THE GREAT FIRE IN WARRENSBURG.
Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 32, Number 4937, 24 January 1867
Standard Newspaper, Dec. 28, 1867
The Warrensburg Fire would have looked Similar to this Fire in Oregon
One of the most fearful and destructive conflagrations ever witnessed or experienced In the State occurred in Warrensburg on the night of the 24th of December 1867, in the short space of one hour swept away almost the entire business portion of New Town, reducing to ashes twenty-six (wooden buildings) of the heaviest dry goods, drug, furniture and grocery houses in the city, containing stocks ranging in value from five to thirty thousand dollars each. The fire was first discovered at about eleven o'clock, and at that time was seen issuing from the southwest corner of the furniture store of Puriaton A. Sloan, on the south side of Pine street, and the wind, though not at first strong, seemed rapidly to increase in violence, and, coming from the west, drove the flames over into the adjoining buildings, and in less than forty minutes swept across the entire block of thirteen stores, wrapping them almost simultaneously in a sheet of flame, which at times extended for into the sky and seemed to lash the very heavens in wild, consuming anger. So rapidly did the fire run through the block that before the alarm became general through the town the sides and tops of stores began to crumble before It and tumble in before sufficient aid could be procured to make scarcely a commencement toward rescuing the extensive and costly stocks within. In the meantime the citizens came pouring in upon the scene of havoc, most of whom came excited and bewildered at being brought from their beds and aroused from their sleep by the alarm of fire but fast they came a glance at the situation told them what to do — they must save the row upon the north side, or the whole business portion of the town must be in ruins, and to affect that work and stay the progress of the flames toward the north, they pat forth herculean efforts and strained every nerve. Men leaped upon tops of houses and dashed water (down upon the exposed fronts, and for a time they were cheered on In their labor by hopes of success, but soon they were overpowered and the conquering element seized the whole town of stores upon the north side of Pine street, and sent the flames and burning embers leaping and shooting through the air. The wind, in the meantime, as if to defeat all human effort had changed from the west and now come sweeping from the south with a strong current. From the time the flames first caught the fronts of the stores on the north side, ten minutes did not elapse before the fire was bursting from every front along the whole line of buildings from Holden street, and it being at that time apparent that no human effort could save the buildings, the hope was abandoned and effort made to save the stocks within, but It was too late to effect anything of account in that direction not more than one load could be taken to a secure place in the rear of the buildings, then a person would return only to find the smoke and flames bursting into the storerooms from whence they had removed but a single armful, and at the same time the roof and aides, warping in the heat like a leaf in a furnace, would come tumbling in and setting on fire the whole interior of the store and burning the stock. In this way merchants lost the labor of years, and perhaps almost of a lifetime of patient toll and industry vanish before their eyes and melt from their grasp In less than thirty minutes. The flames, after running so rapidly along Pine street, were carried north, and soon extended along Holden street to the north as far as the brick building of J. L. Bettes, when they were checked by the solid brick wall which that structure most fortunately presented toward the south. During the progress of the fire, and as long as the wind continued from a westerly direction, it seemed as though the costly and commodious Ming Hotel must Inevitably be consumed but the change In the wind which proved so unfortunate for others was most opportune for it. Several times the flames caught and all for a time seemed gone, when a fortunate dash of a bucket of water from some strong and fearless hand would extinguish the flames and renew the hope of ultimate success. At last the flames seemed to have reached their height of their fury and in a few moments more the crisis would Be passed and the hotel saved, if the burning brands that were tailing thick and fast open the roof and being hurled against the front could only be extinguished, and then it was that we marked Borne efforts on the part of our citizens that should long be remembered with gratitude. We do not like to mention names and discriminate when all did so well, but we cannot refrain from mentioning the names of Colonel Isaminger and James McDonald, the former of whom, by his example and fearless courage, inspired all with hope and confidence when the stoutest were about to give up in despair, and the latter, seeing that a single moment could not be lost, sprang from one of the gable windows upon the roof and put on the fire, which, in another instant, would have enveloped the building in flames. Others, seeing his example, followed alter him and soon, with the aid of those from below, who passed up buckets of water, the hotel was saved from destruction. There are many others, also, whom we would like to mention, prominent among whom were F. W. Summers, Captain Walker. Captain Graham and Dr. James Robbie, all or whom strained every nerve to stay the progress of the flames, and the latter of whom, with a disinterested generosity characteristic or the man, worked to save the buildings of his neighbors, neglecting his own, with its large and costly stock or books, drugs and medicines, until it was too late to save scarcely a thing from within, and then he retired to the assistance of others, leaving his own stock, estimated at $7,000, to be consumed, without a dollar of Insurance upon it. The Standard estimates the loss at $250,000.
Bird's eye view of the city of Warrensburg, Johnson Co., Missouri 1869.Contributor: Ruger, A.
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Early Establishments.-In 1836 John Evans opened the first store in Old Town and for the following six years there were only two stores in the village. Evans conducted a general mercantile store, selling groceries, dry goods, hardware and whiskey. This store stood in the hollow a little east of the center of the town. W. H. Davis & Co. were the first to open a store on the hill near the center of the old town. The town soon began to prosper and in a short time was an important business center and settlers came from a radius of several miles to do their trading here.
The town was extended eastward into the district known as New Town by the official platting of Grover's Depot Addition. October 18, 1857. It seems that according to a contract with the railroad company the depot was to be erected on Colonel Grover's land, forty acres of which were donated for that purpose, but by mistake or otherwise, it was located on Major Holden's land, one-half mile .further west. Holden street, on the west side of which the depot is located, is the dividing line between Grover's and Holden's Addition. Martin Warren's old log house stood in the Grover Addition and Colonel Grover resided there for a time. The memory of the old log house will be forever perpetual in the history of Warrensburg. When they came to lay out Grover's Depot Addition it was seen that Gay street continued east past Holden street in a straight line and would go right through the old log house. So, instead of moving the house. Colonel Grover moved the street. He diverted it enough south to miss the house. Every other street running east was correspondingly diverted and the, north and south streets left north and south. And today every street from Gay to the railroad and east of Holden street runs at an angle southeast and no lot in this territory has a square corner.
The general tendency of business was toward New Town and when the railroad was built and the depot established here, practically the entire business district was established in that vicinity. This was in 1845.
Fires.-Most of the business buildings were frame. Among the first merchants to establish themselves in New Town prior to 1865 were Ming & Cruce, Henry Neill. A. H. Gilkeson & Co., Henry Bros., and De Garmo, Schmidlap & Co. All these business houses and a large part of the town were burned December 24, 1867.
On November 29, 1873, another fire destroyed the hotel, several business places and cost the lives of four persons. Since then, with the business district chiefly brick and stone, there have been no such fires.
Early Hotels.-The first hotel in Warrensburg was built in 1837 by Young E. W. Berry. It was located on the north side of the public square in Old Town and was a small log house of six or seven rooms. He sold it in 1840 to John Mayes, and he in 1842 sold to Joseph McLeary, and he in 1856 to John D. Smith. Smith improved it and called it the Mansion House. At the breaking out of the war. Smith died and the hotel was closed.
The second hotel, also log, was opened in 1841 by Zacariah T. Davis on the southeast side of the public square. Davis ran the place for about six or seven years, when he sold it to Y. H. Anderson, who afterward rented it to Daniel Rentch. Anderson finally sold it to Thomas Ingle, who kept hotel here during the war, and was succeeded by Col. J. D. Eads. In 1876 he sold it to the Germania Club.
The third hotel was built by James Bolton in 1857 on the south side of the public square in Old Town. In 1861, it was taken by the soldiers and used for a hospital and guard house all during the war. It practically marked the end of the hotel business in Old Town.
The first hotel in New Town was in 1865, when the Redford House was built south of the Missouri Pacific railroad depot. This was destroyed by fire in 1868 and the Simmons Hotel was built on its site. This was finally bought by Mr. J. N. Christopher and converted into the town's first school dormitory, the Young Women's Christian Association building, and is successfully running now. (1900 ca)
In 1870, a building at the southeast corner of Holden and Culton streets was erected for the Cumberland Presbyterian church. In 1875, it was bought by A. W. Ridings & Company and enlarged for a hotel. A little later it was bought by Mrs. J. D. Eads, and became for many years the Eads Hotel and only recently was replaced by Cohn's store. (also became the St. Cloud Hotel at one time).