On this night, fireman Phelim O’Toole became a legend. The Southern Hotel was on fire and about a dozen people were trapped beyond the reach of ladders. O’Toole swung on a rope to reach tied-together bedsheets then climbed up the sheets and brought them all to safety. St. Louis citizens awarded O’Toole a check for $500.00 which he immediately donated to an orphan’s fund.

This post was contributed by Ross Malone. A historian and a retired school teacher, Ross has authored many books about Missouri’s history, weird facts, and folk tales. He has also written children’s historical fiction. Visit his website, and buy his books in the Missouri Life store.