Elk County Grenola, KS


In Ashes

Our Little City Visited By The Most Disasterous Conflagration In Its History

The Loss Near Ten Thousand
A Good Servant But A Terrible Master The Fire Fiend Has Full Sway For A Time

        On last Friday evening about 9:00 o'clock, just as most of the citizens were preparing to retire, the appalling cry of "fire" sounded out on the still air of night. The fire was discovered to be in the back part of W.E. Harvey's meat market, and as soon as the alarm was given, several men, who had not yet gone home, responded to the cry and rushed to the flaming building. The alarm soon spread and men, women, and children from all parts of town were soon on Main Street attracted by the bright flames which shot straight up nearly a hundred feet. The meat market and nearly every other place of business was closed but the door was burst open and then the flames came rushing through so hot that no one could face them. Work at once began to subdue the flames while part of the crowd went to work at once getting the goods and moveable property out of the offices and rooms adjourning. The buildings burned were all of wood. Commencing on the north, next to Darling's Hardware was Harvey's Meat Market, where the fire is said to have begun: then an empty building where the Smith stock of groceries, lately taken by an attachment, were stored, which building also belonged to Harvey. Next to this was a small building belonging to D.M. Reid and occupied by O.C. Shackelford with books and notions, next D.M. Reid's real estate office, then J.D. Pugh's drug store and Wells' barber shop. And last Joel Jackson's building occupied by J.L. Sollers with billiards and pool tables.

        All of the buildings were one story frame erected when the town first started, and occupied until the owners could build better.

        As was before stated the tike was first discovered in the rear of Harvey's meat market, and had made such headway that it was impossible to tell just where or how it originated. The fire soon enveloped this and the adjoining building and then, despite all effort, marched steadily on to the south sweeping everything before it.

        Water was hard to obtain in sufficient quantifies to do any execution, although men and number of women too, worked with might and main with pails to check the onward progress of the destroying element. The buildings were very dry and took fire before the flames came in actual contact with them, and the heat drove those back who were trying to get near enough to throw water on the fire. It looked for a time as though our devoted little city was doomed, but fortunately there was no perceptible breeze which enabled work to be done on all sides.

        When the fire had communicated to the last building, the bank of Barnes, Brown, and Denton stood next and it is fortunately built of stone two stories high and almost fire proof, although it has wooden door and window frames. Men mounted this building, and although it was a very trying place, they succeeded in keeping the fire from getting a hold on it. A number of brave men also stationed themselves on the roof of Bowdon Bro's store and ware rooms, which were of shingles, and stood their grounds amid falling cinders and fire and battled manfully to save this Melding, although it stands within less than thirty feet of where one building was a sheet of fire. By the aid of wet blankets salt and plenty of water, the building was saved although it seemed as though it would surely go, and perhaps it would had not several daring individuals got some scantlings an pushed in the side of burning building next to it.

        Sparks fell around Smith Brothers barn but fortunately they have a force pump and hose which they used to good advantage to extinguish stray sparks and keep their roof wet. Fire also fell in the Rock Island lumber yard but was put out by those on the look out.

        Goods were carried from the burning buildings and piled up in the streets promiscuously, and some petty thieving was done, but not much considering the amount of property exposed and the crowds allowed to pass among them at will

        When the fire became the hottest and it seemed doubtful that the bank could withstand the attack, Bowden Brothers began to remove their immense amount of dry goods and groceries and in short time, everything of value was out of the building. When the fire was finally subdued, the goods were put back in about as short a space of time.

        On the north the work was as desperate and dangerous. Men were on the roof of Darling's Hardware and it was only by dint of hardest fighting that it was saved as the fire got under the roof back of the iron cornice on the front causing it to have to be torn away in order to get at the fire with water.

        But finally, the fire began to diminish and everything was last under control. But less than an hour from the time it started, seven places of business were in ruins.

        The loss will foot up nearly ten thousand dollars which is only partly covered by insurance. The Individual loss and insurance are as follows:

W.E.Harvey, meat market, loss, $1,500; insurance, $900
O.C. Shackelford, books and notions, loss $400; no insurance
D.M. Reid, real estate office and Notary Public, loss $1200; insurance $500
J.D. Pugh, drugs, estimated loss from $2000 to $3000; insurance $1300
H.L. Wells, barber shop, loss on furniture $50; no insurance
Joel Jackson, building $1200; no insurance
J.L. Sollers who occupied Jackson's building with billiards and pool was damaged $50 to $75.
The bank building of Barnes, Brown, and Denton was damaged together with their fixtures, $100
The Odd Fellows Hall is in the second floor of the bank building and their furniture was damaged fully fifty dollars;
E.E.Darling's building was badly damaged, the cornice being torn off, the roof unsoldered and a large plate glass in the front broken. The damage will probably reach over $1000. Insured.
The damage to Bowden Bros.' Stock by carrying it out and in well probably reach $1000. Insured.

        Everyone worked with a will and many brave acts were performed but more might have been accomplished had there been any trained organization on the ground. All seemed to be free from excitement but the work lacked direction or united effort with each individual doing what he thought best. This should be a warning and some effort should he put forth toward getting some sort of protection against fire, if it is nothing but a bucket brigade. Also let us have no more wooden buildings in the business portion of the town.

From the Grenola Leader, November 17, 1887

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June 26, 2000 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / towns@kslib.info

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