Passaic, NJ Fire, Jun 1873

Destructive Conflagration In Passaic-Loss, $6,000-Two Men Burned To Death.

The most disastrous conflagration that has ever occurred in Passaic, N.J., began just before midnight Saturday. At 11:10 p.m. flames were first seen issuing from the roof of Henry Yearance’s livery stable, situated a short distance north of the Erie Railway depot, and neat the center of a block of frame buildings, bounded on the west by Jefferson St., south by Railroad Ave., and east by Washington place. Capt. Bird W. Spencer, formerly of the 9th New York Regiment, was passing this place about the time when the flames were discovered, and perceived a stranger running from the rear of the stable to the street. Presuming him to be of an incendiary and perhaps responsible for the fire, Capt. Spencer seized him. The stranger drew a knife, and after inflicting a severe wound on Capt. Spencer’s hand, obliged him to relinquish his hold. The Fire Department was immediately summoned, but the apparatus which consisted of one engine, one hose-carriage, and one hook and ladder truck, was found to be insufficient, and the Fire Department of Paterson was sent for. In the mean time, the men worked with all their might, but were unable to gain control of the flames. The hydrants were put in requisition, and every piece of hose was brought out. As the water has here a tremendous force, streams could be thrown to a great height without the use of an engine. Eagle Hook and Ladder Truck was the first from Paterson, and the men set to work to prevent the spread of the flames by tearing down some of the buildings. By this time the flames had spread to the Acquackanok House, Wilson’s livery stable, and a row of six two-story buildings, running easterly from Jefferson St. along Railroad Ave. These were all destroyed with the exception of the latter, as part of which was saved. The residences of Miller and Totten of Jefferson St. were also on fire, and Yearance’s residence on Washington place was in a fair way to be consumed. At this juncture the men, by their vigorous efforts began to get control of the flames. Engine No. 2 now arrived from Paterson, drawn by four horses, and brought to bear a powerful stream of water. By 1 a.m. the flames were under control, and an hour later were subdued.

The Acquackanock house which was entirely destroyed, was a two-story frame building with a Mansard roof, and had a frontage of 120 feet on Railroad Ave., and 40 feet on Washington place. The building was owned by Herman Schelting, and rented by Henry Levy, who used the upper stories as a hotel and billiard hall. On the first floor were seven stores. The corner was occupied by V. Terbune, druggist, loss $1,500, the store adjoining, on Washington place, was used as a Post-Office; the loss of fixtures is comparatively small, not more than $250; next to the drug store, fronting on Railroad Ave., was a paint store, occupied by J. Biddell, he loses $3,000; the next used by Henry Levy as a restaurant, loss on stock and fixtures of restaurant and hotel, $6,000, the fourth story was empty; the fifth was occupied by Rhodes; the sixth was empty; Shaling’s loss on the building is $18,000; west of the hotel stood a two-story building occupied by John Duffus, City Clerk and Van Iderstine & Demprest, builders. Duffus loses $500 and the firm $100. Schulting loses $2,100 on the building.

West of this building was the row of six houses. Beginning at Jefferson St., the first was occupied as a furniture store and the second as a boarding house. These were not damaged. The third, owned by J.E. Manson, was damaged $580. The fourth was occupied by Meclune as a liquor store, and was destroyed. Mclune’s loss is $500. The fifth was Post’s paint store, and his family resided above. He loses $601 on stock and furniture and $4000 on the two last buildings named. The sixth store was owned by Schulting and occupied by John Ross and John Rhodes who each lose $500 while Schulting loses $1,500 on the building. Wilson’s livery stable, between the city clerk’s office and Yearance’s stable, was entirely destroyed, loss $2,500. A.E. Miller’s residence north-east of the stables and fronting on Jefferson St. was damaged $1,500. Yearance’s stable, where the fire was discovered, was completely destroyed with four horses and two colts, one of which was a yearling colt for which he had recently been offered $1,000. Yearance’s residence on Washington place, was also badly damaged. He loses $6,000 on buildings and $3,000 on stock.

John Van Order’s residence, adjoining that of Yearance’s was damaged $500 by enthusiastic assailants, who in their efforts to save property tore up the marble mantels and registers, and took the doors off their hinges. Between Yearance’s house and the hotel was a long narrow building fronting on Washington place, and occupied in front by W. Garrison as a liquor saloon, and in the rear by Rowe’s feed store. Garrison loses $500, and Rowe $1,000.

The losses, according to these estimates, reach $52,800, on which there is the following insurance:

Schulting, $10,000; Yearance, $6,000 on buildings and $1,000 on stock, Henry Leavy, on hotel fixtures and restaurant stock, $5,000, Terhume, on drug store, $2,090; Biddel, on paint store, $2,500. Unter $3,500, on house and furniture; no insurance on stable; Post had $4,000 on horses, but no insurance on stock and furniture. Neither Rhodes not Rowe was insured. Ross had $1,000. The total insurance so far as ascertained , is $31.

Before the fire was subdued a rumor became current that two men had perished in the flames. This was afterward found to be true, as the remains were taken from the ruins at 4 a.m. yesterday. The men had been employed in Yereance’s livery stable, and were accustomed to sleep there. One was Henry Cotte, age 21; the other a colored man, age 25, named Henry Thompson. As it is evident that the building was fired, from the inside, it is presumed that both men perished from suffocation.

New York Herald-Tribune, New York, NY 23 Jun 1873