Christian (Chris) Miller


...I hauled them aboard as fast as I could...


Chris Miller of Des Plaines, a newspaper engraver [presumably with W. D. Boyce Publishing Company at the time] heroic story of the disaster and of the rescue work.

Mr. Miller was on his way to work and stood on the Clark Street bridge to watch the happy crowd on the Eastland. He jumped into a row boat beneath the bridge and saved 12 lives - men, women, and children.

"I had just stopped near the nose of the boat when it commenced to list," said Miller.

"Many of those on the top deck managed to crawl to the top rail and cling to the side boat, where they were saved. But those on the second deck were trapped and slid off into the water.

"It was horrible - one moment they were laughing and waving farewells, the next - screams and struggling in the water."


"I saw mothers on the second deck pick up their children and throw them into the river.

"Men picked up their wives and sweethearts and jumped, hoping to get clear of the suction of the water. Many succeeded and were picked up. The others drowned.

"Although I cannot swim a stroke, I never thought of that as I rushed down between the bridge where two scows were moored. I jumped into one and cast off the lines of the other. Other men following me threw planks down from the bridge into the water. These were grabbed by the drowning.

"In a moment I found myself in the midst of the struggling mass in the water. Hands grasped the sides of my scow, and others caught hold of those clinging to it. I hauled them aboard as fast as I could, and those pulled into the scow reached to save the others.


"The first man I pulled out was an armless man - I don't know his name. How he managed to keep afloat is more than I can say.

"Next came a mother and child - then they came so fast I cannot remember. I simply reached out and grasped the nearest hand to me. Others were doing the same.

"By the time we had the scow loaded there was great danger in its being capsized by those struggling to get aboard. It was then I remembered I could not swim, and I pulled for the dock.

"I saw two women clinging to the neck of a man. He was too far away to reach him. Despite the great handicap he was struggling bravely to keep them and himself afloat. I don't know whether they were saved or not.

"By the time we had reached the dock and unloaded it was too late to do much more.

"Those struggling in the water had drifted downstream and were being picked up near the Wells Street bridge.

"The personal risks taken by the witnesses of the disaster were so many that we will never know the majority. There appeared to be no thought of self on the part of anyone. I saw them leap from the bridge and the dock and swim to those in the water.

"Many of those brave rescuers will be counted among the dead when the list is completed. They were grasped by those in the river and dragged down.

"No - I'm not going to work now - I couldn't. I think the boss will understand."

Copyright © Chicago Evening American, July 24, 1915

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