VERDE HERITAGE: 1899: JEROME FIRE, May 19.
"At 2 minutes past 10 o'clock this morning the cry of a small boy shouting, "Fire!" alarmed Dr. E. T. Cody, whose office was on the second story of the Leland House." The Leland was a large 2-story frame building on First Street between Main Street and Hull Avenue and east of the Kuchler-Munds-Bradley block. A strong wind was blowing from the south and all buildings north and east of the fire were threatened. "The doctor rushed down the stairs and seeing smoke issuing from the small office, hurried into the apartment and found" the fire had started on a bed and the "room was 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. The house burned like tinder and 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 downstairs he was severely burned about the face and hands, and succeeded in saving only a few instruments." Mrs. Charles Sutter, proprietress of the Leland, was slightly burned. Her loss was heavy. Besides the furniture and personal effects, she lost about $400 in cash and some diamonds. The Leland owner, Mrs. M. Smith, is of the opinion that the fire was of incendiary origin, and arrests will be made of the suspected parties."
"A message was phoned to the [United Verde Copper Company] works from the Miller Company's store. The whistle was blown, the alarm given, the smelter shut down and all hands came down on the double quick to fight the fire. It spread with great rapidity north destroying everything in its path to within a few feet of the 'Reporter's' [newspaper] office. ... William Adamson, W. H. Perkins, Robert Mitchell, and Paul Hastings, of the copper company, were in charge of the men from the works in the fight against the flames."
"In a trice the [Leland] roof was afire and the blaze had spread to the adjoining Ryan Hotel on the east and the Bowling Alley on the north. The fiery tongues reached across narrow First Street and lapped up the frame houses opposite. Everything on both sides of the street to the north was consumed " in the Grand View block. Scott & Moore livery stable was gone along with 5 small dwellings, a number of shacks, and all of Chinatown [restaurants, laundries, etc.].
"The fire 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 bagnio [literally, "public baths," a name used for brothels; establishments where prostitutes were available]." The fire took in C. M. Clark's news stand, Neff & Maddox's saloon, the Annex saloon, Scott's bowling alley, the Elite saloon, the St. Elmo saloon, the Arizona saloon, and McIntyres' saloon - the Red Light.
"Thence it ate, taking in both sides of the street up to Dave Connors 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. ... Some person on 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. ... But finally, the P. & A. roofing caught fire 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 lodgings, was in flame. As far as known, Connor was the only one who carried ample insurance. He had $14,400, which fully covers his loss [$9,000]." David Connor has been burned out 6 times during his business career (not always at Jerome). Just as soon as the adjusters get here and finish their business, Mr. Connor will renew his hotel.
"In the meantime the fire had gone around he corner of the building to the west and attacked Jennie Bauter's 'maison de joie.'" Her lodging house "for transients" and furniture was a loss of $2,500. After the fire Jennie was still on deck and would be doing business at the old stand with a fire-proof building. The fire "traveled from thence to 'Japanese Charley's' restaurant." Charles Shaw's restaurant, boarding house, and furniture was a loss of $2,500. "Upon reaching the Golondrina saloon, 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 2 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 Masonic Hall Building [T. F. Miller Co.] directing a gang of men in attempts to save that pile. The floors had just been put in and the windows 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 shacks and blowing up with dynamite such buildings as threatened to act as avenues along which fire would attack the part of town yet free of combustion." At least 20 of the 2-room "dwellings in Mexican town" were destroyed. Also, a great many unsightly and undesirable shacks have been erased from the landscape.
"Never did men work harder. Tom Campbell, clerk in the Post Office and an ex-football player, tugged, hauled, and tore around at a fast pace. J. L. Summers was flying around 7 places at once, his face begrimed with smoke and soot, lending a hand where it would do the most good." John Kirwagen and 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 brick building caught fire and the New York Store, directly above seemed to be gone. The heavy iron street doors were battered, but before this could be done I. Laskin, the proprietor, had to be forcibly taken out of the store 3 times. He was nearly frantic." He had an almost total loss from smoke and water, estimated to be $10,000.
"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 Connor Hotel, everything attacked is a total loss."
"For a time it looked as thought 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 been put up since the last fire."
"The cause of the fire is a mystery. It undoubtedly started in the office of the Leland. What could have started it at such a point is unknown. 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."
"During the fire, which lasted 2 hours, there was some drunkenness and rioting on the streets, but temporary jails were established and the police were active in suppressing trouble, jailing many vicious characters."
"Sheriff 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 a little disorder, drunkenness, and loud talking, but all noisy individuals are promptly jailed which has a good effect on persons anxious to follow their example. One of the rooms in the basement of the Masonic Hall is being temporarily utilized as a jail."
"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 will be the last great fire which will afflict this camp."
"Herbert Allaire, Special Correspondent."
(Arizona Republican; Phoenix; May 20, 23, 1899.)
See: The Verde Independent; "1899: JEROME FIRE, May 19;" May 19, 2014.