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Lincoln Fire
of
1892


"Fire in Lincoln"

Lincoln Beacon, May 26, 1892

Last Monday morning at about 12:30 o’clock the glare of fire aroused a few wakeful or already awakened people living near the center of town. These people, among whom were W.S. McNitt and J. Woody, immediately raised a cry of fire and ran to the burning building which was found to be the one occupied by Owen Mulloy, on the south side of Main street, between Third and Fourth. When they arrived the rear end and middle of the building, which was a frame about 25x60 feet, was on fire, the flames reaching high above the roof. Realizing that the entire "wooden row" between the Saline Valley Bank and J.D. Sherrick’s block was doomed, the first comers devoted themselves to spreading the alarm and trying to save goods. The entire row of wooden buildings, all of them old though in excellent repair, burned like a brush pile, although there was but a very light breeze and that directly across the street. The four burned buildings were one story frames filling a frontage of 100 feet and extending back from 40 to 60 feet. The crowd rapidly increased in size, but in spite of the hardest work the fire could not be checked until it reached what might be called its natural limits – the stone buildings mentioned. It must be remembered that the large crowd which was quickly on hand worked almost without any appliances and nothing was or could be done that accomplished anything except to drench the surrounding property with water and had there been a stiff wind all efforts directed wherever it blew would have been fruitless. The weather could not have favored the property adjacent to the "wooden row" more than it did, and the fact that at least half of he property destroyed was not saved is due solely to the entire absence of any means for protecting it. Nothing could have been done that was not done and that half the town was not burned is almost solely due to there being no wind.

The only adjacent property injured was the long stock sheds in the rear of Duncan’s livery barn and which stood within 20 feet of the burning buildings. These sheds were torn down. The walls of the bank and of Sherrick’s building were badly scorched and scaled off, but received no special injury.

The business men burned out are as follows:

Patrick & Crawford, butchers, had one of the best equipped markets in this section, and lost not less than $900 worth of stock, including meats, counters, refrigerator, etc., A quantity of cured meats and the books of the firm were all that was saved. Insurance on stock $800. The building was owned by Sa Hoffman, was insured for $400 and was worth probably $750.

The next building was owned by Kinsley Bros. of Beloit, and was valued at $1,000. We cannot ascertain whether it was insured or not. It was occupied by E. Gibes, barber, and W.S. McNitt, clothier. Mr. Biggs lost about $25 worth of goods, but saved his chairs and mirrors. The books of the Lincoln A.O.U.W. were among Mr. Biggs’s effects and were also burned. Mr. McNitt’s establishment stood against the building where the fire originated and the most energetic work by the few first on the spot only saved two or three hundred dollars worth of clothing, which is now on the shelves and counters of the Racket Store. Mr. McNitt’s stock was valued at $2,500 and had been replenished by late purchases. His insurance was $1,000.

The next building was owned by John Wheeler, was valued at $1,200 and was not insured. It was occupied by Owen Mulloy with a restaurant and a stock of cigars, tobacco, etc. Mr. Mulloy had no insurance and his loss is between four and five hundred dollars.

T. Kine [Kyne] owned the last building in the row. It was valued at $1,000 and was insured for $400. It was occupied by Henry Zink with a bakery, restaurant and stock of tobaccos, candies and fruits. He had a quantity of flour and corn burned and his loss will reach six or seven hundred dollars. Insurance on stock, $400.

While there is no question about the fire starting in the Wheeler building occupied by Mr. Mulloy, its origin is unknown, as the premises were deserted since Sunday morning when Mr. Mulloy himself locked up and left town, not returning until Monday morning. Any maliciously disposed person could easily obtain entrance to any of the buildings with a cold chisel or a hatchet in a moment’s time, and the first was probably started by some such person in a spirit of pure devilry or perhaps of revenge on some owner or occupant of the destroyed buildings.

The question now is, whether our people will sit around for another 10, 15 or 20 years and wait for another fire to rouse them from their lethargy. Four nights out of five the year round there is wind enough to have made last Sunday night’s fire a vastly more destructive one than it was and no credit attached to the prudence and forethought of our people that it was not. Lincoln is out of debt and financially able to invest in some system of protection against fire that will reduce the danger from such a source to the very minimum. How many more lessons in the results of heedlessness do we need.

Subsequent fires

The first house burned in Lincoln was in April 1885, when the Binns Hotel, standing where Fox’s livery barn now does, at the corner of Court and Fourth streets, was burned to the ground. Twenty-two people occupied it at the time and several persons were badly scorched before getting out, as the building was a rambling frame rattletrap and burned during a heavy wind, at about 4:30 a.m. while its inmates were nearly all in bed.

The next house was a dwelling belonging to Mrs. Stubbs, which burned six years ago, on Court street, between Fifth and Sixth.

The next was a small frame dwelling at the south end of First street, owned by Mr. Spencer. It burned in March 1888.

The next was Siebert’s livery barn at the corner of Court and Third streets, which burned July 5, 1888.

There have been numerous fires started in all parts of town by the various causes cataloged as "accidentals," from lightning to cigar stubs, and damages inflicted that would reach from a few dollars to a hundred, but the above list is a complete one, of buildings destroyed.


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