Morgan County Herald

THREE BIG FIRES WITHIN A WEEK

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Sunday May 11, 1879

On Monday evening about 5 o'clock the fire bell rang out its startling signal of fire. Almost in a second the whole public square was enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke through which could be heard the sharp crackling of the fire. It was first discovered in the roof of Seth Brewster’s residence on the north-west side of the public square. Before anybody could accomplish anything the whole roof was in flames. As many as could work at once began carrying the goods from Robertson's drugstore, Brewster’s dwelling, the barber shop, and Jno. G. Walker's rooms above it, Mrs. Hoffman’s, and Mrs. Barker's house north of it. It was evident that all the buildings on that side of the square must go. Almost superhuman efforts were made to get a line to the River, but for some time without effect. But after while the line was made, composed half of ladies, and there was soon a plentiful supply of water. Just about the time this line was fairly in operation came the critical moment. The fire had reached across the space of about four feet that separated the barber shop from the buildings north of it, and for a moment it seemed as if they must go, but the supply of water was now plentiful and a cable with iron hook was brought and with it the barber shop was torn away, and the fire checked right there. The men worked like fury. They rushed in regardless of danger and threw water everywhere, and others tore away the burning building. This was as good work as any fire company could have done. The men who had charge of this point were cool, and worked together, and worked with unflinching determination. Nobody was dangerously injured. Frank Beckett a received a painful wound by having a nail run into his foot, from which he suffered seriously all night. Tanner Roland and Frank Mell were on ladder dashing water into the windows when Jesse Holbrook, who was on the roof thought it, would be [a] good thing to save the chimney so he pushed it over on the boys on the ladder. A brick struck Roland in the mouth cutting his upper lip through, and giving him a terrible blow in the chest. Mell got a heavy blow on the shoulder. Jesse was happy in the belief that he had saved the chimney, anyhow. Several received knocks on the head from flying buckets. The loss will probably foot up nearly $6,000—some put it at $5,000 —but that is probably below the figure. The most unfortunate part of it is that some of the heaviest losses come on those who are least able to bear it. The Brewster’s have had a succession of disasters which are very disheartening! They have the unbounded sympathy of everybody, which we hope will crystalize [sic] in the form of material assistance. Dr. Robertson, another heavy loser is advanced in years, and the loss comes at a time in life that man is least prepared to bear such a disaster. John G. Walker and J. B. Sheridan were both boarding with Brewster’s, and both had elegantly furnished rooms. Walker saved almost all of his goods, but Sheridan’s room were very close to where the fire originated, and but few of his goods were saved, the heat being too intense to work there. Mrs. Hoffman’s house was considerably damaged. The loss will probably amount to $100. Stanbery’s building, a frame next to Mrs. Hoffman’s, was totally destroyed. There was no insurance on any of the property. There are various conjectures in regard to the origin of the fire.— Some think it was from sparks from the kitchen flue, but as no wood had been used in the stove for several hours, this would seem unlikely. The most plausible one is the old one – defective flue.