Dec 7, 2016

In Memory of the Crib Fire - Mount Greenwood Cemetery


Back in the old days before worker safety laws and building codes.




They were paid $1 to $2 a week for their labor. The workers were housed in a wooden crib on the lake. For unknown reasons a fire broke out.

It was rumored that someone had sprinkled gasoline to ward off bedbugs, but no official cause was ever confirmed. The fire quickly consumed the wooden dormitory that housed the tunnel workers. Left with little choice men began to jump into the freezing lake and climb onto ice floes.

One man was able to make a frantic telephone call to the offshore office, relaying the message “The Crib is on fire! For God’s sake send help at once or we will be burned alive. The tug—” and then the line went dead.

Accounts vary, with estimates between 40-70 men dying from the fire and drowning. The exact number is uncertain, because many of the workers were day laborers and migrant workers. Little information about their identities remains. Some of the bodies were never recovered.

Some that were found, were buried at Mount Greenwood Cemetery where a plaque reads, “In Memory of Crib Fire, 45 unknown men, Jan. 20, 1909.”

Labor History in 2:00 brought to you by the Illinois Labor History Society and The Rick Smith Show