Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Chicago Fire of 1857.

Chicago, October 20, 1857 - We learn by indirect information from Chicago that they were visited by one of the most disastrous conflagrations ever know in that city the evening of the 19th of October.

The fire commenced on South Water street, between Clark and Dearborn, and had consumed, by 10 o'clock the next morning, both the American and the United States Express Co.'s offices on Dearborn street.
From time to time, riverfront property in Chicago became the home to houses of ill-repute, including one located on the second floor of a brick warehouse situated at 109 South Water Street (now 35 W. Wacker Dr.). As a harbinger of Chicago fires to come, one of the women working at this location accidentally kicked over a lantern leading to a massive conflagration. All of the brothel employees escaped unharmed.

Several large stores on Lake street were lost causing the deaths of twenty-three people, some of whom were firemen, all except one have been recognized. Losses are estimated at about $600,000 to $800,000 dollars. We also learn that several lives were lost by falling walls of D.B. Cooke & Co.'s book store.

A lady reported that she and her husband were on their way back to their home in New York. They were staying at the Tremont House in Chicago the night of the of the fire, and he, from curiosity, went to it, and when there, was crushed under a falling wall. So mutilated was he, that it was only some remnants of his clothing that the agonized wife could recognize him, who but a moment before was in the full vigor of manhood. Their money was with him, and was, we understand destroyed.

The widow, heart broken, meets with active kindness from Chicagoan's. The Railroad men pass her free, and others are also attentive. A Mrs. Whitaker, wife of a merchant of Toledo, Ohio, interesting herself in her behalf, went through the train cars with the kind Conductor Ames and obtained over $20 (today, $514) for her. The corpse is to be forwarded by the Express companies.
Citizens Fire Brigade of Chicago, 1857
As a result of this fire, the Citizens Fire Brigade of Chicago was formed on November 19, 1857. Consisting of businessmen and insurance companies, the duties of the brigade were to take valuable goods from burning buildings and prevent damage by water and thievery.

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