On this day…

On the 14th of April, 1877 Leslie’s monthly magazine announced the March 23 execution of John D. Lee, who took part in the Mountain Meadows massacre in 1857.

The massacre involved the Mormon Utah Territorial Militia, accompanied by some Paiute Native Americans, killing between 100 and 140 members of an emigrant party in Utah.

Source

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On this day…

John D. Lee sits beside his coffin in Utah moments before his execution by firing squad on the 23rd of March, 1877.

He was the only person who was ever punished for playing a part in the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre, when a Mormon militia killed over a hundred non-Mormon settlers over a number of days in September.

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On this day: the founding of a university

The University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada received its charter on the 28th of February, 1877.

The university was officially opened on the 20th of June the same year, and awarded its first degrees in 1880.

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On this day: the founding of Essex County Cricket Club

Essex County Cricket Club was founded at a meeting in Chelmsford‘s Shire Hall on the 14th of January, 1876.

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The Essex team in 1897. X

The sport of cricket had been in the area since some time in the 16th century, but no major teams were organised until the late Victorian era. Essex CCC became First-Class in 1894.

Most of the team’s home games are played in Chelmsford, the county town of Essex.

On this day: the Springwell Pit disaster

On the 6th of December, 1872, a disaster occurred at a coal mining pit near Dawley in Shropshire, England.

Eight miners fell to their deaths when the chain they held to be raised from the mine snapped. The chain, estimated to weigh one tonne, landed on top of them.

The victims were all aged between fifteen and twenty-two.

An illustration of the chain used by the miners.

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On this day: the Brooklyn Theatre fire

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The destroyed theatre. X

One of the worst building fires in US history occurred in New York on the 5th of December, 1876. At least 278 – but possibly more than 300 – people were killed when a fire broke out at the Brooklyn Theatre during the final act of The Two Orphans.

The blaze began on the prompt side of the stage (the side where the stage manager sits). It was noticed part of the set had caught fire. Sets for more than one production were backstage at the time, meaning it was impossible to get the fire hose to extinguish the blaze.

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Harper’s Weekly cover reporting on the fire. X

The performers onstage were made aware of the fire, but continued with the show for a short time, worried about causing a panic. Stagehands tried to extinguish the flames, but the fire continued to gain ground.

Despite being close to the flames, several members of the performing company took to the stage to call for the audience to be calm, so that people could escape the theatre safely.

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One of those performers was Kate Claxton, who was later described as:

‘the nerviest woman I ever saw … [She] came out with J. B. Studley, and said the fire would be out in a few moments. She was white as a sheet, but she stood up full of nerve.’ X

Most of the deaths occurred in the highest, cheapest seats, where several hundred people sat, and where the narrow exit became blocked and people trampled each other. Many succumbed to smoke inhalation.

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Floor plan of the theatre, published two days after the fire. X

By the time firemen arrived at the scene nobody responded to their calls, and cracks had begun to appear in the building.

Less than half an hour after the first flames were spotted, much of the theatre collapsed.

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The theatre in ruins. X

Several years after the disaster, Kate Claxton reflected that it had been a mistake to continue the play, and that the curtain should have been kept down and the performance cancelled so the audience could have evacuated before they were made aware of the fire.