Wiggins, MS fire, Jan 1910
$150,000 FIRE LOSS AT WIGGINS, MISS.
Three Blocks In Thriving Town Reduced to Ashes Between 11 and 1 O'clock Today
RAGING WIND DRIVES FLAMES THROUGH BUSINESS SECTION
More Than Half of the Business Section Destroyed - Depot and Bank Burned - Buildings Dynamited to Stop Conflagration - Almost Futile Efforts to Save Property.
Gulfport, Jan. 21.
Fanned to fury by a raging wind from the northwest, a fire was started in a negro dwelling at 11 o'clock this morning and swept through the business center of the town of Wiggins, destroying all the buildings and three business blocks located east of the railroad track and causing a property loss at between $100,000 and $150,000.
The Gulf and Ship Island depot and the Peoples Bank were destroyed. The fire swept through the town with remarkable rapidity. There is no fire department in Wiggins and no waterworks and the inhabitants were perfectly helpless. Dynamite was resorted to, and building after building was demolished with frightful uproar in the very teeth of the oncoming flames, but without avail. The wind was so strong that the fire overleaped all obstructions and all the gaps made by the largest demolished buildings.
Confined to East Side.
The fire was confined to the east side of the town, and three blocks or over half of the business section was destroyed. Advices received at the present time, 2 o'clock, are to the effect that the fire is believed to be practically under control. All the buildings standing closely together have been burned and the fire has reached the lower edge of the town.
The following concerns were wiped out:
Wiggins Mercantile Co.
Foote & Bond Mercantile Co.
The Peoples Bank, the only bank in Wiggins.
W. W. Burnette & Company, a mercantile firm.
The Burnette Hotel, known as the Lumberman's Home.
The Schwartz Dry Goods Company's store.
Several small grocery stores, including that of Lindsay & Company and the Wiggins Grocery Company.
Two livery stables, one owned by L. W. Davis and one by D. J. O'Neal.
Only two or three dwelling houses were destroyed.
The Gulf and Ship Island depot, a frame building, was among the
First to Be Destroyed.
A number of other small buildings were also consumed.
The large brick building of Kennedy & Company on the west side of the track was unharmed. From Mr. Williams, who is employed by this company, an estimate of the loss was obtained.
There is very little insurance. There is no fire department in Wiggins and no waterworks, and only one or two of the buildings burned were insured.
Wiggins is a town of 2,000 inhabitants or more, twenty-five miles north of Gulfport.
The plant of the Finkbine Lumber Company is located one mile from the town and was untouched. Word was received in Gulfport telling of the fire about 12 o'clock and the mayor was asked to
Send the Fire Department
to Wiggins. A special train was made ready but later another message was received to the effect that the fire was burning itself out and that it would be useless to send the fire department.
The Gulfport Daily Herald, Gulfport, MS 21 Jan 1910
G. and S. I. Agent Did Quick Work
Long Before Depot Fire Was Out Had Organized Business in Box Car Arnot Smith Tells of Scenes.
Within a short time after it was seen that the G. & S. I. depot at Wiggins was doomed, the Wiggins agent, who is Mr. Hale, a son of Vice-President T. P. Hale, had organized the business of his office in a box car and was ready to handle express and freight. The officials here sent three box cars to Wiggins to be used as a depot. Arnot Smith, who returned from Bond last night, was in Wiggins for a few minutes. At the time he was there the fire was still burning in the lower part of the town. The citizens had no time to organize themselves. Goods of all descriptions were scattered helter skelter. Mr. Smith saw a wagon loaded with bolts of silk and dress goods which had been driven to a point a quarter of a mile from the fire and the horses unhitched and the wagon and goods left standing. Pianos were seen here and there, some placed in the mud where they had been hastily dropped. Many saved large quantities of goods. The papers in the bank were saved.
$60,000 FIRE LOSS.
Wiggins, Miss., Jan. 22.
Fire, which almost wiped out the business section of this town today, caused a loss of $60,000 and consumed forty-one business houses and one residence before it burned itself out. That the residence section is some distance from the business part of the town is all that saved it, for there was no fire protection, except a bucket brigade and a little water. Because of non-protection insurance companies refuse policies here, consequently the loss is borne by citizens.
The conflagration completely demoralized everything, and to form some definite plans and arrive at the damage done, a meeting of citizens was held with the mayor and aldermen tonight to discuss what was to be done. A committee was appointed to confer with the Gulf and Ship Island officials and to draft business houses of a certain size of brick. Owing to the condition of affairs definite plans could not be made.
The fire started in a negro lodging house, known as the Hammock building, from an unknown cause, at 11:10 a.m. Whipped by a northwest wind, blowing twenty-five miles an hour, it swept everything in its path. Word was sent to Gulfport and the city offered fire-fighting apparatus, and the railroad offered to rush a special train with it, but the offers were refused, as it would have taken at least an hour to get the engines here, and there was no water for them when they arrived.
Efforts were made to quench the flames with buckets of water, but it was useless, and instead of putting up a futile fight, citizens stood aghast and watched their property burn.
Following is a list of buildings destroyed, and owners with estimated losses, conservatively placed at the meeting tonight:
C. B. Bundy, $500; Rowan & Walton, $1500; J. H. Esterling, $500; W. Davis & Co., $1000; C. F. Baggett, $200; Davis livery stable, $1000; skating rink, $1500; A. J. Harris, $3500; E. F. O'Neal, $2500; C. A. Herrington, $2000; Wiggins Enterprise, $1500; City Bakery, $500; J. W. Wallace, $1000; Mrs. J. S. O'Neal, $100; Gulf & Ship Island depot, no estimate; Wiggins Mercantile Co., $5000; J. O. Stoddard, $100; Shoemaker & McCoy, $500; Bond Mercantile Co., $6,000; People's Bank, $500; Jarker & Datson, $3000; Blaylock & Campbell, $500; Burnett & Co., $3500; A. C. Burnett, $1000; Lumbermen's Home Hotel, $2500; Nathan Davis, $500; sundry buildings, $100; Kennedy & Co., damaged to the extent of $600.
The Gulfport Daily Herald, Gulfport, MS 22 Jan 1910
People of Wiggins Not Discouraged
A. W. Bond of the Wiggins Enterprise Says There is Very Little Pessimism Among the People.
MASS MEETING HELD ON FRIDAY NIGHT
Fire Limits Fixed and Committee Appointed to Take Charge of Reconstruction of the Town - Fire Was Not Unexpected.
Gulfport, Jan. 24.
That the people of the little town of Wiggins, the business section of which was practically wiped out on last Friday by fire, was not discouraged is vouched for by A. W. Bond, the editor and proprietor of the Wiggins Enterprise, who was in Gulfport on Saturday afternoon. There are one or two long faces in Wiggins, according to Mr. Bond, but the most of the people are making the best of their troubles and are determined to rebuild and to build better than before and to make it impossible for the fire of last Friday ever to recur.
On the night after the fire a mass meeting of citizens was held. A committee of eight was appointed, five of whom were private citizens and three were members of the board of aldermen. It was decided that fire limits should be established and that within these fire limits only brick, stone or concrete buildings should be permitted to be erected. For the present tents will be erected in which to carry on business and perhaps some few shedding a purely temporary character. No wooden buildings of a permanent character will be permitted to be erected within the fire limits.
The fire was not altogether unexpected, according to Mr. Bond. In fact it had often been said among the citizens that some day a fire would sweep away the best portion of the town. There had been talk also of a water works system and a fire department of some description. This talk had been indulged in for the past two years but no action had been taken. There is one artesion [sic] well in the town but this was not sufficient to furnish water for fire protection. The town has over 2,000 inhabitants and could well afford to install a system of fire protection. There was almost no insurance at all in the town. In some parts of the burned district the insurance companies flatly refused to write policies at any rate, the risk being so great. The few who did have insurance paid for it at the ruinously high rate of ten and one-half per cent.
Town Will Be Better Off
It was Mr. Bond's opinion that in time it will be recognized that the fire was for Wiggins a blessing in disguise. New and better buildings will be erected, the town and the merchants will take on new life and a a [sic] rejuvenated Wiggins will outstrip all its former achievements. Wiggins is the best and most bustling town on the G. & S. I. road between Gulfport and Hattiesburg. The country around Wiggins is increasing in population, and agriculture, particularly truck growing is receiving a great impetus. One of the busiest saw mills in the South, that of the Finkbine Lumber Co., is located at Wiggins and is operated both night and day.
Mr. Bond said that a good share of the merchandise in the stores was saved. Everybody worked with a will to save his own goods and those of his neighbors. There was little selfishness manifested and no vandalism. Men worked like Trojans carrying out the goods of their fellow merchants. The men worked just in advance of the fire saving what they could and then passing on as the fire drove them before it. No attempt was made to move out goods at a distance from the fire until that nearest the fire was saved or as much of it saved as possible.
This method, though an unselfish and commendable one, caused some to lose property which otherwise might have been saved. For instance everything in the office of the Wiggins Enterprise was lost except a few boxes of envelopes and other articles of minor value. This was due to the fact that while the fire was at its height and men were doing all they could to save merchandise, sparks from the fire ignited the roof of a livery stable some distance away. This started another conflagration and caught several owners of buildings and property unawares. An attempt was made to save the printing press in the Enterprise office. Mr. Bond and several other men were trying to move out the heavy piece of machinery. It was necessary to tear down the door casing to do this and while they were at work the fire drove them out, the having to jump through the windows.
Mr. Bond was here Saturday for the purpose of buying some newspaper equipment if possible but had decided that he would send on to St. Louis for an entire new outfit.
The Gulfport Daily Herald, Gulfport, MS 24 Jan 1910
The residence of U. B. Parker at Wiggins was saved from the fire last Friday only by the hardest kind of work on the part of neighbors and fellow townsmen of Mr. Parker. Mr. Parker is a prominent lawyer and is well known here and his many friends will be glad to hear that his house was not among the buildings to be consumed by this very disastrous fire.
The Gulfport Daily Herald, Gulfport, MS 24 Jan 1910
Transcribed by Tim Taugher. Thanks, Tim!