Below is a transcription of a large newspaper article clipped from an unnamed Seneca Falls NY newspaper (editor was surnamed Baker). Handwritten in old script at top of the page - "This fire occurred Oct. 1874." Advertisements on the back of the original 129-year-old clipping are for downtown Seneca Falls businesses, year 1874.
From the Ovid Independent
Little did the business men of Main street think on Monday night last, when they locked up their various stores and offices, and went to their homes, that their midnight slumbers would be broken by the thrilling and awful cry of fire! which for months had been a stranger to their ears. But so it was to be. Hardly had the hour of twelve passed, ere the alarm was heard, and even the first to look from their windows saw the lurid flame curling above the wooden building in the rear of the brick block corner of Main and Seneca streets. The fire had started, as was apparent, in the building owned by Chas. McElroy, on Seneca street, and occupied by him as a residence and saloon, the upper story being used by Henry Fields and Guy Conklin, as a billiard room. The flames rapidly enveloped this structure, as well as the rear wooden part of the Independent office adjoining. We were among the first to arrive at the scene, and found this portion of our office - occupied by our hand-press, Gorden jobber, a paper cutter, our stock of wood type and some other valuable material - already under the control of the flames, which had also penetrated the store of Smith & Kinne, underneath. Our noble firemen were promptly on the ground, and took suction at the reservoir on the corner of the park near by. Nobly and unflinchingly did they combat the encroaching element, and it seemed for a time that the bounds of the flames were already limited, by their herculean efforts, when, alas! the scarcity of water here become apparent, speedily necessitating a change of base for the engine. The fire, now fanned by the rising wind, swept rapidly along the wooden buildings and additions in the rear of the brick block, toward the south, as well as into the building occupied by C. Jones as a drug store on the north corner, and in a very few moments it became apparent to every observer that the whole of the row of buildings were doomed to destruction. The lurid and angry flames lifted their forked tongues seemingly in exultation against the sombre sky, and their roar and crackle at this time was simply awful to contemplate.
The arrival of the steam-fire engine from Willard instilled new hopes in the hearts of our anxious citizens who had turned out en masse, both sexes, to witness the staying its progress. It had been plain, however, almost from the first that the supply of water would prove inadequate to the occasion, and the steamer, which had taken suction at the creek near Jones Bros'. mill, soon became practically inoperative from this cause.
Brick walls seemed to oppose no resistance to the steady onward march of the flames. R.R. Steele's and J.F. Seeley & Co's dry goods stores - the second story of the latter building occupied by Lorin Conkling as a barber shop, and the third by Odd Fellows' hall - were soon smoldering ruins. The wooden buildings adjoining on the south - occupied respectively by E.C. Howell as a hardware store and tin shop, and, in the second story, by Thad. Bodine as a law office, the next by J.B. Bliss as a harness shop and Abm. Wilson as a sewing machine agency; and then following in order C. Brown & Son's shoe shop, E.N. Covert & Son's restaurant and bakery, and the post-office, L. Lasseley having a harness shop over the latter - were soon in ruins. In the rear of the post office were the Franklin house barns, which in a short time were burned to the ground. Then, on the street line south, came Abm. Hart's blacksmith shop, and a dwelling house owned by Messrs. G.W. Freligh and N.N. Hayt, which were both rapidly enveloped and as speedily consumed. A barn, belonging to P.V. Wright & Son, a little south-west from the Franklin house, was also burned; and the dwelling house occupied by Geo. H. McClellan, was seriously threatened by flames, but by great effort was saved.
But ere the fire had completed its destructive work on the west side of the street, it had communicated to the roof of the Franklin house on the opposite side, and that structure was soon a mass of flames. P.V. Wright & Son's residence, as well as their livery barns and stables, on the south soon followed, and also the residence, barn and blacksmith shop of Geo. W. Smith. This was the extreme limit of the conflagration in that direction on that side. Dunnett's block - a frame building north of the Franklin house - was occupied as a grocery by E.C. Terry, and the upper story by Franklin & Hazelton as a law office, and James Foster as a justice office. Next in order was the small wooden building occupied as a harness shop by W. Fegley, and then the substantial and comparatively new structure of stone and brick, known as Masonic hall block, and occupied, on the lower floor, by Geo. R. Brokaw's drug store and LeRoy C. Patridge's banking house, in the second story by Mr. Morgan Harris and family as a residence, and where Mrs. H. also had her millinery rooms. The upper story was used as a Masonic lodge room. Here, too, the Good Templars held their meetings, the Episcopalians regular Sunday service. O.C. Powell's block, on the corner, and next in rotation, was occupied by himself as a drug and grocery store, and by S.S. Salyer as a tailor shop. All these buildings were quickly in ruins, and at the corner it was hoped that the progress of the monster would be stayed. But not so. The wind was now blowing strongly from the west, and drove the flames up Seneca street. John Turk's meat market, Mrs. M.C. Britton's residence and millinery rooms, G.V. Flagg's residence and photography gallery, Cyrus McWhorter's residence, and that of Nathaniel Seeley, were the prey of the fire in this direction. The next residence on the east was occupied by Rev. J.E. McLallan. This house stands directly up to the side walk, which placed it considerably out of the line of the one which preceded it, with a wide space of unoccupied ground between them. This gave an advantage for checking the progress of the flames not previously met with in this direction, and it was eagerly seized upon. The hand engine from its station east of the burning district, kept up a steady flow of water, which, with the other energetic and active efforts made, was successful in saving Mr. McLallen's residence, although it was somewhat damaged by the fire.
The limits of the conflagration had now been reached, and all breathed more freely, and uttered a silent thanksgiving to heaven, as the flames gradually lessened their strength, and passed under control.
At one time the destruction of the Park house, situated on the north-west corner of Main and Seneca streets seemed inevitable, and its blistered and scarred side on Seneca street shows how narrow was its escape. By the almost superhuman efforts of citizens, however, the structure was saved. Had the Park house burned, in all probability the conflagration would have extended beyond it to the north and west, to an extent no one can tell. There is reason to be thankful that this additional calamity was averted.
The loss by the fire cannot now be estimated with any degree of accuracy. In every case we believe, the contents of the dwellings burned were removed to safety. C. Jones removed very little from his building, and estimates his loss at $10,000, with $4,200 insurance on stock and building. R.R. Steele, dry goods, loss $16,000 on goods and building; insured for $8.000. E.C. Howell, hardware dealer, estimates his loss at $3,000 above insurance. N.N. Hayt, Franklin house, loss $10,000; insured $6,000. Freligh & Hayt also had an insurance of $600 on the postoffice block. Geo. R. Brokaw, druggist, had no insurance on his goods. There was an insurance of $4,000 on the Masonic hall block. John Turk, meat market, estimates his loss at $800; insured at $300. C. Brown & Son, boot and shoe dealers, rescued most of their goods; loss $200, no insurance.
Mr. Jas. D. Purdy gives us the following in reference to parties insured in companies represented by him, in addition to the above: Chester Clark, $1,200 insurance on building, occupied by Smith & Kinne and printing office; J.F. Seeley & Co., $1,600 on building, $2,750 on stock; J.B. Bloss, $ 500 on building; O.C. Powell, $4,500 on stock, $4,000 on building; Mrs. M. Harris, $785 on stock and furniture; David Dunnett, $1,500 on building, occupied by E.C. Terry and Franklin and Hazelton; M.E. Wright, $2,700 on buildings and contents; E.C. Terry, $3,000 on stock; C. McWhorter, $1,000 on house; Nathaniel Seeley, $800 on house; G.V. Flagg, $1,000 on building, $1,000 on contents. Mrs. M.C. Britton, $800 on house. Franklin & Hazelton lose $300 or $400 in books and office furniture.
The contents of R.R. Steele's and J.F. Seeley & Co.'s dry goods stores were nearly entirely destroyed. Very little, also, was removed from Howell's hardware store or from the Franklin house. Most of the other sufferers were fortunate enough to save a considerable quantity of goods, and in some cases all. We believe nothing was saved from the Odd Fellows' or Masonic halls. Lorin Conklin, barber, saved his office furniture. We saved a portion of our metal type, but lost our presses and much other material and office furniture.
Most of the goods removed from the burning buildings were taken to the park, as the most available and secure place for them. The ladies aided in this with a will and energy which was most praiseworthy. To them in a great degree were our merchants and others indebted for the saving of a great deal of their property from the devouring flames. Our citizens one and all displayed a commendable spirit on the disastrous occasion, and were earnest in their efforts to aid one another. It is the manifestation of this true christian spirit which robs calamity of many of its bitterest features.
This disaster to our community is terrible. The shock is appalling. In a few short hours thousands of dollars worth of property are swept away, and our business prosperity put back for years. But the blow is not irreparable, and in a few short months we hope and expect to see imposing structures once more going up on the sites which now look so desolate and forsaken. Phoenix-like, may our community arise from its ashes, animated by a new vigor, and attain to a prosperity unknown in the past.
From our own correspondent.
Ovid, Oct. 14th, 1874.
Friend Baker:- I have but little additional news to send you. The safes in the bank, as you learned while here yesterday, were emptied of their contents before the fire reached them, and again closed. This morning they were opened and found all right; one is a Briggs & Huntington of Rochester, and the other a Cox & Walker of Rochester. The stone vault in which less valuable books and paper was deposited was opened this morning, and the contents was found all right. They could not open the door, and so dug a hole through the vault.
E.C. Howell's safe was opened without trouble, and everything was safe, but showed the effects of the heat; it is a "Hall Safe Co." R.R. Steele's safe was opened with but little trouble, and although the covers of the books were very much damaged, yet the paper was not damaged as far as yet discovered. It was a "Wilder Salamander."
The safe of C. Jones jr., which was the most exposed condition, having been heated to a red heat before it fell into the cellar, and then falling on a pile of six tons of coal which was on fire, and lying in that exposed condition more than ten hours, was opened this noon with some difficulty, the knob of the door having been melted off, and there being some difficulty in inserting the key. The door also clung very close to the bottom, but it was finally opened, and all was safe. There was great anxiety about this safe in consequence of its exposed condition, and the large amount of money, besides notes and accounts, which it contained. It is a "Wilder Salamander."
J. Turk is cleaning up the rubbish, and gathering material to rebuild his meat market. The carpenters are already at work. The bank moved this morning into the surrogate's office. Postmaster Harris is fitting up an office in Mrs. Krug's house. The telegraph company are busy putting up their wire again. The fire company is now filling the reservoir on Main street.
Supervisor McClellan has just returned from New York. He says he cannot find the town assessment roll, and that it must be burned. He has called the assessors together to make a copy He has a copy as far as the letter I.
Advertisements on back of article for Seneca Falls businesses. Several have dates when the ads first started running in the paper.
Crowell's Grocery Store - groceries, crockery, produce, etc. Established in 1860, now located at 112 Fall Street, E.L. Crowell proprietor. Ad dated May 1, 1873.
Guion's Drug Store - handkerchief extracts by the ounce. Address not given.
Third Ward Market - ___olt & Collings Butchers, having dissolved partnership, the business will be continued by Thomas Collings at the "Old Seneca Market, Bridge street. Cash paid for hides, sheep and lamb pelts.
Maynard Miller - City Mill Building. Soliciting farmers and owners of timberland to bring him basswood, white ash and hickory logs. Ad dated Dec. 4, 1873. Address not given.
James W. Beers - agent soliciting orders for "Swartout & Whedon's Patent Cement Stove Brick," for repair of stoves. Orders may be left for him at Peter Freeck's Carriage Shop on Fall St.
A.O. & W.B. Norcott - dated Aug. 17, 1871. "We have opened a Slate Yard in Seneca Falls, where we intend to keep a fair stock of the best quality of roofing slate. We are prepared to contract for Roofing Churches or Public Buildings. We are also dealers in the celebrated Slate Mantels. Also dealers in Galvanized Iron Cornice, Conductor & Gutters, and of copper and galvanized iron." Address not given.
C. Kinyon - 1834 to 1874. Hat, cap and fur store. Address not given.
Bull & Addison's - boots and shoes. 122 Fall Street. Ad dated Sept. 25, 1873.
C.J. Martin - ready-made and custom to order boot and shoe store at 94 Fall Street. Ad dated June 4, 1874.
G.C. Crofoot - saddler and harness maker at __ Fall Street (upstairs). Trunks, valises, brushes, whips, Scotch Collars, vacuum oil blacking, harness, buggy tops, etc. Ad dated April 9, 1874.
Fred. Teller - manufacturer and dealer in upholstered furniture. Parlor sets, tete-a-tetes, easy chairs, couches, lounges, etc. made to order and repaired. "Matrasses a specialty." 17 Clinton St., near Fall St. Ad dated July 16, 1874.
I. Randell - Jeweler. Watches, jewelry, silver and plated ware, glass ware, silver cleaner. Undated, address not given.
Vosburgh & Preston - "The Boston Clothing House" - "To Clothe the 'Inner Man'." 105 Fall Street. Fine confectionary, tropical fruits, canned goods, fresh oysters in season, tobacco & cigars, sportsmen's supplies (powder, shot, tackle, etc.), pure wines and liquors. Ale in bottle or bulk. Bass Celebrated Ale and "Burton-on-Geneva" on drought. Dated May 28, 1874.
T.B. Baird's - dress goods & fancy goods, shawls, table linens, towels, counterpanes, hosiery, gloves, etc. 91 Fall Street. Ad dated April 9, 1874.
J.H. Romer & Co. - largest stock of men's clothing and gents furnishing goods in Seneca County. 13? or 113? Fall Street. Ad dated Sept. 24, 1874.
Transcribed and contributed by Martha S. Magill, April 2006