Hamilton, Essex, Revere, MA Great North Shore Fire, Mar 1910


Conflagration at South Hamilton Sweeps Away 21 Buildings and Renders 15 Homeless---Ice Houses Burn in Essex, Seven Homes in Revere.



Started in "cottage" house in Hamilton, presumably from a defective flue.

Burned a strip three-quarters of a mile long through business, residential and summer colony sections of Hamilton, destroying twenty-one buildings at a loss of $100,000.

Ember, carried by gale, set fire to and destroyed eight ice houses in Essex, a mile away; blazed path two miles long through timberland and endangered Essex Center.

Steamers from Beverly and Ipswich forced to pump from a rain water pond in Hamilton. Old Wenham handtub "Phoenix" saved only building left standing in burned area.

In Essex steamer from Salem was mired and firemen set backfires to save summer camps.

Loss in both towns estimated at $175,000.

A March gale, running with throttle wide open, sped yesterday over Eastern Massachusetts, leaving disastrous fires, with a total loss of over $200,000 in its wake.

The North Shore towns were the worst sufferers. In South Hamilton twenty-one buildings were burned and 15 persons made homeless. Starting from an unknown cause in a dwelling, the flames were scattered by the gale until three-quarters of a square mile had been burned over.

In Essex the village was threatened by a fire that, after destroying eight ice houses, valued, with their contents, at $60,000, spread two miles through woodland to the border of Essex Center, threatening every house there. By hard work, after a five-hour fight, the townspeople saved their homes.

In Revere, on the Saugus line, seven houses were burned at a loss of $25,000.

In Ashland, western Middlesex county, three houses were destroyed and the town threatened.

In Boston, a fire record was established when the department answered 41 alarms before nightfall. Most of these were for small fires, many in the grass, that menaced adjacent property.


Boston Journal Special Wire.

Hamilton, March 25.---A trail of smoldering embers, three quarters of a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, extending from the heart of Hamilton's business section through its residential and summer colony sections to the Wenham line, marks tonight the course taken today by the most disastrous fire in Essex county's history.

In Hamilton 21 buildings, eight of them dwelling houses, were leveled, and in the town of Essex embers, carried for more than a mile through the air by the strong southerly gale that swept the flames irresistibly through Hamilton, set fire to and destroyed eight ice houses, valued with ice stored at $80,000 and set a score of roof fires.

From the ice houses the flames spread northeast through the woodland for two miles and threatened to wipe out Essex Centre. By strenuous work on the part of a large fire fighting force which included practically every man in the village, the flames were checked at the edge of the village.

The total loss will exceed $160,000.

Assistance Called For.

The district bounded by Mill, Ashley, Willow and Main streets in Hamilton is tonight a heap of ruins, lit by the fitful glare of spasmodic grass fires.

The fire is believed to have started from defective flue in a small cottage house on Mill street, in the southern part of the town. The cottage was occupied by George Adams. The fire made considerable progress before it was discovered.

A hastily organized bucket brigade of men, women and children fought the flames at the outset. The arrival of the single engine and two hosecarts, all of the fire-fighting equipment Hamilton boasts, left the force of firefighters still hopelessly inadequate, and assistance was asked of Beverly, Ipswich and Salem.

Each of the three sent a steamer and twenty men, the Ipswich and the Beverly steamers coming over the road and the Salem engine being shipped on a special train consisting of a flatcar and locomotive. The Ipswich and the Beverly engines on their arrival were forced to pump water from a rain water pond in a field off Asbury street.

Handtub Checks Blaze.

The Salem engine did not arrive until 3 o'clock. At that time the flames had swept through Hamilton to the Wenham line, where the old Wenham had tub Phoenix and its volunteer crew, pumping water from a well, had managed to save the home of John Brown, the only building left standing in the burned area tonight.

By this time the citizens of Essex were having their troubles. The embers, whirled in upon the town by the stiff March gale, had set fire to the icehouse owned by Charles W. Meehan on the shores of Lake Chebacco, and the Salem engine, without having been taken from its special, was sent on over the rail to Essex.

The special was the only train to pass over the line in three hours, all traffic over the main way between Newburyport and Salem being held up by the fire, which crossed the tracks at Asbury street, taking away the flag-shed and crossing gates.

On its arrival in Essex the Salem steamer was run to the shores of Lake Chebacco near the burning icehouse. In trying to run it down to the shore in order that it might pump water from the lake the wheels became mired to the hubs, stalling it and putting it effectually out of commission.

Backfiring was then resorted to by the firemen to save the summer camps along the shore, most of which belong to Boston and Salem people.

Engines Flood Ruins.

Fifteen people were rendered homeless by the flames in Hamilton. The homeless were cared for by neighbors. Most of the burned buildings carried some insurance, but it is estimated that the aggregate did not amount to over $50,000. Early tonight the fire had about spent itself, save in the coal yard of Timothy Moynahan at Mill and Union streets, where 3000 tons of coal are burning.

The Beverly and Ipswich engines will stay in Hamilton all night, flooding the smoking ruins.

The burned district is cut almost in halves by the Eastern division of the Boston and Maine. The flames destroyed the telegraph poles on the railroad's right of way, and all electric car service into Hamilton was held up by the falling and grounding of trolley wires. The telegraph and telephone wires also went out of commission soon after the fire began.

Many houses outside the main fire zone were ignited by sparks and damaged. The direct progress of the flames was to the northward, however. From the Adams House the gale carried sparks to the house owned by George H. Gibey on Asbury street, a quarter of a mile away.

Buildings Destroyed.

From that time, with the wind acting as an incendiary throughout the district, the fire was beyond all control. Building after building ignited and almost at once became a furnace. The flames spread so quickly from house to house that the occupants had barely time to flee, leaving all their goods behind.

Fields and other open spaces 200 and [ineligible] feet across were jumped by the fire. The wind carrying the sparks through the air.

The house, barns and kennels of George Thomas, a well known dog fancier, were destroyed. Mr. Thomas saved all his dogs but one, a valuable Boston Bull. Family heirlooms and jewelry belonging to Mrs. Thomas and valued at $5000 were lost.

The barns, coal hay shed of Thomas Moynihan gave new fury to the flames.

The Lovett wet wash plant went next, then the Shamrock building, with the garage and machinery shop on the first floor, and then the blacksmith shop.

A large open space beyond the blacksmith shop was relied upon to check the progress of the flames to the north. The sparks set the roof of the home of Mrs. Dr. Thayer afire. The house went next, and, the fire unchecked, claimed next the home of Mrs. B. A. Pierson.

Summer Home Burns.

The flames were now skirting the summer colony, and the beautiful residence of Dr. Orrin Cilley of Boston went next. From here the fire approached the Wenham line, a barn owned by John Brown catching afire.

It was here the old Wenham tub and its gallant crew made its stand. Working with might and main, and turning their stream on the Brown home, they managed to save it after forty minutes of alost[sic] superman efforts. The Ipswich engine was the first of the outside station near the ruins of Dr. Culley's residence on Asbury street, and pumped from a rain water pond, the only water supply available.

The Beverly engine on its arrival was forced to take up its station at the same spot, the two working side by side all afternoon.

Essex narrowly escaped Hamilton's fate. All efforts to save the ice houses proved futile, after the miring of the Salem steamer, and though the backfiring tactics adopted by the firemen saved the summer camps, the flames spread to surrounding trees, and after that the flames marched steadily forward.

Centennial Grove.

Part of the famous Centennial Grove was destroyed and considerable damage was done to standing timber. Through the afternoon the townspeople assisted by helpers from adjacent places, fought the flames with hand chemicals, extinguishers, brooms and water.

Early tonight the ice houses were still burning, but the fire was well under control. Through the night "beaters" will patrol the woods, ready to check any further outbreak.

Five of the icehouses were owned by Charles Sears, and the others by Enoch Storey. The loss of the former is estimated at $50,000 and Storey's at nearly $10,000. Damage to the timber land will bring the total loss to $75,000.

In South Essex a serious brush fire threatened the summer residence of Frank E. Burnham of East Boston.

The Boston Journal, Boston, MA 26 Mar 1910