Keene, NH Fire, Aug 1867

DESTRUCTIVE FIRE in KEENE.---On Monday afternoon of this week Keene was visited by a conflagration which in the amount of property destroyed, and in detriment to the manufacturing and laboring interests of the place, was by far the most disastrous of any which our citizens have ever experienced. The flames broke out at about half-past four o'clock, and in less than as hour and a half, the entire group of shops, store houses, dry houses, &c., &c., with only one exception, situated on the south side of Mechanic street, together with Mr. Prindell's dwelling house, and that of Mr. Kidder on the opposite side of the street, and Mr. Bridgman's barn, were smouldering[sic] mass of ruins. The fire originated in Nims & Crossfield's engine house, where it is supposed that a puff of flame from the fire under the boiler set fire to some waste which was lying near, and from thence the flames spread with almost incredible rapidity throughout the whole building and to those adjoining. So rapid was the spread of the fire that several of the workmen were unable to leave the building by the stairways and doors but were obliged to jump from the windows and and make their escape as best they might. Persons who were in the immediate vicinity at the time say that it was not over three minutes after the alarm was first given before the whole building was a mass of flames. On the West the fire was quickly communicated to the building occupied by Nims & Crossfield as an office and by Calvin Bryant and Sprague & Baker; thence it spread to the shop occupied by Edwards & Cook, carriage makers, and to that occupied by Wilcox & Russell, carriage makers. Here the further progress of the flames towards Court street was stopped by pulling down a small building occupied by G. F. A. Brown, painter. The various shops, storehouses, &c., situated in the rear of these buildings were entirely destroyed and several dwelling houses on Court street were greatly endangered and were only saved by the most active exertions. On the east of the steam shop Mr. Prindell's house was burned to the ground as also was Mr. Bridgman's barn, while other buildings in the vicinity were several times on fire. Mr. B's house was only saved by pulling down the shed which connected his house and barn. On the North side of the street and just opposite the steam shop, Mr. Arba Kidder's dwelling house was on fire and entirely consumed very soon after the conflagration first broke out, while Mr. Geo. D. Dort's house just west of this was several times on fire and was only saved by the unwearied exertions of both firemen and citizens. Other dwelling houses as well as the shops on this side of the street were in imminent danger as their charred and blackened roofs and cornices fully testify. The fire department was promptly on hand and although there was some delay in getting the engines in operation the firemen worked bravely and effectively and there seems to be a universal feeling that the engineers never performed their duties in a more efficient and satisfactory manner than on this occasion. A large number of citizens were in attendance and rendered faithful service in clearing the shops, dwelling houses &c., of their contents, and in preventing the spread of the flames, although the extreme hear of the fire rendered this no easy task. The supply of water held out remarkably well, but the question inevitably arises as to what would have been done had this fire happened in the dry time of a year ago when the reservoirs contained little if any water, and the choice of our citizens now as heretofore lies between a series of conflagrations such as we have been visited with during the last two years on the one hand and the obtaining of a full and reliable supply of water on the other. That the course of the fire was checked as it was cannot be regarded as otherwise than highly fortunate--- providential, almost---as at one time it seemed hardly possible but that the flames would sweep through on either side to Court and Washington streets and thence none knew where the devastation would end. A light wind from the south rendered the danger all the more imminent and had the wind been from the north there can be little doubt but that the north side of our square, at least, would now have been among the things that were.