Memoirs of Boston's Great Fire of 1872

John S. Damrell

Chief Engineer, Boston Fire Department

Handwritten Letter of Condolence to Wife of Fireman

Boston, 26th of Nov. 1872


My Dear Madame,

            Pardon my not writing or calling upon you, sickness confining me to my bed, prevented.  I embrace this first opportunity to address a few lines to you that I might express the grief and sorrow of my own heart.  I assure you I feel most sensibly the loss you and your dear ones have sustained in the death of a beloved and affectionate husband and father.  I assure you the news of his death pearced me to the heart for I had learned to respect him, for his many manly and noble qualities.  I realize most fully how vain and empty are mere words at this time but I should indeed be recreant to my own feelings did I not give utterance to one word of sympathy in this sad and trying hour, yet amidst our tears of anguish and grief, may we not catch one gleam of comfort and solace from the fact, that his death was no ordinary one, in the health and vigor of his early manhood, with calmness and coolness resting upon his brow in the nobleness of his nature, he presents to the world those attributes which claim for the noblest of the world’s noble heroes, for no greater can the world present, than he who lays down his life for another.

Your dear husband, in order that he might save the life of another husband, father and brother, rushed with flying footsteps to the succor of those whose voice was heard above the roaring flames, and falling walls, crying for help, as it fell on his sensitive ear.  While thus engaged in rescuing life, his spirit took its upward flight in company with those he sought to save using very element that was carrying destruction over our beloved city, as his chariot, to transport him to those manyions, where our father will wipe away all our tears and bid us go no more out forever.  Think of them, my dear friend, as not on earth but in Heaven, and try to realize that your great loss, is his eternal gain.  Allow me to assure you of my own personal sympathy as well as the sympathy and love of the world’s great sympathizer who promised to be the husband of the widow and father to the fatherless, to his tender mercy so I most earnestly commend you and your dear ones.

Trusting that I may be able to call upon you in a few days.  I have the honor to subscribe myself.

                                                            Your friend and obedient servant,

                                                                        John S. Damrell

                                                                           Chief Engineer



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