Friday, October 14, 2011

1897 Scorcher

Another Scorch!

Narrow Escape from Another Conflagration!

Heroic Work Alone Saved Us!

On Sunday morning last, just as the people had gathered in the churches and the services were being opened, the fire bell pealed fourth its terrible clang and startled them from worship and sent them out into the street in search of the location of the fire and awakened memories of that terrible conflagration which swept over our little village on that peaceful Sabbath day, March 15, 1891, and awakened a wonder if its terrible scenes were to be reenacted. Dense clouds of black smoke were pouring from the Beebe block, consisting of three stores, with living rooms on the secondn floor. The block is owned by A.J. Beebe, with a lumber stock, furniture stock, and undertaking establishment, and who occupied the living rooms over one store, the rooms over the other store being occupied by A.J. Hams. Mr. Beebe and family and A.J. Hams and daughter were at church and Mrs. Hams and baby and little son, Vincent, were alone in the block when she discovered smoke coming from the middle store and gave the alarm. The store was full of smoke and nothing was saved from that store above or below. A few articles of furniture were taken from the north side and a part of the bazaar and grocery stock was taken from the south store. The fire burned furiously and with quite a strong west wind it looked as though a large portion of the business part of the village was again doomed and nearly every one expected that every building in that row would surely burn, and only for the untiring and almost superhuman efforts of the heroic men, women and children who were simply determined that they should not burn were the stores of M.H. Pullen and the Review office buildings saved. Everything was removed from the two buildings but the heavy cylinder steam press which was moved near the door and there left to await developments. While every effort was being made to save these buildings, another desperate effort was being made to keep the Bell opera house block and the store of Place & Gale from taking fire. The strong west wind was strongly menacing these buildings and only for the desperate efforts put forth they would have surely burned. Men with wet handkerchiefs over their faces were upon the tops of the buildings, keeping the fronts wet with water at the risk of their lives and were awarded with abundant success for their efforts. Many of the glass in the upper windows in the Bell block and the two plate glass windows in the store of Place & Gale were broken by the heat. Another band of determined men were straining every nerve to keep the fire from the Palmerton block and their efforts were crowned with success, only a few of the glass in the windows being broken. When it is remembered that there is no fire protection for the village but a hook and ladder outfit and that the only system of water works is a few public wells and water pails, will anyone be able to comprehend the heroic work done in confining the fire to the one block. No set of men on earth could have worked harder or accomplished more than those who fought that fire and to their untiring efforts is due the fact that any of the north part of the business portion of Fowlerville stands today.

The residents of the village were very ably aided by the friends fromn the country who heard the alarm and dropping everything came to the village and worked as hard and faithful as any to put out the fire and save the property of those in danger and we can assure them their efforts were fully appreciated and their kindness will not be forgotten.

The rooms which were occupied by Mr. Beebe were very fine and elegantly furnished and all the family pictures, books and keepsakes together with their clothing were destroyed and of course no money value could be placed upon them. Mr. Hams also lost nearly all his household goods and effects only having the clothing they wore.

Mr. Beebe places his loss on the buildings, including his barn in the rear of the stores which burned and on his stock and household furniture at $12,000 and on which he carried an insurance of $8,400.

Mr. Hams places his loss at $400 upon which he had no insurance, being a total loss of all he had. The people of Fowlerville have for years been noted for their open hearted hospitality and generosity and before the fire had ceased to burn, a subscription paper was started for all who desired to share in the loss with Mr. Hams and his estimable family, and while they have only been residents of this village for a little over two years, yet they have won a warm place in the hearts of the people and about $300 has been raised for his relief. The children at school also caught the spirit and raised about $6.00 among themselves which they contributed to Miss Lena and Vincent.

Mr. Hams was taken completely by surprise and could only express his feelings by bursting into tears, which spoke more eloquent than words.

The editor of this paper cannot find words to express his feelings towards those who so kindly assisted in moving the contents of the office when danger threatened the building and also in replacing them in the building again after the danger had passed, and the heroic efforts put forth in saving the building, especially to W.H. Peek for kindness rendered in the removal of the type.

Tomorrow's post will note some of the aftereffects of this 1897 fire in the Beebe block.

No comments: