Brattleboro House Arson Fire, November 1869


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Disastrous Fire!


Loss, $126,900; Insurance, $86,500.

The Brattleboro House Totally Destroyed

Blake's Block Entirely Consumed

Chapin's Block Burned to Ashes.

The Bravery of the Firemen!

The Heroism of the Ladies.

Suspicions of Foul Play.

Phoenix No. 6, Plugged!


About 2 1-2 o'clock on Sunday morning, fire was discovered in the rear of the kitchen attached to the saloon of A. E. Eayrs, on the west side of Main-st. The night watchman, "Vet" Burlingame, at once sounded the alarm and ran to the shop of Estey & Co., to have the whistle blown.


The firemen were soon on the spot with their machines and streams were pouring upon the flames, which, owing to a strong north wind and the inflammable nature of the frame buildings, had in this brief space of time made rapid headway. The devouring element sent its forked tongues both north and south and in the short period of three hours the entire block ranging from High-st. to Elliot-st., was totally destroyed.


Scarcity of Water.


Owing to the recent destruction of our dams, etc., by the freshet of Oct. 4, our supply of water was terribly depleted. The Brattleboro House and Episcopal church hydrants were first used but gave out in an hour's time, and both at once; then the hydrant in front of Mrs. Goodhue's was drained; then the one on Walnut-st.


At last water was obtained from Whetstone Creek, Vinton's force pump doing excellent service in raising the water so as to be accessible to the machines. This water, of course, held out to the last, but the length of the hose required to bring it to the flames decreased the number of streams.


Phoenix No. 6 Crippled.


No. 6 was promptly at the scene of disaster and made ready to play. Nothing could be done. Obstructions of some kind were in the hose, were immediately searched for and found in the shape of two circular hard leather plugs, (both in the first length of leading hose), one of which was movable, but the other was so nicely adjusted and wedged in so firmly that a stout bladed knife was used to pry it out.


These obstructions being removed, the machine was immediately worked. A miserable stream about 20 feet high was all that could be thrown, however, and this decreased until absolutely nothing could be done. Thinking their suction out of order, it was examined and found all right, but another strainer was put on. No go yet.


The engine was then taken to the house, when the waterways were found filled with paper, which had clogged the works. The cylinder valves were full of foreign material; a piece of browned buckskin being found, wedged in. Plainly this machine had been tampered with for the purpose of crippling it at the fire.


There was a rumor that No. 4's hose had been cut, but on tracing it we found it had its foundation in the bursting of a rotten length or two which was endeavored to be used in conveying water from the brook.


Removing the Goods.


While the fire was in progress, the occupants of the various buildings, both north and south, were busily engaged in removing what they could of their goods to a place of safety. The ladies, who were out in good numbers, did splendid service in carrying articles beyond the reach of the flames.


Coffee Given to the Firemen.


Ladies by the score were busily engaged in making and distributing coffee to the exhausted firemen, for which each and every man returns his sincere thanks.


West Brattleboro Engines.


Rapid, No. 2, belonging at the West village, hastened to the spot and did yeoman's service. By their efforts alone were saved Masonic Hall, Wilder Smith's livery stable on High-st., and three small houses on Laundry Lane. Mr. J. A. Stevens deserves the thanks of the community for going to the West village with his team and aiding the boys to get their engine to the fire.


The Buildings on the East Side of Main-St.,


were in dangerous proximity to the flames and were on fire several times; but well directed pailsful of water kept them in check, and the extent of the damage done was the breaking of glass, the scorching of signs and wood-work, shrivelling of doors, etc.


Other Buildings.


The Revere House, Wood's stove shop, the Brattleboro House stable, A. B. Simonds' block, Orion Clark's barber shop and other adjacent buildings were pretty hot at one time. In fact a great bulk of the furniture, etc., at the Revere House and other buildings were removed; but thanks to the exertions of the firemen, the flames were stayed at the corner of Main and Elliot-sts., and the houses were soon again cool enough to be tenantable.


The Wind.


Some idea of the wind which was blowing at the time can be gleaned from the fact that cinders were blown across the brook and fired the roof of the dwelling house of Mr. James Coffin on the hill in the rear of Estey's shop. A gentleman also informs us that cinders struck him in the face at least 1 1-2 miles below here, while he was driving this way on the Vernon road.


The Course of the Flames.


The fire breaking out in Eayrs' saloon soon accumulated in volume and spread to the adjoining apartments, on the south, occupied by


B. N. Chamberlain,


Hat, cap and fur dealer. Mr. C. was absent from home; but his son was ably seconded by a corps of ladies and boys and many goods were removed and saved. Over the saloon and fur store were a suite of rooms occupied by


Mr. G. H. Newman,


who had been serenaded by the Brattleboro band but a few hours before in honor of his having recently taken unto himself a wife. So rapidly did the flames spread that Mr. N. and his bride had some difficulty in making their escape, not having time to gather up several articles of jewelry which were lying upon a table in the room. The raging mass of fire thence swept across an alley way on the south, and in an incredibly short space of time the


Brattleboro House


was completely enveloped. Superhuman efforts were made by Mr. Chas. G. Lawrence, his wife and son, aided by others, to save property; but very little was secured, however. The servant girls and clerks lost nearly all their clothing, etc., their baggage, glad to escape with their lives. Across another alley and next south stood


Blake's Block,


the saving of which hopes were entertained, although the occupants were busily engaged in removing their goods. The first store in this block was occupied by


Clark & Willard,


druggists, who succeeded in saving many of their goods upon the first floor; but those in the basement, consisting of oils, alcohol and other combustible material were soon adding fuel to the relentless flame. Next door to this place of business was the grocery store of


A. C. Davenport,


who saved but the minor portion of his goods, although every effort was made to remove them.


E. J. Carpenter,


news dealer and village librarian, occupied the next store. The contents of this store, consisting of books, periodicals, fancy goods and the volumes of the village library, were in great measure removed, although in a sadly damaged and scattered condition.


Cheney & Clapp,


booksellers and stationers, occupied the last store in this block, on the corner of Elliot and Main-sts. The goods on their first floor were nearly all carried out, but the paper stock in the basement was mostly destroyed. The flames were subdued at this point, leaving the lower portion of the south wall standing.


Dr. Horton.


Over the stores of Cheney & Clapp and E. J. Carpenter was the dwelling and office of Dr. Horton, who saved most of his household goods and books, through the superhuman efforts of a few ladies, prominent among whom were Miss Amanda Cook and Mrs. Gleason. $2,000 in government bonds, belonging to the doctor, are missing and are supposed to have been consumed. The doctor desires to thank Miss Cook, Mrs. Gleason, Major Bob Hardy, and Miss Minnehan, for the aid they extended, as also to all others who aided in saving goods.


DENTIST PETTEE,


had his office and dwelling over Clark & Willard's and A. C. Davenport's stores. Most of his dental tools and household goods were saved.


J. W. FROST & CO.


In the meantime the flames at the northward were not idle, but rapidly spreading soon devoured the grocery and provision store of J. W. Frost & Co., from which quantities of flour and other bulky goods were removed; although fully one-half of the stock was consumed.


MRS. E. M. FARNSWORTH.


Over the store of J. W. Frost & Co., was the dress-making rooms and dwelling of Mrs. E. M. Farnsworth, who, being without insurance, is a heavy loser, all her kitchen utensils, dining-room furniture, bed linen, together with a large amount of clothing, carpets and furniture being totally destroyed. A piano and several pieces of valuable furniture were saved.


RICHARDSON & HASTINGS,


butchers, next north, removed most of their meat and fixtures to Central Market, Elliot-st., thereby saving them.


JOHN RETTING,


furniture dealer, had a large stock of furniture, carpets and upholstered goods in the old brick building on the corner of High and Main-sts. Nearly all of Mr. R's goods were removed by fair hands before he reached the scene of the conflagration, he residing at West Brattleboro. Mr. R. wishes us to extend his heartfelt thanks to the ladies, who at the risk of their lives, so nobly rescued his property. The destruction of this building marked the close of the northward march of the flames.


WHO THE PROPERTY WAS OWNED BY.


The Brattleboro House and the block south were owned by J. R. & G. B. Blake of Boston. Dr. Chas. Chapin of this village owned all the other buildings.


ARRESTED ON SUSPICION.


Mr. A. E. Eayrs and his son were arrested on Sunday about 9 o'clock on suspicion of having caused the fire. They were held in duress until Monday afternoon, when, upon investigation, no evidence being found against them, they were released.


TO THE FIREMEN AND LADIES,


the gratitude of our citizens is eminently due. The firemen, under the efficient direction of Chief Engineer, Col. S. M. Waite, did more than their duty, while as to the ladies, enough can not be said in their praise. While extending our thanks to those who deserve them, let us not forget to point with scorn and contempt at the inhuman bipeds who stood calmly by and lifted not a finger to stay the flames or save the goods.


INSUFFICIENT ALARM.


We have called attention in these columns but recently to the need of ringing all the bells in town and making the alarm at fires more general. Many of our citizens knew not until late on Sunday morning that a fire had visited us. Among the goodly number were your humble servant and the senior editor of the Phoenix.


LOSSES IN GENERAL.


J. R. & G. B. Blake and Dr. Chapin lose $40,000 on buildings; insurance, $25,000. J. Retting, $5,000; covered by insurance. Richardson & Hastings, $1,200; fully insured. J. W. Frost & Hastings Co., $8,000; insurance $7,000. Mrs. E. M. Farnsworth, $2,500; no insurance. A. E. Eayrs, $5,000; fully insured. B. N. Chamberlain, $6,000; insurance, $4,500. G. H. Newman, $1,000; no insurance. Chas. G. Lawrence, $18,000; insurance, $8,000. Clark & Willard, $23,000; insurance, $10,500. A. C. Davenport, $5,000; insurance, $4,000. E. J. Carpenter, $2,000; insurance, $800. Village Library Association, $1,500; covered by insurance. Cheney & Clapp, $8,000; insurance, $12,000. Dr. Horton, $2,500; no insurance. Dentist Pettee, $200; no insurance.


THE COMPANIES WHO HOLD THE RISKS.


Corn. Exchange, N.Y., $2,500; Hartford Fire, $11,000; Phoenix, Hartford, $11,000; Phoenix of Brooklyn, N.Y., $1,500; Springfield Fire, $3,000; Ætna, Hartford, $7,000; City Fire, Hartford, $5,000; Home, N.Y., $2,300; Lorillard, N.Y., $1,000; People's Worcester, Mass., $4,500; Bay State, Worcester, $1,000; Vermont Mutual, $20,000; International, N.Y., $1,000; Hanover, N.Y., $1,000; Home, N.H., $6,800; Security, N.Y., $3,000; North America, Hartford, $4,000; Insurance Co. of North America, Philadelphia, $2,000.


MINOR DAMAGES.


Those who suffered to a greater or less degree by fire and water, and through the breakage caused by the removal of their goods, aside from those who had the lion's share of the fire, are enumerated below: E. A. Wood, F. C. Edwards, E. G. Simonds & Co., Perry & Holding, Orion Clark, Wilder Smith, O. J. Pratt; Pratt, Wright & Co., Cune & Brackett, Miss H. J. Gill; Houghton, Spencer & Co., H. F. Houghton, Thompson & Ranger, Glover & Cutting, Vermont Phoenix, F. D. Cobleigh, Fred Simonds, Leonard & Roess, Mrs. T. Avery, T. M. Titus & Co., P. Simonds, Henry Harrington, I. N. Thorn & Col, C. C. Frost, H. Soule, John W. Watson, Savings Bank, F. S. Brackett, G. A. Boyden. (These losses have been promptly adjusted by the companies holding the risks.)


AFTER THE FIRE.


Really, we Americans are an elastic people and can conform ourselves to any manner of circumstances. Early Monday morning and while the ruins were still smoking, we learned that nearly every loser by the fire had secured quarters and made arrangements for going ahead with their business. J. Retting, furniture dealer, has his furniture ware-rooms in the capacious dining-hall of the Lawrence Water Cure. Richardson & Hastings are carrying on the meat business at Central Market on Elliot-st. J. W. Frost & Co. occupy the Lower Town Hall as a grocery store, where they will remain until they build upon the old site. Mrs. E. M. Farnsworth has dress-making rooms in Granite Row. B. N. Chamberlain has a fine stock of hats, caps and furs in Granite Row. Cheney & Clapp have also secured suitable rooms in Granite Row and are ready for business, Clark & Willard have removed to the Hardware store of Clark & Franks and are prepared to put up prescriptions at short notice. A. C. Davenport will temporarily occupy a portion of the stove store of E. A. Wood but will probably erect a suitable place for a grocery store on the vacant lot on Elliot-st. E. J. Carpenter has a news depot at the shoe store of E. G. Simonds & Co. on Elliot-st. Dentist Pettee has dental rooms over the store of H. A. Goodrich in Herrick and Wyman's block. Dr. Horton is at present domiciled with Mr. Chas. Crosby.


LOSSES ALREADY ADJUSTED.


Village Library, $1,800; E. J. Carpenter, $600; A. C. Davenport, $3,800. All little enough, goodness knows.


Vermont Record and Farmer, November 5, 1869.


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Recalls Fire And Flood.


O. H. Butterfield of Ann Arbor, Mich.,

Helped Man Brakes at Brattleboro's Big Fire in 1869.


Editor of The Phoenix:---


It was with great satisfaction that I read the very correct story of the two great events which happened in Brattleboro during the month of October, 1869 (the flood and the fire), published in The Phoenix of November 7, 1919.


If my memory is correct there is one error in the statement of facts. In speaking of the freshet it states that all the bridges across Whetstone brook from the railroad bridge to the covered bridge in West Brattleboro were swept away by the flood.


The Elm street bridge was not carried away by the flood. Fountain engine No. 4, at the time of the fire, October 31, 1869, was housed on South Main street and the only way left to reach the Main street fire was to go up Canal street and across the Elm street bridge, which caused much delay in reaching the fire.


At the time of the freshet I was in the employ of the late Sewall Morse, making changes in the drygoods store of O. J. Pratt. I left the Pratt store at 11 o'clock Monday forenoon, October 4, to go to the Morse shop, which was located just south of Smith & Coffin's sash and door factory, but when I reached the Main street bridge it was not thought safe to cross the bridge, so I was at the water's edge with many others and saw the Dwinell furniture shop swept away; also saw Mr. Fredericks carried over the Dwinell dam on the pile of lumber on which he had sought safety in the Estey lumber yard.


At the time of the big fire, October 31, 1869, I was living on Green street and was very soon at the fire after the first alarm was sounded. I was not, at the time, connected with the fire department, but soon saw that all available man power was needed at the engine brakes, and gave what assistance I could at the brakes until the fire was under control.


I wish to say a word about the man to whom I believe can be credited the saving of the buildings on the east side of Main street, the late John W. Burnap, of the firm of Heustis & Burnap, harness manufacturers, who was then chief engineer of the Brattleboro fire department. When he saw the cornices of the buildings on the east side in flames, and the water from the hose hardly reaching the fire, he ran to the fire engine located at the cistern near the town house and with hat in hand cried out in loud voice: "For God's sake, boys, give us a little more water." We at the brakes did our best to furnish a little more water, and it was that little that saved from destruction the entire business section on the east side of main street.


It was a trying time for any man, but Chief Burnap never faltered in his efforts to save a part of the town.


O. H. Butterfield
Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 22.


Vermont Phoenix, November 28, 1919.


Oscar H. Butterfield was a descendant of the early Brattleboro settler Benjamin Butterfield.


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Brattleboro House In 1865

John Blake's Elm Tree

Horse Trough


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Fire Whistle


Estey & Green have established a steam whistle on their Melodeon Factory in this village, and at six in the morning, high twelve, and again at six o'clock in the evening, its notes of warning may be heard throughout the village. This is a great public convenience to those not within the reach of a time-piece or whose clocks and watches cannot be made to keep correct time.


Vermont Phoenix, May 8, 1862.


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Another Word About the Whistle.---Since the whistle, attached to the boiler at the Melodeon Factory, has come to be recognized as an 'institution,' throughout our own and indeed the neighboring towns, 'tis fair that the public should know what all this 'tooting' is about. The legitimate use of the whistle is for the signals given at six o'clock, morning; twelve, noon; and one and six o'clock afternoon;--thus furnishing a convenient standard of time for all who come within its sound. Its value as a fire-alarm, however, is perhaps most apparent; though through the enthusiastic patriotism of some one, like a certain cannon in our village, it went off once at 'half-cock,' and the firemen came running to their posts to find that nothing had happened but a Union victory.--Upon the actual occurrence of a fire, a few days subsequent, the whistle gave the first signal, but like the shepherd boy's repeated cries of 'Wolf!' the sounds failed to alarm many who had been before deceived. Hereafter the whistle will be used only for the purpose of signalling the hours before mentioned, and its use at any other time, in the way of short and repeated 'toots,' will signify that 'sunthin's burning.' Mr. E. Bardwell presides at the stop cock.


Vermont Phoenix, June 5, 1862

The Estey employee attending the whistle was Ebenezer Bardwell.


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Arson


Charles W. Wilcox discussed the "tampering by some evil disposed persons with the engine and the hose of Phoenix No. 6" in his article "Semi-Centennial of Fire and Flood" in the Vermont Phoenix for November 7, 1919---


"It took a long time to remove carefully placed obstructions in the leading hose of the Phoenix engine and put it in working order, while had this machine been available from the first it was thought the fire would have been arrested before much progress had been made."


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Phoenix No. 6 Crippled.


No. 6 was promptly at the scene of disaster, and made ready to play. Nothing could be done. Obstructions of some kind were in the hose, were immediatly searched for and found in the shape of two circular hard leather plugs, (both in the first length of leading hose), one of which was movable, but the other was so nicely adjusted and wedged in so firmly that a stout bladed knife was used to pry it out. These obstructions being removed, the machine was immediately worked. A miserable stream about 20 feet high was all that could be thrown, however, and this decreased until absolutely nothing could be done. Thinking their suction out of order, it was examined and found all right, but another strainer was put on. No go yet. The engine was then taken to the house, when the waterways were found filled with paper, which had clogged the works. The cylinder valves were full of foreign material; a piece of browned buckskin being found wedged in. Plainly this machine had been tampered with for the purpose of crippling it at the fire.


There was a rumor that No. 4's hose had been cut, but on tracing it we found it had its foundation in the bursting of a rotten length or two which was endeavored to be used in conveying water from the brook.


Vermont Record and Farmer, November 5, 1869.


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