Northern Tier Gazette February 4th , 1869
The Great Fire in Troy
The first fire in our village, that merits particular attention, occurred on the night of the 4th of April, 1848. A careless clerk in Jones’s Grocery, a wooden building, standing upon the spot recently occupied by Hobart & Porter’s Harness Shop, deposited some ashes taken from the stove, in a wooden bowel or bucket, and it is supposed the fire was communicated to articles in the loft. The fire spread rapidly to the neighboring buildings, burning over the ground recently burned over, including the old "Troy House", and in addition consuming the wooden buildings that occupied the place now held by Ballard’s Block. The tragicomic scenes of last night, still mingle in the legends of " twenty years ago" The depository of arms for the militia was in one of the buildings destroyed, and early in the morning boys were parading with swords and burned muskets, and some of these mementoes still exist. It is reported too, that while the Troy House was burning, V M Long, mounted to the cornice and drank a "health to the Troy House, amid the flames. All the stores in town were burned with the exception of that of G F Redington, who then occupied the building now used as a store by Newberry & Peck. Horace Pomeroy’s house, then just completed, was occupied for business as at present. The next year witnessed the extraordinary elasticity of our village in rebuilding the property destroyed.
In 1852, the 21st of May there was another fire, which swept out that portion of Canton Street, occupied now by the Methodist Episcopal Church, Eighmey & Decker’s Hardware Store, Gohn’s, Wolfe & Orwan’s and S N Manley’s Groceries; R F Remington’s Drug Store and Jewell & Pomeroy’s Store. The space occupied by the two last mentioned, was then covered by the Eagle Hotel- kept for a time by the Pomery’s and afterward by L B Morse Esq, now of Quitman, Georgia. The principal losses were the Eagle Hotel, a building owned by Seely Mann, and another owned by Silas E Shepard. A portion was unoccupied.
Again, the 12th day of April, 1858, fire broke out in the second story of Long’s Store, about 7 o’clock PM. and rapidly spread until the whole row of buildings on Canton Street, down to a point occupied by Davison McCabe’s store was burned. The Troy House was saved by great exertions, but was pretty badly scorched. The main portion of the losses fell upon S W & D F Pomeroy & Co, V M & H F Long, Paine & Spencer, and D W C Herrick, on Main Street and Dr Drake, Wm Morgan, N M Carnochan, and old "Fitch & Ballard building" occupied for a time as the Irwin House, was then occupied by W C Kendall, as a Hardware store. The Methodist church was pretty badly browned and was only saved by great exertions.
It seemed then—as if the village could afford another ten year’s rest from alarm, yet when the month of April 1868 came around, men not given to superstitious fears expressed themselves as satisfied that there was danger that we should have "another great fire" People were growing over confident, and over careless, and were forgetting how poorly provided our town is with the means of quelling a conflagration. Not an engine, not a Hook & ladder Company, not a foot of hose, not a garden pump, not a reservoir. "Insurance" was the cry, whenever a word was said about providing the town with a fire engine, and the fact that the increased price of insurance owing to the greatly increased risk, was costing the town more than the price of an engine, made no difference with the objectors. Almost another year, and we were ready to believe that the fire demon had forgotten to visit us, and we should enjoy another ten years’ immunity, when the illusion was dispelled in a very summary manner.
The evening of the 23rd of January was beautifully clear and still, the moon nearly full shining brightly on the crisp snow. We had been out of town on a visit and returning about 2 o’clock, had but fairly got asleep when we were startled by the cry of fire. It seems that Mr. Albert McNaught, a clerk in G D Long’s store was sleeping on the counter in the store when he was suddenly aroused a little after midnight by the crackling of fire, and hastily lighting his lamp ran up stairs expecting to see the store in a blaze. There was no appearance of fire, but on putting his hand against the wall separating the store from that of S M Leonard, he found the wall so hot that he could scarcely bear to touch it. On descend he again heard the noise of the fire, and without waiting to dress, rushed out and gave the alarm. A few minutes before, Charley Keeler and his room-mate, Wellman at the Troy House, just opposite the scene of the fire, went to bed, but were disturbed by the smoke. Which came in at the partially opened window and while discussing whether a half burned cigar might not have set the carpet on fire, were aroused by McKnight’s cry. Mr. W Ham, bostler for L Putnam, was the first person at the scene of the fire, and was immediately joined by Charley Keeler and Fred Long, and the three attempted to gain entrance to the store by bursting in the door on Canton Street.
As soon as we emerged from the house, we beheld a cloud of smoke enveloping the village and obscuring the view up Elmira Street. There was no noise except a faint cry of fire down the street, and the smoke seemed to be without movement. We called our neighbor Calkins, with a few blows of the window, and started up town. We had never before seen the town so still. The silence was oppressive. As we neared the Adam’s House, we caught the first view of the ascending smoke. We ran forward and as we turned the corner at S M Leonard’s store, saw three men jump back from the door on Canton Street, and as they were likely to be in our way, we bolted to the middle of the street, and could see the window over the door, red and glaring as the mica plates of a coal stove. From the back windows of the second story were pouring forth great streams of black smoke, the full size of the windows, and this was slowly wrapping the building and drifting heavily to the north. We judged from the appearance of things that we" were in for" a warm time, and hastened as rapidly as our limited means of locomotion would allow to the depot, to send for help to Elmira. As we neared the Bradford House, the Methodist bell rang, but in a few minutes got stuck bottom up and was silent. We were almost to the depot before there was any light visible. After the usual amount of hallooing, kicking and pounding of doors and windows, we got Charley Fitch out, and sent a message for help. It was now about half past one and if help could reach us in an hour and a half we could save all but the brick block that was fire.
There is no night operator employed on the Northern Central Railway Telegraph Line at Elmira, but Mr. F Ellery Fitch, the Train Master, who resides at 52 Fourth street, has a wire running to his house and an instrument there to use in case of emergencies in the night business of the road. He was sound asleep when the alarm was given, but the signal for "Elmira " which his brother, the Troy operator was loudly giving, woke him up. Mr. Fitch at once started for the Northern Central Shops, a mile or so away from his home, gave the alarm there, that a locomotive might be fired up, and cars got in readiness to take down the Elmira firemen.
Mr. Fitch also awoke Engineer Gerrow, of Steamer No 1, who in turn called Chief Engineer Wise, who gave orders to have the engines leave. In a remarkably short time Steamer No 1 was at the Depot, followed close by No 2, the driver of which heard her go out, and in double time "harnessed up", speeding away to get first at the Depot, but 1 reached it a little in advance. Steamer 1 was promptly loaded-with her went Ours 4 Hose Carriage (George M Robinson, foreman) and ten men; Hose 2, J E Nicks, Foreman and Hose 1, H W McIntire, Foreman.
The train was delayed at the Water street bridge waiting for an N C Freight train, for an hour and a half, but finally got away about four o’clock, making the run in forty-three minutes.
When we got back to the fire, we found the flame wrapping itself like a serpent around the wooden awning of Leonard’s store, leaping and flashing into the middle of the street on either side, while the efforts to tear down the substantial frame work were futile. It crept under the awning, driving out, by its heat, those who entered the stores, and licked its tongues of flame into the open doors with a fury that would not be denied. The street was full of half paralyzed men and women. From the stores issued a miscellaneous assortment of goods, bundles, boxes and furniture, which were moved into and filled a great portion of the available space. A few men were at work like heroes on the roof and balcony of the Troy House, which they had partially covered with carpets, and were saturating with salt and water. There was a light breeze, just enough to give full motion to the fire and a perfect hail of fiery cinders showered down on the northern and eastern parts of the village.
In Long’s and Davison & McCabe’s stores men were busy carrying out such goods as they could easily transport, and even there the heat from the burning awning, drove back the workers. On the south end of Leonard’s store, the large wooden Pomeroy Block was not long in catching the blaze, and whether from inability to get at the fire, or from the excitement of carrying out the goods, there was no effort to stay the flames. It was a scene of hopeless confusion on Canton street, men, women and children carrying goods from the threatened conflagration. The upper part of Mitchell, Parsons & Co’s store was already on fire, and the flames made little advance on the roof, thanks to the protecting snow, which on that night was of inestimable value to the town. The Presbyterian bell struck occasionally, and with the half suppressed exclamations of those fighting the fire, was the only sound that interrupted the crackle of the flames and the roar of the burning. In the corner of Ballard’s Block, a number of men, among whom were the clerks of Redington, Maxwell & Leonard’s store were busy with salt and water putting out the fire that persistently caught in the windows and the woodwork inside. The carpets and desk, lamps, etc of the Methodist church were hurried out to the sidewalk, and temporary possession was taken of the houses on Canton Street. If the wind would remain hushed there would be no danger of its spreading down Main street further than Horace Pomeroy’s House. The point at which to fight the fire was at the Troy House. If the engines would only come. Charley Keeler and Charley McCabe two old firemen were at work on the roof of the Troy House.
It soon became evident that the fire might be stopped at the Troy House, if nothing unforeseen occurred. Grant’s jewelry store was rapidly emptied of its contents by friends, Mr. Grant being absent on a visit. Dewey & Winston were in danger, but barrels of salt from their store was used up in saturating water to throw on the walls. On Canton st, the fire gained, and soon the Pomeroy building was a mass of surging flames. On the opposite side of the street it was with the utmost difficulty that the persons engaged could keep the flames from getting a fair foothold on the buildings. They grew brown in the face and caught afire several times, but the wooden awning served well as a support to the workmen. The scene back of the burning buildings presented a perfect chaos of boxes, drawers, casks, barrels, etc and goods heaped in unutterable confusion in every direction.
News now came that help was on the way from Elmira, and would soon be here. While making our way up the railroad track to the depot, the scene was one of wild sublimity, the broad conflagration leaping and surging in its unresisted might, the huge column of black smoke rolling heavenward, the fiery rain of the cinders, and far in the west the ghostly moon hiding in the dark hemlocks on the hill, its light paled by the glare of the fire.
The Troy House at last caught in the side of the attic, and those on the roof were obliged to leave it or retreat would soon be cut off. The walls of Leonard’s store had fallen and the fire had full sway down to Pomeroy Bros. Bank. Occasionally a dull explosion of the falling of a wall made a crash and sent up cinders in clouds. The Troy House was rapidly stripped of its contents, and women fled down Elmira Street to seek a shelter with their friends.
On the back of Person’s Meat Market, was a shed extending back to Pomeroy’s barn. This was cut down and spread of the fire in that direction prevented. Hobert & Porter took possession of the old School House and moved their stock in there. By this time the fighting of the fire had concentrated on one or two points, Horace Pomeroy’s House was partially covered with carpets, and between it and the hottest fire the Bank stood like a protecting wall. The Troy House was fast consuming with an intense heat. Some men were on the Bank guarding the roof. The breaking of the girders in the Long Block crushed out the wall that overtopped the Bank some 10-15 feet and a huge mass of brick and mortar was precipitated on the roof of the bank, crushing in the roof and carrying with it Mr. E Porter and partially burying him in the ruins, whence he was rescued with some difficulty. I A Pierce, Walter Peck, O T Saltmarsh and Lyman Oliver were in the second story and narrowly escaped, being crushed by the falling mass.
This doomed the Bank and it had only fairly got afire, when the train was heard coming with help. The firemen unloaded their machine at Paine’s crossing and came down the street loudly cheered by the tired crowd. But little remained for them to do, but they soon got to work, and played for awhile on the safes, and vaults of the Bank. That day was very unlike Sunday to our quite citizens. Crowds visited the ruins and everyone was tired out.
On investigation, the safe of G D Long, (Herrings) had preserved its contents; that of the Troy House (Rochester make) had kept what was entrusted to it. S M Leonard’s (which had been burned once before) contents spoiled. Mitchell, Parson & Co’s (Evans & Watson) standing some ten feet outside the building had preserved its contents, but the covers of the books were badly scorched. The vault of the Bank when opened was as unharmed as if no fire had been near it.
The losses, as near as they can be approximated to are as follows:
S M Leonard Dry Goods $30,000
G D Long Dry Goods $20,000
Davison & McCabe Groceries & Provisions $11,000
Pomeroy Bros Bank $10.000
Pomeroy Bros Brick Block $10,000
Pomeroy Bros Wooden Block $10,000
V M & H F Long Brick Block $18,000
B A Long & Co., Troy House $15,000
Mitchell, Parsons & Co, Drugs $22,000
M A Gates & Co, Clothing $5,000
F J Calkins, Clothing & News Room $500
F Persons, Meat Market $800
J Adams & Son, Tailor $300
Mrs. M Gustin, Milliner $1,500
W H Carnochan, Law Office $300
C T Merry Jeweler $2,000
Hobert & Porter, Harness Shop $3,500
E H Dewey & Co $500
J H Grant, Jeweler $200
Jas. Alexander, barbershop $550
OP Ballard, Brick Block injured $1,000
Horace Pomeroy House $400
A S Hooker & Co "Gazette Office" $600
In addition there were other losses and injuries to the buildings etc, which we have not been able to obtain.
The following embraces a list of the losses to the general insurance companies by the great fire at Troy, on Sunday morning. It lists the amount insured.
Pomeroy Bros-total $2,000
N M Pomeroy- slight $2,000
M A Gates & Co-partial $2,000
V M Long-total $5,500
G D Long-partial $3,000
Pomeroy Bros-total $9,500
Mitchell, Parsons & Co-partial $3,000
S M Leonard-total $4,000
M A Gates & Co-partial $2,000
Horace Pomeroy-partial $2,000
S M Leonard-total $2,500
G D Long-partial $2,000
Mitchell, Parsons & Co-total $2,500
A S Hooker & Co-partial $200
Pomeroy Bros-total $4,500
M A Gates & Co-partial $3,100
V M Long-total $4,500
N M Pomeroy-slight $4,000
V M & H F Long-total $2,000
Wolfe & Orwan-slight $2,000
S M Leonard-total $5,350
Moses Gustin-slight $400
V M & H F Long-total $4,000
F H Parsons-total $500
Mitchell, Parsons & Co-total $2,000
S M Leonard-total $5,000
V M & H F Long-total $2,000
Mitchell, Parsons & Co-total $3,000
N M Carnochan-partial $1,200
Mitchell, Parsons & Co-total $1,500
A S Hooker & Co-partial $1,300
Hobart & Porter-total $1,500
Pomeroy Bros-total $3,500
Davison & McCabe-total $2,100
GD Long-partial $5,000
Davison & McCabe $2,600
Pomeroy Bros-total $6,000
S B Aspinwall-partial $800
G D Long-total $6,000
Mitchell, Parsons & Co-total $2,000
Recapitulation of Insurance to Individuals: $117,550
N M Pomeroy-$6,000
Horace Pomeroy $2,000
M A Gates & Co-$7,100
V M Long-$9,500
V M & H F Long-$8,000
G D Dong-$16,000
Mitchell, Parsons & Co-$14,000
S M Leonard-$16,850
A S Hooker-$1,500
Wolf & Orwan- $2,000
F H Persons-$500
N M Carnochan-$1,200
Hobart & Porter-$1,500
Davison & McCabe-$4,700
S B Aspinwall-$800
The Bank was promptly moved into Horace Pomeroy’s House, Davison &
McCabe have a new wooden building already erected next to the Post Office.
Calkins moved into the Post Office. Mitchell, Parsons & Co have filled
up the old bookstore formerly occupied by E F Ballard next to O P Ballard’s
Hardware Store. G D Long has moved into Mme Creque’s Millinery establishment.
C T Merry has taken part of W H Peck’s Law Office. M A Gates moved his
goods into Jewell & Pomeroy’s Store. R J Cheny has a room over Charles
Grobs. Frank Person has just put up a wooden building near the old site
for a Meat Market. Adams & Son are in the upper part of the old School
House, while Hobart & Porter occupy the lower part. Jas. Alexander
is located at the Adams House.
A meeting was held to discuss the question of a fire engine and a Committee was appointed to obtain subscriptions. Pomeroy Bros subscribed $500, Redington, Maxwell & Leonard $150, E C Oliver $100, and about $1,500 was raised at once, but many who were expected to favor the project, were sorry to say, raised objections and refused to assist. and the plan was abandoned. So we are as well protected as ever.
At a meeting of the citizens of Troy Boro, held Thursday evening, Jan 28th, 1869, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted:
WHEREAS, We the citizens of Troy, feel under deep and lasting obligations to the Elmira Fire Department, the officers of the Northern Central Railway Company, and F Ellery Fitch Esq, for their kindness and efforts in our behalf during our late fire, therefore
Resolved, That we tender to the Elmira Fire Department our sincere and heartful thanks for the aid so generously extended to us during the late disastrous fire in our midst.
Resolved, That we shall ever hold in grateful remembrance the promptness, energy, and self-sacrificing efforts of the officers and men of Steamer No 1. Hose Company No 2, and "Ours" Hose Company No 4 of Elmira and hereby tender them our heartfelt thanks for their heroic efforts in coming to our assistance when we were solely in need.
Resolved, That we hereby express our thanks to the officers of the Northern Central Railway company for their generous assistance furnished, by promptly sending an engine and train with those coming in our aid.
Resolved, That we tender our heartfelt thanks to our former fellow townsman F Ellery Fitch, Esq. Train Master of the Northern Central Railway, for his promptness in responding to our call for help, and his generous and untiring efforts to forward assistance to us.