Deadwood, SD Fire, Sept 1879

A Mining Town In Ashes.

Deadwood Nearly Destroyed By Fire.

Few Buildings In Dakota's Largest Town Left Standing-The Residents Powerless To Subdue The Flames-Left Homeless and Destitute-Estimated Loss of $2,000,000.

Deadwood, Dakota, Sept. 26.-A fire broke out this morning at the Star Bakery, in Sherman Street, at 2:20 o'clock, and following the thoroughfare swept everything before it in Lee, Main, Gold, Wall, Patton and William streets, and several residences in Continental Avenue. Fanned by alight breeze, and with nothing to contend with other than a very inefficient Fire Department, everything was at the mercy of the flames. Less than a score of fire-proof warehouses withstood the severe test. The buildings, being mostly of wood and poorly constructed, burned like so much tinder. The fire spread with such wonderful rapidity that any attempt to save anything would have been useless. All along its course terrific explosions of gunpowder, petroleum, liquor & c., were of frequent occurrence. Buildings were blown into atoms, and among the first things destroyed were the hook and ladder apparatus and hose carriage, leaving unscathed only a few feet of worthless hose with which to battle against the flames. The new water-works, which were tried yesterday for the first time, were put to their full capacity, but with little success in subduing the flames, on account of the scarcity of the water. The hillsides were almost a solid sheet of flame, and water from the boulder ditch could not be had; otherwise much property would probably have been saved, as the ditch ran almost directly over the worst spot.

The wildest excitement prevailed on account of the fearful force of the flames, and people thought of little besides saving their own lives, hundreds escaping only with their night clothes. Every team within miles of the city was called into service to help save what could be got out. There are probably about 2,000 people who are homeless, and many are destitute. About 125 buildings, besides 50 or 60 dwelling-houses, were destroyed, and, while it is utterly impossible to get any definite figures regarding the loss, well informed business men place it at from $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. The fire is still burning, but all its material is exhausted, and there is no danger of its spreading, unless an unfavorable change in the wind should come. The principal losers are, R.C. Lake, hardware merchant, $100,000; Miller & McPherson, grocers, $50,000, uninsured; M.J. Wertheimer & Co., dry goods dealers, $30,000, insurance, $10,000; Frank Welsh, $35,000, no insurance; Graves & Curtis, furniture and china-ware, $26,000, uninsured; William McHugh, liquor dealer, $23,000, uninsured.

The following were also among the heavy losers: The First National Bank, $8,000, uninsured; Browning & Wingrose, grocers, $30,000, uninsured; Benjamin Holstein, grocer, $7,000, uninsured; Munler & Lehental, clothiers, $10,000, insured for $5,000; C.B. Strauss, dry goods, $5,000, fully insured; Star & Bullock, hardware, $25,000, insured for $15,000; T.T. Cornforth, fruit-dealer, $5,000, uninsured; Daniel McLaughlin, on residence, $10,000, uninsured; Matthewsen & Goldberg, grocers, $10,000, uninsured; L. Liebman, fancy goods, $30,000, insured for $3,000; Jensen Bliss, hardware, $5,000, uninsured; Culbertson & Young, produce and commission merchants, $10,000, fully insured.

Several of the firms whose fire-proof buildings were saved, have posted notices that they will open up for business in them on Saturday. Lumber is being hauled rapidly, and building will begin as soon as the debris can be cleared away, and in a more substantial way than before. Most of the merchants who have lost their wooden stores will erect brick ones in their stead. Labor is in great demand.

A meeting was held by prominent citizens this afternoon, prompted by numerous thieving operations since the fire broke out and the many cases of lot-jumping, at which Judge Moody presided. It was decided to call upon Gen. Sturgis, commanding at Fort Mead, for a company of troops to guard the property of the sufferers by the fire. The request was promptly complied with, and a company of cavalry was at once sent here, together with 10 wagons and 2 ambulances to transport the destitute citizens to Fort Mead, where they will be furnished with camps and rations, which kind offer was made by Gen. Sturgis. All saloons are closed by order of the Sheriff, and the city present an unusually quiet appearance. A Citizen's Committee of Safety, numbering seven, was also appointed at today's meeting, which will assist the Sheriff in preserving the peace. Evildoers, if caught, will be speedily dealt with. A proposition to organize a vigilance committee, 100 strong, was voted down. The Post Office, which was destroyed, lost $3,000 in postage-stamps and stamped envelopes, but no mail was destroyed, and coaches are running regularly with the daily mails.

Many kind offers of assistance have been made by Eastern merchants, but will hardly be accepted, as merchants bear their losses with the best possible grace, and are not inclined to place themselves under any obligations, at the same time appreciating the willing offers made by Eastern houses in all branches of trade. Surviving houses have not taken advantage of the necessity of the hour by advancing prices on staple goods, and, as was generally expected, prices remain as usual. The insurance companies which held a majority of the risks on the destroyed property are the Freeman's Fund, of San Francisco; the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company, and the London and Liverpool and Globe Insurance Company.

Bismarck, Dakota, Sept. 26.-The burning of Deadwood this morning threw all Dakota into a tremor of excitement. The town was the richest and largest in the Territory. No details can be received during the day. The military telegraph line was occupied all day with commercial messages ordering stocks of goods and preparing for the emergency that was threatening the homeless people. The Deadwood operator took up his station on a bluff a mile and a half from the ruined town, and contented himself with the head of a barrel for a desk. Gen. Sturgis, commanding at Fort Meade, 20 miles away, early responded to the cry of the sufferers, and tendered them shelter at the barracks and rations.

Deadwood was situated in a gulch, with a few houses scattered on the sides of the hills. When once on fire, a raft would be created, and no ordinary agency could prevent the town's total destruction. The military operator in charge at Deadwood reports officially as follows: "I have no money. Saved all the office receipts. Everything is very high, and they require cash. We carried everything in the office half a mile, but the building didn't burn. The building was on fire several times, and it got so hot we couldn't stand it. The office was finally saved by blowing up the adjoining building with giant powder. The wire is burned for a mile and a half. Estimated loss of property in the city is $2,000,000; in fact, the whole town is in ashes. The people are wild, all wanting to send their messages at once. Among the businessmen burned out I can name the following: Miller & McPherson, wholesale grocers, formerly of Minneapolis; R.C. Lake, hardware; E. Whitehed, dry goods; the First National Bank; Bismarck Stage Line barn; M.J, Wertheimer & Co., dry goods; Overland Hotel; Henry Maillard, liquors; Herman & Treber, liquors; Graves & Curtis, furniture and crockery; E.C. Bent, drugs; D.M. Gillett & Co., jewelry; Welch Hotel, and all other hotels; Star & Bullocks, groceries and glass."

St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 26.-There is much excitement in St. Paul over the burning of Deadwood, as large commercial, mining, and transportation interests there are controlled by capitalists in this city. Advices are still too incomplete to indicate the losses. Blakeley & Carpenter, proprietors of a stage line from Bismarck, state that their principal office is not destroyed, and the loss probably is not great. The insurance will certainly be in small proportion to the loss. Deadwood has been regarded as precarious point, and avoided by cautious companies. The Liverpool and London and Globe has had an agency there for some time, and taken more risks than any other. The Springfield Fire and Marine has done some business, and the St. Paul Fire and Marine has written a few policies lately.

The New York Times, New York, NY 27 Sept 1879