Minneapolis, MN fire, Mar 1866

Birth, Marriage & Death Records

Large Fire in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., Friday, March 17.

A fire here last night destroyed twenty buildings from First to Davis street. Loss $100,000.

The New York Times, New York, NY 18 Mar 1866
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Large Fire in Minneapolis.

CHICAGO, Sunday, March 18.

Thirty buildings were destroyed by fire in Minneapolis, Minn., Friday night. Loss, $100,000.

The New York Times, New York, NY 19 Mar 1866
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THE MINNEAPOLIS CALAMITY.

A Terrific Conflagration - Forty Buildings Burned.

From the St. Paul Press Extra, 19th.

At about half-past ten o'clock last night, officer Colbaugh and his companion discovered fire in the dry goods store of J. J. Couchman, Bridge street, east side, and immediately broke open the door. They found the fire to be in among a lot of paper boxes on the top shelf, against the wall which separates the store from Chase's Express office. The fire occupied a space of about two feet. Searching for water, the premises were found to be without a drop, and before any could be procured, the flames had made considerable headway.

In the meantime efforts were made to stifle the blaze with shawls, but it crept away beneath the studdings, and when water arrived the quantity was so small and the fire so hidden that it was useless. At the same moment in which Officer Colbaugh broke open Couchman's store door, Mr. Patterson, who had occupied the rooms back of McFarlane, Burk & Co's insurance and real estate office, second story, apprehensive, from the smell of burning pine, that danger was near, jumped from his bed and threw open the door in the partition which separated the sleeping room from the office, and saw fire just breaking through the partition wall between Chase's office and that in which he stood. Chase's office is about eight feet in width, and is on the ground floor.

The fire had caught in Chase's office, which separated Couchman and McFarlane, Burd, & Co., and had worked both ways, by means of the passage behind the plastering, so that it appeared in two places simultaneously. In a few moments the entire wall in McFarlane, Burd & Co.'s office was in flames. Patterson with difficulty rescued his wife from the stifling atmosphere, and a friend attempted clearing the office of its valuable books and papers. In Couchman's store the advance of the fire was so rapid as to defy the slender means used to extinguish it, and the officers, assisted by the citizens, who soon came thronging to the spot, began to bring out armfuls of goods, but the firece heat scorched the cheek and paralyzed the eye, cleared the store of the excited crowd, and consecrated its contents to itself.

Efforts were then directed to the stores on each side of the flames, with a view to save the stocks in them. Kelley's grocery, the last store below the fire, and on the corner of Bridge and First street, was soon cleared of the contents which were on the first floor, but the flames were too rapid in their progress for even the quick hands and feet of the busy workers, and the goods in the second floor and cellar were abandoned to their fate.

The devouring element now advanced its left wing around First street, and having its centre in the blazing pile where it first commenced its ravages, hurled its right wing up Bridge street, towards the long line of wooden structures, which occupy the front lots of the remainder of the block. The crescent of fire was now perfect. The biting wind blowing briskly from the northwest, carried millions of glowing cinders far up into the black midnight sky, and distributed them far and wide over a sleeping population - for many slept on unconscious of the fearful work till morning dawned.

One thought alone seemed to have taken posession of the busy crowd at the fire, that the entire block must soon disappear before the terrible onset, and they accordingly lent themselves to the work of saving the contents.

The market place in front of the block was soon filled up with merchandise of every description. Strong ropes were then procured and attached to one of the smaller wooden structures, and stout men manned the rope and pulled with all their strength, in hope that by demolishing a building or two, the salvation of the remainder of the block might be accomplished, but all to no purpose, large pieces of the front wall only coming away, and the flames, as if maddened by the attempt to deprive them of their prey came roaring on with renewed vigor, and the wrecked building was abandoned to its fate.

Powder was then procured, but the roofs, chambers and floors of the other buildings were thronged with men, and the idea of blowing up the building was abandoned as dangerous. So the flames worked on steadily on both wings. It was after midnight. A dozen houses on First street had fallen. The end of the block on Bridge street remained. The huge form of Fletcher's store had boiled away. An ineffectual attempt had been made to tear down the three-story building on the upper end of the block , on the corner of Bridge and Second streets, and it was fired, that the flames might work down and meet those advancing, that the fierce heat might be a little removed away from the building across Second street, which had been covered with wet carpets and blankets, as affording the only means of protection to the next block.

One o'clock came. Forty buildings on the entire block were in flames or had fallen before the foe. The crisis was approaching which should determine the safety of the other block. Not an engine was on the ground; we had none. A hand-engine could not long work in an atmosphere at zero. A steamer only would have beaten back the flames.

The tall, three-story building occupied by Udly's dry goods store and Beale's gallery, was entered by the rollicking tongues of fire, and the heat became intense. The sturated carpets and blankets began to send forth clouds of steam. Two hundred and fifty buckets were traveling to and fro, discharging their liquid contents upon the roofs and wooden coverings. Devoted men stood up against the infernal heat, and calmly launched the water upon the most exposed parts.

It was a moment of intense anxiety. The fate of another block was trembling in the balance. A short pause from the crowd. The huge pile of fire on the corner toppled and fell; a cloud of sparks streamed to the sky; the fierce heat subsided; the flames sank lower; the fire could not cross the street - it had burnt itself out. The next block was saved, and the expressions of relief which came from the exhausted crowd will never be forgotten by thousands.

But alas! forty buildings had fallen. The centre block was in ashes. Compassed by four streets, it was a red-hot heap of ruins. But no lives had been lost. A man named Major Eagse had indeed fallen with the blazing roof of Fletcher's store, down forty feet, into the cellar, yet he came forth unharmed; and a woman and a baby had been miraculously saved.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 26 Mar 1866