IN MEMORIAM

William J. Merrigan


 


WILLIAM J. MERRIGAN was born June 10, 1891 in Philadelphia to Richard and Annie Kennedy Merrigan. His father had come to America from England in 1885. The family was living in Philadelphia when the census was taken in 1900. William was the oldest child, followed by two brothers, Daniel and Francis. Three more children came in the 1900s, Richard, May, and Margaret. Sadly, the children were orphaned by 1910. William and Daniel went into the world and found work, Francis and Richard were in St. John's Orphan Asylum in Philadelphia, while the two girls were sent to live with their uncle, William Kennedy and grandmother Mary Kennedy.

At some point after the 1910 Census William Merrigan enlisted in the United States Navy, where he worked as a fireman in a ship's engine room. A civilian again by 1918, William Merrigan had made his way to Atlantic City, New Jersey where he worked aboard a fishing boat to support his three youngest siblings.

After serving in the military during World War I, William Merrigan married around 1921. He had joined the Camden Fire Department by April of 1922. On April 28, 1922, while serving with Engine Company 7, William Merrigan was taken to Cooper Hospital after being injured while attempting to rescue an 11 year-old boy from a burning building at 1009 Broadway.

The 1924 City Directory reveals that William Merrigan and his wife Florence were living at 1432 South 10th Street. By 1929 the family, which included sons William Jr. and Kenneth P. Merrigan, had moved to 1610 Norris Street. Fire Department records from 1931 show William Merrigan still living at the Norris Street address.

On October 4, 1935 Sergeant George Lee of the New York Shipyard Police discovered a fire in a 200 x 70 foot warehouse. As he transmitted the initial alarm from the power house, other yard employees also reported the blaze to security at the main gate. Box 312 was pulled by the officer at the Broadway gate at 12:45 A.M. Chief Lennox ordered a third alarm on his arrival as fire roared from large roof ventilators. Stored at the south end of the warehouse were large quantities of benzene, gasoline and other explosive cleaning solvents. Fire fighters pressed an all out attack and prevented the blaze from spreading to these inflammable stores. Fireman William Merrigan of Engine Company 10 was buried under a falling partition wall. He was rescued by other members of his unit, who had themselves narrowly escaped the collapse. As the wind shifted, acid fumes were carried to a large crowd of spectators causing some panic. Under severe radiant heat, the fronts of fifteen dwellings on the east side of Broadway between Lester and Gordon Terrace became seriously exposed. These properties were saved only through the tenacious efforts of Camden's Bravest. Within forty-five minutes the spectacular blaze was contained to the warehouse but not before imposing a $50,000 property loss.  

While assigned to Engine Company 3, located at 1819 Broadway, Fire Fighter Merrigan died of a heart attack induced by heat exhaustion on July 30th, 1940, while fighting the fire at the Hollingshead factory at North 9th and Market Streets.

William J. Merrigan was survived by his wife, Florence and sons William James Merrigan Jr. and Kenneth P. Merrigan. William J. Merrigan Jr. served as a member of the Hi Nella NJ fire department from 1960 to 1985.

Philadelphia Inquirer - April 28, 1922
Click on Images for PDF File of Entire Article
Samuel M. Price - John Hunt - Irwin Bishop - Charles Watkin - William Merrigan - William Reynolds
Broadway - Broadway Trust Company - Harry Armbruster - Cooper Hospital - Lyric Theater 
Ladder Company 2 - Engine Company 7 - Engine Company 8
Click on Images for PDF File of Entire Article
Click on Images for PDF File of Entire Article

Trenton Times

October 4, 1935

Death Certificate

The Hollingshead Fire -July 30, 1940

THE HOLLINGSHEAD FIRE - N.F.P.A. REPORT

Camden Fire Fighters Fallen in the Line of Duty

Camden Fire Department - 
Complete Roster of Uniformed Fire Personnel 1869-1994

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