Henry Nice, Survivor 
Pemberton Mill Collapse

The Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts collapsed on January 10, 1860. The debris was set on fire while trying to extricate people that were trapped in the ruins. Many people died in the fire after having survived the collapse. The following is a description of one person's experience:

"Henry Nice, a brother of Thomas Nice, whose wife was killed in the ruins, relates an interesting narrative of his experience. He was employed in the boiler-house, and at the moment of the disaster was engaged in putting a wick into a lamp. He heard a noise which he cannot describe, and stood up for an instant, when he was struck on the shoulder by a heavy article. He thrust himself head foremost against a door opening outwards, and fell into the porch, the door and the space about him being instantly filled with brick, and his body confined to the most uncomfortable limits. A cloud of steam and dust penetrated the debris and nearly suffocated him, but by almost superhuman efforts he succeeded in digging a passage through the ruin and reaching a place of security.

Instead of fleeing from the scene of the disaster, he turned back to rescue those still living. Upon the floor of the card-room he found a girl, who boarded at No. 5 Pemberton Corporation, who subsequently informed her rescuer that she was alone in this country, but had a mother in Ireland. A piece of shafting lay across her neck, her knee was seriously lacerated, and the rim of a 'roping can' was pressing into her back.

Nice obtained a saw, and cutting away the boards and timbers from under her, had the satisfaction of seeing her borne away to a place of safety. He then continued the work of rescuing his unfortunate companions. Darius Nash, the third hand in the spinning-room, fell with the factory. Nice heard him scream for help, and creeping on his hands and knees amid the tangled ruins, he found Nash and a young girl lying close together. The latter was cheerful, and urged Nice to remove her companion first, as he was lying on her leg, being confined there by a spinning frame which rested on his side.

Nice thrust a strip of board through a hole above him, which attracted the notice of others, who cut a hole in the floor, through which Nash was drawn, badly hurt. Every effort was made to remove the machinery which imprisoned the heroic girl, without avail; and the fire sweeping over the spot, her young life went out amid the scorching heat."

Copyright © 2016 CelebrateBoston.com