Keene, NH Fire, Nov 1866

FIRE.----About half past five last Friday evening, the 23d inst., a fire broke out in the cellar of Messrs. Geould, Richardson & Skinner's store, on the West side of Central Square, and with the inflammable material about, it made such rapid progress, that in a few minutes, following a stair-way, it burst out from the roof four stories above. The fire took from the communication with the light of a lantern, of a gas arising from a fluid called Union oil which one of the Clerks was drawing from a cask. Very quickly after a cask near by, containing Kerosene oil, exploded scattering the flames in every direction, among barrels of oil, dry, empty boxes and straw. The fire started in the back part of the cellar and quickly forced its way through the floor where were stowed a large variety of fine carpets, and crockery; some of which was completely destroyed, and some seriously damaged. There was a connection of the back store with a dwelling house in the rear, fronting on Winter street, and owned by S. A. Gerould Esq., which was considerably damaged in the progress of the fire up the stair way. This store is almost the centre of the largest, most compact and busiest block in the village; and for a few minutes there was imminent danger that the whole would be swept away. But, thanks to the almost superhuman efforts of the firemen, who in less than five minutes after the first alarm, were on the spot with their machines, and, beyond the expectations of every one, the fire was quickly subdued without doing further injury. Of course, the damaged sustained by the hasty removal of goods from this and adjacent stores, is considerable, and is variously estimated from three to five thousand dollars. Some of the goods removed have never been returned; and we learn that the Messrs. Gerould & Co., who dealt largely in watches, jewelry and silver ware, have suffered heavily in this way. The daring and perilous act of Mr. Edwin Pratt, while the fire was at its height, is worthy of special notice. In on of the upper rooms of the store were three or four kegs of powder; and on being informed of the fact, Mr. Pratt at once rushed up stairs and, though surrounded by flame and smoke, succeeded in finding it an removing it away from danger. We are credibly informed that one of the kegs was already considerably charred. This is a rare instance of courage in the most threatening danger; and but for it, the whole building, probably the entire block would have been consumed. And it is a most striking contrast with the conduct of two women who, while standing near the building, were rejoicing and congratulating themselves over the calamity, and on the chances they should have to buy damaged goods cheap. These women are in good condition for purgatory any moment. Had the fire held out a few minutes longer, we should have been compelled to stand by utterly helpless, and witness the ravages of the flames with no means to check them. Simply because we have no adequate supply of water. As it is, when we look at the head-way which the fire had made, it seems miraculous that it was by any means controlled. We owe out safety to the faithfulness and energy of the firemen and citizens, and we hope their most substantial usefulness will not be forgotten when we come to fix our yearly stipend which the town votes to pay at the annual meeting.

New-Hampshire Sentinel, Keene, NH 29 Nov 1866