The following story transcribed by Jane Pinney; Wellsville Daily Reporter - 4/9/1895
REMINISCENCES OF WELLSVILLE, PART VII
A SERIOUS CATASTROPHE IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE TOWN
The Taylor Building Collapse
A MASONIC CELEBRATION THAT ENDED DISASTROUSLY – ANOTHER CHAPTER IN THE REMINISCENSIS OF THE VILLAGE OF WELLSVILLE
By Dr. H.M. Sheerar
There is no doubt a goodly number of the REPORTER readers will remember a three story building which stood a short distance from Main street, back of where the Pullar (or Beever) Block now stands. This was called the “Taylor Building.” It was a large wooden structure used at the time to which I refer as a Fanning mill factory. The basement part was used as a storage place for lumber. The next or 2nd story, was one room, the size of the building. It was used as a place for putting the Fanning mills, after they were finished. The upper story was filled with paints, boxes, etc. There was an annex of ample size used as the factory at the time referred to. The building was unoccupied, and was therefore a convenient place for holding public meetings.
On June 24th, 1857, the Masonic fraternity was to celebrate St. John the Baptist’s day, in Wellsville. This building was chosen as the best place in which to hold the celebration. The main room was cleared out for the audience, the annex was fitted up for a dining room, and Mr. Samuel Stiles, who was then the proprietor of the VanBuren House, was to furnish the dinner.
Masons from sister towns were invited to attend. Mr. Carlton L. Farnum was the presiding officer of the Wellsville Lodge and master of ceremonies for the day. A speaker, one high in the craft was expected and preparations for a rare time were made.
The day came, the weather was fine, and the “goose-yang was high.” The Cuba, N.Y. brass band made the long procession through Main St. to Bartlett’s that, located where the W.C.&P.C.R.R. depot now is. The quaint but beautiful costumes of the Masons attracted the attention of all Wellsville.
The music was charming. After the ceremonies at the flat were concluded the company of some four or five hundred marched to the “Taylor building,” entered the hall to rest and wait for the dinner. In due time the announcement for dinner was made. The company arose to march out, when, horrors, the central post that supported the floor slipped from its foundation stone, the floor gave way in the centre, forming a large square “hopper” or funnel into which the company of men and women were tumbled pell mell, a mass of struggling, screaming, frightened humanity.
The wildest excitement prevailed. The floor above came down also, the kegs of dry red paint were broken and their contents scattered upon the imprisoned ones, which gave each the appearance of being besmeared with blood. This of course increased the excitement. Mr. Ambrose Coats and sister were in the crowd and were the first to enter the “hopper,” which opened at the bottom and let them out into the lower story, and thus they were enabled to get out unhurt betwixt two piles of lumber.
Mr. Daniel Dexter was fastened by the neck as his head went through the lathing overhead and thus made a prisoner in the Chinese fashion, it took some time for his extrication; a citizen of Wellsville shouted from one of the windows that he was killed. He was helped out, an ambulance was improvised and he was carefully taken away. It required considerable effort to soothe and keep him quiet until he arrived home, when a careful examination revealed the fact that he had sustained no injuries at all, a simple fright.
Frank Russell, Julius Hoyt and myself hastened to the scene as soon as we heard the news. The sight that met our anxious eyes was terrible. Men and women were lying about on the ground, crying and groaning, and the crowd of lookers-on stood helpless and amazed at the spectacle that confronted them. Miss Abbie Smith (Mrs. Dr. Reed) was caught in the falling debris and was removed with some difficulty by Newton Stoddard, who ripped off the siding of the building in his haste to rescue the lady, tearing her dress into shreds. She sustained no serious injuries. Mr. John Cotton Smith, brother of Mrs. Reed, received a blow upon his head, the mark of which he will probably carry to his grave. Mr. Charles Horton then of Angelica had his collar bone broken and otherwise bruised but nothing fatal.
It took some time to care for the injured and it was a great relief to find out that nobody was killed outright, and but one person had any bones broken. It was reported afterwards that one person Mr. Cartright died from injuries received.
The brass band presented a sorry appearance, as they wended their way to the railway station with battered horns, torn garments and some limping from bruises. We were thankful that the catastrophe was no worse and all breathed easier to know that so many were marvelously saved from a terrible death.
The building was not rebuilt and no one regretted it for it was not a pleasant reminder of one of the many sad scenes, that a few of the older residents of our busy town have witnessed.
April 1895 H.M. SHEERAR