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Full text of "The lost city! drama of the fire fiend! or Chicago, as it was, and as it is! and its glorious future! a vivid and truthful picture of all of interest connected with the destruction of Chicago and the terrible fires of the great North-west .."

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George R. Ca,rr 
Class of 1901 


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Entered, aecorcUng to Act of Congress In the year 1872, by WELLS & Co., in the office of th 
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CHICAGO m 1820. 




BEST. .......... 247 









SAFETY IN THE WATEB. - - - - - - - 295 






STREET. ........... 














FIRE. 297 







IN THE CITY OF THE DEAD. ...... 197 

SEXES. ......... 



















SCENE ON THE PRAIRIES. ........ 271 







It is impossible for any mind to grasp and comprehend in 
one view, the stupendous events narrated in the succeeding 
chapters of this book. It seems impossible for the ordinary in- 
tellect to appreciate that these chapters comprise the details of 
the most tragic and heart-rending calamity that ever befel 
a people since the beginning of history. It is not yet adequately 
understood perhaps will not be in our generation that the 
Conflagration of Chicago, will, in the records of future ages, figure 
as the crowning disaster of the Nineteenth Century, a disaster 
not like that which over-took Herculaneum and Pompeii, lor 
they still lie buried beneath the ruins of their grandeur, but as the 
holocaust of that wonderful City which sprang into existence at 
the behest of the very Aladdin of enterprise, and exhaled before 
a cloud of flame like the unsubstantial fabric of a vision, thai. 


like the Phoenix, has already arisen from her ashes, and is plnm- 
ing herself for still grander achievements than those which so 
eminently distinguished her in the past. Her ashes are not 
yet cold, but they are already surmounted by edifices whose sub- 
stantial construction would seem to be the result of long and 
patient toil, and the hum of business is again heard in those 
streets that but a few days ago were so completely devastated 
by the Demon of Flame. The new wonder will prove more 
wonderful than the old, for the fire has operated like the sowing 
of dragons' teeth, in raising up men equal to the great emer- 
gency, who will promptly master the situation and command it. 
"We have more to do with the old Chicago than the new, with 
stern facts than prediction, with history that is more romantic 
than the veriest fiction that ever found its germ in the human 
intellect. The true record of the Chicago Fire, its facts, figures, 
incidents, hair breadth escapes, miraculous rescues, individual 
daring, and the noble charities of the world that flowed in upon 
its victims with a spontaneity as unprecedented as they were 
grateful and humane, serve as foundation and superstructure of 
" CHICAGO AS IT WAS AND is "; but dealing, as it does, with real- 
ities alone, it is almost impossible for the compiler to divest his 
mind of the impression that he is recording a horrid phantasma- 
gorical vision, rather than the facts of real life. Away from the 
ruins, and with all the consequences of the disaster removed from 
view, it is impossible to realize that in the short space of twenty- 
four hours the wealth of our North-western metropolis was dis- 
counted in the sum of near $200,000,000 ; that, worse than the 
mere pecuniary loss, treasures of art, and accumulations of the 
lore of ages, that no amount of wealth can replace, were devoured 
by the flames ; and immeasurably worse yet, that hundreds of 
precious lives were swept away in the irresistable whirlwind of 
fire, which respected neither young nor old, beauty nor inno- 
cence, the strong nor the helpless, but, more implacable than the 
demons of the Herodian massacre, pursued them to the death, 


without regard to age, sex or condition. It is a chapter of horrors 
that can only be written as it was, with a pen of fire ; but our 
task is to clothe in words an approximate idea of its realities, and 
a true version of the facts, that are destined to occupy a promi- 
nent page in history. 

We undertake this task in the belief that an eye-witness 
of many of the scenes and incidents herein detailed and a person- 
al acquaintance of most of the actors in and sufferers by the 
overwhelming calamity, is best prepared to give a reliable version 
of its remarkable phenomena, adventures and contingencies; of 
its wonderful escapes, fearful tragedies and indescribable results 
but it is necessary for the reader to understand, that very few 
intelligent observers witnessed the scenes and incidents described 
from the same points of observation ; that many were overcome 
by fear, personal bereavements or great anxiety ; that before 
the bewildered gaze of every onlooker, the appalling panorama 
of flame passed with the speed of the whirlwind, licking up, with 
its thousand-forked tongue, great blocks of brick and stone build- 
ings as readily as if they had been mere toy houses of lath ; 
and that intelligible description is necessarily hampered by these 
and a hundred other influences that encumber the minds of those 
who are now seeking to make a reliable history of these astounding 
occurences. The reader that did not witness these scenes never 
can picture them to his imagination. The readiest writer that 
saw and mingled in them will never present the picture as he saw 
it, to the mind of his reader : for neither pen nor pencil can do it 
justice. However heart-rending the details, the rent hearts of 
thousands of bereaved ones will declare them far, very far, short 
of the truth. 

The liveliest imagination cannot picture the unutterable sad- 
ness of such a reality, but to bring the facts right home to the 
business and bosom of readers everywhere, let them suppose 
some of the leading incidents and results of the succeeding his- 
tory to occur in _their own towns and cities. To-day they are 


prosperous, progressive, happy : in the silent watches of the 
night the angel of destruction comes with his flaming sword and 
devastates all their substance ; brings death to their loved ones, 
poverty to their millionaires, dire want to all their people. The rich 
man of to-day is to-morrow a beggar; the happy wife and mother, 
widowed, childless, insane; husbands bereft, and lovers separated 
by the pathless ocean of death. Everything gone at one fell 
stroke, even before the. fact of the destruction can be realized, 
and nothutg left but the evidences of utter ruin! The vilest 
crusts have now become sweet morsels to the pampered children 
of luxury ; and the fop of yesterday, who criticised his tailor 
without mercy for the slightest wrinkle in his fashionable habil- 
iments, accepts in charity a soiled and thread-bare coat as a 
priceless boon. Dives and Lazarus are equally solicitous of 
crumbs. The fashionable belle forgets the length of her trail 
and the style of her chignon in the merciless gnawings of hun- 
ger, and joins the eleemosynary throng in a chintz wrapper, 
and without a care for the opinion of " society," anxious to 
satisfy the demands of nature at any sacrifice of pride. In this 
slight recapitulation of actual occurrences there is something of 
the grotesque mingled with the tragic, but it is all sufficiently 
wpeful, and unutterably sad. 

It seems impossible to give too much emphasis to the 
noble humanity of people in all parts of the world, when the cry 
for help was flashed over the wires from Chicago. It the cry 
that made all mankind kin on the instant, and the strife imme- 
diately began as to who should be first in making an adequate 
response. Those who were most conveniently located, geograph- 
ically, were of course first on the ground, but supplies were at 
once started from all points of the compass, and from every local- 
ity where the emergency was understood. No city can honestly 
claim the credit of having been first in the work, for action was 
simultaneous throughout the land, and in a few hours after receipt 
of the news, great trains of supplies were on the way from New 


York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Louisville 
and all the cities of importance. It aaay appear invidious to par- 
ticularize, but it is well known, that Col. FISK and the officers of 
the Erie Road were especially active in measures for the imme- 
diate relief of the sufferers A special train was loaded with the 
miscellaneous contributions of the people of New York including 
clothing, provisions, blankets, mattresses ; a great collection of 
substantial goods, the road cleared for the occasion, and all ar- 
rangements complete under the personal supervision of Col. FISK. 
The ponderous engine is attached and the colonel stands with 
watch in hand to give the last directions. 

"All ready, Sam?" 

" Ready, Colonel." 

" "What is the quickest time ever made between New York 
and Buffalo, Sam?" 

" 12.20, Colonel." 

" Make it to-day in 11.20." 

" Open her, Sam." 

And Sam Walker, a tall, grey eyed, nervy man just the man 
for the place, and honestly proud of his position, with compressed 
lips, drew back the lever, and the train swept away, forty, fifty 
miles an hour, with help for the houseless, starving hosts of the 
burned city. 

A similar incident in St. Louis : 

" What time shall I make, Mr. Johnson ? " 

" The best your machine can show." 

"What stops?" 

" Only for wood and water." 

" How's the track ? " 

"All clear. Everything is side-tracked for this special." 

An entire railroad line given up to the work of instant 

MILES GREENWOOD, one of the oldest and most respected 
citizens of Cincinnati, came in charge of the detachment of the 


fire department of that city. He was for several years chief 
engineer of the department. 

" Where is your Engineer ?" was his first question. 

" Gone home, sir, completely exhausted." 

" Who has charge, then ?" 

" I am in charge," said a young man, stepping to the front. 

" Well, the Cincinnati boys are here with their machines. 
What -do you want us to play on?" 

" You may play on that elevator over yonder." 

" Is it on fire ?" 

" No, sir." 

" Then we shan't play on it. We came here to put out 
fire. What is that fire over there ?" pointing in another direc- 

" That is a Coal Yard." 

" We'll go and put it out." 

At it they went and were as good as their word. Then they 
extinguished the fire in other coal yards and saved near two mil- 
lions bushels of coal. These Cincinnati boys did not tire as long 
as there was anything to do,- and accomplished a vast amount of 
good under the leadership of Mr. Greenwood, and when their 
work was done they returned, orderly and in perfect discipline 
to their honored city, proud of having accomplished something 
in the work of humanity. 

The relief committees who came to us with the bountiful 
offerings of noble hearts everywhere, were generally the represen- 
tative men of their communities, but they proved to be working- 
men in the great emergency, and took hold of matters with a will 
that commanded success, and resulted in just what was sought 
relief. Their works, their offerings, and kindly sympathy, proved 
the kinship of humanity beyond a doubt. The skeptic can now 
find the evidence written in letters of love all over the ashes and 
ruins of the once proud city. Wherever the story of the con- 
flagration was told, the hearts of mankind responded to theim- 


pulse of universal brotherhood. All seemed to act in the spirit 
of the noble sentiment of Sir Walter Scott : " The race of man- 
kind would perish, did they cease to aid each other. From the 
time the mother binds the child's head, till the moment that same 
kind assistant wipes the death-damps from the brow of the dy- 
ing, we cannot exist without mutual help. All, therefore, that 
needs aid, have a right to ask it from their fellow mortals ; no 
one who holds the power of granting, can refuse it without guilt. " 
True humanity consists in a disposition of heart to relieve mis- 
ery. It appertains rather to the mind than the nerves, and 
prompts men to use real and active endeavors to execute the 
actions it suggests. Men, women, and even children, throughout 
the land, responded nobly to this sentiment : and great corpora- 
tions, that are said to have no souls, felt the thrill of benevolence 
and responded to its promptings. Bankers opened their hearts 
and their strong boxes ; beggars pawned their all to give to those 
whose needs were so exigent. A man in St. Louis gave all he 
had ; a poor woman gave her cow ; a little negro contributed his 
only dime ; a poor student sold all his books and donated the 
proceeds ; a farmer in Northern Indiana auctioned off his hops 
for the benefit of the sufferers and handed over the entire pro- 
ceeds to the Relief Committee ; a boot-black announced that the 
receipts of one day's work would go to the needy of Chicago, and 
was enabled to make a donation of twenty-five dollars as the re- 


suit ; an Irish laborer gave his wages for an entire week ; the 
theatres gave benefits, that proved benefits indeed ; the churches 
made noble contributions ; even inmates of our prisons were en- 
abled to do something in the way of relief. Those who did not 
give are the unenviable few that'have no conception of generous 
impulses those who cannot appreciate the blessed principle 
that no amount of giving can ever impoverish true benevolence. 
Verily it is " better to give than to receive. " 


We may be expected to say a word regarding the recon- 
struction of Chicago, but the following extract from an editorial 
article in the London Neivs is so perfect a reflex of the thoughts 
and acts of our people, and so admirably expressed, we give place 
to it instead of similar ideas in our own language : 

" This is the consolation which already the pride and energy 
of Chicago offer to the people. There seems to us something 
admirable and characteristic in the elasticity and courage which 
thus leap up the moment the storm of devastation has done its 
uttermost, and cry out. " We are not wholly conquered after all ; 
let us go to work at once and retrieve what we can." Nay, 
there are even men in Chicago, who having lost the 
fortunes of many years accumulations, are heard already 
to say that the fire has taught a useful lesson ; that 
all the obliterated part of the city was built on a bad plan, and 
that it must be better done this time. The vastness of this calam- 
ity is fully recognized, indeed it is written in letters of blood and 
flame, which defy any misinterpretation. It is told by the living 
and Ihe dead ; by the houseless wanderers as well as by the cart- 
loads of corpses. It is proclaimed by what remains as well as 
by what has fallen. It is simply a story of sudden destruction 
which stands alone in history. But the one fact remains Chi- 
cago still lives ; and the courage which springs up at once from 
the ground to proclaim that fact is the grandest evidence that the 
ruins will yet be repaired. Certainly, if any, people on earth 
ever deserved help, these people do, who are thus so ready and 
resolute to help themselves. The claim to the sympathy and 
succor of the English nation which were given to Chicago 
in her unparalleled misfortune, can only be strengthened and in- 
creased by her indomitable courage." 

Near 5.000 building permits have already been issued, and 
there will be no interruption in the work of rebuilding until the 
new Chicago arises from the ashes of the old, in more substan- 
tial grandeur, rehabilitated, immeasurably improved, and all the 
better for her thorough purification. These are bold words, but 
their verification is near at hand. 

This book would be incomplete and unsatisfactory without 
some general reference to the great fires of history, and especially 



to those which devasted large tracts of the Northwest, almost 
contemporaneously with the Chicago holocaust. The leading' 
facts and incidents of these fires are given in their proper place 
and will be found of no less absorbing interest than the principa 
event upon which the narrative hinges. In the integrity anC 
completeness of the work the public may place the fullest reli- 





In his masterly essay on History, Dr. "Willmott says that the 
biography of a nation embraces all its works. No trifle is to be 
neglected. A mouldering medal is a letter of twenty centuries. 
Antiquities which have been beautifully called history defaced, 
composed its fullest commentary. In these wrecks of many 
storms, which time washes to the shore, the scholar looks 
patiently for treasures. The painting around a vase, the scribble 
on a wall, the wrath of a demagogue, the drollery of a farce, the 
point of an epigram each possesses its own interest and value. 
A fossil court of law is dug out of an orator ; and the Pompeii of 
Greece is discovered in the Comedies of Aristophanes. Nothing 
is unimportant that legitimately belongs to the history of a nation 
or a great city. 

That we .are permitted to go back more than two hundred 
years, to 1669, for notes of our sketch of the history of Chicago, 
will appear novel to a majority of even the more intelligent of 
our readers, for the impression is very popular, and has obtained 
wide currency, that not more than half a century ago the spot 
where the city now stands was worse than a howling wilderness 
and a terra incognita, supposed to be inhabited only by Indians, 
outlaws and beasts of prey. In some respects this view is not 
entirely foreign to the truth ; but at the time to which we refer 
it was a trading post of no little importance, t/et us go back, 
however, to the beginning of its existence as a depot for com- 
modities, and find what all its greatness arid importance sprang 

The best authenticated records inform us that the first white 
men who landed here were the French Jesuit missionaries and 
fur traders, under lead of the celebrated guide, Nicholas Perrot. 
They were in search of profitable ventures in the way of an ex- 
change of trinkets and rum for furs, with a little moral teaching 


thrown in by the missionaries to sanctify the transactions and 
guarantee the quality of the liquor. This initial visit occurred 
late in the year 1669, when the territory was the property of the 
Miami tribe of Indians. Subsequently the Pottowattamies con- 
quered the Miamis, and wrested from them their hunting grounds 
and all their possessions. Then there was a better supply of furs 
and a larger demand for beads and " fire water," for the Pottb- 
wattamies were excellent hunters and terrible drunkards, rather 
anomalous characters, but remarkably well balanced in this tribe 
of the noble red men. 

The records of the succeeding century, referring to this post, 
offer little of value to the reader of to-day, and certainly do not 
indicate any noteworthy progress toward its material or moral 
improvement. Trade with the Indians increased in importance 
and consequently in profit, and to the few adventurous spirits 
that were ready to brave its personal risks, this far away frontier 
settlement proved a modern Djinnestan. In 1795 the Pottowat- 
tamies concluded a treaty with General "Wayne, by which " a tract 
of land six miles square, at the mouth of Chicago river," was 
ceded to the United States ; and this was the original extinction 
of Indian title to the site upon which the great city was subse- 
quently erected. Previous to this cession, several of the French 
Jesuits had taken up their residence here, and had made certain 
improvements that seemed to give them some shadow of title to 
the soil, but the Indians ignored their claims and remorselessly 
sold them out, although the French authority was ^nominally in 
the ascendant for ten or twelve years previous to the treaty. 
They made the improvements, built a rude fort near the mouth 
of the river, erected comfortable lodges, and cultivated a few 
acres of the soil after a method that yielded them a fair return. 
Calumet is supposed to have been the head-quarters, or seat of 
supreme authority, of this strangely mixed population, and their 
villages were scattered up and down the lake, for several miles, 
and on the Des Plaines ; and the ranging grounds of the Pot- 
towattamies, from the head-waters of the Illinois to the Chicago 
river, was the common channel of transportation for goods and 
furs between the Indians and the traders ; but the head-quarters 
of all this primitive commerce, its shipping point and grand 
depot, was the port of Chicago, by common consent. 

Dating back to this period, there are a hundred traditions of 


wil'd adventure, bloody tragedy, savage love, jealousy and hate, 
to engage the pen of the historian of romantic incidents, wherein 
he would be enabled to depict a modern Busiris in one of the 
chiefs of the Pottowattamies, who ruthlessly murdered every 
stranger that, landing on his territory, failed to bring him a peace 
offering of five gallons of rum, or an equivalent in trinkets ; a pro- 
totype of Al Sirat, the bridge over hell no wider than the edge of 
a sword, across which, according to Mahomedan theology, every 
one who enters heaven must pass in the terrible ganntlet 
appointed to stragglers and unaccredited visitors from other 
tribes, in which delightful ceremony the young Indians were pro- 
vided with sharp tomahawks and spears and drawn up in two 
rows, facing each other, when the delinquent was forced to run 
between them, while every Indian in the lines dealt him, in pas- 
sing, as severe a blow as he could muster -strength and agility to 
inflict, killing him at last, unless, as was occasionally the case, 
he was enabled, by wonderful address, to avoid the death-blow 
scalping, flaying alive, burning at the stake, treachery, strata- 
gem, and ah 1 manner of cheats, with only occasionally an 
instance of faith truly kept. The few white men who were here 
did not venture for the purpose of settlement, their business was 
simply to trade with the Indians ; overreach them if possible, and 
away. The gain from this traffic seemed to overbalance all con- 
siderations of peril attached to it, and to those well versed in the 
trade, the profit was very great. Respectable fortunes, for that 
age, were acquired by the successful operators in two or three 
seasons ; and there is a tradition that an English adventurer, by 
a single trip among these children of nature, obtained, in 
exchange for 50 blankets and twelve barrels of rum, a quantity 
of fine furs that brought him $160.000 in glittering gold, on his 
return to the mother land. If the Indian was crafty in a trade, 
the white man was more than a match for him in that experi- 
enced bargaining that is the ruling element in every civilized 
community, and it is pretty certain <that the pale-faced trader 
rarely failed to make the " dicker " to his own advantage. 

In the year 1804, the United States government built a fort 
here, and made it the centre of military operations in the north- 
west. It was called Fort Dearborn, and remained until 1812, 
when the Indians destroyed it, at the time of the great massacre, 
which has associated with the name of Chicago a chapter of 


romance so closely allied to history, it is very difficult to separate 
fact from fiction, relative to that most bloody episode in our his- 
tory. The location of the fort was upon a slight elevated point, 
or the south side of th$ river, near the lake shore, and is well 
known to all intelligent residents of the city. From its ramparts 
a good view could be had of the lake, the prairie extending to 
the south, the fringe of timber along the north and south 
branches, and the glistening white sand hills to the north and 
south, which drifted about very much like the snows of winter; 
the sport of the winds from lake and prairie alike. Slowly and 
laboriously the infant colony gathered around the nucleus of 
civilization, established by the garrison of the fort, but, as the aid 
to progress, in such a location, the garrison was very weak and 
inefficient. It was the object of frequent attacks by the Indians, 
and in danger of surprise at any hour of day or night. A few 
old traders and perhaps a dozen families of French Canadians 
and half-breeds, none of whom possessed more than the most 
ordinary degree of intelligence, erected their household shrines 
in the neighborhood of the fort, and were content, for the most 
part, with the profits arising to them as " middle-men" in the 
increasing traffic with the Indians, which now constituted the 
entire business of the settlement, and invested the Chicago of 
that day with all its importance. 

We are told that none of the hardy pioneers around the walls 
of old Fort Dearborn have descendants to claim the honors of so 
distinguished a paternity, except the Kinzie family, which ex- 
hibits the only link in the worn and rusted chain of civilization 
that admits of positive identity. The founder of this family, 
John Kinzie, came to Chicago in 1804, the year in which the fort 
was built, and was the first permanent white resident of the set- 
tlement. From 1804 to 1812, the lake trade which centered at 
the port of Chicago was carried on by one small sail vessel, com- 
ing in the fall and spring, bringing the season's supply of goods 
and stores for the fort, and taking away the furs and peltries 
which had accumulated during the winter months. Thus be- 
gan the commerce of the port, and this was nearly its extent for 
a period of more than sixteen years. Kinsie pursued the busi- 
ness of fur trading until the breaking out of hostilities with the 
Indians, which resulted in the massacre of 1812. The friendly 
feeling which had been assiduously cultivated between him and 


the redinen preserved himself and family from the fate which 
befel his neighbors of the fort. They came out unharmed 
through the scenes of the bloody and relentless slaughter. Ke- 
turning to Chicago in 1816, he remained here until the date of 
his death, in 1828, a successful merchant, a good citizen, and a 
prominent mover in every enterprise calculated to result in the 
material benefit of the place. Although at the time of his death 
the settlement contained a population numbering less than one 
hundred souls, he was very positive in asserting the superior 
advantages of the site, and predicted that the time would arrive 
when its residents would be numbered by thousands ! Most of 
his neighbors thought .him crazy on this subject, but some of 
them lived to see the anticipation fully realized, and his imme- 
diate decendants are to rejoice with us over a population of 300 
000 souls. 

Cook County, of which Chicago is the capitol, was organized 
in March, 1831, and at that time embraced all the territory now 
comprised in the counties of Cook, McHenry, Lake, Will, Du- 
Page and Iroquois. This is an immense area, reaching down to 
near the east and west dividing line of the State, and including 
portions now thickly dotted by enterprising towns and villages, 
and beautiful farms, and intersected by several lines of prosper- 
ous railroads. In 1831, all the buildings in Chicago were log 
cabins, the more pretentious, including two business houses and 
a hotel, of hewed logs, which were viewed as an aristocratic pre- 
tense by the more humble denizens. Two of the new cabins 
were store-houses for goods, including calicoes, rum, sugar, coffee 
and tobacco, which at that date were among the leading necessa- 
ries of life ; and two were " hotels," that of Elijah Wentworth, 
on the north side of the river, near the fork, and Mark Beau- 
biens, on the east side of the river, just south of the fork. These 
were the hostelries within whose gates the strangers who came 
to the settlement were entertained, and for many years they 
amply sufficed to furnish food, drink, fire and shelter for all 
comers, and their reputation for generous entertainment was 
well known throughout all the land. Two celebrated Indian trad- 
ers, Eobert A. Kinzie, located near Wentworth's tavern, and M. 
Bourisso, just south of Beaubiens, monopolized the business of 
the place. They were both rich, and either was pecuniarily able, 
had he been so disposed, to purchase all the land thereafter occu- 


pied in building th*e great city ; and this without detracting from 
the capital of his occupation; but everybody would have regarded 
such an investment as fool-hardy at that time. 

On the 15th July> 1831, arrived at the port of Chicago the 
schooner " Telegraph," from Ashtabula, Ohio, bringing a number 
of families that did not however settle here ; but among the pas- 
sengers was Mr. P. F. W. Peck, of New York, who accompanied 
quite a shipment of assorted goods, for which he was desirous of 
finding a profitable market. He was well satisfied with the 
appearance of things in and about Chicago, and at once decided 
to remain here and dispose of his merchandize, provided he 
could make satisfactory arrangements for a warehouse. There 
were no buildings for rent, as there had been no renters, up to 
this time, but Peck conceived the idea of occupying a cabin as 
joint tenant with a family already located, until his goods were 
sold. With this idea in his mind he approached Mr. J. B. Beau- 
bien, whose residence was upon the site afterwards occupied by 
the splendid depot of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, 
and made him a proposition for the occupancy of the principal 
room in his humble dwelling. Beaubien was of a speculative 
turn, and of course always open to a trade, but was in favor of 
making the proposition himself. No ; he had no room to spare 
just then, but he would build a cabin for Mr. Peck on fair terms, 
or he would sell his residence and give possession in three days. 
He would inquire, just for his own information, as to the value 
of Mr. Peck's stock. 

"About $4.000." 

" How would it suit Mr. Peck to trade a half interest in the 
goods for his cabin and a large lot adjoining?" 

Mr. Peck did not care to invest in wild lands. 

" Oh !" says Beaubien ; "it all lies right here inside of the 
town. There is about twenty acres with the cabin, but I'll put 
in a hundred acres on the other side of the river [North Side ;] 
and then the cabin itself is one of the best here all for a half 
interest in the goods." 

"No," said Peck, "not if it were twice as much." 

So he went to work and built a cabin for his stock, and traded 
it for furs and peltries at good round figures, and wa-i well satis- 
fied ; but the property he rejected for $2.000 worth of rum and 
calicoes, is to-day worth not less than $50.000.000 ; and Peck 


remained in Chicago and witnessed all this stupendous advance, 
and, we are told profited by the lesson in many future transac- 
tions. Mr. Peck brought an enterprising spirit and good business 
judgment to the young settlement, established himself perman- 
ently here, and was active in all improvements that promised to 
benefit the place. 

Late in the summer of 1831, western emigration set in largely, 
and during the fall months the population was more than doub- 
led by emigrant families seeking homes and fortunes in the wilds 
of the new territory. These pioneers were hardy representatives 
of the "bone and sinew of the land," generally intelligent, and 
prepared to endure the hardships and privations of life on the 
frontier. They were enterprising and far-seeing in their move- 
ments, and it was not difficult for the more thoughtful to foresee 
something of the future of a port location like that of Chicago, 
commanding, as it must, all the commerce of the immense territory 
lying to the northwest. Investments in lands there were as 
yet no surveys of city lots now began to be somewhat active, 
and property advanced in price nearly four fold within the next 
twelve-months. Some of the more conservative among the in- 
habitants declared that prices were inflated, but the "inflation" 
continued, and kept on increasing in volume from year to year, 
regardless of financial panics elsewhere, up to the very hour of 
the conflagation. 

We learn that in November, 1831, the schooner "Marengo" 
arrived from Detroit, bringing a consignment of goods of great 
value for the emigrant population that had taken up their resi- 
dence in the fort. ' For a time there were great fears entertained 
of the loss of the schooner, as during her passage a heavy gale 
prevailed, but she at length arrived safely, much to the relief of 
the people, for there were not less than four hundred hi the fort 
,who depended on these supplies for subsistance during the win- 
ter. These people were not generally counted as residents of 
the settlement, as many of them expected to, and did remove into 
the interior of the territory early in the spring, but their places 
were rapidly taken by actual settlers during the succeeding year, 
whose history was marked by many substantial improvements 
for that early time among which may be mentioned, as a fitting 
close for this sketch, the erection of the first frame building in 
the settlement of Chicago ! 



It was not untill 1833 that Chicago began to excite general atten- 
tion throughout the United States as a desirable point for resi- 
dence and investment. Notices in the newspapers were instru- 
mental in calling public notice to some of its advantages, and the 
commerce of the country began to show anxiety for a harbor 
here ; therefore means were taken, to bring the subject before 
Congress in such shape as would be most likely to induce favor- 
able legislation. The legislation was reached after long discus- 
sions in both houses, and a large amount of editorial .comments 
in the leading journals, which served to call a great deal of at- 
tention to the place, and a bill passed appropriating $30,000 for 
the improvement of Chicago harbor. This was, in more senses 
than one, the key note to our prosperity. People were convinced 
that the place was of some consequence, else this large amount 
much larger in those days than now would not have been 
granted for its advantage, and the tide of immigration set in 
earnestly. The work of harbor improvement was commenced in 
the summer of 1833, and pushed with energy till the cold weather 
caused its suspension for the season. In the following spring 
there was a great freshet, which effected more than the labor of 
man had been able to accomplish, for the land between the piers 
was entirely washed out and carried away, and the harbor effi- 
ciently opened to the commerce of the lake by the hand of na- 
ture herself. This was the beginning of that magnificent com- 
merce which now spreads its white wings over all our inland seas, 
and attracts to our busy warves the traffic of a world. Its his- 
tory is practically the history of Chicago's prosperty and fame. 

The vitality imparted to the business of the place by this im- 
provement is not easy to appreciate now, at a date when a resi- 
dent of Chicago is accounted to possess the vitality of a Sala- 
mander, and the concentrated view and push of at least a dozen 
ordinary human bipeds ; but it seemed to be sufficient to warrant 
the people in believing themselves and their " burgh" of suffi- 


cient importance to risk the organization of a town. As the 
nucleus of a town organization they already possessed an 
estray pen and a jail, supplemented by a newly appointed coro- 
ner, whose office had been improvised to serve one of those sud- 
den emergencies to which frontier settlements were at that time 
subject. July 22nd, 1834, a meeting of qualified voters was held, at 
which it was voted, by twelve good men and true, that it would be 
a rightful and proper thing, and eminently expedient, to incor- 
porate the town of Chicago. Only one man cast a negative bal- 
lot. There were at this time twenty-eight legally qualified vo- 
ters in the settlement, but all did not see fit to exercise their 
right. The election for Trustees of the new town was held* on 
the 10th of August following, and five were chosen, who met for 
the first time on August 12th, at the office of the town clerk, and 
organized according to the provisions of law. The territory em- 
braced in the corporate limits comprised only about one mile 
square of the prairie, and coincided very nearly with the area at 
present bounded by Jackson, Jefferson and Ohio streets, and 
Lake Michigan, recently the center of trade and wealth, and, most 
emphatically, the fiery furnace of the great conflagration. Nature 
pointed it out as the " business center" of the great city, and 
those far-seeing pioneers were apt at discovering its advantages 
and profiting by them ; and we need scarcely predict an event 
that is even now in process of transpiring, to wit : That after the 
rehabilitation of Chicago, this original mile square will remain 
the centre of trade and wealth of our inland metropolis. A 
prominent citizen has given publicity to the declaration that " the 
center of trade may be removed to any point where five 
thoroughly, wide-awake men, with plenty of capital, desire to es- 
tablish it ;" but we doubt this statement, provided ten " thoroughly 
wide-awake and enterprising men, with plenty of capital," are 
equally desirous of establishing it in a different locality ; and, in 
this instance, the majority of business men and capitalists in fa- 
vor of the old established center is more than ten to one. 


After the act of incorporation had been legally completed, the 
town began, in the estimation of its citizens^ to become invested 
with additional importance, and to desire the respect of its 


contemporaries. Its denizens, in casting about for their real 
estate, found that the Indians, still dominant hereabout, were 
disposed to resent the spirit of aggrandizement exhibited by the 
white man ; and it was resolved that the requirements of civili- 
zation 1 demanded of our dusky brethern that they find new hunt- 
ing grounds, to the end that the pale face might be permitted to 
till the soil, navigate the waters, and {Jursue all the arts of 
peace for his own special behoof and emolument. This move- 
ment was vigorously opposed by a few of the old Indian 
traders ; but the influence of leading men throughout the West 
was brought to bear in its favor, and after many proposals, much 
caucusing and plenty of " fire-water," the question was settled 
by the cession to the United States of all the territory hi north- 
ern Illinois and Wisconsin, belonging to the Pottowattamie 
tribe of Indians, at that time numbering more than seven 
thousand souls. Messrs J. B. Owens, G. B. Porter, and Wm. 
Weatherford, commissioners on the part of the United States, 
displayed remarkable tact and ability in concluding this impor- 
tant and perplexing treaty, which extinguished the title of the 
treacherous, aggressive and thieving tribe, in an immense tract 
of the most valuable land in all the Northwest, and threw it open 
to the settlement and improvement of an industrious and wotthy 
class of emigrants. The conditions of the treaty were that the 
Indians should receive an annuity of $30,000, and that they should 
be conveyed, at the expense of the government to the territory 
beyond the Mississippi which had been allotted to their use and 
occupancy. On the 25th of September the treaty was duly exe- 
cuted, and on the 1st of October following, so prompt was the 
government in despatching its plans, the train of teams conveying 
more than fifteen hundred squaws and papooses, started for the 
destination of the tribe, and consumed forty days in reaching it. 
This stupendous exodus of the red men and their families is des- 
cribed by those who witnessed it as a spectacle of inconceivable 
sadness. They were bidding an everlasting farewell to their 
homes and their birthright ; to the land where they had tracked 
the wild beast and conquered him ; to the waters on which they 
were accustomed to glide in their birchen canoes, hi pursuit of 
the finny game ; to the scenes of their boyhood sports and bat- 
tle triumphs ; to the grounds where the ashes of their kindred re- 
posed ; the soil sanctified to their hearts by the blood of a long 


line of heroic ancestors, whose history was recorded in its forests, 
prairies and streams ; and it is scarcely strange that heart-pangs 
were plainly shadowed in the lines of those tawney faces as they 
turned toward the setting sun to_undertake their weary march. 
Where they were going they knew not, except it was a far-off lo- 
cality, where they would be out of the way of the white man, and 
removed from the temptation of killing him as a trespasser. 
The Indian of history is depicted as a stoic. He must be a stoic 
indeed to endure, unmoved, the sundering of the dearest ties of 
the human heart ; and these Pottowattamie braves were none the 
less objects of commisseration because they suffered and made 
no sign. Although such agony cannot be " winked out of sight," 
they knew " how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong." 


"With the Indians away, the great fear of emigrants was re- 
moved, and people from the eastern States flocked rapidly to the 
Northwest, not a few taking up their abode in Chicago. Among 
the business men who were prominent at this date may be men- 
tioned, John H. Kinsic, P. F. W. Peck, G. W. Dole, S. B. Cobb. 
John S. Wright, Philip Carpenter, Walter EJmball, K. M. Sweet, 
John Bates, A. Clybourne, Star Foote, E. S. Kimbeiiy, S. D. 
Pei&e; B. J. Hamilton ,and B. Jones, several of whom are still 
among us, and all are well remembered by our leading citizens 
of the present. 

Real estate, in the form of both " in" and "out" lots, advanced 
rapidly in price under the fresh demand, and business generally 
took a new departure. The great increase in the packing of beef 
and pork was remarkable Mr. Clybourne alone packing three 
thousand hogs and six hundred beeves in the winter of 1834-5. 
This is a small aggregate from our present standpoint, of course, 
but taking our population and resources at that time into the 
account, it is wonderful. The valley of the Wabash supplied 
most of the cattle and hogs that were* packed here for several 
years, and still remains a great source of supply for our porkers. 

From this date the business of the town was very brisk, and 
during the winter it seemed difficult, for several years, to find 
help eriough to transact it satisfactorily. Beef, pork and grain, 
from all the new settlements, came here for a market ; and the 
furs and peltries, from the far-off hunting grounds, that came, in 


exchange for all kinds of products, the lumber and other articles, 
constantly increasing in number and extent, threatened to over- 
whelm the force employed to take care of them. Emigration 
from the over crowded states of the east and from foreign 
countries, svas strongly urged, but the demand for labor was in 
excess of the supply for many years, as business continued to ex- 
pand even beyond the expectations of those who were most hope- 
ful of the prospects of the town. 


On the 4th of March, 1837, the. city charter was granted, an 
event that was hailed by great rejoicings of the people, as invest- 
ing them with power to inaugurate and execute certain improve- 
ments that could not be encompassed under the town organiza- 
tion. The first municipal election was held on the first Tuesday 
in May of the same year, at which Hon. Wm. B. Ogden was chosen 
mayor. The first census taken in the following July, gave a 
population of 3,989 white persons, 513 of whom were under five 
years of age ; 77 colored ; and 194 sailors belonging to the port of 
Chicago. There were about eight hundred voters, but the poll 
books indicated that only 707 voted at the municipal election. 
This census also proved that there were 398 dwellings, 29 dry 
goods stores, 21 grocery and provision stores, 5 hardware stores, 
3 drug stores, 10 hotels, 17 lawyers offices, and 5 churches. 
Most of this population was the result of three years emigra- 
tion, and a large majority of the improvements the product of 
three years of laborious industry. The year 1837 was an event- 
ful one for our people. It was this year that Congress made an 
appropriation of $40,000 for the enlargement and improvement of 
the harbor, and this year that the first cargo of wheat was shipped 
from the port. These events were big with future promise, and 
have more than fulfilled the just expectations of those who in- 
augurated them. 


The advance in real estate, that commenced to attract atten- 
tion throughout the country as early as 1833, lies at the founda- 
tion of most of the wealth of Chicago capitalists, as well as 
of many capitalists elsewhere. This advance made many rich 
quite unexpectedly, and even contrary to their anticipations. 
The veteran John S. "Wright says, in a note to his " CHICAGO ; 


PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE :" " Although famous for the sagacity t 
of its citizens, Chicago is not without those who have made for- 
tunes in spite of themselves ; because they have not been ad- 
dicted to wasteful benevolence, .and have happened to own real 
estate which has been closely held from natural habit, and not 
from any appreciation of the future. One of these millionaires, 
when efforts were making to start the Galena Railroad, argued 
against it, because railroads would stop the advent of the 
' prairie schooners,' 500 to 1,500 teams then daily arriving, and 
with their stoppage ' grass would grow in the streets,' was his 
sagacious declaration. Another one thought my distribution of 
petitions for the grant of lands for the Illinois Central Kailroad 
was impolitic. Said he. 

" ' Why, don't you see that the railroad will enable farmers to 
run off their produce to Cairo, while the river and canal are frozen, 
which, if kept till spring, would have to come to Chicago ?' 

" I replied, 'Don't you see that that gives the farmers of cen- 
tral Illinois the advantage over others in the choice of markets ? 
Whatever the course of the carrying trade, you may risk the 
prosperity of Chicago upon the prosperity of the farmers.' 

" This, however, is the very place for such men to make for- 
tunes. If they will only invest their money, berate the tax gath- 
erer, and never give anything which is not dangerous they 
will surely become rich if they live a few years, however unwise 
their purchases." 

Mr. Wright's reminiscences are peculiarly valuable in this con- 
nection, for several reasons. 1. He was one of the early settlers 
of Chicago, having emigrated here in 1832. 2. He invested largely 
in property from the first, and had a peculiar interest in watch- 
ing the fluctuations of prices. 3. He subsequently invested 
largely for the account of others, and enabled them to become 
rich on the results of his excellent judgment. 4. He has spent 
the best years of his life investigating the philosophy of real es- 
tate advances in Chicago, and, therefore, " speaks as one with au- 
thority." We find his work,* above referred to, more authorita- % 
tive on the subject under consideration, and more exhaustive, 
than any publication extant. The extent to which we have used 
many of its facts and figures is acknowledged in the proper place ; 
but we cannot resist the temptation to make use of the exhibit 



following, as detailing the experience of a shrewd but thoroughly 
concientious " operator," and we take the liberty of extracting it 
from Mr. Wright's book in such detatched form as seems to us 
to bear most directly on the main question. He says ^ 

" In 1832, at the age of 17, my father took me to Chicago, with 
a stock of merchandise. The town then contained 150 people, 
exclusive of the garrison ; two frame stores, and no dwellings ex- 
cept those built of logs. After remaining a few weeks, examin- 
ing the country south and west, and satisfying himself that he 
had made the right location, he left me to shift for myself. 
In 1834 he removed his family to Chicago and lived till 1840, hav- 
ing his first convictions strengthened year by year that it was rap- 
idly to become one of the largest cities of the country and of 
the world. 

"Though a mere boy, I, too,became impressed with the advan- 
tages of the point which was the western extremitv of the great 
lake navigation, with a certainty of its connection, by canal, 
with the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, and which was the nat- 
ural commercial center of a country so fertile, so easily tilled, and 
so vast in extent. In the winter of 1833-4 I induced a wealthy 
uncle to take some purchases which I had made, expecting to 
share in the profits. He took them, and has made out of those 
and other operations, through me, several hundred thousand 
dollars, but all the benefit to me, directly or indirectly, has been 
$100. He came to Chicago in the spring of 1835, and, the next 
day after his arrival, said if I would sell his lot one of those 
which I had bought about fifteen months previously for $3,500 
for $15,000, he would give me one hundred dollars. I sold the lot 
that day for cash, and the $100 was reckoned into my credit in 

our final settlement in 1838. 


" No one could have then anticipated the power of railroads to 
build up great commercial points, and their wonderful multipli- 
cation, especially from Chicago. These have not only expedited 
the development of the West, but concentrated and bound to its 
great commercial center with iron bands the business and traffic 
which at great cost otherwise would still have cc*ne here. They 
have served to fix, beyond all peradventure, what some might 
then have regarded as problematical : that is, which city in the 
west is to have the supremacy. 

" In 1834, I began to operate in real estate on my own account, 
and in February, 1835, went to New York to buy merchandise, 
and sold for $10,000, a forty acre tract which had cost $4,000, the 
profits of which more than paid for all my other purchases. 
Thereafter increasing my operations I sold in the spring of 1836, 
to various parties in New York, real estate for over $50,000, re- 
ceiving about two-thirds of the pay cash in hand, and giving 


my individual obligations to make the conveyance when I became 
of age, the July following. My father would have been my heir, 
in the event of my death, and they knew he would fulfil my 

"Ihad (J then, in 1836, acquired a property of over $200,000, 
without any assistance, even from my father, never having used 
his money for any operations, the store being his, and for con- 
ducting it only my expenses were paid. My uncle was the only 
relative who could have aided me, and he never would, even tem- 
porarily. So far from it, he was in my debt continuously from 
1834 to our final settlement in 1838. 

"But 1837 brought ruin to me, as it did to nearly all who owed 
anything ; though it was not so much speculation in real estate, 
as engaging in mercantile business, that involved me. At that 
age it seemed desirable every way to have regular occupation to 
promote good habits, and in accordance with my father's wishes, 
I purchased, in 1836, a warehouse and dock lots, to engage hi the 
shipping business, which cos.t $23,500. My whole indebtedness 
was about $25,000. I had nearly $20,000 due me, which was 
supposed to be well secured, it being chiefly the final payments 
on property of which over half the cost had been paid. To pro- 
Tide ample means for business, I sold in the autumn of 1836 a 
tract adjoining the city for $50.000, quick pay. This trade was 
unfortunately broken up by the merest accident, and thereafter 
I had no opportunity to sell at what was deemed a fair price. I 
came in possession of the warehouse 1st of May, 1837 ; and 
though having small cash resources, I thought best to commence 
business, hoping there would soon be a favorable turn. But all 
went down, down, and I was soon inextricably involved. The 
money used to buy these lots for business, not speculation, would 
have carried me through. 

" In 1840, my property had all gone ; one piece that had been 
worth $100,000, went for $6,000 ; another that had been worth 

$12,000, went for $900, and so on." 


" I resolved in some way to get a larger interest in property 
here, and, in the autumn of 1845, went to' New York to try and 
obtain funds. Having leisure, I wrote a series of fifteen or twenty 
articles for the Commercial Advertiser and the Evening Post, 
about the various agricultural products of the West, their profits, 
etc., the minerals, manufacturing advantages, the canals, railroads, 
that would be built, etc., bnt not till the subject of the state debt 
was reached, was the rapidity of progress realized? Illinois 
bonds were then only worth 25 to 30 cents on the dollar, and 
three years of accrued interest not reckoned, so prevalent was the 
impression that we could never pay the state debt; and such a 
fearful load was it considered that immigration here was consid- 
erably affected. But it was shown fairly and conclusively, thu 


by 1858 or '59, our state would pay her full interest without any 
increase in the then rate of taxation ; and for two years [written 
in I860] we have done this, and our bonds are above par. 

" No prediction gives more satisfaction than this. Little as 
the public were influenced by these views, improbable . as all 
then regarded them, to look back upon,, they now appotlPplain 
common sense, just such as any business man who would study 
the subject ought to have arrived at. 

" Though no one could see the future of the West and of Chi- 
cago as I did, my own confidence had never been so strong. 
The examination incident to the preparation of these newspa- 
per articles brought more clearly to view than ever before the 
abundant resources and great na'ural advantages of the im- 
mense territory tributary to Chicago, and my determination was 
strengthened to buy property here. 

"By examination, I found Frederick Bronson, Esq., would 
sell a block on long credit for $30,000, with only $1,000 paid 
down. It was upon the river, near the heart of the city, and 
somewhat improved. I 'made prudent estimates of its present 
and prospective rental, and found it could be made to pay for 
itself with a small outlay. But I con Id make no one so see it. 
There was not the least confidence in Chicago, it having been 
for ten years a synonym for all that was wild and visionary. 
Mr. Dyer, of Chicago, also had commenced prior negotiations 
with Mr. Broason, and not wishing to interfere with him, my 
endeavors were postponed till their negotiations should be 

" I had no means of my own to buy with could get no one 
in New York to think favorably of my projects knew not where 
else to apply, and, after months of vain attempts, returned home, 
having purchased nothing. In April, 1846, Mr. Bronson sold 
this block to Mr. Dyer for the $30,000. A few months after I 
bought it of him for $37,500, having ninety days in which to se- 
cure the $7,500 advance, and the $1,000 he. had paid. By much 
solicitation my brothers were prevailed upon to give this se- 
curity, and the Bronson contract was assigned to me. 

" I clung to this block, prefering to pay this large advance, 
rather than buy other property, because, having no capital, or 
means of raising any, it was necessary to get such as, by its in- 
come, would pay for itself. I knew this would do it, and it was 
the only piece of the sort, in any considerable amount, to be 
found. This was large enough, 320 by 600 feet, to be an object, 
particularly as I was confident that by the time it was paid for 
in ten years it would be worth $200,000 and over. It was actu- 
ally worth in 1856 over $450,000. 

# # * * * * * * 

" In 1846 the best lot on ihe north side, 80 feet on the river and 
North Water street, and 180 feet on Clark, a bridge street, was 


offered for $6,OCO, and for years I urged friends to buy it. The 
wner kept advancing his price, till in January, 1850, I induced 
a couple of Virginia friends to take it at $9,000. In 1856 that 
lot was worth $110,000, and is now (1860) worth $700,000, and has 
all the time yielded a good ground rent. 

"Bm; these purchase^, though apparently so judicious and 
profitable, were a heavy load to me and my brothers for years. 
I could not make capitalists see through my spectacles, and 
none would lend me the aid of their money. The widening of 
the river cut off rents largely for two years, and the excavations, 
building of docks, warehouses, etc., had run me into debt, at 
two to five per cent, a month, and a brother was an endorser, 
greatly against his will, for $15,000 to $20,000. In the spring 
of 1850 he insisted upon relief, and having our affairs disentan- 
gled, and learning the Galena Railroad would buy all of the 
blocks for a depot, he urged its sale. He had act%d generously 
towards me few brothers would have done as much and his 
request was reasonable, notwithstanding- it involved such a sac- 
rifice of my expectations. The block first bought for $37,500, 

was sold to the company for $60,000. 


"In the investigations incident to the 

writing of several articles for New York and Boston papers, in 
1848-9, about western railroads, laying down five or six roads 
that must be built, I was forcibly struck with the congruity of 
interest between Chicago and the cities of New York and Bos- 
ton, in bringing business to the lakes, to make it tributory to 
those cities and to the intermediate routes. I endeavored to 
demonstrate the importance of extending to Chicago the east- 
ern lines of railroads, and thence argued that when once they 
reached here, competition would insure the construction of all 
paying roads. Has not the result justified these predictions ? 
True it is, the competition and railroad mania have done for us 
much more than was anticipated, but was it not a natural result 
of interest that eastern capital should build roads from here as 
from no other point ? That it has been done is a fact, and I 
see nothing visionary in the predictions." 

All the above extracts were included in a circular issued by 
Mr. Wright in 1860, and reproduced in his excellent book pub- 
lished in 1868. The entire circular, and, in fact, every sentence 
of the book, is of more interest to the people of Chicago, and 
to those who own property here, than any other equal amount 
of printed matter we have any knowledge of, and will be sought 
after by those who are inclined to be guided by judgment that is 
tempered by a long, varied and instructive experience. It is 
also reproduced as a part of the early history of Chicago, as 


reflected in the business life of one of its representative men, 
and therefore furnishing a demonstration of the persistence and 
energy that worked so long and faithfully to encompass the pre- 
eminence of the great metropolis ot the northwest, through the 
exertions of all who actively participated in the work. 

To the general advance in real estate, during the years therein 
referred ta>, above extracts are scarcely a fair index, and to the 
advance in special localities, they give nothing like an adequate 
idea ; but their chief value lies in their truthfulness, as applied 
to the general subject, and their conservatism from a purely busi- 
ness stand-point. Regarding instances of unprecedented advance 
and quick fortunes, there were several somewhat like the follow- 

In the fall of 1866, a friend of the writer, an attorney of large 
practice, received a letter from an eastern correspondent inquir- 
ing as to the location and value of a certain eighty acre lot ad- 
joining the city, and requesting him, provided that in his opinion 
it was worth $20.000 as an investment, to examine the recorded 
title and. report its condition. The attorney reported the title 
clear, and, to give emphasis to his opinion of its value, added 
that he would give $20.000 for a half interest in it as a matter of 
speculation, provided it was purchased by his correspondent. 
It had remained the property of a family in New England about 
twenty-seven years, and their only idea of its value was probably 
gathered from what it was rated at for taxation ; and when they 
offered it for $20,000, it was doubtless with a slight idea that 
it would bring this sum. It did, however, but not with the 
attorney as a party in interest. In a few weeks the purchaser 
came to look at his proper^, and had been in the city but one 
day when he was offered $100,000 cash for it. This was a sur- 
prise, but next day $25,000 was added to the inducement. He 
concluded to " go slow," and therefore made an investigation of 
values of property correspondingly located. The result was as- 
tounding to all his preconceived notions of unproductive real es- 
tate, and he found he had bought a fortune for a very small sum. 
After remaining in Chicago about fifteen days, he closed an 
agreement by which he received, then and thereafter, $278,000 
for his lot a profit of more than a quarter of a million of dollars 
on a sixty day's investment of twenty thousand ! Instances like 
this are not common, even in the annals of Chicago. 




The previous pages are designed as a glance at the Chicago 
of the past, and do not treat of the miraculous advance she 
made in the last decade in population, wealth, manufactures and 
trade. A retrospect of the last ten years of her history, pro- 
perly detailed, would furnish matter for a ponderous volume, and 
we must therefore remain content with a very brief reference to 
the most salient points of her eminence. At the head of the 
immense artery of lake and river negation of the country, 
with her web of railways that penetrates the whole land, even 
now binding the Atlantic and the far away Pacific in its iron 
bands, her facilities and opportunities, in spite of her recent 
disaster, seem positively unrivalled. It is abundantly demon- 
strated that the far off western prairie, even among the remotest 
of the territories, sends its products here, and comes here for its 
supplies, as well as the vast forests of Michigan, Wisconsin and 
Minnesota ; that the copper and iron interests of the lake Su- 
perior country, the lead mines of the northwest, the coal fields 
of Illinois, and, to a considerable extent, the iron ores of Mis- 
souri, all find here their best and most natural center. Most of 
the millions of cattle and hogs that annually fatten in the great 
West, find their way to the slaughter pens of this city, and 
thence are shipped to the markets of the world. A greater 
share of all the mineral and agricultural wealtn of the great 
West turns toward Chicago with the faithfulness of the needle 
to the magnet. Our railway system is the most perfect and far- 
reaching in the world, and the invincible bulwark of our pros- 
perity. Its great heart lives and pulsates here, and its iron ar- 
teries are sentient with the intelligent and sleepless energy of 
ten millions of producers, and with hundreds of millions of con- 
sumers, all keeping pace in the triumphal march of-* progress, and 
paying willing tribute to the ability that conceived ' and the en- 
ergy that has erected our great mart of commerce. It is this 
admirable railway system that will do more toward rebuilding 


Chicago than all other agencies combined, for it represents a 
capital in its possessions and dependencies, the loss of which 
would bo sufficient to bankrupt a nation, and that would remain 
practically dead without the business furnished by the traffic of 
this city ; therefore Chicago must be restored without delay, and 
rebuilt so thoroughly that a recurrence of the great disaster is 
rendered impossible. It is out of the question for any railroad 
system to succeed without commercial interests to feed it, and 
where these interests are small, railroads cannot be made to pay. 
It is an invariable rule, however, that as facilities are increased, 
business will enlarge. Increasing commercial prosperity always 
demands an increase of railroads, and as railroads are multiplied, 
commerce naturally increases. The means of increasing our 
commerce are incomputable by the ordinary intellect. All the 
vast regions of uncultivated lands in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, 
Minnesota, and most of the immense undeveloped tracts lying 
west of the Mississippi, are sources upon which Chicaga will 
eventually depend to accelerate her commercial growth and 
raise her to empire as the metropolis of the richest domain the 
sun shines upon. Neither our grain nor packing interests will 
be materially impeded by the accidents of the fire, and general 
business has already resumed its accustomed channels and is 
prosperous with population and business so alert in the re- 
bound from a fall that would have proven an overwhelming dis- . 
aster to at least nineteen of every twenty cities of the world, and 
with vital interests that demand the utmost energy in the reha- 
bitation of the city to save them, it is not an astounding predic- 
tion that at the end of the next decade, Chicago will have 
doubled in business, population and wealth. It will disappoint 
her best friends if she does not. 

Some fears are expressed that real estate will deteriorate now, 
and that lots in the burnt district will be less, valuable than be- 
fore the fire, for a year or two to come. Those who are badly in- 
volved, and therefore obliged to sell, will not realize as much for 
their property as under more favorable conditions, but prices 
generally will not recede, and the demand will soon bring about 
a material advance in really desirable property ; for strangers are 
even now coming here to invest capital and engage in trade, and 
this influx will increase more rapidly than ever before in our his- 
tory when the world is convinced, as they soon will be, of our 


ability and determination to recover from the reverses of the con- 
flagration. And the world will discover then when we have sur- 
mounted the temporary inconveniences occasioned by lack of 
warehouses, elevators, shops and hotels to accommodate our 
trade, our business will continue to increase in the same or even 
a larger ratio than that which made us famous and universally 
envied previous to the events of 8fch and 9th of October, 1871, of 
which the succeeding pages are a faithful and unbiased record. 

o oo -i ci e 

rt > 

i ; 

O tO 

M O 

00 -4 

O> CT * CO IO 



, Booksellers' Row. 
. Drake & Farwell Block. 
. Tribune Building. 
, Custom House and Post Office. 

2 ; 


i ; 





=J > 
~~ ( 
5- ; 

? '' 


3 c 


S S 


, Opera House. St. James' Hotel. 

T?ia1>l Jr T.oi4-o'B Ktnvn 

U. S. Express Office. 
, Tremont House. 

, A. M. U. Express Office. 

Mattcson House. 
Aadms' Express Office. 

Briggs' House. 
Metropolitan Hotel. 
Chamber of Commerce. 
Republican Office. 
Meller's Jewebry Store, and Baker .V 
Co.'s Engraving Rooms. 

Sherman House. 






01 H* 05 






to to to to to to 

O Ol >- CO fcO h- 



i__ i 

. M. Ogdens' House. Not Burnt 
, Water-Works and Water Tower 
. Lynn Block. Not Burned. 

. Turner Hall. 

, Historical Society. 





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S S 

' B 





111. Central R. R. Laud Depart 

Michigan Southern & Chicago, 
Island & Pacific Railroad Depo 

Farwell Hall. 
Bigelow Hotel. 
Academy of Fine Arts. 
Palmer House. 
Ogclen Hotel. 
Jones' School. 

Evening Post and Staats Zeitui 














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10 >^ 

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1 1 1 

Tunnels under the River 
St., connecting N. & S. 
Washington St., also c 
S. & W. sides. 

Bridges Burned. 

Flovator. Not Bvrned. 

Methodist Church, (Wabash 
Not Burned. 

, Gas- Works. 

, Elevator A. 

, Armory Pou'ce Court. 

, City Hotel. 
, McVicker's Theatre. 

, Milwaukee R. R. Depot. ' 
North Western R. R. Not 
, C. &. N. W. R. R. Depot. ^V 
. Adams' House. 
. Massasoit House. 




p 2. 


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All intelligent persons that witnessed the burning of Chicago 
are prepared to testify that nothing is more indescribable than a 
great conflagration. Nothing is more bewildering, exciting, elec- 
trifying, astounding and weirdly stupendous. It is a spectacle 
that forces into activity all the emotions of the heart, but be- 
numbs judgement and disconcerts action. Its waves and barbed 
tongues, rolling and darting hither and thither, spangled with 
phosporic tints, and gleaming against the sky like a surging sea of 
flame, lashing the shores of the world, and seeking to overwhelm 
them ; or, again, roaring, dancing, and frolicking through block 
after block of elegant structures, warehouses, residences and 
factories, sweeping everything in its torrid pathway with the rap- 
idity of thought, 

" As though the lightnings there had spent their shafts. 
And left the fragments glittering on the field ;" 

are sights that petrify the intellect and strangle reflection. An- 
other aspect of the freaks of the insatiable fire-fiend was calcula- 
ted to impress the beholder with the idea that all the magicians, 
sorcerers and performers of " devil .tricks" in Glubdubdrib had 
found their way to this devoted city, and, inspired by its native 
spirit of excelling in everything it undertakes, were playing 
pranks to shame the very imps of Hades. And so the panorama 
of that most dreadful night of Sunday was ever changing, ever 
stunning with some new and unexpected catastrophe, melting 
with its tales of woe and benumbing with its horrors. 

Of all the thousands of incidents that are indelibly impressed 
upon the recollection of the writer, to remain there while life 
lasts, and probably through the countless ages of eternity, there 
is one whose details are painted with a distinctness far beyond 
artist's cunning, and that stands out in the wide waste of misery 
like the wreck of a noble ship on a desert shore. Still, it would 
now seem " like the baseless fabric of a vision," were it not that 
the evidences of its reality are only too tangible, and constantly 
before the eyes of every denizen of the city that is disposed to 
see them. 


It was near day-light on Monday morning, the 9th of October, 
that passing along Lake street, we discovered an aged citizen, 
whose reputation for wealth, integrity and remarkable business 
capacity is well known throughout the land, hatless, coatless, his 
teeth chattering and his snowy locks tossed by the wind, gazing 
with tear-bedimmed eyes at his large warehouse immediately op- 
posite the place where he stood, but which the flames had not 

" Do you think the fire will reach my place ?" he asked, as we 
took him by the hand. 

The flames were raging within a block of his place, and, by 
taking a careful view of the probabilities, it appeared that we 
would not have long to wait for the wreck of this apparently sub- 
stantial monument to his affluence. 

We expressed a hope, scarcely felt, that it would not, and 
. made a movement to hurry along, when he said, imploringly. 

" Stay with me a little while. I have had-some bad luck. My 
house and everything it contained is destroyed, and I must try 
to save the store." 

" Have you saved your books and papers ?" we asked. 
" They are in the vault, and could not be safer anywhere. Do 
you think there will be occasion to remove any of the goods ?" 
" Where could you put them ?" 
" On the pavement here. There is no other place." 
" It would not save them. They would be stolen c' burned. 
Let us hope the fire will not reach you." 

We knew it was utterly vain to hope, but what could be said 
or done under the circumstances ? It was equally certain that 
we could render no assistance by remaining there, but it seemed 
cruel to leave our oltl friend in his helplessness. We talked 
to him very much as one would address a child standing in 
fear of some threatening injury to its toys, and he seemed 
to appreciate the attention. The fire was speeding in our 
direction, roaring, surging and leaping in very madness, 
bearing down everything before it in crash after crash of ruin 
from which each reverberation was like commingling of wails 
and groans for the loss of homes, and lives, and wealth, and the 
violent rupture of a great city's throbbing heart ! The shrieks 
and moans of the hurricane were terrific, and doubly so from 
their weird and unearthly prolongation, until they forced an ' 


echo from some point miles away across the foaming waters of 
the lake, that came back to us like the exultant laugh of ten 
thousand fiends. The monarchs of Storm and Flame were hold- 
ing their highest revels in concert, and no human agency could 
bar their advance.. 

It appeared from our position that the flames were still more 
than half a square away, when suddenly a bright shaft, like lava 
at a white heat, shot skyward from the buildings on the oppo- 
site side, and in less time than it takes to write it, our old 
friend's business house and merchandise were seething in the 
superheated cauldron of the great conflagration. It was a mir- 
acle, and little wonder, that he stood motionless, with both hands 
raised aloft, his tearless eyes almost bursting from their sockets, 
and the contortions of his features indicating a degree of agony 
that words can never paint. It seemed as inexplicable as a 
thunderbolt from a cloudless summer sky, and was certainly 
quite as startling. The terrible heat and the flaming embers 
drifting down upon us rendered our position extremely critical ; 
but the old gentleman refused to move. The loss of his sub- 
stance was the crowning misery, and the last terror of the ca- 
lamity for him had passed. As entreaty availed nothing, he was 
at last borne away by gentle force to a place of refuge. 

There was a strange commotion in his brain, and the light in 
his eyes appeared of more than earthly brightness, painful to 
look upon, and giving him a strange aspect to even his most in- 
timate acquaintances. He was left in charge of a brotherhood 
whose charities are indiscriminate as the dew and illimitable as 
the globe we inhabit ; and he could ot have had kinder care 
nor more assiduous attention from those of his own blood. Two 
days thereafter we saw him again. Twenty-five years of toil 
could not have added mof% to the infirmity of his appearanco 
than was wrought in those forty-eight hours. At the first greet- 
ing his mind recurred to the scenes of Monday morning, and he 
commanded, in a piping voice. 

" Save the store at all hazards. Blow up every building for 
ten sqnares on all sides, and do it thoroughly. The store mnst 
b sav.ed. Hah ! there's the fire now. Where did it come from ? 
Why didn't you blow up those buildings? Then he com- 
menced lamenting : " All gone the labor of a life-time ends in 
smoke. It is a hard fate, for nothing can be more certain than 


that I and my family are beggars d d beggars ! We 

must go to the poor house or starve." 

We tried to console him, but in vain. He soon became sul- 
lenly uncommunicative, and in a few moments sprang to his feet 
with a sudden start, and strode up and down the room at so ra- 
pid a pace that ere long he was covered with perspiration, and 
breathing like one almost exhausted. No entreaty could pre- 
vail upon him to desist from this violent exercise ; but finally he 
commenced biting his lips, and soon large drops of blood and 
froth were falling from his white beard to the floor. He was 
suddenly bereft of articulation ; tried to speak, but could not. 
Then his gestures and the contortions of his countenance were 
hideous to behold, and it appeared that death must end his suf- 
ferings in a short space, unless means of relief were devised. 
He continued to stride up and down the room, but with a reel- 
ing gait, and sudden, momentary stops, striking his forehead 
with clenched fist, beating his breast, and clawing the air like a 
blind man in a desert. 

"He must be quieted," remarked good Dr. H , who had 

been untiring in his attentions on the stricken man. " How to 
do it is beyond my comprehension, but we must manage it in 
some way, or put him in a straight jacket." 

"Is the case so bad as to require such a measure?" we 

" One of the worst I ever saw." 

At this juncture the old bookkeeper of our aged friend en- 
tered the room and gleefully exclaimed. 

" Our insurance is all right. We will get every dollar of it." 

The old merchant turned and stared at him for a momont, 
then a smile of recognition passed over his features, and to our 
utter surprise, he inquired. 

" Eh, J , ? what's wanted now ? Anything the matter ?" 

" I came to tell you the insurance is all good. It will all be 

" We had $40,000 on the stock," mused our friend. 

"It was $50,000," saidJ . "Don't you remember telling 

me to take out an additional policy for $10,000, more than a 
month ago, when the new stock commenced arriving ?" . 

"Yes." ' 

" Then there's $45,000 on the building." 



" And $27,500 on. your house and furniture." 

"Making , how much does it all make, J ? I'm not 

apt at figures to-day." 

" The whole amount is $122,500," 

"Just so. And that is all we have left. It will scarcely 
cover what we owe." 

" We don't owe the half of it, sir ; and then we have three 
times as much due us as we owe altogether, and every dollar of 
it gopd." 

" But the notes and books are gone." 

" Oh, no ; they are all safe. We have opened the vault and 
found everything sufficiently preserved to answer the purpose of 
settlement ; and, unless I greatly miscalculate, we have at least 
a quarter million left to resume business on." 

" Is this all true ?" 

" Every word of it, sir." 

Such information was medicine to the diseased intellect, and 
the merchant looked around into the faces of attendants and 
visitors as though just awaking from a terrible nightmare. He 
had forgotten insurance, debtors, everything but the fact that 
the material evidence of his wealth had vanished, and therefore 
his mind had followed it away into the strange oblivion that 
swallows up so much of the wealth, happiness and intellect of 
this strangely chequered life ; but the information that he was 
not pecuniarily ruined, reanimated that wandering mind, when it 
was shut and barred to all other intelligence, and the estimable 
old gentleman recovered his health and much of his former ap- 
pearance within the next ten days, and has now resumed busi- 
ness in as good credit as ever. This incident was almost a tra- 
gedy, and very tragic up to the turning point. Its most valuable 
lesson points to those precautions against utter loss that every 
thorough business man avails himself of, and which, in times of 
disaster, are always sure to save him something as a foundation 
for a fresh start in his trade or profession. There is still another 
lesson, which inculcates the rule, that, at the worst, affairs are 
never as bad as they seem, and that a calm review w r ill always 
demonstrate the truth of this principle. The account is less sad 
than a different termination would have rendered it, but no 
other result could have impressed it more indelibly upon the 
mind of the writer. 


The detailed history of the Chicago fire will never be written, 
because there is an almost inconceivable mass of details that 
can never be gathered many that can never be known, because 
their principal actors fell before the advance of the enemy they 
were striving to repulse and even if all could be readily ob- 
tained, their voluminousness would prevent publication in any 
but a book of the most extraordinary size. It is well under- 
stood that the first fire, on Saturday evening, the 7th of Octo- 
ber, 1871, would have become historical as " the great Chicago 
fire," had the calamity stopped with its extinction ; for it burned 
over more than twenty acres of a densely settled portion of the 
city, including many warehouses, residences and factories ; and 
its losses were summed up in an aggregate quite appalling to the 
insurance companies throughout the country. The fire of the 
following night was the Jormungundar that encompassed al- 
inost three quarters (hi money value) of the city, and crushed it 
in its incandescent embrace. And it was the calamity that to- 
day stands out on the historic page as the severest that ever be- 
fell a people through the ravages of the fiery element there- 
fore the point upon which this narration inevitably challenges 
the attention of tlic reader. 

It was about ten o'clock of Sunday night, October 8, 1871, 
that an ominous alarm rang ouc upon the devoted city from the 
great bell of the Court-House, booming far above the shrill whis- 
tle of the angry gale, now fast increasing to a hurricane, and ad- 
monishing our citizens of more than ordinary danger, in the 
doubly destructive combination of wind and flame. The bell 
continued, at short intervals, to toll the deep-toned notes. of dan- 
ger, which, borne afar upon the angry blast, struck consternation 
to every heart that realized the peril of a fire under the condi- 
tions of the city at that date, urged on by blustering Libycus. 
Hundreds with whom the writer has since conversed felt strange 
premonitions of disaster mysterious feelings, creepings of the 
flesh and a great change in the vital circulation as the notes of 
alarm continued ; and it is probable that many other hundreds 
were similarly affected. It was really the portent of doom to 
many brave hearts, of a sort, akin, to that which is described in 
the following lines of Dryden : 


"A kind of weight hangs heavy at my heart; 

My flagging soul flies under her owu pitch, 

Like fowl in air, too damp, and lugs along, 

As if she wore a body in a body. 

And not a mounting substance made of fire. 

My senses too are dull and stupified, 

Their edge rebated; sure some ill approaches, 

And some kind spirit knocks softly at my soul, 

To tell me fate's at hand." 

When the general- alarm sounded, and all the steamers flew 
through the streets, prolonging the boom of the bell in shrill 
shrieks, thousands of citizens rushed out to learn the location 
and progress of the conflagration. Most of the buildings in De- 
koven and Taylor streets wore already destroyed, and the great 
tongues of flame were licking up the wooden structures in that 
part of the city as though they were the merest tinder boxes, 
leaving no trace of their form or material to mark the place'where 
they stood, but a moment before. The crackling of the fire 
among the dry lumber resembled the regular discharge of mus-, 
ketry by an army corps in retreat ; but there were still worse evi- 
dences of panic than are usually displayed by a routed army, 
in i the hundreds of people, men, women and children, already 
fleeing to a place of safety, and bearing upon their shoulders such 
articles of household use as seemed to theni valuable at the mo- 
ment. They were utterly demoralized, and mingled screams of 
agony, shouts of alarm, prayers and imprecations, with occa- 
sional blows right and left, in a jangling noise of words unknown, 
and gabble without meaning. Eyes blind with blood, and fea- 
tures wildly distorted with terror, people unclad, half-clad, some 
wrapped in bed-clothing, women dressed in the apparel of the 
opposite sex, and some protected only by their night-wrappers, 
carrying beds, babies, tables, tubs, carpets, crockery, cradles, 
almost every conceivable thing of household use, formed the 
most noticeable features of this terrific route. An aged dame, with 
a dog under one arm and a large mirror across the opposite 
shoulder, was apparently impressed with the belief that she had 
saved the better part of her fortune, and marched forward with 
a smile of satisfaction illuminating her grim physiognomy. An 
Irishman attempting to drive a pig of a remarkably piggish dis- 
position, found he had taken a contract too great for his ability, 
and as the porcine quadruped at length eluded his pursuer, and 
fled back toward the flames at a tremendous lope, tho porcine 
biped exclaimed with an inadmissable adjective: 


" To hell wid ye, ye spalpeen ; ye*s poor property onyways." 

A man carrying a bed and leading a goat met with even worse 
luck. A horse-cart, evidently driven by a mad-man, came rat- 
tling through the crowd at breakneck speed, and the goat, docile 
enough before, was panic-struck at the noise and unusual com- 
motion, and braced himself to pull away. The man laid his bed 
on the ground to have the use of both hands in managing the 
goat, but he was too slow. One wheel of the horse-cart cut the 
goat in twain, and the other struck, tore and tossed the bed, and 
scattered it to the winds in a shower of feathers. 

A drunken brute came swaggering along with a delicate, well- 
dressed little girl in his arms. The child was crying bitterly, and 
appeared anxious to escape from her custodian, who addressed 
her with oaths and threats. 

" Whose child is that ?" inquired a citizen. 
, " Mine," replied the ruffian, and he attempted to hurry along, 

" Not so fast," said his interlocutor, detaining him. " Is this 
man your father, little girl?" 

"No sir ; he's a bad man, carrying me away from ma," said the 

The scoundrel raised her aloft and dashed her from him with 
such force that she would have been killed instantly had she 
, struck the ground ; but fortunately she was caught in the arms 
of a gentleman who had stopped to learn the cause of the dis- 
pute, and who proved to be a friend of her parents and glad to 
take charge of her as a temporary protector. The kidnapper 
was summarily sobered by half a dozen blows well administered 
by a sturdy fist, which was the only means of punishment at 
hand, but had he ornamented the nearest lamp-post, with a rope 
about his neck, justice would have been better satisfied. 

These incidents are related merely to show the general char- 
acter of the panic, and the nature of the flight, and not for their 
intrinsic importauce. The picture as a whole, treated by a Ho- 
garthian pencil, or described by a Dante,might be readily accepted 
as a " Grand march through hell, of the legions of the powers of 

Meanwhile, the flames were keeping even pace with the terrible 
gale, and spreading fearfully. The efforts of the firemen to stay 
their progress, although apparently well directed, were futile 
It was the remark of one of them that they might as well have 


pumped oil as water upon the burning mass, for the water ap- 
peared to"burn like some intensely inflamable liquid, and certainly 
had no effect in extinguishing flame. Another declared that 
three feet from the nozzle the stream was broken and scattered 
in spray like a heavy dew, or the foam on the crest of a dividing 
wave, and of course utterly ineffective to stay the spreading of 
the fire. So the fearful pyrotechnic wall, seething with the 
power of an inborn, indescribable calidity, and towering sky- 
ward more than a hundred feet, came rumbling down to the 
banks of the river, near Twelfth street, and, at a single bound 
crossed over to destroy the heart of Chicago's business life. The 
firemen were now completely exhausted, and there were none to 
dispute the advance of the destructive element, that extended its 
Briarean tongues and arms in every direction. With the people, 
it was a race for life, and the stampede that now commenced 
will live in the recollection of those who witnessed it as long as 
time shall last. The inclemency of the night had increased, and 
the temperature was of that disagreeable, penetrating sort that 
searches the very marrow and chills it to torpidity. 

Libycus was still in the ascendant, and so the fire struck out, 
in obedience to his prompting, for the northeast, where its ap- 
proaches were most to be dreaded. People were now driven 
from elegant residences, from comfortably furnished rooms on 
the upper floors of business houses, from hotels, cottages and 
janitors' lofts, and all at once the streets were swarming with an 
excited mass of humanity, of all ages, colors and conditions. If 
the crowd was less motley than the first described, it was quite 
as varied in nationality, and no less noteworthy on account of 
the "impediments" with which it burdened itself. Men stagger- 
ing under large trunks, immense bundles, even bureaus, seemed 
inextricably mingled with express wagons, carts, wheelbarrows, 
trucks, drays and buggies, with which the streets were filled, all 
overloaded with goods and furniture, and making their best 
speed to escape the approaching destruction. Mothers slightly 
enrobed, and carrying tender babes, were crying bitterly, while 
others cherished their young at their panting breasts and were 
silent in their overpowering agony. Little children, unattended, 
Jnany in their night-dresses, bare-footed, bare-limbed, heads un- 
covered, ran about in utter distraction, crying for parents or 
nurses ; and even the poor dogs added their howls and cries to 


the general dismay, making that night of doom still more hideous 
and appalling. Still the colossal besom of that holocaust swept 
down toward them with terrific speed, presenting the appearance 
of a great wall of glowing brass, and increasing its altitude as it 
devoured block after block of towering edifices. Many a man 
and woman sank to the earth in sore affright, many from utter 
exhaustion, and probably a few from hopelessness of their ability 
to escape the impending catastrophe. Some were recovered by 
friends, and others remained and met a fate too ghastly for con- 

Away sped the crowd, afar off to the bleak prairie, to the lake 
shore, to parks, cemetaries, any where remote from combusti- 
ble material, and out of the way of the blinding storm of sparks, 
embers and smoke. The streets were constantly filled by rein- 
forcements to the mad chase, and frequently so tightly wedged 
Jay the great mass of humanity that the weak were trampled, 
bruised, and some probably killed outright. Persons conveying 
valuables were ruthlessly despoiled of them, pockets were picked, 
and one gentleman reported that his coat was stripped from his 
back in the very thickest of the crowd, and taken away, as by 
some invisible hand, before he could discover the perpetrator of 
the outrage. Even women and children were robbed of shawls, 
cloaks and trinkets, and outrageously abused by the mob of 
thieves and roughs that now came, like so many vultures, for 
their prey. 

Well authenticated instances of remarkable hair-breath es- 
capes are sufficiently numerous and interesting to form an at- 
tractive book by themselves, full of startling details and semi- 
tragic catastrophes ; but real tragedies are scarcely less plenti- 
ful, and probably deserve precedence in the record, but we must 
be permitted to intermingle them to some extent, for the pur- 
pose of avoiding monotomy. 

At the intersection of Randolph and Market streets stood a 
large building, rented in separate rooms and suits for offices. 
On the fourth floor lived the janitor with his wife and four 
children", and an orphan niece, Marie. When the flames reached 
the building the family rushed out upon the roof, but all escape 
was cut off. The mother sank down, with the babe in her arms, 
smothered by a blinding cloud of smoke and flame, and expired. 
The father stood up strong and resolute, lifted the little boy of 


four years to his shoulder, placed a protecting arm about his two 
little daughters, and strove to find his way to an neighboring 
roof, from which a stairway descended. His efforts were vain. 
The little girls ran back and fell beside the mother. Then a 
great cry of anguish went up from the father's heart, and even 
above the roar of gale and flame his voice was heard by the 
people below, and piteous, helpless hands reached out in futile 
sympathy, as if to help him, Then through the smoke and 
flame, to the very edge of the building, the poor man rushed, 
and for a moment lifting eyes and hands toward heaven as if in 
silent prayer, he sprang out from the burning roof and came 
downward. The .awe-struck people gazed ilpon a shapeless 
mass on the pavement, which for a moment appeared very still 
and lifeless, and then a bright little head showed itself, and a 
child's voice cried out. 

"You hurt my w'ist, papa. Lif you head up dat a'dood papa." 

The father was dead, but the child only slightly bruised, and 
is now well and well cared for. 

At the corner of Clark and Washington streets, in a window of 
a third floor room, a man stood serenely watching the general 
devastation, while the roof over his head was on fire. People 
shouted themselves hoarse to call his attention to the impending 
danger, but he merely smiled without moving. " He's crazy," 
said one ; " drunk," said another ; but he appeared both sane 
and sober, and was probably inclined to tempt fate a little, and 
save himself at the last moment. He waited too long. The heavy 
roof came crashing down through the floors, and he was inextri- 
cably buried in a heap of burning timber that landed in the base- 
ment, a perfect mass of glowing embers, within three minutes 
e from the time the the roof gave way. 

In one of the larger buildings on Randolph street, a portion of 
the upper floors of which were used for lodging rooms, men were 
seen dodging about from window to window, the untold agony 
depicted on their features, after the basement and first floor had 
became like " a furnace seven times heated." Two were rescued 
at great risk before the walls began to totter, but just as it began 
to seem possible to those outside that all might be saved, the 
huge walls swayed to and fro, and came down so heavily that 
they smothered the flames they had fed but a moment before, 
and buried several lives in the smouldering debris. 


A young man named George Armstrong, a fireman, had been 
hard at work through many weary hours down town, when some- 
how word came to him that the fire was sweeping along Ran- 
dolph street at a rapid rate. His home was on that great 
thoroughfare. His pretty wife had held up their wee baby to kiss 
him for the first time that morning. He sprang away like a deer, 
spite of his weariness, for he must know at once that his loved 
ones were safe. Beaching the spot, he saw his wife, Jennie, at 
the window with the babe in her arms. The fire had reached 
fihe lower part of the building and cut off all hope of her escape. 
He screamed frantically for a ladder, and, when it was brought, 
threw it against the window and sprang up the rungs. The 
flames caught it at the bottom, and a longer one was raised, reach- 
ing the roof. George swung himself lightly from one to the 
other, and soon touched the eaves. Quick as light he ran along 
the already hot slating, opened the sky-light and called " Jennie, 
darling, come up quickly. You will be safe here." She had 
fainted when she heard the ladder go crashing down, for she im- 
agined her brave young husband had fallen a victim to the sea of 
fire below ; and now, hearing his voice calling her far up in the 
dim space, she thought him in heaven, and that she and baby 
would soon join him there. Bat some blind instinct led her to 
clamber up as fast and far as possible, and soon the fresh air 
kissed her hot, blind eyes, and ehe found herself in her husband's 
arms. As he took the babe from her, she whispered, " We can 
die together,. George. Thank God for that !" Just then a stream 
of water from a well-directed hose fell full upon them, and 
through the drenching torrent a brother fireman came and 
guided them down the slender, swaying ladder, down past win- 
dows where the glass was crackling and the flames playing in and 
out like the forked tongues of ten thousand devils, in safety to 
the firm pavement. And though they had nothing left but each 
other, no happier people are living to-day than George Armstrong 
and his sweet little wife, in their humble shanty on the lake 

And now the fire-fiend ruled the city like a tyrant, and man was 
powerless. Dismay took possession of the bravest hearts. 
Some .wildly declared this to be the beginning of the destruction 
of all things earthly, and railed at those who strove to save life 
or property. Others, both men and women, besotted themselves 

! ! ilV'i. 




with whisky, and indulged in orgies more gross and unseemly 
than those of the licentious Bacchanals of the old legends. 

Many of the drunken were roasted alive, and others died in the 
streets from exposure, or were trampled to death. With those 
who kept their heads, it became necessary to make quick de- 
cisions on all questions concerning life, property and a tempor- 
ary retreat, and especially on means to remove themselves and 
families beyond the reach of the flames. When the fire attacked 
the Smith and Nixon block, at the southwest corner of Clark and 
Washington streets, the panic was at its height ; but some wise 
acres declared it could not reach the court house, although the 
block above named was known to be a colossal tinder-box, as it 
proved. The court house was in a blaze before the spectators 
were aware that fire had been communicated to it in any man- 
ner, although the shower of sparks, with which it was en- 
veloped should have taught them that its tar roof must go and 
after that its utter destruction was inevitable. The great bell was 
still thundering forth the note of alarm when the flames 
caught its frail tenement in the windings of their hot embrace, 
wrestled and surged for a moment, and then the deep-mouthed 
brass went tumbling and ominously clanging to the earth. The 
people had become so accustomed to its boom boom that 
for a moment after it fell they were startled into silence ; but it 
was only the silence that proceeded the louder peal, and soon tho 
uproar redoubled with Babel sounds- and Bedlam outcries. The 
Sherman House and all the towering blocks in that vincinity 
were soon ablaze, and the wild retreat of guests and lodgers, in 
hacks, express wagons, carts, and all manner of vehicles, gave an 
additional impetus to the motions of those already occupying the 
thronged thoroughfares thereabout, hustling, maiming, crushing 
the old and feeble and the poor, trebly excited and exhausted 
watchers of, and participators in the terrible events of five heurs 
of continued, everchanging, but bloody and remorseless tradgedy. 
It was here, amid these scenes of terrible affright, and wild 
hallo, " confusion worse confounded," that the panic took a new 
departure, and divided the column of the retreating rabble into 
two sections, one of which dashed madly up Washington street to 
escape by the tunnel, and the other rushed in indescribable con- 
fusion for Randolph street bridge. Both of these points were 
reached amid tho clatter of heavy wagons and steel shod hoofs, 


the cracking of whips, oaths of the drivers, curses of staid citi- 
zens, and wild screams of women and children. The crush at 
the tunnel is said to have been unutterably terrific. The occa- 
sion had made every point where safety could be sought common 
ground to all classes and conditions of people, and so there 
, rushed into the dark, cavern-like tunnel, bankers and thieves, 
merchants and gamblers, artizans and loafers, clergymen and 
burgliiz-s, matrons and rag-pickers, maidens and prostitutes- 
representatives of virtue and vice, industry and improvidence, 
in every grade, and strangely commingling all the diverse ele- 
ments of a mixed community, animated by one purpose and 
seeking a common object. Here the Graces and Gorgons met, 
Euphrosyne, Aglaia and Thalia', hand in hand witlf Stheno, Eu- 
ryale and Medusa, seeking the poor boon of life at the utter sac- 
rifice of all those weak conventiah'sms, that only a few short 
hours ago were thought to be the sole object and aim of existence. 
Here Pudicitia mingled her tears with the Lady Godivas and 
Cyprian nymphs ; and here Mercurius joined (Edipus in suppli- 
cating the triple throne of Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. There 
were bruises and groans, blows and piercing shrieks, prayers, 
imprecations, pocket-picking, and indignities unmentionable : 
but, strange to contemplate, no loss of life, nor fatal hurt. And so 
this motley crowd, finding ingress and egress reasonably free, 
under all the circumstances, and the prospect beyond promising 
of chances for life, continued to pass through the Cimmerian 
cavern, with their little savings, and pilferings, their treasures and 
trinkets and babies, in tolerable order. 

But the lord of misrule was indubitably the reigning genius 
at the bridge. The stampede here continued to increase in 
wildness and disorder until cursing became the only mode of 
expression, and blows were soon as free as curses. Every imag- 
inable variety of vehicle had been called in requisition to con- 
vey the trunks and merchandise of fleeing citizens to a place of 
safety, and many of the drivers were clerks and mere boys, 
whose skill at the business was born of the occasion, and awk- 
wardly demonstrated. Wagons, carts, and trucks were con- 
stantly colliding, and the shouting of men, the whistling of the 
steam tugs, the roar of the conflagration, the terrified snorting 
of horses, and barking of dogs, together with the prolonged 


shrieks of the tempestuous wind, made a discord as harsh, 
weird and uncouth, as if 

* * * " all the imps that fell, 

Had raised the banner-cry of hell." 

Many persons were sadly abused and terribly hurt in the 
struggle for precedence, and many valuable articles des- 
troyed in the shameful contention. To gratify a momentary 
spite goods were seized and thrown into the river, and a case is 
reported where the entire effects of a family, including the vehi- 
cle, a light handcart, were dumped into the water in return for 
an insolent word. Gunpowder had now been called into requi- 
sition to stay the further progress of the devouring element, and 
on every side the heavy detonation indicated the demolition of 
proud structures that other proud structures might be spared. 
The great warehouses in Lake street were going down before the 
fiery "wall as though they .were mere bundles of piece shavings, 
and among the ruins and impending catastrophes of this mart 
of commerce is where the present chapter was introduced to the 

It seems appropriate to present, just here, a strictly histori- 
cal narration of the fire ; and thereafter its main incidents are 
detailed by " a cloud of witnesses," as embodied in their per- 
sonal experience. 

The Great Conflagration 



Saturday night, October 7th, witnessed one of the fiercest 
conflagrations that had ever previously occurred, not excepting 
the conflagration of 1857, in the Garden City. At about two 
o'clock the alarm sounded from Box 248, and ere the quivering 
boom of the great bell had ceased to vibrate over the empty 
streets, the sky grew fiercely red in the direction of Canal and 
Van Buren streets, and soon long bright flames leaped through 
the glow, and lit ftp the whole neighborhood with wonderous 
brilliancy before the fire department could arrive at the scene 
of destruction. Late as the hour was, the glare of the fiery 
illumination soon attracted vast crowds to the neighborhood of 
the fire from all quarters of the city, who thronged and choked 
up all the streets in the neighborhood. The wind rose as the 
flames gained in strength, blowing strongly from the South-west, 
,so strongly, indeed, that blazing fragments of wood of no incon- 
siderable size shot along on the gale like rockets, to the distance 
of many hundred yards. Indeed, as lookers on beheld the me- 
teor shower of white and crimson charcoal sparks raining aH 
over the space enclosed between the river, the South branch, 
Wells street and Jackson street, and even flying over the river 
to the North-side, they began to fear, with reason, that the con- 
flagration might spread beyond control' of the fire department. 

The fire had been raging for some time before discovered, and 
owing to the nature of the substance feeding it, soon converted 
the building into a furnace. It originated from some unknown 
cause in Lull & Holmes planing-mill on Canal street near Van 
Buren, the wind then blowing due North, and the flames conse- 
quently spread in a Northward direction. But soon after the 
wind veered to the North-east, and the flames commenced to 
rush that way. The fire had already spread to the right and left, 
and burnt a distance of two blocks from Clinton to the river ; 
but when the wind changed everything combustible from the 
East line of Clinton to the river, midway between Jackson and 


Van' Buren streets, was swept away by the flames. Unfortu- 
nately frame buildings lumberyards, and substances inflammable 
as tinder almost, covered and surrounded the space which the 
fire was threatening, and the fire department was powerless to 
quench such a hell of flame as roared over several squares with- 
in a very short time*. Then the bright waves of fire swept to the 
North of Jackson street, and seemed as though they would 
spread in the very heart of the city. Jackson street, between 
Clinton and Canal, was composed in great part of wooden build- 
ings, lumberyards, carpenters' shops, frame dw^Jling houses, and 
saloons, and in little more than a quarter of an hour, the whole 
of this space was enveloped in roaring flame. Between the rail- 
road tracks and the East side of Canal street, bounded by 
Jackson and Adams streets, were several coal and lumber offices, , 
to the rear of which lay vast piles of anthracite coal to the 
amount of many hundreds of tons. The slight office buildings 
were licked up by the flames within the space of a few minutes, 
and the coal-mounds actually set on fire. And then the fire ran 
under and over the Adams street Viaduct, licked up the railings 
and sidewalks of the iron bridge, and devoured the timber freight 
depot of the United States and Adams Express Companies at 
the North-east corner of Adams and Canal. But a compara- 
tively small quantity of the contents could be removed in time, 
the greater part of the goods being consumed. 

To the east of the long shed, then blazing, stood a number of 
passenger cars belonging to the Pittsburg and Fort Wayne Rail- 
road. To save the cars it was necessary to tear down the shed, 
which was effected in time to prevent the cars catching fire, in 
which case the flames must have communicated with the Pitts- 
burg and Fort Wayne depot, and thence burned as far as Madi- 
son street bridge. The citizens, however, worked desperately 
here, for they recognized the possible danger of the fire spread- 
ing still further to the East and North-east, and the fire depart- 
ment was unable to operate with any .chance of success in this 
locality. Here the fight with the flames was successful, and the 
citizens conquered, in spite of a hail of crimson cinders and 
clouds of acrid dun-colored smoke, so thick, that it might almost . 
have been cut with a knife. 

Meanwhile the firemen were battling with desperate energy 
against the progressing flames on the South line of Adams street, 


West of Canal, and stretching nearly to Clinton street. The 
buildings were nearly all frame residences, and should the flame 
make good its position here, or cross to the North line of wooden 
structures, the consequences would be terrible. The firemen 
could, as it was, being but twelve hose-nozzles to play upon the 
leaping battalion of fire that was marching grandly over the 
roofs. The heat was so terrible that the crowd, several hundred 
feet away, shrank further back before the angry glare yet the 
heroic firemen would stand within a few yards of the blaze it- 
self, only retiring to take breath. Of course so hot a wood fire 
must burn itself out to a certain extent, there was no possibility 
of absolutely extinguishing it, but they subdued the fiery ardor 
of the flames and prevented them from spreading to the houses 
on the other side of the street. 

The crowd that stood upon Madison street bridge, and 
thronged the thoroughfare itself, were appalled by the spectacle 
before them. The sight was almost sublime, the heavens were 
speckled and spangled with flying cinders and vivid sparks, and 
the flames of the burning coal-heaps and lumberyards threw a 
vast Bembrandtesque light far down the streets on the North 
side, upon the rigging of the tall-masted vessels in the river, 
and upon the sea of awe-struck faces that gazed into the crim- 
son sky and the tossing sea of flame. 

Many were obliged to flee for their lives, mostly poor laborers 
who lived in the consumed frame buildings with their families, 
or in the cheap boarding houses in the burnt quarter. But 
happily no lives were lost as far as is known. One old woman 
was only awakened from her sleep by the entrance of the flames 
into her bedroom on Jackson street, and was only saved by the 
heroism of a printer, Robert Campsie by name, who, at the risk 
of his own life, brought her out of the burning building. Both 
rescuer and rescued were severely, but not dangerously burnt. 
Her daughter-in-law, a young woman of the name of Margaret 
Headley, was left behind, and has not been heard of ; it is, how- 
ever, probable, that she succeeded in making her escape. 

One accident of a rather serious nature occurred during this 
conflagration. A large shed stood at the corner of Clinton and 
Jackson streets, whose roof afforded a splendid view of the fire, 
and was moreover easy of access. The crowd continued to 
gather upon it, until it suddenly gave way beneath the weight of 


about 150 persons, and the whole structure caved in. A consid- 
erable number of the victims of this disaster were severely in- 
jured, none we believe fatally. 

Many of the saloon-keepers in the burning district, distributed 
their stock gratis to the crowd, when they perceived their prop- 
erty was doomed. 

The " Chicago" steam fire-engine was working away at the 
northwest corner of Canal and Jackson streets, when the side of 
a burning edifice close by suddenly fell in, giving vent to a whirl- 
wind of flames which enveloped the steamer in an instant. The 
engineer and firemen were compelled to desert her as they valued 
their lives, but shortly the fury of the flames spent themselves in 
that quarter, and they rushed in and pulled her out of the reach 
of the fire. The engine was considerably damaged, but was able 
to continue operations during the latter part of the fire. 

The heat destroyed the western wires of the Western Union 
Telegraph Company, as well as several of the fire alarm telegraph 
wires. In one of the lumber yards a party of eight men found 
themselves overwhelmed by fire on all sides, and only saved 
themselves by throwing a quantity of lumber into the river, and 
paddling across. The only effective method of saving about 
thirty wagons and trucks belonging to the coal-yard, was by sink- 
ing them in the river. 

Altogether the < fire of Saturday night, October 7th, covered 
about twenty acres of ground and destroyed in the neighborhood 
of $700,000 worth of property. The insurance cannot cover 
more than a third of the loss, according to the Chicago Tribune. 
The following extract from the same paper gives perhaps the 
most accurate summary of the extent of the conflagration. 

" The boundaries of the fire may be briefly summarized as fol- 
lows : 

Between Clinton and Canal streets, about three-fourths of the 
area south toward Van Buren street. 

Between Canal street and the river, about nine-tenths of the 
area, south toward Van Buren street. 

Between Canal street and the river, and Adams and Jackson 
streets, the entire area. . 

Between Canal and Clinton streets, and Adams and Jackson 
streets about seven-eights of the entire area, the only remaining 
buildings being the frontage of about 80 feet on Adamy and 
128 feet on Clinton street. 

On the east side of Canal, north of Adams, about 100 feet in 
frontage, consuming the Express Company freight sheds." 



Since the day when "tall Troy" crumbled away in flames, no 
fire has surpassed the Chicago conflagration in its terrible work 
of destruction. The value of the merchandise alone consumed 
by tlie flames was at least double that of the goods destroyed in 
the great fires of Moscow and London combined. No city ever 
suffered a greater pecuniary loss by fire, whether Jerusalem smit- 
ten by Titus, Rome when sacked by Alaric, or Carthage when 
given up to fire and sword by her Roman conquerors. The esti- 
mate of loss of life, great as it seems, is really astonishingly low 
when we consider the extent, rapidity and fierceness of the fire 
whose devastating power was trebled by the furious gale. For 
two days the city was a rolling ocean of flame, and presented an 
aspect whose awful grandeur might rival the spectacle of a 
seething roaring volcano crater. The torrent of fire swept over a 
space of from five to seven miles in length, averaging a mile in 
width, and no building, probably in any city of the world could 
have withstood the typhoon of flame and fire combined. In 
many instances the action of the fire bore a strange resemblance 
to that or lightning. Blank walls were pierced in an instant by 
a vast tongue of flame, as though struck by powerful artillery 
indeed a sheet of fire would frequently leap from the roof of a 
blazing edifice over a space of several hundred feet, and dash 
through the blank wall of a loftier edifice opposite, at one flaming 

It must of course puzzle the reader to imagine how the fire 
could make such appalling and rapid progress, licking up marble 
edifices like wax-work, and sweeping over a space of hundreds of 
square acres, ah* in a few hours from its commencement. To un- 
derstand this appalling fact it must be remembered that in the 
first place the very finest and most solidly built portion of the 
city was surrounded and sprinkled with a vast number of frame 
buildings, and were thus, as it were, encircled by fuel of the driest 
and most inflammable description. Once the wood, tar and 
shingles were well lit the more lightly built portion of the city 
was a terrific furnace, and the buildings of iron and marble were as 


nothing to withstand the fearful force of the flames. It is pretty 
generally known that shortly before the fire, an agent of one of 
the great English Insurance companies visited the city with the 
intention of establishing a branch office there, but immediately 
abandoned the design, upon observing the material of which a 
great part of -the city was built, and its exposed situation. He ex- 
pressed his opinion freely enough that were a conflagration once 
well started the city must be partially if not entirely consumed ; 
and scarcely had he returned to England when his predictions 
were verified. If any one desires to comprehend accurately the 
effect of the flames upon those massive buildings of iron and 
stone which we considered impervious to flame let him build a 
small model of such a building with the usual materials, and 
place it in an iron blast furnace. In the furnace-fire of Chicago 
the blast came in the form of a strong wind from the south and 
west, which fanned what might otherwise have been but a serious 
conflagration into a Phlegethon of looming, flashing, rolling, 
rushing, crackling billows of furious fire, which hurled a fiery 
spray into the red bosom of the incandescent heavens above. 

"iW nearly fifteen weeks," says the Chicago Journal of Com- 
merce, "there had not fallen enough rain ^ to penetrate the earth 
one full inch. Everything in and around the city was heated, 
dry and parched. Indeed, all through the West, fires were 
devastating extensive forests and destroying ripening crops, 
driving frontier settlers from their cabins -and even over- 
whelming entire villages. For days the prevailing atmos- 
phere of our city seemed ready to kindle* into a blaze." 
With such surroundings and antecedents, with a hard gale blow- 
ing over the city from the hot, parched-up prairies, we can hardly 
be surprised that the fire did its work with such fearful rapidity 
at the outset, that the efforts of the firemen to master the terrible 
scourge proved wholly unavailing. 

Much has been said on the subject of the demoralization, real 
or imagined, of the Fire Department on the night of the 8th. It 
has been hinted that several were intoxicated, and that the brig- 
ade, as a body, were utterly inefficient to accomplish their duty 
properly. These shameful rumors have happily proved to be 
without foundation. A more gallant struggle against an over- 
whelming, all-powerful, merciless league of wind and fire, was 
never sustained by braver men who freely risked, and lost, life and 
limb in the terribly unequal fight. 


The truth is that courage and strength and energy must wither 
under excessive fatigue consequent on uniutermitting labor 
and want of rest ; and at the time of the general alarm, on the 
evening of the eighth, the whole department was almost worn 
out with the labor of previous weeks. " During the first week in 
October," affirms the same able periodical, from which we quote 
above, " our fire department had been alarmed more than thirty 
times, and within a few previous weeks there had been several 
very large and fearful fires. The burning of an immense ware- 
house, in the rear of Burlington Hall, had involved a loss of three-i 
quarters of a million. When the great calamity came upon us> 
these ruins had hardly ceased to smoke. 

On Tuesday, October 8th, the last day of the Chicago of twenty 
years, our fire department was ' used up'." It appears that in addi- 
tion to the labors of weeks, weary labors of fighting flame, the entire 
department had worked unceasingly for twelve hours immediately 
preceding the final summons of the alarm bells. Human strength, 
whether constitutional or muscular, cannot endure srtch a strain 
without yielding to fatigue. Nor is it to be supposed, as many 
seem to have imagined, that under these circumstances they 
could compete in vigor and celerity with the firemen of Cincinnati 
or St. Louis, who rushed to bear aid in the terrible emergency. 
All such comparisons as those we hint at, are at least cruelly 
unjust, not to say imbecile. 

The origin of the fire is not known, or rather we have no means 
of ascertaining by what agency the first building was ignited. 
The story about the old woman who went into her stable to milk 
her cow by the light of a kerosene lamp, which lamp said cow 
kicked over, is a pure fabrication. No such woman or cow pro- 
bably existed, save in the imagination of some manufacturer of 

The fire first broke out, it is well known, in a small stable to 
the rear of a frame building on the north side of De Koven street, 
almost half-way between Jefferson and Clinton streets. The 
cottage belongs, (for yet it stands isolated in the midst of ruin, 
a strange fact !) to a laboring man and his family. The famous 
stable at the rear contained their little stock, a horse and several 
cows. Perhaps we might more properly call the building a barn. 
They never milked their cows later than 5 A. M., and 4 P. M. 
in order to be in full readiness to dispose of their milk in time 


for their neighbor's breakfasts and suppers. On the Sunday in 
question the cows were milked as usual by the wife and daugh- 
ter, and at an hour when daylight rendered the use of lamp or 
candle unnecessary. Witnesses prove beyond a doubt that the 
family were all in bed, without exception, before the fire broke 
out, when they rushed to the barn only to find it too late either 
to extinguish the flame or to liberate the animals. 

It is, therefore, certain that neither old woman, cow or kero- 
sene lamp had anything to do with the fire whatever. It is also 
highly incredible that incendiarism on the part of the owners of 
the frame house on De Koven street should have originated the 
conflagration. Neither is it at all likely that the fire was any- 
thing but wholly accidental, notwithstanding rumors. The Jour- 
nal of Commerce remarks that in a high wind smokers might step 
aside in the lee of this little edifice to light their pipes and 
cigars. At least from the situation of the house, they would be 
more likely to stop there for the purpose of striking a match 
than at any other part in that neighborhood. A spark alighting 
on thia tinder of hay and shingles, and fanned by the wind, wonld 
soon wrap the slight barn in flames. 

From this point the fire spread East, West, and North, with in- 
credible swiftness, and when aid arrived the fire had taken so 
strong a hold upon the slight structures hi tjie neighborhood, that 
all efforts to check it proved unavailing. All the buildings on 
De Koven street, from Jefferson to Clinton, were burned level 
with the pavement, if we except the little dwelling house in the 
rear of the fatal barn, which stands perfectly uninjured among 
the charred remains surrounding it. 

As the fire extended, it gained in strength and fierceness, 
spreading faster and faster and, as is always the case, the 
flames seemed to increase the power of the wind which gained 
power and fury in proportion. 

The fire department worked bravely and well in this neighbor- 
hood. The fire did not extend further West than Jefferson street, 
and all the buildings on that side were rescued, although several 
caught fire from the intense heat. About two squares and a hah* 
were saved on the other side of the street through the gallant 
efforts of the firemen. But the furious wind now commenced to 
catch up burning shingles, showers of charcoal sparks, and fire- 
brands of all kinds, carrying them towards the North-east with 


terrible effect. From Clinton street to the South branch of the 
Chicago River, including Canal street, Beech street, and the 
railway tracks, the whole space was covered with lumber-yards, 
wooden buildings, quantities of coal, and, in short, everything 
that would make a good fire. With the exception of a few build- 
ings at the corner of De Koven and Canal, and a few on Canal 
itself, everything was burned to ashes, the very streets being 
scorched and blackened. But the remainder of the "West side 
of the city was saved. The fire had reached the portion devasta- 
ted by the flames in the conflagration of Saturday night. North 
of Harrison and Van Buren streets was the blank space upon 
which the fire of the previous evening had spent itself, and the 
skeleton walls and scorched brick afforded it nothing to feed upon. 
Were it not for this fact, the south side would have been alto- 
gether destroyed as completely as the north had been. As it was 
the fire ate up more than fifty squares of the West Division, also 
devouring four or five of the bridges to the south side. 

When the fire leaped the south branch of the Chicago river, 
it revelled among the very same combustible material as it had 
devoured on the West-side; coal, lumber, planing mills, frame 
houses, &c. It attacked the Armory and licked up everything in 
it, surrounded the gas works and exploded the gasometer, and 
then the situation really became alarming. Iron and stone 
melted and crumbled in the terrible heat, and the fire brigade 
had b'arely obtained a good position, when the flames, rushing 
along as fast as a man can walk, drove them before it, and it was 
with difficulty that they could save their engines, so that finally 
it became extremely dangerous to oppose the fire. "Marble 
buildings" says a Chicago paper "were burned to quicklime, 
crumbled, fell and disappeared as though they were mere toys of 
children. Thus onward rushed the flames, advancing north and 
east with great rapidity and ' eating,' even against the wind, 
steadily south." 

The fire then leaped the stone-yards and open lots to the 
north of the Michigan, Southern and Eock Island Railroads, 
and in an extraordinary short time devoured the famous Pacific 
Hotel, one of the largest in tlje world ; and the huge depot with 
its lines of cars soon melted away in the flames. Far north of 
Van Buren street the fire licked up gigantic squares of marble 
palaces, and approached the court house. This splendid bnild- 


ing occupied the center of a square, and owing to its isolated sit- 
uation, and its being surrounded by fire-proof buildings, was 
considered free from danger. But even before the sea of flames 
surrounded it, the ruthless wind hurled flaming brands and 
sparks upon the great dome, and the edifice was soon a mass of 
flames. The watchman started the machinery that tolled the 
ponderous bell, and fled from the building, the bell boomed forth 
the news of the terrible catastrophe until the vast dome tottered, 
reeled, and fell, crashing into the interior with all the weight of 
its several million pounds. The awful shock shook the burning 
city, and then the Chief of the Fire Department threw up his 
arms in despair ; for he felt that' all hope was gone. 

The prisoners were liberated when it became evident that the 
court house was doomed, and all escaped with the exception of 
five murderers who were securely handcuffed and marched off by 
the police. It is said that the liberated thieves commenced 
their nefarious trade under the very walls of their blazing prison, 
and cleared a wagon load of clothing that was passing at the 

The interior of the Post-Office was completely eaten out by 
the devouring fire, but its walls successfully resisted the raging 
element, and even checked the flames for a time in a north- 
easterly direction. Near this were many of the finest buildings; 
Chicago could boast of, including the elegant hotels between 
Madison and Lake streets ; and the splendid office of the Chi- 
cago Tribune, McVickers Theatre, and the Palmer House, all 
stood within a few squares of the glowing walls of the Post-Office. 
Soon, however, the flame advancing eastwardly seized upon the 
Palmer House, wrapping it from roof to basement in a shroud 
of yellow fire, and the flames bursting from the roof, leaped as- 
tonishing distances to yet intact edifices. In a very short space 
of time all the surrounding buildings were blazing as fiercely 
as the Palmer House, itself, and the Tribune building, as well as 
McVicker's theatre, crumbled away before the flames which 
rushed in upon them from the rear. 

The North division was untouched until a little after twelve 
o'clock, on the same night, when the fire leaped the main branch 
of the Chicago river, and licked up everything combustible with 
its vast tongues of flame. The people dwelling in the North 
division which indeed was composed mostly of dwelling 


houses soon found themselves compelled to fly to the lake-shore. 
Many, however, plunged into the North branch of the river, or 
so aght to cross on anything that would sustain them. This side 
of the city contained the greater number of the fine churches, 
pclace residences, shade-trees, several depots, and enormous 
warehouses and manufactories. The North pier extended far 
into the lake a thousand feet, and close by were great stores of 
valuable material of all kinds. One of the finest buildings in 
the West was here consumed McCormick's Agricultural Imple- 
ment Works, containing property and stock valued at over $1,000 
000. But the chief loss which the city endured was that of 
the Water Works. 

It may as well be known, that although the water works were 
uninjured at the time when the fire seized the North-side of the 
river, yet soon after they ceased to supply water. This may 
prove a good lesson to those who believe that a city can always 
depend upon an engine-supplied reservoir for its supply pf 
water. Although the Water Works' structure was deemed fire- 
proof, yet there was a considerable amount of woodwork about 
it. The Journal of Commerce wisely exclaims : " A few thous- 
and dollars additional expense on the water works would have 
saved many lives and much treasure." The flying brands and 
sparks set fire to the roof immediately above the engine-room, 
the furthest point from the sweeping surging ocean of flame, that 
had already traveled at least three miles in six hours. This was 
instantly extinguished, but soon after the great breweries close 
by burst into roaring flames, and tongues of fire were darting 
over the turreted roof of the Water-Works' building. Within 
the atmosphere became heated to a degree that rendered it al- 
most impossible for the workmen and engineers to perform their 
duties through danger of suffocation. At last the fire burst 
through the roof above their heads, and they were compelled to 
abandon the building, having first stopped the machinery in or- 
der that it might be injured as little as possible, and the safety 
valves were raised in order that the ponderous boilers might not 
burst. Then the immense roof crumbled in upon the three 
mammoth engines, and for ten days and ten nights, three hun- 
dred thousand people suffered from the want of pure water, even 
for cooking purposes, many being obliged to content themselves 
with the water from the river. Happily the canal had lately 


been deepened, which caused the cool pure water of the lake to 
flow towards the Mississippi ; and the South branch of the river 
was sweet and pure compared to what it had been one year ago. 
Even at this time, however, it was water only to be used in cases 
of necessity. 

Now the fire advanced without enemy to oppose it, a'nd swept 
on towards the cemetery which bounded Lincoln Park on the 
South. The fire department had drawn off to the lake-shore, 
there to oppose the progress of the rushing whirlwind of fire by 
another mode of attack, while the flames were swallowing all the 
buildings in the direction of Lincoln P&rk. One remarkably 
handsome wooden residence, together with a fine conservatory, 
were-spaued, however, by the hungry element which left no other 
building standing it its destroying path. The ghoulish flames 
even battened upon the tombs and monuments in the burial 
ground, cracking and calcining marble monuments, licking up 
wooden crosses and signs, and even devouring the trees that 
shadowed, and the grass that grew upon ihe graves of the dead. 
It could gain no hold, however, upon the green foliage and shrub- 
bery of Lincoln Park, whereupon it changed its course to the 
North-west. It licked up everything until it reached the prairie, 
and then it burned up acres of prairie grass and trees. All the 
bridges to the West-side soon disappeared, and the La Salle 
street tunnel, which communicated with the South-side, was so 
heated by the surrounding flames, that at the entrances on both 
sides of the river the iron railings were twisted and bent as 
though warped by the hands of a fiery Vulcan, and the rocks 
split and shivered as though by lightning. As long as the 
bridges remained intact, they were covered with fugitives and 
vehicles of every description. But soon the only means of 
communication with the North, South, and West sides of the 
river was cut off, and fugitives could only obtain succor through 
vessels along the lake-shore, or by a circuitous route to the re- 
moter bridges, which were soon as crowded with fugitives as the 
others had been. And so the fire rushed on with its appallingly 
rapid work of destruction, until the prairie about the city was 
crowded with homeless men, women, and children, without shel- 
ter, food or drink. 

. As long as liquor could be obtained many men drank freely, 
and not a few fell in a state of sleepy intoxication upon ihe 


scorching pavement, little heeding the swiftly approaching and 
their terrible death. Alcohol had deadened their conscious- 
ness of all things. Then the roar of the red flames grew louder 
and louder, and the earth-shaking crash of falling buildings 
sounded nearer and nearer, till the scorching pavement upon 
which they lay seemed to rock beneath the terrible weight of 
the falling walls, but they slept on under the red rain of fire, till 
they became as the ashes which fell upon them. 

The gutters of the sidewalks and roads were frequently filled 
with blazing whiskey, alcohol, petroleum, or other inflammable 
fluids, which ran in streams of curling blue fire, or dancing red 
flames down the pavements. In several places the tar between 
the seams of the newly-laid wooden pavements caught fire and 
blazed from end to end ; yet with few exceptions the wooden 
pavements proved a success and still remain in a marvellous 
state of preservation. The flagged pavements did not escape 
so well, and the huge stones cracked and splintered in the vast 
heat. Brick is the material that best endured the terrible or- 
deal ; indeed, the greater part of the brick is still serviceable for 
building purposes. But marble was burnt to quicklime, free- 
stone and limestone crumbled and splintered, iron melted and 
trickled like lava among the glowing ruins, and strong iron pil- 
lars were twisted and warped into strangely fantastic shapes. 

The rails of the street-railways were subjected to such terrible 
heat, from the blazing buildings on either side of the street, that 
they were raised in the middle from six to twelve inches and 
even two feet above the ground, the center bolts being drawn and 
those at the ends remaining undetached. 

Anything combustible would of course be burnt to a cinder by 
the mere heat of that awful furnace, even though the actual flames 
had left it untouched. One curious fact with regard to the man- 
ner in which 'the various kinds of pavements endured the heat, 
which is chronicled by the Journal of Commerce, is well worthy of 
record. " On the north-west corner of the Court-House Square 
is now to be seen artificial .stone flagging, perfect, while the sand- 
stone on both sides of it, and also the curbing, are entirely des- 
troyed.'* But we are also told that even where the rails were 
lifted from the center of the streets and bent like a bow, from the 
terrific heat, the wooden pavements remain materially uninjured. 

The panic of that great multitude was truly terrible. With, in 


some instances, fire on three sides of them, they rushed to the 
waters of the lakes and dashed the liquid over themselves to 
keep their garments from being burned by the shower of falling 
fire or the intense heat of blazing buildings. The cattle rushed 
blindly about bellowing with terror and trampling upon men, wo- 
men and children. Rats, cats, pigs, and dogs, rushed among the 
crowd uttering cries of terror. Flocks of pigeons rose in the 
red glare and sought safety in flight until scorched by the fearful 
heat, bewildered and blinded by the terrible rain of fire, and the 
stifling smoke, they fell back into the blaze. Horses, maddened 
with terror, shrieked with that horrible shrifek which is never for- 
gotten by those who have once heard it, kicked and plunged, 
and often lay down in their harness under the rain of sparks, 
foaming at the mouth, and shivering in every limb. Perhaps the 
roar of the fire was even more appalling than the spectacle. 

The thieves had, as the popular phrase goes, " a fine time." 
Among the struggling, cursing, praying, shrieking crowd, their 
nimble fingers worked unceasingly, and we have no doubt they 
reaped a rich harvest. It is tolerably certain, however, that 
many of them perished in burning houses, where, in their eager- 
ness to obtain booty, they remained until after every chance of 
escape hacl been cut off. The police at such a time were almost 
powerless to act, and crime was, perforce, permitted to revel in 
well-nigh unrestrained freedom for a while. Under the guise of 
friendship, sharpers would frequently volunteer to take charge of 
valuable goods, which, of course, were never again seen by their 
rightful owners. The hack-drivers were little better than swind- 
lers, charging from fifty to a hundred and fifty dollars fare even 
to crippled invalids. 

The reports of incendiarism, hanging, shooting, and summary 
popular vengeance, or mob-law, are probably without foundation, 
or, at least, may be regarded as imperfectly substantiated. Sev- 
eral very horrible, and numerous romantically dreadful stories, 
have been circulated, we believe, by the lovers of the sensational. 
That a mob, under such circumstances, and in such a state of 
half-mad terror and frantic despair, would not hesitate to execute 
summary vengeance upon any parties who might be even slightly 
suspected of incendiarism, is pretty certain. But the accounts 
of this nature lack evidence and can hardly be credited for want 
of proper substantiation. With regard to romance, however, there 


have certainly occurred more hair-breadth escapes and thrilling 
incidents than would fill a large volume, and these, too, of such 
a nature as would vie with the wildest fancies of the sensation- 

Twelve hours after the first alarm on Sunday night, the greatei 
part of Chicago was dust and ashes. The fire soon began to 
work south against the wind, actually traveling along State street 
and Wabash avenue with almost as fatal swiftness as where the 
burning gale helped it along. It is curious, too, that the wind 
seemed to veer and blow from all points south, east and west as 
the fire proceeded, but the prevailing point was steadily south. 
Here, however, Phil. Sheridan led a forlorn hope against the 
flames, and Jbegan to oppose their progress in a new and yet 
more efficient manner. Powder was brought from the arsenal 
and buildings blown up all along the line of fire, but it was only 
by superhuman efforts that the fire was last checked at Harrison 

The sufferings of the women and children no pen can depict. 
The terrible shock brought on premature delivery in numerous 
instances. It is said that between four and five hundred children 
were born within twenty-four hours after the fire, and, many an 
infant's first cry was heard by the bleak lake shore, or upon the 
cheerless prairie, on that terrible night. Many of the little suf- 
ferers born under a sky of flame, and many a fair and delicate 
woman, perished before the sun had risen upon the smoking 
ruins. A great number of children and young women were com- 
pelled to fly in their night-clothes, and died from the consequent 
exposure. In the fire itself, probably nearly two hundred souls 
perished, and the total loss of life, from all causes connected with 
the fire, must come to nearly a thousand. 

The telegraph operators stuck to then- posts with an unshrink- 
ing heroism well worthy of record, until the flames had snapped, 
curled up, and whitened the wires, consumed the poles, and even 
destroyed the lamp-posts at the corners of the streets. 

Before the fire had ceased, except where the coal piles con- 
tinued to blaze furiously and the shivering thousands returned 
to look upon the ruins of their homes, the city was placed for a 
time under martial law. Sheridan brought down troops, the 
oomrnand of the city being given into his hands, and Allan Pink- 
erton issued orders to shoot all thieves, incendiaries, or male- 


factors, without mercy. It was a timely order, roughs, thieves, 
sharpers, swindlers, robbers, burglars, came from all quarters like 
vultures to prey upon the corpse of Chicago. But after the 
panic was over, and the authorities were enabled to give their un- 
divided attention to the preservation of law and public order, 
these rascals found themselves utterly baffled. 

When the news of the terrible fire flashed along the gloving 
wires to St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Louisvil^ the horror of tho 
announcement lay like a nightmare shadow upon every heart and 
brain when even the last means of communicating with the sis- 
ter cities was cut off, the alarm almost grew into a panic. A 
whole city on fire* in the North-west ! Five square miles of 
splendid buildings roaring to the skies in flames! Five hundred 
millions worth of property destroyed ! Thousands homeless, 
thousands starving, breadless, dying, millionaires reduced to beg- 
gars ! The richest city of the west, whose wonderous speedy 
growth and prosperity was the admiration of the whole land, 
even of its rivals, turned into a hell of fire ! Such was the news 
which appeared on the bulletin boards of every daily newspaper 
office, surrounded by awe-struck, sympathizing crowds. 

For an instant all was horror, astonishment, and terror. Then 
the trance was broken by the cry of " gv/e us food, give us shelter, 
as you are men and brothers. Our beautiful city, of which the 
world was proud, is gone. Our womou and children are dying, 
without food, shelter, or money. Help us in our terrible afflic- 
tion." And then the great sympathy of millions awoke, the sis- 
ter cities forgot all petty rivalries, and nobly set to work to res- 
cue the desolate people. Firemen and engines poured from all 
quarters to the scene of smoke and flame. Money, food, and 
clothing, came in plenty, and the mother country, too, p poured 
forth her gold, remembering that the new world had sent succor 
to the old in the day of need. The Nineteenth century showed 
it had a heart. 

The fire consumed nearly 3,200 acres, or nearly 5 square miles. 
The great fires of London, Moscow, and Constantinople, all com- 
bined, will scarcely equal the Chicago fire in the amount of space 
burned over. Nearly twenty-five thousand buildings of all dis- 
criptions have been leveled with the ground, and the number of 
human beings rendered homeless is 111,000 at the very lowest 
calculation, according to the Journal of Commerce. No perfectly 




reliable estimate of the amount of property destroyed has yet 
been made, the various reckonings ranging from one hundred to 
five hundred millions of dollars. Many of the most accurate cal- 
culations have unanimously agreed on placing the loss occasioned, 
by destruction of property, and damage to business, at from three to 
four hundred millions of dollars, on which there was, according 
to the "Underwriter," nearly $100,000,000, insurance. 

The richest and finest portion of the city has been, as our 
readers must perceive, utterly swept away, nothing but blackened 
heaps of brick, stone and iron being visible. The only buildings 
left standing between the river and tlie lake, and the river and 
Madison street, are the Lind block, at the corner of Randolph 
and Market streets, Hathaway's coal-office and one of the Buck- 
ingham elevators on the lake shore. The destruction of five of 
the great elevators alone involved an enormous' loss. 


Chicago possessed seventeen elevators at the time of the great 
fire, with a storage capacity for over eleven millions and a half 
bushels of grain. The fire consumed five of these with their 
contents, amounting to 1/100,000 bushels, of all kinds of grain 
principally corn. The elevators destroyed include the " Hiram 
Wheeler" with a capacity of 500,000 bushels ; " Munger & Ar- 
mor's Galena 600,000 bushels ; " Illinois Central A," 700,000 
bushels ; and the " Union," 700,000 bushels. The remaining 
elevators however contain about 5,000,000 bushels which is more 
than sufficient for all present wants. 


The Court-House walls have successfully resisted the fire in 
the wings, although the central portion must be rebuilt, and the 
dome, with the famous electric clock, has been completely des- 
troyed. The massive walls of the water works building are al- 
most uninjured. With the exception of the Michigan Avenue 
Hotel, and a few others, the great hotels of Chicago are re- 
duced to heaps of mortar, calcined marble, bricks and broken 
iron. The Pacific Hotel had been almost completed at a cost 
of nearly a million when the huge flames rushed into its four- 
teen hundred rooms and roared out of its numberless windows. 
The building occupied an entire square, was eight stories in 
height, and calculated when furnished to accommodate two 


thousand guests. It made perhaps the grandest spectacle of 
the great fire. Besides the Pacific and St. James Hotel, the 
Sherman, Palmer, Tremont, Briggs, Everett, Clifton, Orient, 
Oldridge and other houses fell a prey to the flames. 

The brewers suffered terribly, nothing being saved of their 
huge establishments but a portion of the stock in the beer 
vaults. Moreover, the insurance on the property was generally 


LilTs Brewing Company ......... ^. ..................... $500,000 

J. A. Huck ........................................... 400,000 

Sand's Brewing Company .............................. 335,000 

Bush & Brand ....................... ................. 250,000 

Buffalo Brewery ............................. . ......... 150,000 

Schmid, Katz & Co .................................... 60,000 

Metz & Stage ____ ". ......................... ........... 80,000 

Doyle Bros. & Co ..................................... 45,000 

Moeller Bros .......................................... 20,000 

K. G-. Schmidt ........................................ 90,000 

Schmidt & Bender ..................................... 25,000 

George Hiller ......................................... 35,000 

Mitivet & Puoptel .................................... 12,000 

John Behringer ...................................... 15,000 

j. Miller ............................................. 8,000 

\Viliiam Bowman ............................ . ......... 5,000 

John Wagner .......... ............................... 5,000 

Total ............ $2,025,000 

The above loss includes, of course, the destruction of ice- 
houses, malt-houses, stables, cooper and blacksmith shops con- 
nected with the establishments, which were utterly reduced to 


Monster store only caught fire at day break. For more than an 
hour and a half several hundred men did all in their power to 
save it from the advancing ocean of flame. The building occu- 
pied an entire block, and from its isolated position, and its sur- 
roundings, being all vast structures of iron and -marble, it was 
hoped that it might be saved. But the buildings on the oppo- 
site sides of the square, burst into furious flames, melting the 
great business blocks as though formed of wax and timber, and 
the heat became like that of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. Then 
the largest dry-goods house in the West had to be left to its 


fate, and the flames were soon rioting among 2,000,000 dollars' 
worth of costly winter stock. 

BANKS &c. 

There is not a single one of these buildings left intact in Chi- 
cago. The bank vaults have, however, resisted the flames with 
success. The principal Telegraph offices were all consumed. 
All the records of deeds and mortgages all the real estate titles, 
have been destroyed. The abstracts of titles in the office of 
Shortale & Hoard, conveyancers, were luckily saved. 


There is not a law-office, or law-library, left in Chicago, nor 
an indictment in existence in the country against anybody, nor 
a judgment, nor a petition in bankruptcy. Duplicate files of im- 
portant cases which the lawyers kept in their offices are like- 
wise destroyed. 


But three Distrilleries remain in running order. The estab- 
lishments owned by Thomas Lynch, Graefft, Roclle & Co., Dick- 
inson, Leech & Co., Keller Distilling Company, Kirchoff and 
Shufeldt's rectifying works were consumed. 


There is no doubt that fuel in Chicago will be dear and scarce 
during the winter. Every coal yard in tlia city caught fire, and 
vast piles laid in for winter were utterly destroyed. The coal 
stock of Rogers & Co., (lower yard), Robert Law, Dyer & Paynes, 
Holbrook, "W. Johnson, Sydacker, Goit & Curtiss, Sweet & Wil- 
liams, Richardson & Pratt Bros. amounting to about 50,000 tons 
of soft coal, and 10,000 of hard coal, insured was totally lost. 
Five considerable winter stores of coal were, however, saved, in- 
cluding Roger & Co.'s upper yards. 


The offices of no less than eighty-five newspapers and periodi- 
cals were consumed. Several dailies reappeared in very small 
size soon after the fire, and since that time many of them have 
attained their former size. The Tribune, Post, Republican, Staats- 
Zeitung, Mail, Times and Journal offices were amo- 1 ^ the finest 
offices destroyed. The Tribune Building was the last to succumb 
to the flames by several hours, indeed it was considered one 


of the most thoroughly fire-proof buildings in Chicago. It was, 
moreover, one of the chief architectural beauties of the city. 
Every partition wall in the whole structure was of brick, the 
-ceilings were of corrugated iron beams. It was erected in 1869, 
at a cost of not less than $225.000, and was seemingly so 
thoroughly secure that the Tribune Company had taken no 
insurance. On the first floor was the fire-proof vault, safes, &c,, 
and the basement contained the engines, with two of Hoe's eight 
cylinder presses, with several folding machines, quantities of 
paper, &c. The building was completely gutted from roof to 
basement, and the loss of contents alone cannot have been less 
than $100,000. The fire-proof vault of the Tribune, however, 
proved perfectly trustworthy, and everything in it, even, a box of 
matches, was found intact. 


The following estimate of losses of city property under the ju- 
risdiction of the Board of Public Works is given by Commis- 
sioner Redmond Prindiville, who has devoted considerable atten- 
tion to the subject. This estimate does not include the school- 
houses, engine-houses and apparatus, police stations, sidewalks, 
&c. The item of sidewalks only referring to those in front of 
city property, together with all street and alley crossings, which 
are constructed by the Board of Public Works. The item of the 
City Hall embraces only the west half of the Court-house, the re- 
mainder being owned by the county. The list is as follows: 

City Hall, including furniture $470,000 

Water Works engines 15,000 

Water Works buildings and tools 20,000 

Hush strret bridge 15,000 

State street bridge 15,000 

Clark street bridge 13,000 

WeUs street bridge 15,000 

Chicago avenue Bridge 26,700 

Adams street bridge. . . . \ 37,800 

Van Buren street bridge 13,470 

Polk street bridge 29,450 

Washington street tunnel 2,000 

La Salle street tunnel .-'. 1,800 

Lamp posts 25,000 

Fire hydrants 15,000 

Street pavements 250,000 

Sidewalks and crossings 70,000 

Reservoirs 15,000 


Docks 10,000 

Sewers ; 10,000 

Water service. 15.000 

Total $1,085,080 

The schooner Stampede and the bark Glenbeaidal, with several 
other crafts, were burned in the river and in the dry dock, and 
two steam fire-engines at least, viz., Long John, and A. C. Cov- 
entry, were destroyed by the flames on the West-side, being caught 
among the burning buildings. 

The walls of the Custom House, the First National Bank, and 
the Tribune building, are yet standing, but it is doubtful whether 
they will be serviceable again. Nearly all the mail matters were 
secured from the Custom House building. Bank safes were ter- 
ribly heated, to such an extent, in fact, that in several instances 
gold was melted into a solid mass, and notes reduced to ashes. 
Several packages of postage stamps, worth about $100,000, pre- 
sented a curious appearance upon being taken from one of the 
safes. The gum-adhesive had become heated and the sheets 
were soldered together into masses as hard as wooden or com- 
position blocks. 


As has been previously mentioned accounts k vary as to the des- 
truction of property in Chicago, estimates varying from 150,000, 
000 to more than double that amount. But certain it is that over 
sixty miles of streets, and more than 20,000 buildings have been 
utterly and completely destroyed. Fifty million feet of lumber 
have been consumed, together with thousands of tons of coal. 
The stock of leather was reduced about one quarter, $95,000 
worth being burnt. 

Cyrus McCormick the manufacturer of the " reaper and mower 
machines," was perhaps the heaviest individual sufferer by the 
fire, losing, independently of insurance, no less than three mil- 
lions. William B. Ogden, who also lost considerable property in 
the great Wisconsin fires, suffered to the amount of two millions. 
Potter Palmer was said to have lost the incredible amount of ten 
millions, and really loses at least a fifth part of that amount. 
John V. Farwell and John Young Scammon lost respectively 
$1,500,000 and $1,000,000. Several other eminent millionaires 
lost similar amounts. 


The city of Chicago must have lost at least five millions in 
public buildings, bridges, destruction to fire-engines, <fcc., none ol 
which property was insured. The loss by damage to street im- 
provements, sidewalks, pavements, &c., falls upon the owners of 
building property. This is probably about the heaviest loss of 

Only about 50,000 people have left the city, leaving it still with 
a population of over 280,000. The shrewdest business meii of 
the West are all confident that in less than five years the com- 
merce and prosperity of Chicago, will be even greater than it had 
been previous to the fire. 

The Methodist Episcopal church lost over $295,000 worth of 
property, insured for about $80,000. Eight school-houses were 
destroyed, the loss on which aggregates $290,000. The churches 
burned on the North-side were the North Presbyterian, West- 
minister Presbyterian, Grace Methodist, Moody's Mission, St. 
Jame's Cathedral of the Holy Name, St. Joseph's, with the Or- 
phan Asylum, and Convent of the Immaculate Conception, St. 
Ausgine's, New England, Unity, Fullerton avenue Presbyterian, 
and one or two other smaller. On the Southern Division the fol- 
lowing were consumed : First and Second Presbyterian, St. Paul, 
Trinity, Swedenborgian, St. Mary's, Wabash avenue Methodist, 
and First Methodist Churches. 

Thousands of valuables, that cannot be replaced, were of course 
consumed. The original Emancipation Proclamation of Lincoln, 
and a statue of that President, being the only one for which he 
ever sat, have been destroyed. Tho losses involved by the des- 
truction of the Court-house are irreparable, and among them 
one of the most important is the destruction of all of Pinkerton's 
Criminal records, &c. 

Allan Pinkerton has long been famous as the. " champion thief- 
catcher" of the States, and his reputation was the result of years 
of patient, succesful toil, and energy. His detective agency was 
as famous as the Boston Common, and besides the central office 
at Chicago, there were branches at New York and Philadelphia. 
This agency was first started in 1852 at Chicago, and two years 
later the famous records were commenced. The most minute de- 
tails of every case were carefully recorded, the statement of the 
applicant seeking for assistance to recover his lost property, the 
names of the detectives employed, his orders, and reports of bis 


operations in a word, every detail of the case, even to the testi- 
mony given in court, and the sentence of the prisoner. More 
than $50,000 had been paid for clerical work alone upon this 
matter, which filled no less than four hundred huge volumes of 
great value. The greater portion of these were placed in six of 
Harris' safes, and some of them in wooden cases. They were 
all burnt. 

Pinkerton had been offered $30,000 by the Goverment for fifty- 
nine large volumes containing complete records of the secret 
service of the Army of the Potomac. They were the only set in 
existence, and valued by their owner at $50,000. Negotiations 
for the transfer of these volumes were still going on when the fire 
broke out and reduced them all to tinder. 

The reports of the night police occupied forty great volumes, 
of enormous value. There were forty-eight patrolmen whose 
duty it was to report everything that had happened on their respec- 
tive beats, as well as the state of the weather and other important 
particulars. They were frequently consulted in court proceed- 
ings for the purpose of obtaining information as regards the 
weather, the condition of the streets, the presence or absence' of 
the moon, and policemen. Only two of these huge volumes were 
saved. There were, likewise, 105 volumes of files of all the daily 
and weekly papers since 1854. Pinkerton had printed instruc- 
tions pasted all around .the walls, ordering the men to remove 
these valuable articles first of all in case of fire, but before they 
could be lowered into the wagon the flames compelled the men 
to flee for their lives. Thus the work of more than twenty years 
was destroyed in about half an hour. 

The Chicago Tribune declared, in an editorial after the fire, 
that there was no necessity for any able-bodied man to leave 
Chicago. This is certainly true. There was and is plenty of 
work for hundreds more at present. Quite a number of merchants 
intend building up their business edifices shortly, and many are 
already in course of erection. 



Calm and still, in her strength and pride: 

The City lay, like a sleeping bride, 

The stars turned pale in the Eastern sky, 

And slipped out of sight, for the morn -was nigh, 

When up through the twilight, cool and grey, 

Burned a ruddier light than the dawning day, 

And a cry rang out on the startled air, 

" The City is burning!" "Burning? Where?" 

" The City is burning! Burning ! There!" 

And swift feet hurried forward and fro, 

And strong hands fought with the awful foe ; 

Fought till the golden banners fell, 

And flames and embers were smothered well. 

All day long had the battle raged, 
All day long had the strife been waged, 
And the weary fireman slept at night, 
Calmly, thinking that all was right. 

Nine o'clock! Ten o'clock! Eleven ! went by, 
And still no cloud stained the clear blue sky; 
But scarce had the clang of the midnight bells 
Been hushed in softly echoing swells, 
When loud their fierce alarm arose, 
And banished every eye's repose. 

Again the city was on fire. 

The red flames sprang like serpents, higher 

From roof to tower, from tower to spire, 

Great golden surges throbbed and beat, 

And rolled and hissed from street to street; 

Stern granite walls, we had builded well, 

In one wild hour to ashes fell, 

And household treasures, cherished long, 

Were swallowed by that dragon strong. 


In anguish, which we may not speak, 
Which dries the tear drop on the cheek, 
And makes all words seem vain and weak; 
We watched that night of horror through, 
Watched till again the dawning grew 
To broader light of perfect day, 
And then beheld our city lay, 
Blackened and shrivelled, ruined, losfc, 
In that stupendous Holocaust. 

We looked into each/others eyes, 
Too dumbly stricken for surprise, 
And said we've but escaped the fire, 
"To starve upon our funeral pyre." 
But when we saw the young, the fair, 
Our helpless loved ones gathered there, 
We raised one piteous wailing cry, 
"Help us, or we shall surely die!" 

From Orient to Occident 
The echo of our anguish went, 
And Occident and Orient 
Made answer as with one intent; 
They gave and gave, and still had more 
To give from Loves' exhaustless store. 

As flowers give perfume sweet and rare, 
Unbidden to the evening air, 
As clouds give raindrops bounteous, 
So did the world give help to us. 
From town and city, far and near, 
Came deeds of kindness, words of cheer, 
And hearts bowed down in sorrow, then, 
In sweet surprise grew strong again. 

For He who walked of old on earth. 

Is with us in this later birth : 

We lost Him in our greed for pelf, 

But to His higher, purer Self, 

He 10ails us through this golden tide, 

And thus our loss is glorified. 

Incidents, Aeeidents,Tragedies, 

and ^Vonderful Kscapes. 


The inquirer for incidents, unless insatiable, is quietly sur- 
feited. Incidents abound : and they comprise a larger variety 
than was ever before known to spring from a single disaster. 
Those of a tragic character unfortunately predominate, in which, 
"sorrow, like an ocean, deep, dark, rough, and shoreless, roll'd 
its billows o'er the souls" of ten thousand hapless victims. Some 
are full of a sad grotesqueness that force an equipoise of tears 
and smiles, but the great volume of woe is appalling. It has 
already crushed many a brave heart, and destroyed many a noble 
intellect. It has written the untimely epitaph of the highest 
worldly hopes and loftiest ambitions of men of enterprise and 
worth, in the several departments of human endeavor, in the 
ashes of their achievements ! 


There is so much material for this chapter of calamity, the 
question at once arises as to what shall be rejected, that it may 
be comprised within reasonable limits. At the best, it will re- 
quire a very stout heart to read, without flinching, what are herein 
set down as verified facts. The great whirlwind of fire was no 
respecter of persons, and did not accomodate its course to any 
of the desires or movements of our people. The sick, the dying 
and the dead, were all in its path, and consumed by its torrid 
breath. Many women, in the pains of childbirth, driven from 
shelter by the flames, were found away out on the prairies, or on 
the shores of the lake, the bleak winds chilling them and extin- 
quishing the new life just ushered into the world. In scores of 
instances, both mother and child were dead, without attendance, 
and unrecognized. With no sympathising friends, no helping 
hand, no eye save God's, to witness their agony and despair, they 
passed to " a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shad- 
ow of death ; without any order, and where the light is darkness." 
It is trebly hard, under such conditions, 

1 ' To feel the hand of death arrest one's steps, 
Throw a chill blight o'er all one's budding hopes, 
And hurl one's soul untimely to the shades, 
Lost in the gaping gulf of black oblivion." 


The daughter of an eminent clergyman gave birth to a child 
during the rush and panic of the wild flight of women and chil- 
dren along the lake shore, and in some inexplicable way was 
separated from her friends, and neither mother nor child have 
been found. 

A well-dressed and apparently intelligent lady, running away 
from the scorching flames, fell down in Adams street, near State. 
It was discovered by those near that she was in the pains of la- 
bor, and an effort made to convey her to a place of safety. She 
had been carried scarcely three squares when she expired in 
great agony. 

A lady was carried out of the Sherman House in the arms of 
her husband, a new born babe clasped to her breast, and both 
died in the arms of the husband and father before reaching a 
place of safety. He was last seen marching along the shore of 
the lake, with the dead woman and child in his arms, shouting, 
laughing, and blaspheming, in all the delirium of grief. He was 
unquestionably burned or drowned. 

The lake shore was a scene of many a blood-curdling tragedy. 
A fine-looking woman of commanding presence, and almost re- 
gal air, was observed wading in the shallow water, holding twin 
babes but a few hours old in her arms. At last she sank upon 
the shore from utter exhaustion, and both mother and children 
died unrecognized and unattended, and two days after were buried 
by the city. 

A well known matron, whose husband was absent from the city 
at the time of the fire, personally superintended the packing and 
securing of most of her valuables, (although in a condition of the 
utmost delicacy regarding physical health), and sent them to a 
place of safety. She then engaged an express wagon, at an enor- 
mous charge, to convey her to the residence of a friend in the 
West ^Division ; but, in consequence of her unusual exertions dur- 
ing the night, the excitement, anxiety, and fatigue, she was attacked 
with labor pains shortly after leaving her residence, and found 
herself compelled to lie down in the wagon. Just after crossing 
Randolph street bridge she gave birth to a living child, but before 
reaching her destination its little life had been .extinguished by 
the chilling blast. The mother, strong and healthy before, is now 
an invalid. 


Among women of the baser sort, who had their dens and 
haunts in Wells, Clark, and other streets in the burned district, 
there were tragedies innumerable, and probably more horrible 
deaths than among people occupying ten times the amount of 
space in other parts of the city. As the flames attacked their 
squalid tenements, they were seen issuing forth scantily clad, 
some almost nude, many in a maudlin stage of intoxication, 
others rubbing their eyes in drowsy stupidity dismayed, weep- 
ing, laughing, cursing and singing. One, somewhat intoxicated, 
carried a young child, which she abandoned before walking a sin- 
gle square ; and it would have been consumed had not a patrol- 
man rescued it. Another carried a bottle, from which she 
quaffed frequent and copious draughts, and, despite the urging 
of her Companions, finally lagged behind, and was left to her 
fate. A young girl in tawdry attire, after emerging from a low 
Wells street hovel that had just ignited, swore she would sooner 
lose her life than her gay new hat, and went back in quest of it. 
She did not return. A painted Jezebel rushed into the glowing 
street from a burning house, just as the roof commenced falling, 
with a large feather-bed in her arms. She was clad in nothing 
but a light wrapper, which the gale swept away from her limbs, 
and, ere she had proceeded many steps the flames seized upon 
it. The bed was also in some way ignited, and in an instant the 
woman was enveloped in a raging bonfire. People hastened to 
her rescue, but she had inhaled the intense caloric into a stom- 
ach already heated with alcohol, and fell dead before one could 
reach her. A poor depraved creature sat in an attic window 
of a large building in Clark street, chattering, singing, and laugh- 
ing, while the flames were raging through every part of the struc- 
ture, even in the room she occupied. She shouted obscene epi 
thets, and snatches of erotic songs to the people below, hurrahed 
for the fire and cursed everything else ; and, finally, as the huge 
walls commenced swaying forward and back, she laughed hide- 
ously, ending in a shriek like the yell of a hyena, as the im- 
mense pile of brick and mortar came thundering to the ground, 
burying her beneath its tremendous weight. A great x number 
of this class of women were overtaken in the slumber of intoxi- 
cation, smothered and roasted without consciousness of the 
calamity ; while others, tired of life, made no exertion to save 
themselves, and perished in various ways. 


Who can realize the excruciating anguish of such a moment? 

Physicians testify that not less than eight hundred cases of 
premature birth have already been made known, and most of 
them involve instances of suffering that no strength of language 
can adequately describe. The poor women, away from their 
natural protectors, with no friends at hand, and without even 
the commonest attention from strangers, so absorbed was every 
one in the immediate danger to life and property, were left, in 
all their helplessness, to encounter the most critical period in 
their lives rendered a thousand fold more momentous by the 
appalling character af their surroundings. 


A family was just rushing from their smoking residence, that 
flie fire had only that moment attacked, when the wife< said to 
her husband. 

" You have the baby, Charles?" 

"No ; I thought you took him." 

" Mary has him, then?" 

" Oh, no mem ; I brought the silver." 

The babe is still in the house, and the father rushes back to 
save him. The half-distracted mother, supported by the faith- 
ful servant, awaits his return in an agony of fear. The roof is 
on fire, and the flames are just bursting from the upper windows, 
when he appears with the precious bundle. 

" I wrapped him closely, so he would not inhale the smoke." 

" Is he asleep ?" 

" Yes ; very soundly." 

" Let's hurry along to a safer place and unwrap his face or he 
will smother." 

"When a little remote from the raging flames and blinding 
smoke, they undid the carefully guarded parcel, and found 
within nothing but a large pillow ! The child had been left to 
the flames. The mother understood her great bereavement on 
the instant, then her mind darkened, and she is hopelessly a 


A prominent business man returned from a trip to New York 
on the second day after the fire, He had been enabled to obtain 
no particulars regarding his own personal disaster, and the oc- 


cular demonstration of the ruin, of his home and warehouses 
proceeded all verbal intimation of the facts. Of his elegant res- 
idence nothing was left but the smoking stones of the founda- 
tion, and a few warped iron pillars marked the spot where he had 
left a commodious and well-filled business house. He inquired 
for his family. Nobody could furnish the desired information. 
His brother had lived in another part of the city, and he con- 
cluded they must be there. He went to see, but found only the 
ruins of the household shrines. A cousin living two miles in an- 
other direction must have furnished them refuge, but, on search- 
ing that locality, he discovered the fire fiend had not spared him 
even this hope, and his investigation from that time forth was di- 
rected to a general search, and advertisements in the newspa- 
pers, but, up to the moment of this writing, without result. Nd 
tidings whatever from his wife and children, none from his 
brother, none from the cousin ; and the poor man is now driven 
to the belief that all were utterly destroyed ! 


A bright little fellow, only eleven years of age, was the hero of 
the following incident: His parents moved from New York to 
Chicago abouts two months before the fire. Here the father 
started in the merchant tailoring business, and was getting along 
comfortably. They lived on Randolph street, and when they 
retired to bed on the second night of the conflagration, there was 
no fear entertained by the people of that locality that the flames 
would reach them. The little fellow, who gives his name as 
George Howard, says he was aroused from his sleep by the heat, 
and when he opened his eyes found their building on fire, and the 
windows already in flames. He jumped up, awakened his father, 
and mother, and told them of the danger. The heat at this time 
was intense, and George managed to save himself by jumping 
through one of the burning windows, which was in the second 
story, down to the pavement below. There he waited, expecting 
his father and mother would also escape by jumping from the win- 
dows ; but he waited in vain. In less time almost than it takes 
to relate it, the building was a crumbling mass, and roof, walls, 
partitions, and furniture, all went blazing together into the cellars. 
He states that next morning he made search, and found the bones 
of his father and mother beneath the ruins. 



The great uncertainty regarding the fate of friends, for several 
days succeeding the fire, and the absence of any thoroughly or- 
ganized effort to trace those who were missing, occasioned untold 
anxiety, and in several instances resulted in the most terrible 
misapprehensions. A young gentlemen telegraphed to relatives 
in Syracuse as follows : 

" I am safe, but father cannot be found. He was probably 
asleep, and burned to death. " FRED." 

In less than two hours after" the receipt of the above, the par- 
ties in Syracuse were astounded by this dispatch from the father : 

" Everything burned, and FRED is missing. Havn't seen him 
since the general alarm, and fear the worst. " B. J. F." 

Father and son were at once informed by return messages, of 
the safety of each other, and were soon reunited. 


There never was a happier re-union of people who had been 
given up as lost by their friends, than that which occured at one 
of the relief " headquarters" on Thursday succeeding the calam- 
ity. A well known gentleman was relating to sympthising friends 
that, in his desire to save his cash box, which contained bonds 
and money for a large sum, he had been neglectful, for the mo- 
ment, of the safety of his wife and children, that he lost sight of 
them in the great rush of flying, panic-stricken citizens, and that 
they were either burned or trampled to death. Pausing a mo- 
ment in the narration, he overheard the sound of a familiar 
voice in an adjoining room, and springing to his feet, he rushed 
through the door: 

"My dear wife!" 

" O, my husband !" 

were the ejaculations that reached the ears of those within hear- 
ing. The wife was there accompanied by the children, and was 
relating to some acquaintances the circumstances attending the 
loss of her husband and all their property. She was about to 
apply for the relief of absolute necessities in the way of food and 
raiment, when she was interrupted by the entrance of her com- 
panion alive and well. They were at once clasped in each other's 
arms, and stood there silent, overcome, in an eloquence of joy 
that could find no expression in words. The children there 


were three laughed, cried and shouted, and at last the oldest, a 
fine boy of twelve, gave vent to his feelings in words that have 
since become historic : "Bully for father ! the fire could'nt burn 
him /" An expression, at once so vigorous and original, broke 
the spell, and everybody returned to the realities of the occasion. 
The family were all there ; they had saved enough to insure com- 
fort; and the benevolent German who gave refuge to the wife 
and children in his poor cottage during the hour of peril, and di- 
vided with them his frugal loaf, now rejoices in the addition of a 
$1,000 government bond to his worldly possessions. 


A Chicago matron, on a visit to some friends in Massachusetts, 
addressed several telegraphic messages to her husband during 
the three or four days succeeding the fire, and received no reply. 
She telegraphed to acquaintances with the same result. Con- 
cluding her family had met with disaster, perhaps death, she re- 
solved to return and ascertain the facts. The husband had at- 
tempted to send a message to his wife, but could not get it 
through. There were no mails even, and he therefore took* a 
train, for the purpose of assuring her of the safety of hifnself 
and family by his personal presence, on Wednesday of the ter- 
rible week of darkness. The wife started a day later. Reach- 
ing Albany she was partaking of a lunch in the railroad restaur- 
ant when some one tapped her on the shoulder and inquired, 
" What are you doing here ?" She turned and beheld her hus- 
band ; and her gloomy forebodings gave place to rejoicing. They 
returned to Chicago with all speed, to assist, relieve and encour- 
age their less fortunate neighbors. 

It was the afternoon of that dreadful Monday, that Chicago 
people can never think of without a shudder.. The ladies of our 
block had sat out on their stone steps since two o'clock of the 
previous morning, with black faces, uncombed hair, and red, 
bleared eyes, gazing with hearts of lead at the roaring, rushing 
fire-fiend that was devouring the homes of our friends on the 
North Side. There was no water, the Mayor had ordered us to 
have no fires. One energetic Yankee lady proposed sendiijg six 
miles to an artesian well to get water to go on with her house 
cleaning, for, she said, " she would have to pay the woman she 
had hired any way." 



Thousands of children were running in every direction, scream- 
ing, crying, and beseeching the people they met to find their 
parents or friends ; many were in their night dresses, with bare 
feet, scratched, burned and bleeding, heads uncovered, and long 
hair streaming in the wind. A gentleman reports that he saw 
one little girl whose great wealth of loose golden hair had 
caught fire, and she was running and screaming in sore affright. 
As she passed the place where he stood, some thoughtless per- 
son threw a glass of whisky upon her, with the evident inten- 
tion of quenching the flame. It of course had the contrary ef- 
fect, and flared up at once, covering her from head to foot with a 
blue blaze. She was burned to death almost on the instant. 

Several people were severely injured, and some killed out- 
right, during their flight through the streets, by the bricks, 
stones, cornices, etc., from the falling buildings. One man, carry- 
ing a child in his arms, and leading another by the hand, was 
struck on the head by a stone, which crushed his skull, and 
scattered his brains over the little ones. The horrified mothei 
uttered a heart-rending shriek, gave one look of % unutterable an- 
guish at her dead companion, then seized the children and hur- 
ried away. , 

A newspaper reporter writes that he saw a woman kneeling 
in the street, with a crucifix held up before her, and the skirt of 
her dress burning while she prayed. She appeared to be utterly 
absorbed in her devotions, and regardless of danger. While the 
reporter was looking at her, a run-away team attached to a truck 
dashed her to the ground, and she was left torn and mangled. 

A great many occupants of tenement-houses were burned to 
death. They are a class of people that are helpless in a panic, 
and proved to be no exception on that terrible Sunday night. 
One woman in a tenement-house on Wells street was awakened 
by the heat and smoke, and ran to a window for air, but either 
fainted or was smothered, and fell across the window-sill, where 
she lay, and was burned with the building. 

On the battlements of one of the high blocks in Randolph 
street a man was seen standing and wildly gesticulating, with 
the terrible flames raging and roaring through all the apart- 


inents beneath, and escape entirely cut off. All who saw him 
knew that he was doomed to a terrible death, for rescue was out 
of the question. Still he gesticulated, pointed in various direc- 
tions, and was evidently trying to make the people understand 
some plan of relief that he thought feasible, but his voice was 
drowned in the tremendous roar of wind and name, and no one 
moved to attempt what everybody knew would prove utterly re- 
sultless for good. At length the great Avails became unsteady, 
swerved for a moment in mid air, and then came down with a 
crash and weight that shook the very ground, and the life of him 
who a moment before had stood there imploring help was 
crushed out in the glowing furnace of destruction. . 

A similar incident is reported of two men on the top of ar- 
mour's block, who found themselves completely environed by 
the flames. They tested the full strength of their lungs in use- 
less shouts, threw up their hands, pointed hither and thither, ran 
to and fro, and finally seemed intent on plunging headlong to the 
pavement. It was impossible to reach them, but at length they 
stood on the parapet at the back part of the building, whence 
the roof of an adjoining structure, some thirty feet below, 
seemed to offer means of escape. The flames were eagerly 
pressing upon them, giving but little time for consideration, and 
so, hand in hand, they jumped. It was a fearful leap and badly 
calculated. They came down with a terrible crash, were badly 
bruised, and lay senseless and bleeding until rescued by their 

A gentlemen, rushing past a drug store at the top of his speed, 
was suddenly overwhelmed by the explosion of some combustible 
stuff, and deluged with liquid flame. Death was instantaneous. 


A number of Irish families took refuge beneath the sheds of a 
brick-yard. They had saved nothing, not even a quilt. Not a 
cent of money to buy even a roll, even had there been a roll to 
buy. One poor woman, who, with her young daughter, was sit- 
ting disconsolate, their backs against a pile of bricks, alone seemed 
disposed to communicate her bereavements. The girl's hands 
were burnt and blackened, and the mother had wrapped them in 
some dirty rags she picked up in the street, and there the poor 
creatures sat in drear desolation, although surrounded by fifty 


persons similarly situated. The mother's eyes were red and 
swollen from heat and smoke, yet", in the face of all their woe, 
she answered cheerfully when addressed. Their great calamity 
was the loss of the husband and father. " Patrick and meself," 
said she ; " beat off the flames as long as we could, and poor Mary 
here, she worked as hard as any of us ; but it was of no use. So 
true as I tell you, the flames came upon us quicker than a railroad 
train, and meself and Mary started out Division street, and Pat- 
rick, poor man, went into the house to get a few dollars he had 
saved from working on the docks, and, and I never saw him any 
more. Oh, dear, oh, oh !" And as the full measure of their griefs 
burst with full force upon their hearts, they fell to sobbing and 
bemoaning their loss. 


" Clear the way there, below !" shouted a gentlemen from a 
fourth story window of a large building in State street. The 
crowd opened right and left, and stood with bated breath await- 
ing the catastrophe. 

" He dare not jump," said one. 

" If he does he's a dead man," remarked another. 

" I am coming !" shouted the individual aloft. 

And then, swift as an arrow, people saw a dark object shoot 
downwards through the sparks and smoke and flashes of light, 
down to the earth. The dull thud of the concussion was imme- 
diately followed by the exclamation: 

"All right!" 

And it was discovered that he had alighted in a large pile of bed- 
ding, escaping without a bruise, and scarcely a momentary incon- 


The coroner's office and morgue were the saddest and most 
forbidding places in the city, two days after the fire. The roasted 
bodies of men, women, and children, unrecognized and unknown, 
were piled one upon the other, awaiting the visits of those who 
should claim them and perform the rites of Christian sepulchre. 
There were many visits of those whose relatives were missing, 
and occasionally an expression of the belief that one of the black- 
ened bodies might be that of a husband, father, wife, brother, 
sister, or dear friend, but the clues were very faint, generally im- 



probable, and in nearly every case abandoned on closer investi- 
gation. More than two hundred of these bodies were unrecog- 
nized, and finely buried by the city ; and it is estimated that 
bones and other evidences of human remains, representing at 
least four hundred and fifty persons, in addition to the two hun- 
dred, were found among the ruins. It is probably safe to estimate 
that not less than twelve hundred people lost their lives in the 
Chicago calamity, in one way or another, and it is known that 
the list of the missing over-runs this aggregate. Where, in the 
whole history of human disaster, can we find a more agonizing 
record ? 


At the far end of the room was a partitioned space lighted by 
dirty cobwebbed windows, and on the floor, arranged in rows, 
first all around three sides and then down the middle, were the 
charred remains of seventy human beings. 

The first noticeable object in this dreadful company was the 
form of a Sister of some Roman Catholic Order, completely 
shrouded in her brown habit with the cross and I. H. S. in white 
letters stitched on the bosom. The face was thickly veiled and 
even the feet carefully covered up. " She was smothered, but 
not burned," observed the grim master of ceremonies. 

The next was the body of a young man partially clad in com- 
mon workingmen's attire. The hair was completely burned 
off his head and body ; the features were blackened and dis- 
torted with pain; the swollen lips were wide apart, disclosing 
the glistening teeth, and imparting a horrid grin, such only as 
agonizing death can stamp upon the face. The flesh was bloated 
to an astonishing size. The poor wretch was roasted alive. What 
is the use now of giving 'utterance to the passing thought as these 
two corpses the only two whose faces could be recognized met 
the gaze ? Let it pass. 

There was one charred form in the attitude of prayer the 
form of a woman, but every feature of the face, every graceful 
line of the body was gone. The head was nothing but a black 
lump ; the body a blackened, hideous shape. 

Some bodies of men could be distinguished by the remnants of 
clothing and boots, but nearly all traces of humanity were gone. 
Then there were remains of children and young people ; but they, 


with the majority, were nothing more than mere blackened, char- 
red torsos. Those whose limbs or arms remained, exhibited a 
supplicatory attitude, as if begging mercy of the destroyer. 

To this ghastly, hideous, and melancholy spectacle, weue admited 
in little parties of four or five at a time, those who had friends or 
relatives missing, but no language can describe the scenes of 
heart-rendering agony which these grim visits elicited. 

A family of little children, led by an elder sister, comes, and 
after the first sickening shock tries to distinguish her mother. 
A frantic wife, attended by a friend, comes in search of her unre- 
turning husband. Brothers seek sisters lost, and sisters their 
brothers gone ; but who can tell in that undistinguishable char- 
nel, what home the living being made happy. All personal iden- 
tification was gone with the obliterating fire, and nothing was left 
but ashes. But perhaps the bitter disappointment at not finding, 
or rather recognizing the lost one was worse than if there and then 
had ended the fearful search. Heart-bursting sobs, hysterical 
exclamations, and unutterable waitings, rent the air as the disap- 
pointed sad ones turned away from the sickening scene. 

But besides the bodies burned to a crisp, the impoverished mor- 
gue had other horrors to reveal. On the near side of the par- 
titioned space lay half a dozen tenanted coffins pauper's cof- 
fins of unpainted pine, with the bodies laid in without any 
preparatory equipment for the grave, not even the common com- 
posure of the arms and limbs, the closing of the eyes, and the 
washing of the features. In one the visitor was shown the 
corpse of the man shot through the head and hung to the lamp 
post a dreadful warning to incendiaries, In another lay the 
body of a man with a bayonet stab through the body by whom 
stabbed no one knew. In another was squeezed the body of a 
German tailor, well known in the neighborhood, who had lost his 
all by the fire, and acting upon the cowardly principle senti- 
mentally inculcated by Goethe in " The Sorrows of Werther," 
committed suicide rather than bravely live out his allotted time. 
He had first opened a vein in his arm and then cut his throat 
from ear to ear with a razor. His hands, face and clothes were 
smeared with gore, and a more ghastly and sickening spectacle 
than that coffin presented could hardly be found. There, shut 
it up 'forever and shut out the sight from our eyes if we can, 
and leave the horrid place, never, never, to return. 


MURAT HALSTEAD, ESQ., the well-known and accomplished 
editor of the Cincinnati Commercial, visited our city in the last 
days of October, and wrote his impressions of " Chicago three 
\vtreks after the fire." As the testimony of a close observer of 
men, things and ruins, and of one who is wholly disinterested, 
his letter is of more than ordinary value, and is inserted here 
that we may avail ourselves of the most convenient opportunity 
of being seen as others see us : 

All speak of the appalling roar of the conflagration, fanned 
by a hurricane, and the tremendous power of the mass of flame 
before which the tall business houses wi thered and collapsed. 
The heat was so dreadful, and the force of the wind so great, that 
the serpents of fire pierced walls like lightning. The sky was 
lurid. The heavens seemed to be filled with fiery billows, and 
an awful volume of densely black smoke rolled away with fright- 
ful rapidity and the majesty of a gigantic thunder cloud. " You 
have seen a violent hail storm," said one, " imagine the hail to 
be all fire and you have the shower of sparks." The tempest 
beat upon the roofs far in advance of the torrent of flame. The 
air was filled with blazing shingles, and boards several feet in 
length were whirled aloft and flung in advance, while fragments 
of composition roofs made infernal fire brands, and hissed with 
fierce combustion as they flew. Before such a storm as this any 
city in the world would have perished, and if Chicago had exten- 
ded forty miles in the direction of the wind it would have been 
swept throughout. 

Every one has some strange experience to relate. The wife 
of one of the fir^t citizens of Chicago a man of great wealth, 
and whoso home was famed for a genial hospitality was sepa- 
rated from her husband, and, with two small children, driven into 
the edge of the lake, and crouched shivering in the shallow 
water for hours, when she ventured upon the land again, and 
walked six miles to the house of a friend. The daughter and 
only child of a prominent gentleman, who had one of the hand- 
somest residences in Chicago, and was well able to enjoy it, was 
obliged to take her place, with a basket on her arm, in a line of 
sufferers seeking food, and there was recognized by a ruffian and 
thrust out of the line with an oath and exclamation of joy that 
she was " on the same level with the rest of us now." A resolute 
business man, believing, for an hour or two before his store was 
swept away, that the fire was uncontrollable, succeeded in remov- 
ing a quantity of valuable goods to the lake shore. When the 
fiery hail descended there, he found a tub, which he placed on 
his head, and remained brushing the embers from a lot of goods, 


and wetting them ; and, when the danger was over, he had the 
satisfaction of ascertaining that he had protected, with despe- 
rate energy, and at the risk of his life, the property of another. 
His pile unguarded was consumed. While the black smoke was 
still ascending, and the streets were yet hot, and the wind swept 
through the ruins, with the breath and dust of a Sahara sirocco, 
a business man made his way to the ruins of the Court-house, 
and there he declared he saw flying across the square a white 
owl. He is not an imaginative or superstitious person, but most 
literal and exact in his statements, but he confesses to have been 
slightly disturbed to see an, owl just then. It had an uncanny 
look, even to a prosaic person. The great bell of the city was 
in the Court-house, and the 'noise that it made in falling was 
heard through all the uproar by almost everybody. As the fire 
became irresistible the great bell was sounded incessantly to 
warn all hearers of the peril that beset them. The clamor 
ceased as the fire took possession of the Court-house, and then 
the long reverberation of the bell as it tumbled crashing down 
the tower, and the great, dull, far resounding throb that it gave 
when it struck the earth, seemed to the maddened fugitives, 
driven before the flames, something superhuman a voice calling 
that all was lost. 

There is an exaggerated impression abroad about the annihi- 
lation of the buildings in the burnt district. It is not true, as 
some graphic .writers have related, that the bricks were burnt to 
ashes and blown into the lake. There are millions upon millions 
of brick that will do very well to go into the walls again. It is 
stated that where they were exposed to the greatest heat they 
shrank and lost weight, and that sometimes the corners crumble 
from them easily. I do not know how that is, as I did not see 
any of them weighed or crumble. Then there are ruins that are 
inexpressibly picturesque. Some of the stone-fronts standing 
blasted and scathed by the flames, have the appearance of ex- 
treme antiquity. Bayard Taylor said of one of these scarred 
fronts, " It looks like the marble of Grecian temples two thou- 
sand years old." The stone roasted to lime, and beaten by the 
rain, had in three weeks acquired an imposing venerableness, 
and in this, the newest of the great cities, there seemed to appear 
the august imprint of the ages. The churches, which, with the 
breweries, are conspicuous by the towering fragments that attest 
their former safety proportions, present the most startling ef- 
fects. Many of the Chicago churches were very beautiful, and 
in ruins several of them are so remarkable that it is a pity not to 
preserve them, as they are the most impressive memorials of a 
memorable event. The roofs are iitterly gone, the walls broken, 
the steeples shattered, upholding tottering pinacles ; the great 
arches through which the congregations walked, shivered in part 
and fallen ip massive fragments upon the stately steps, yet span- 


ning grandly the space between double towers. There is ono 
that is a striking suggestion of Melrose Abbey seen through 
the dust, or the mist, or in the moonlight it has a weird IOOK, 
and it seems that only the assopiations of centuries would be 
appropriate. One misses though, the clinging ivy and the groups 
of tombs of the Knights and Kings of the chrvalric ages. Some 
tall arches cling together, strangely upheld to a great height in 
the center of the business quarter, and suggest a section of the 
Colosseum. The completest destruction is where there was the 
most use made of iron in building. Field & Leiter's immense 
dry goods house, supported all around on iron columns, is ut- 
terly gone into the cellar, where there is a large display of the 
massive iron-work, in which there was so much confidence be- 
fore the hour of trial proved its frailty. 

The business men burned out have signs on the sights of their 
old establishments, telling where they are to be seen. There 
are thousands of these, and they would be more useful if it were 
not almost impossible for persons not intimately acquainted with 
the city as it was, to find the old places. There is an astound- 
ing bewilderment. A friend told me he had more than once 
passed the ruins of his own residence without knowing it. On 
the West Side, and the South, private residences are appropri- 
ated for business purposes, and it is a reminder of peculiar times 
to see bank and real estate and insurance office signs, painted in 
black on a rough board, and nailed at a parlor window. I 
noticed the name of C. H. McCormick, the millionaire manufac- 
turer of reapers, on a board, sticking from the second story win- 
dow of a modest house ; and a stake, driven into a pile of bricks 
near the court-house, supports a sign that tells where he can be 
found. On Lake Park there are some hundreds of frames already 
up, and carpenters are within hammering away at rough coun- 
ters and shelving, and the merchant princes of other days have 
then: firm names already well displayed, by the aid of marking 
brushes, over their doors. It would look curious to see the 
names of our most flourishing Fourth and Pearl street merchants, 
on shanties of fresh boards on the landing, and in Washington 
and Lincoln Parks, but such instances of observation are com- 
mon-place in Chicago. 

The Chicago men of affairs are full of courage. They meet 
each other with uplifted faces and talk resolutely of " beginning 
again ;" of their ability to " do it over again and more too ;" of 
their determination to have " fire-proof houses next time " beyond 
doubt. They are against stone veneering and iron pillars and 
braces, and have confidence in honest brick work. They will 
not build so loftily, and will make room for heavy walls. The 
Chicago of the future will be a city of bricks, and more sober in 
character, as well as substantial in construction, than the city of 
the past. 


The faces among Chicago men that were known to me were 
strongly marked with the excitements and fatigues through which 
they have passed. Amid the ruins, looking at the laborers re- 
moving the debris, were sad faces, and some of those who wear 
brave countenances before the public, and even jest at their own 
misfortunes, are badly hurt indeed ; and resolute as they may be, 
will never " do it again," though they take up the hard, long task, 
ever so hopefully. The catastrophe represented in the vast 
sweep of ruins grows as it is understood, and many a brave Jife 
will go out in the work of restoration. 

While three-fourths of tjie business houses of the city were 
destroyed, but one-fourth of the city, estimated by the number 
of inhabitants on the ground, was burned. In the streets of the 
West Side, especially, there is a concentration of business that 
makes an immense stir. Throngs of hurried, anxious men are 
on the sidewalks, and omnibuses, drays and wagons crowd the 
streets. The bridges are inadequate. Whenever one of them is 
swung aside to admit the passage of a vessel, there is a proces- 
sion formed on each side, of those in hot haste, and the confu- 
sion is dire. The tunnels ring with rapid hoofs incessantly. 
The manifestations of the excellent and unbroken vitality of the 
city, and of the unquenchable faith of her people in a future 
that shall be filled with a splendor surpassing the past, are plain 
on all sides. 


A boarder at the Mallory House, on the west side, who had 
watched through the night of Saturday with a sick friend, and 
therefore slept soundly, was rudely awakened at about 4 o'clock 
Monday morning by a heavy rumbling sound, and shaking of 
the house, that induced apprehensions in his mind of an earth- 
quake. Opening his eyes, he found his room alight with a red 
glare that startled him from the bed, and he rushed to a window. 
He was spell-bound by the hideous night-mare of destruction, 
and gazed upon it as upon the head of Medusa. Another crash- 
ing detonation recalled him to the realities of the occasion, and, 
hastily dressing, he descended to the office, then filled with anx- 
ious, unhoused citizens, made his way to the desk and interroga- 
ted the clerk. The reply that Chicago was " two-thirds burnt 
and no hope for the balance," smote him like a blow from a ra- 
pier, for theout look at that moment appeared to confirm the 
report, and to reproach him with the gross lapse of duty of hav- 
ing slept through all those long, terrible hours, that threathened 
the existence of the great city. But now the resolve was strong 


and instantaneous he would do everything in his power to atone 
for the dereliction. 

lie describes his feelings at the moment as " reckless," involv- 
ing a total disregard of personal safety, and a full determination 
to assist in saving life and .property, wherever opportunity might 
present, without regard to consequences to himself. He made 
his way across Eandolph street bridge, to the South Side, just 
as the flames had reached their sublimest altitude in Wabash 
and Michigan Avenues, and supposing his services might be 
made available in that locality, he was soon on the ground. The 
scene was of the wildest confusion. From stately mansions peo- 
ple were flying with the extremest alarm from some, goods and 
furniture were issuing in great parcels, as they were thrown from 
doors* and windows, pell-mell into the streets, wher.e many caught 
fire almost as soon as landed, and were consumed, from some, 
the valuables were loaded into vehicles and driven rapidly away. 
Our friend ran into a house, apparently deserted and already 
blazing on one side, in the hope that he might still save a por- 
tion of its con-tents. The smoke within was thick and strangling, 
but he pushed forward. Entering a sitting room, he was greeted 
with the sullen growl of a dog, and was about to retreat, when 
he descried a woman sitting near the grate, from which a slight 
blaze flickered, fast asleep in her chair. He shouted at the top 
of his voice, 

" Wake up ! wake up ! Your house is burning, and you must 
get Out quick to save your life." 

" Has the fire really turned this way ? Where is my husband? 
Where are the servants?" 

" Is your husband in the house ?" 

" He went to the fire about midnight" 

" And hasn't returned, of course. I will assist you and then 
look for the servants ; but there is not a moment to spare." 

To his great surprise she took a young baby from a cradle 
standing near, and began leisurely to dress it. 

" This won't do at all," said he. " Take the child's clothing 
on your arm, and dress it when you reach a place of safety. You 
must go now." 

The falling timbers and a great puff of black smoke through 
the carpet beneath their feet, gave emphasis to his words, and 
the woman seized the child and some articles of apparel and 
hastened to the street. 


He then, accompanied by the dog, who appeared to compre- 
hend the exigencies of the occasion, ran to the upper stories of 
the house and examined all the rooms, but found no one. See- 
ing several articles of value, he concluded to save those which 
he thought the family would prize most, and gathering as many 
as he could carry, descended the stairs with the flames playing 
around him from the burning hall. 

Just as he reached the pavement once more, a well-dressed 
gentleman (?) ran up and accosted him : 

' What are you doing, sir ?" 
" Trying to save something from this burning house." 

" Trying to steal something, would be nearer the truth. That 
is my house, sir. Hand me the articles." 

" Come with .me to your wife, and she will acquit me of any 
unworthy design. Had I not entered your house, the chances 
are that she would not be alive at this moment." 

" Hum ! - Well, let me place these things where they will be 
safe, and then we'll see what madam has to say." 

He took them and disappeared around a corner. Our friend 
waited, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, and then went to seek the 
lady. He walked nearly three squares, and found her seated 
upon a trunk in the street, with a gentleman attending her. 

"Your servants had all left the house. I examined every 
room, and did not find a living soul; but there were some arti- 
cles of value which I brought away, and, meeting your husband 
at the door, delivered them into his hands." 

"My husband? Why, this is my husband! He has just 
found me." 

And the other was a confidence man, plying his wonderful vo- 
cation. The trick was evident enough, but the real husband was 
too thankful for the safety of wife and child to regret the loss of 
anything else, and he expressed gratitude in no measured terms. 

There was no time for ceremony, certainly, with those who 
wished to save life or substance, and our friend was encouraged 
by the success of the first exploit to continue his exertions. It 
was quite daylight, but the heavy smoke hanging over city and 
lake filled all the atmosphere with a gloomy haze that proved ex- 
tremely dispiriting, especially in combination with the desola- 
tion everywhere apparent ; but he aroused his energies and re- 
turned to the burning houses. A building from which the fire 


issued in great wreaths was attracting the attention of quite a 
crowd of men, who were gazing upon it as if in momentary ex- 
pectation of something to which they attached unusual interest. 
He made inquiries, and learned that a man was seen rushing in 
at the door but a few moments previous, and they were looking 
for his return. 

" Perhaps he has smothered." 

" He's a dead man if he stays two minutes longer." 

" Probably dead already." 

"Who'll go with me and find him ?" asked our hero. 

" I will," replied a little fellow, a mere boy, and, as subsequently 
ascertained, a boot-black. 

" Well, take one of these," (suiting the action to the word by 
seizing two heavy blankets from a pile of " plunder" near by, in 
one of which he enveloped himself, and told the little feUow to 
do the same), " and now come on." 

The crowd expostulated, but they did not wait for words. In- 
side the building they found it much worse than anticipated, 
the first floor burned through in several places, and the smoke 
thick and blinding, rendering their progress extremely danger- 

" We must move qnickly if we would do any good and escape 
with life. Follow me'and jump ;" and our hero, exerting all his 
strength, made a tremendous leap through the fire, but the dis- 
tance was miscalculated, for he alighted upon a section of the 
charred floor, which gave way like so much paper, and he was 
precipitated to the cellar beneath, and into a large cistern filled 
with water. Disengaging himself from the blanket, he managed 
to get out and drag it after him, but only to find that he was en- 
vironed by fire on every side, as well as overhead ! Fire every- 
where ! His companion either did not follow or had met with 
better luck in going "through the flames and beyond," for he was 
alone, and oppressed by the most terrible loneliness he ever ex- 
perienced. The roar of the flames was terrific, and soon the 
walls of the building must fall and bury him in the great tomb 
of the conflagration. He could see no help for it. 

He was kept busy in efforts to avoid the falling embers, and 
retreated before the advancing flames to another cellar, and still 
to another, when he came to a door that was securely barred on 
the opposite side. It resisted all his efforts to open it, and he 


found himself completely hemmed in by the fire behind, which 
was following him certainly to his death. There is a great rum- 
bling, a crash, and the ground shakes with the concussion of the 
falling walls. Within ten feet of where he stands, there is a fear- 
ful pile of smoking brick, from which the heat is so intense as to 
scorch his damp clothing, and the atmosphere is impregnated 
with a gas that chokes his lungs and checks respiration. An- 
other rumbling and a terrific crash right over his head. He looks 
up for his doom, and finds, a strongly vaulted arch overhead, 
which resists the concussion but to what purpose for him? Bet- 
ter be crushed at once than suffer the lingering death of slow 
combustion. The third crash, and the most fearful, follows 
quickly the barred door flies from its hinges and beyond he 
sees a basement kitchen almost untouched by the flames, and 
quite open to his egress, for the rear wall has fallen outward. 
The flames are playing wildly through the back yard, consum- 
ing fences and outbuildings, and the prospect is still poor for his 
escape. He espies two coal scuttles in the room, one nearly 
filled with ashes. Scarcely knowing what he did, he emptied a 
portion of the ashes into the other scuttle, and placing an arm 
through the handles, made his way to the yard. Here the 
ground was thickly strewn with the glowing bricks and flaming 
embers, over which he must pass, or perish*. Wrapping the still 
wet blanket closely about him, he placed a foot in each of the 
scuttles among the ashes, seizing the handles, and thus uniquely 
shod, commenced his tiresome journey through the ruins. 

This journey, as related to us, involves a longer story, in ah 1 
its details, than we can find space for, although of absorbing in- 
terest. He did not readily find his way out of the place of dan- 
ger, for obstacles intervened on every side in the shape of burn- 
ing debris. Where he found openings that seemed to promise 
relief they led to greater dangers beyond, and finally the awk- 
ward mode of locomotion, the stooping and constrained posi- 
tion, the terrible heat and previous fatigue and excitement, over- 
came him so much that he gave up in despair, and determined to 
await the issue without further effort to save himself. Bringing 
the scuttles close together in an open space, he managed to re- 
cline upon them in a half sitting posture, and was obtaining a 
little rest in this way when by some means the blanket around 
caught fire, and was so for under way when discovered that he 


was obliged to cast it from him. Then the heat affected him ter- 
ribly, and he made another effort for release. Walls were fall- 
ing in every direction, and now, scarcely a hundred feet from his 
position, he saw one coming to the ground about which there 
was little indication of heat. Thither he made his way, and, 
after reconnoitering the situation, concluded to risk a run to the 
street without the aid of the scuttles. But he repented it bitterly 
before the street was gained. The bricks were still very hot, and 
not only burnt his boots to a crisp, but burnt his stockings com- 
pletely off, and then took the skin as clean from the flesh as it 
could be done by the most scientific flaying ! As he reached the 
street he fell fainting upon the pavement, but was promptly re- 
moved to a hospital, where for several weeks he was tenderly 
nursed .by kind friends, with the plucky little boot-black as a con- 
stant attendant. As we conclude the notes of this incident, he 
stands at our side, leaning upon his crutches, a cripple for life. 



[We have made some slight verbal changes in the following 
narrative, but none to affect the facts therein detailed]. 

I went to my room early on Sunday evening, for I was very 
tired and sleepy, having helped the firemen on Saturday night. 
John Wilson, a Scotchman, had also been at the scene of the 
previous night's conflagration, and, being room-mates, we retired 
about the same time to our room on North- Wells street. 

About nine o'clock I was aroused by the fire-bells. John 
leaped out of bed to look at his card, and said that the alarm 
was from DeKoven and Clinton streets. We both agreed it was 
too far to go, particularly as we were quite " played out " with 
fatigue, and we droped asleep very soon ; John, indeed, was 
snoring five minutes later, and there was this peculiarity about 
John, that when he was once sound asleep, you might fire off a 
cannon close to his ear without awaking him. 

Sometimes when we sleep external sounds affect us but little 
if we are rery tired, and seem to melt into and become a part of 
our dreams, so that we cannot tell whether noises within or 
without the bed-chamber are real, or whether they are only dream 
sounds. I had not been asleep very long when I began to dream 


about the last night's fire, and I can remember every particular 
of my dream as distinctly as the terrible reality that followed 
it. It seemed to me that the fire-bells kept ringing, ringing, un- 
ceasingly ; but although I fancied the fire was in the same place, 
the bells did not strike 248, which was the box from which the 
alarm was sounded on Saturday night. Then I began to reason 
in a strange drowsy way, as to what the cause might be, and 
soon " a change came over the spirit of my dream," and I began 
to think about the old country, and old times, and the vision of 
fire Incited into one of green fields and sunny villages in far off 

But the bells in my dream were no fancy. The second alarm 
had rung, and it was not from box 248, yet the fire had swept at 
least a fifth part of the city before I woke to hear a tremendous 
clamor and rush as of a great mob in the streets, and to see 
the flames leaping and roaring -a full hundred feet over the fine 
buildings across the* street. 

I called John, but he did not stir. I had to dash water in his 
face before I could arouse him. When he did awake he rushed 
to the window, looked out upon the awful fire before him, and 
pulled his clothes on with such haste that he was ready for flight 
and had thrown our most valuable clothes into a valise, before 
I was half dressed. 

"We were in much greater danger than either of us had imag- 
ined. The instant we opened the door, the room was filled with 
a thick choking smoke and we knew that the back part of the 
house was on fire. There was but little escape in that direction, 
at least without being seriously burned, and John shut the door 
again, remarking that as we were only two stories from the 
ground we could more easily escape by the window. 

"We seized the bed-clothes, and tore them up into strips, but 
while we were so occupied the heat became suffocating; the 
plaster cracked and dropped from the ceiling, and we knew that 
in five minutes everything in the room would be reduced to 
ashes so you may be sure we worked pretty desperately. Just 
as John had dragged the heavy bed to the window and fastened 
the end of our blanket rope to it, I heard a crash of broken 
glass, and looking out perceived that the window immediately 
beneath us had yielded to the heat and a thick smoke with clouds 
of sparks was pouring through the broken panes. " You get 


down first, Jack," said my friend, throwing the rope out, " I can 
jump better than you if the rope takes fire." I slid down pretty 
quick, and landed safe upon the flags below, although the rope 
was at least eight feet too short. John threw out the valise and 
was beginning to let himself down, when the flames leabed 
through the window below and the rope was in flames. I was 
never so frightened, perhaps, as at that minute, but John saw 
what had happened, and let go the burning blanket strips at once. 
He had to drop more than twenty feet, but he fell upon his feet 
on the pavement without other injury than a few bruises. But 
the shock made him stagger and fall over the edge of the 

This was all the work of about seven or eight minutes, but in 
that short space, the fire had made terrible progress. There 
were great arches of fire stretching across the street beyond 
Michigan street, only a square and a half from us, and near 
Water street. At that distance, however, one could only catch a 
glimpse of a building at intervals, so wholly enveloped were they 
in sheets of fire. It was nevertheless a spectacles so grandly, 
awfully beautiful, that could one but look upon it in safety, he could 
gaze for weeks at the sight. The whole street where we stood was 
lighted up with a bright glow, which faded into a deep red, almost 
blood-red, towards Chestnut street, where the flying crowds stood 
look back upon the fire, and the sea of human faces looked to 
gastly in that colored glare. Towards the river the glow bright- 
ened into white heat, like that of iron in a furnace and when 
the veil of flame parted ; for an instant the walls beyond looked 
like the brightest gold. Ked cinders were flying like red-hot 
shot carried by a fierce wind, hot with the breath of the fire that 
almost carried us off our legs upon turning a corner, and which 
even blew several trees down. 

Neilson and I made our way to Chicago Avenue, and turned 
down to Lasalle street. The flames had spread almost as far 
and as fast as we had walked. The crowd surged about, pushing, 
shoving, cursing, shouting, shrieking. John's valise gave him no 
end of trouble, and taught me to pity those who were carrying 
larger bundles. At last, completely tired out, he laid it on a 
doorstep and paused to wipe the sweat from his forehead. At 
that instant a hand crept round from behind, and the valise dis- 
appeared amid the crowd " in less than no time." John rushed 


frantically into the straggling mob shouting, " stop thief !" and 
swearing "Lowland" oaths without number, but neither of us e^er 
beheld the valise again, nor did we ever know who had absconded 
with it. 

. We were suddenly startled by a piercing cry for help. In a 
window of the upper story of a lofty building which the flames 
were rapidly devouring, the figure of a girl appeared, extending 
her arms to the crowd for aid. Several of us stood beneath the 
window in a moment. One man in his excitement shouted to her 
to jump, and a fireman struck him on the mouth. " Do you 
want her to kill herself, you wild fool ? Clear out and keep 
your infernal mouth shut. Hold on, my girl," he cried, " we'll 
have a ladder here in a moment," and he dashed through the 
crowd to fetch one. 

But the heat grew terrible around us, like that of an iron fur- 
nace, and we felt that before the ladder could be procured the 
upper story must fall in. One of the men shouted : " Have you 
got a blanket up there? Throw it down." She seemed stupe- 
fied with fear at first, but after a few seconds in answer to our 
shout of " a blanket, a blanket, a quilt ! a carpet ! anything ! " 
Throw it down we'll catch you !" she disappeared in the inte- 
rior of the room, as if to fetch it. Clouds of thick smoke com- 
menced to pour from the window, first black, then mingled with 
sparks, then tinged with a glow of red, which told us that the 
fire had burst into the chamber. For a minute we thought all 
was over with the unfortunate girl, but she reappeared with a 
large bundle of something dark, and threw it to us. It proved 
to be a heavy carpet, the tacks still clinging to its binding, prov- 
ing she must have just torn it from the floor. A dozen strong 
pair of arms extended it immediately, but the cinders and sparks 
were falling so thickly that it began to smoulder and burn in our 
very hands. " Jump, my lassie, jump at once," shouted Neilson, 
"Don't be afraid, we'll catch you." She caught hold of the 
window-frame and had got one foot upon the window-sill when a 
piece of the stone caping above, split by the terrible heat, fell 
and struck her upon the forehead before she could spring 
about the same moment the ceiling of the room fell in, and the 
fire rushed in solid sheets from the window. Luckily, upon 
being stunned by the blow, she fell forward instead of backward, 
for in the latter case, nothing could have saved her. We wero 


well braced to receive the shock, and she fell into the carpet. 
Had we been better prepared, we should have counteracted the 
whole force of the shock by giving the carpet a strong pull at 
the proper moment, as we used to do in our school-days, when 
we amused ourselves with the rough game of blanket-tossing. 
As it was, however, the shock of a body falling between forty 
and fifty feet, staggered most of us, and those nearest the side- 
walk fell pell-mell one over the other, under the hail of fire. Wo 
who stood nearest the wall held the young woman up, however, 
and John, who was as brawny a Scot as any in the Queen's 
heavy cavalry, raised her in his arms like a child and insisted 
on carrying her to a place of safety, although several others vol- 
unteered their services for the same purpose. Just then the fire- 
man returned breathless, with two of his associates, carrying a 

" By Jove (he used a stronger phrase, however,) they have her 
there. Did she jump ? Damn it, they had carried the ladder 
two or three blocks down Pearson street before I could get it. 
What! Not dead after such a jump as that! Oh, I see, the 
carpet 1 eh ? Well, I feel better now, for by " 

" Fall back for your lives ! Look out !" cried one of the men, 
whose keen eye had observed that the walls of the tall building 
were swaying and trembling. In a moment we had rushed to 
the opposite side, and the upper portion of the great wall tottered 
and fell in a heap of glowing timbers and stone, which vomited 
a storm of sparks, hot dust, and crimson cinders as it struck the 
Nicolson. " Come on ! run boys ! we're in for it now," shouted 
John, as he led the way with his precious burden. He stumbled 
once or twice over fallen timbers, broken furniture, and other de- 
bris, but held up bravely, and we were soon at Huron street. 
Some notion of the rapidity with which the flames traveled may 
be gathered from the fact, that by the time we had arrived at 
Elm street, the roofs of the houses at the South-west and North- 
east corners of Chestnut and Lasalle streets had caught the 

We stopped to look at the resetted girl who had not yet come 
to consciousness. There was a deep cut on the forehead, a very 
pretty forehead it was, too, half concealed by the fair hair, which 
fell back in a bright shower over John's shoulder. But a stream 
of blood was staining the long tresses, and little drops were drip- 


ping over John's coat. " The poor lassie !" he cried, " George, 
lend me something to bind up this ugly cut, the poor thing will 
bleed to death." I gave him the muffler I wore round my neck ; 
indeed, it was a plaid muffler which Neilson had given me him- 
self, and which now came in useful. He bound up the wound 
in a barbarously clumsy manner for John was little gentler 
than a bear in such matters and we proceeded on our march, 
with the fire thundering behind us, and the crowd rushing before 
us. Then John had his ppcket picked, but encumbered as he 
was, he could do nothing, and bore his loss philosophically. I 
felt a violent tug at my watch-chain, but it was found of very 
strong links of silver, in imitation of a chain-cable, and resisted 
the strain. I turned upon the thief instantly with my revolver 
cocked, and he disappeared in the crowd at once. If it had not 
been that I feared to injure some one else, I should certainly 
have shot the villain that dared to ply his trade under such cir- 

We did not get beyond the reach of the flying sparks until we 
had got as far as North avenue, and even there, the sparks fell 
nearly as thick as ever. John had an otter-skin cap on, which 
he had brought from Canada with him, and it caught fire from 
a falling spark. I snatched it off his head, and put out the tiny 
flame, but I could not get him to put it on again. 

The girl recovered when we were traveling towards Fullerton 
avenne, and struggled a little in John's arms before she remem- 
bered what had happened. " Let me down," she said, very 
gently. " I can walk now." " No, no, my lass," answered John, 
" you must not walk for another week at least, keep still and don't 
talk, I'll take care of you." I think she was quite reassured by 
the expression of John's rough good-humored face, blackened as 
it was with soot and smoke, for she laid her head on his shoul- 
der and remained as quiet as a sleeping child. 

Neilson swore that he was going to walk to his uncle MacPher- 
son's farm, which was at least ten miles off, that same night, and 
I insisted that he should do nothing of the kind, but rather 
come with me to a friend's house on the outskirts of the city, a 
little beyond Clayborne avenue. But John was as obstinate as 
most Scotchmen are, and. I verily believe he would have carried 
his pretty, but heavy burthen, ah 1 the way to MacPherson's, were 
it not that just then a whip-lash was laid gently across his 



shoulders. He looked up with a frown, which speedily gave 
place to a broad grin, as he recognized Stephen Phillipson, an 
old English friend, who was guiding his buggy slowly through 
the crowd of fugitives. " Hallo, Neilson," he exclaimed, " you're 
Samaritanizing, are you? Jump up here with your girl. I'll 
take care of you both. How are you George ? Burnt out I sup- 
pose. Sorry I have no room in my vehicle for you. Never 
mind, you just come out to my house as fast as you can walk, 
and I'll make you comfortable for a night or two, anyhow. By 
George ! this is awful, isn't it ? I was near being burnt up my- 
self. Came into the city to see a friend and I only just had 
time to get the harness on Billy before the stable was burnt 

And so the good natured Mark Tapley chatted on until we got 
clear of the crowd, when he touched up the horse, and drove, 
shouting, " we'll be waiting for you. George, old boy, come on 
as quick as you can." 

Well, this is nearly all I can tell you about the fire, that you 
have not already heard in the papers. I have only to say that 
we are getting on as well as before the fire, nearly, only we have 
removed to St. Louis. But I am afraid I am going to lose my 
room-mate, for John has been making fierce love to Gertrude 
. Petterson, (the name of his protege,) who turns out to be a Swed- 
ish girl from Stockholm. 

Yours Affectionately, 


P. S. If you wish to publish this, as you hinted in your last, 
you must invent a " nom de plume." G. B. 



*#* * ** * * 

Mary and I heard the bells strike the alarm that night, but on 
referring to the carcl, which we always kept hanging over the 
mantel-piece in our bed-room, we found the fire was a full mile 
away, and we determined to stay indoors. It was then a little 
after 9 o'clock, and father had gone over the river to see a rela- 
tive. Mary opened the window of our room which was on the 
third floor, you know and exclaimed, " Oh Gussie ! it must be an 
awful fire, I can see the light quite plain from here !" I looked 
out and saw a great red light in the direction of the fire, with 


great yellow flames leaping up now and then above the roofs of 
the houses. We liked to go to fires, but the night was cold and 
stormy, and we thought that by the time we could reach the 
scene the fire would be well nigh extinguished. So in a little 
while we went to bed. 

It was a very windy night, and the rattling of window frames, 
and banging of shutters, kept us awake until we heard the gen- 
eral alarm booming over the city. We were so tired and sleepy, 
having been at a ball the night before, that we did not even get 
up. Of course we never imagined that we were in the least dan- 
ger, although we could see that the light of the fire was growing 
brighter through our windows, and I believe we were asleep in 
ten minutes from the time the fire bells had stopped ringing. 

It must have been between eleven and twelve o'clock, when 
we were awakened by a tremendous banging at our door, and 
before we could get up to unfasten the lock, it was burst wide 
open, and in rushed father with his great coat on and a huge 
bundle under his arm. " Get up at once, girls," he cried, "if we 
are not out of the house in two minutes we shall aU be burnt up." 
Just then I heard a curious crackling sound above our heads, 
the plaster began to break and fall from the ceiling, and the room 
filled with smoke. Outside we could hear a deep booming roar 
as of steady continuous thunder. We knew, immediately, that 
the house was on fire and there was no time to wait. And how 
terribly careless we girls are about our clothes, we could not lay 
our hands upon them at the moment, but we would not have had 
time to put them all on in any case, especially in that stifling 
smoke which was growing denser every minute. There was an 
old pair of brother George's trousers, which I had been mending 
for him, hanging on a hook behind the door, and I pulled them 
on at once. I caught hold of the first articles in the way of foot- 
gear I could lay my hands on, and threw a water-proof cloak 
over my shoulders, which completed my traveling costume. 
Mary had only time to throw on a gown loosely, and snatch up 
a few clothes, when father suddenly seized us both by the arms, 
and almost flung us outside the door. Just as he had done so 
the crackling above our heads deepened into crashing roar, the 
ceiling fell in, and the whole room was blazing in an instant like . 
a furnace. Father hurried us out the back way, through the 
alley, and we found brother George with the horse and wagon all 
ready for us. The poor animal was terribly frightened, and 
prancing in terror, for the sparks were falling on him in a perfect 
rain of fire, but he became quiet when father spoke to him, and 
patted him, although he continued to tremble like an aspen leaf; 
I did not find that I had two left shoes on till we were in the 

As we drove along at almost a gallop we had a plain view of 
the fire, and a more awful sight cannot be imagined. The flames 



seemed to touch the very sky, and some of them were of the 
strangest colors deep, rich crimson and azure ; and on one 
occasion I remember seeing a jet of greenish fire burst through 
the roof of a great building far to our left. The roar of the fire 
became so terrible that we could hear nothing else for a time, 
it seemed to fill one's brain, and we could hardly distinguish 
what each other said in the tumult of the Hadean hurricane. 

It was strange to see the rats fleeing through the burning 
streets and alleys, and dogs and cats rushing to and fro. Several 
stray cows were dashing about wildly in their mad teror, and 
one of them knocked down and ran over a little girl right before 
us. Father jumped down and picked her up, George holding 
the reins meanwhile, and found the poor little thing so bruised 
that she could not walk. We were pretty closely crowded hi the 
little wagon, but I took her upon my lap. She had nothing on 
her but a thin night dress, and was severely bruised and cut. 
George took off his coat' and wrapped it about her, and I hap- 
pened to have a handkerchief in the pocket of my cloak with 
which I bound up an ugly cut upon her poor little arm. 

The crowd seemed to be full of thieves, pickpockets, and 
roughs, of the worst description, who robbed, swore, and fought, 
even iu such-a time of danger. Of course the police could do 
nothing except to club a rascal now and then, and I remember 
seeing one scoundrel snatch a rich fur cloak from a lady's 
shoulders and escape with his booty. 

We stayed at cousin Phillip's house that night on West Ran- 
dolph street. At one time, on Monday, we were afraid that the 
fire would spread even to our temporary refuge, but it came no 
nearer $han Jefferson and Adams streets. Father and George 
had been lucky enough to save some clothes, but we would have 
been rather at a loss for wearing apparel, had not cousin Phillip 
been able to lencf us some for the time being. In a few days, 
however, we received some from our sister Jane in St. Louis, 
and we soon expect to be comfortable again, as we are about to 
have a new house built very near the old residence. Our little 
protege is with us still, and has quite recovered. 

Heartily yours, GUSSIE. 

P. S .1 have discarded the pants, although they were not so 
very bad after all. I can testify that they did excellent service 
while I wore them, and, if in the course of time I ever see occa- 
sion to don them again, I shall at least know how the thing is 
done. , 


I went to bed pretty early that Sunday, feeling unaccountably 
dull and tired I hod a couple of handsomely furnished cham- 


bers in the quietest portion of Franklin street, my bed-room 
being separated from the sitting-room by huge folding doors 
which I always closed at night. In the sitting-room I always 
placed a rug near the door for Milo, a gigantic bloodhound of 
the purest breed, whom I had purchased when a pup from a 
French planter in Martinique, and is the best and truest friend 
a man could possess, having saved my life on more than one 
occasion. Milo scarcely ever barks or bays, he never makes 
too free by placing his paws on your shoulders and licking your 
face he is what I might v call a philosophically phlegmatic dog, 
never making a noise without good reason. 

My landlord had gone over the river with his wife and daugh- 
ter to visit his brother who lived on the West-side. And thus 
with no company but Milo, I went to bed, Milo lying down as 
usual outside the door. 

I did not fall asleep for nearly an hour after getting into bed, 
but lay awake listening to the moaning and shrieking of the 
wind about the tall chimney its weird whistling through chinks, 
keyholes, and the ghostly noise it made by shaking the window- 
frames and swinging the creaking shutters. I began to think of 
the strange theory that wind was in itself a living intelligent es- 
sence, and that there might be a vital principal controlling its 
movements far more subtle than oxygen or nitrogen. And as I 
listened to its strange whisperings and meanings, I fell into a 
doze, dreaming that the wind had found a tongue and was talk- 
ing very strange things through the keyhole. Then I dreamed 
that Ethel (we were engaged) was sitting by the fire in the par- 
lor, with a little bell in her hand, and a strange troubled look on 
her face. She called Milo, and tried to tie the bell about his neck 
with a black ribbon, and after much trouble she got it on. Then 
I thought that the bell began to ring, although Milo did not 
move, the sound being sweet and soft at first as though faintly 
distant then to grow clearer, and deeper, and louder, swelling 
in volume until the walls of the house thrilled in unison with its 
thunder-vibrating tones. Then Milo looked up in Ethel's face 
as if wondering, and Ethel patted his neck with an anxious face, 
and then the tones of the beU seemed to change into rushing 
thunder, and I awoke with a short and strange sense of fear 
which increased when I really heard the deep sound of the fire 
bells, rolling out their deep summons on the night air. I sat 


up instantly, bewildered for the moment, and then I heard Milo 
give one long deep bay and throw himself against the folding 
doors. I leaped up and opened them to find the room filled 
with the lurid light of a vast conflagration several blocks away 
Northward. Vast serpents of flames reared their quivering 
tongues upward as though to lick the stars, a fiery rain of crim- 
son sparks was being carried far over the surrounding buildings 
by the fierce wind which wrestled horribly with the pythons of 
fire that were enveloping the buildings before me in their glow- 
ing sinuous folds. The streets were filled with a hurrying, strug- 
gling, panic-stricken crowd, and above the muffled thunder of 
myriad feet, the cries and exclamations of the fugitives, and the 
shrill shriek of the well-nigh useless fire-engines above all 
boomed the roar o*f the advancing sea of flames, far more awful 
than the thunder of the Atlantic wave tempest upon the rocky 

That there was not an instant to be lost I could see at once 
building after building sinking in the fiery waves even as I 
looked on. Dressing myself with all possible haste and securing 
the few valuable trinkets that lay within reach. I stood up on 
the threshold and cast a lingering glance upon the richly fur- 
nished chambers which I had decorated in the style that Ger- 
man students love. To save even my portmanteau would be' 
impossible my library, furniture, clothes, pictures, silver- 
mounted hookahs, and meerschaums what could I save? I 
looked again at the towering, quivering wall of flame now only 
about five hundred yards distant, and taking the only article of 
value I had yet time to seize a silver-mounted Smith & 
Wesson's revolver, rushed down the stairs and gained the street, 
Milo giving a deep rolling bay of relief. 

We were not an instant too soon. Scarcely had we advanced 
half a block when a vast tongue of flame rose to an enormous 
height and then seemed suddenly to hurl itself forward like a 
stream of yellow lightning, piercing the brick walls of the house 
we had left as though it had been smitten by a thunder bolt. 
In about five minutes, as near as I can calculate, the whole 
structure tottered and crumbled into the Gehenna of flame that 
surged around it. 

Of course, Ethel Summerfield was my first thought as I fled 
over the wooden pavements with the furious flames in rapid 


pursuit, and the wind showering a hail of sparks upon me and 
Milo. Ethel surely must be out of danger, I thought, yet the 
memory of that dreaxn filled me with a ghastly fear as I 
hurried toward the residence of the Summerfields, on Wabash 
avenue. I am not superstitious in fact I am rather skeptical, 
but the strongest minds are liable to be impressed by trivial 
incidents at such times, and I felt unusually anxious. I have 
often thought since that there is some truth in the beautiful 
theory of magnetic sympathy, the strange odic telegraph of 
thought, by which the mind in trouble calls for aid to the dis- 
tant one it loves best. Thoughts like these flitted through my 
excited brain with the rapidity of lightning as I rushed over the 
smooth pavement, with Milo by my side. 

Everywhere I beheld dese crowds oi fugitives rushing to- 
wards the lake with bundles, furniture piled upon little vehicles, 
mattrasses, valises every specie* of household goods while the 
sidewalks were frequently piled up with valuables, the owners of 
which had entertained the vain hope of being able to hire a 
vehicle in which to convey them away, and which they were 
finally compelled to abandon to the all-calcining flames which 
rapidly swept onward in a gigantic crescent, like an organized 
host of fiery spirits, while the white-faced moon looked down 
over all from a canopy of clouds crimson-fringed in the light of 
the conflagration, and seemed to marshal the towering spectres 
of flame. 

A few moments later I arrived at Wabash Avenue. The fire 
had not yet reached any of its splendid maible palaces, although 
its fiery serpent arms went quivering over the dark housetops 
of yet uninjured blocks which lay between me and that ocean of 
scorching flame, standing out in ebony-black relief against the 
blinding brightness. I almost fancied that the griffin-tongued 
flames rose higher over the distant roofs and bent over the dark- 
ness as though to watch me with their awful glare. 

Had Ethel's father returned from Boston whither he had gone 
for a few days on some commercial business, or had she a bet- 
ter protector than a few servants of questionable integrity, I 
should have felt less anxious as I stood beneath the gloomy 
marble portico, and rang the silver-toned door-bell as it had 
probably never been rung before. To my great relief I heard a 
sound as of little feet pattering down the great staircase and the 
next moment Ethel was in my arms. 


" O, George ! I have been so frightened at the great fire ; papa 
has not come back, and the servant's left the house two hours 
ago and have not returned." " My God ! did they not tell you, 
Ethel ? Did you not know the danger you are hi ? In twenty 
minutes this house will be on fire. Is Mesty hi the stable? " 


Mesty (short for Mephistopheles) is the name of the splendid 
black horse who saved us that night. 

" Ethel, there is not an instant to spare. Run up stairs at 
once and get whatever warm clothes you can lay hands on while 
I harness Mesty. Quick, and wait for me at the door. Good 
heavens 1" I exclaimed, as a giant tougue of fire shot toward us 
from a distant building and seized upon a house but a few hun- 
dred yards away, "it will be a close race between life and death." 

Ethel was as brave and noble a, little woman as man ever 
loved She did not become faint or dizzy, or ask useless ques- 
tions although the news of her imminent danger, of which she 
had had but a faint suspicion, and must have been a voilent 
shock to any nerves but darted off at once, while I rushed to 
the stable-door. The house being situated in that part of 
Wabash Avenue from whence we could not have obtained a 
good view of the terribly rapid advance of the fire in its earlier 
stages. Ethel's ignorance of her situation could be accounted 
for especially as the servants had been to much occupied with 
their own safety when the news was brought to them by a 
fugative from Van Buren street, to attend properly to the rescue 
of their employer's daughter. I afterwards learned that they had 
gone to Ethel's room, and not finding her there, fled, without 
further search, calling on her to save herself at once, a summons 
which she never heard. Upon finding herself alone, she concluded 
that the servants had merely gone to look at the fire, whose real 
extent and fury she knew nothing of certainly a strange pro- 
ceeding on their part to leave the house unguarded and would 
shortly return. 

I had to pass through an alley at the rear of the garden to 
reach the stable. The crimson sparks were falling in vast 
showers, intermingled with fragments of blazing shingles, and 
timbers, borne towards me in a slanting, fiery rain, by the fierce 
wind which blew upon me, heated by its wrestle with the rushing 
fire, hotter than the breath of the red simoon. And even as I 
reached the door of Mesty's stable a burning brand lighted upon 


the roof, and the next instant the yellow serpent flames were 
dancing a demon dance among the dry shingles and inflamable 
roofing. No coachman was to be seen, and the great door was 
securely fastened with a stout wooden bar, that would defy 
human strength to break it. The side door was, however, 
fastened only by a lock, the bolts being rarely drawn. This I 
blew open with my pistol, and Milo and I rushed in together, just 
as the blazing hay began to fall from the loft. I quickly unfast- 
ened the halter, Mesty jwhinneying with joy, while he trembled 
in every limb as I hitched him to the light buggy and flung the 
great doors open, and scarcely had I leaped into the seat, when 
the flimsy buildings on both sides of the alley burst into flames. 
Mesty, however, shot through uninjured, save where the blazing 
hay had fallen on his sleek black skin, and almost leaped to the 
door of the house, where Ethel stood awaiting, well wrapped in her 
grey cloak; and as she sprang into the seat beside me, a bright flame 
ran like lightning along the cornices, and we knew that the 
house was beyond hope. 

Desirous of gaining the prairie as soon as possible I directed 
our course to the southwest, intending to gain some distance by 
pursuing the diagonal course of Blue Island Avenue, provided 
we were fortunate enough to reach it. Mesty shot through Madi- 
son street and turned the corner of La Salle, like a race-horse, 
Milo running ahead with his long, untiring gallop. It was not 
until we were rushing along the white pavement that we saw the 
terrible danger before us. The houses upon the left side were a 
mass of burning timbers and glowing brick, and upon the right 
the flames would soon gain a foothold. Far away beyond Jack- 
son street the flames were stretching their fiery arms across La 
Salle, barring our advance with an impassable rampart of the 
destructive element. Mesty stopped, rearing in terror. There 
was no retreat. The fire was behind us, and it were madness to 
approach the roaring hell of -flame in the distance. Ethel clung 
closer to me, shuddering as we watched towering steeples and 
giant domes sink like fantastically-shaped fragments of coal into 
the terrible furnace beyond. 

But Jackson street stretched away to the right and left, only a 
few hundred feet ahead. If we turned up to the right two or 
three squares, and then made a turn to the left, a hard gallop 


might save us. I patted Mesty's coal-black flank and spoke to 
him coaxingly as we turned the corner and sped along Jackson 
street. As we passed the first square, we beheld the red flames 
leaping across the streets far away to the right and left ; and 
thus the fire glared upon us at every street opening in the vast 
blocks until we came to Canal street, stretching widely to right 
and left of us, the hurricane of flame came roaring up on the 
left, but away to the right the buildings remained intact, and 
Mesty shot down it like the goblin steed of the Wild Huntsman 
in the German legend. And now it was truly a run for life or 
death, a fierce conflagration on three sides of us, advancing 
with the terrible swiftness of a prairie fire, and the remorseless 
fiames rushing to cut off our only chance of escape in front. The 
voice of the fire bells had been drowned in the fiery waves, and 
the terrible earth-shaking roar of the flame-tempest thundered 
nearer and nearer, drowning all other sounds, while the blood- 
red glow before us brightened into flame on the western side. 
In another instant the many-tongued fire was licking up the 
walls of the houses on our right, and ahead it was stretching its 
long arms across the splendid thoroughfare, and should it seize 
upon the opposite side ere we could pass, escape was impossible. 
We were scarce a hundred yards from the fire, and its hot 
breath, spark-laden, flew in showers about us. " Now, Mesty, 
your best," I cried, urging him forward with a stroke of the whip. 
He answered by laying himself out like a grey-hound, and dash- 
ing through that fiery blockade with almost the rapidity of the 
bright tongues of flame. And as we shot beneath the arch of 
fire, with bent heads and hard-held breath, the tower of a church 
just before us tottered in the folds of the anaconda flames, and 
scarcely had we passed when it hurled a mountain pile of ruins 
upon the spot touched by our wheels but an instant before. We 
had thus passed the great belt of fire, and I therefore pulled 
Mesty down to an honest trot, which was now sufficient to enable 
us to keep in advance of the whirlwind of flame. 

Neither of us spoke verbally, but we drew a long breath as we 
heard the crackling roar grow fainter behind, and Ethel rested 
her head on my shoulder weary with the terror of that awful 
ride: we must have felt as Perseus did when persued by the Gor- 
gons over sea and land, and the thunder of the pursuing ele- 
ment sounded not less fearful than the roar of the brazen wings 
of the mythical fiends. 


But whoever gazes upon such a conflagration must feel a sen- 
timent of superstitious awe akin to that of the Oriental fire- 
worshippers, and the ghastly fancy that there may be some 
truth in the Gheber's creed that fire is a living intelligent being, 
invariably grows upon the mind as one follows the merry dance 
of the flames over roof and tower, along cornice and gable or 
its serpentine embrace of the tall steeple from whose summit it 
streams in tresses of fire or its triumphant roaring rush, through 
every window of the huge building once deemed fire-proof or 
the weird manner in which it bends and stretches its fiery neck 
over great distances to lick up dwellings, 'one would fancy be- 
yond its reach. And when it fails to leap the gap which sepa- 
rates it from what it seeks to devour, how angrily it will often 
recoil, only to rear itself upward and backward, as though to 
gather all its subtle python strength for another giant leap of a 
few hundred feet. Surely at such a sight we have all felt a hor- 
rible suspicion that there might be a terrible truth in Poe's 
personification of fire in the " Bells." And as the eerie verse 
comes to our mind, we feel that the strange thoughts therein are 
but the utterance of a wild fancy that has haunted many a 

Hear the loncl alarm bells, 

Brazen bells, 
What a tale of terror their turbulency tella, 

Too much horrified to speak, 

They can only shriek, shriek, 
Out of tune. 

In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire, 

In a mad expostulation with the deaf add frantic fire, 

Leaping higher, higher, higher, 

With a desperate desire, 

And a resolute endeavor, 

How, now to sit, or never, 

By the side of the pale faced moon. 

The sublimely terrific grandeur of such a spectacle of lightning 
flames as pierced the black vault of the North-western heavens 
on that awful night, could perhaps be properly described but by 
one pen that of the author of " The Last Days of Pompeii." 
The only scene that could surpass the horror of this stupendous 
conflagration would be the destruction of a city by a mighty vol- 
canic eruption. 

Marble fronts, huge structures of iron and brick, temples of 
hewn stone seemed to crumble, into sand in that glowing flame 
hotter than the famed seven-times-heated furnace of Nebuchad- 


nezzar. Church spires vanished in awful light to give place to 
pinnacles of flame; vast stone slabs were calcined or split as 
though by lightning The huge dome of the court-house long 
towered darkly against the fiery horizon, like the vast helmet of 
some genius of fire in Oriental story ; yet at length it, too, bore 
its garland of serpent flame and sank in a hell of fire-billows 
which hurled their red spray to the very clouds. What fire- 
proof building could withstand a heat in which iron became as 
wax? the very pyramids of Egypt could scarcely be relied 
on as places of safety if exposed to such a flame. 

How we drove over the river before the "Red Death" in our rear, 
which rushed after our flying wheels, had devoured all the bridges 
in its hungry rage, I can scarcely tell. -It was all like a terrible 
nightmare, of which I can recollect little but the wild tumult 
of panic-stricken crowds before and the roar of flames behind, 
the rush of feet followed by the mad rush of the demon fire 
oaths and curses mingled with prayers and sobs, shrieks of hid- 
eous fear and the wild laughter of women whom horror had con- 
verted into maniacs the cries of helpless children and tender 
girls, flying, half nude, from death the neighing of horses, mad- 
dened with fear, and the roaring of terrified oxen the mad 
shouts of reckless men crazy with drink, and the groans of 
fugitives knocked down and trampled upon in the torrent throng 
of struggling men, women, children, horses and vehicles, that 
poured along the ash-strewn pavements and bridges under the 
storm of fire-flakes. Many a fair girl lost her wealth of beau- 
tiful hair, many rich dresses and poor ones as well, were rid- 
dled with pellets of flame that terrible night. It seems a miracle 
that the loss of life by fire was not at least ten times greater. 

Barrels of explosive oil piled in storehouses burst like shells 
and their fiercely blazing contents ran streaming along the gut- 
ters. Huge distilleries burnt fiercely, and the sheets of azure- 
tinged flame that rushed through windows and doors to wrestle 
with the less subtle tongues oi yellow fire, showed that alcohol 
was feeding the conflagration. But when the fire had leaped 
the river in pursuit of its victims, and had licked the huge gas- 
ometer with its flickering tongue, then as the earth seemed to 
vomit forth a vast sheet of lightning toward heaven, and miles 
of blazing edifices trembled to their heated foundations at the 
concussion of that dull, awful thunder, it seemed as though the 
horrors of the vast catastrophe had culminate' 1 


The fire engines had long given their last despairing shriek 
ere we found ourselves in safety. The water-works buildings had 
crumbled in upon and paralyzed the giant engines that had sup- 
plied the water- veins of the great city now in flames. Men who 
had tried to save their houses toiled with ah 1 the vigor which 
human bone and brawn and muscle can endure, sweating at every 
pore in an atmosphere of stifling heat, and suffering a thirst 
which they could find no water to alleviate, swallowed glass 
after glass of the strong liguor that stupified them into forget- 
fulness of the approach of the remorseless element, and fell 
intoxicated upon the scorching pavement to be withered to little 
mounds of black ashes by the victorious all-devouring demon of 

Near Jefferson street we missed Milo, and paused an instant 
to look after him. We .had seen him dart safely through the 
fiery gauntlet far ahead of us, yet shortly after he had dropped 
behind and we had not perceived him since. I uttered the well- 
known cry, and above the roar and crash of the approaching 
flames and the muttering thunder of the flying crowds, I heard 
the bell-like voice of the giant hound roll in answering diapason. 
While wondering what could have detained our faithful friend so 
long, Milo appeared toiling after us with a great bundle of some- 
thing partly on his neck partly in his mouth. He bayed again 
as soon as he beheld us, but ran wearily as though tired out. 
It is needless to say that I immediately hastened to relieve him 
of his burthen, when I found to my astonishment that said bur- 
then was a little girl ! Her little arms were clasped around his 
great neck, and she lay partly upon the dog's great shoulders, 
he retaining hold of a fragment of her dress, as though fearful 
of losing his precious freight. The noble dog must have carried 
the child at least a mile without our knowledge, but our careless- 
ness in his regard was chiefly owing to our knowledge of his won- 
derful powers of speed and endurance with his calm courage, won- 
derful even in a dog of his splendid breed. I gave the little girl, 
half dead with fright and exhaustion, into Ethel's care, and 
making Milo spring in and he down at my feet, I shook the 
reins and Mesty trotted on bravely. I patted and petted 
the noble dog, tokens of affection which he only received with a 
wag of tfee tail and .an upward glance from his great dark eyes, 
as much as to say : '-It's nothing, I have only done my duty " 


Milo was never violently demonstrative in affection or gratitude. 
As soon as our little charge recovered sufficiently to speak, she 
threw her arms around Ethel's neck with a cry of joy and kissed 
her. " Why, George," exclaimed Ethel, " it is little Mary Wil- 
liams," and I looked round at the child's face to recognize the 
golden-haired blue-eyed little daughter of Fred. Williams, our 
mutual friend and neighbor. 

Little Mary told us her story, as soon as she was able to speak 
between her sobs of terror. It appeared that Fred and his wife 
had been obliged to leave their house and fly with such haste 
that they had not even time to take their clothes with them, but 
were compelled to hurry along in the throng of fugitives, Mrs. 
Williams taking little Mary in her arms. In a -sudden rush of 
the crowd mother and child fell, and were separated by the panic- 
stricken crush of fugitives. The little timid girl was soon left 
far behind the fleeing crowd. She ran on and on, while the 
flames thundered behind, with a sound like the continuous roar 
of unearthly artillery, until exhausted with terror and weariness, 
she sank down upon the pavement which smoked in the breath 
of the fierce heat. The next thing she remembered was the touch 
of Mile's cold muzzle against her cheek, and the deep bay of the 
hound calling for help. She knew the great hound well, and put 
her little, arms around her great neck. We never heard Milo's 
summons for aid in our blind anxiety to save ourselves, but the 
brave dog seized the helpless little child by its dress, and having 
encouraged her to get upon its back, galloped after us just as the 
fiery breath of the vast fire began to singe the hair on his tawny 
skin. I always looked upon my pet almost as a human friend, 
and, indeed, he has since been doubly dear to me. 

Ethel tried to soothe the little sufferer, assuring her that papa 
and mamma were quite safe, and that she would soon see them 
again, till the poor little child sobbed herself to sleep in Ethel's 

Not knowing but that the whole of the West-side as yet but 
partly injured might shortly be swallowed up in flame. I 
deemed it best to drive to the prairie at once rather than seek 
for any temporary shelter. The vast elevator on the river be- 
hind us burst into a tempest of flame as we drove slowly through 
the flying torrent of vehicles and human beings that surged 
through the streets glowing crimson in the awful glare. The 


burning elevator was truly a grandly awful sight standing like a 
shadowy Typhon in the storm of fire, and vomiting a column of 
smoke, tongues of flame, and clouds of crimson sparks to the 
glowing skies. Even situated as we were then, we found the 
atmosphere almost suffocationg with smoke and heat, 'until it 
seemed that the very air had caught the fire and was burning 
behind us. 

Mothers were calling for their children, children for their 
fathers, husbands for their wives, and lovers for their sweethearts 
all separated from one another on that terrible race for life 
or death. Delicate women and children were, in many instances, 
walking barefoot along the crowded streets with but the 
scantiest clothing on their limbs, and I particularly remember 
noticing a very pretty young girl, who must have had barely 
time to leave her bed ere the room took fire, as she was clad in 
nothing but her night clothes and a thin shawl. I felt relieved 
when I saw a good-hearted policeman, who was escorting his 
wife and children to a place of safety, rap his great warm coat 
around her shivering limbs and take her under his special pro- 

Women and men were conveying great bundles away in wheel- 
barrows ; their bundles would get knocked off every now and 
then by some rough passer by. A few had been lucky enough to 
save their stores, but the greater number had barely time to save 
more than a bed or a quantity of clothes, bundled roughly 
together, and tied up in a huge parcel. 

Daylight had not yet broken when we drove out on the prairie, 
over which the vast fantastic shadows of the awful fire lengthened 
and contracted weirdly in the lurid light which gleamed far over 
the level plain, and tinged the crests of the ripples on the troubled 
lake with a ruby glow. I intended to drive Ethel at once to 
Evanston, w-here she had many wealthy friends, and where I had 
myself purchased a little dwelling for our future home. 

But seeing the prairie crowded with shivering groups of fugi- 
tives I though it would be as well to look about us and endeavor 
to find Mr. or Mrs. Williams, that they might feel at rest about 
their little girl. I felt certain that Milo could assist us in this, 
knowing that he would find our friends if in the crowd at all. So 
I drove Mesty slowly among the groups of homele >s fugitives, 
and motioning to Milo to jump out, I gave the well-known signal, 


and lie started off at once as if perfectly aware of what I wanted 
him to do. 

Soon after I heard Milo's bark, and as I turned round, Fred 
Williams and his wife came up pale and weary. To describe 
their delight on finding little Mary safe, or the manner in which 
Milo was petted and hugged would weary the reader. 1 pro- 
posed to take the child to Evanston with us that night, but as 
they were going to Calumet almost immediately in a friend's 
carriage, Ethel resigned her charge to them. 

Then as we drove towards Evanston we cast many a look 
behind at the flames which roared to heaven, until the lurid 
light grew into a fainter red in the distance, and the grey dawn 
broke over the scene of devastation. And the giant pillar of 
smoke mingled itself with the clouds behind us as Mesty's iron- 
shod hoofs rang musically over the pavement of Evanston. 

I soon placed Ethel in the care of her relations, and drove 
Mesty down to my new house in the suburbs. 

Old Mary Delany, to whom I had given the charge of things 
in rny absence, threw open the door as I checked Mesty and 
leaped to the gate. 

She was delighted to see me safe, and was terribly frightened 
at the account of our narrow escape. I put Mesty in the new 
stable, curried and combed, and washed his graceful black limbs, 
and having procured some corn and oats, and given him a good 
meal, I went into the house where Mary had a good hot break- 
fast waiting for me, which I did full justice to, while I detailed 
to her the particulars of our race through the burning city. 

Neither Ethel's father nor I had lost seriously by the fire, his 
real estate property being situated in the suburbs which the 
flames had spared. What city property we had lost was fully 
insured and unless the companies should fail, the catastrophe 
would finally only occasion us a temporary inconvenience. Two 
days after the conflagration lie met his daughter, and the meet- 
ing was what every such meeting ought to be. 

Ethel's father determined that the marriage should come off 
next Sunday as had been intended since Ethel would not per- 
mit him to send East for any wedding gifts. So we had a quiet 
little wedding in Evanston, unattended save by a few old friends, 
among whom were Fred. Williams with his wife, and little Mary 
who had quite recovered her health and spirits. We had no 


white robes, or orange blossoms, or jewelry, or fashion, or gor- 
geous dinner party but Ethel looked as pretty in her calico 
dress as she ever did when famous as a drawing room belle at the 

parties in Avenue and what was very shocking, Ethel 

allowed two large burned holes to remain unmended in said dress 
one on the sleeve and one on the shoulder asserting that 
they were mementoes of the great fire, and that she would not 
permit them to be mended on any consideration. 



A reporter for the daily press called upon the Fire Marshal 
for his version of certain matters connected with the fire, and 
obtained, in a few pointed words, the best history of some of the 
most startling events yet given to the public. "We are indebted 
to the Chicago Evening Mail for the following graphic "interview" 
which will be found intensly interesting, and more exciting than 
any other account occupying double the amount of space : 

Reporter. Some of our exchanges have hinted that members 
of the Fire Department were drunk during the fire, and I have 
called on you, as one who had the best opportunity of knowing, 
to have the facts in the case. 

Marshal. Well, sir, I don't know how it was elsewhere, but I 
did not see a drunken fireman that night. 

Reporter. What is the character of the firemen in this res- 

Marshal. They are a tolerable steady set when on duty. 

Reporter. Who appoints them? 

Marshal. The Board of Police. I have not had the opportu- 
nity of choosing a single one of my men. 

Reporter. What may have given rise to the report of drunk- 
enness ? 

Marshal. I don't know exactly, but I did see a drunken bum- 
mer with a fireman's hat on, and I took it away from him. He 
begged me to let him keep it, but I refused to. I took it to the 
engineer of No 6 and told him to take care of it, and it wasn't 
long before I saw another fireman's hat walking off with a 
drunken fellow under it, and I took it away from him also. It 
may haTje been that others saw these two thieves and swore that 
the firemen were drunk. 

Reporter. Very likely ; but these witnesses say they saw the 
firemen working at the engines, and that they were staggering. 

Marshal. But bless your soul (and here the Marshal got in- 
teresting, not to say excited, and raised up on his elbow and 
threatened the reporter's nose with his finger) the heat was 
awful ; 'twas like hell, and the firemen's eyes were red with the 
dust and fire, so that many of them were most blind. The hair 
was scorched off their faces, and they stuck to their machines 
like bull dogs, and worked them till they couldn't stand it any 


longer. Yes, sir, and they did stagger, for they were clean beat, 
and many of them, had to go home for the exhaustion from the 
heat. They were tired, too, from the fire of the night before, 
and then to give the same men such a long pull again, why, an 
iron man couldn't have stood it. 

Reporter. I hear the firemen were demoralized. 

Marshal. Well, now, it is pretty hard work for flesh and 
nerves to gain a victory, and then have to go to work again, and 
again, and again, and fight it all over. But that is just what the 
men did. And after" they heard the waterworks were burned 
down they didn't give up ; and they never quit working till all 
the water in the reservoirs and mains was used up. I don't 
think that was being demoralized ; not much. 

Keporter. How was it that they got the victory ? It looks to 
me as if it was a defeat worse than Waterloo. 

Marshal. 'Twas water low, that was what hindered us from 
saving a large part of the North Division. But I tell you we 
got the fire under ; and if it hadn't been for that awful gale, we 
would have been all right. 

When I got down to the fire Sunday night, I got the engines 
all around it, and had hemmed it in so that it wouldn't have 
lived very much longer, when one of the men came and said, 
there is a church on fire north of us ;and, sure enough, there was 
a church steeple all in a blaze two squares off, so I sent down an 
engine and pretty soon got two more to work on it, and had 
saved the long line of cottages just east of it, and the drug store 
across the road, and though the heat was awful, we had got it 
right under our thumb, when some one told us that the fire had 
caught stiU farther north. So I went down and there was the 
match factory just blazing, and the brick factory was smoking, 
and Bateham's shingle mills' yard was covered <with shavings 
and cinders and flakes and flashing boards, just raining down 
on it so that it was on fire in more than a dozen places at once, and 
just beyond was the hardwood lumber yard, and everything dry 
as a bone, and as greedy to burn as gun-powder. 

I hadn't more than got this surrounded when the Canal street 
people had kindled a new fire right in the middle of the street, 
though they didn't mean to, for they had piled up beds and bed- 
ding and furniture in the street, and it took fire and then it went 
away like feathers, for the wind would take up a blazing mattrass 
and fling it against a house, and that house went right down 
before you pould get there. But I was just thinking that we 
would run the fire into the burnt district and stop it there, when 
they told me the fire was on the South Side. So I told the 
Fred Gund to get out of that right away, as the fire was coming 
awful heavy on her, and went across to Conley's Patch. The fire 
had then got well started, in two small buildings south of the 
Armory, and it just tore up Wells street, under those houses set 


on posts, and sidewalks raised up from the streets. Then I saw 
we should have heavy work before us. 

Yandercook wanted some powder, but I told him we had none, 
and he went off to get some. 

I had just got two engines to work when Jack said: "My 
God, she's ahead of us." So we went down, and you remember 
that carpenter shop behind the Oriental building and them low 
wooden sheds ? "VUell, sir, they were blazing. I ordered up the 
Chicago and broke out the glass in the lower front window (that's 
where I got my hand hurt, you see,) and took the hose right 
through the basement, but the flames drove us out, and it wasn't 
long before the Oriental Hall was just rolling in flames. Why, 
if that building had iron shutters on her she wouldn't have 
burned ; but the wind was fearful now. I saw a blazing board 
go right through the back window of a building in the block 
facing north on Washington, and pretty soon it was blazing 


Vandercook then came with the powder, and put it in the base- 
ment of the Union Bank building, but it just puffed and never 
jarred the block a bit, and before they could get ready to give 
her another lift they could not live inside of her. You see I 
thought we could save Sheridan's headquarters if we could only 
blow down the block across the street, but it was too late. Just 
then the Court House took fire, and I sent an engine to the Sher- 
man House, hoping to save that, for I thought that the tower of the 
Court House would fall inside, and with the wide open space we 
should have some change left yet. But the wind was just tremen- 
dous. I saw it blow a man against the lamp-post at the Pittsburgh 
and Fort Wayne ticket office, across the street from the Sherman 
House, and the post and the man came down together. A. H. 
Miller's store caught fire in six places from the awnings rolled 
up, and they served as pockets for the fire to lodge in. Then the 
old Tribune building got on fire, but I hoped yet to save the Sher- 
man, when I found that those old wooden buildings on the south 
side of Lake street, and fhe sheds just south of them were just 
roaring with flame. Why the fire just roared like a lion, and 
I saw the Sherman House was gone up. Then I thought of 
my family in Thompson & Templeton's block, and I found that 
my wife had got all ready to go ; but before we could get out 
anything but the piano and one chair, the house was too hot to 
hold us. 

Just then some one said the Water Works were on fire. K. 
B. Crane said he didn't believe it. So he drove up with a horse 
and buggy, and he says before he got there the flames were com- 
ing out of all the windows. It caught from some cinders from 
the Court House or the Board of Trade. (They say cinders 


were on the crib, but I don't believe that, interrupted the repor- 
ter). Yes, sir, they were, and if you go out there you will see 
the marks on the roof, and it was life or death with the keeper 
and his wife, and they pumped water and put out the sparks, or 
the crib and they too would have gone, and perhaps you won't 
believe it, but a man was plowing up at Evanstou, and that's 10 
or 12 miles, and he saw sparks falling all around him ; oh, you 
have no idea how the wind blew that night, and then there was 
something, I think, T (Jon't know, I shouldn't like exactly to say 
it, but there must have been fire below ground as well as in the 
wind overhead. Two strangers came to me the next day and 
said they were strangers from the East stopping at the Sherman 
House, and when they saw that was going they went to the next 
street, and while standing there they saw a blue flame coming 
up through the iron gratings at the corner, and on looking in saw 
the whole basement on fire, and not a spark in the rest of the 
building. You saw at the corner of Wells and Randolph the 
road hove up ; well, I followed that down to the gas-works, and 
it was raised up in half a dozen places ; that was where the 
gas took fire and burst in the sewers. When the gas-works 
took fire, they let off the gas into the sewers, and the enormous 
gasometer fell down to the ground ; and I think perhaps the 
buildings were filled with gas from the sewers and private drains, 
and took fire inside as well as from the roof overhead. People 
seemed stupified and crazed, and instead of putting out the sparks 
on their roofs, just let them burn, and the wind would take up 
pieces of blazing felt as big as half a sheet, and carry it up to a 
wooden cornice, and then that building was gone. And I didn't 
know but Allen was helping us on the West Side, when he and 
ten or twelve more were cut off, and they made up their mind 
they would have to swim for life. Allen had just stripped to his 
shirt and drawers when a tug and two vessels came along and 
took them aboard ; and while they held up long enough for 
that the masts and rigging of the boats took fire. The tug cast 
them off below Van Buren street bridge and put Allen and his 
crowd ashore. Here Allen saw a fire on Quincy street, and 
says that if the houses had been covered with kerosene they 
could not have burned so fast while he was going only two 
squares. So, with everything making against us, no wonder we 
couldn't get ahead. 

Reporter. But had you engines enough ? 

Marshall. All the engines ever made couldn't stop her at the 
Oriental Building. She kept a jumping over our heads all the 
time so we couldn't get ahead. We had 'only fifteen engines 
in all. Two were at the repair shop, and only one engine was 
burned, for we saved all of the engines that were being repaired. 

Boston has 21 engines, but she hasn't half the territory ; and 
look at her buildings. New York has twice as many as we, com- 



pared with her size. I wanted the Board to let me have six 
floating engines last year, but they wouldn't, and if we'd had them 
the night of the fire we could have saved the elevators, for the 
fire crowded us so that we couldn't work but a mighty little while 
till we had to move. One of our engines didn't have time to 
unscrew her coupling, so they took an axe and broke down the 
hydrant and took it along with them, and even then the hair was 
singed off the horses. 

This account reads like the veriest romance, and yet there is 
no question of its correctness, for the Marshal is not only a man of 
known integrity, but his account is authenticated from the mouths 
of scores of witnesses, equally reliable and wholly disinterested. 

How Valuable Records Were Saved. 

Scarcely less exciting than the foregoing, is the account given 
by Mr. John G. Shortall, of the manner in which he saved his 
numerous abstracts and indices of real estate transactions, 
which, as the records of Cook County were destroyed, are in- 
valuable as evidences of title to Chicago property. Mr. S. had 
returned from church to his residence, in the Southern part of 
the city, but, from some unaccountable impulse, went down to 
the fire and watched it from 10 to 12 o'clock, when he began to 
fear that his office, in Larmon block, might be in danger. From 
this point we give the account in his words : 

" On reaching the office, I found great danger existing from the 
awnings, which were outside the building, the embers dropping 
down very thickly on the roofs of the buildings, and on the 
front, and signs, and awnings. I ran up stairs, got into the 
office and tried to cut away the awnings in front of our building, 
and that of the building adjoining ; but, owing to the absence of 
anything adequate, I had to give that up, and simply press them 
up close to the wall, that the embers might drop off them, and 
not be caught in them. Even then I scarcely believed it possi- 
ble that the Larmon Bloc]* could take fire, and I requested the 
men in the upper portion of the building, with buckets of water, 
to put out any embers that might fall there and endanger the 
building. In another half hour I felt more apprehensive, and 
went in the street to find an express wagon. This must have 
been an hour and a half before the building actually burned. I 
stopped, probably fifteen different trucks and express wagons, 
offering them any pay to work for me in saving the books. Seven 
of them at least, I engaged, one after another, they faithfully 
promising me that they would come back when they had carried 


tB.e load and done the work in which they were engaged, but 
no one came back. At this juncture I met my friend Mr. Nye, 
who was looking out, as I was, for the danger. I told him that 
I needed him, and he answered me promptly that he was at my 
service. ' We both watched some time longer for express 
wagons, but could find none. At last, when the Court House 
cupola took fire, I told my friend that we must have an express 
wagon within the next five minutes or we were utterly lost. He 
stood on Clark street and I on Washington street, determined to 
take the first expressman we could find. The first one happened 
to come along on his side. He seized the reins with one hand, 
and, taking a revolver from his pocket with, the other, " per- 
suaded " the expressman to haul up to the sidewalk, notwith- 
standing his cursing and swearing. When I came back from my 
unsuccessful watch I found tne expressman there, and my friend, 
handing the lines and revolver to me, went up stairs to help our 
employes, who were then in the office, to carry down the volumes. 
We got round with the wagon to Washington street entrance, 
and, after filling the wagon, found that we had but about one 
quarter of our property in it. 

Just at that critical moment a two-horse track was driven up 
to where I was superintending the packing of the books, and 
my friend, Joe Stockton, whose face was so covered with smut 
and dust that I did not recognize him until he spoke, turned 
over the truck and driver to me, with the remark, " I think, John, 
this is just the thing you want." I never felt so relieved or so 
thankful as I did at his appearance with that substantial aid at 
that moment. We unpacked our impressed expressman imme- 
diately and set him adrift with $5 in his pocket for his fiVe min- 
utes' work, and commenced to pile our property on friend Stock- 
ton's truck. Meanwhile the flames were roaring and surging 
around us. Six of our boys were carrying down the volumes as 
rapidly as they could, and I, standing on truck, was stowing 
away the books economically as to space. About that time they 
told me the Court House bell fell down. I lost all idea of time. 
It must have been about 2 o'clock. I never heard the bell fall, 
I was so excited. Toward the last, when we had got our indi- 
ces all down, safely, and were trying to save other valuable pa- 
Eers and books, many^ of which we did save, it was stated that 
mith & Nixon's building was about to be blown up. Our truck 
was headed toward that building. The sky was filled with burn- 
ing embers which were falling arcmnd us thickly. As soon, I 
think, as the information was given that that building was to be 
blown up, the crowd rushed past us down Washington street, 
toward the lake, terribly excited, shouting and warning every- 
body away. My driver was very ^nervous, and on one pretext or 
another would start his horses up for a rod or two, swearing 
that he would not be blown iap for us or for the whole country ; 


but I succeeded in stopping him eight or ten times during the 
excitement. In the meantime our men were coming down the 
stairs laden with our property and returning as rapidly as they 
could. I was standing on the books, packing them in the truck, 
and the embers were flying on them, and I picked them off as 
they fell and threw them into the street, until, a rod at a time, 
we reached the corner of Dearborn and Washington. Messrs. 
Fuller and Handy were the last to leave the office, and they did 
not leave until Buck & Kayner's drug store was on fire. The 
store, as we believed, was full of chemicals and explosive matter. 
At that time the Court House was a mass of flames, and our 
own building was burning, and other buildings hi the immediate 
vicinity entirely destroyed. Three of us then started with the 
truck for my house, which we reached about 3 o'clock that morn- 
ing. I had our property unloaded and placed securely within ; 
and, after giving the driver and others some refreshments, I 
started again for the fire to See what aid I could give other suf- 


" We had a nice little cottage on the north side, near Indiana 
Street Bridge, with a little yard in front, where I had planted the 
rose tree mother gave me from our dear old home. Mother is 
dead now, and the homestead sold. We had plants in the 
window that grew well from the loving .care bestowed on them. 
Geraniums and heliotropes, and even the orange tree that 
furnished flowers for my hair on my wedding night, while the 
honeysuckle over the door came from a far-away sister's grave 
at the East. 

The mementoes on the mantel, the pictures of those gone 
before, the playthings of some little ones that are lying still and 
peaceful in Rose Hill, the golden locks cut from their curly 
heads, and the little clothing they wore where is it all ? What 
a horrible dream! We didn't save anything, because my 
husband said the fire wouldn't come so far, so we waited and I 
packed my trunk with all my nice things, and in a moment, 
before we could think, the distillery and coalyards and lumber 
were all on fire, and our house was in a great cloud of flame. 

I took my boy and ran across the bridge. My husband 
dragged the trunk to the bridge, but left it a minute to help 
me over the river, and went back, and an engine had struck the 
trunk, burst it open, and not one single thing was left in it. Then 
my husband came and told me, and I didn't care whether I died 
or not. I wished I could die. And I looked across the river 
and saw all my things burning up in the house, and I just laid 
down under the sidewalk and tried to go to sleep. We slept 
under there all Monday night, and we had not a mouthful all 
fliat day. The rain came in the night, and I was soaked to the 


skin. Toward morning I took a chill. Then I hoped I should 
die for certain. I kept getting chilly, and I knew I was going 
away from ah 1 I loved here. 

Some one came along Tuesday and said we should get into a 
church. Somebody carried me there, and gave me dry clothes 
and a room by myself and something to eat, and then I was afraid 
I should not die. Then I went to some hospital, for I was about 
to be confined, and the smell, the crowd, the sickness and deaths 
made me sick, and my husband brought me here. For weeks I 
stayed here with neither a door or window, and all the carpenters 
pounding till I thought my head would burst. Just a week ago 
to-day I had this little baby. Some ladies gave me some- clothes 
for it. More than twenty of them have come here with pencil 
and paper and asked me what I needed and that was the last I 
have ever seen of them. 

I have never asked for anything, but I must have blankets, and 
myljusband wants shoes and drawers. He can get no work at 
his trade. He says he would walk two miles and back every day 
to get at his old work." 

And this is her simple, truthful, terrible story 1 


Here is a picture from the story of a lady whose home was 
burned : 

"There came a strange sound in the air which stilled, or 
seemed to still, for a moment, the surging crowd. ' Was it thun- 
der ?' we asked. No, the sky was clear and full of stars, and we 
shuddered as we felt, but did not sav, that it was a tremendous 
explosion of gunpowder. By this time the blazing sparks and 
bits of burning wood, which we had been fearfully watching, 
were fast becoming an unintermitting fire of burning hail, and 
another shower of blows on the doors warned us that there was 

not a moment to be lost. C/all E ' (the invalid ; ) do not let 

him stay a minute, and I will try to save our poor little birds !' 
My sister flew to wake up our precious charge, and I ran down 
stairs, repeating to myself to make me remember, ' Birds, deeds, 
silver, jewelry, silk-dresses,' as the order in which we would try- 
to save our property, if it came to the worst. As I passed 
through our pretty parlors how my heart ached. Here the rem- 
nant of my father's library, a copy of a Bible printed in 1637, 
on the table ; on another, my dear Mrs. Browning, in five vol- 
umes, the gift of a lost friend. What should I take ? What 
should I leave? I alternately loaded myself with gift after gift, 
and dashed them down in despair. Lovely pictures and statu- 
ettes, left by a kind friend for the embellishment of our little 
rooms, and which had turned them into a bower of beauty must 
they be left ? At last I stopped before our darling, a sweet and 


tender picture of Beatrice Cenci going to the execution, which 
looked down at me, through the dismal red glare which was 
already filling the rooms, , with a saintly and weird sweetness 
that seemed to have* something wistful in it. I thought, ' I will 
save this if I die for it ;' but my poor parrot called my name 
and asked for a peanut, and I could no more have left him than 
if he had been a baby. But could I carry that huge cage ? No, 
indeed ; so I reluctantly took my little canary, who was painfully 
fluttering about and wondering at the disturbance, and, kissing 
him, opened the front door and set him free only to smother, 
I fear. But it was the best I could do for him if I wished to 
save my parrot, who had a' prior right to be considered one of 
the family, if sixteen years of incessant chatter may be supposed 
to establish such right. 

Incidents are practically exhaustless, and altogether beyond 
computation. ^Thousands upon thousands of cases, cv^n ftut- 
side of the losses of life, are utterly irretrievable, tidious, piuful 
and heart-rendering. As it is impossible to treat of them in 
detail, they are summed up in a comprehensive recapitulation in 
the proper place. 


The committee appointed to investigate the origin, progress 
and devastation of the fire, have made their report. We take 
from it the following interesting items : 

The board find that the fire originated in a two story barn in 
rear of No. 137 DeKoven street, the premises being owned by 
Patrick Leary. The fire was first discovered by a drayman by 
the name of Daniel Sullivan, who saw it while sitting on the side- 
walk on the south side of DeKoven street, and nearly opposite 
Leary's premises. He fixes the tune at not more than twenty- 
five "minutes past 9 o'clock, when he first noticed the flames com- 
ing out of the barn. There is no proof that any persons had 
been in the barn after nightfall that evening. Whether it origi- 
nated from a spark blown from a chimney on that windy night, 
or was set ou fire by human agency, we are unable to determine. 
Mr. Leary, the owner, and all his family prove to have been in 
bed and asleep at the time. There was a small party in the 
front part of Leary's house, which was occupied by Mr. McLaugh- 
lin and wife. But we failed to find any evidence that anybody 
from McLaughlin's part of the house went near the barn that 

If any person set the fire, either by accident or design, he was 
careful not to give any alarm. The nearest engine-house was sis 


blocks from the fire ; the next nearest one was nine blocks away. 
The nearest hose house was located eleven blocks from the fire, 
and at this hose house the watchman had seen the fire before 
the alarm was given from the Court-Hous*e, and the company 
were on their way to the fire before the alarm was struck. 

In consequence of this early sighting of the fire, the hose com- 
pany (the America) went eleven blocks and attached their hose 
to the fire-plug and got water on the fire before any engine did, 
although two engines were located considerably nearer the fire. 
It would require five minutes for the nearest engine to go to the 
fire, a distance of six blocks. From three to five minutes more 
would be required in which to unreel and lay out the Jiose, make 
connection with the plug, and go to work. Intelligent citizens 
who lived near the place of the fire testify that it was from ten 
to fifteen minutes from the time they first saw the fire before any 
engines came upon the ground. It is proved that the engines re- 
paired to the fire, after getting the alarm, with the usual celerity. 
When they arrived there from three to five buildings were fierce- 
ly burning. The fire must then have been burning from ten to 
fifteen minutes, and, with the wind then blowing strongly from 
the southwest, and carrying the fire from building to building in 
a neighborhood composed wholly of dry wooden buildings, with 
wood shavings piled in every barn and under every house, the 
fire had got under too great headway for the engines called out 
by the first alarm to be able to subdue it. 

Blowing up buildings in the face of the wind was tried, but 
without any benefit. The Court House and the Water Works, 
though a mile apart, were burning at the same time. Gunpow- 
der was used in blowing up buildings with good effect, the next 
day, in cutting off the fire at the extreme south end of it, and 
preventing it backing any further. 

We believe that, had the buildings on the West Side, where 
the fire* commenced, been built of brick or stone, with safe roof- 
ing (the buildings need not have been fire-proof), the fire could 
have been stopped without doing great damage, and certainly 
would not have crossed the river. After it did cross the wood- 
en cornices, wooden signs of large size, the cupolas, and the tar 
and felt roofs, which were on most of the best buildings, caused 
their speedy destruction, and aided greatly in spreading the con- 
flagration. The single set of pumping works, upon which the 
salvation of the city depended, were roofed with wood, had no 
appliance by which water could be raised to the roof in case of 
fire, and was one of the earliest buildings to burn ia the North 


Concerning the origin of the fire, is constructed out of the 
fact, that in March 1871, three enterprising men visited Chicago 


for the express purpose of laying before the city authorities a 
plan for extinguishing fires by means of carbonic acid gas. This 
gas was to be generated and saved from the same coal that made 
the illuminating gas. The pipes were to be laid side by side 
with the others, and the whole theory of the plan was, that when 
a building took fire, the people were to rush out, the doors to be 
closed, the carbonic acid gas to be turned on, which would at 
once extinguish the fire, without any injury or damage to house 
or furniture by water, which often does more damage than the 
fire itself. 

These men received some encouragement that their plan would 
be favorably received and accepted by the city. Expensive 
works were accordingly constructed, and time and money freely 
lavished while all through the summer months the men waited, 
hoping soon to realize immense wealth from their grand pro- 
ject. Late in September they learned that as a final decision 
the city declined to have any thing to do with the new extinguisher, 
refusing even to try experiments or allow them to be tried. 

On Saturday October 7th those three men passed through 
New York on their way home and in a few moments conversa- 
tion with a friend at the depot, one of them remarked, in a tone 
half dogged, half reckless, " we have tried our best to do some- 
thing for Chicago, she has kicked us oiify and now she may bear 
the consequences." 

" Where's Harriet and the children ?" asked the friend. 

" I brought them out to L " (about twenty miles from the 
city) and they will remain there until I go or send for them." 

A -bell rang, the train started, and three hard, desperate cases 
were lost sight of in the crowded car. , 

The next morning the whole country thrilled wflsa the news of 
. the Great Conflagration, and two daygj later Chicago had passsd 
through the fiery furnace. 


There is another theory regarding the origin of the fire, to 
which many persons attach importance, and it is therefore wor- 
thy of record. It is the startling theory that a secret organiza- 
tion conceived and matured the diabolical plot for the destruc- 
tion of the city, and sent their agents here to execute it. We 
therefore transcribe to these pages what purports to be the con- 


fession of one of the prime movers in this fiendish work. We 
give it without the expression of any opinion as to its authenticity. 
Though it appears at the first thought to be utterly romantic 
and improbable, there are not wanting confirmatory circum- 
stances. For example, the original explanation of the origin of 
the fire has been denied by two persons on oath, which is sufii- 
cient to disprove the statement in a court of justice. There is 
abundant evidence going to show that the fire was set in more 
than one place. A well known lady who resides in the vicinity 
of the Franklin school, on Division street, states positively that 
while the fire was progressing north in the North division from 
the river, she saw a man walk up to the side of the primary 
school, a frame building in the rear of the Franklin school, turn 
out a lot of shavings from a bag, and immediately after saw the 
shavings flaming up. With these observations, the alleged con- 
fession is given in the precise language that it was received, aa 
follows : 


The headquarters of the organization is in Paris, and its ram- 
ifications extend all over the world. There are branqhes in Lon- 
don, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Berlin, St. 
Petersburg, Naples, Florence, Vienna, and other cities in Great 
Britain and on the continent, and in New York, Boston, Wash- 
ington, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Chicago, in this country. 
Its members are bound by a fearful oath never to divulge any of 
the plans of operations of the society, and were it known that I 
was about to relate the story I have commenced I should never 
live to finish it, while if the author of this ever becomes known 
I will die .a death more horrible than that which met any of the 
victims of the inquisition. It is, therefore, with fear and trem- 
bling that I s/>i down to write the true story of the origin of the 
Chicago fire, and nothing but the sternest sense of duty, and a 
desire to clear my conscience, of a load that is too heavy for 
endurance, would induce me to pen these lines. 

I fancy the sneer of incredulity with which some will greet my 
announcement that the destruction of Chicago was accomplished 
by this organization, but, when I have unfolded the details of the 
plot and the motives that prompted its conception, incredulity 
will give place to astonishment that human beings could be found 
who were so blinded by fanaticism as to become parties to so 
great and overwhelming a crime. The events of the past two 
weeks have awakened me from a dream so wild and improbable 
that were it not for the dreary evidences of its reality that I see 
about me, I could scarce believe, and still more reluctantly can 



I believe, that in the terrible tragedy that has been enacted I 
was one of the principal actors ; that, though blinded by a fanat- 
icism more fearful than the worst form of lunacy, I permitted 
myself to become the cause of so much misery and woe. 

To begin at the beginning, I must revert to its extent its ob- 
jects and its plans. 

The society was organized during the troubulous times that 
preceded the election of Louis Napoleon to the Presidency of 
France. A commune, in which all should have equal rights and 
privileges ; in which the poor should be equal with the rich and 
the rich equal with the poor, was much talked of at that time, 
and this organization was formed with that object in view. The 
election of Napoleon to the Presidency, and his subsequent coup 
d' etat by which he seated himself upon the throne, for a timo 
defeated the plans of 'the socialists. Notwithstanding the fact, 
however, the organization was not abandoned, but was rather 
more closely cemented and more widely diffused. The evils of 
the reign of the third Napoleon seemed to add fuel to the fire 
that was smouldering in France, and the society drew into its 
ranks all the elements of discontent throughout the empire. The 
result of the late war between France and Germany was to in- 
corporate a more dangerous element into the society, and it was 
determined to seize upon the opportunity offered by the with 
drawal of the Prussians from Paris for putting the principles of 
the society into execution. 

Emissaries were dispatched to all the commercial capitals of 
the world, and, together with those who had fled from the Ver- 
sailles government, formed branches in all the leading cities, not 
only in Europe, but in America. There was not lacking those 
who were so deeply^ imbued with an insane desire for the tri- 
umph of communistic principles that they were willing to under- 
take any desperate plan that gave promise of success, even 
though attended with infinite misery and suffering. 

The long existing conflict between capital and labor had pre- 
pared thousands of persons in every large city, and especially 
in manufacturing districts, for any desperate work that would 
avenge the real or fancied wrongs they had received at the 
hands of the monied aristocracy. In this field the emissaries 
labored with a zeal that would have done credit to a better 
cause. The utmost care was exercised to prevent any disclosure 
of the plans of the organization. 

While in Paris I became a member of this organization, and 
it is not surprising, therefore, that on its first organization in 
Chicago, some eight months ago, I was selected as one of the 
prime movers. Since I had returned from France I had been in 
correspondence with some of those prominent in the movement 
there, among whom were M. Henri Martin, who was among the 
first to fall a victim to the Versailles troops at the capture of 


the city ; M. Assi, whose tragic fate is so fresh in the minds of 
all, and M. Julius Garadine, from whom I learned the progress 
the society was making, and many of its future plans. 

The organization in Chicago was formed under the direction 
of two members who had fled from Paris, and myself. As else- 
where, none but the most daring and trustworthy were admit- 
ted. The avowed purposes of the society were harmless in them- 
selves. They were to endeavor to elevate the workingmen to the 
level of the rich ; that everybody should enjoy equal benefits, and 
poverty and want should be unknown. To these declarations 
there was a codicil binding the members, if it were found impos- 
sible to secure the results by peaceable means to resort to what- 
ever measure should be deemed advisable by the directors of 
the organization. 

The first two months of the existence of the society were con- 
sumed in fruitless attempts to stir up strife between the mechan- 
ics of the city and their employers. But the disastrous conse- 
quences of the eight-hour strikes in 1867 were yet fresh in re- 
membrance, and for once the labor unions refused to do the bid- 
ding of their prompters. This was a discouraging blow, but the 
members of the society were determined ; for colossal fortunes 
were being amassed in an incredibly short space of time, and an 
aristocracy of wealth was springing up that threatened to be- 
come so strong as to defy overthrow. Plan after plan was sug- 
gested, and abandoned as impracticable. Finally, the 


was suggested. Appalled by the thought of working such des- 
olation in the fairest city on the continent, I at first shrank from 
participation in the transaction. I protested that instead of 
promoting the objects of the society it would only retard them. 
]But all the others were firm, and, weakly, I yielded. Gradually 
the insanity produced by being a promoter of a calamity that 
would shake the world to its centre, took possession of me. 
Sleeping or waking, my thoughts were filled with the plan. 

To mature the details of the plot required the utmost caution. 
The project of raising a mob by means of some popular excite- 
ment and to burn and pillage the city was debated at length, but 
at last abandoned because of its hazardousness and the inevitable 
loss of life that it would involve, for to take life was not our ob- 
ject it was only to humble the men who had waxed rich at the 
expense of the poor. The incendiary's torch was finally fixed 
upon, and on the ninth day of August preparations were actively 
begun to carry it into execution. 

Several times a day was fixed for the awful tragedy, but as of- 
ten abandoned. The co-operation of the elements was needed. 
The torch was first applied to the warehouse on the corner of 
State and Sixteenth streets on the gusty morning of the 30th of 



September. It was hoped that the high south wind then pre- 
vailing would carry the flames to the row of frame buildings to 
the Northward, but a sudden change in the wind defeated the 
project by enabling the lire department to quench the flames. 
Again on the Saturday night preceding the catastrophe a match 
was applied on Canal street, and for a few hours all seemed to be 
working well, and but for the failure of one of the petroleum 
mines to ignite, Sabbath morning would have seen Chicago in 

But the doom that was overhanging the city was delayed but 
a day, and that day came near proving fatal to our plans, for 
then and only then were we in danger of betrayal. 

All day long we had been in secret conclave where HO mortal 
could spy out our doings. Petroleum mines had been laid in a 
score of places, and trusty men were stationed at each of them 
to apply the match at the proper moment. The plot had been 
arranged that all should appear as accident, our part being 
mainly to assist the progress of the flames, for we knew that, 
once beyond a certain limit, no agency could stay them. The 
place above all others in the city which promised the great 
measure of success was in the barn on DeKoven street. No 
" old Irish hag " was milking her cow at the time, as the report- 
ers of the city press are determined to have it. A human being 
of a different sex was there, however, but had disap^ ired, as if 
by magic, before any mortal eye had remarked his presence. 

Before the arrival of th.e jaded firemen at the scene of the 
conflagration, half a dozen mines had been touched off, and 
their efforts to subdue the flames were as futile as the effort of a 
child to stem the raging cataract of Niagara. When the flames 
had reached the river, work began on the South side. Simulta- 
neously a mine was sprung at the gas-works, and another near 
Van Buren street bridge, and two whole blocks were a seething 
hell of flame in less time than it takes my unaccustomed pen to 
tell itt From thence onward the fire was assisted by a mine set 
on Wells street, near Monroe, another a block and a half further 
east, and still another in Farwell Hall. Few on that eventful 
Sunday night suspeeted that they were sitting over a magazine 
that needed but the touch of a match to involve them in a 
perfect hell of flame. 

From that point the destruction of the South side, with its 
massive granite ,piles and well-stored warehouses, was assured. 
Onward sped the flames, and wherever they appeared likely to 
skip, a new magazine was fire, and ruin with his fearful front 
involved the fair city. 

I had been delegated to explode the powder magazine on 
South Water street. 

Our only fear of want of success was that the authorities, 
failing to stay the mad current of fire by ordinary means, would 


resort to the last and only hope lay a few blocks iti ruinfc by 
means of gunpowder. To guard against this a tram nad been 
laid communicating with the magazine, and required but a spark 
to destroy it. When the work had been fully inaugurated, I 
hastened to the point to which I had been assigned, wild with a 
frenzy more terrible than any I had ever before experienced. 
I reached the spot where the match should have been applied. 
A huge coal lay within a few feet of it. A slight kick from my 
foot would have placed it over the hidden fuse, but the streets 
were thronged with people, and I shrank from committing the 
act that would have plunged hundreds of human beings into 

That moment's hesitation was their salvation. The powder 
brigade arrived almost upon the instant, and the explosive was 
removed from the building. Among the first barrels removed 
were those with which the train communicated, and although a 
stray spark afterward fired the fuse, no explosion followed. 

Hardly had I recovered from the momentary flash of humane 
feeling tnat overcame me, than I was placed in imminent peril of 
my Hie. The flames had advanced Northward on both sides of 
where I stood, and were rushing toward me with fearful rapid- 
ity. Dazed by the various conflicting emotions that had filled 
my breast, I had. not noticed this, and when I awoke from my 
trance the most horrible of deaths stared me in the face. Hem- 
med in on every side in a crucible of fire, I for a moment gave 
way to despair. But despair gave me strength, and, breaking 
down a heavy door, I rushed through a store to the river and 
plunged into its waters. A boat moored at the dock assisted 
me to cross, although I did not waste time in getting into it, 
but pushed it before me as I swam. Beaching the North-side, I 
ran with all my speed through the streets toward the city limits, 
seeking to escape. 

In the meantime, my co-workers in crime had not been idle. 
As the currant of fire passed northward from Van Buren street, 
it appeared that a large tract bounded on the north by Madison 
street, and on the west by Dearborn street, including a valuable 
section of the city, would escape the terrible destruction that had 
visited the remainder of the city. The flames had proceeded 
along Harrison and Van Buren streets to Fourth avenue, and 
here seem to have spent their force. It was a terrible moment. 
A few brave men battled with the demon and but for the omni- 
presence of the league would have stayed its progress. But a 
man rushed into a house that had been abandoned by its occu- 
pants, ostensibly for the purpose of saving some household uten- 
sils that had been left, and returned laden with goods ; but a 
moment afterward the rear of the building became a mass of 
flame, and a gust of wind carried it eastward to the lake and 



northward over the district that had thus far been spared, thus 
completing the universal ruin. 


it had been intended to destroy but few buildings, and these the 
business headquarters and residences of the affluent. As during 
the progress of the fire on the South Side, mines were sprung in 
various localities as the flames advanced, but only where the 
natural course of the flames was likely to leave the work but im- 
perfectly done. 

The fire progressed too slowly. The water-works were in full 
blast, and there was danger that through their agency some of 
the buildings doomed to demolition would be saved. The works 
had been prepared for destruction, but the time had not arrived, 
as the fire was several blocks away. But, notwithstanding this 
fact, the match was applied, and the workmen were obliged to 
fly for their lives. In their flight the man who had fired the 
mine was overthrown and badly injured, and as the fire advanced 
he fell a victim to its fury. 

This ended the work of the incendiaries. The elements' com- 
pleted the destruction, and the loveliest portion of Chicago was 
a wasted and dreary ruin. The results are more than had been 
anticipated, and not yet satisfactory. Many buildings that had 
been doomed escaped the fiery ordeal, while a large tract that it 
had been determined to spare is now a ruin. Retribution is not 
long in following the perpetrators of great crimes. Two of the 
original founders of the organization in Chicago met death in the 
terrible conflagration they had instigated, and I alone am spared 
to suffer worse than a thousand deaths from the stings of con- 
science. Seven of the men delegated to assist the fire in its 
progress also perished miserably in the hell they had conjured 
up, while two others are probably maimed for life. 

As for myself, I have httle hope of escaping vengeance. The 
oath to which I subscribed carries with it the penalty of death 
in a form more horrible than any that has been visited upon 
mortal since the sun first rose over chaos. The organization is 
omnipresent, permeating every circle of society, each member 
being bound to mete out the penalty of the oath to any one who 
may divulge its secrets. This, its greatest of secrets, has been 
written under the load of a guilty conscience. Life has lost all 
its attractions for me, and I scarcely care to live, save to see the 
damage caused partly through my instrumentality repaired. But 
if it shall appear that I cannot escape from those who have al- 
ready involved me in so much misery, I will yet not die at their 
hands, but will prefer to lie in accursed ground. 

P. S. Let me add one word of warning. Other cities, both 
in this country and Europe, have been threatened with fire." 


That many of our prominent citizens Relieve in the genuine- 
ness of these revolutions, is demonstrated in their daily conver- 
sation ; and it is by no means impossible that they are founded 
in truth. 




For years our beautiful city 
Has grown in her strength and pride, 

Strong as an Indian warrior, 
Fair as a hunters bride ; 

But up from her hearts quick throbbing, 
List to our pitiful cry. 

"A Demon has been among us, 
Help! or we surely die. 

"A 35>emon whose power was stronger 
Than the strength of our puny hands, 

"Who paused not to ask for favors, 
But took the wealth of our lands: 

We fought him with desperate courage, 
He laughed at our fruitless pain, 

We begged him to spare our treasures 
Alas! that we begged in vain. 

" Spare us McVickers temple, 
Home of dramatic art." 

The demon shrieked and McVickers 
Was booked for its closing part. 

"Spare us our Tribune building, 
Stately and high and strong, 

"Whence the Messenger birds fly daily. 
To battle against the wrong." 


The demon crept over the pavement 
And clutched at the pillars fair, 

And only a heap of embers 
And a wreath of smoke were there. 

" Spare us then Colyers pulpit, 
He has fought in the Lords good fight," 

"And every word he utters 
Is an anvil stroke for the right." 

"I am no respecter of person," 
Quoth the 1 demon grim and dread, 

"And Collyer can preach next Sunday 
With God's blue sky o'er head." 
Thus hath the red browed Fire Fiend 

Stolen our treasures dear, 
Sucked out our hearts best life blood, 

And left us to famish here. 

Gone are our shrines and altars, 

Gone are the hopes we cherished, 
All in one hot breath wasted. 

All in a moment perished, 
Lost is the grain we garnered, 

Harvest of years gone by. 
Help us, for we are starving, 

Help! or we surely die. 




From the desolating power, 

Of the fire fiend, hour by hour, 
We could see the stricken city, crushed and smothered as she lay, 

We could hear her children crying, 

Homeless, helpless, weary, dying ; 
And we answered, "Of our bounty we will share with you to-day." 

So the engine dumbly waited, 

With its strong hot breathing bated, 
While the twice ten thousand packages and bales and boxes came, 

Brought in every form and fashion, 

By our wide awake compassion, 
For the sufferers who were writhing 'neath their fierce baptismal flame. 

Since the earliest flush of dawning, 

Through the busy Autumn morning, 
Food and clothing had been gathered, and one quaint big box we found , 

Hustled in among the others, 
Labelled "For our starving brothers, In the care of 3. F. Jr., 

God's Expressman ! Westward bound." 

" God's Expressman !" Each rude letter 

Told of labor's clinging fetter, [fraught,] 

On the clumsy hand that traced them', but the heart with love was 

And we gave our tribute cheery, 

Honor to the Prince of Erie, 
Blessings from the weak and weary, on the generous work he wrought. 

But the cars were packed, overflowing, 

And the engine puffing, blowing ; 
While, with hand upon the throttle, stood the stern faced engineer; 

Tall and strong, all nerve and muscle, 

Heedless of the noise and bustle, 
Seeing well the work before him, with no sign or thought of fear. 


"Beady Sam ?" The grey eyes brightened, 

And the brawny hand clasp tightened, 
" JBeady Colonel ! every man is at place to-day, I know." 

Said the Colonel quick and clear, 

To the waiting engineer, 
"What's the fastest time on record from New York to Buffalo ?" 

"We have made it in Twelve-twenty 1" 

" Do it now in 'Leven-twenty!" 
"Aye ! Aye ! Colonel!" came the answer with a hearty vim and powei 

" Start her Sam!" and cheers were sounded, 

And the first long curve was rounded, 

And beyond our sight and hearing, 

Mid the blessing and the cheering, 
Westward flew the train of treasure, Forty, Fifty miles an hour. 

Westward still! We hear the echo! 

"Here is comfort for Chicago;" 
And through busy towns anil villages, the laden coaches fly. 

Many a voice cried out " God speed them," 

And the pitying angels heed them, 
As upon their Heaven sent mission, quick as light they hurry by. 

"In the Smithfield light the fires," 

Said the message on the wires, 
And we fancy swarthy fireman twice a hundred miles away, 

Listening for the long, low humming 

Of the "James Fisk Jr. "coming, 
Making fastest time on record, on that memorable day. 

Ye who mourn the lessening stature 

Of our modern human nature, 
And the wickedness and weakness of our cultured lives deplore. 

Cease your scoffing and your scorning, 

Think of that bright autumn morning, 
Think of all the generous wishes which the train of treasures bore. 

Heart and hand had wrought together, 

Knowing not nor caring whether 
Friend or stranger would be Miccored by the bounty of their store. 

Every Iron horse was ready, 

Every driver firm and steady, 

Every whistle rang a rally, 

Through the Susquehanna valley, 
And the lightning train sped onward, Forty, Fifty miles an hour. 





On the morning of the 9th of October, 1871, the telegraphic 
wires flashed to every part of this nation, and to nearly every 
portion of the civilized world, the shocking intelligence that 
Chicago was in flames, hundreds of lives had been destroyed, 
and ten thousand families were homeless, shelterless, scantily 
clad, and suffering intensely with cold, hunger, fatigue and fright. 
The whole world was appalled. The thrilling horror chilled 
every heart, and for a moment paralyzed every hand. Men 
stood aghast at -the startling and terrific announcement, that 
acres of buildings were in embers and men, women and children 
terror-stricken,- were fleeing for life, from what, but yesterday 
were comfortable and happy homes. It was difficult to realize 
the awful calamity. It seemed to be an exaggeration, and all 
hoped, at first, that it would prove such. But later dispatches 
more than confirmed the previous intelligence ; and, ere mid-day, 
Mayor Mason of the doomed city, had telegraphed to the Mayors 
of the principal cities in the country, the fact of the utter desti- 
tution of the people, and appealing for food, clothing and other 
necessaries of life. 

His touching appeal aroused the people to their senses. The 
great heart of humanity throbbed with the emotion. Heaven 
born charity, that divine principle in man, which most resembles 
the author of his being, and which blesses the possessor no less 
than the recipient of his favors, in a moment was quickened new- 
ness of life in every heart throughout the nation and even across 
the broad Atlantic ; and a sublime, human sympathy, limited to 
no section, nation or race, to no party, creed or social condition, 
instantly was displayed in active word for relief. A portion of 
humanity, was suddenly and sorely stricken and afflicted, and 
purse-strings were loosened everywhere. In a brief space of time, 
the Mayors of cities had issued orders for the assembling of coun- 
cils ; Presidents of Chambers of Commerce, and Boards of Trade, 


Officers of Masonic, Odd Fellows, Temperance and other societies 
and Ministers of different religious sects had notified their re- 
spective bodies to assemble for the purpose of taking immediate 
action in regard to providing for the sufferings of the distressed 
people of the burnt district of Chicago. With alacrity the 
members responded to this call and when assembled, although 
hearts were overflowing with generous sympathy and tongues 
were let loose in eloquent portrayal of the necessities of the 
people of a sister city, impoverished in a single night, by the 
destructive ravages of the fiery element, yet no unnecessary 
words were spoken, for all felt that not a moment should be lost, 
if they would succor those in distress, in the hour of their direst 
need. Action, action, prompt and efficient action was the soul- 
stirring eloquence on those occasions. In accordance with the 
object of the gathering, in each case respectively, when some 
generous member would lead off with a resolution donating a 
sum, which under other circumstances would have been deemed 
a most exorbitant demand upon their treasury, ere the member 
had fairly pronounced the sum, another would spring to his feet 
and move to amend, by doubling the amount ; a third one would 
treble it, when a half .dozen, all at once, would amend the resolu- 
tion by naming a sum at least four times as large as the original 
motion, so unselfish and generous had they become under the 
inspiration of this unparalleled calamity. Cities and towns all 
over the country, in their corporate capacity, made haste to vie 
with each other, both in the amount of their donations, and the 
speed with which they should forward both money and supplies 
to the unfortunate, though brave and deserving city. 


As the news was received that the firemen of Chicago were 
entirely overcome with fatigue it became necessary that brave 
and skilful firemen in other places should volunteer their servi- 
ces in this time of fearful need ; and hundreds of these unselfish, 
couragous, and noble men, with their splendid steam fire-engines, 
from the principal cities within several hundred miles, were 
quickly on their way to lend their utmost aid to stay the further 
progress of the devouring flames; and, to encourage and assist 
the suffering citizens in every other way within their power. As 
delegation after delegation arrived, they were welcomed with 


loud cheers and heartfelt thanks by the terribly afflicted citizens, 
who hailed them as friends indeed, because friends in need. But 
when these noble men, with that cool bravery and discrimina- 
ting judgment, so peculiar to tried and experienced firemen, sta- 
tioned their engines, steamed up and commenced their attack 
upon $he devouring element, they were enthusiastically cheered 
by the people, who greatfully acknowledged their efficiency and 
important and praiseworthy efforts. 

Each delegation of firemen also received public acknowledge- 
ment of their invaluable services. 


City councils everywhere throughout the country, convened 
with the utmost promptitude and voted and forwarded donations 
of money and necessary articles, with unprecedented liberality 
and extraordinary dispatch ; their hearts seeming to lie in their 
hands and their hands thrust deep into the treasury of the peo- 
ple, who, for once, not only approved of the lavish expenditure, 
but were ready to urge their councilmen to give still more gener- 
ously. Every Chamber of Commerce probably in the Union, on 
receipt of the frightful intelligence of the terrible fire, immediately 
held a special relief session and voted large sums of money, 
which were promptly forwarded to the proper authorities. 

Boards of Trade all over the land also convened with alacrity 
and poured out their treasures abundantly ; swelling greatly the 
funds which were to partially relieve the distresses of those who 
had thus suddenly lost their all, and were afflicted, as were never 
before so many persons in so short a time. 

Committees from the City Councils, Chambers of Commerce and 
Boards of Trade of each city, were generally appointed to co-ope- 
rate with each other in the distribution of their donations, so 
that their charities would be the more effectual and speedy in 
relieving distress. 

The overflowing sympathies and munificent charities of the 
people all over the country, sublimely portrayed the generous 
impulses of humanity, and the grand fact that an occasion only 
was needed to show that much of the angel still inhered to man. 
Majestically did the American people, upon this occasion, portray 
their relationship with angels. Masonic societies all over the 
country, prompted by the ties of brotherhood and holy princi- 


pies of charity, were not tardy in convening nor niggardly in 
their donations of relief, and not dilatory in forwarding them to 
the sufferers, with brotherly assurances that those were but an 
earnest of what they would do in the future, in case of need. 
Odd-Fellows Lodges, inspired by the heavenly principles of 
" friendship, love and truth," responded nobly in behalf of the 
sufferers, sparing no efforts, and making no delay in dispatching 
their abundant contributions, while offering words of consolation 
and hope, and expressions of earnest and tender sympathy. 
The societies of " Good Men," " Bed Men," Order of Pythias, 
Son of Temperance, Good Templars, and mutual benefit socie- 
ties of every other name, all made generous donations, forget- 
ing, for the time being, all selfish ideas and feelings, and having 
before them only the idea of a whole city in dire distress, ap- 
pealing for succor. They all offered words of cheer, flanked by 
grand donations of money, or what was equivalent. Corpora- 
tions, for once, if never before, proved that they were not de- 
void of souls, but stirred by human and generous sympathies, 
alive to the sufferings of humanity, and ready and willing to 
give liberally to relieve their distress. 

Though thousands of our citizens were houseless and hungry 
on the desolate prairie, yet so utterly were we paralyzed by the 
stupendous shock, that people at a distance seemed to compre- 
hend our situation more readily and thoroughly than we did our- 

We knew not what to ask for, but hundreds and thousands 
seemed to know by intuition what to give, and assistance flowed 
in from the most unexpected sources and with the. most unpar- 
alleled munificence. 

As early as daybreak on Tuesday morning the farmers and 
merchants from the towns near, as well as from the unburnt por- 
tions of the city, emptied their cellars and storehouses for our 
relief, and right grateful were we for their prompt and generous 
bounty. All day long car-loads and wagon-loads of provisions 
were being brought in, while the active Belief Committee, organ- 
ized as by magic, received and distributed with wise discrimina- 
tion these truly wonderful gifts. 

Soon contributions came from greater distances : for days and 
weeks the tide flowed in, bearing almost unlimited supplies of 
food, clothing, and money, and for two months every day brought 


its quota. The whole amount from the different states may be 
summed up in round numbers, as follows : 


Massachusetts, five hundred and fifty thousand. 

New York, four hundred thousand. 

Pennsylvania, two hundred and fifty thousand. 

Maryland, two hundred thousand. 

New Jersey, one hundred and eighty thousand. 

California, one hundred and sixty thousand. 

Connecticut, seventy thousand. 

Rhode Island, fifty thousand. 

New Hampshire, forty thousand. 

Ohio, fifty thousand. 

niinois, fifty thousand. 

Virginia, thirty thousand, 

Kansas, twenty-eight thousand. 

Indiana, twenty-five thousand. 

Minnesota, twenty-five thousand. 

Tennessee, twenty-four thousand. 

Maine, fifteen thousand. 

Louisiana, fifteen thousand. 

And every other state and territory in the Uuion gave propor- 
tionately, until the amount of money received by the Chicago 
Relief and Aid Society, up to December 1st, reached the grand 
sum of three millions. 


Governor Palmer called a special session of the Legislature, 
to convene on the 13th of Oct. According to the constitution of 
the State the Legislature could not appropriate more than $250, 
000, but that, in addition to the millions outside, added much 
to relieve the terrible distresses of the people. They passed a 
bill to relieve Chicago of taxes for the present year, to the 
amount of $3,000,000. As this amount would have to be made 
up by other portions of the State, it is creditable to the State 
that there was nO more grumbling from the press and people ; 
and that they generally so cheerfully acquiesced in such a law. 




The railroads gave free transportation to all who wished to 
leave the city, and thousands of people availed themselves of the 
privilege thus offered, either to find shelter under friendly roofs, 
or seek relief elsewhere. 

All our Railroad corporations did noble and generous work. 

Railroad companies in -every part of the country, through 
their officers, at once announced to the public, that their roads 
were ready to transport goods of all descriptions, donated for 
the benefit of the sufferers, together with the properly appointed 
committees for their distribution, to Chicago, free of cost. And 
they all promptly and faithfully fulfilled their promises. 


The Committee on Subsistence and Railroad Trains on behalf of 
the General Chicago Relief Committee desire to return thanks to 
J. McCreighton, Assistant Superintendent of the Pennsylvania 
Railroad, for the interest taken by him in relieving Chicago suf- 
ferers, he having passed through, free of charge, over one 
thousand persons, and expressed a willingness to aid the Com- 
mittee in every way he coul$. They were also indebted to Mr. 
Unger, Manager of the Union Depot Hotel, for kindness shown 
and assistance rendered in taking care of the sufferers, he haying 
furnished meals to over one hundred free of charge, and provided 
many others with meals at a rate merely covering cost. 




All the roads leading out of Chicago, for days, carried free of 
charge such of the homeless as had friends in other places. 
And in every way possible for them to facilitate the distribution 
of charities, by carrying either donations, or authorized persons 
connected with the Relief Committees, to or fro, they responded 
promptly and liberally. The same should be r said of all the ex- 
press companies, they promptly aiding in transporting goods to 
Chicago from all points of the country. Indeed, they were 
mighty auxiliaries in the gigantic work of feeding, clothing, and 
otherwise rendering comfortable a hundred thousand people, 
who in one night were stripped of their all. 



At sunrise, the Eleventh of October, only two days after the 
fire, Col. James Fisk, Jr. mounted one of the splendid express 
wagons connected with the Erie Eail Koad, and gathering up the 
reins, drove six in hand about Now York City, receiving contri- 
butions, which were freely offered, and the more generously giver 
as the personal magnetism of Col. Fisk inspired every one t 
met with something of his own enthusiasm. 

At ten o'clock that morning, seven cars heavily laden with 
supplies of all kinds were ready to start from the Erie Depot. It 
was there that the mammoth box was found marked, " Care of 
James Fisk, Jr., God's Expressman." 

Mr. Crouch, who went with the train as super-cargo, as well as 
the engineer, Samuel Walker, testify that all along the route 
crowds of enthusiastic people gathered at the principal depots, 
bidding the train God speed, and even attempting to throw par- 
cels upon the cars as they hurried by. This was the first light- 
ning relief train, and made unprecedented time. 

The name of the engine used on this occasion, in starting from 
New York, was the "James Fisk, jr." On the evening of that day, 
Col. Fisk wrote to the Mayor of Chicago as follows : 

"We have received, since the departure of the Lightning 
Belief train this morning, over ten thousand consignments for 
the sufferers at Chicago. 

It is quite impossible to enumerate either the contents or the 
value of the packages gathered, but a person competent to judge, 
who inspected the goods forwarded by that train, estimated their 
cash value at not less than one hundred thousand dollars. We 
have, from appearances, as much, if not more, to receive to-mor- 
row, which we shall forward by our regular express trains. 


On the next day, the people of New York, not in the least 
having abated their interest in the Chiteago sufferers, poured in 
contributions from every quarter. Immense supplies were fur- 
nished for consignment by the railroads, large numbers of persons 
of every age and both sexes came to the railroad depots with 
packages of various sizes and descriptions. At the Erie depot 
clothing came in bundles, bales, trunks, valises and cases. Boxes 
and barrels formed by far the largest part of the offerings. Pro- 
visions were also contributed in abundance of every kind. One 
firm in Williamsburgh, a sugar refinery, gave one hundred and 
four barrels of crushed sugar. The contributions received by the 


Erie company alone amounted to about $100,000 per day for 
several days. 

At a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of New York City, 
held on the llth of October, $109,243.50 were raised, and 
832,082.00 reported for the day before, making a total of 

Five thousand dollars were contributed from the funds of the 
Gold Exchange, and in addition the members subscribed quite 
liberally, especially, as many of them, as members of the Mer- 
chants' Exchange had previously subscribed large sums. Their 
contributions and those through the Drug Exchange Committee, 
were $12,086. The Wholesale Coal Traders, at a meeting on the 
same day subscribed $4,300 and a Committee was appointed to 
obtain further contributions. The total subscriptions by the 
Exchange up to the 10th, were $27,000, and of the Cotton Ex- 
change, $14,000. The Jersey City Board of Finance and Taxa- 
tion voted to issue one year bonds for $50,000 for the relief of 
the sufferers. 

In the Academy of Music, Brooklyn, a mass meeting was held 
for the purpose of raising means for the relief of the sufferers. 

The amount of all the subscriptions, from every source, thus 
grandly commenced, reached an enormous figure. 

In thus giving some of the initial work in raising funds for the 
Chicago sufferers in the Metropolis of the country, we give only 
what was done in every other city of the country, in proportion 
to its size, population and commercial and manufacturing 
importance. The total amount raised by the Chamber of Com- 
merce Committee of New York, reached the enormous sum of 


Robert Bonner, publisher of the New York Ledger, presented 
$10,000 to the publishers and news dealers of Chicago who had 
suffered by the fire, and Street & Smith of the New York Weekly 
sent a private agent with $10,000 to seek out and assist individ- 
ual dealers who had lost their all. 

Such generous deeds can never be forgotten. They merit and 
receive reward. These large-hearted men will find that they 
sowed seed in good ground, which will bring forth fruit a hundred 

When the news Of the fearful catastrophy reached Philadel- 
i phia, Gep. W. Childs, proprietor of the Ledger, was absent, not 



having returned from his tour in Europe. His friends, however, 
knowing his benevolent nature, subscribed $5,000 in his name. 
A few days thereafter, Mr. Child's returned, and his first act was 
to ratify the act of his friends in respect to the donation. Few men 
are so proverbially liberal, that friends would dare to display 
such generosity in their names during their absence. But in this 
case it was perfectly safe, there not being a shadow of doubt but 
he would approve of it. All honor to Geo. W. Childs. 


Cincinnatti, agreeably to her generous antecedents, on the 
occasion of the great calamity, sounded the depths of her benev- 
olent impulses and munificently poured forth her charities to 
alleviate the distresses of the suffering citizens of Chicago. 

Her city council was immediately convened by order of Mayor 
Davis, and with noble generosity voted to appropriate $100,000. 
The Chamber of Commerce held a special meeting, as did the 
Board of Trade, to institute measures of relief, at which the 
members subscribed generously, which, together with the dona- 
tions of citizens in their private capacity, reached the splendid 
sum of $125,000." 

Immediately, on the receipt of the terrible news that their 
sister city was in flames, several of her best steam-fire engines 
were dispatched to Chicago, with a competent force of experi- 
enced firemen to manage them, under the efficient management 
of Miles Greenwood, which on their arrival did admirable 
service. Then, with ah 1 possible celerity, twenty car-loads of 
provisions were forwarded, with an efficient committee to super- 
intend their distribution. In order to make their contributions 
more efficient and lasting, so as to serve during the entire winter, 
they erected a spacious soup house at the rear of the freight 
depot of the Great Eastern Railroad. To convey to our readers 
an idea of this splendid charity, we give below a description of 

The Cincinnatti soup-house, was located at the cor. of Green 
and Carroll streets. The building, a plain frame structure, 30x50 
feet, erected at a cost of $2,500. The machinery essential to its 
operation was simple and cheap. The soup was cooked in six 
large tubs, each filled with pipes, through which the steam was 
admitted. The ingredients of the soup were beans, rice, barley 
and vegetables of all kinds. The cooking was thorough, and the 


soup produced was not excelled by that of the same kind furnished 
at the best hotels in the city. The establishment has a capacity 
to furnish 16,000 gallons daily. 

The rule was to give each person one-sixth of a gallon. About 
3,500 were daily served. This soup-house was the only point of 
supply. There was, however, another point of distribution at 
the barracks, corner of Centre avenue aud Harrison street, where 
about half the amount was dealt out. Another place of distribu- 
tion was established on the North side. At the central soup- 
house it was furnished from 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening. 
At the barracks from 9 until 5. Seven-eighths of all those who ap- 
plied were women and children whose husbands and fathers were, 
to a certain extent, occupied in the various industries of the city. 

The low rates at which people were fed will perhaps aston- 
ish most people when they learn it. The entire cost of running 
this establishment was only $241.60 per week, including all con- 
tingents. For this sum they furnished 24,500 rations a week. 
This makes the soup about one cent per .ration, or six cents per 
gallon. By increasing the amount it can be furnished for four 
.and one-half cents per gallon, making the entire expense of feed- 
ing one person for a day not more than four cents, supposing 
the diet to be entirely of soup. 

The institution was under the especial superintendence of Rev. 
Bi. Frankland, formerly connected with the Cincinnati Bethel 
and many other worthy charities. It was supported by a fund 
of $25,000, set aside for that purpose from the special appropria- 
tion made for Chicago relief by the Cincinnati Council. The 
advisability of selling this soup at a very moderate rate to those 
who do not desire to receive it as a charity, has been considered 
and it is possible that some plan to accomplish that end may be 

It will thus be seen that the charity of Cincinnati was not only 
upon a grand scale, but conducted with intelligence, and upon 
such economical, and wise principles, that their benefits were 
timely, effectual and likely to continue as long as the necessity 
for them existed. 


The people of St. Louis, also proverbial for their generous sym- 
pathies, came up gloriously to the work of relieving the distressed. 

Mayor Brown promptly convened the city council which voted 
to appropriate $50,000. But this sum was but a fraction of 
what her liberal citizens contributed. The ladies of St Louis, 
with commendable earnestness and indefatigable energy, set 
themselves to work in every way in their power to alleviate the 


distressed. They gathered large quantities of clothing and 
other necessary articles, and promptly forwarded them under 
the charge of a committee of ladies., 


The executive committee received a letter from the Sisters of 
Mercy, residing in Twenty-third and Morgan streets, offering to 
accommodate one hundred girls, seeking situations, if beds were 
provided by the committee. This was referred to the Ladies 
Executive Committee. 

The following correspondence ensued by telegraph : 

MEMPHIS, Oct. 12. 
HON. Jos. BROWN, Mayor : 

Persons rendered destitute by the Chicago fire will be passed free, from Hum- 
boldt to Memphis, on certificate issued by your authority, or by the superinten- 
dent of the Iron Mountain or St Louis & Cairo Short Line railrauls. 

J. F. BOYD, Supt. 

HON. Jos. BBOWN, Mayor, St. Louis : 

Thanks for your dispatch. Have sent to Chicago four car loads of provisions 
and clothing. Committee leave immediately with ten thousand dollars in cash. 
All classes are at work in behalf of the sufferers, and I can promise with safety 
that Leaven worth will swell her contributions to twenty thousand dollars. 




JNO. A. HALDEMAN, Mayor, Leavenworth, Kansas : 

Your dispatch received for the Chicago destitute. You are doing nobly. You 
are fully up to St. Louis in proportion to your population. Every one is now re- 
alizing that it is more blessed to give than to receive. 



LEAVENWOBTH, Ks., Oct. 12. 

Mayor BEOWN, and Citizens' Committee for Chicago Sufferers : 
Will lecture 19th. Dollar tickets, donating entire proceeds to Chicago. 



Oct. 13. 
GEO. FBANCIS TBAIN, Wyandotte, Ks. : 

Your dispatch received proposing to lecture for benefit of Chicago sufferers, at 
one dollar each, signed Geo. Francis Train. 

The executive committee desire me to say that our people are in no mood to 
listen to lectures, but will gladly receive and forward any money you may wish to 
donate. JOS. BROWN, Mayor. 

The work thus promptly begun in St. Louts, was continued for 
days until the most pressing necessities were passed, she nobly 
doing her full duty. 


Louisville did not fall behind her sister cities, Cincinnati and 
St. Louis, in active deeds of charity, but through' the action of 
her city council, public meetings, benevolent societies and efforts 
of her generous hearted citizens, made large contribution, merit- 


ing and receiving the public thanks of the authorities of Chicago. 

If it were not to repeat, in nearly the same language in each 
case, we might donate several pages to each city in the Union, 
in presenting to our readers the grand uprising of the people in 
this hour of frightful need. 

Every city did nobly, and of course, to a great extent, earned 
out nearly the same programme, bringing into requisition the 
municipal governments, Merchants Exchanges, Benevolent Socie- 
ties, Theatres, Ladies' Belief Societies, etc. 

As so terrible a catastrophe tended to demoralize everything, 
and produce the utmost confusion, by request of the Mayor, 
General Sheridan assumed command of the city, and through his 
wise, prompt, and energetic movements, brought harmony out 
of discord. We give below an order of the general : 

To his Honor, the Mayor. The preservation of the peace and good order of the 
city having been intrusted to me, by your Honor, I am happy to state that no case 
of outbreak or disorder has been reported, that no authenticated attempt in incen- 
diarism has reached me, and that the people of the city are calm, quiet, and well 
disposed. The force at my disposal is ample to maintain order should it be neces- 
sary to protect the district devastated by fire. Still, I would suggest to citizens 
not to relax in their watchfulness until the smouldering fires of the burned build- 
ings are entirely extinguished. P. H. SHERIDAN, 

Lieutenant General. 


As most of the houses of worship were destroyed, and funds 
called for to rebuild church edifices as well as to relieve individ- 
ual cases of distress, an appeal was made to the Churches in 
all parts of the union and nobly responded to. 

At St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, the very Eev. Dr. 
Starrs, Yicar General, read the following circular addressed to 
the Catholic Clergy : 

help which comes to us in such piercing tones from the thousands of our fellow 
beings in Chicago, seated amid the ashes of their desolated city, without food 
or shelter, appeals so forcibly to every human heart, that there is not one, I am 
sure, having in his power to give relief, be it much, or be it little, that will not 
promptly do so with willingness and generous hand. In order that greater 
facilities may be offered to all the members of our flock, for the expression of a 
great act of Christian charity, I hereby recommend that a collection be made in all 
the Churches of the city on Sunday after next, 22d inst. ; due announcement 
to be made on next Sunday. The sums collected should be sent immediately to 
the chancery office, that they may be remitted without delay to succor the 

t JOHN, Archbishop of New York. 

Given at New York, this 10th day of October, 1871. 

The Churches generally, throughout the country, did good 
work in this hour of dire necessity. 




The American Bible Society generously signified its intention 
to supply all sufferers from the fire with a copy of the Holy 
Scriptures, gratuitously. 

Kev. Dr. O. H. Tiffany's Church, St. Paul's, Newark, sent 
$1,500. Mrs. Tiffany coming to Chicago to assist in the distri- 

The Ladies' Relief Committee of Philadelphia sent six large 
boxes of clothing, and two containing women and children's 

Philadelphia sent $500,000 to Chicago, and Quincy, 111., 
$20,000 and a train load of provisions. 

Quite a number of the students at Yale College are from Chi- 
cago. One student of the College is said to have lost $200,000, 
which he owned in his own right, while another, an orphan, has 
been reduced to penury from opulence. 


WASHINGTON, Oct. 11. The following was telegraphed to Boston to-day, viz : 

EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington, Oct. 11. 
To the Hon. Samuel Hooper, Boston, Mass : 

Would it not be well for the good people of Boston to dispense with the cere- 
mony and expense of a public reception on the occasion of my visit to your city, 
and to appropriate such portion of the fund set apart for that purpose as is deemed 
advisable for the relief of the sufferers by the Chicago disaster? I am .yours 

U. 8. GRANT. 

The following was received here to-day : 

CHICAGO, Oct. 11. 
To K D. Townsend, Adjutant-General, Washington: 

There was some excitement here yesterday and last evening, but it is now quiet- 
ing down. Some of the troops from Leavenworth and Omaha are coming in. I 
have taken all the necessary steps to meet the condition of affairs here. 


Supplies of tents from Jeffersonville, Ind, on Gen. Sheridan's 
requisition, were forwarded. Gen. Van "Vliet sent at 7| this 
morning Major Hodges, of the Quartermaster's Department, in 
charge of a special train from Philadelphia, with blankets. 
They will reach Chicago on Thursday, and Gen. Sheridan has 
been advised that there are more tents at Jeffersonville at his 

Every effort was made at once to prevent any delay in mails for 
the North-west. George S. Bangs, Superintendent of the Rail- 
way Mail Service, one of the oldest and most efficient Post-office 
men in the country, reached Chicago, and everything possible 
was done to reorganize mail service at once. 

Several Thousand dollars were raised to-day among the clerks 
and employees of the Treasury and other Departments. 

The Secretary of the Treasury, this morning, received tele- 


grams from London and Canada, inquiring if clothing, blankets, 
<fec., for the people of Chicago, would be admitted free of duty. 
The Secretary immediately replied that such goods would be 
admitted free, and gave the necessary orders to Collectors. 

Acting-Governor Stanton issued a proclamation convening the 
Legislative Assembly at once to legalize a loan of $100,000 
for the relief of Chicago. Twenty-five thousand dollars on that 
account was at once forwarded. The amount contributed in the 
Post-office Department, July llth, was $2,400, the Post-master- 
General and First- Assistant Smith heading the list with liberal 
subscriptions. The Board of Supervising Inspectors contributed 
$220, being $20 for each member of the board. Various meas- 
ures were taken to increase the subscriptions by benevolent 
associations, churches, concerts, theatrical performances, &c. 
There seems little doubt that the District of Columbia will, in the 
aggregate, contribute not less than $150,000. ' 


At a Special meeting. of the New York Typographical Union, 
the sum of $2,000 was appropriated for the relief of the members 
of the .Chicago Printers' Union who were left destitute by the 
fire. A resolution was also adopted requesting the President of 
the National Typographical Union to call on the subordinate 
Unions under his jurisdiction to take immediate action for the 
relief of the members. 

The Typographical Unions elsewhere did their proportion of 
Charitable work, although we have not the data to present to our 
readers the amount, or even an approximation to it, which the 
Unions in the country contributed in the aggregate. 


At one of the schools in Pawtucket, E. I., the children were 
given a recess to go home and bring whatever wearing apparel 
they had to spare, to be forwarded to the Chicago sufferers. One 
of the little girls on going home for her share, found that her 
mother had stepped out. Overflowing with generosity, she con- 
cluded that it was all right and she would help herself. She 
accordingly packed up all her dresses and every other article of 
apparel of which she was in possession, save those she was wear- 
ing, and with a countenance beaming with joy because she deemed 
that she had performed a praiseworthy act, presented them to 
the Committee, who, of course, packed them with the rest and 
sent them away. 



When the little girl's mother came to look for a change of 
clothes for the child after school, the discovery was made of 
what had been done, when the consternation of the family can 
better be immagined than described. The little girl, with the 
utmost sangfroid imaginable, said she "had been sent home for the 
clothes and guessed she wasn't going back without them." We 
opine that the mother of so generous-hearted a child was not 
herself deficient in kindly and charitable impulses ; and, there- 
fore, although put about for the tune to obtain a re-supply, within 
her inmost heart she blessed her little darling for the noble deed. 

Had a tithe of interesting incidents like the one just related 
been brought to light a volume much larger than this could be 
filled with them alone, which would be a monument of glory to 
the nation that produced so many angelic natures, so exhalting 
to humanity and so creditable to the race.- The pure gold will 
show itself at intervals, the diamond will sometimes come to the 
light and display its luster, though hidden for years. 


Hundreds of Belief Societies were specially improvised in 
every part of the country, all doing noble and efficient work. 
During the week of the fire meetings were called in nearly all the 
churches to. take action in regard to the sufferers ; and, on the 
following Sunday, nearly all the pastors of churches in the land 
delivered sermons upon the unprecedented calamity, some of 
which were eloquent in the extreme ; nearly all breathing the 
true spirit of benevolence, and giving an earnest exhortation to 
their congregations to give liberally to those so suddenly re- 
duced from affluent and comfortable circumstances to penury t 
To the credit of their hearers those appeals were responded to 
majestically, and large sums of money were raised in the 
churches. In addition to the money raised for general relief 
the churches took action in regard to relieving the distresses of 
individual members of their respective denominations who were 
in want, and too sensitive to make their wants known to the 
General Committee. 


The ladies, ever foremost where real suffering demand their 
symathy and attention, promptly formed Belief Societies, within 
and outside of their church organizations, and solicited donations 


of money, clothing, bedding,and every other article which could be 
forwarded to, or used, in the ill-fated city. They also contributed 
and solicited donations of different materials to be made up, and 
with their sewing machines and dexterous fingers, soon converted 
them into wearing apparel for men, women and children, or into 
articles of bedding, which by their own committees were speedily 
dispatched by rail ; and, in some instances, brave and philanthro- 
pic women left the comforts of home to assist for days in the 
distribution of those articles, to those they deemed most deserv- 
ing and needy. A more sublime spectacle of true charity was 
never before enacted in so brief a space of time. 

The outpouring of money, food of every description, and every 
nameable article of human necessity, was inconceivably enormous. 
It was indeed a magnificent display of generosity. There was 
something grand, magestic, almost God-like, in it. The fire was 
mighty in its devastation, but the people of the country, mightier 
still, in the marvelous promptitude and rapidity with which they 
furnished and forwarded the grand relief. 


The following, individual case, so beautifully exemplifies true 
charity and large-heartedness on the part of Mr. Hudson and 
his wife, that although they may not thank us for thus publicly 
using their names, we feel impelled, in justice to true benevo- 
lence, to thus far offer our tribute of appreciation for their gen- 
erous deeds: 

E. A. Snively, of the Macoupin Enquirer, has this story concerning Ed. Hud- 
son and the Chicago fire : 

A day or two before leaving Peoria, we heard a good one on Mr. Ed. Hudson, 
superintendent of the P. P. & J. Railroad and a gentleman well known to railroad 
men. Upon hearing of the burning of Chicago, his first act was to telegraph to 
all agents to transport free all provisions for Chicago, and to receive such articles 
to the exclusion of freight. He then purchased a number of good hams and sent 
them home with a request to his wife to cook them as soon as possible, so they 
might be sent to Chicago. He then ordered the baker to put up fifty loaves of 
bread. He was kept busy during the day until five o'clock. Just as he was start- 
ing for home the baker informed him that the hundred loaves of bread were ready. 

"But I only ordered fifty," said Ed. 

" Mrs. Hudson also ordered fifty," said the baker. 

"All right," said Ed., and he inwardly blessed his wife for the generous deed. 

Arriving at home he found his little boy dressed in a fine cloth suit, carrying in 
wood. He told him that would not do, he must change his clothes. 

"But mother sent all my clothes to Chicago," replied the boy. 

Entering the house he found his wife clad in a fine silk dress, superintending 
the cooking. A remark in regard to the matter elicited the information that she 
had sent her other dresses to Chicago. 

The matter was getting serious. He sat down to a supper without butter, be- 
cause all that could be purchased had been sent to Chicago. There were no 
pickles the poor souls in Chicago would relish them so much. 


A little " put out," but not a bit angry or disgusted, Ed. went to the wardrobe 
to get his overcoat, but it was not there. An interrogatory revealed the fact that 
It fitted the box real well, and he needed a new overcoat any way, although he had 
paid $50 for the one in question only a few days before. An examination revealed 
that all the rest of the clothes fitted the box real nicely, for not a "dud " did he 
possess except those he had on. 

While he admired the generosity of his wife, he thought the matter was getttng 
utirely too personal, and he turned to her with the characteristic inquiry : 

"Do you think we can stand an "encore" on that Chicago fire ?" 

But this generous sympathy in this sudden affliction was not 
v tenoned to the United States. The neighboring provinces of 
the British Dominions were equally liberal, their people sending 
out donations in great abundance, of every description. Army 
tents and blankets in large numbers were supplied by order of 
the home government. Meetings were also promptly held in 
London and other cities of Great Britain, and in all prominent 
cities over Europe, and Jarge amounts of money subscribed. The 
British People responded liberally, nobly, grandly ; for which 
the American people will ever hold them in kind and grateful 


LONDON, Oci 11. The chief topic of interest here in all cir- 
cles, is the calamity which has overtaken Chicago. At Clubs, 
exchanges, news-rooms, in the parlors of hotels, everywhere 
where men were assembled, the appalling disaster was talked 
about, and the brief account transmitted through the cables dis- 
cussed. At first the telegrams were regarded as greatly exagger- 
ated ; but as each succeeding dispatch confirmed and increased 
the extent of the losses, and private advices began to be re- 
ceived, a feeling of deep sympathy was aroused, and a desire 
was manifested to contribute in some effective manner to the re- 
lief of the sufferers. This disposition was quickly directed to 
the proper channel by prominent gentlemen and firms opening 
subscription lists and volunteering to receive and forward con- 
tributions. Hon. HUGH McCuLLOCH, J. S. MORGAN & Co., and 
other American bankers, were among the first to take active 
measures in this behalf. 

' At Liverpool a Committee was organized and dispatched a 
cargo of food and clothing. 

Mr. SCHENCK, the United States Minister, issued an invitation 
to all Americans in and near London to meet at the Langham 


Hotel for the purpose of organizing relief committees. ' Gen. 
ADAM BADEAU, the United States Consul-General, sent a circular 
to all the Consuls and consular agents within his jurisdiction, 
requesting their active aid and participation in the work of collect- 
ting and forwarding contributions from their respective territories. 

The Times had a leader on the subject, deploring the fire, and 
hoping the dispatches magnified the loss ; expressing faith in the 
energy of Americans, and in the resources of Chicago, and ear- 
nestly wishing that the unfortunate city and its suffering inhabi- 
tants might promptly recover from the effects of the disaster. 

Other journals made the same topic prominent. Several of 
them recalled the munificence of America to the starving people 
of Lancaster, and declared that Englishmen must not only repay 
that generous kindness, but must aid to restore the city which 
has been regarded as a monument of American enterprise. 

The English papers, immediately after the fire, came to us with 
copious accounts of sympathetic meetings held in the principal 
cities of the United Kingdom. 

Birmingham was the first in the field, and, while the flames 
were still ravaging the unfortunate Garden city, held a meeting 
in their splendid Town Hall, presided over by the Mayor, at- 
tended by a large number of the most public spirited citizens. 

The generous action of the meeting was moved by Mr. Good- 
man, and seconded by Mr. Gem. Gems of goodness they certainly 
displayed, and they have scintillated across the board Atlantic, 
and sparkle still with such brilliancy that there is no probability 
that their luster will fade, or their light cease to illuminate the 
paths of humanity, so long as the world stands. Such gems of 
goodness, more precious a hundred-fold, than diamonds of the 
first water, are rich jewels upon the brow of our sister nation 
or, perha,ps, more endearing, our mother country and will draw 
and bind us to her with an indissoluble tie. 

On the llth of Oct., the Home Government sent a cable dis- 
patch to the authorities in Canada, to offer to Chicago ah 1 the 
military tents and blankets in the Dominion. 

The subscriptions throughout the kingdom were very exten- 
sive, and evinced the earliest and most generous and sympathet- 
ic feelings of the English people toward the people of the ill- 
fated city, and, in fact, toward the entire people of the country. 





The German people responded also in a generous manner, large 
sums having been raised and promptly forwarded. We append 
the following : 

On the 17th of October, only eight days after the great fire, 
Messrs. Hardt & Co., of New York city, forwarded to Mayor 
Mason, of Chicago, their draft for $15,000, contributed by the 
people of Berlin, Prussia, in aid of the sufferers by the fire. This 
splendid gift was duly acknowledged by Mayor Mason in a letter 
to the Chairman of the Chicago Belief Committee at Berlin, as 
was also the subsequent donation of $10,000 more from the same 
source. Still later the following letter was received from the 
United States Consul at Berlin : 

BEBLTN, Oct. 20, 1871. 
To His Honor the Mayor of the City of Chicago : 

SIB : The appalling calamity that has befallen our beloved Chicago, involving 
such destruction of use and beauty, of commerce, civilization and progress, as has 
never been recorded in human annals, has awakened earnest and genuine sympa- 
thy throughout all Germany. The burning of our great and beautiful city, the 
grandest and most conspicuous monument of the genius and enterprise of the 
American people, under free and liberal institutions and government, is justly 
considered a national, not a mere local calamity. It is felt that a long and cruel 
train of horrors and sufferings must follow the awful destruction that has swept 
over the ill-fated city ; and everywhere funds have been and are being raised for the 
relief of the vast necessities of your destitute and stricken people. Being one of 
your citizens, allied to Chicago by many associations of public services and friend- 
ship, and glorying in its marvelous growth, prosperity and splendor, the horror of 
the announcement of its sudden destruction by fire unspeakably shocked and 
overwhelmed me ; but feeling that I must do whatever little there might be in my 
power toward aiding and assisting my fellow citizens in their dire distress, I 
promptly took steps to organize a relief committee here, and, thanks to the ready 
response to my appeals, we have thus far given orders to Messrs. Hardt & Co., of 
New York, to pay to your order the sum of $25,000, which the committee trust 
you have promptly received. 

Among the contributors to the fund are found the Emperor and Empress, the 
Queen Dowager, and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess. The Empress, to 
quote the language of the letters transmitting me the donations, given in ' ' grate- 
ful remembrance of the sympathy displayed by America during the late war," and 
the Crown Prince and Crown Princess -'in grateful acknowledgement of the 
friendly feelings which America most efficiently manifested for the German war- 
riors during the conflict with France, and in heartfelt sympathy for the inhabi- 
tants of Chicago smitten by terrible misfortune." 

Our collections are still going on and promise additional results. To enable the 
committee to properly account to the contributors for the sums received, I am 
directed to respectfully ask your Honor to make suitable acknowledgement of the 
receipt of the amounts transmitted to you from Berlin. In the meantime we all 
here feel that the people of Chicago, though grievously tried, and well nigh over- 
come, have not and will not lose hope and heart, and with the help of God, and 
by their undaunted courage, enterprise, skill, and energy, will rebuild and restore 
their city to even greater wealth, usefulness and splendor a consuination most 
fervently to be desired and hoped for. I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient 

H. KREISMANN, United States Consul. 


CHICAGO, Nov. 21, 1871. 
H. Kreismann, United States Consul, Berlin : 

SIR : Your letter of October 26, advising me of the remittance to Messrs. Hardt 
& Co., of New York, of S25.00C from the Belief Committee of Berlin for the use of 
the destitute of Chicago, is duly received. On the 21st of October I acknowledged. 
to Messrs. Hardt & Co., and to the Berlin committee, the receipt of $15, 000 of the 
above sum, and on the 2nd of this month acknowledgment was made of the re- 
maining S10.UOO. For this proof of the active sympathy of the people of Berlin for 
those who were almost ready to perish, permit us to offer you, on their behalf, 
most heart-felt gratitude. The unprecedented calamity of the 8th and 9th of 
October, which stripped 100,000 people of all their worldly possessions, has still 
left upon the books of the Belief Society (which has now the management of this 
great charity) not less than seventy-five thousand men, women and children, 
dependent for their daily bread, for shelter, and sufficient clothing, upon public 
charity. To care for this multitude, with any efficiency would have been utterly 
impossible but for the generous sympathy and aid which this calamity has called 
forth from all parts of the civilized world. ' This wide spread beneficence, it is 
hoped, will 'help us to carry. the people through the long winter before us without 
essential suffering ; and your Relief Committee, will understand how thankfully 
their large contribution is received. A v\;ry targe proportion of the sufferers by 
the fire are Germans, who, especially, will be deeply sensible of the kind exertions 
of yourself and the other members of the committee to relieve their excessive 
wants. I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant. 

K. B. MASON, Mayor, 

The Empress Augusta of Germany, contributed a thousand 
thalurs ($800) for the relief of the Chicago sufferers. 

The San Francisco, Alta says that when the Committee in 
that city to solicit contributions from the Chinese merchants for 
the relief of the Chicago sufferers made known the object of their 
visit the response was a credit to the representatives of that race, 
who have been treated with indignity on so many occasions, and 
are liable at any time to be assaulted when passing through the 
streets. In one case an intelligent merchant said to the collect- 
ors : " Me leadee in Alta, Melican man town all same hap gone 
burnee up. Melican man wantee dollas ; some time poor 
Melican man strikee Chinaman with blicks ; Chinaman no care. 
Alle people Chicago losee everything wifee and childlen burn 
out. Chinamen say alle same my countree peoplee wantee 
help. How muchee dollas you wantee ? Bundled dollas ? Allee 
light ; you not find enough money commee again, give another 
bundled." The contributions thus given by the merchants 
reached $1,200. Not bad for the " Heathen Chinee." 


In order to facilitate and judiciously distribute donations for 
the relief of the sufferers, the Chicago Belief and Aid Society 
was formed at once. "Wirt Dexter being made chairman, and 


Geo. M. Pullman, treasurer. The society did noble and efficient 
work ; and, through its instrumentality, donations from abroad 
were no doubt more properly, beneficially, and satisfactorily 
divided. This society had its various committees which co- 
operated with the committees for distribution from abroad, and 
generally working with great cordiality and harmony ; all con- 
scientiously laboring to relieve the distresses of those around 
them, which was nobly done by the prompt collection and dis- 
bursement of $2,051,023,56, with arrangements for extending 
this munificent sum to $3,000,000. This includes the funds in 
the hands of the New York Chamber of Commerce, amounting 
to about $600,000, and the balance of the Boston fund, about 
$240,000, both amounting to $840,000 not yet placed to the 
credit of this Society, but which may undoubtedly be relied upon 
to meet the demands of the future. As to our disbursements, 
we can only say that we are at present aiding 60,000 people at 
regular distributing points. Some of this vast number we re- 
lieve in part only, but the greater portion to the extent of their 
entire support. This is in addition to the work of the special 
Belief Committee for people who ought to be sent to the gen- 
eral distributing points, and which is largely increasing upon our 
hands. It is- only in addition to the expenditures of the com- 
mittee on existing charitable institutions. 

The great matter pressing upon the committee is shelter for 
the coming winter. We may feed people during the mild 
weather, but where and how they are to be housed perma- 
nently housed we regard as the serious question. To this end 
we have been aiding those burned out to replace comfortable 
houses upon their own, or leased lots, where they can live, not 
only this winter, but next summer, and be ready to work in re- 
building the city. Of 'these houses which are really very com- 
fortable, being 16 by 20 feet, with two rooms, one 12 by 16 feet, 
and one 8 by 16 feet, with a planed and matched floor, panel 
doors, and good windows we have already furnished over 
4,000, making permanent homes, allowing five for a family, for 
20,000 people, and with the 7,000 houses which we expect to 
build, shall have homes for 35,000 people. These houses and 
some barracks, in both of which there is a moderate outfit of 
furniture, such as stoves, mattresses, and a little crockery, will 
consume $1,250,000, leaving $2,200,009, with which to meet all 


the demands for food, fuel, clothing, and general expenses, from 
the 13th of October last. 

By this statement we see the gigantic proportions of the work 
in which they were all engaged. That they conscientiously aiic. 
faithfully performed their work there is no question. That thej 
have been misrepresented and slandered, while doing theii 
utmost for the good of the sufferers, is but the usual fate of true 
philanthropists; and we rejoice that, notwithstanding they have 
received abuses, which, in nearly, if not every case, were entirely 
unjust, they have pursued their work with an eye single to the 
great object before them, trusting to the future, to set their work 
and motives in the true light. As this Society is composed of 
high-minded, honorable, and competent men, whose reputation 
is dear to them, and who have undertaken this responsible and 
Herculean task voluntarily, working night and day to relieve, the 
distressed, the public outside of Chicago may rely implicitly 
upon their faithfully and justly performing their whole duty ; 
and performing it as well as it can be done by human instruments 
until their work is accomplished. Their ability to do the work 
before them is undoubted. Of their integrity there is no ques- 
tion. Some of the instruments they at first used in their mighty 
work no doubt were worthless and worse than worthless ; but 
experience corrected such mistakes. 

This Society established depots in different districts of the city 
for the reception of supplies, that they might distribute them to 
the needy with more facility. There was also a special relief 
Committee, doing their whole duty. 


Some of the ladies and gentlemen connected with the various 
Churches of Chicago effected an organization to give relief, by 
light and agreeable employment, to women and children who' 
had become straightened in their circumstances by the fire, but 
who prefered to acquire subsistence by their labor, rather than by 
the charity of others. This common sense, timely, and excellent 
movement, was inaugurated on the 28th of October, at the old 
building, widely known as St. John's Protestant Episcopal 
Church, Union Park. No Society was ever organized in Chi- 
cago so unselfish and devoid of sectarianism as this. Its plat- 
form broad enough for all to stand upon. The means of sus- 


taining it was ample ; the room well fitted for the purpose, and 
the superintendents overflowing with kindness. 

Thousands of cultivated, and refined women were thrown 
out of employment by the burning of stores, offices, and factories, 
and this society provided the means to enable them to still earn 
a livelihood, without being subjected to the humiliation of re- 
ceiving charity. Many women who were heretofore obliged to 
work at starvation prices, to the shame of their employers, were 
by the aid of this Society able to earn remunerative prices. 
The Work of the relief society is enormous, extending over many 
miles, and in all its departments embracing from 50,000 to 75,000 


Miss Barton, who has done so much for the suffering and help- 
less ones in this and the old world, but who was in Paris, France, 
when our fearful conflagration took place, wrote a letter full of 
sympathy and consolation. 

Few persons better comprehend the terrible situation or would 
be more competent to labor in this needful yet noble work. Our 
people remember with pride and lasting gratitude the good work 
she did in the field and in the hospitals during our terrible war ; 
and since the conflict of arms between France and Prussia, Miss 
Barton has often been heard of at Strasbourg, Metz, and Paris. 
In a letter from Paris, upon the receipt of the awful news from 
Chicago, she says : 

" My soul was darkened and my heart wrung by the intelli- 
gence. For the last twelve months I have stood only in the 
ashes of burned and destroyed cities, working among the shelter- 
less, naked, and starving inhabitants. In Strasbourg I found 
20,000 people without a roof, or bread, or fire, or clothes, or work. 
I worked with them until all were housed and clothed. Forty 
thousand warm garments were made by their own hands, and 
they were saved from beggary. When I entered Metz I found 
40,000 people too weak to riot. They stared vacantly, tottered, 
and fell, like old men and women, or little children. Seven 
months after this, when I stood among the smoking piles and 
vaults of Paris, and its twice ruined thousands, I felt it was time 
I found an end of such scenes and such labors. I thought I had 
learned my lesson." 

The appalling news of a greater calamity than all these having 
reached her, the whole promptings of her sympathetic nature 


again tell her she must do and dare still longer for suffering 

Her services are promptly offered to our citizens, if needed. 
Just now the people of Chicago are tolerably comfortable, owing 
to the large-heartedness and noble generosity of the people every- 
where throughout the country. But a long, cold, dreary winter 
is before them, and if charities are not constantly kept up, before 
Spring there will be sufferings beyond all computation. Food 
is abundant in the West and very cheap, comparatively speaking, 
and if the Relief Committees judiciously expend the monies at 
their disposal, probably there is no necessity of any persons suf- 
fering from hunger. The greatest needs are comfortable shelter^ 
clothing, and fuel. These must all be provided for thousands 
until nest June, when the milder weather will naturally relieve 
many necessities. It is the work of this nation, to see that ah 1 
these things are amply supplied. Everybody can help some. 
Miss Barton, possessing knowledge, and having had experience 
in this particular line, far beyond nearly all others, her services 
would be of the greatest value in organizing and conducting a 
grand system of benevolence having for its task the feeding, 
clothing and housing of thousands of men, women and children 
for many long and cheerless weeks. By all means, she and all 
other noble philanthropists like her, should be cordially and 
thankfully invited to*help the good, though arduous w r ork. There 
is no estimating the worth of the grand sympathies and glorious 
charities Avhich this awful calamity has developed not only in 
this country, but all over Europe. 


Robert Collyer, the celebrated nncl brave Chicago preacher, -whom the firo 
left nothing but his courage and his opportunities, says he don't know 
anything about the story that the students of Cornell University have 
invited him to make a "first class horse shoe," for -which they will pay 
him $2, 000, the money to go to relieve the Chicago sufferers or towards the 
building of a new Unity Church. He seems to wish it were true, however, 
as must all his friends, and says : 

'I write this to stop the thing if tt be bogus, pr to hurry it along if it 
be real ; because I am now ready to go to work right off at the price named, 
and when I have made one shoe for the Cornell boys, price $2,000, and 
got the money into the treasury of the Relief and Aid Society, I will re- 
duce my price one-half and make as many more as the whole world has a 
mind to order, and apply the whole income of the same to rebuilding first 
my church and then my home. " There is a chance that Colly er's horse 
shoes may be in demand. 



Mr. John A. Nolan, formerly of Boston, writes to Mr. O. W. Newcomb, 
of that city, as follows : 

" MY DEAR FBIEXD. You doubtless think of my family and self as dead. 
I am happy to inform you that my wife and my babe are now well. . Our 
little daughter (our first born) was born in Lincoln Park on Sunday morn- 
ing, the 8th inst. I made a home of my coat, a sheet that a neighbor 
kindly loaned me, and a high hat that I picked up near our location. We 
were boarding at the Sherman House, but had to flee and leave everything. 
I was even left without my hat. 

" God bless the Boston folks! and but for a warm bed and "clothing from 
your noble city, my wife would now have been dead. A pair of blankets 
from Boston was brought to us in our hour of peril, thus saving the life of 
my wife and little one. How acceptable the food has been, too ; but hun- 
dreds about us have nearly died from over eating, as well as from exposure. 
The first thing I got to eat was a 'Boston cracker.' I enjoyed it better 
than I ever enjoyed a dinner. I had a little money in my vest pocket, 
which will keep us a long while. We have a tent now, and are very comfor- 
table, and should be perfectly happy if we only knew the fate of our dear 
mother, who is missing. I presume we never shall. 

"I trust you will pardon the writing, for it is accomplished under many 
difficulties. We shall always bless your people for their great kindness. 
Three cheers went up for Boston from our little crowd last night. A little 
bundle of baby clothes was brought to us last night, with a label: "From 
the Christian Union of Boston." In the bundle was everything, even to a 
nursing bottle, a very acceptable article, which we were obliged to use. 
God bless the hands that did up that bundle; a mother must have done it. 
We call our baby Eva Boston, and we hope she may grow up to bless the 
donors of the first outfit. 


The following notice being given in the New York Herald, so 
just to a brave and efficient officer whose promptness is one of 
his chief characteristics, with pleasure we make room for it in 
this volume : 

In the terrible ordeal through which the ill-fated city of Chicago has 
just passed, there appeared one man, at least, who, while the fiery tide 
swept over the city, was calm, collected, and self-controlled amid the ex- 
citement prevailing all around him. That man was General Sheridan. 
As at Winchester he arrived in time to rally his army and infuse spirit in 
his retiring soldiers to renew the struggle which secured them a glorious 
victory, so his presence at Chicago, when the city was wrapped in flames, 
had the effect of inspiring the almost despairing citizens with the hope 
that all was not yet lost. Self-controlled, determined, and vigilant, the 
hero of the Shenandoah Valley played a part in battling with the flames in 
the Garden City of the West, which will add to his renown and cause his 
name to be still more warmly cherished in the memory of his countrymen. 
With his handful of men he accomplished wonders. Fighting fire with 
fire, destroying to prevent greater destruction, blowing up buildings, the 
ruins of which were to serve as barricades against the fast consuming 
flames, General Sheridan contested every inch of its advance. As if Heaven 
itself smiled on the resoluteness with which the brave soldier fought for 
the safety of the homes of the unfortunate Chicagoans, it let fall copious 
torrents of rain to aid the stragglers, and thus the conflagration was stayed, 
But the labors of the soldier were not ended. Thousands of homeless 
men, women, and children, were without a place to lay their heads and 



without food to appease the cravings of hunger. For a second time did 
Sheridan's thoughtfulness and army experience come to the rescue. The 
tents and army rations provided through his forethought afforded shelter 
and food for the sufferers. This temporary relief bridged over the interim 
between the first effects of the terrible calamity and the reception of the 
first bounteous offerings of the people of the whole nation ; who have 
never yet been deaf to the appeals of suffering or misfortune. 


Although heavily taxed,' with commendable rivalry they 
telegraphed from every part of the country assurances of their 
solvency, and determination to pay every dollar to those hold- 
ing policies ;-alas, the only thing left to thousands, who, but a 
few days before, were estimated to be immensely wealthy. All 
the great companies, immediately commenced to settle up, and 
assured the people of Chicago that all liabilities would be paid 
as quickly as they could possibly be adjusted. 

Of course, many insurance companies, in and outside of 
Chicago, by their enormous liabilities were obliged to suspend 

'The following will give the reader an idea of the enormous 
losses of the Insurance companies, summing up about $90,000,000. 

The Insurance Spectator on the 10th of Nov. issued a table showing the 
aggregate losses of companies by States, the number suspended and assess- 
ed, and the number unaffected by the Chicago fire. The total number 
of companies in the United States is 335; aggregate capital $47,939,216; 
total losses, $82,821,122; companies suspended, 57; number assessed, 28; 
number not in the fire, 87. The following are the losses of companies by 
States: New York, $21,637,500 ; Ohio, $4,818,657; Massachusetts, $4,481, 
550; Pennsylvania, $2,082,000; Illinois, $33,878,000; Connecticut, $9,325, 
000; Rhode Island, $2,072,500; Maryland, $397,165; Wisconsin, $290,000; 
Michigan, $175,000; Minnesota, $100,000; Main, $30, 000; Kentucky, $6,800; 
California, $2,950,000. The losses of foreign companies are $5,813,000. 

Of the 335 companies doing a fire insurance business in the United States, 
249 experienced losses more or less severe; while of the six English com- 
panies, but one escaped loss at Chicago. The American companies show an 
aggregate loss of $82,821,125, and the English companies of $5,813,000; so 
that the total insurance covered by this great conflagation may be summed 
up in round numbers at $90,000,000. The aggregate insurance capital of 
American companies amounts to $74,930,216; while the total assets of all 
the companies both English and American, amounts to $145,879,521. 

Deducting the losses at Chicago the companies have about $60,000,000 
left, the impairment being not far from $25,000,000 on the total capital. Of 
the 254 companies affected by the disaster, fifty-seven have suspended, and 
twenty-eight of the remainder have already taken measures toward the 
filling up of their resbective deficencies. Illinois has suffered the most 
severely, no less than fourteen of her twenty companies have already stop- 
ped. Connecticut loses seven of her eleven companies. Rhode Island 
five out of nine. 

One of the most remarkable effects of the disaster is the increase in the 
inumber of insurers. Those who have regularly insured have largely 
increased their lines, and property generally was never so well protected 
in this regard as now. Rates of premium have generally advanced, and 
the increased income of most of the companies will aid the process of 
recovery very greatly. 

The Great Northwest Fires; 


Simultaneous with the Chicago calamity, the most terrific general 
conflagration known in the history of the world, raged throughout 
various parts of the Northwest, spreading devastation and death in 
its lurid pathway. The loss of life was vastly greater than at Chi- 
cago, and the destruction of property very great, most of it unin- 
sured, and therefore a total loss. It is said that 480,000 acres of 
timbered lands were burnt over, equal to 750 square miles, and that 
the timber burned was equal to that which would yield a" product of 
1,800,000,000 feet of lumber enough to build a large city. 

It is now conceded by scientists that the Chicago fire, and the fires 
in Michigan and Wisconsin, were produced by natural causes beyond 
human foresight or control, and the startling theory that " they re- 
sulted from the passage of a great atmospheric stream, which arose 
in longitude sixty-two degrees, swept with a cyclone Antigua and the 
Virgin Isles on 21st August, the Bahamas on 23d, and then moved 
slowly to the Northwest, striking Chicago and the forests," is be- 
lieved by scores of intelligent people. 

The Peshtigo Fire. 


The Sunday of the fire was noticed as a chilly day, though the at- 
mosphere was still and filled with a dense, blinding smoke. The 
amoke created no alarm, as the smouldering fires in the pineries 
about, sufficiently accounted for it. Toward evening the smoke in- 
creased, while the chilliness of the atmosphere perceptibly abated, 
and early in the evening gave way to occasional hot puffs from the 
burnt districts. Soon after 8 o'clock in the evening, the warmth of 
the atmosphere still increasing, and the smoke almost suffocating 
in its density, a low, sullen rumbling began to be heard far away 
in the southwest, while a painfully ominous stillness pervaded the 
immediate vicinity of the town. People asked each .other what was 
the matter, and tried to appear unconcerned while trembling with 
undefined apprehensions. At half-past eight the far-off rumbling 
VIP-* 'ncreased to a steady roar like distant thunder, or the coming 


of heavy freight trains at full speed. Men felt their way through 
the smoky streets and congregated at the hotels, in front of the 
stores, and all other places of resort, and discussed the strange 
sounds. Anxious mothers nervously and hesitatingly put their little 
ones to bed, and then peered out in the dismal streets to see what they 
could see. Nine o'clock came, and with it an alarming increase of 
the unknown sound, which now resembled the roar of a dozen freight 
trains racing at full speed, the location of the sound being sensibly 
nearer the town. Suddenly there was a cry of fire sounding through 
the smoke-beclouded streets, and men rushed hither and thither 
through the impenetrable blackness, rubbing their eyes for sight, 
and stumbling against each other as they ran. But no fire was 
found, though the search extended out of the village and into the 
edge of the woods, and the excited people hurried back to their 
houses laughing at each others apprehensions, and trying to feel 

Scarcely, however, had the first alarm subsided when the appall- 
ing cry was again raised in another quarter, and the blind running 
and colliding and stumbling was again renewed as the terror-strick- 
en Citizens sought a second time for the flames that were not to be 
found. But while this confusion was at its height, and while the 
majority of the men were away from their houses groping through 
clouds of smoke aTid blackness, and with a roar that was almost 
deafening filling their ears, a change began to manifest itself in the 
atmosphere. The whole air seemed sensibly agitated, and angry 
puffs of almost burning heat came sweeping through the town, while 
at quick intervals a frightful glare penetrated the dense dark 
smoke from the southwest, and at times seemed playing high up in 
the heavens above. Even the very earth seemed to quake and trem- 
ble. Horrors impended on every hand. Mothers caught their chil- 
dren from their beds and hastily dressed them. A cry of terror 
filled the town. Men hastened to their houses and collected their 
families about them. Many bolder ones caught up their valuables 
and buried them. Even the dumb beasts were seized with fright 
and ran bellowing through the streets. Then came nearer, clear- 
er, and more deadly than before, that horrible roar, resembling the 
din of a mighty battle, and with it the more eccentric and violent 
agitation of the atmosphere, a more continuous show of the lurid 
glare overhead and in the southwest ; while, to add to the horror of 
the night, great balls of fire like flaming missiles shot from unseen 
artillery, began falling on the housetops, in the streets, and all 
through the doomed village. The scenes that followed were an ag- 


gravation if possible of Dante's wonderful description of hell. Men, 
women, and children, horses, oxen, cows, dogs, swine, fowls every- 
thing that had life, was seized with panic, and ran wildly, and with 
equal uncertainty to escape the impending destruction. Children 
got lost from their parents and were trampled upon by crazed 
brutes. Husbands and wives were calling loudly for each other 
and rushing in wild dismay, they Jmew not where. 

The day of judgment had certainly come, in the opinion of the 
great majority, and yet they all sought to escape its terror. The 
oppressive, burning heat seemed to be the most dreaded affliction, 
and, following the instincts of the animals, those who could, ran to 
the water. The majority of the residences were on the southerly 
side of the river, while the company's store, boarding-houses, ware- 
houses, and shops, occupied somewhat isolated positions on the 
northerly side of the stream. Many people rushed to these for safe- 
ty. The great boarding-house was soon filled with people. A num- 
ber of the Company's employees sought shelter in the stores, taking 
their families with them. 

But while the community were thus frantically seeking shelter 
anywhere and everywhere rather than where they chanced to be, the 
awful scene changed, and, with the howling of a tornado, against which 
seemingly nothing could stand, came a storm of fire, which an eye- 
witness likens to the heaviest snowfall of winter, with each flake of 
snow a coal of fire. The heavens rained fire on every hand, as if to 
consume the whole earth. 

In an instant, nearly every building in the town was in a blaze. 
Then the fury of the tempest received additional strength and burst 
in one mighty effort, as if determined that the flames should not rob 
it of its prey. Houses crumbled like paper structures, and flaming 
roofs and sides were borne away like gigantic sparks upon the gale 
to spread the consuming element. The Company had but recently 
completed a very large warehouse, built with a special view to with- 
stand the gales, which so frequently visit that region ; but when this 
tornado struck it, it went to pieces like a child's playhouse built of 
cards. Whoever had not reached a place of safety found it impossi- 
ble to move against this mighty storm. People threw themselves on 
the ground rather than be borne away by its violence, and perished 
where they fell. The next day a man was found hugging a tree, his 
body half consumed. The storm of falling cinders was succeeded 
quickly by a continuous blaze that licked up everything with which 
it came in contact. Those in the water only saved themselves by 
keeping their bodies submerged, only venturing to raise their heads 



at intervals for a moment to gasp for breath. Many were drowned 
in the effort to escape burning, while others, who sought to catch 
breath, inhaled only livid flame, and perished. Even the very fishes 
were reached by some mysterious agency and killed, so that the next 
day hundreds of them were found floating, dead. 


A correspondent furnishes the following thrilling incidents of this remarkable 
fire : 

The tornado was but momentary, but was succeeded by maelstroms of fire, 
smoke, cinders, and red-hot sand. Wherever a building seemed to resist the fire, 
the roof would be sent whirling into the air, breaking into clouds of flame as it 
fell. The shower of sparks, cinders, and hot sand, fell in continuous and prodi- 
gious force, and did quite as much in killing the people as the first terrific sirocco 
that succeeded the fire. The wretched throng, neck-deep in the water, and still 
more hapless beings stretched on the heated sands, were pierced and blistered by 
these burning particles. They seemed like lancets of red-hot steel, penetrating 
the thickest covering. The evidence now remains to attest the incredible force of 
the slenderist pencils of darting flame. Hard iron-wood plow-handles still re- 
main, and for the main point unburnt. When the hapless dwellers in the remote 
streets saw themselves cut off from the river, groups broke in all directions in a 
wild panic of fright and terror. A few took refuge in a cleared field bordering on 
the town. Here flat upon the ground, with faces pressed in the mud, the helpless 
sufferers lay and roasted. But few survived the dreadful agony. The next day 
revealed a picture exceeding in horror any battle-field. Mothers with children 
hugged closely and the poor flesh seared to a crisp. One mother, solicitous only 
for her babe, embalms her unutterable love in the terrible picture left on these wo- 
ful sands. With her bare fingers she had scraped out a pit, as the soldiers did be- 
fore Petersburg, and pressing the little one into this, she put her own body above 
it as a shield, and when daylight came both were dead the little baby face un- 
scarred, but the mother burnt' almost to cinders. 


About the first farm out from Peshtigo is owned by a one-eyed German, who is 
known the country round as Schwartz, the hermit. Some twenty years since, 
when this region was an unbroken wilderness, occupied almost exclusively by In- 
dians, this mail Schwartz came here, built a cabin, and ever since has lived en- 
tirely alone, apparently caring very little for the outside world, or for what other 
people thought of him. At that time, with the exception of the blind eye. 
Schwartz was a splendid looking man, and blessed with a very superior education. 
The story of the cause of his abandoning the world and adopting the life of a re- 
cluse, is the same as has been told thousands of times before. He fell in love 
with a handsome girl the story would be spoiled if she was not beautiful was 
engaged to be married, when she, like too many others of her sex, proved false 
and married another fellow, a major in the Prussian army. This "was too much 
for our hero, who forthwith fled to America and found consolation for his blighted 
affections in the solitude of these pine forests. He dug, or rather burrowed in 
the ground, where he lived with his chickens, geese, cats, hogs and dogs, present- 
ing as happy a family as can be found in any menagerie in the country. Schwartz 



has been very thrifty and industrious since he came here, and was considered 
very wealthy, many even asserting that he had gold 'stored away in every corner 
of his filthy abode. When the fire came Schwartz and his family ran down to 
Trout Brook, into which they plunged and remained until the fire had spent its 
fury. The hermit has already commenced building another .hut, where he will 
doubtless spend the balance pf his days, little heeding what takes place else- 


About half a mile beyond Schwartz's, on the right, and about two hundred 
yards from the road, are the remains of a dwelling which was occupied by a fami- 
ly named Hill. The family were all in the house at evening prayers, when they 
were suddenly startled by a loud noise, much resembling continuous thunder. 
On going to the door they found themselves entirely surrounded by fire, and as 
the only means of escape, the whole of them, eight in number, went down into the 
well. Here they remained in safety, until the wooden house covering the well 
caught fire, fell in, and burned the entire party to death. Another case exactly 
similar to the last was that of 'the Davis family, in Peshtigo, who were all smother. 
ed to death in their well, into which they had descended in the vain hope of saving 
their lives. I have heard of quite a number of such cases, but as the facts were 
not definitely given, I make no mention of them. 


A short distan.ce on, we come to a lone etone wall, the foundation of a house, the 
former residence of a family named Lawrence, all of whom perished. Immediate- 
ly in front of this place was the iron work of a wagon, which once belonged to 
Chas. Lamp. Lamp lived about a mile beyond, and when he found the fire ap- 
proaching his house so rapidly, he 'hitched up his team, and with his wife and five 
children drove with all speed toward Peshtigo. In a very few minutes after start- 
ing he heard screams in the wagon, and looking back found that the clothes of his 
wife' and children were all ablaze. It was certain death to stop, and he therefore 
urged his horses to still greater speed, but before he had moved many rods, one 
of the horses fell, and finding that he could not get him up, and seeing that all of 
his family were dead, Lamp started to save his life, which he did after being most 
horribly burned. He is now in the hospital at Green Bay, and is slowly recover- 
ing. When at the latter place I' saw him, and had a full narrative of the bloody 
tragedy from himself. What little was found of the charred remains of the wife 
and five children were buried in a field not far off. Of the wagon not a speck was 
to be seen, excepting the half-melted iron work. 


We next come to the Lawrence farm, one of the best on the whole route, show- 
ing a very high state of cultivation, on which everj'thing had been swept away. 
Lawrence, with his wife and four children, ran to the centre of an immense clear- 
ing, several hundred yards from any house or timber, with the idea they would be 
entirely safe there. The fire came, and rushed along on every side of them, yet 
they remained unharmed. At this moment one of the great balloons dropped in 
their midst, and in an instant they were burned up, hardly anything being left oi 



Your readers may wonder what I mean by fire balloons, and I confess that I 
hardly know myself, and only use the term because it was so frequently used by 
others in conversation with me. All of the survivors with whom I conversed said 
that the whole sky seemed filled with dark, round masses of smoke, about the size 
of a large balloon, which traveled with great rapidity. These balloons would fall 
to the ground, burst, and send forth a most brilliant blaze of fire, which would in- 
stantly consume everything in the neighborhood. An eye-witness, who was in a 
pool of water not far off, told us about the balloon falling right down on the Law- 
rence family, and burning them up. 


In returning, about a mile to the north we came to Adnah Newton's farm, where 
sixteen persons were burned to death. As soon as Newton saw the fire he started 
out to see what was best to be done. Running down to the road he found him- 
self headed off by the flames. Turning back, he saw his family and workmen in 
the yard coming toward him, but when they noticed him turn back they also 
changed their course ; in an instant more they were all on fire, and must have 
perished in a moment. Newton happened to notice on his right what proved to 
be a path through the flame about fifty yards wide, for which he rushed, and con- 
tinued for three-fourths of a mile, when he came to a house still occupied by 
several persons. They all invited him to come into the house, but he declined 
saying he would rather trust to being saved in a small pool of water close by. In 
another instant the house was on fire, and before the inmates could get to him, 
they were all burned to death, while Newton escaped pretty well singed. I had a 
long conversation with Newton, and he declared he had no hankering after anoth- 
er such a race. The second day after the fire thirty-three remains were found on 
these farms. 


The Doyle family consisted of the husband and father, Patrick, the wife; and 
seven children. The fire came, and not one single trace of any of them could 
be found, excepting a Catholic medal, some nails out of a pair of shoes, and some 
hooks and eyes. Of their bodies not one single thing was left, not even the ashes 
of their bones. Next to the Doyles lived the Pratt family, all of whom perished, 
excepting a small boy, who saved himself by jumping into the well. When the 
burial party arrived they found the large Newfoundland dog watching by the body 
of his mistress, and it was only by force that they could drive him away long 
enough to bury the corpse. The Hill family, consisting of ten persons, lived 
near by. They had working for them a half grown Indian boy, who was ordered 
down to hitch up the team. The barn getting on fire, the master ordered him to 
return. Not coming as fast as Hill desired, the order was repeated in a more 
peremptory manner, when the Indian looked up and said ; " Its everybody for 
himself now," and off he started with the speed of the deer. Bushing through 
the fire, he reached a clearing half a mile away and was saved, while the entire 
Hill family perished. 


In the entire Upper Bush country there is only one house left, the home of " old 
man" Place. Many years ago this man settled here, soon afterward married a 


squaw, by whom he has had many children. He has always engaged in trading 
with the Indians, who have had his house as their headquarters. When the fire 
came, about twenty Indians covered his house with their blankets, which they 
kept wet down, and thus saved the house. One great big fellow stood at the 
pump for nine hours, showing an endurance possessed by very few white men. 
Strange as it may now seem, while there are about as many Indians as whites in 
this section, at least one thousand of the latter perished, and not a single. Indian. 
This may seem strange, but it is vouched for by the very best persons here. 
Whether the Indians could smell the fire sooner than their more refined white 
brethren and escaped in time, I know not, but I do know that they were all saved. 
And the only ones I heard of being injured were the half-breed children. 


Mr. Shepard, of Peshtigo, was aroused on Sunday night by the servant girl, af- 
ter he had retired, with the information that there was danger from fire. He ran 
to the mill, attached the hose and commenced wetting down the mill. When the 
tornado came and he saw that all was lost, he ran to the house to save his wife 
and children, in which he succeeded. After the village was burned, when Mr. 
Shepard supposed he had not an article left but the clothes they had on, which 
were burned full of holes, the servant girl went to the site of the house and dug 
up out of the sand all his best clothing, the silver ware, and most valuable goods, 
that she had buried without his knowledge, while he was trying to save the mill. 
Mrs. Shepard lost somfe of her clothing, as the fire did not give the girl time to 
bury it deep enough. 


On Thursday, the 5th inst., Mr. J. G. Clement, formerly a painter in Fort 
Howard, late of Peshtigo, was married to Miss Trudell, daughter of Theodore 
Trudell, of Menominee. The bride's mother visited them at Peshtigo on Sunday, 
the 8th, and left at 4 p. M. When the fire struck Peshtigo, Mr. Clement took his 
wife in his arms and started for the river. They met a man with a buckboard, 
going to save his wife and family, but seeing the task was hopeless he started to 
go back. Mr. Clement asked him to save his wife and he would do the best he 
could for himself. The man took Mrs. C., and Clement ran behind, holding on 
the buckboard, but finally fell in the road and died from suffocation. The bride 
begged to be allowed to get out, but was held in and taken to the river, where she 
arrived unconscious, but was restored and saved. 


In the Lower Sugar Bush, Mr. C. E. Towsley was found lying on the ground, 
a child on each side of him, the throats of all three cut and a knife lying on his 
breast. The father had evidently, when he saw that escape was impossible, chose 
to die by the knife rather than endure the horrors of torture by fire. About ten 
rods from them lay Mrs. T. with an infant child on one arm and a Bible on the 
other, and a likeness of one of the other children on her breast. 

P. M. Brown informs us that Miss Augusta Bartels, about fourteen years old, 
daughter of Fred Bartels, Peshtigo, was in the Sugar Bush, visiting her grand- 
parents, Mr. and Mrs. Adam Newton. When the fire burst upon them she said 
there was no use in trying to live, all had got to be burned, and threw herself into 
the creek, that ran through Stephen Storey's farm, where she was drowned. Tha 
cries and lamentations of the old people were pitiful to hear. 



A man in Peshtigo village started for the river with his wife. They stumbled 
and fell in the dense smoke, and springing up again he seized, as he supposed, 
his wife, and got her into the river. When the smoke cleared away, he was hor- 
rified to find that he had saved another man's wife, and his own wife was burned 
to death. 


Wm. Curtiss was found in a well with the bucket chain around his neck. 

A man, a shoemaker, running for the river at Peshtigo, found a little girl four 
years of age and took her into the water. She lay across his shoulder and he 
swam with her about half an hour and saved her without injury, although he was 
considerably burned himself. 

Mr. Dix got his family in the river, half clad. The baby had on nothing but a 
nightgown. Somebody brought a bundle of bed clothing to the river. Dix opened 
it and took out a sheet. The owner wanted to take it away from him for fear it 
would get burned, but he secured it,- spread it over his family and kept it wet by 
throwing water on it with his hat. He thinks he could not have saved his baby 
without it. 

Mrs. Heldenworth, a woman sick with a fever, was on a log in the river at 
Peshtigo, with a child. Her husband had gone back to the town for some pur- 
pose, and when he returned his wife and child were gone. The fact was that a 
cow came swimming along, and rolled over the log. She catight the co.w by the 
horns, and the cow swam out with the woman and child. They were found and 
secured in the river again. 

The scene after the fire, about daylight, in front of the company's blacksmith 
shop, where a heap of coal was burning, and the people ha,d gathered to dry and 
warm themselves, was heartrending in the extreme. Men, women, and children, 
were crying, and wringing their hands, and such exclamations as these were com- 
mon : "Where is my husband?" "Where is my wife?" "Where are my chil- 
dren ?" Some finding their friends were dead wished they had died too. 

S. V. D. Philbrook & Brother had a ship yard on the Island at Menekaune, at 
which the little schooner Stella was being repaired. Large numbers of people 
flocked aboard of her, and as the fire got uncomfortably close some were for cut- 
ting the lines and letting her adrift. Mr. P. seized a handspike and threatened 
death to any one who would cut the lines, and this held the vessel until many got 
on board, and in fact, our informant says, her lines burned off. She drifted off 
into the middle of the river, where she grounded on a bar and remained all night 
in front of the burning town. 

F. Crickelair tells us how Charles Rubens, in the town of Lincoln, saved his 
family of six children. He had a house and store, and when he saw they could 
not be saved, he put' his children in the well. Afterward he took them out and 
put them in the middle of a field and threw the goods from his store into the well. 
In saving the last child his face was badly burned, and his shirt burned so he tore 
it off. The goods put in the well were all burned but one piece of flannel in the 
Crater. He has been blind ever since the fire. 



A young lady ran for the river with a child in her arms ; but, overcome by the 
heat ad fright, fainted and was dragged by some one to the water and saved. In 
the morning she learned that her sister was burned. 

One old man, after the fire abated, was found to be so burned in his side that 
his entrails hung out. His hands and face were horribly burned, and he begged 
piteously for some one to kill him and end his misery. 

A little girl, as she clung to her mother's dress, looked up and asked, ' ' Mamma, 
what shall we pray?" 

If you suppose the worst snow storm you ever witnessed, and each snow-flake a 
coal or spark of fire, driven before a fierce wind, you have some idea of the state of 
the atmosphere at the time the fire struck the town. 

Mr. Johnson, in the sugar bush, threw his money, with some bedding, into his 
well, covered the well with boards and piled dirt on the boards. The wind blew 
off the dirt, the boards burned, and all the clothing and money were destroyed. 

Some one who saw the fire approach the town from a distance, says there seemed 
to be a vast cloud, streaked with blood, which went in advance of the fire in the 
woods, leaping over the adjoining timber, and fell upon the town. 

There were many phenomena, which, aside from the fire, were similar to what 
have occurred during the tornadoes that frequently swept over the country. 
Roofs were lifted from buildings and windows burst in. Whatever was light and 
movable was caught up and carried forward and burned, so that the air seemed to 
be literally on fire. It was no more than what might happen in any timbered 
country, especially where the timber was principally pine, in time of drouth, with 
fires scattered through the woods, if a hurricane should sweep over it. 

During the fire roofs and chimneys blew off with the force of the wind and 
showers of burning coals filled the houses. 

Next morning many of the survivors breakfasted on raw cabbage a field ol 
cabbage having escaped. The first aid was a load of provisions from John Mul- 
ligan's railroad camp. Provisions from Marinette arrived about noon, and from 
Green Bay next day. 

Every one had sore eyes, and all walked with their heads down, or bandages 
over their eyes. 

The first ones to collect the dead and make arrangements for their burial, were 
John Mulligan and his wife. Mulligan (who will be remembered as the prize 
fighter, but whose heart is much larger than his fists), saved his wife by carrying 
her in his arms from Hala's place to and across the bridge and into the river, a 
distance of half a mile. There is the advantage of muscle. 

The family of John Greyer, an old Frenchman in the bush, was found, the char- 
red remains of three in the ruins of the house, and another still sitting on a stump 
near by. 

A Swede sitting on a chair in the Peshtigo Company's boarding house, was 
urged to flee fey his life, but sat there and was burned with the house. 

John Plush died in his accustomed place by the tavern door. Another man died 
witb his hands on the handle of Woodward's force pump. 


A gentleman walking through the ruins in Peshtigo saw a burned pocket knife 
and a slate pencil and picked them up. In doing so he saw a line of white ashes 
the shape of a body, and a few teeth. This was the earthly remnant of a boy. 

We learn that a woman in the Sugar Bush, seeing the impending doom, started 
with a team and wagon with her children for Peshtigo. On the road she found a 
tree that she could not get over and immediately cut one horse loose, got upon his 
back with her children and reached the river at the village, saving them all, but 
with clothing nearly burned off, and there on the bank of the river, she gave birth 
to a child. 


A Mr. May was found three quarters of a mile northwest of his house, 
his wife about the same distance north, and his little boy, four years old, 
the same distance north-east. The Newberry families, consisting of sev- 
enteen persons, were all lost. They lived near each other. They owned 
a mill and three farms. Old Mr. Newberry was not found, Charles New- 
berry ran about half a mile and fell, and his two iittle boys, running hand 
in hand, were found a little beyond their father, lying side by side, while 
wife and mother was found on the road near a bridge ; she, forgetful of 
her own suffering, tried to save her babe. Her charred hand was pressing 
the head of her child upon the ground so that it might not breathe the fire. 
The child's face was all that was uninjured. One of the Newberrys was 
found dead in the water under the bridge. 


Charles Lamb took his wife and four children in a wagon when the fire 
began ; the horse became unmanagable and ran away ; the children were 
thrown out one by one ; Mrs. Lamb was dragged into the corner of a field, 
and was the only one of that family saved. Mrs. Caroline England, ex- 
pecting to be confined every hour, rode four and a half miles to Peshtigo, 
'stood in the water five hours, saved three out of four of her sister's child- 
ren, and gave birth to a daughter the day after. In the middle of Sugar 
Bush, a toy jumped into a barrel of rainwater that stood near the house, 
but seeing his father and mother in a green turnip patch, started to go to 
them, but getting badly burned as he tried to climb the, fence, he went 
back and got into the barrel again. The father and mother were burned. 
The boy was found there alive. 

One woman, with a baby ten days old, and four other small children, 
displayed more bravery than many a general on the battle field. She 
gathered her children around her and picked the coals off her family as 
they fell. She was badly burned, and one of her children has since died, 
but the babe escaped. Mr. Tanner tried to save his wife and two children; 
when his wife fell dead he took a child under each arm and started on the 
run. His children died in his arms, and then he drew a knife and tried to 
take his own life. After stabbing himself twice, and before he could ac- 
complish his design, a limb of a tree knocked him insensible and thas his 
life was saved. 



I will mjention one case of a little girl, 15 years old, who saved her little 
sister from death, but who was advised by many to desist from the attempt 
lest she herself should perish. She heeded them not, but by the most 
heroic efforts she succeeded in rescuing her little sister from the merciless 
flames. Her father, mother, brothers, and other sisters perished in the 
devouring element. And after the fire had abated somewhat, she worked 
away back over hot ashes and burning coals, and dragged the dead bodies 
of her relatives out into an open space and then stood watching their char- 
red remains all day and through that long and desolate night that followed. 
That is child heroism, the like of which was never before recorded. 

One man was sick of typhoid fever ; a young man stopping with him 
took the sick man out back of the house and buried him in the sand. He 
was saved, and is rapidly gaining his health. 

The Manistee Fire. 


Manistee Lake is a body of water nearly five miles long and from one-fourth to 
three-fourths of a mile wide, lying nearly parallel with, and about a mile or two 
from Lake Michigan. Near the northern extremity it is connected with the latter 
lake by the Manietee River, a large navigable stream, from 75 to 125 yards in 
width. On the north side of the river, between the two lakes, lay the First Ward 
of the city, and on the south side of the river (toward Grand Rapids,) and adja- 
cent to it, divided nearly equally by Maple street, on which was the swing bridge, 
lay the Third Ward, next the Manistee, or as it is more generally called, " little 
lake," and the Second Ward to the west, next the "big lake," or Lake Michigan. 
To the southeast, bordering on the "little lake" was the Fourth Ward. The 
Third was the most populous and embraced the greater part of the foreign and 
poor population. The Second Ward was the best built part of the town, especial- 
ly that part between Oak and Maple streets. Within the city limits, and directly 
south of the space embraced between the latter named streets, was a tract of 
about twenty acres of dead hemlock forest the trees partly standing and partly 
lying upon the ground, but the whole as dry as tinder and nearly as combustible 
as gunpowder. 

On the fatal Sunday, October 8, the fire-alarm sounded at about 9 A. M., and the 
Fire Department hastened with the steamer to the vicinity of Gifford & Kuddeck's 
mills in the Fourth Ward, where an old chopping was burning furiously, and 
threatening destruction to that part of the town. By the most unwearied efforts, 
continued all day, the fire was subdued, and that part of the town was saved. 
About dark the engine returned to its quarters. It was scarcely housed when the 
wind, which had been blowing furiously all day, rose to a perfect gale. 

At about 2 y. M., while the fire in the Fourth Ward was burning, an alarm 
whistle was heard from the east side of Manistee Lake, and through the thick 
smoke it was discovered that the large steam mill of Magill & Canfield, on Black- 
bird Island, was in flames. In an incredibly short space of time, mill, boarding- 
house, stables, shops, docks and lumber were consumed. 

As soon as darkness began to close in a lurid light appeared in the south-west 
on the shore of Lake Michigan, showing the pine woods that line the shore were on 


fire. About 9:30 p. M., just as the people were returning from evening service, 
the fire alarm again sounded, and every one now was on the alert, for the wind 
was blowing a fierce gale. Instantly a red angry glare lighted up the western sky 
near the mouth of the river. The fire department rushed to the rescue. At the 
month were located the large mill and interests of John Canfield, with boarding- 
house and about twenty-five or thirty dwellings. On the beach several acres were 
covered with pine sawdust^highly inflammable. Along the river near the piers were 
piled several hundred cords of dry pine slabs (fuel for tugs.) Down from the 
circling hills on the lake shore pounced the devouring monster. The burning 
sawdust, whirled by the gale in fiery clouds, filled the air. Hundreds of cords of 
dry pitchy slabs sent up great columns of red flame, that swayed in the air like 
mighty banners of fire, swept across the Manistee, 200 feet wide, and almost in- 
stantly, like great fiery tongues, licked up the Government lighthouse, built at a 
cost of nearly $10,000, situated 150 feet from the north bank of the river. 

A large fleet of vessels, wind bound, lay opposite Canfield's mill, with four tugs, 
including the three large barges of Tyson & Eobinson and the great steam tug Bis- 
marck. Now commenced furious efforts to remove the vessels and barges. The 
wild puffing and screaming of the tugs, the hoarse hallooing of sailors, the loud 
roaring and crackling of the flames, the awe-stricken faces of the gathered multi- 
tude, luridly lighted, made up a scene never to be forgotten or adequately de- 
scribed. The efforts of the firemen were in vain the engine became disabled, 
and the flames came sweeping all before them. But now a new source of terror 
arose. A bright light came up out of the south, directly in the rear of the town, 
and the fierce gale bearing it on directly toward the doomed city. Those who re- 
sided in that part of the town rushed to the new scene of danger, the full extent of 
which few comprehended. The fire had originated two miles south of the city, 
on the lake shore. It first came upon the farm of L. G. Smith, Esq., which it de- 
voured. Eighty rods north the extensive farm and dairy of E. W. Secor shared 
the same fate, with all his barns and forage. Another quarter of a mile and" the 
large farm buildings of Mayor Peters were quickly annihilated. Here the column 
of fire divided, the left hand branch keeping to the lake shore hills, and coming 
in at the mouth ; the other taking a northeasterly course and coming in directly 
south of the town, as before described. Here a small band of determined men, 
fighting with the energy of despair to protect their homes, kept it at bay till past 
midnight. But all was vain. At half-past twelve o'clock the gale became a torna- 
do, hurling great clouds of sparks, cinders, burning bark and rotten wood, through 
the air in a terrific fiery storm. 

Every man now fled to his own house. The fire now came roaring on through 
the dead hemlocks south of the blocks included between Maple and Oak streets 
in the Second Ward. The flames leaped to the summits of the great hemlocks, 
seventy or eighty feet high, and threw out great flags of fire against the lurid 
heavens. The scene was grandly terrible beyond description. To us, whose 
homes and dear ones and all were in the track of fire, it was heartrending. Then 
came a deluge of fire, like that which rained on the cities of the Plains. The wood- 
en town, the sawdust streets, the stumpy vacant lots, the pile-clad hills north of 
the river, all burst into a sea of flame, made furious by the most fearful gale of 
wind I have ever experienced. On, toward the river and the Manistee lake, spread 
the tempest of fire. Men, women, and children, in night clothes, half clothed or 
fully clothed some bareheaded, on foot, in wagons, on horseback, all fled for 
their lives. It was pandemonium on earth. Families were separated husbands 


and wives, parents find children. The writer, when he gave over the unequal 
contest south of the town, rushed to his residence to find it destroyed, and for 
nine hours he could get no word whether his family were dead or alive. They had 
fled before the tempest of fire across the bridge, which burned behind them, only 
to be surrounded and almost to perish in the smoke and fire on the north side. 
Every thing went down before the storm dwellings with their home treasures, 
mills with their machinery, stores and their stocks, warehouses and their contente, 
the fine swing bridge at the foot of Maple street, vessels and their cargoes, all 
mingling in common ruin. 

From Fifth street, half a mile south of the river, to Cushman & Calkin's mill, half 
a mile north of the bridge, and from the foot of Oak street eastward to Tyson and 
Robinson's mill at the outlet of Manistee lake, three-fourths of a mile, was one 
surging sea of fire. The steam fire engine burnt in the street where it stood, the 
men and horses barely escaped with their lives. About three o'clock the wind 
abated, but the work of ruin was complete. When Monday morning's sun glared 
red and lurid through the heavy masses of smoke, where had stood Manistee, it 
beheld a scene of desolation, scarcely to be described. In the first ward three 
buildings remained the catholic church, the Ward School house and a small 
dwelling and I should add some small fishing shanties near the mouth of the 
river. The Third Ward was swept clean except a few buildings near Manistee 
lake. In the Second Ward the six plated blocks lying between Oak and Maple 
streets, and about thirty buildings near the mouth, were swept away. The 
Fourth Ward escaped nearly untouched, the fine residence of J. L. Taylor, banker, 
formerly the residence of M. Engleman, situated in the very corner of the ward, 
being the only one burned. His loss was great and almost total. The fire made 
thorough work. The buildings were built mostly on wooden foundations, and 
their very site was scarcely distinguishable. 


A thousand men, women and children, houseless, homeless, and many of them 
penniless, wandered sad and blinded in the black and smoking streets, or had 
taken refuge on vessels, tugs, boats and barges, to escape the devouring element. 
Nothing but the cleared fields of Messrs. Canfield and Peters, south of the west- 
ern part of the Second ward, saved that part of the town from utter annihilation, 
and hundreds from perishing in the tempest of fire. 


The writer of this, at ten o'clock the next morning, found his family three miles 
east of the desolated city, having barely escaped with their lives, with the scanty 
clothing snatched in the moment of flight. Then was seen a spectacle to gladden 
the heart. Every house that remained was opened to receive the sufferers. 
Hearts and hands were as open as the homes. We almost felt it worth while to 
suffer for the sake of witnessing how much of generosity was latent in human 


Manistee will rise from her ashes. The work of rebuilding has already com- 
menced. We have faith, hope, energy in the future, and some capital. We have 
a splendid natural situation, at the mouth of a beautiful navigable stream pene- 
trating the interior through the pine forests, 200 miles, on whose banks stand four 
thousand five hundred million feet of good pine, most of which must be manufac- 
tured at and shipped from Manistee. Help us through this winter, and the future, 
though dimmed, is safe. 




Compared with the facts of this unvarnished narrative, the wildest fiction ia 
&me and common-place. Human annals do not record, in equal time and space, 
the immensity and intensity of suffering and death crowded into the meager epi- 
tome of one single hour. The scene of a thriving industry, and the home of 
nearly a hundred people; the place, though isolated from any human vicinity, had 
maintained a nourishing and tranquil vitality. The shingle mill, with its co-ad- 
jutant industries, gave employment to the entire people, women and children, di- 
viding the easy labors of shingling and binding. There were but four buildings 
on the clearing the mill, the general boarding-house, a store, and the barn. 
Economy and convenience, curious to say, had dictated the selection of this re- 
mote spot. The timber inexhaustibly covered the place, and it was of unequalled 
quality ; a lazy little stream meandering through the gnarled roots and soft soil, 
offered a supply of water, enough with artesian wells to drive the mill machinery. 
It was cheaper to work the great logs into marketable shape here, where they 
were right at hand, than establish the mills on the lake or bay, and drag the im- 
mense timber over miles of wretched road. The fiery experience of the west 
shore of the whole Northern Wisconsin had been the experience of this wood- 
immersed hamlet. For weeks, incessant, laborious battle had been waged night 
and day, reliefs of mn, and even women, taking turns in the exhausting contest. 
It was hoped that all danger had been warded off when a wide belt, fully a mile 
deep, had been burned outward from the clearing. The serenity of assured safety 
had come upon the people when this black circumvallation was complete the 
very night before the calamity. On that fatal Sunday morning the mill operations 
suspended, and the men who had homes in the neighboring towns of Big and 
Little Sturgeon, made an early start through the woods. When night came, 
some kindly Providence detained them, and the' massacre was so much less. The 
night cam on tranquilly, the humid air gave grateful promise of coming rain, 
and the last lingering distrust was banished from the timidest inhabitant. 
Early in the night most of the little population in the hamlet were in-doors or in 
bed. It was still early when those casually astir outside saw a great glowing 
light shoot athwart the southern sky, and, spreading rapidly west and northward, 
continue with dazzling brilliancy. Presently a slender Column of fire shot for- 
ward, and, caught by a whirlwind, came ploughing through the solid timber to- 
ward the mill. By this time the sleepers and all had rushed from the barrack in 
a wild, clamoring consternation. 

Three brothers, Williamsons, owned the mill, and had in the colony, mother, 
father, sisters, wives and children. Hastily charging the women to care for them- 
selves, the brothers set about saving the property if possible. But before the hose 
could be brought to bear, the saving of the life alone became the stake in the 
dreadful encounter. The brothers, as proprietors, seem for a time to have been 
full of calm, brave discretion, and, with the full realization of the sudden danger 
in the first rush of the tornado, attempted systematic plans of preservation. Tha 
women were directed, as far as possible, to put on men's clothes throughout, as 
offering less chance for the firo to catch. So far as known not a woman heeded 


the advice. Had they have done so their lives might not have been sacrificed on 
that ignoble pyre. Even if life had not been saved, the most revolting sights of 
the massacre would have been spared the heart-broken survivors. This was the 
last shred of coherent conduct among the frightened people. Swift whirling col- 
umns of flame had cut through the intervening timber, and fell voraciously on the 
light frame buildings. The whirlwind lashing the trees into fragments caught 
the fire in roaring surges and flung it about in billowy waves among the tree tops. 
Slender tongues of fire falling from above played in malevolent currents across the 
clearing. A desperation of terror filled men, women and children a terror as 
natural as fatal, for had common fortitude led the group not a soul need have 
perished. With one impulse the frantic mass, battling and crowding, rushed to 
the potato patch. Here a rising ground was crowned by a shallow pit, not six 
feet around, and hardly, at the deepest part, two feet below the surface of the 
ground. Men now living, who came almost unscathed through that night of doom, 
tell how, before the evil time, when the fires were raging, this spot had been fixed on 
as a place of safety, because almost in the centre of the clearing, with no inflam- 
mable matter near, it seemed to promise a breathing in case of a general confla- 
gration. There had been constant jocosities and banter about this " center of sal- 
vation," and some one actually attempting to enlarge the cavity had been driven off 
by good-natured ridicule. Even as late as Saturday it had been used as a place of 
refuge, notwithstanding, and, when the actual danger came, the credulous mass re- 
membered the delusive pit If that fatal spot had not been, if the whimsical be- 
lief had not obtained a firm hold, there is not the slightest doubt but the forty- 
seven that perished would have escaped in the neighboring woods. Into that 
crampled place, crowding, buffeting, cursing, imploring, praying, shrieking, men, 
children, and women, elbowed and fought in the frenzy of a hideous desperation 
and terror. Not large enough to admit a dozen by the closest packing, nearly 
fifty wrestled and crowded in and about the fatal spot. With ostrich instinct, in 
the abjectness of their unreasoning fear, men plowed their burning heads under 
the living pyre. An inextricable pyramid of bodies, in all sorts of conceivable 
postures, stood in the flame-swept place. 

There were a few in this awful time that preserved an amazing equanimity. The 
engineer of the mill, Byron Merrill, a young fellow of marked character and intel- 
ligence, battled resolutely till the last chance to save his employers' property, and 
only when the futility of the effort and the danger of life became obvious was his 
self-imposed duty resigned. A bit of romance tinges the glaring picture. His 
sweetheart was the relative of the mill-owners, Miss Maggie Williamson, a girl of 
rare beauty and attraction. The young fellow, bright and cultured beyond his 
kind, regarded with favor and affection for many a mile around, had won her 
heart, and the two were to have been married. The girl, with her kindred, had 
fled to the potato patch.^and here, suffocating with smoke, their garments in 
flames and writhing in awful agony, the young fellow found the chief part of the 
people. He tried to scatter the infatuated group. With his hat pressed closely 
over his mouth and nostrils, he directed the group to break and take shelter in 
the edge of the timber. Hopeless ! the roar of the hurricane, even the blood curd- 
ling shrieks of the sufferers, drowned his voice. He tried by main force to tear 
the hideous mass asunder, but the best strength of a giant could not have broken 
the maddened clutch of the wretched sufferers. The group was immovably fixed 
to the fatal spot, and rose from burning saud a fiery Laocoon struggling with the 
coiling flames. Jterrill hastily fetch-Lag wetted blankets, threw them over the near- 


est sufferers, meantime shouting to them to break for the timber, not twenty steps 
away. Useless. With the skin hanging in shreds upon his hands and forehead, 
he carried water and poured it on the infatuated group, while the ignoble crowd- 
ing went on madly among the swiftly roasting crowd. The tumultuous struggle 
had been from the first a loathsome, unreasoning fear. A moment's coolness a 
moment's cessation of the frightful effort to wedge downward would have given life 
to all. The time came, however, when the faithful Merrill, stripped almost of 
clothing and burned beyond recognition, had to give up the heroic effort, and 
plunging through the darting flame dashed his burning body in the well. Earlier 
in the catastrophe a half dozen heavy sleepers had found tardiness their salvation 
from the potato patch, and they darted into the timber belt, which had been care- 
fully burned out long before, to keep the fire from the houses. Here, prone on 
the ground, they protected themselves, while the mad crowd, not ten yards away, 
roasted in their blindness. The falling trees could be guarded against, but noth- 
ing could save from the encompassing fire in the clearings. One came, too, whose 
frail chance of life the meanest creature struggling in that hot pit would not have 
refused, an old tottering, half blind, trembling woman, mother to the owners of 
the mill. She must have been forgotten in the first rush, for when she came 
toward the potato patch it was filled with a swarming crowd thrown down .upon 
their faces in the shadowy depths of the potato pit. Seven of her kindred writhed 
in that hideous knot. Passing on with decripped step, the venerable mother, 
whose eighty four years had not worn out coolness and discretion, came upon a 
great boulder near the edge of the timber. Climbing on this although half suffo- 
cated, she covered her head with her skirts, and, with clothes carefully tucked up 
from the running flames, kept for hours on the back of this unique salamander. 
The only son that came out of the fire with his life, it is said, did not forget 
his duty, and aided his mother to this forlorn refuge. Be that as it may, with a 
thick blanket, well wetted, over her body and her skirts out of reach of the hot 
incendiary sand, the brave old lady perched on that rock through the long night of 
agony, every shriek of tier roasting kindred splitting her ears, and their burning 
bodies almost within reach of her helpless arms. Twice through the night she re- 
ceived succor, once from her son, who came up and wetted her covering, and 
once from the barnmaster Bush, who also bathed her head and gave her cool 
water to drink. Through the whole unspeakable tragedy of piteous cowardice ran 
this vein of simple fortitude and heroic endurance. 

The mill blacksmith, Michael Adams, stands out as though of antique, mould. 
He was a man of gigantic figure and grave, rough reserve. When the danger came, 
he gathered his three children and baby in his great strong arms, and with his 
wife strode to the centre of the clearing, where he calmly placed them on wetted 
blankets, and, covering them with his coat, quietly brought water in buckets and 
saturated the frail protection. The flames hissed ana roared about him, but he 
never desisted. Resisting the hot torrents with wonderful endurance and even 
when his hair was ablaze, his hands fleshless, and the coals eating into his flesh, 
he continued his efforts for wife and child. The young engineer and the barn- 
rnaster shouted to him to fly to the woods. He seemed to hear them, but calmly 
shaking his head remained at his post. As his strength and sight began to fail, 
"he looked with unutterable yearning toward the helpless group at his feet, then 
glanced anxiously toward the wood. Whether he saw that there was the better 
chance of safety can never be known ; he reeled suddenly and dropped like a shot 
in his tracks. When help came to that group the next day, an unscarred babe lay 


in the arms of its dead mother, the father's arms about both. They were, of 
course, all dead, but the father alone, with one arm burned off, was unrecogniza- 
ble, save by his giant frame. Even the dog that howled, smothering in the hot air, 
and kept in restless motion to prevent being roasted on the hot sands, seemed im- 
pressed by this man's devotion. Wagging delirious inquiry with his tail, and 
interjecting sharp barks, he seemed to plead with his obdurate master. Hopeless 
of recognition, then he would poke his nose under the wet blankets, and, 
after a thorough cooling, emerge dejectedly, as though deprecating the weakness, 
while his master was exposed. The sand growing hotter and hotter, the forbearing 
dog made for the woods, but in mid career, and almost in the performance of a 
jig his legs were kept moving so briskly to keep his feet from burning he turned 
longingly, as if reminding the man that that was the way to safety. No heed was 
paid him, and with painful limps and piteous whines he returned, and settling his 
feet on the blanket, stared eagerly at his master. His poor, singed body was 
found in the attitude of love and duty. 

At the well, which stood nearest the house, a wretched group had taken refuge 
not only at, but in it. Six people flung themselves into this last resort, count- 
ing confidently on it as a place of security. Finally, when crippled by the fire, 
and exhausted by his long efforts, the young man Merrill threw himself into that 
crowded pit also : the place was packed. Even here his presence of mind was all 
that saved a life where life had very little chance. The frail wooden curbing 
above the mouth had taken fire, and the flames began to run downward fiercely. 
The paralyzed group dared not put out their heads, lest the flames should smother 
them. But Merrill, without an instant's hesitation, uprose and flung the danger- 
ous thing away, and the barn master, hovering about the edge of the woods, pre- 
sently refreshed the smothered victims by a bucket full of water. The well was, 
notwithstanding, a place of death. The flames, sweeping savagely over the 
clearing, lurched and spit down hatefully into the crowded pit, and soon the 
steady blaze from within indicated the fate of its inmates. Merrill still held his 
mind and resisted the flames. In this he was aided by Brush, who helped him to 
his final deliverence. He aided all who would listen to him, and to his presence 
of mind and heroic efforts, the few that were saved owe their lives. He brought 
water from the crefek to aid the group on the potato patch, and kept the sheltering 
blankets saturated as long as he dared venture inside the line of fire. It must not 
be supposed that outside the clearing there was a fair chance of safety. On the con- 
trary, the ceaseless explosions of breaking trunks and splintered branches, were 
so terrific, mingled with volumes of flame in the tree tops, that the greater part of 
the people preferred to risk the dangers of the open ground. But the thick wood 
had its security, and with care the people .that lay down near the edge found 
themselves, when the frightful morning came, comparatively uninjured. 

Here the climax comes ; the tragedy is complete in this one terrific picture ; the 
light of the new day revealed only the machinery of the horrid master-piece. The 
red glare of night had changed into the bleak dawn, and the dawn had changed 
into high noon before a helpful hand broke into the black Golgotha. The barn- 
master Bush, when silence had fallen upon the place an hour or two before dawn, 
took a horse and attempted to make his way to Little Sturgeon ; as well try to ride 
through a stone wiill. Leaving his horse behind he struggled on by the bright light 
of the burning pines, and, after incalculable trouble in the way and out of the way, 
some time about daylight he came upon the ruins of a lumberman's cabin, which 
by the regular path was not more than two miles from the mill. He had been 


hours in reaching it, and, worn out by the labors and agony of the night, he sat 
down to rest. Presently the owner came, and together the two started back to the 
settlement. They went first to the well. Merrill,' apparently quite dead, was 
taken out first. Six more after, all dead, save a child crowded belo v its mother 
at the bottom. Merrill soon gave feeble evidence of life, and wag cared for at once. 
Bush ran to the stone to aid the old woman. The blankets were rolled away. The 
stone was bare, and no vestige of Mrs. Williams could be found. Then they came 
upon the pit. An indistinguishable heap of arms, legs and bodies, perfectly still 
and wholly naked, was all that remained of the mass that came there in abundant 
life a few hours before. They were all dead, and few of them recognizable. 
Seven Williamsons perished in the group, among others the young girl whose long 
black hair was found clutched in masses in her uncharred hands. 

The darkness of a new night threw a pitying veil over the scene when the first 
relief from the outside had succeeded in cutting a way through. The work of 
burial began next morning, and fifty were accounted for in the fatal clearing. The 
venerable mother was found on the road to Big Sturgeon the day after the terrible 
exposure, very feeble and worn out. She was tenderly cared for, and is in a fair 
way to recover what she can count but little her health. One son out of thre 
was spared. Her husband laid his grey hairs in the terrible holocaust ; her whole 
kindred passed away in the ravages of that deadly night. For many a day the woods 
were not clear of the dead. Bodies in every stage of decay were constantly brought 
in by the committees, and the grand total can only be a matter of conjecture. 



Mr. James Langworth, of St. Charles, Saginaw county, Michigan, tims details 
his experience concerning the fire in that district : 

Mr. Langworth states that he lived about four miles south of St. Charles, owning 
a farm of ninety acres. He had four stacks of hay near his barns, six acres of corn 
in the stock, a stack of wheat, thirty bushels of threshed wheat, and various farm- 
ing implements, all of which were converted to ashes. 

During the greater part of the week previous to the fire, the smoke in Lang- 
worth's locality was so dense and stifling that he was at times unable to discern 
any object twenty feet away. Two weeks before he sent his wife and children to 
friends in Canada for a short visit, and this fact probably saved their lives. The 
husband was not apprehensive of danger to his property until Sunday, when the 
flames were within a mile of his place, with the wind rather driving them away 
from him. Great clouds of smoke settled down on every thing, making it danger- 
ous for even one familiar with the locality to wander far from home, every object 
taking on a strange look to mislead his steps. The farmer had a cow and several 
herds of young stock, and these was suffering so terribly from the smoke that he 
turned them loose on Sunday afternoon to care for themselves. They started off 
in the direction of the village, but probably perished in company with scores of 
other domestic animals. Langworth's well had been without water for a week, 
and his only resource was a small creek about forty rods from the house. By 
digging a hole in the bed of the stream about a barrel of water would collect 
during the day, and this he was using for drinking and cooking purposes. 

Just before dark Sunday night, Langworth states that his yard was almost over- 
run with rabbits, woodchucks, coons and other small animals, while more than a 


hundred squirrels were to be seen about the house and barns. The animals moved 
aboutln a stupid way, blinded by the smoke, and would hardly move away when 

There was no sleep for the farmer that night. It was as much as he could do to 
breathe, the smoke creeping in and filling the room until his lamp could scarcely 
be seen across the room. Soon after midnight he ascertained that the wind had 
changed and freshened, and in an hour more he could hear the hoarse roar of the 
fire and the terrible crashing of the giant trees as they toppled over. Between his 
place and he fire was a swamp nearly half a mile across, and he had great hopes 
that this would act as a guard to prevent the further spreading of the flames. In 
one sense it did. The fire did not sweep across it, but ate its way around it, the 
wind seeming to fan the flames each way, and when the farmer's clock marked the 
hour of six Monday morning, the smoke dense and the roar and noise of the 
fire so loud that he decided to leave. Having little money to care for, and being 
poor in household goods, he decided to make the attempt to save some of the bed- 
ding. Taking some small articles, as photographs, a small picture or two, the 
family Bible, and his faithful clock, Langworth placed them on a feather tick, 
wrapped this up in a blanket, and was ready to go. Stepping out of doors to take 
an observation, he could not see ten feet in any direction, and the air was as hot 
as the atmosphere of an engine-room. , 

As he stood near the door, peering this way and that, a great flame suddenly 
shot up from his barn and haystacks. As he returned for his bundle, thousands 
of sparks and scores of burning twigs and branches swept in at the open door, 
and he leaped out and ran for his life. There was a wagon-road from Langwoifth's 
place to the village, and he sought this means of escape. Behind him were the 
roaring flames, sweeping everything before them, and traveling so fast that he 
had to strain every nerve to keep ahead. Where the fire met with an open space 
or a small swamp, its progress was checked for a moment, and the farmer could 
get clear of the flying sparks, But no obstacle could long stop the progress of 
the flames. What they could not burn they would leap over until they caught 
a mass of grass or a heap of leaves, and in a moment the fire was eating each 
way and progressing forward nearly as fast as a man could run. Almost stifled, 
his throat so parched that he could not swallow, and his lungs feeling as if a knife 
vras at work there, Langworth stumbled forward, scarcely hoping to make his 
escape. What he expected soon occurred. The flames which had been sweeping 
down from another direction, suddenly jumped across the road in front of him, 
half a dozen trees flaming up at once. Behind was the main fire, to the right was 
a solid sheet of flames, and the only avenue of escape was to plunge into the 
woods, already taking fire on the left side. 

It was now a race for life, with the chances against escape. Turning to the left 
the farmer hoped that by making a sharp run for it he might head off the fire, 
turn its path and again reach the road. He had almost accomplished this object, 
when he encountered a "swale" of considerable extent, and found that he must 
turn toward the main fire and endeavor to work around the " swale " before the 
flames could reach it. Sparks and cinders were falling all around him. The 
ground was covered with dry leaves, the wind sweeping through the trees in gusts, 
and several times Langworth had to leap over the running flames. In one of his 
leaps he tripped and fell, plunging headlong into soft mud and water. This was 
a most fortunate occurrence for him, as his clothing had already been scorched by 
the flame. He ran forward at his greatest speed, hearing the fire roaring on all 


sides, and when he reached the end of the marsh the flames blistered his cheeks 
as he passed around the swamp and struck the high ground. 

In turning and twisting, and bewildered by the smoke, he had lost all know- 
ledge of the country, and now he ran forward with but one idea of keeping in ad- 
vance of the fire. As the forest was here more open, and the leaves had been well 
cleaned off by the wind, he was not so closely pressed. Almost every moment he 
ran across wild animals, all fleeing for a place of safety, and losing their fear of 
man in the general desire to escape the more relentless foe pressing behind. At 
length Langworth passed beyond the roar of the flames, and felt that he had es- 
caped the fate which for a time seemed certain. He knew not which way he was 
traveling, and cared not so long as he could keep in advance of the fire. The 
smoke was so thick that he had to press forward like one blindfolded. Falling 
into holes, stumbling over logs, he pushed on, and was at length clear of the 
woods. He found the fire everywhere. Swamps were blazing, logs smouldering, 
trees and shrubs burning, and the short grass and dry turf was being eaten up as 
if it were dry peat. He had to pick his way between and around the lesser fires, 
making detours where the fences were blazing, and at last arrived at the outskirts 
of St. Charles, to find every man and woman at the limits, to fight for the salva- 
tion of their property and lives. 

Every dollar possessed by Langworth, except in real estate, was swept away by 
the flames. The clothing he had on was so scorched that it could be picked to 
pieces with the fingers, and he had at least a score of blisters on his face and 
hands. But his loss was small compared with that of others. As he states, the 
flames have swept for miles, burning barn, fences, haystacks, houses and sheds, 
reducing many a farmer from wealth and plenty to almost absolute beggary. The 
flames stopped at nothing. They traveled with the wind, against it, and made a 
scene of desolation in their route. Hundreds of cattle and sheep have been 
smothered or roasted, and the fury of the flames has almost blotted some localities 
out of recognition. 



On the iioming of the llth of October, just as we were sitting down to take 
breakfast, Mr. Richardson, a neighbor of ours, came running into the house and 
told Mr. Mechand that he must come out immediately and see what could be 
done. During the night the wind had risen, but not so greatly as to amount to 
anything like a gale, but rather did it resemble the ordinary fall wind. Mr. Mech- 
and did not seem at all uneasy, and leisurely swallowed his breakfast before follow- 
ing Mr. Richardson who had disappeared as soon as he had stuck his head into 
the room and called my husband. Mr. Mechand went into the woods and stayed 
until about noon, when he came running back and said that he had climbed up to 
the top of Brown's Hill, where the wind was blowing a gale, and from there had 
seen the fire, which was coming towards us at a rapid pace. Indeed 1 had feared 
as much, and had been exceedingly uneasy all the morning, for the smoke which 
for days had been in the valley where we lived had become more and more dense, 
and occasionally hot puffs of wind had blown down over the hills, driving the 
smoke in a dense cloud before it. I asked my husband if he ihought there was any 


danger to be feared ; be shook his head and answered " No," yet I knew from his 
face that he was far from being devoid of fear. He ate his dinner hastily, and 
then ran out again, aud was met at the door by a neighbor who said the fire was 
advancing with frightful speed. Indeed the air had now become sultry as it never 
had before except on some hot days in summer immediately before the coming of 
a thunder storm. The air was stiffling, and the smoke got into one's lungs and 
nostrils in such a way as to render it exceedingly unpleasant. Mother sat in a 
corner holding little Louis in her lap, and I noticed that she seemed restless, and 
that her eyes shone with a light such as I have sometimes seen in the eyes of a 
wild beast, and had only seen in hers in the old days when she was about to have 
an outburst of fury. I was frightened and fidgety, and didn't do anything in the 
right way. I went and took the boy away from mother, who relinquished him 
readily ; and then, as I had afterward terrible reason to remember, although I had 
hardly noticed it at the time, she went to the cupboard and secreted something in 
the bosom of her dress. Mr. Mechand stood at the door speaking hurriedly with 
the man whom he had met, when a burning branch of pine fell at his feet. In- 
stantly the air darkened, a violent puff of wind rushed upon us, and smoke poured 
in volumes about the house. Then, following the gust, a bright sheet or rather 
wall of fire, seemed to be pushed down almost upon us, and instantly everything 
was in flames, Mr. Mechand cried out to me to bring Louis with me, and seized 
mother by the hand, and we all four ran out into the woods ahead of us. I ran on 
blinded and choked by the smolie, and carrying Louis in my arms. He was pale 
with terror, and did not utter a single cry, but clung to my neck as I hurried on, 
stumbling and tripping at nearly every step. So sudden had been the rush of the 
fire that we had no chance of saving anything but our lives, even if we had cared 
to do so. I kept calling to my husband to keep in sight, but, poor fellow, there 
was no need of doing so, for I could see that mother was a great worry to him. and 
that he had almost to drag her along. She kept looking from side to side, and 
trying to break away from him ; even then I thought how terrible it would be if 
she should becomeCurious again. What on earth could we do with her ? 

We must have gone on in this way for at least three miles, and I was almost ex- 
hausted, for Louis was a boy six years old and large for his age, and I had been 
carrying him, all the way. The trees were compact, and in some places the under- 
growth was close and stiff as wire. Mother kept getting worse, and Mr. Mechand, 
who was a short distance ahead of Louis and me, had the greatest difficulty to 
make her obey him. Presently he stopped, and evidently was waiting for me 
to come up. So I took Louis down and told him to keep alongside of me, at the 
same time taking him firmly by the hand. The fire had come much slower than 
me, and I believe we must have been at least two miles ahead of it, although there 
was no telling, for I could see nothing behind or far before me but smoke curling 
like a mist in and out of the trees. Behind us, indeed, it was heavier, and looked 
a sullen, dirty white. 

We could not have been six feet from, my husband when my mother broke away 
from him, and with a loud cry darted off into the woods, and then I knew that 
what I had dreaded had indeed come to pass, and that excitement and danger had 
brought back an old sickness upon her. She was a maniac. Mr. Merchand dart- 
ed after her, and in the terror of the moment I forgot all else and followed him, 
leaving poor little Louis behind. I must have been crazy to do so, but on I rush- 
ed, and soon saw that mother was cunning enough to escape by doubling on her 
tracks, for I saw her dress dart past the bushes at my side as she ran diagonally 


away from me. I sprang after her, and after rnnning for about flve minutes, 
found to my horror that I had not only lost her, but Louis and his father. Madly 
I tried to retrace my steps, but there was nothing to guide me no path, no blazes 
on the trees. The wind shook the trees, and almost bent them double ; the sultry 
air filled with smoke, and all the horrors of my terrible condition made me frantic. 
I rushed about helpless, crying, and screaming, "Louis! Louis! Father!" But 
that last word made me calm for an instant and I felt that I was not alone not ut- 
terly lost in the burning woods, for the spirit of my dead father was near and 
there were guardian angels. I knelt down, took my crucifix from my neck, and 
prayed. In kneeling down I found to my great joy that my dress was wet. I had 
knelt near a spring. I bathed my face and hands, and soaked my hair and the 
upper portion of my dress. But then my boy my little Louis. I sprang to my 
feet, and called on the Virgin to direct me, dashed on in the direction of the fire. 
I had not gone more than a quarter of a mile when I found my darling, standing 
with head erect, and his flashing eyes filled with angry tears, trying to beat away 
some wolves, which, hungry though they were, seemed bent only on flight. I 
cried, "Louis! Louis!" and clasped him to my heart, It was my boy, and he 
was saved. He had not seen his father though once he heard a man's voice call- 
ing, but the voice seemed to have come from an immense distance. " Oh, Louis," 
said I, "we are lost unless we find him. We must run for our lives." The boy 
began to cry, and then I was ashamed of what I had said, and tried to cheer him 
up. The fire must have been very near us then, for I could not only feel its heat- 
ed breath, but above my head, among the tree-tops, sparks and firebrands were 
whirling in the air. I took Louis in my arms, determined that never again should 
he be separated from me ; and pressed onward with the idea that I would soon 
reach Wolf Biver. 

Night was coming on, and since noon we had had nothing to eat. I did not feel 
hungry, but was tormented with thoughts of what might happen if we should not 
soon reach some place of safety, for I feared that Louis would give out, and that 
was one of the reasons which made me carry him. My afms ached, and my 
limbs were scratched, bruised and bleeding. Still I made good headway, and 
soon came to a natural clearing, on the thither side of which we sat down to rest. 
By this time night had come on, and what a night ! No moon, no stars, but the 
cloudy heavens lighted up afar with the horrible fire of the burning woods. The 
clearing in which we sat was the dried up bed of a stream, which for some unac- 
oountable reason had not thickly wooded shores , and we were at least two hun- 
dred feet from the forest in flame. All this time, Louis, manly little fellow, that 
he was, had not even asked for food, nor had he cried since I myself foolishly 
frightened him. 

We sat there a long time while I was trying to think where we were, but I could 
come to no conclusion. I had heard my husband speak of a stream which had 
run dry, but that was in a northeasterly direction from our house, and, notwith- 
standing the fact that I was lost, yet I had a general notion that I was approach- 
ing the Wolf Biver. The stars could give me no information, for I could not see 
them. What to do I scarcely knew, but when the heat of the fire became such 
that I could not doubt that it was near, I determined to press on away from it, 
and taking Louis' hand I set out. On ordinary nights it would have been dark, 
but there was a nameless glare, a terrible a horrible reflection which came 
down from the sky, mingled with the smoke. Hardly had I risen from the 
ground when, in the direction of the woods on the other side of the clearing, 1 


heard a clashing noise, a mingled gnashing and hoarse barking, -which I instantly 
recognized us that of wolves, and I scarely had time to snatch up Louis and run 
behind a magnificent pine tree, whose trunk was at least six feet in diameter, be- 
fore I heard them scrambling up the side of th hill, and felt them rush by me. 

They did n6t stop for an instant, and when they passed, there came in their 
tracks a herd of deer, uttering cries that seemed almost human in their intense 
agony. They ran blindly, for something more terrible than wolves was behind 
them ; they struck the tree and were hurled back by the shock, some of them 
falling back upon those below. The stampede seemed to last for full ten minutes, 
and -when it was over, and I, trembling with fear, dared once more to emerge 
from my refuge and look across the clearing, I saw the woods at its edge already 
burning saw it lurid through the smoke, and felt its terrible heat upon my face. 
I turned and fled in the w ake of the deer and wolves. My shoes were stripped 
from my feet, and my ankles were torn and bloody. Fallen trees lay in my way, 
but I clambered over and crawled under them in my desperate flight. I was agon- 
ized with terror and despair, and finally sank to the ground with my boy in my 

I must have fainted, for I knew nothing of what passed till I was rudely shaken 
by the shoulder and heard a wild gibbering laugh. I opened my eyes, and above 
me stood my mother with a drawn knife in her hand. The woods seemed all 
ablaze, although the air was not so intolerably hot as it had been. My mother 
looked down upon me with eyes blazing with t^jat hated light of insanity. 

"Ho, ho !" said she, "fine time of night for a mother and child to be running 
through the woods ! Fine night this ! Night it is day! Look at the red light 
'tis the light of dawn. And the rocks are burning ! Call on them to fall upon 
you ! The clouds of thunder and the day of doom ! The Lord is coming, and 
the wheels of his chariot burn with his mighty driving ! Let us go up to meet 
him in mid-air ! Let us ride on the smoke and thunder and sweep the stars from 
the heavens ! Come, you shall go with me !" and she seized Louis who had 
thrown himself upon me and was clinging in terror to my breast. 

I sprang to my feet and cried, "Mother, mother! what would you do would 
you kill me and Louis?" 

"Kill you? Yes! Why wait? The Lord calls and the devil drives. He has 
let loose his imps against the world. The trees fall crashing in the forest ; for 
all hell's demons pull them down with hooks of fire. I have seen them as I fol- 
lowed you. I have seen you all the way. I rode over on a wolf : 'twas a loup 
garou, an old friend of mine, brought me over safely, and kept me from the deer. 
I will kill you ! \\iould you burn to death ? You shall go up up, higher than the 
moon, and beyond the fire. Gome, let us go !" and again she seized Louis, while 
a knife gleamed in the air. 

I sprang at her, and with all the strength of a mother in my arms, I struggled 
with her. Torn, worn, and bleeding, as I was, the thought of my child and hus- 
band gave me the strength of a giant. I overpowered the mad woman, and forget- 
ing that sha was my mother that she was anything but the would-bo murderess 
of my boy I seized her by the throat when she was down rolling on the ground, 
and I could have strangled her. Her insanity had almost made me mad, and I 
felt then what a murderous maniac feels. 

But then I thought that my mother was lying almost dead and powerless, and 
the fire would soon advance and overwhelm us all. My hand was stayed, and 
when my mother rose to her feet all her wildness was gone, and in its place that 


calmness almost imbecility which had characterized her for the last few years. 
She was ready and willing to do everything that I told her, but I kept the knife 
last in my hand. 

The wind was falling, and a slight rain was dropping among the leaves overhead, 
as we went on for an hour or two longer, and then, overpowered with exhaustion, 
and no longer greatly dreading the fire, we lay down in a hollow and fell asleep. 
When we awoke it was morning. I was sick and completely exhausted, and hard- 
ly knew that there were men around us. Yet there were, and good, kind men, 
too, who gave us food, and drove us to a place of shelter, whence, as soon as we 
were able, we went to Green Bay, where I soon recovered from my sickness and 
terror of that dreadful night. My mother continues in that same state of imbecili- 
ty, which the doctor says will soon become complete dementia. Louis was not 
long in recovering, but as yet I have heard nothing from my husband. 


A man named Allison Weaver, who reached Detroit from Port Huron, had a 
curious and narrow escape from being roasted alive in the North Woods. 

Weaver is a single man, about fifty years old, and served all through the war in 
an Ohio Regiment of infantry. Up to two weeks before the fire he was at work 
for a man named Bright, ten miles from Forrestville, as a fireman of a shingle 
mill. Two or three days before the approach of the flames, which eventually de- 
stroyed that section, Bright and his family left for Forrestville, and the next day 
all the men employed about the place either followed his example or made haste 
to reach their homes. On leaving, Bright informed his men that the fire would 
sweep that way, and warned them to lose no time in making their escape. Hav- 
ing no property to lose or family to take care of, Weaver determined, as he says, 
"to stay and see the circus out," meaning that he intended saving the mill if pos- 
sible. He has a stubborn sort of a spirit and the fact that everybody else went 
induced him to stay. 

As soon as the men left he set to work and buried all the provisions left in the 
house, and during the day buried the knives, belts and other light machinery of 
the mill, as well as a stove and a quantity of crockery ware. There was plenty of 
water in the vicinity of the mill, and he filled several barrels full, besides wetting 
down the house, mill, .stock, and everything which would burn, scattering several 
hundred pailfuls of water on the ground around the buildings. When night came 
and the fire had not appeared, he began to jeer his absent comrades. About ten 
o'clock the heavens were so light that he could distinguish the smallest objects 
around him, and there was a roaring in the forest which soffnded like waves 
beating against rocks on the shore. He began to suspect that he was soon to re- 
ceive the visit predicted, and accordingly made preparations for it. In leveling up 
the ground around the shingle mill, earth had been obtained here and there, 
and Weaver went to work and dug one of these pits deep enough for him to 
stand up in. 

He then filled it nearly full of water, and took care to saturate the ground 
around it for a distance of several rods. Going to the mill he dragged out a four 
inch plank, sawed it in two, and saw that the parts tightly covered the mouth of 
the little well. "I kalkerlated it would tech and go," said he, " but it was the best 
I could do." At midnight he had everything arranged, and the roaring then was 
awful to hear. The clearing was ten or twelve acres, and Weaver says, that for 
two hours "before the fire reached him there was a constant flight across the 


grounds of small animals. As he rested a moment from giving the house another 
wetting down, a horse dashed into the opening at full speed and made for the 
house where he stopped and turned toward the fire. Weaver could see him trem- 
ble and shake in his excitement and terror, and felt a pity for him. After a mo- 
ment the animal gave utterance to a snort of dismay, ran two or three times 
around the house, and then shot off into the woods. 

Not long after this the fire came. Weaver stood by his well, ready for the emer- 
gency, yet curious to see the breaking in of the flames. The roaring increased in 
volume, the air became oppressive} a cloud of dust and cinders came showering 
down, and he could see the flames through the trees. It did not run along the 
ground, nor leap from tree to tree, but it carae on like a tornado, a sheet of flame 
reaching from the earth to the top of the trees. As it struck the clearing he 
jumped into his well and closed over the planks. He could no longer see, but he 
could hear. He says that the flames made no halt, whatever, nor ceased then- 
roaring for an instant, but he had hardly got the opening closed before the house 
and mill were burning like tinder, and both were down in five minutes. The 
smoke came down to him powerfully, and his den was so hot that he could hardly 

He knew that the planks above him were on fire, but remembering their thick- 
ness, he waited until the roaring of the flames had died away, and then with his 
head and hands*turned them over, and put out the fire by dashing up water with 
his hands. Although it was a cold night, and the water had at first chilled him, 
the heat gradually warmed it up until he says that he felt quite comfortable. He 
remained in his den until daylight, frequently turning over the planks and put- 
ting out the fire, and then the worst had passed. The earth around was on fire in 
spots, house and mill were gone, leaves, brush and logs were swept clean away, as 
if shaved off and swept with a broom, and nothing but soot and ashes were to be 

After the fire had somewhat cooled off, Weaver made an investigation of his 
caches, and found that considerable of the property buried had been saved, al- 
though he lost all his provisions except a piece of dried beef, which the fire had 
cooked as in an oven without spoiling it. He had no other resource than to re- 
main around the place that day, during the night, and the greater part of next day, 
when the ground had cooled enough so that he could pick his way to the site of 
the burned village. He was nearly twelve hours going the twelve miles, as trees 
were falling, logs were burning, and the fallen timber had in some places heaped 
up a breastwork which no one could climb. 

An Affecting Incident. 


A thrilling incident, and miraculous escape from death was in the case, of the 
family of five children of Mr. William Mann, of Rock Creek. When the moth- 
er saw that they must leave their home, after fighting the fire all day, she told 
the children (five in number) to go to the lake and she would follow as soon as she 
had gathered up a few articles to take with her. They reached the lake just in 
time to be taken into a fishing boat, which three neighbors were about to shove 
off. The mother in the meantime had gathered up what she could carry, and 
started for the lake, but found the road which her children had taken so full 01 
smoke, and fire, and falling trees, that she took another course through the woods, 


coming out some distance above where the children were. She knew not whether 
her pets had passed through the fiery ordeal safely or not. She naturally feared 
the worst, but finally heard they had been taken off by the boat. 

Here commences the romantic and thrilling part of the story. There was not 
an oar or sweep on board ; a piece of board was all they nad to control the boat 
with. For some time the boat rode gently on the water, all the time working a 
little out from the shore, although they did not realize, on account of the density 
of the smoke, how far they were getting from the shore. They presumed they 
could easily return at their pleasure. It soon became apparent, on account of the 
roughness of the lake, that they were rapidly drifting into the lake, and they 
made all the efforts they possibly could to guide their unwieldy craft back to- 
ward the shore. Hour after hour they labored, but all in vain. They knew if 
they continued to drift, death was almost sure. All were in the greatest despair. 

The oldest of the children, a girl of eleven summers, was the bravest of the lot. 
She held the baby almost constantly during that terrible trip. On they went, the 
waves frequently breaking over them of course all were wet and cold. Night 
came on with Egyptian darkness. After weary, and Jong, long hours of suffering, 
daybreak was joyously hailed. They were then beyond the smoke of the burning 
forests. They were sure they would hail some vessel. All day long they looked, 
until darkness again set in, without seeing a sail. At about two o'clock in the 
morning of the third day out, one of Mr. Mann's children, a boy of three summers, 
died from hunger and exposure ; when it died it was lying in the bottom of the 
boat, with water half over its little body. The little eleven years old girl said 
she wanted the men in the boat to put it on the bedding, but they would not, and 
she was too weak and was holding the baby, and could not do it. The children 
did not cry much on the last day, as all were nearly exhausted. Finally, after 
three days and nights, they were drifted on shore at Kincardine, Ontario, where 
their wants were speedily attended to, and from there sent to Port Huron. 

During these three days the reader can imagine the mother's feelings. Every- 
body that knew of the circumstances supposed, of course, they had gone to the 
bottom of the lake. The mother arriving at Port Huron, at once went to the 
relief rooms. After making herself known, and bewailing the fate of her children 
in piteous sobs and moans (she had supposed them all dead till this moment), Mrs. 
Fred. Wells, the secretary of the Belief Association, told her her children were 
there, well and apparently happy. I cannot picture the scene. " Oh ! is it so ? is 
it so ?" "God bless their little hearts !" ' ' Where are they ?" ' ' Take me to them 
at once !" Mrs. Wells informed her they were near by, and she would take* her 
there at once. Another and more pain/ul part of the story was yet to be told Mrs. 
Mann. How to do this was a query, all the ladies in the room dreading to break 
the dreadful tidings to her. At last Mrs. Mann began to ask her how Emma was, 
and then the next one. Finally she asked how little Charlie was. No one answer- 
ed for a moment. She looked up and saw at once all was not right. "Is he 
dead ? is he dead ?" and commenced weeping as only a fond and loving mother 
can, for the loss of her boy. 


An eye-witness of the recent devastating fires near Uniontown, Wisconsin, re- 
lates an incident occurring during the conflagration, which is absolutely unparal- 
leled in the history of all similar horrors. He writes : 

"The most horrible of all was at Boorman's well. Mr. Boorman's house was 


the largest in the village, and in the center of the yard, midway between the house 
and barn, was a large but shallow well. Several of the neighbors were supplied 
with water from this fountain, and it is likely that in the conflagration, when all 
hope was cut off, the neighborhood, insane with terror, thronged with one purpose 
to this well. The ordinary chain and wheel pump used in that place had been re- 
moved, and the wretched people had leaped into the well as the last refuge. 
Boards had been thrown down to prevent them being drowned ; but, evidently, 
the relentless fury of the fire drove them pell-mell into the pit, to struggle with 
each other and die, some by drowning and others by fire and suffocation. None 
escaped. Thirty-two bodies were found there ; they were in every imaginable 
position, but the contortions of their limbs, and the agonizing expression of their 
faces, told the awful tale. 


A citizen of Green Bay who passed through the fire at Peshtigo, and saved 
himself and a woman and children he met, by getting on a low spot of ground or 
in a ditch, and covering them over with wet blankets, tells the story ; They had got 
well-covered up in this burrow, when a half-frantic woman rushed along with a 
great bundle in her arms. She had been well dressed, but her clothes were half 
off. She stopped and deposited her bundle, which consisted of a child and a lot 
of clothing, and then shrieked, "Great God, where is my baby?" At this the 
narrator sprang up, and saw, a few rods off, a baby in its night-clothes lying on 
the road and kicking up his heels in great glee, while a billow of flame rolled over 
it, striking the ground beyond, and leaving the baby in the center of a great 
arch of fire. The baby had slid out of the bundle, unperceived by the mother in 
her haste. He immediately sprang for the child, and with difficulty rescued it 
It is no wonder that the mother fainted when she secured the child. 

Walter Heath was one of the proprietors of the Peshtigo House. When the fire 
occurred, his family, with the girls employed in the house, escaped from the hotel 
by a team, and were saved on the low land below Ellis' House. Heath got into 
the river on the west side of the bridge and clung to the center pier of the bridge. 
The wind blew the fire from the hotel to where he was. The hotel was near the 
south end of the bridge and on the west side of the street. At the north end of 
the bridge and east of the street was the Peshtigo Company's water mill, and the 
flames from that also blew directly to his position. Thus it seems that the wind 
on two sides of the river blew in exactly opposite directions. Heath was saved 
from the fact that, being on the west side of the pier, the flames from the water 
mill divided at the pier and passed him on both sides. The bridge being on fire 
he dare not swim through with the current, but when the fire on the bridge had 
got uncomfortably close he took off his coat, pulled off his boots, and swam up 
stream to a place of safety. He had a very narrow escape from death, and has 
not yet recovered from breathing the hot air and smoke. 

He tells us that the most vivid imagination can not picture the scene of the 
calamity as bad as it actually was. In his opinion as many as 1,000 people lost 
their lives on the Peshtigo ; that 752 bodies have been buried, and that many 
were entirely burned up. The names of half the dead will never be known. They 
are buried all over Peshtigo, and the boards that mark their graves are marked 
"2 unknown," "3 unknown," etc. 

Much has been said of the intense heat of the fires which destroyed Peshtigo, 
Menekaunee, Williamsonville, etc., but all that has been said can not give the 


stranger even a faint conception of the realities. The heat has been compared with 
<that engendered by a flame concentrated on an object by a blow-pipe, but even 
that would not account for some of the phenomena. For instance, we have in our 
possession a copper cent, taken from the pocket of a dead man in the Peshtigo 
Sugar Bush, which will illustrate our point. This cent has been partially fused, 
but still retains its round form, and the inscription upon it is legible. Others in 
the same pocket were partially melted off, and yet the clothing and the body of the 
man were not even singed. We do not know how to account for this, unless, as is 
asserted by some, the tornado and fire were accompanied by electrical phenomena. 

The house, barn, and fences, of Mr. Hill, of the upper Sugar Bush, were burned, 
and Mr. Hill and his family all lost. By the side of the family was a narrow alley, 
jttst wide enough to drive through. In this alley stood a wagon, and while the 
barn and fence were entirely destroyed, the wagon box was not even singed. 

Alfred Phillip's house, in the upper Sugar Bush, was destroyed, but the family 
escaped. They state that two opposite currents of air apparently struck the house, 
which was 16 by 24 feet, and carried it bodily into the air, about 100 feet. It then 
burst into flames, and in a few minutes was entirely destroyed. The house was not 
on fire when it left the ground. 

We do not believe that any other explanation of the great calamity can be made 
than -that it was caused by fire, wind and electricity. 

More than a hundred villages and hamlets were destroyed, besides 
about six hundred farms with all their stock and utensils, numerous 
saw mills, flouring mills, and lumber men's camps. The loss of life 
is said to have been not less than 1,400, and the loss of property in 
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, is estimated at $11,000,000. It 
will require a quarter of a century to recover from the terrible dis- 

We might fill a book much larger than this with interesting inci- 
dents of these fires, many of them unutterably tragic, but all par- 
taking of the general character of those contained in the preceedajig 
pages ; and it is therefore proper to state that we have selected those 
possessing the most interest for readers at large, giving the best and 
most comprehensive idea of the great events they describe. 

The relief of the sufferers throughout the northwest was prompt 
and adequate. Contributions of money and clothing were made by 
the people everywhere in the same spirit that prompted them to re- 
spond to the appeal of Chicago, and the hungry and naked were fed 
and clothed with a celerity almost magical. God bless all the noble 
hearts that so generously responded to the cry for succor. 

The Great Fires of the Past. 

In Ancient History we find an account of a terrible fire in Home, A. D. 64, said 
to have been kindled at the instigation of the famous Nero, whose ambition was to 
destroy the city, that he might rebuild it and call it by his own name. 

In the words of the historian. 

"Of aH calamities which ever befell this city from the rage of fire, this was the 
most terrible and severe. 

It broke out in that part of the circus, which is contiguous to Mount Palatine and 
Callus, and being accelerated by the wind, it acquired strength and spread at once 
through the whole extent of the circus, It invaded first the lower portion of the 
city, then mounted to the highest, then again ravaging the lower it baffled every 
effort to extinguish it, and raged for five days with unabated violence. 

At length on the sixth day the conflagration was stayed at the foot of Esquil, by 
pulling down an immense number of buildings so that an open space might check 
the raging element by breaking the continuity. 

Two days later the fire broke out afresh with no little violence, and still greater 

havoc was made among the temples and porticos dedicated to amusement. 

* * * * * * * 

Of the fourteen sections into which Home was divided, four only were standing 
entire ; three were levelled with the ground and in the seven others there remained 
only here and there a few remnants of houses, shattered and half consumed. 


On the 16th of September, 1812, at midnight, Napoleon, in ntter exhaus- 
tion of body and mind, retired to rest. Suddenly the cry of " fire" resounded 
through the streets. " Far off in the East immense volumes of billowy smoke, 
pierced with flames, were rolling up into the stormy sky. Loud explosions of 
bursting shells and upheaving mines scattered death and dismay around. Sud- 
denly the thunders as of an eathquake were heard in other directions. A score of 
buildings were thrown into the air. Flaming projectiles of the most combusti- 
ble and unquenchable material were scattered in all directions, and a new volcano 
of smoke and flame commenced its ravages. Earthquake succeeded earthquake, and 
volcano succeeded volcano. The demon of the storm seemed to exult in his high 
carnival of destruction. The flames were swept in all directions. The shower of 
fire descended upon all the dwellings and all the streets. Mines were sprung, 
shells burst, cannons were discharged, wagons of powder and magazines blew 
up, and in a few hours of indescribable confusion and dismay, the whole vast city 
was wrapped in one wild ocean of flame. The French soldiers shot the incendia- 
ries, bayoneted them, tossed them into the flames, but still, like demons, they 
plied their work. Napoleon awoke early in the morning and looked out upon the 
flames, which were sweeping through all parts of the city. For the first time in 
his life he appeared excessively agitated. His far-reaching mind apprehended at 
a glance the measurelessness of the calamity which was impending. He hur- 
riedly paced his apartment ; dictated hasty orders, and from his window anxiously 
watched the progress of the fire. The Kremlin was surrounded with gardens and 
shrubbery, and seemed for a time to afford shelter from the flames ; but iwines of 


powder were in its vaults, with various combustibles arranged to communicate the 
fire. As Napoleon gazed upon the conflagration he exclaimed, " What a frightful 
spectacle! Such a number of palaces! The people are genuine Scythians." 
" Not even the fiction of the burning of Troy," said Napoleon afterward, " though 
Lightened by all the powers of poetry, could have equalled the reality of the des- 
truction of Moscow." 

During the whole of the 17th, and of the ensuing night, the gale increased in 
severity, and the fire raged with unabated violence. The city now seemed but 
the almost boundless crater of an indistinguishable volcano. Various colored 
flames shot up to an immense height into the air ; incessant explosions of gun- 
powder, saltpetre out of iron and stone, and burning rafters were hurled far off 
into the surrounding plain, crushing many in their fall. Multitudes encircled by 
the flames in the narrow streets were miserably burned to death. The scene of 
cdhfusion and dismay has probably never been equalled. The soldiers, stifled 
with smoke, singed with flames and lost in the streets of the burning city, fled 
hither and thither, before a foe whom they were unable even to attack. They 
were often seen staggering beneath immense packages of treasure, which they 
were frequently compelled to abandon to effect their escape. Miserable women 
were seen carrying one or two children on their shoulders and dragging others by 
the hand, attempting, often in vain, to flee from these accumulating horrors. Old 
men, with beards singed by the fire, crept slowly and feebly along, and in many 
cases were overtaken and destroyed by the coils of flames that pursued them. 
Napoleon was indefatigable in his exertions for the rescue of his soldiers and 
the remaining inhabitants. 

At length it was announced that the Kremlin was on fire. The flames so encir- 
cled it that escape seemed almost impossible. The fire was already ^consuming 
the gates of the Citadel. It was not until after a long search that a postern could 
be found through which the imperial escort could pass. Blinded by cinders and 
smothered with hetit and smoke, they pressed along on foot, till they came to a 
roaring sea of fire, which presented apparently an impassable barrier. At last a 
narrow, crooked, diverging street was found blazing in various parts, and often 
overreached with flame. It was an outlet which despair alone could enter. Yet 
into this formidable pass Napoleon and his companions were necessarily impelled. 
With burning fragments falling around, and blazing cinders showered upon them, 
they toiled along, almost blinded and suffocated with heat and smoke. 

At length the guide lost his way, and stopped in utter bewilderment. All now 
gave themselves up for lost, It was remarked that, in this terrible hour, Napo- 
leon was perfectly calm and self-possessed. Just then they caught a glimpse of 
Marshal Davoust, who, with a company of soldiers, was in search of the Emperor. 
The marshal had signified his determination to rescue the hope of France or 
perish in the attempt Napoleon affectionately embraced the devoted Prince. 
They soon encountered, in the blazing streets, a convoy of gunpowder, along 
which they were compelled to pass, while flaming cinders were falling around. 
The energies of Napoleon's mind were so disciplined for the occasion that not the 
slightest indication of alarm escaped him. They soon emerged from the walls of 
the city, and Napoleon retired to the castle of Petrowshoi, about three miles from 
the burning metropolis. T'he Emperor, as he looked back upon the city, gloomily 
remarked: "This forbodes no common calamity." "It was," said he, years 
afterward, " the spectacle of a sea and billows of fire, a sky and clouds of flame, 
mountains of red, rolling flames like immense waves of the sea, alternately burst- 


ing forth and elevating themselves to skies of fire, and then sinking into the ocean 
of flame below. Ah, it was the most grand, the most sublime, the most terrific 
sight the world ever beheld." 

The fire began to decrease on the 9th for want of fuel. "Palaces, and temples." 
says Karmanzin, "monuments of art and miracles of luxury, remains of ages long 
since past and the creations of yesterday, the tombs of remotest ancestry and the 
^cradles of children of the rising generation, -were indiscriminately destroyed. 
Nothing was left of Moscow save the remembrance of its former grandeur. The 
French army was now encamped in the open fields around the smouldering city. 
Their bivouacs presented the strangest spectacle which had ever been witnessed. 

Immense fires were blazing, fed by the fragments of the most costly furniture 
of satin wood and mahogany. The soldiers were sheltered from the piercing 
winds by the tonts reared from the drapery of the regal palaces. Superb arm- 
chairs and sofas, in the richest upholstery of imperial purple and crimson velvet^ 
afforded seats and lounges for all. Cashmere shawls, Siberian fans, pearls and 
gems of Persia and India, .were strewed over the ground in wild confusion. In 
the midst of all these wrecks of boundless opulence the soldiers were famishing. 


Among the great conflagrations of the past, that of London, in September 1666, 
will always stand pre-eminent for its terrible destructiveness. It followed upon 
the great plague, which had carried off one-third of the population in the previous 
year, and swept over nearly five-sixths of the space included within the city walls 
at that date. It lasted four days, and the ruins covered four hundred and thirty- 
six acres. It destroyed eighty-nine churches (including St. Paul's), the Boyal 
Exchange, the Custom-House, Guildhall, Zion College, and many other public 
buildings, besides 13,200 private houses. Four hundred streets were entirely 
laid waste, and about 200,000 of the inhabitants of the city were obliged to encamp 
for some time in the open fields of Islington and Highgate. The most disastrous 
fire since that date occurred on the 25th of March, 1748, when 200 houses in the 
Cornhill Ward were destroyed. Many destructive fires have occurred in the 
British metropolis at later dates, the most recent worthy of special note being the 
burning of the cotton and other wharves of Tooley street in June and July, 1861. 
The fire continued raging with greater or less fury for nearly a month. Several 
persons were killed, and property was destroyed to the value of 2,000,000. 


On the 5th of May, 1&42, a fire broke out in the City of Hamburg, Germany, 
which raged with great fury for four days, destroying about one-third of the city. 
Sixty-one streets containing 1,747 houses, were utterly laid waste, and thousands 
of people were rendered homeless. There were few public buildings of value 
destroyed, and that portion of the city was quickly rebuilt in a much more sub- 
stantial manner than before. 


In this country great fires, especially before the day of improved flre-eogines, 
have been comparatively frequent, and New York has had her full share. In Sep- 
tember, 1776, soon after the city came into the hands of the British, 500 houses 
were destroyed, forming at that time a large part of the town. The buildings 
were rather huddled together at the lower end of the island, and were mostly of 
wood, and the district west of Broadway and below Cor tland street, was swept bare. 


New York was visited by another great conflagration, the greatest in its history, on 
the 18th of December, 1835. Six hundred warehouses, and property to the 
extent of $20,000,000, were consumed. Our oldest inhabitants still remember the 
horrors of that terrible disaster. On the 6th of September, 1839, the city had 
another severe visitation, when forty-six buildings, and property valued at $10,- 
000,000 were destroyed. The next conflagration of large extent in this city took 
plsce on the 19th of July, 1845, when 302 stores and dwellings in the lower part 
of the city were destroyed. These, however, were of comparatively inferior value, 
the whole loss amounting to $6,000,000. Four lives were lost on this occasion. 
Since that time, owing to the increased efficiency of the means employed to pre- 
vent and extinguish fires, they have generally been confined to a single building or 
a small group. 


^ In the same year of the last great fire in New York, Quebec Buffeted terribly 
from the same destroying element. On the 28th of May a fire broke out in the 
Faubourgh St. Boch which destroyed 1,500 buildings before it could be quelled. 
Several lives were also lost. Exactly one month later 1,300 buildings were burned, 
and by these two conflagrations nearly two-thirds of the city was laid in ruins. 
The pecuniary loss has been stated at $8,000,000. 


In the same year, on the 12th of June, nearly the whole town of St. John's, 
Newfoundland, was destroyed, and 6,000 people were rendered homeless. 


Albany suffered from a great conflagration on the 9th of September, 1841. Six 
hundred buildings, besides steamboats, piers, and other property, valued altogether 
at $3,000,COO were burned. Twenty-four acres of land within the city limits-were 
covered with ruins. 


St. Louis had a great fire in May, 1849, when fifteen blocks of houses and twenty- 
three steamboats were consumed, causing a loss of over $3,000,000. 


Philadelphia has been fortunate in having few great fires, but one occurred in 
that city on the 9th of July, 1850, which destroyed 350 buildings. These were of 
inferior value, and the whole loss was but $1,500,000, though twenty-five persons 
were burned to death, nine drowned, and one hundred and twenty injured. 


A large portion of San Francisco was destroyed in 1851. On the 3d of May a 
fire brok;e out which consumed nearly 2,500 buildings, causing a loss of $3,500, 
000 and several lives. A little over a month later, on the 22d of June, 500 more 
buildings were burned, valued at $3,000,000 or more. 


Twelve acres of land in Syracuse were burned over on the 8th of November, 
1866. Abont 100 buildings were destroyed, and the loss of property amounted 
to $1,000,000. 


The scene most naturally recalled by this fearful disaster in Chicago^s the ter- 
rible celebration of the Fourth of July in Portland, Me., in 1866. The leading 


facts in that great event are still fresh in the public mind. The fire, beginning in 
a boot shop on High street, swept North, and destroyed in its course nearly one- 
half of the city. The pecuniary loss Was about $15,000,000, and one-fourth of the 
population were rendered houseless. 


The smoke from the smouldering embers of Chicago has hardly T>een dissipated 
when tLere comes from beyond the water intelligence that another "City of the 
Lake " has all but suffered the fate of its American sister, to which it bears so 
close a resemblance. Geneva, if not as complete a waste as Chicago, has so nar- 
rowly escaped it as to afford almost a parallel to our unparalleled calamity. The 
full extent of the calamity has not yet been ascertained, and can not be estimated 
for some days. 

Fortunately Geneva offered natural barriers to the progress of the flames which 
very greatly lessened the extent of the disaster. It is situated upon the slopes 
of two hills which are divided by the Rhone, which in its course from the lake 
forms two islands, on one of which a portion of the town is built. On the other 
of these islands there is a handsome promenade. The islands and the two princi- 
pal parts of the city are connected by a fine suspension bridge. The streets are 
wide and spacious. The public buildings include the Catholic Cathedral (Mgr. 
Mermillods), the Hotel de Ville, the University, (founded by Calvin and Beza), 
the Hotel de la Couronne (which was burnt), tHe Hotel do 1'Ecu, the museums 
of art and natural history, the public library, containing 30,OCO volumes, and 
many valuable manuscripts. The largest section of the city is on the left bank of 
the river. The Quartier de St. Gervais, on the right bank, is the seat of the man- 
ufactures and the residences of the humbler classes. The Quartier des Bargnes is 
the fashionable section. The manufactures of the town are world-famous. The 
population of the Canton, of which it is the capital, is about 64,000, including 34,- 
000 Protestants, 29,000 Catholics, and a few hundred Jews. 

If it were admissible to trace a historical or social contrast between a city which 
has a history older than the Christian era, -as well as social surroundings long es- 
tablished and widely connected, and a mushroom city of yesterday, 4 with its soci- 
ety in a metamorphic if not a wholly chaotic condition, it would not be difficult 
to discover many points of resemblance between the centre of Swiss commercial 
and mental activity and the great commercial centre of the West, besides the facts 
that both are cities of the lakes and that both have suffered from that enemy 
which both, of all other cities existing, should have been best prepared to fight. 

Few towns of Europe have a more interesting or varied history than this city, 
which, having passed through so many trials, now undergoes the ordeal of fire. 
A hundred names rise to the lips when Geneva is mentioned ; names famous in 
letters, in arms, in criticism, diplomacy, politics, and theology, saints and sin- 
ners, heresiarchs and martyrs, pedestrians and latitudinarians, orthodox believ- 
ers and incorrigible skeptics, reformers and believers in Rome, infallibilists, and 
haters of the Scarlet Lady, friends of Imperialism and admirers of the universal 
republic, members of the Peace Society and come-outers of all kinds, by no 
means forgetting the arbitrators of the little" trouble between these States and 
Great Britain. Geneva is not a town of last week, or of the month of October. 
In the second century before Christ it was of sufficient importance to attract 
the attention of Rome the legions of which made it their own and even since, 
Rome, pagan and papal, has had its eyes on this important center political, com- 


mercial, social and religious. Of the stormy history of this capital during all the 
period from the days of Charlemagne down to the Reformation, and thence to- 
day, almost every one knows something. In war it has become the object of at- 
tack of the German, the Italian, and the Gaul, and with varying fortune it has 
generally returned to its old love a republican form of government and politi- 
cal association with Switzerland. In religion it has been a central point of the 
fight between Calvinism and Catholicism, and at the present day this fight is car- 
led on with as great bitterness as in the days of the Prince Bishops and Calvin and 
William Farel. Marie d'Aubigne on one side, and Mgr. Mermillod on the other, 
are fair types of the contest in which they are so eminent leaders. It is a curi- 
ous incident of this quarrel that the most accurate and the earliest news of Home 
and of Catholicism is now to be obtained through the agencies of this capital of 
Calvinism and free thought. 

Of the great names whom business or leisure have associated with this city and 
the delightful region that surrounds it, mention may be made of Francis ot Sales, 
Calvin, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Beza, Madame de Stael, Voltaire, Gibbon, Ma- 
rie d'Aubigne, Mermanod, Byron, Shelly, John Knox who was enrolled a citizen 
of Geneva Neclcr-, our own statesman, Gallatin. Beranger, Cassaubon, Marie 
Louise, Josephine, Sir Humphrey Davy, Sismondi, and Dumont, and the emi- 
nent scientific scholars, De Luc, De Sauserre, Bonnet, Huber and De Candolle. 


The terrible fire in Chicago has no parallel in modern history, unless in the con- 
flagrations kindled by war. Even the great fire of London, though relatively 
more destructive, did mot equal it in absolute extent The London of that day 
was little more than two-thirds the size of the Chicago of to-day, having less thaa 
250,000 inhabitants ; and if two-thirds of Chicago is in ruins, the desolate terri- 
tory is far greater than tlie five-sixths of London said to have been laid waste 
in 166G. 




/ PAGE. 





Chicago as it was in Earlier Days. - -29 

Facts and Incidents. - 29 


Improvements. - 41 

Town and City Organizations. - 41 

Price of Real Estate. - 41 

Instances of Sudden Fortunes. 41 
Cession to the United States by the Pottawatamie Tribe 

of Indians. - 42 

Commencement of Progress. - 44 

Granting of the City Charter. - 45 

Rapid advance in Valuation of Property 45 


9 Chicago's Pre-eminence. - 55 


Of what the Author saw and heard, including his per- 
sonal view of the Fire and many Thrilling Incidents, - 61 


TREATED. - 83 


The Elevators. 107 

Public Buildings. - 107 

Breweries Destroyed. - - 108 

Field, Leiter & Co. - - 108 

Banks, &c. 109 

312 INDEX. 


Lawyers. - - -* 109 
Distilleries. . - 109 
Coal Yards. 109 
Newspaper Offices. - - 109 
City Property. 110 
Additional Losses. - - 111 
THE BURNING CITY, (Poem.) -; - 117 
Record of Facts. - 119 
Sufferings of Women. - 119 
Heart Rending Mistake. - - 122 
Unexampled Bereavement. - - 122 
George Howard. - 123 
A Happy Occasion. - - 124 
A Surprise. - - - 125 
Fuel to the Flames. 126 
Horrors. - - 126 

Bereavement. ------. 127 

Miraculous Escape. - - 128 
The Last Scene. - 128 
The Morgue. - 131 
A Retrospect. - - 133 
Taken by Surprise. - - 136 
Adventure of a young Englishman and his Room- 
mate. - 141 
A Timely Rescue. - - 141 
Romantic Incident. - - 149 
Running the Gauntlet of Flame. 153 
Incidents of Personal Experience. - - 153 
Graphic account of the Great Fire. 171 
Startling Incidents forcibly detailed. ... 17J 
Blowing up. - 173 

INDEX. 313 



What a Woman Relates. - - 181 

A Touching Home Picture. - - 182 


Another Theory. - - 184 

Still Another Theory. - 185 

Confession of a Member of a Sefcret Organization. - 186 

Burning of the Business Portion of the City. - 190 

CALL FOR HELP, (Poem.) - - 199 


(Poem.) 204 

RELIEF, 207 
The Great Heart of the People Aroused. - - 207 
Firemen from Abroad. - 208 
Unexampled Liberality of City Governments and Cor- 
porations. - - 209 
Illinois Legislature. - - 211 
Railroads. - - 212 
Magnificent Liberality. - - 212 
Munificence of New Yorkers. - - 217 
Donations of the Press. 218 
Generosity of Cincinnati. - 223 
St. Louis to the Rescue. - 224 
Sisters of Mercy. - 225 
Louisville. 225 
Houses of Worship. - 226 
"Bible Society. - 231 
Washington, D. C. - - 231 
Typographical Union. - - 232 
Juvenile Generosity - - 232 
Relief Societies. - 23 7 
Honor to the Ladies. - 238 
Mr. E. Hudson's Generosity. - ... 238 

314 INDEX. 



Active Measures Taken for Belief of Sufferers. 239 


Interesting Correspondence between U. S. Consul 

Kreismann and Mayor Mason. - 241 

Empress Augusta. - - 242 

Chinamen's Contributions. - 242 

Chicago Aid Society. . 242 

Charity of the Eight Sort. - 246 

Woman's Industrial Aid Society. - 246 

Miss Barton. - - 249 

Eobert Collyer. 250 

Touching Words of Thanks. - - 253 

Gen. P. H. Sheridan. - 253 

Insurance Companies. -' 254 


Full Description. - 260 

Thrilling Incidents. -. - 260 


A Vivid Picture. - 260 

In the Flames. - - 262 

Schwartz the Hermit. - - 262 

Down in a Well. - 267 

Burned in a Wagoa. 267 

Suddenly Extinguished Prospect of Safety. - 267 

Fire Balloons. - - 268 

Path Through the Fire. - 268 

The only Trace. - 268 

Only House Left. - 268 

How Articles were Saved. - - - 269 

Honeymoon Tragedy. - - 269 

Suicide. - - - 269 

INDEX. * 315 


Fatal Mistake. 270 

Minor Incidents. - 270 


A Thousand People Homeless. - - 278 

After Scenes. - 278 

The Future. - 279 

AHNAPPE, - 280 
The Terrible Story of the Last Wisconsin Hamlet that 

Fought the Hurricane of Fire. - 280 

ST. CHARLES. - 284 

An Eventful Experience. - - 284 


A Fight for Life through a Flaming Forest. - 286 

Struggle with a Maniac. - 286 

Rain of Fire. - - 286 

The Rescue. - 286 

Story of Mrs. Mechand. - - 286 

An Old Yeteran who Stayed to See it Out. - 290 

An Affecting Incident. - - 291 

How a Mother and her Children escaped. 291 
Five Children in an Oarless Boat for three days and 

nights. 291 

Thirty-two People Perish in a Well. - - 292 

Remarkable Phenomena. - - 293 


Rome. - 299 

Moscow. - - - 299 

London. - - 301 

Hamburg. - - 301 

New York. - 301 

Quebec. - - 302 

St. John. 302 

Albany. - - 302 



St. Louis. 
San Francisco. 
Syracuse. - 
Geneva. - 
Chicago. - 





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