Clarksville, TN "The Great Fire of 1878", Apr 1878 - A Mass of Ruins


Terrible Conflagration At Clarksville, Tenn., An Area Of Fifteen Acres.

The Whole Center of the Business Part of the Town a Mass of Ruins.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn., April 16 – The fire which has been looked for among underwriters as sure to occur in this place, in consequence of the false economy of property owners in building frame rears to their business houses, took place Saturday night. About 11 o'clock the alarm was sounded. The flames, which were first discovered in the rear of KINCANNON, WOOD & Co's tin and house-furnishing store, No. 41 Franklin street, soon began to leap forth and to grasp the tinder-boxes which lay contiguous thereto in profusion. Nearly all the business houses in this block, on the south side of Franklin, between First and second streets, have been extended by the addition of frame rears. The fire soon spread to the adjoining building, the Franklin bank and J. G. JOSEPH, clothier, and kept on in its heated career until the Franklin hall on the east was reached. Here the flames seemed to hold for a time, but only to take a fresh start in the rear of Franklin hall. EMERY & PERKIN'S carpenter shop was soon destroyed, and then the flames leaped across second street to CALDWELL & SHELTON'S livery stable, which was almost in an instant in flames. Eighteen feet east was the beautiful Melodeon hall, but recently built, by JOHN S. ELDER. Being a frame building, adjoined on the east by three frames, it was but one gulp to the devouring element. The Tobacco Leaf office, a brick, metal-roof building, soon succumbed to the heat, and melted before the fiery blast like tissue paper. Next the flames spread to the Central house, west side of Second street, and continued on their desolating path, carrying with them the residence of CHARLEY AVERETT, the hook and ladder hall and grocery warehouse. The residence of MRS. JENNIE E. JOHNSON, known as the old Boyd place, was soon in flames, the occupant, MR. SAMUEL JOHNSON, having scarcely time to remove his furniture. On the north side of Franklin, corner of Second, T. P. BARK'S large frame agricultural implement and seed store was at last forced to yield, on account of the intense heat caused by the burning of CALDWELL & SHELTON'S livery stable. The flames lapped over Franklin street to BUCK'S barber shop, and soon set fire to MR. SULLIVAN'S grocery, which spread the flames to CHARLEY LEHMAN'S saloon. Here the fire stopped on the north side of Franklin street, but with a seeming knowledge of the fact that the old court house was and has been for years an eye sore, it pounced upon that old temple of justice, and soon blotted it from our vision. Two bricks in the rear of MR. SULLIVAN'S grocery were the next victims. From thence the fire engine-house and office of POLK G. JOHNSON, clerk and master, were licked up. From BURKE'S frame building, the dwelling and blacksmith shop of COAN DUNCAN were fired, from which the flames were communicated to MRS. M. E. A. WHEATLEY'S residence on the north side of Franklin, between Second and Third streets.

The excitement at this time was intense, and the general impression was that it was a hopeless case, and that the whole city would be destroyed. Telegraphic dispatches were sent to Nashville for aid in the early part of the conflagration, and the news reached us that one of Nashville's engines was at the depot, which proved to be a false report. In order to prevent the fire from spreading down Franklin street powder was placed in the building adjoining MACAULEY'S drug store, from the effects of which the walls were soon shaken to the ground. This, together with the fire walls of Macauley & Allwell's block, stopped the fire in this direction; while the high fire walls of Hillman's block checked the flames on the opposite side of the street.

Clarksville now presents a picture like unto Chicago. The whole center of the business portion of the town is a mass of ruins. The loss is estimated at from $250,000 to 300,000. The cause of the fire was evidently the act of an incendiary. At the time of the alarm a coroner's jury were sitting at the market house on the body of COLUMBUS SEAY, colored, who was shot and killed by officer FRANK PHILLIPS for resisting an arrest. Threats were openly made in the presence of certain parties that the city should be burned. The authorities will take steps to ferret out the fiend.

Fifty special policemen are patrolling the streets of Clarksville to-night. Nine hundred hogsheads of tobacco were destroyed by the fire and rain. The list of houses embraces all kinds of business, and among them a newspaper office, court house, bank, two jewelry stores, two dry goods stores, eight groceries, two public halls and ten residences.

The Atlanta Constitution Georgia 1878-04-17