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Burlington, Iowa Fire

February 3, 1860

Fire in Burlington, Iowa. - This day, in Burlington, Iowa, the store and stock of Messrs. Ross & Whipple, hardware-merchants, were burned. Loss $30,000.

Vincent's Semi-annual United States Register, Jan-Jun 1860 page 73



A General Conflagration almost--A Hardware and Grocery Store Burnt Loss $18,000--Insurance $13,000.

At about 4 o'clock on yesterday morning the hardware establishment of Ross & Whipple, on the south side of Jefferson street, between Main and Front streets, was discovered to be in flames, and before the alarm became general the entire building, three stories in height, was a mass of fire. The engines were soon on the ground, but proved useless, and the entire contents of the building were consumed, leaving only the bare walls. A strong wind was blowing from the north and in a few moments the fire was communicated to the roof of the three story brick building occupied by E. Geschwend as a grocery store, on Main street, the fire communicating to the rear portion. The contents of the store were removed and efforts were made by forming a line of men to the river and passing buckets of water to save the building, but the fire had gained such headway that it was found impossible to subdue it, and the building was left to its fate. The fire left nothing but the bare walls, which were pulled down late in the day.

The surrounding buildings were in imminent danger during the progress of the fire, but by strenuous exertion were saved. It is extraordinary that the whole block was not burnt. Senator Grimes' large block was protected by its slate roof. The whole surface was covered with burning sparks, which could not fail to have ignited had it been composed of any more combustible material. The origin of the fire could not be ascertained, as Mr Ross avers that no fire existed on his premises after four o'clock of the previous evening, and the cause remains a mystery. Yesterday morning about 10 o'clock a portion of the north street, fell with a terrible crash upon the roof of the rear portion of Ben. Ezekiel's clothing store, breaking it in, the whole mass falling upon the first floor. Several persons were almost immediately beneath it, but fortunately escaped injury.

The loss will be heavy--most of it, however covered by insurance.

Messrs. Ross & Whipple's loss is estimated at $11,000, with an insurance of $5,000 in the Home Insurance Company of New York, $3.000 in the Etna, and $1,000 in the Charter Oak, both of Hartford, Conn. No part of their stock was saved and a few of their books only were saved in a damaged condition. A number of boxes of household furniture, belonging to Mr Sheward which were stored in the third story [sic] of the building, were also consumed; no insurance. The building belonged to Messrs. Mauro & Taylor and was not insured. It was valued at about $2,000.

The new brick building occupied by E. Geschwend as a grocery, was owned by Louis Kiescher, and was insured in the Phoenix Insurance Company of Hartford for $2,400. Its value was about $2,800. The loss of Mr Geschwend from damage to his goods by removal is estimated at $800. He had no insurance on his property. This is the second time he has been burnt out, though in neither instance has the fire originated on his premises.

Considerable damage was done in removing the goods of Messrs. J. H. Taylor & Co, W. H. Mauro and J. Pilger, grocers, and Ben. Ezekiel, tailor and clothier, which is fully covered by insurance. Mr Keller, saloon keeper, also sustained a heavy loss in the removal of his fixtures etc. The total loss may be estimated at about $18,000, and the insurance amounts to about $13,000.

We are requested by the sufferers at this fire, whose goods were removed, to return their acknowledgments to the friends, whose active exertions saved a large amount of property from destruction.

This is the heaviest fire that has occured in this city since the fire of 1856, when Kimball & Co., J. W. & C. A. White, and others were burned out. As it occured on a very cold and windy night in a compact block entirely built up on Jefferson street, and nearly so clear round to Valley, and as the fire engines were frozen up and useless, it is almost a miracle that the whole block at least did not go.

The house of Antoine Berger, in the rear of the fire yesterday morning, it was supposed must be burnt, and was abandoned to destruction. Antoine removed his horses and carts and other valuables supposing that the shower of sparks and brands would certainly set fire to the old frame house. But it escaped, and stands a memento of early times and pioneer life in Burlington. If not the first house erected here, it certainly looks it.

The Burlington Weekly Hawkeye, Burlington, IA 4 Feb 1860


A number of persons, considering the remains of the late fire public property, appropriated axes and other utensils which had been taken from the ruins. A reminder from the Marshal that the law did not recognize such to be the fact, brought them back in a hurry, anxious to make amends for the mistake.

The Burlington Weekly Hawkeye, Burlington, IA 4 Feb 1860


A dispute arose between two young men at the fire on Tuesday morning, whereupon one drew a penknife and inflicted a slight wound in his opponents leg, from which the blood flowed freely. No other damage was done and the parties became reconciled through the mediation of friends. No arrests were made. We withhold names.

The Burlington Weekly Hawkeye, Burlington, IA 4 Feb 1860



Burlington, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 31.

A fire this morning destroyed the entire stock of Ross & Whipple, hardware merchants, and the grocery store of E. G. Geschwend. Total loss estimated at $30,000; insurance not known.

The New York Times, New York, NY 1 Feb 1860

Articles transcribed by Nan of Harry.  Thanks Nan!


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