Curwensville, PA Forest Fire, May 1891



Everybody Hurrying Off to Curwensville to See a Big Fire that Did Not Occur—Letters from Correspondents at Other Points


CLEARFIELD, May 12. Sunday was a big day at Clearfield, with the woods on fire burning fiercely south, west and north of town, and people hurrying to and fro hunting rigs to take them to Curwensville where it was reported that the tannery at that point was on fire, and an engine had been telegraphed for to the Philipsburg fire department, and a special train would be sent to Clearfield for volunteers to fight fire; and the Bridgeport saw mill and all the houses had been burned, and Irvin’s mill was in immediate danger from the fires all around it. The air was cloudy with smoke and southwest everything looked to be burning. Dense volumes of smoke obscured the sun during the afternoon and evening, and the high wind hurried the fires over mountain and ridge with the speed of a race horse. Vehicles of all sorts were hurrying to Curwensville from after dinner to 4 o’clock. People were waiting for the train to come to take them up there to fight fire, but the train did not come, neither did the engine from Philipsburg. About 5 o’clock the road was black with people returning from Curwensville very much disappointed. The tannery did not burn, neither did Irvin’s sawmill or the mill at Bridgeport, a mile or so above Curwensville. There was a good deal of fire on the mountains near Curwensville which soon spent its fury before the stiff breeze prevailing at the time. At Penville, six miles above Curwensville, the whole country turned out to fight fire, and by firing against the fire the town was saved. All stage lines were seriously interfered with by the forest fires. The Penfield stage met with a thrilling experience Saturday evening while on its way to Clearfield. It had several long stretches of burning woods to drive through, the passengers covered their heads and faces and the horses were whipped to a running pace and away dashed the stage coach down the burning hills into Clearfield. A teamster having a load of bark on the same road was compelled to cut harnesses and run for his life, both sides of the road was all afire, his wagon and bark caught fire also and were also destroyed. The damage to the timber on the mountain cannot be guessed at with any degree of accuracy. With floods, frozen fruit buds and blossoms, gardens and grain drying out, and forest fires, one wanders what to expect next.

Daily Gazette and Bulletin, Williamsport, PA 14 May 1891