Sangamon County Newspaper Articles 

Auburn has Costly Fire

At about three o'clock Wednesday norming, March 16, 1910, the sleeping inhabitants of Auburn were awakened by the clanging of the fire bell, firing of revolvers and various other alarms, signifying that a fire of unusual magniture was in progress. Soon after the first alarm was sounded most of the city was illuminated by the burning buildings on the east side of the swuare. Starting in the rear of the Nackros grocery store, the fire spread rapidly to the surrounding buildings and soon the whole east side was a mass of flames.

It was soon apparent that our equipment for fighting fire was inadequate even for the protection of the surrounding buildings, and help was summoned from Virden and Springfield but long before help arrived, the fire was beyond any possibility of being controlled. Everything along the east side was consumed except the two story brick building on the northeast corner, owned by Reisch Bros. Brewing Co. which was of sold brick walls with no windows and soon nothing was left but fragments of the tottering walls. All other buildings in the path of the flames were wooden and veneered structures and offered little or no opposition to the progress of the fire.

The following buildings were totally destroyed with their contents: two story building owned by W.H. Hummel, occupied by the George Nackros grocery and meat market; two story building owned by Schlitz Brewing Co., unoccupied; two story building owned by Mrs. Henry Riehle, Armstrong pool room below, Miners Hall above; two story Commercial Hotel, owned and occupied by Mrs. Henry Riehle; one story building owned by Mrs. Henry Riehle; occupied by meat market; two story building owned by J. Dabaugh, Dabaugh shoe shop below, unoccupied above; two story building owned by Reisch Bros. unoccupied; two story building owned by J.W. Wineman, occupied by Jos. F. Smith, farming machinery; two small buildings owned by A.E. Irwin, unoccupied; three small buildings owned by T.J. Nuckolls. The total loss amounts to almost $50,000 most of which was fairly well insured.

This was one of the most disastrous fires in the history of Auburn. No definite reason can be assigned for the origin of the fire.

It will require only two or three such fires as this to fully pay for a good system of waterworks that would be of inestimable value, to our city, would increase the value of its property, invite to our city various industries and furnish adequate protection against fires. [" The Auburn Citizen", March 1910, Submitted by Debbie Quinn]

The Village of Auburn from 1874 to 1875

In a young and vigorous town like our own, it is well to occasionally note the progress of improvement and business, and as things have pretty well settled down for the fall and winter, this is perhaps as good a time as any to look over the field.

The past three years have witnessed great transformations in the appearance of this village. Persons returning after a two or three years' absence express great astonishment at the change. The two Kessler's additions, that three years since were part of a cornfield, now comprise a beautiful suburb, with attractive and some costly residences, facing wide and pleasant streets, where it is a pleasure to drive upon a lovely afternoon.

Since our last sketch of the business part of the town, written about a year since, there has been considerable transformation. On the west side of the public square, the grocery house of Messrs. Stout and Burtle has been organized, which commands a large increasing trade, inso-much that they have found it necessary to erect a brick building of their own, of two stories, work upon which is speeding rapidly.

Samuel Lewis, after extending the room, which he formerly occupied, about twenty feet, has opened business with a large stock of groceries and provisions.

Mr. P. Mayer, Clothing Merchant of Virden, opened a fine assortment and stock from eastern cities at the old post office building.

Messrs, Houck & Schrantz, emigrants from Christian County, have already acquired an enviable reputation for consistent dealing and courtesy as vendors of drugs and accompaniments at Bumgarner's old stand.

Messrs, Sinniger & Hummel are now the incumbents of the hardware store just north, with a magnificent stock. Their uprightness, and style of doing business are unquestioned.

One the northside, Messrs. Geo. Bremer and Benj. L. Kessler have consummated a fine double, two story brick block, one side of which is occupied by those eminently reliable men, Welch & Gordon, [groceries, flour and provision], the other side by B.L. Kessler's finely arranged confectionery, restaurant and bakery. On the west, Bremer's boot and shoe store and shop are in full blast, with a corps of aids.

The meat department is now in the hands of Messrs. Bridges & Shumway, who, to supply the rapidly enlarging demand, are compelled to provide from six to ten beeves per week, with a frequent mutton thrown in.

The corner store has been capaciously extended and much done in the way of conveniences and ornamentation. Nuckolls & Bro's, with their prime minister, Charley Meyers, [who knows all about the dry goods trade really worth knowing,] have already attained to a heavy trade. Mrs. Nicholes carried on the dress cloakmaking business to the general satisfaction.

G.W. Armstrong & Son have instituted an entire new branch of trade [for this village] in Kessler's house, east side. An exclusive four meal and feed store, including shorts, shipstuff and bran.

D.C. Routzahn has taken control of the old harness and saddlery house of C.L. Bridges, and turns out excellent work and a great deal of it at fair rates.

The milliner's store on State Street, superintended by Mrs. D. R. Buck, finishes our list of changes and fluctuations about the square. This establishment is a praise to our town, where good goods and good work may be found.

Though the fire fiend has deprived us of a fine flour mill, another one is nearly ready for business, the new one of F. McKay & Co. rapidly approaching completion.

Just west, A.D. Sanders has commenced and built up quite a trade in wagons, implements etc., and added a sightly suite of shops.

The style of the grain Elevator Co. has changed, having absorbed G.W. Hutton and I.J. Poley, and now known as Poley, Hutton & Co.

The proprietor of the Auburn agricultural works, has found it necessary to procure a larger steam engine and boiler, to furnish additional power for his immense laboratory.

At the machine shop north of the square, $1,000 or more in machinery has been added, and beautiful work in the various branches is here produced.

All the above changes in addition to the large number of dwellings erected, have taken place within the year.

The old standard business houses, Smith & Sims, and Williams, Hutton & Co., dry goods; F.P. Buck, family groceries and provisions; W.W. Lowdermilk, stationery, books, notions and toys; A.R. Barr, drugs, paints, oils, etc; McCoy & Son, furniture; Harris & Bro., livery and feed establishment, are all running in the good, old reliable way. Likewise, W.P. Brooks, wagon and blacksmith works; J.A. Ogg, F.M. Nicholes, H.M. Hart, R. McCoy and D.D. Martin, contractors and builders; H. Day and G. W. Sanders, painters, paperers and grainers; G.W. Gates, stone mason and cistern builder; and Bradley & Spencer and M. Pike masons and plasterers; W. D. Wheeler and M.S. Wheeler, physicians and surgeons; Thos. S. Parks, police magistrate, and G.W. Murray, attorney-at-law.
[Submitted by Debbie Quinn]

An editorial of April 6, 1876 - The South Road

We intend to pertinaciously continue to fulminate the terrors of the Auburn press into the cars of our highway officials, until something shall be done to ameliorate the condition of the road leading south from town, and the unlucky people who are compelled to use it. This road is a chronic disgrace to our village, our township and to Southern Sangamon generally.

As is well known, the most part of this road is now within the corporate limits of the village, and the incoming municipal administration must or ignore an indignant public sentiment, take some steps to make this road passable during such a time as the present. [The Auburn Citizen, April 6, 1876 - Submitted by Debbie Quinn]

20 Jan 1885; Macon Weekly Telegraph, published as: The Telegraph and Messenger - Submitted by Barb Ziegenmeyer

Seventeen Of The Patients Lose Their Lives--Many Pulled Out Into the Bitter Cold, Rush Back Into the Flames.
Kankakee Ill. January 18

The south infirmary of the Illinois eastern hospital for the Insane was burned this morning at 4 :25 o'clock. The fire originated in the furnace room and had obtained a strong headway before discovered. The woodwork of the building being of Southern pine, It burned very rapidly.The building was occupied by forty-five patients six attendants and one night watchman. Seventeen patients in all are missing and thirteen bodies have already been recovered, burned beyond recognition. All of the patients were infirm and Incurable The bedridden ones were rescued first and those who were to help themselves did not realize the danger in time and were the ones who perished. The attendants lost all their personal effects and many narrowly escaped with their lives, one of them having to tie bed-clothes together to escape from a window to the ground. There were no facilities for putting out the fire, the State not having made any appropriation for that purpose. The building was new and cost about $16, 000. It is a total loss, The following are the names of those who perished:

Henry Brown, Rock Island
H. W Belden, Galesburg
George Bennett, Morris
Joseph Colbert, Chicago
Orlando Ellis, Pontiac
J. W. Galloway, Macoupin
Thomas Hickey, Springfield
Mathew Hague, Chebansee
T. Heckner, Stevenson county
Thomas Herely Chicago
John Johnson, Vermilion
Michael Jordan Chicago
J. Nathan, Chicago
A Runfield, Winnebago county
C. Strats, Chicago
T. W. Tyler, Chicago
T. Weymouth, Putnam county
Thomas Herely is the son of State Senator Herely

The building destroyed was a two story stone and brick structure, with no wood about it except the floors and stairways It was completed last August. Twenty-three of the patients were on the first floor and twenty two on the second. Attendants Brown and Rose and the latter’s wife slept on the second floor. Attendants Reid Williams and firemen Lofrage slept on the first floor. The building was heated by hot air furnaces. It was twelve degrees below zero when watch­man Cobb discovered smoke issuing from the floor immediately above the furnaces. He at once awoke the attendants. The smoke was drawn through the hot air flues and along the halls and stairways to all parts of the building, The fire spread so rapidly that all efforts to save the building, In the absence of a fire alarm to summon help and for want of facilities to quench the flames, were found to be in vain. Attendant Reid began dragging and carrying out patients. Many patients clad in their night clothes only rushed from the bitter cold air back into the building. Reid at the risk of his life, struggled on till twenty-one of the twenty three patients on his floor were rescued,when he became exhausted and was carried away. On the second floor Attendant Rose and his wile heard the alarm and escaped down the stairway just before it fell. Attendant Brown was awakened by the smoke and attempted to save a patient in an adjoining room, but failed, and sliding down by the aid of a sheet from a window jumped to the ground. Superintendent R. Dewey reached the scene and with ladders climbed to the second-story windows, smashed them and was able to rescue some of the patients by this means. Al­most all the patients refused to co-operate in the efforts being made to save them, and were only rescued by being dragged from the flames and held from returning. A marvelous escape was that of an inmate who fell with the second floor, striking the burning debris over the furnace, and bounded through a window to the ground uninjured. The remains of the bodies of twelve patients have been taken from the ruins burned to fragments, and only to be identified by the location in which they were found.

The coroner's inquest was held this afternoon, at which Superintendent Dewey testified that he had asked the Legislature two years ago for $2,500 to protect these detached wards from fire; that $1,000 was allowed all of which was used in mains and hydrants; that the amount was insufficient to answer the purpose. He suggested that the floor above the hot furnaces be changed. It being shown in evidence that it was only four inches from the outside and ten inches from the inside of the furnace to the pine joints.

He gave two reasons for the great number of deaths first , the patients were almost all suffocated by smoke before they could be reached and, second, the inability or unwillingness of the insane patients to try to help themselves. The remains of the bodies were, with one exception, represented simply by a handful of charred ashes. The entire remains of ten victims were spread on a small table two feet square. Friends are arriving in search of loved ones. The scenes on their arrival and view of the charred remains were very heartrending. Telegrams are pouring In from all parts of the State from parties asking as to the safety of their friends among the 1,500 inmates of the hospital. The coroners jury, which adjourned till tomorrow afternoon, Is investigating as to whether the furnaces were defective, The fact that there is no general fire alarm between the various buildings of the hospital, or any system of water works to protect life and property there, accounts largely for the vary large loss of life.

KANKAKEE, ILL., January 19
While the flames were at their height in the Infirmary of the insane asylum, Jack Coyna, an old sailor from Chicago, who is an Inmate of the institution, mounted a ladder which had been raised to the north dormitory. The undertaking seemed hopeless as dense clouds of smoke rolled out of the windows. The west wing, where the fire was first seen was a solid mass of fire, with the wind blowing the flames like a blast furnace to the interior of the building. The stairway and floor of the hall had fallen. Coyne intrepidly went through the window at the top of his ladder and crawled along the floor; lying close down, where he found he could escape the densest part of the smoke. He groped his way to the beds and pulled their occupants down to the floor and to a window, where a breath of air revived them so that they could go down the ladder unassisted, Coyne again returned into the dormitory, where he picked a road to other beds and rescued others in the same manner. Four times did he return laden with human freight. With the fourth one the smoke proved too great for even brave Coyne. Standing in the window, he vainly called, has Dr. Dewey had done in another part of the south dormitory. on the inmates to come to the window, but his calls were with out response. At the window near the flames for an Instant a hand was seen to move listlessly across the panes and then the owner sunk out of sight and into death, as the cornice and roof were falling, rendering any idea of help from those below futile. A patient named Hollihan, who was considered only partially insane, on being awakened made a rope out of sheets an blankets. which he let out of a window to the steps by the side of the burning wing. He then crawled down the rope, after telling another inmate to fallow. He reached the steps safely, but the second one let go his hold when part of the way down, felt and received serious injuries A third one looked at the flames And then the distance beneath and and retreated from the window. He was not seen again and Is among the lost. The patients, as fast as they were taken from the building, were conducted to neighboring detached wards, where the feeble and injured ones were cared for and their wounds dressed and stimulants administered. Nearly all the patients save their clothing, which the night before had been laid together by the side of their beds. In the excitement they had not forgotten It, but taken It in hand as they were told by their attendants to run for life. One or two of the sick ones are considerably shocked and probably will die from the effect. The remainder of the rescued are said to be doing well, and no immediate danger is feared with them. It Is certain however the list of dead will be increased materially, as the old and infirm cared for in the bulling will not be able in all instances to survive the shock and surrounding excitement.

One of the attendants describes a horrible scene. He says as he looked into the burning building he saw a number of bodies lying on girders burning the heads and feet dropping off and the bodies finally going Into the cellar below, There were no means for putting out fires, excepting the waterworks supply, but that was useless as there was no hose or other apparatus.

Chicago, January 19.
The Journal’s Kankakee, Ills , special says Four more bodies were found this morning in the ruins of the insane asylum making the total number 17. All the other patients are accounted for.


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