Columbus Gazette, Columbus Junction, Iowa Friday, January 8, 1892 page 5
Transcribed by Beverly Gerdts, November 18, 2020

A Big Fire Wednesday Morning and the Phoenix Block in Ashes - List of Losses and Losers

About five o'clock Wednesday morning the citizens, of Wapello, were roused from their morning slumbers by the cry of fire. A crowd of shivering hurriedly clad people, rushed to the main business part of the town to fine the well know "Phoenix Block," east side, wrapped in flames. By the most heroic exertions of the bucket brigade the fire was confined to that block. The solid fire walls on each side aided greatly in the work. There were two or more vacant lots to the south of it before coming to the one story frame building occupied by D. C. Thomas. But for the south side fire-wall, his building, and with tit everything south to Van Buren street would have gone. Fortunately the fire burned slowly, this giving Mr. Thomas and the hundred hands ready to assist him, time to put his building in the best shape to resist the fire before the heat reached its highest point. Barrels of salt and scores of buckets of water were applied where they would do the most good and store and all sorts of it were saved. North of the burning block was a more difficult task, as a brick adjoined it there. But as the fire originated it there. But as the fire originated toward the south side of the rooms burned and as the wind was favorable, ample time was given to prepare for the fight. The roofs connecting were severed, the joice cut and as the fire worked its way slowly in that direction, these were detached and the buildings saved with little trouble. Considering the high wind prevailing at the time, it seems almost marvelous that the fire was kept within bounds.

The block burned was a two story brick consisting of four business rooms below, with offices above. The first to the south belonged to the Odd Fellows. They valued their building and contents at $3, 000. Insured for $1,800. The store room was occupied by the Ruthenbrg bros., clothiers. They carried an $8,000 stock; insured for $6,000. Many of their goods were saved, so they are fully covered by their insurance. The next building belonged to J. S. Andrews, of Wicnita, Kansas, valued at $2,500. Thought not to be insured at all. The store room was occupied by S. J. Herrick as a hardware and farm implement store. He valued his stock and fixtures $2,500; insured for $1,500. Back of him in the frame addition was the tin shop of Mr. Levy. His tools and machinery were valued at about $400 with no insurance. Mr. J. E. McCray, sewing machine man had something like three hundred dollar's worth of goods in Mr. Herrick's store; no insurance. The rooms overhead were occupied by Hon. L. A. Reiley as law offices. Mr. Reiley was probably the heaviest loser of them all. He had the finest law library in this part of the state besides elegant fixtures and valuable books and papers. These he valued at not less than $3,500. In some unaccountable way he had only $1,000 insurance. He saved nothing, not even getting into the room. The room adjoining Andrews' belonged to M. Davidson. It had recently been occupied by the Newell Bros. who had vacated it only a few days before. There was no insurance on building. Loss $2,000. The north room or building was owned by Messrs. Keller & Ong. The lower part was occupied by them as a drug store. They valued the building and stock at $10,000; insured for $5,200. Overhead was the photograph gallery of H. D. Keller who will probably feel his loss more seriously than any of the others. Everything he had was burned and in insurance whatever. This leaves him without tools or anything else with which to recommence business. Mr. Herrick saved quiet a lot of his farming utensils, as did Keller & Ong, of their drugs and store fixtures.

How the fire originated is a mystery. It began in the Andrew building, but whether down or up stairs is not know, as the fire was bursting through the rood when discovered. Mr. Reiley, Supervisor Newell and a number of gentleman were in the former's office until 11 o'clock that night. Mr. Herrick closed his store room at the usual hour. Neither of them noticed anything wrong or unusual in their rooms on leaving them. The safes of both these men containing valuable papers were opened and contents found uninjured. We know that the sufferers by this fire have the sincerest sympathy of the Columbus Junction people. We have passed through the same "deep waters" and fully appreciate the condition of our friends in their misfortune.

Columbus Gazette, Columbus Junction, Iowa Friday, January 15, 1892 page 4: Wapello Warblings - Hon. L. A. Reiley is in his new office over Farver's.

Prof. Lindslay's select school is doing nicely. He now occupies the upstairs of the old school building.

It looks like the burnt district would all be rebuilt in the spring with the possible exception of the Andres property. He has not been heard from.

Erbes' new shop in statu quo, awaiting more favorable weather.

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