Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kept a Whisky Still

New York, 1895


Had a Bar Room on the Ground Floor as a Cover for the Whisky still Up Stairs — Three Persons Injured and One May Die.

A building on Bell avenue, in Bayside, two blocks from the station of the Long Island railroad, was blown up at 7.30 o'clock Tuesday morning by the explosion of an illicit distillery, and three of the occupants were badly injured, one of them perhaps fatally, The building was occupied by Henry Schrell, a German, 45 years old, and his family, consisting of Mrs. Shrell and three children, Lena, 15 years old; Minnie, 8 years old and Freddie, 2 years old. It was a two-story frame structure and was used both as a saloon and dwelling.

On the ground floor were three rooms, the bar-room, dining room and kitchen, and on the upper story were four rooms which were supposed to be occupied as living apartments and bedrooms. The events of Tuesday brought out the fact that in one of the upper rooms Schrell had set up a rude, but complete, distillery and was actively engaged in the production of bad whiskey.

The neighbors flocked into the house and found the interior of the upper story wrecked. The partitions were blown out and the plastering was stripped from the walls, and the sky could be seen through a dozen rents where the sidings had been torn loose from the beams at the top.

In one of the rear rooms of the upper story Schrell was found frightfully scalded. His hair and whiskers were burned off and his face was a mass of blisters and was swollen to twice its natural proportions. His arms from the ends of his fingers to his shoulders were in the same condition. He was blinded, and was wandering aimlessly around amid the wreckage of the room.

In the adjoining room the two youngest children were found in bed and unconscious. The bed had been hurled across the room and rested close to the edge where the siding of the house had been blown out. If the bed had been two feet further it would have toppled over into the back yard. The children were taken to a neighbor's house and as soon as possible to the Flushing hospital. There it was found that they were scalded from head to foot, and that Freddie had inhaled some of the steam and would probably die. Both were in a critical condition last night. The other child and Mrs. Schrell were not injured.

Meanwhile, Schrell, who had recovered his mental balance, had been busy up stairs in the wrecked building, and he and his wife had emptied two barrels of new liquor, which had been stored in one of the rooms. The liquor flowed down the stairway and through the cracks in the floor, flooding the hall and the rooms below, and filling the whole house and the surrounding neighborhood with a sickening smell of alcohol and the fumes of fusel oil.

Schrell was taken to the Raymond street jail in Brooklyn. He moved to Bayside from Maspeth about eighteen months ago.

—The Long Island Farmer, Jamaica, NY, March 15, 1895, p. 1.

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