As of Nov. 25, 1871, the Chicago Relief and Aid Society’s Bureau of Special Relief had helped 1,525 families.
This was a special effort to help people “who were the least accustomed to deprivation and hardship,” who “would perish rather than appear as the recipients of public bounty.”
The group set up a system where these people would be “permitted to seek relief where publicity could be avoided, and the shock be lessened to their sensitiveness and reserve.”
“Very few, if any, of these had previously sought for relief through the ordinary channels," the Relief & Aid Society noted in a report …
These people "would, no doubt, some from pride and some from inability through sickness or infirmity, have suffered the very extremity of distress before they would or could have looked for succor in that direction.”
Among other things, the bureau helped the women in these families purchase sewing machines at discounted prices.

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More from @chicagotimeline

24 Nov
On Nov. 24, 1871, the Chicago Board of Police and Fire Commissioners heard more testimony in its investigation of the Great Chicago Fire.

The day’s third witness was Catherine O’Leary—or Leary, as her named was recorded in the transcript.
O’Leary had an infant in her arms on the witness stand. That was apparently her youngest child, Patrick William O’Leary (who was born around 1871, if later census documents are correct).
The Chicago Times—which had earlier described Mrs. O’Leary as an “old hag” about 70 years old—now called her “a tall, stout, Irish woman with no intelligence.”
Read 88 tweets
23 Nov
On Nov. 23, 1871, the Chicago Board of Police and Fire Commissioners began taking testimony for its investigation of the Great Chicago Fire. Image
Only two of the commission’s three members showed up. Other officials were “otherwise engaged,” the Tribune reported. Image
The board was unable to find a shorthand writer, so complete verbatim transcripts were not made of the first day’s testimony.
Read 8 tweets
9 Oct
Irish immigrant Patrick Webb lived with his wife and children in a frame house he’d built on Church Street, at what is now 1826 N. Hudson Ave.

He went to work Monday as a day laborer for the Chicago & North Western Railway, but then his foreman told him to go home at 10 a.m.
Fire had already consumed areas a block east of Webb’s home as it moved north, “so we thought we were safe,” he recalled. But then another wave of fire approached.
“I saw some poor men digging pits in the ground and putting their little household property in them, so I thought I would do the same,” Webb recalled. “And three of us went to work as hard we could.”
Read 5 tweets
9 Oct
James Hildreth led more efforts to halt the fire’s progress—this time by exploding buildings at the fire’s south end.
Tribune editor Horace White, who lived nearby, recalled:

"We heard loud detonations, and a rumor went around that buildings were being blown up with gunpowder. … The reverberations … gave us all heart again. …
"Think of a people feeling encouraged because somebody was blowing up houses in the midst of the city, and that a shower of bricks was very likely to come down on their heads!"
Read 6 tweets
9 Oct
Fire Marshall Robert A. Williams, recalling the morning of Monday, Oct. 9, 1871:

"My eyes were so full of dirt and dust that I couldn’t see. …
"There was some engines coming in from Milwaukee, and they were scattered around, and there was men coming to me to get engines to play on this coal pile and that safe and that vault. …
"I was completely tired out and wet to the skin. I jumped in my wagon and drove up to where my wife was and changed my clothes and drank a cup of tea and had two bites of bread, and I couldn’t swallow it. …
Read 7 tweets
9 Oct
On the Sands, Mary Howe Poole and her family hired a man in a rowboat to take them out to the lighthouse along the north edge of the Chicago River's harbor.

"I was fortunate in having $40 in cash on my person," she later recalled.
"The lighthouse pier, as we disembarked from the rowboat, caught on fire. Hastily the women and children were huddled inside, while the men with axes and water fought the flames — cutting them off."
Strangely enough, "a cow had wandered for safety out to the lighthouse," Poole later recalled. The cow was milked to feed Poole's infant daughter.
Read 4 tweets

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