Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fires in Fairfield

Sadly, we don't have much detail surrounding some of the more notable businesses of the 19th century, but we do have various accounts about a series of significant fires.

That would be no surprise. One would assume that more than just Chicago burned during those days. There's a Mrs. O'Leary's cow in every town.

The August Reifel history of 1915, which parrots some information from other more detailed accounts, tells of a blaze in April 1859 that took out "the block from where Miller & Tyner's store is now located to the Odd Fellows' hall."

Assuming our own snapshots of the downtown area, that would be essentially from Main Cross northward. "This fire swept away the old hotel, Doctor Babb's drug store, Wash Adams' tailor shop, a shoe shop, harness shop and furniture store."

If that's the case, a lot of businesses were packed into a small area, perhaps one reason for the extent of devastation.

An article in Town Under the Lake explores this fire in greater detail, based on a report in the Brookville newspaper:

"The corner building was owned by Mr. David Dubois, and was occupied by three families, viz: John Loper, T. Ray and R. Nelson. It was a frame building and burned so very fast on account of high wind, that the families did not get but very little of their property saved. The next building was also owned by David Dubois, and was occupied by E.J. Cheney, as a shoe shop, and Mr. Babb's Drug Store, the next building adjoining the property of Mrs. Hall and occupied by J.L. Carl, as a cabinet shop, the next was the Masonic Hall, the best house in the block, and the basement story of it was occupied by J. Husted, Esq., as a saddler shop and G. W. Adams' clothing store and tailor shop, the next was Dr. Hodgskin's office, and the last on that block that was occupied was Mr. I. Adams' shoe shop."

And apparently it was almost worse than that. But, the report continues ... a year later ...

"(The town lost) a large portion of the business part of the town, but it is being rebuilt again, with small, but neat and substantial buildings. Most of the citizens are well-to-do and industrious, and the noise of the anvil, the hammer and the plane, is to be heard in all directions."

Another big fire occurred in 1897 when, "on Saturday afternoon, October 30, the cry of 'fire' was heard in the village, and an hour later, five families were homeless.

"Twelve thousand dollars' worth of property was destroyed. Among the losses were those sustained at the Cushman home, the Mary P. Cory place, the Logan house, and the Tyner and Loper places.

"Loper & Sons carriage factory was on fire twice, but finally was saved by heroic efforts."

Town Under the Lake does a great job covering the details of these fires, and their time-captured descriptions. Check it out at the library.

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