When Samuel Chattin of Pasadena yesterday noon saw smoke rolling up from the big Brooks Brae plant at that place, he and his son rushed to the plant, and peering through the window into the fiery furnace within, he saw the body ofhis own twelve year old daughter, Hannah, lying uon a cot beside that of a man. The interior of the room was flame and smoke, and the roof was tumbling in, so they dared not enter. With the aid of neighbors they got pieces of timber through the window and worked the cot nearly to the window, when the cot overturned and the bodies rolled off. Later the little girl's body was taken from the ruins, just the trunk and part of the head; that of the man was also found, with arms, legs and head missing. It was an Austrian, Gildo Plazziano, who was watchman at the brick plant. The big brick plant said to have cost from ten to twenty thousand dollars to build, was wiped out by the flames.
Prosecutor Plumer, Sheriff Brown and Coroner Brouwer were at the fire yesterday afternoon before it had burned itself out. They were there just as the bodies were recovered, and the Coroner gave permits for burial, the burial will be at Tuckerton, the home of the Chattins.
Plazziano had been watchman at the plant for a long time, some years. He was looked upon as queer by most of the few people who live in the small hamlet of Pasadena (or Wheatland) and had few friends. There had been for some time, however, a strong affection apparently on his part for little Hannah Harriet, the Chattin girl, and she in turn seemed to like the watchman. In fact, she often went down to his two room shack that stood not far from the plant, and where he lived alone.
Chattin says he had remonstrated with his wife for letting the child be around so much with the Austrian, but she could see no harm with a child of those years, and the man seemed to think so much of the little girl that it disarmed their suspicions. Thursday morning Hannah went to Plazziano's shack about seven o'clock. She told her mother that he was going to paper his house and she would help by holding the strips of paper as he put them on. At noon she did not return to dinner. It was while they were about to start out to find her that they saw the smoke pouring out of the brick plant.
The plant was a big concern, that would cover half of an ordinary town block. At one end, Mr. Biller, the manager who came down occasionally from Philadelphia to look things over, had some rooms fitted up to live and sleep in. When Chattin first got there, the fire was all in this part of the building and the big factory end had not been touched. George Bozarth and Charles Halloway of Chatsworth came along, and the four, finding the two bodies in the blazing room, tried to get them out with rakes and poles, as told above. While they were at this,the flames worked over into the main plant.
Somebody phoned to Sheriff Brown, who at once got the Prosecutor and Coroner and went down there. An examination of the Austrian's shack showed four rolls of paper, ready to put on the walls as the girl had said. There was also a new leather satchel, in which was found a child's muff, a child's tam-o'shanter cap, and a work basket with scissors, needles, etc. On the table were some bags of candy, and one piece of candy showed that the girl had been eating it and laid it down again. Plazziano had spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Philadelphia, returning Wednesday night. There is no doubt that he had brought with him these gifts for the girl.
The officials as well as the parents of the girl and all who saw the tragedy, could form one conclusion: that, yielding to base desires, the man had enticed the child to the rooms of the manager at the plant; that realizing the enormity of his act, he had first killed her, to prevent her telling , then set the place on fire to destroy all trace of the crime, and killed himself. The bodies when taken out were so charred that it was impossible to tell how they had come to death, but as escape from the burning building could easily have been made, it seems reasonable to suppose they were dead or helpless when the flames crept upon them.
Chattin is a Tuckerton man. Sometime ago he lived at Seaside Park, coming there to work for Mayor Mathis in his contracting business, as a team driver. Plazziano in 1914 was indicted, convicted and fined $200 for selling liquor without a license at his shack in Pasadena. When the officers were there yesterday they found a dozen or more quart whiskey bottles about his place.
A few years ago there was another fire at Pasadena, just across the way from the brick plant, in which a man and woman were burned to death, and a house destroyed. Relatives at that time insisted that Plazziano had killed them and burned the house to hide his crime. Of course there was no proof, and all investigations failed to show more than an enmity or jealousy between the two men.
The Broooks-Brae brick plant was built perhaps 15 or 20 years ago by Philadelphia capital. The company owned some 5000 acres of land, much of which was underlaid with clay. For some reason the plant had not been operated; and Plazziano was kept there as a watchman. The big wooden buildings were filled with machinery for brick making. The loss will run up into many thousands.
Pasadena had a history of disasters ending in fire, so one wonders if there was something more going on out there. For example, consider the story of Peggy Clevenger and her husband, Bill. Supposedly Bill, who died in 1872, told Peggy that if he found conditions of the next world as they had been described to him, strange things would soon happen close to home. Bill assured Peggy that if his new stomping grounds were as hot as he had been led to believe, he would cause the water of an open well near their house to boil day and night. The legend recounts that on the night after Bill passed on, the water in the well began to bubble and steam, just as he had foretold. According to one poster, on a message board, "The well no longer exists. Its walls long ago caved in and the place where it once was has been forgotten. One old resident of Pasadena was careful to emphasize the fact that the story was not all fable. Henry Webb swore to us that he saw the well. Henry said it continued to boil, now and then, until its walls crumbled. Peggy is well remembered, too. Despite the fact that she lived back in the pines, far beyond the Plains, she was a fairly wealthy woman. Her mistake was in an unholy joy with which she showed all who plunged through to the little hamlet a stocking filled with gold which soon became the envy of the whole community. One dark and chilly night, not long after Bill’s death, Peggy’s house, a ramshackle structure, burned to the ground, the old woman dying horribly in the flames. Though the ruins revealed what had been her body, no trace was ever found of the hoarded money and it was generally conceded, for many years, that Peggy had been robbed, murdered, and burned to conceal the crime."
Even Plazziano's predecessor at Brooks-Brae met a fiery death: Jonas Tomaszewski. On the night of 13th September 1915, the Tomaszewskis had retired for the evening, unaware of a blockage in their dwelling’s chimney. During the night the chimney erupted into flames and consumed the house with the couple perishing in the flames. A cranberry bog worker discovered the burned house and charred bodies the following morning. Although the police ruled the deaths accidental, local residents felt the couple had lost their lives to a robber who relieved them of their money and destroyed the house to cover the deed. A story that sounds remarkably similar to Beck’s Clevenger story and, perhaps, this true account served as the basis for his fable. (Is this the same fire mentioned in the Courier story, above, or is it yet some other fire at Pasadena??)
Well, according to this site, the two incidents are probably the same one:
"In 1915, there was an interesting incident that began with the laborers from the Central Railroad of New Jersey going on strike at the Brooksbrae siding. The strike tied up the rail lines and attempts by railroad management were unsuccessful in easing the tensions. In response to this, agents for the Brooksbrae Brick Company sent a caretaker to the factory. However, during a cold night, the elderly caretaker and his wife lit a fire in their stove without checking or cleaning the chimney’s flue. Smoke backed-up into the house while the couple slept, and within hours it was ablaze. The next morning it was found in ashes by several workers from the nearby Bullock cranberry bogs. After an investigation it was determined an accidental death with no foul play involved. However, the locals in the area, remembering the strike several days earlier, insisted that murder and robbery was the real cause. When Henry Beck recorded his tales about Pasadena, it was this last tale, about murder, that he attached to name ‘Peggy Clevenger.’"
The problem with William Kelly’s will had finally been figured out by 1918. Due to an escape clause, the estate could be sold as seen fit by the executors and, the Brooksbrae factory was one of the first pieces to go. After the tragic deaths at the factory, it was sold and never completed.