1881 - A GREAT FIRE IN A SMALL TOWN. ONEONTA'S PRINCIPAL BUSINESS HOUSES DESTROYED - THE LOSS $50,000.
ONEONTA, N. Y., July 27. - The largest conflagration which has been seen in Oneonta for years broke out at 3:45 this morning in the drug store of N. J. Ford, at No. 162 Main-street. A prompt alarm was sounded, but it was over half an hour before the department got a stream on the blaze. In the meantime the fire was raging vigorously inside the building, and breaking through the roof, had communicated with the roof of Willahan's bakery, which adjoined on the south side. It also communicated with the stone store on the corner of Broad and Main streets, occupied by Bristol & Reynolds, the grocers. After the streamer began to work, 15 minutes sufficed to exhaust the water supply, and it was found necessary to remove the engine to a small pond several blocks above the town. While this was being done the flames spread with lightning rapidity, and burned through the roof of Bristol & Reynold's store before the water could be brought to bear upon them. The solid masonry walls of Cutler & Jackson's building at No. 156 Main-street, were the next to go. The roof of this building was wrapped in flames by the time the steamer had succeeded in drawing water. Main-street by this time was filled with a crowd of excited people, and when the news of the water giving out was first made known a general panic was threatened. Men rushed hither and thither, shouting and creating a perfect babel. Raids were made on the burning and the threatened buildings, with the hope of saving the contents. The street was soon filled with merchandise of different sorts and values. Meanwhile, in spite of the efforts of the firemen, the flames gained headway rapidly, and with a mighty crash the roof of Ford's store fell in. Soon after the stone front in the rear of Ford's store and the roof of Bristol & Reynold's grocery store fell in. Seeing that no power could save these buildings, the firemen directed all their energies to the task of saving the other buildings which were in the line of the fire. There was a long wooden row of buildings, of which the store of Cutler & Jackson was the first, and this was in flames. The hook and ladder men did deeds of valor in saving this building, and many of the men had narrow escapes from the falling timbers which they tore down. In three hours after the alarm was sounded the flames were under control, but it was not before the entire corner of a business street was in ruins, and thousands of dollars' worth of property had been destroyed. The places of business destroyed by the fire are as follows: The drug store of N. J. Ford, Parker's photograph rooms, Willahan's bakery, Bristol & Reynolds's grocery, the National Express office, Cutler & Jackson's shoe store, Mrs. Grant's dress-making rooms, and a grocery store occupied by James Roberts, the rear of which was consumed. Other places were demaged [sic] by water, the breaking of doors, windows, sashes, &c. Had water been plentiful when the fire first broke out its progress could have been readily checked, but, strange to say, in a town of this size, and growing in importance, there is absolutely no protection against fire and not public spirit enough to build water works. This has been a subject of much agitation and wrangling for years. It is doubtful if even this serious lesson will prove productive of the desired result. The loss and insurance are as follows: Ford estate loss, $4,500; insurance, $2,000; Bristol & Reynolds, grocers, loss, $3,000; insurance, $2,700; James Stewart, loss, $100, no insurance; N. J. Ford, loss, $10,000; insurance on stock, $2,500; building, $1,500; A. H. Parker, photographer, loss, $1,800; insurance, $1,200; Thomas Willahan, baker, building, $2,500; insurance, $1,200; stock lost, $2,000; no insurance; Mrs. W. W. Grant, millinery, loss, $250; no insurance; Jesse Cutler, building, loss $2,000; insurance, $500; M. L. S. Jackson, boots and shoes, $2,000; insurance, $1,000; James Roberts, grocery, loss, $800; insurance, $1,000; G. W. Adams, jewelry store, loss, $300; insurance, $500; Miss Ella Ray, millinery store, loss on building and stock, $1,200; insurance, $1,000; H. E. Huntington's store, loss, $300; partly insured; Central Hotel block damaged to the extent of $500; insured fully; $2,500 damage to goods resulted from removals. The total loss is estimated at about $50,000.
The New York Times
New York, New York
July 28, 1881
Visit Oneonta, New York, USA
Discover the people who lived there, the places they visited and the stories they shared.