Margaret Stokes, the 9 year old daughter of the late Clement Stokes, of New York, who, with her mother, a brother aged 4 and a sister aged 3 years, was on the ill-fated steamer Roraima, was saved from that vessel, but is not expected to live. Her nurse, Clara King, tells the following story of her experience:
She says she was in her stateroom, when the steward of the Roraima called out to her:
“Look at Mont Pelee.”
She went on deck and saw a vast mass of black cloud coming down from the volcano. The steward ordered her to return to the saloon, saying, “It is coming.”
Miss King then rushed to the saloon. She says she experienced a feeling of suffocation, which was followed by intense heat. The afterpart of the Roraima broke out in flames. Ben Benson, the carpenter of the Roraima, severely burned, assisted Miss King and Margaret Stokes to escape. With the help of Mr. Scott, the first mate of the Roraima, he constructed a raft, with life preservers. Upon this Miss King and Margaret were placed.
While this was being done Margaret’s little brother died. Mate Scott brought the child water at great personal danger, but it was unavailing. Shortly after the death of the little boy Mrs. Stokes succumbed. Margaret and Miss King eventually got away on the raft, and were picked up by the steamer Korona. Mate Scott also escaped. Miss King did not sustain serious injuries. She covered the face of Margaret with her dress, but still the child was probably fatally burned.
The only woman known at that time to have survived the disaster at St. Pierre was a negress named Fillotte. She was found in a cellar Saturday afternoon, where she had been for three days. She was still alive, but fearfully burned from head to toes. She died afterward in the hospital.
Of the vessels in the harbor of St. Pierre on the fateful morning, only one, the British steamer Roddam, escaped, and that with a crew of whom few reached the open sea alive. Those who did escape were terribly injured. Captain Freeman, of this vessel, tells what he experienced in the following thrilling language:
“St. Lucia, British West Indies, May 11.—The steamer Roddam, of which I am captain, left St. Lucia at midnight of May 7, and was off St. Pierre, Martinique, at 6 o’clock on the morning of the 8th. I noticed that the volcano, Mont Pelee, was smoking, and crept slowly in toward the bay, finding there among others the steamer Roraima, the telegraph repairing steamer Grappler and four sailing vessels. I went to anchorage between 7 and 8 and had hardly moored when the side of the volcano opened out with a terrible explosion. A wall of fire swept over the town and the bay. The Roddam was struck broadside by the burning mass. The shock to the ship was terrible, nearly capsizing her.