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TUGS MANNED BY HEROES


How Two Small Craft Saved Over
100 Persons on Eastland Told

F. D. Fredericks, a Superintendent, Runs One Boat Himself

The first crushing shock of the Eastland horror past, there came to light today the record of deeds of heroism hitherto unsung.  Here is the story of how two tugs of the river front, one of them the first rescuing craft on the scene of the disaster, manned with a strange, hastily impressed crew, saved at least a hundred of the Eastland's struggling passengers from the clutch of the river.  These rescuers were satisfied to allow obscurity to cover their good deeds.  Other river men pointed them out, but even when pinned down they talked reluctantly of their own work.

Ray LeBeau Tells Story.

Ray LeBeau, who works for A. F. Mitchell &Son, marine engine, boiler and iron workers, at Orleans street, on the north side of the river, was crossing the Wells street bridge on his way to work Saturday morning.

"It was twenty-five minutes after 7 by Reid-Murdoch's clock," said LeBeau.  "The Eastland was at her dock, loaded.  When I saw her I jumped.  She had a list.  The water was coming in at her center chalk [an opening on the main deck] even then.  Her dead lights were closed.  I started to run.  I ran across the bridge and down along the river to the shop."

This distance is about two blocks.  Here, Oliver A. Mitchell takes up the story.

"LeBeau came running in yelling.  "Come out and look at the Eastland!" he shouted, said Mitchell.  "We had been alongside the steamer with the Carrie Ryerson only about ten minutes before doing some repair work on the heater.  I ran out and I could see the Eastland's spars were over the bridge.  They were at an awful angle.  My father shouted for every man about the place to get aboard the Ryerson.  At that time I could see people beginning to jump off of the boat.  Seven of us piled aboard the tug and were tore up current as the Eastland went over.  We were the first boat there except for the Kenosha, which was to tow the Eastland out.

River Full of Persons.

"No, I couldn't tell you how many people we got out.  The river was full of them and we were too busy to count 'em.  I know there were twenty-two people on board the tug at one time.  Henry Oderman, one of our shopmen, dived in and got one woman who was going down.  It took us a long time to bring her to."

Just west of the Mitchell shop is the plant of the Dunham Towing and Wrecking company.  When LeBeau brought his message of the toppling Eastland, the word was carried over there.  Superintendent F. D. Fredericks and two others, "Charlie" Hart and "Johnny"Benson, were the only ones down at that hour, but the tug Rita McDonald was lying at the dock with sixty-five pounds of steam registered in her boiler.

"Come on, boys, I can run that old engine," yelled Superintendent Fredericks, and with his crew of two started for the wreck.

"Who told you all this," demanded Mr. Fredericks gruffly when asked about it today.

He Ran the Tug Himself.

"A lot of people.  They tell me you ran the tug yourself."

The superintendent, who is big and bluff enough to be a sea captain fo fiction, chuckled.

"Well, the regular engineer wasn't around.  I didn't have a license with me, but I guess it'll be overlooked," he remarked, and then told about the rescue work.

"I had Charlie take the wheel.  He's been there before and I could keep my head out the window and run her without waiting for signals.  We picked up two construction rafts on the way up and got in where the people were thickest without a bit of trouble."

"Then we started picking 'em up," said the superintendent, simply.  "I don't know how many.  Too busy to count.  I'm tickled to death to think we were able to help as many as we did.  Fifty?  Oh, I don't know."

"He saved 100," declared a man on the wharf.  "I saw him working and he had both of them rafts chock full."


Copyright © Chicago Tribune
reprinted from the Chicago Tribune


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