Baptism By Fire

The Sunflower – January 1, 1901

A long expected baptism of fire finally arrived.  Friday morning December 28, at about 4:30 the people were awakened by hearing gunshots and a woman screaming and rushed to find the air lurid with the light of a fire.

When the residents arrived on the scene, the fire had so much of a start that it was useless to think of saving either of the cottages which were then afire and what goods were in the lower part were hastily removed and efforts made to prevent the further spread of the flames.  C. B. Turner immediately placed two horses at the disposal of the people and one mounted by Clayton McCarthy went in one direction while another ridden by J. F. Witherall went over by Cassadaga and around Burnham giving the alarm that “Lily Dale was burning.

News spreads fast

The news spread like wildfire and teams were hastily hitched and in an incredibly short space of time, they poured into the gates loaded with men.  By this time three cottages were burning fiercely and the prospects of saving any of the center of camp looked exceedingly dubious.  With the arrival of assistance four squads of workers were arranged.  One party went to work on the Scheu cottage on the corner of First Avenue and Cleveland, one on the cottage at the rear of the burning ones, one on the cottages across the street from the fire and the fourth decided to tear down a cottage and thus stop the flames spreading towards the East.

All worked with a will.  A bucket brigade was organized, the women pumping water and carrying it equally as well as the men.  Carpets, comforters and everything that would hold water was placed over the exposed portions of the buildings and while some carried water, others stood on the roofs and verandahs and kept the cloths wet, thus stopping the spread of the flames.  Two teams were procured and holes were cut into the Wadsworth cottage (#12 1st), log chains attached and soon the building was drawn to one side partly torn down and snow shoveled upon the side toward the fire.  Even after this, it caught fire and had to be extinguished with snow and water.

From one home to another

In the meantime the fire continued to spread.  It started in the northwest corner of Mrs. May Colville’s cottage at 7 First Avenue.  From there it spread to Mrs. Nellie Warren’s  (#5 1st) then to the Scheu cottage at #3 First Avenue.  No one supposed that the corner cottage could be saved as there was but four feet space between the two buildings.  But the peculiar construction of the burned building and the use of an unlimited supply of water that ran down the street from the snow melted by the heat and the Herculean efforts of some thirty men, it was done.  Large carpets were drawn over the side between the burning building and the other, ladders were raised and pails of water were poured over the peak of the roof and run down keeping the carpets and the side of the house wet.  Large ladders were placed against the sides of the burning building and as the fire burned off the supports the wall was pushed away and the danger of the West was over.

On the East the fire spread to Miss Russell’s cottage (#8 1st) then to the Hearn cottage (#10 1st) and photograph gallery where it was checked by the removal of the Wadsworth cottage (#12 1st).

Carpets kept wet

All interest now centered on the north.  There, a row of cottages, only ten or fifteen feet away, had been exposed to the heat of five burning buildings.  Fortunately there were a number of small buildings, sheds and such alike, most of them low, that could be torn down or rolled away.  Then the fact most of the backs of these cottages were lean-tos made it possible to put carpets on them, which were kept wet.  The wood was charred so badly in many places that a finger could be pushed through it, and they caught fire a number of times, even burning good sized holes in the sides, yet the flames were successfully fought; but it had not been for the fact of Dr. Hyde’s cottages contained a thirty barrel cistern full of water this row would surly have gone. As near as can be ascertained the loses are as follows:  Mrs. Scheu one cottage burned, insurance $500.  One cottage damaged, loss on house and furniture, $700, insurance $1,000…  E. C. William’s, loss on furniture, $800…  Nellie Warren loss between $800 and $1,000 no insurance…  Mrs. Colville loss $1,000 insurance $400…  Miss Russell loss about $800 supposed to be fully insured…  Hearn cottage and photograph gallery loss about $500 no insurance…Wadsworth cottage $150 no insurance.  The damages to the other cottages will aggregate about $700 thus making a total loss of about $6,450.  As most of the people are away, the figures cannot be given accurately, but the above is a very accurate estimate.

Fire notes

Mrs. J. H. Turner of the Sunflower Office was one of the bravest of the “fire Ladies.”  She did what few men could do: went up a ladder carrying a pail of water in each hand.

J. H. Turner had his hand quite badly burned by coming in contact with the house, which were fully feet from the fire.  This shows how hot the fire was.  He became exhausted from being overheated. Fay Johnson was partially overcome by smoke while trying to save some furniture.

General items

When E. C. Williams was awakened, he fired his pistol, which awakened many people.  J. F. Witherell lost his gold watch but was fortunate enough to find it again.  A. Bowers was sick abed and but two houses between his home and the fire (#5 2nd) Arrangements had been made to care for him in case it was necessary.

Graham Turner and Fred Spencer had their hands hurt slightly while at work.  An engine was gotten in readiness by the Jamestown Fire Department to send up to our aid had it been necessary.  Fortunately it was not, but we appreciate the kindness of our Jamestown neighbors, just as much as though they had come.  It snowed slightly all thorough the fire and there was scarcely a breath of air stirring.  What little there was came from the west.  Nellie Warren, who is at Tallapoosa, Ga., Miss Russell, who is in Pennsylvania were notified at once.

Cassadagans helped:

The cottage owners of Lily Dale owe a debt of gratitude to the people of Cassadaga who responded to our call for help.  Had it not been for them, few cottages would have been left standing.  There are so many who are incapacitated from work among the population that our effective force numbers only about twenty men, utterly inadequate to cope with such a fire.  The Cassadaga people worked with a will and it is to their efforts to a great extent that we owe the comparatively light loss.

Mrs. Louisa Scheu wishes to express her personal thanks to the heroic efforts that were made to save her corner cottage.

The women deserve the greatest praise for their actions from beginning to end.  While most of the men came empty handed, nearly every woman brought a pail of water with her or carpets or something to fight fire with.  Lily Dale has always been a woman’s right place, and when it comes to fire she fills her place to perfection.

Adelbert Robinson and Ross Spencer had the hottest station at the fire.  They were on a verandah across from the Hearn cottage and gallery.  Had it not been for a canvass screen that was wet and placed between them and the fire, they could hardly have retained their position.  As it was, their faces were burned and Robinson’s trousers were so badly scorched that they fell to pieces.  Several declined to go to this point say they could not stand it.  On man said to them; “It all depends on you boys.”  Which was true for if that building had caught fire a large three story building would have been the next to go and a dozen other houses would have gone with it.

Riley Johnson nailed up the cottages that were broken open or burned so as to require it. The origin of the fire is a mystery and no blame can be attached to anyone. The insurance men say it was a remarkable feat putting it out.  Many villages with good fire departments could not have done it.  The alarm was given at about 4:30 and in less than two hours five cottages had been burned, one torn down and the fire was under control.

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