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Fire Destroys Most of Adair's Business District (Aug 1894)


Posted By: Cass County Coordinator (email)
Date: 8/5/2019 at 20:28:26

Fire Destroys Most of Adair's Business District Adair's Great $100,000 Fire of 1894

The Adair News, August 9, 1894

The water supply in Adair had gotten very low, and when the cry of "fire" rang out on the midnight air, Monday night, it made our citizens shudder at the chances of the ruin of this town. That the ruin came, one has only to take a look over the stricken portion, to see. What was the solid business portion of Adair Monday evening was a 5-acre mass of burnt ruins Tuesday morning.

Where It Originated.

About midnight Monday night the citizens of our fair town were roused from their peaceful slumbers by the dreaded cry of "fire," and in a few minutes almost the entire population was rushing toward Smith & McKinney's livery barn, which was a roaring sheet of flames.

The fire started in the old building just south of the barn proper, but in seemingly less than a minute's time it had spread over the entire barn and into Thos. Flynn's bakery and restaurant and was fast reaching out for the adjoing business houses along Audubon street.

The fire department was on hand quickly, but was powerless to check the angry wave of flames that was rolling across the street and reaching for the buildings on the north side. The heat became so intense that it was impossible for the firemen to get anywhere near the flames.

The stream of water poured into the burning buildings seemed to serve no more purpose than if it had been oil instead of water.

Spreads With Rapidity.

Before one had scarcely time to think, Dr. Wishard's drug store, C. H. Camper's harness shop, E. Owen's hardware store, Dan Hearn's barber shop, Schwenneker & Bochart's meat market, Raffensperger & Richardson's paint shop, Thomas Flynn's bakery and restaurant, Mrs. Dodge's millinery store, Mrs. Valentine's millinery and dressmaking rooms, McManus & McEvoy's general store and J. Meyers & Co.'s clothing store were all past help, and the flames were still spreading eastward. Everything was as dry as powder, and haystacks could not have been destroyed more rapidly than were these buildings.

In the meantime the brave fire laddies were doing everything in their power to fight the demon destroyer and telegrams had been sent asking aid from Stuart, Avoca and Atlantic.

Before the fire seemed to give the least show of being influenced by the water poured upon it and the efforts made toward checking its progress, J. D. Carroll's restaurant, the small unoccupied building just east of it, Burger, Burnett & Morse's barber shop, McClintock's drug store and barn, Scheeler's meat market and ice house, the Bank of Adair building, McClain & Thielen's implement store, Porter and Son's furniture store, Archer & Patten's general store, barns belonging to W. S. Wishard, D. L. Wilson and Dr. Lougher, and D. L. Wilson's fine new residence were totally destroyed, while the houses occupied by Schirm's restaurant, W. S. Wishard, Faga's store, the Exchange Bank, A. E. Calley, F. H. Wetmore, W. C. Libby, W. H. Burr and J. W. Kitch, seemed almost sure to suffer the same fate, but by hard and effective work these building were saved with only severe scorchings.

Fire Under Control.

At 3 o'clock when the fire was considered under control and comparatively safe, the streets of east Adair were literally blockaded with household goods and merchandise of every description, and excited men and women were running in every direction carrying and piling up in conglomerated heaps different articles of furniture, clothing, etc.

The loss falls most heavily on our city of any we have ever had. Ten head of horses were burned. McKinney and Smith's livery barn is a total loss, being entirely destroyed, and no insurance.

The Stuart fire department arrived here in just 25 minutes after the train started from Stuart, and 45 minutes after the alarm was turned in from here.

On Tuesday morning the sight was a sad one. Where twelve hours before were two blocks of prosperous business houses well stocked, and furnishing the necessaries of life to a trade district of 20 miles square, was now only a great heap of smoking ruins, with carcasses of dead horses giving off a sickly odor, and even the walks and crossings burned away. The busy mart of trade had been reduced to the prairie as it stood 25 years ago.

On Tuesday all business was practically suspended, and our citizens mingled with a throng of visitors from other towns in viewing the ruins of the main business portion of the best trading town in western Iowa. In the morning, our butchers had their meat on store boxes on Audubon street, supplying customers from the paving stones.

NOTE FROM CONTRIBUTOR: The Adair News office, and its records/archives, was also destroyed in the Aug. 1894.


Adair Documents maintained by Carlyss Noland.
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