VERDE HERITAGE 1899: JEROME FIRE, May 19

"Jerome, Ariz., May 19 --- (Special correspondence of The Republican) ---For the eighth time in its history this unfortunate camp has been scourged by the fiery element. A list of the conflagrations would look like a catalogue of annual dates. On Christmas Eve, 1897, fire wiped out the camp in one hour and forty minutes. It sprang up again like a mushroom after a shower. On the 11th of last September the demon appeared again and in less than two hours had laid the town waste once more [burning the business district, hospital, company housing, etc.]. It was rebuilt anew this time with a partial attempt at solidity and fire resistance. Then the incorporation of the town occurred and an edict was issued by the city council forbidding further erection of wooden buildings within the corporate limits. Some suits on this were pending when the fire of this morning wiped them off the record, and at the same time again devastated the suffering community."

"At two minutes past ten o'clock this morning the cry of a small boy shouting 'fire!' alarmed Dr. E. T. Cody, whose office was in the second story of the Leland House, conducted as a lodgings by Mrs. Charles Sutter. The doctor raced down the stairs and seeing smoke issuing from the small office hurried into the apartment and found the room in a blaze. He grabbed a blanket and endeavored to smother it, but it had gained too much headway and he was forced to desist. Dr. Cody retreated into the hall and made for his office to attempt the salvage of valuable surgical instruments and his library, diploma and valuable papers. So rapid was the progress of the flames that before he could get down stairs he was severely burned about the face and hands, and succeeded in saving only a few instruments. In a trice the roof was afire and the blaze had spread to adjoining buildings on the north and the fiery tongues reached across the narrow street and lapped the frame houses opposite. Everything on both sides of the street to the north was consumed. The fire then turned the corner to the west and licked up the wooden saloons and shacks in its course in that direction to and beyond the Red Light district. Thence it ate on south, taking in both sides of the street up to Dave Connor's new brick hotel where for a time it stopped, being fought bitterly by a force of men from the smelter who had come tumbling down the hill at the sound of the great siren. Connor's building offered a stubborn resistance. But finally the P. & B. roofing caught and in a short while a section as large as a dining table fell in and in a second the light furniture and woodwork of the upper story, utilized for lodgers, was in flames. In the meantime the fire had gone around the corner of the building to the west and attacked Jennie Bauter's maison de joie and traveled from thence to Japanese Charley's restaurant and the Golondrina saloon and upon reaching the latter for a time it looked as if the new hospital was doomed. It was an even fight for half an hour with the odds on the fire, but plenty of water and hard work finally saved the magnificent structure. Dr. Woods has been moving into the building for two days and had it gone up in smoke the loss would have been almost irreparable."

"While all this damage was being done Master Mechanic W. M. Adamson was on top of the new Masonic Hall Building [which would house the T. F. Miller store, post office, and bank] directing a gang of men in attempts to save that pile. The floors had just been put in and the widows were simply rough cased and seemed to invite the licking flames from across the street. At the same time a force of men were at work tumbling down the shacks and blowing up with dynamite such buildings as threatened to act as avenues along which the fire would attack the part of town yet free of combustion."

"Never did men work harder. Tom Campbell, clerk in the post office, and an ex-football player, tugged, hauled, and tore around at a rate that limped his shirt collar in short order. J. L. Summers was flying around seven places at once, his face begrimed with smoke and soot, lending a hand where it would do the most good. In fact all of the better element of the town were doing herculean work. Only the vagrant classes were idle spectators. They grouped themselves picturesquely around on counters, barrels, bedding, and bales of goods and seemed to enjoy the spectacle. And they were the principal losers."

"The saloon in the basement of the Kuchler Block caught fire and the New York store, directly above seemed to be gone. The heavy iron street doors were battened, but before this could be done I. Laskin, the proprietor, had to be forcibly taken out of the store three times. He was nearly frantic. A report became circulated that the small child of Jim Penrod had been burned to death and its mother was severely injured endeavoring to rescue it. The report was unfounded."

"The new concrete building of Hoover & Cordiner of the Fashion saloon was completely gutted. Two carloads of new furniture and fixtures had just been placed in it yesterday. Everything is lost, and the east wall is severely cracked by heat. Excepting this place and the Hotel Conner, everything attacked is a total loss. As far as known Conner was the only one who carried insurance. He had $14,400, which fully covers his loss. All the rest will recover nothing and the loss has been severe."

"A list of the buildings destroyed is: The Leland House, The Ryan House, Scott & Moore livery stable, 5 small dwellings, Clark's news stand, Neff Maddux's saloon, The Annex saloon with VanAllen & Archambeau as proprietors, Scott's bowling alley, The Elite saloon with Lanham Bros.as proprietors, St. Elmo saloon with McFarland & Hooker as proprietors, McIntyres Red Light saloon, Charles (Japanese Charley) Shaw restaurant and lodging house, Jennie Baunters lodging house for transients, and 20 two-room dwellings in Mexican town. Besides an innumerable number of shacks of the oil-can order and dry-goods box fashion of architecture which are better out of the way."

"The usual freak scenes were enacted by excited people during the height of the blaze. Some person in the upper story of Connor's hotel, at the risk of life and limb carefully wrapped a mattress around a lot of crockery ware, and then without tying the bundle, threw it out of the window. Of course the bowls, pitchers, etc., reached the ground while the mattress was still in the air. Another victim of dementia came running through the halls fighting smoke and flame with an arm full of feather pillows. While everything was fiercest, water was scarce in the eastern end of town and Knoblock & Lyons broke in seven casks of vinegar and filled buckets with the contents. The astringent seemed to be quite effective as long as it lasted. For a time it looked as though the residence portion on the east and the company dwellings on the 'Heights" would go by the board and only heroic measures saved them, together with the resistance offered by the brick and concrete buildings that have sprung up since the last fire."

"The cause of the fire is a mystery. It undoubtedly started in the office of the Leland. This is on the authority of Dr. Cody. What could have started it at such a point is beyond conjecture. All sorts of hints, some more than hints, are going the rounds. The matter is now being investigated and it will go hard with the guilty person if incendiarism is uncovered."

"Sheriff [John Lee] Munds is in town and he has taken charge of the preservation of order being ably seconded by Constables Frank Ferguson and Tom Miller. There has been little disorder, drunkenness, and considerable loud talking, but all noisy or obstreperous individuals are promptly jailed, which has a good effect on persons anxious to emulate their example. One of the rooms in the basement of the Masonic Hall is being temporarily utilized as a jail."

"The great burden of the loss will fall on the saloon men and sporting classes. A great many unsightly and undesirable shacks have been erased from the landscape. The ultimate effect of the fire will be beneficial. The city council can now cope with the fire ordinance intelligently and will see that hereafter no more wood buildings are erected within the city limits. In all probability this is the last great fire which will afflict this camp. The loss will approximate $60,000." "Herbert Allaire."

(Arizona Republican; Phoenix; May 23, 1899; page 8.)

See: The Verde Independent: "1899; JEROME FIRE, May 19;" May 19, 2014.

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