The Fire of 1887 in Columbus Junction

Photo of 1887 Fire
Submitted by Norma Jennings
Photos very faded. Unable to completely bring them back.

A fire was discovered about 4:00 p.m. in Holliday's  LiveryStable at the far north end of Main Street in Columbus Junction. From there it spread to the rear and west where anumber of ice houses, stables and smaller buildings were located along the alley.  People living in the houses on the east side of 2nd St. frantically began to carry out their furniture and belongings and also many along the west side of the street carried out theirs. The house of Dr. W. H. Darrow at the extreme end of the street was on fire several times but the bucket brigade managed to save it.  Twenty five buildings were lost, not including two small ice houses and several small barns.

As the fire moved south, many feared the entire business district  would be lost if it crossed Walnut St and ignited the Murdoch building and another small building so many willing workers concentrated on keeping it on the north end.  At 5:45, a great cheer went up when a train arrived with the Washington Fire Dept.  A stand was erected at the pond east of the  B., C.H & N track and a hose connection made and with hundreds of hands at the brake,  a stream of water was soon pouring over the Murdock house.  The flames then started movng west along Walnut Street to the Hedrick house and Foster's barn. The Hedrick house stood where the Commercial Hotel nows tands. Foster's barn was full of dry hay and was overcome with flames.  It appeared the firemen would have to abandon their task of saving the business district.

Undaunted the firemen drenched themselves with water and wrapped themselves in wet blankets keeping a steady stream of water pouring over the endangered buildings until the fire on the west end had burned itself out.  As a gesture of thanks, a purse of $200 was raised and presented to the Washington Fire Dept. Another special individual was Engineer Charles Russell, of the 4:45 passenger train who was able to back his engine up to the crossing on Walnut St and furnish water from the tank of his engine to help fight the flames.  It wasn't until 1896 that Columbus would have its own fire department.

1st fire dept photo

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Page created by Norma Jennings March 16, 2012