Page 67

Milwaukee Officials at City Hall Are Worked Up Over the Treatment. Mayor Mueller
Comes to Milwaukee to Reward Firemen's Heroic Work but is Told They Can't Accept
Presents---Admits Volunteers Refused to Work and Assist Local Men.
"Complaints have been made to me that our firemen were outrageously treated at
the fire at Port Washington yesterday morning," said Chief Foley last evening, "and what
is more I have every reason to believe that the complaints of the men are perfectly
justified and warranted. Not only were the men given no assistance at the unloading of
their apparatus from the cars at the depot, but help was refused them by the Volunteer
department and even by citizens while the fire was burning the fiercest. Later some of my
men were accused of stealing a coat, one was threatened with arrest, while one officer
who was keeping the crowd back from the injured men was threatened with a whipping.
From what I have been told by Milwaukee city officials who were at the fire, our men
worked like beavers and any treatment such as was accorded them is an outrage which we
will try to remember in future emergencies. When I sent my men to the fire at Port Washington I
at least expected that they would be under protection and receive courteous treatment, such as is
due any citizen. This is more than they received. What is more, the men did nothing that would
justify the citizens of the town treating them in any other way than with the best of courtesy, but
the town did not even have the politeness to help the firemen reload their engine on the cars
when they were ready to leave, and had it not been for the railroad men in charge of the special
train, it would have been necessary for the firemen to make demands for help."
City Officials Indignant.
Chief Foley and the firemen who were at Port Washington were not the only ones
who felt that the men who had saved the town were shamefully treated. Acting Mayor
Corcoran, Assistant Comptroller Porth and Michael Dunn, the mayor's private secretary,
were equally outspoken. All scored the treatment of the Milwaukee men in the roundest
terms. Mr. Porth, in discussing what he saw, said:
"I was surprised when I came to Port Washington to see that there was no one at
the depot to help unload the engines. Instead, the men had to unload their apparatus and
before that could be done they had to carry planks out of a lumber yard and build a
platform. They lost more time this way than they did coming to the city by train. Later,
when the men reached the fire, they had to work all alone. During the night I noticed the

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