Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Captain Elwood H. Henry
Engine Company No. 10
Born July 12, 1888
Appointed July 6, 1912
Died September 14, 1930
Fall down elevator shaft during
rescue at the Fiskin Building
919 East Pico Boulevard

* * * * * * * * * *

At 4:44 p.m., Saturday, September 14, 1930, Engine 10 and Truck 11 were dispatched from their 1615 South Hill Street station to the multi-story Fiskin Building, a furniture wholesaler at 919 East Pico Boulevard.  Captain Elwood Henry of Engine Company 10 was serving as acting district (battalion) chief and answered the rescue alarm.
    Firemen found Daniel Gonzales, 5, one of the several youngsters who had been playing in the elevator shaft, clinging to an interior window ledge.  The boy was critically injured when squeezed between the elevator cage and the shaft.  Truck 11 raised a 50-foot Bangor ladder, brought the boy down and he was rushed to Central Receiving Hospital.  Henry was assured that all other youngsters had fled the building and was preparing to leave when he was told that another boy was trapped in the shaft.  Henry went back inside and, while looking up the shaft, slipped and fell head-first 15-feet to the concrete floor of the elevator pit.  Henry, 42, died at 9:10 that evening of skull fractures.  The report that a second youngster was in the shaft proved to be false.

Those Heroic Firemen

    Most wonderful fellows our firemen are, anyway!
    Only two months ago Los Angeles noted the passing of Theodore Craig, in a fall.  He was perfecting himself in the business of ladder climbing in order that he might some day, rescue human beings trapped on a burning building.
    It's no easy task to climb a five-story extension ladder, but young Craig never faltered.  He went at the job, only to have his frail support give way and hurl him to the ground, dying--a martyr to the duty which civilization demands of firemen.
    Today the hero is E. B. Henry, assistant fire chief, who gave his life for a little child.  The youngster had been riding up and down an automatic freight elevator, as he had seen older persons do.  When the car jammed at the third floor the lad climbed out and slid down to the bottom of the pit on the cable.
    Someone pushed the button on the first floor and the heavy car descended, crushing the boy.  When the fire department responded to the call for assistance, Acting Chief Henry sought to release the injured lad.  He slipped and fell, his head striking the concrete floor oft he pit, and a few hours later his life had gone out.
    What wonderful fellows these firemen are!  Ever risking their lives in their hazardous calling, in order to save humans and material property from destruction, they are deserving of all the honor which we can give them.  Let us remember that, too, when ever they ask for adequate apparatus, and a fair wage.


  With honors befitting one who died in the performance of his duty, Acting Battalion Chief E. H. Henry, killed while trying to rescue a child from an elevator shaft, was buried yesterday afternoon in Inglewood Park Cemetery.
    Impressive services, attended by more than 200 firemen and policemen, were held in Angelus Temple.
    Following these rites, the hero's body was borne to its last resting place in a flower-banked fire truck--borne to the grave by the apparatus, as he had requested.
    Masonic services were performed at the cemetery by the Moneta Masonic Lodge, of which the fire department officer was a member.
    Henry was fatally injured Sunday when he fell while attempting to rescue 5-year-old David Gonzales, who had been crushed by an elevator in a shaft at 935 South Olive street.


L. A. Evening Herald



    For the third time within two weeks the Death Angel reached into our ranks and called another one of our beloved members.  Captain Elwood H. Henry was born in Pennsylvania, July 18th, 1888, came to California in 1911, became a member of the Los Angeles Fire Department August, 1912.  He was married shortly afterwards to Miss Jessie Morrow.  To this union was given two fine sons, Elwood, Jr. and Freddie.  He lost his life on Sunday, September 14th while on duty, rescuing a child trapped in an elevator.
    From the very time he came to work as a fireman he came to take a great interest in the department.  He advanced rapidly always making a good showing  in every  promotional examination.  At the time of his death he was acting in the capacity of Battalion Chief.  For the past nine years he has been the Recording Secretary of the Los Angeles Firemen's Relief Association. also Recording Secretary of the Fire and Police Protective League from the time it was organized.  In every campaign that has been conducted for the welfare of his fellow man, his time and energy was given for the promotion of the things that were right.  He always has a word of encouragement for all; in fact, he lived the  life of the poet, "Let me live in the house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."
   Funeral services were conducted by Alvarez & Moore under the auspices of the Los Angeles Firemen's Relief Association at Angelus Temple, September 18th, 1930, Chaplain John Y. Cordell officiating.  The floral expression of love and sympathy in the silent language of the beautiful flowers can not be expressed in words.  They came from far and near, and of every kind.  It was a most beautiful sight.
     The Police Department turned out in large numbers in uniform to show their respects to a comrade and friend that long will be remembered in his untiring efforts, as the two departments labored shoulder to shoulder in the interest of their brothers and the city which they serve.
    About five-hundred firemen in uniform and uniformed police officers marched into the auditorium at 2:00 p.m., where a large auditorium of sympathetic friends and relatives were waiting.  As the great Temple organ played softly, they were seated in a reserved section, and the services began with Fireman Henry Grannis singing "Asleep in Jesus."
    Chaplain John Y. Cordell gave a very fitting eulogy as to the beautiful character that he was and the life of devotion to duty that he exemplified while in our midst.
    Following the church services, the remains were carried to the Inglewood Chapel in his hose wagon, No. 10, covered with beautiful flowers.  The Moneta Masonic Lodge, of which he was a prominent member, held the last service, which was most impressive.
    In addition to his wife and two sons, he leaves two brothers and a sister to mourn their loss.  We, the members of the Los Angeles Fire Department, bring our tribute of love and bid a last farewell to our comrade and friend, with the assurance of a happy reunion just inside the Eastern Gate.

The Firemen's Grape Vine, September 30, 1930

Engine Company No.  10 and Truck Company No. 1
1615 S. Hill Street
Circa 1925

By Bill Goss

   A FRANTIC mother rushed into the old Fiskin building at 919 East Pico street and with the aid of several small boys and her own herculean efforts managed to span a heavy 2x10 plank across the half lowered freight elevator gate to a small ledge on the opposite side of the shaft. Clambering out onto the plank, she peered up into the heights of the shaft and there saw her young son, Daniel Gonzales, aged 5, holding himself precariously in a blind window at the back of the elevator well.

  Little Gonzales had been playing in the elevator, riding up and down, on this Sunday afternoon, September 14, 1930, as he and other boys had done many times before, when the employees of the furniture company that used the building were absent for the week-end. On this particular day the elevator had stopped opposite the third floor and as other boys in the group attempted to restart the car, young Daniel climbed up onto the top of the cage and was going to slide down the cables. As he was about to go over the side of the car, it started upward. Frightened, he stepped onto the only recess available, that afforded by the narrow confines of a blind window. The car passed over his small body until it had to clear his head and this it jammed roughly back into the opening as it scraped by. Although seriously injured Daniel Gonzales managed to hang on to his perch and cry for help.

  As the other boys in the group ran to the Gonzales home, which was to the rear of the Fiskin building, Daniel's cries for help were heard by an employee of the furniture company who happened to be working in a remote part of the building that day. After quickly surveying the situation this employee put through a call to the fire department.

  At 4:44 p.m., almost simultaneously the phones rang in the quarters of Engine 10 and at Truck 11, located with Engine 30. At 10s Captain Elwood Henry, Captain of Engine 10 on the B platoon, but acting chief of Battalion 4 on this fateful Sunday, answered the phone and was given the address on East Pico which he gave to his operator, Ainsley D. Cornwall, as the red buggy sped out of quarters.

  Arriving at the location Captain Henry found the members of Truck 11 under the command of Captain Harry A. Brown already at work trying to fee the injured boy from his dangerous plight. First raising a 30-foot straight ladder in the shaft, they were unable to reach the boy due to the 15-foot well of the shaft below the first floor. Returning to the truck they next put a 50-foot Bangor up in the shaft and operator Ainsley Cornwall, under Captain Henry's instructions, went aloft and brought the injured lad to safety. An ambulance was summoned from the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital to where little Gonzales was removed in a critical condition. Meanwhile Captain Henry went through the rest of the building to see if there were any more injured or trapped boys on the upper floors. Finding none he returned to the main floor and gave orders to the truck company to pick up and go home. Taking one last look around the Captain went out of the building and as he was about to get into his buggy a voice in the small knot of spectators, attracted by sirens and shiny red apparatus, called out: "There is another boy trapped up in the shaft."

  Perhaps feeling that it wasn't so, Captain Henry nevertheless re-entered the building and walked out on the plank still stretched across the gap and tilted his head to look up into the tall building.

  Outside Operator Cornwall and the members of Truck 11 were startled by a loud and reverberating crash. Rushing into the building Cornwall found Captain Henry lying unconscious in the bottom of the shaft 15 feet below the main floor. The jammed half open gate supporting one end of the plank on which Captain Henry had been standing dropped free, causing the plank to slip off on one end and pitched him down into the pit. The crash also brought the truckmen back to the scene and they quickly put a ladder down to the bottom of the shaft and with an improvised stretcher brought the heavy body of the injured officer to the ground level. Another ambulance summoned by Operator Cornwall soon arrived and the still unconscious Captain was removed to the receiving hospital.

  At the hospital after a thorough diagnosis it was determined that Captain Henry suffered a double basal skull fracture and that he had little or no chance for recovery. Assistant Chief Edwards, commander of the B Platoon sent for Mrs. Henry and the Captain's two sons. In their presence at 9:07 p.m. that same evening he passed away without ever regaining consciousness.

  Thus within the short period of three months the angel of death had reached out and taken another member of the department, this time a most ardent and enthusiastic worker. A man who was known throughout the Police Department and other organizations as well as his own Fire Department. Captain Elwood Henry was Secretary of the Fireman's Relief Association, Secretary of the Fire and Police Protective League, and a prominent member of the Builders Club, a Masonic order of firemen. A man of great sincerity, he devoted his boundless energy to the services of his fellow man rather than to the gain of his own ends. He left a gap that has never been completely filled.

  On Thursday afternoon, September 18, in the main auditorium of Angelus Temple, floral offerings such as were seldom seen, brought their silent message of the respect and love of the throng of friends and loved ones who mourned the loss of Captain Henry.

  Shortly after one o'clock the crowd began to assemble outside the Temple. Great loads of flowers arrived and soon the entire platform and altar space of the Temple were completely filled with floral blossoms. At the head of the gray casket where Captain Henry lay as though sleeping, was a floral design of red roses in the shape of a fire box which bore the inscription, "Box 5371" from which box he had received his last call to duty. Surrounding the casket were flowers from the various divisions, battalions and companies of the Fire Department as well as many blossom tributes from the various Police Department groups and other friends who had known and respected Captain Henry. On the casket lay his uniform cap which could never be worn again, and upon the breast of the uniform which Captain Henry had so honored by heroic service, there was pinned the badge of his department. It seemed to shine a little more brightly than ever before, as though it were reflecting the last rays of greatness from the staunch heart, now stilled, beneath it.

  In attendance at the services were several hundred uniformed firemen and policemen who came to personally pay their last tribute to their comrade and fellow worker. The services were held under the auspices of the Firemen's Relief Association with Chaplain John Y. Cordell officiating.

  Several days before his death, in the quarters of Engine 10, Captain Henry had said: "Boys, there is always a chance in our work that some of us may go West. Some folks have their own ideas of the way they would like to pass on. As for me I don't want much fuss. But there is just one thing I'd like to have if I ever pass on in this game, and that is that you'll let me have my last ride on a truck."

  And so true to Captain Henry's last wishes, following the church services, the remains were carried to Inglewood Cemetery in his own wagon from Engine 10. The Moneta Masonic lodge of which he was a prominent member, held the last services at the cemetery.

  Captain Henry was born of Scotch-Irish parents in Red Lion, Pennsylvania on July 12, 1888. He was appointed to the Los Angeles Fire Department on July 6, 1912, was made a regular Lieutenant on April 5, 1922, and a regular Captain on January 17, 1924. He started his fire department career on the Fire Prevention Bureau, then in its infancy, and finished the balance of his eighteen years service at Engines 5B, 19B, 24A and 10B.

  He left behind his widow, Mrs. Jessie Henry, who passed away August 20, 1936, and two sons Elwood, Jr., and Fred. Elwood, Jr., now 31, is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and when last heard from was serving in Northern Pacific waters. Fred, now 19, and whose guardian is Tom Carmichael, is also a member of the Coast Guard and a gun captain on a freighter operating out of Calcutta, India.

Respecting his wishes, the remains of Captain Henry
are being placed on Engine 10 for the "last run."


The Grape Vine, October 1944

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