(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "History of the great fires in Chicago and the West... With a history of the rise and progress of Chicago, the "young giant". To which is appended a record of the great fires in the past"

3 I 129 00038 4560 

HISTORY 



GREAT FIRES 

IN 

CHICAGO AND THE WEST. ■ 

A PROUD CAREER ARRESTED BY SUDDEN AND AWFUL 

CALAMITY; TOWNS AND COUNTIES LAID WASTE 

BY THE DEVASTATING ELEMENT. 

SOEI^ES AITD IE"OIDEI^TS, 
LOSSES AND SUFFERINGS, 

feKN"EA^OJ-iK]SrCE OF TEEE ISr^TIONS, Etc., Etc. 

WITH A 

mim ofih mu mi mo^xm of ^}xlmp, ife ''Ijoiinjg limit" 

To which is appended a Record of the Great Fires in the past. 
By Eev. E, J. GOODSPEED, D.D., 



OF CHICAGO. 



ILLUSTRATED. 



SOXiZD OD^Xj-S- Srz- STJBSCI^II=TIOI^^. 



lew lavfe : 

H. S. GOODSPEED & CO., 37 Park Row, New York. 
J. W. GOODSPEED, Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and New ORLEAifs, 
D. L. GUERNSEY, Concord, N. H. 
SCHUYLER SMITH, London A Nd PK^iHoptTT, C'N'rAiuo. :'- '.:;\<'\' 
F. DEWING & CO., Ban. iVviNCijco. ' ' ' ' '^ ^ ' ' 

I ILLINOIS STATE LIBRAS 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, 

By H. S. GOODSPEED, 

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, 



o^j) 



CONTENTS. 



LIST OP ILLUSTRATIONS 11-12 

PREFACE 13-14 



I.— THE INFANT. 

CHAPTER L 

INFANCY OP CHICAGO. 

Humble origin of cities. Romance of early pioneer life. Woman's courage 17-19 

CHAPTER II. 

INDIAN MASSACBE. 

Meaning of word Chicago. Fort Dearborn. Garrison of 1812. Particnlars given by Brown 
concerning the massacre. Bravery of troops. Cruelty of savages. Escape of Mrs. Helen. 
Murder of wounded prisoners. Captain and Mrs. Heald saved. Ransom of captives 19-35 

CHAPTER III. 

BEMOVAL OF BARBARIANS. 

Corrupting influence of the Indians. Obstacle to growth. Major Long condemns the place 
and its inhabitants. Parton's description of the payment and departure of the savages. 
Fort rebuilt. Block-house demoli.shed in 18.56 35-38 

CHAPTER IV. 

CHICAGO A MUD-HOLE. 

"'No bottom here." Bar in the river. Advantage of the early settlement of the East instead of the 
West. A city set on a hill. Natural .site for a large place. Some said it in an early day 38-39 






II.— THE YOUTH. 

CHAPTER V. 

■WATER-COURSES. 

Mistakes of early settlers in undervaluing the treeless prairies. Their beauty and fertility. I^rovi- 
dential settlement of the country. Illinois River and Canal. Twelve years in digging. Help 
to Chicago from the canal. FUth of our river. Good story on its odor 40-41 

CHAPTER VI. 

GROWTH. 

Tax Levy in 18.32. Population in 1837. Excited hopes. Ford's account of si)ecnlatioa in lots. 
Farmers seeking a market here. Beef and grain trade before the advent of the locomotive. 
First whistle of the steam-engine in 1849 41-43 



IV CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER VII. 

PROMINENT FOTJNDEBS. 

Many of these injured by the fire. Sketch of Wm. B. Ogden, the railroad Wug. Began poor. 
Industry and brains triumphant. Absent during the conHagration. Letter written after his 
return. Fearful desolation described. Night search after his burned home. Grateful 
acknowledgment of the world's charity. Peshtego destroyed, and his property there 43-49 

CHAPTER VIII. 

SAMUEL HOARD AND JOHN "WENTWORTH. 

Sad feature — the losses of meu in years. Mr. Hoard's influence and character. His early identifi- 
cation with Chicago. Postmaster v.nder Johnson. Dignity and Christian nobility. Advent of 
" Long John " in IS.'DG. Early addicted to politics. Editor and Mayor. Speculations as to his 
course had he been mayor at the time of the fire 49-54 

CHAPTER IX. 

GOVERNOR BROSS. 

Became a citizen of Chicago in 184S. Early faith in the future greatness of the city. Wrote a p.im- 
phlet on its prospects. He lived to see his hopes realized. His account of the fire. Burning of 
Ris Tribune building. Loss of his house. Cheerful spirit of the people mider their calamities. 55-63 

CHAPTER X. 

CHARLES N. HOLDEN. 

Astley Cooper's advice to a class of medical students. Illustrated by Mr. Holden. Landed here in 
1S37 with ten dollars. The young farmer. Attraction in Chicago. Marriage. Useful citizen. 
Public officer, and supporter of educational and reUgious institutions 63-66 

CHAPTER XI. I 

FOLLIES OP GREAT MEN. 

Judge Spring. Court-room farce. Drunk at home. Died of delirium tremens. Frequent 
instances of the same. Godly meu early here. The Methodist preacher at " Lake Michigan 
Huddle." Eloquent address. Trials of the pioneers of the Gospel 66-71 



III.— THE YOUNG GIANT. 

CHAPTER XIL 

RAPID DEVELOPMENT. 

Sudden increase of population from 1850. In 1857 one hundred thousand people here ; in 1871 there 
were three hundred and thirty-four thousand. People became permanently located. Water 
improved. Everything to minister to the wants of man. Trade and commerce. Banks. 
Assessed valuation of the city, and area 72-73 

CHAPTER XIII. 

CONSPIRACY OP CONFEDERATE PRISONERS. 

War. Abraham Lincoln. Camp Douglas. Eddy's account of the cons-pir.icy. Southern organiza- 
tion to seize Northern places. Grand plans. Thwarted by Colonel Sweet. Detective's story. 
Marmaduke pumped. Colonel Sweet's plans. Arrest of conspirators. The vicissitude safely 



CHAPTER XIV. 

■WATER-WORKS. 

Creator provides water for His creatures everywhere. Sickness from fonl water. Conception 
of a plan to draw supiilies from the lake. Engineer's description of the water-works from 
their inception till their completion. Commenced in 1S52, finished in 1867. Engine-room. 
Water tower. Lake tunnel. Chambers. Ventilation. Alignment Crib. Cylinder and 
lake shaft. Tunnelling and formal celebration of the completion 80-107 



CONTENTS. V 

CHAPTER XV. 

EIVEB TUNNELS. 

Description of course of river. Bridges and their annoyance. Scene in Washington street 
tunnel on the night of the fire. Exaggerated reports. Dreadful experiences in the La Salle 
street tunnel. Jilonuinents of the energy of oui people 107-110 

CHAPTER XVI. 

MOKAI.S AND RELIGION. 

Reputation for immorality. Divorce. Acknowledgment of corruption and iniquity. Vindication 
of the other side of our Ufe. Newness of everything in the West. Great necessities. Not 
absorbed in money -getting. Churches numerous and well sustained. Moody. NortlvStar. 
jMission schools of the Second Baptist Church. Late gathering of their pupils and teachers. 
Educational institutions— Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Catholic. Christians active 
and liberal. Mutual kindness. Honesty and uprightness. A stranger's testimony 110-114 

CHAPTER XVII. 

ADVANTAGES OF CHICAGO. 

Home for aU nationalities. Country and city. Railroads. Elevators described. Grain dryer. 
Drainage. City elevated several feet. Eire-alarui telegraph. Burning of the office. State- 
ment by one of the ojierators. Schools and academies. Religion and general culture. 
Summai-y. The Young Giant down 114-120 



IV.— THROUGH FTRE. 

CHAPTER XVIIL 

THE GREAT CONFLAGRATION. 

Began just after evening service, October 8, 1871. Peculiar dryness of the atmosphere. Fire of 
October 7, lasting all night. Probable effect of this on the lire of the ne.xt evening. Many 
writers summoned to tell their stories of the great fire. Punch and tlie kicking cow. Hart- 
ford -Post takes off the sensational reports. Yet no account can well exaggerate the horrors 
of the time. A correspondent's vivid sketch 121-129 

CHAPTER XIX. 

REMOTE CAUSE OP WESTERN FIRES. 

Mr. Barnard's article. He recognizes the peculiar dryness of the air. But asks, "Why these 
droughts ? " Results of meteorology. Mischief caused by cutting away the forests. Hovr 
shall we restore them ? Imitate our transatlantic friends. Plant groves. Estimate of pecuniary 
benefit. Little labor and good profits 130-133 

CHAPTER XX. 

PROGRESS OP THE FIRE. 

Causes summed up. The Chicago Prs.-'.s- version of the disaster. Brilliant description from the 
onset. Splendid images. Glowing paragi'aphs. The hurricane. The firemen. The 
people. Madness and terror. Court-House. Sherman House. After daylight. Drunken 
crowds. South Side wiped out as far as Harrison street. Agonizing inquiries. Water 
supply failed. Weeping men. Pr.iyers and curses. Blowing up of O'Neil's block checked 
the flames. Terrace Row a -vweck. Fu-e le.ips the river and attacks the North Side. 
Bridges burned. Terror of the people. Cemeteries assailed. Chi^rches consumed. McCor- 
mick's factory ruined. Hell let loose its demons. Women and children flying and screaming. 
The "Sands." No safety by the lake shore except in getting into the water. Awful desola- 
tion upon which the sun went down 133-155 



VI CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XXI. 

ORIGIN OF THE FIRE. 

Men aiudons to know the beginning. Mean source. Cradle of the fire. Times'' story. New 
York Tribune's narrative. The Irish woman intervie\yed. Unwillingness to disclose much. 
Feared that she would have to foot the bill of losses 156-183 

CHAPTER XXII. 

THE BURNING. 

Richards' beautiful poem, "Chicago in Ashes." The panorama of the Are, as painted by 
the Chicago Timea. Powerlessness of engines. Roaring of the wind. Advance of the flames 
in columns. River no barrier. Ruins of the preceding fire stayed the foe's progress north- 
ward. A Swede's bundles on fire. Tar-works. Peculiarities of wind currents. Crosby's Opera 
House. Field & Leiter's store. Times Building Aovm. Michigan Southern Depot. Delusive 
hopes. Sheridan using powder. Last bulking to burn on South Side. Turn to New York 
Trilnme's report. View of the ruin. Fire began at the best place for its work. Combusti- 
bility of Chicago then. Dreadful dust of the day. Grigg's bookstore. Times' narrative 
resumed. North Side the aristocratic portion of the city. Swept clean. Damage to La SaUe 
street tunnel. A comer left. Progress of the fire. Water-works in flames. Tragedy and 
comedy on the " Sands." Cliicago avenue bridge burned. Born on the street. Sixteen 
burned in one shop. A terrible scene. New England Church. Robert Collyer's church. 
Lincoln Park and old Cemetery. Forty horses burned. End of the track of fire. Grave of the 
fire described. Mahlon Ogden's house saved. Fiery tempest among the tombstones. Wrecks 
of household goods. Songs in the night. Newberry School bounds the burnt district 163-235 

CHAPTER XXIIL 

AFTER THE FIRE. 

Stupendous calamity. Sad night. Rimior.s of awful deeds. Morning dreaded. Werk for the 
unfortunate made us forget grief. Tramp over the ruins described by a reporter. Crumbled 
masonry, leafless trees, general destruction. Correspondent's account of sight-seers and 
relic merchants. Intensity of heat. Kight scenes. Coal fires. Outlines of ruin.s. Suspicions 
rife. Patrolling the city. No gas on the South Side, and no water. Cry for help. Early to 
bed a05-217 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

INCIDENTS AND EXPERIENCES, 

Advantage of combining many accounts. Fuller view and juster. Violence of the heat 
A Christian woman's consolation. A godly deacon. A liberal minister. Moody and his 
Bible. Geo. J. Read's escape. J. W. Goodspeed's perilous adventure. Mrs. Hobson 
robbed. Carpet stolen. The pugiUstic deacon. The drop of rain on the cheek. Mr. 
Kimball and his coffee. The rich man and the blankets. Mother's agony and joy. The 
German wom.an and her husband. Drunkenness. Dr. Goodwin's story. Theft and avarice. 
The book-keeper. Thieves punished. Coui-t^House delivery of criminals. The oU-stone 
theory exploded. The German's troubles with patrolmen. A case of brutal selfishn&ss. The 
invalid wife. Sensational reports of crime. The beautiful ItaEan girl. Nelly Grant 
Clothing given away. The drama of "Divorce." The gay and gallant widow. Must save 
her store. The mother a maniac. Rev. T. W. Goodspeed, of Quincy, tells his experience in 
the fiire. Scene on Michigan avenue beggars description. Fire in the ship's rigging. He 
eaves property. A woman's story of the fire. Startled by the sudden approach of the flames. 
The invalid refa^ed to escape. Treasures forsaken. Tower and bells of St. James' Church 
fall. Sympathy with her pastor. Children who have lost their mother. The invalid rescued. 
A guest in a hotel has a bitter Ust of troubles. Curious memorial. Relics and reUc-mer- 
chants. The men in Speed's Block. One is saved and one lost. The Tvife separated from 
her husband. ShortaU's narrative of the saving of the books of Abstracts of Titles. A revolver 
secures a wagon. Brick work. Flying embers. All safe. The Postoffice cab. The disre- 
gard of red tape in saving mail matter and government property. Postage stamps ruined. 
The condition of the. sufferers. Rainy and chilly night sowed seeds of disease. Five hundred 
births. Romantic sketching of fearful adventures by a Jlerakl reporter. Rosa D'Erina. 
Burning of the Academy of Design and other buildings. Bagnios destroyed. Awful scenes 



on the lake shore. Immersed in the water. Mayor's proclamation allayed terrors. Gronp 
of dead. Citizen patrol. Heart-broken refugees. Professor Eradish's letter on the Academy 
of Design. Rothcrmel's Battle of Gettysburg. Dreadful anxiety and suspense previous to 
the actual burning. Bigelow Hotel. False hopes deceive. Pictures removed. Sudden attack 
of the fire prevents further work. All sinks into ruin. Mr. Volk in Rome. The valuable 
watch in the safe. Historical Society's building and collections perish. Rush of the fire. 
Overspreads the cemeteries. Ghastly spectacle. Pin-cushion versus silver. Instant death. 
" Our first great sorrow." Dying wife and burning store. The Clerks of Court and their pets. 
Dog's sagacity. The mouse a lion. President of 111. Central and his search for his family. 
The adventures of a family living near the corner of Madison and La Salle. " These are the 
things that trouble me most." Their looms lost. The German's violin, three hundred years 
old. Charred though buried. " Boo'ks !"" Books ! " Innumerable incidents. Child's relic. 
Jolly merchants. Leonard Swett. Thrilling narrative by a lady. Her long agony. Saved 
her canary bird. The engineer. Mr. Kerfoot's escape. Potter Palmer. The murderous 
refugee killed by a farmer. Refugees in New York city. Mrs. Hobson and the half- orphans. 
Milligan's trotter. A description of the scene of desolation. Night among the campers on the 
prairie. " Don't ki, mamma ; don't ki." A fire wedding. Pire-Marshal Williams' letter. .217-353 

CHAPTER XXV. 

LOSSES. 

Widespread damage. Our population drawn from all countries and States. Insurance 
companies — their capital, a.ssets, and losses, with suspended and sound companies. Grain 
checks restored by Professor Wheeler. Safes unsafe. Restoration of burned money, &c., at 
Washington. Records consumed. Indirect losses. Law Institute's loss. Breweries. City 
property. Churches. Trade and manufactures. Historical Society. R. T. Lincohi, B. P. 
Taylor, I. N. Arnold. Fearful sufferings in trj-ing to save home and life. Pinkerton's rec- 
ords and collections in ashes. Mullet's inspection of government buildings. Principal edi- 
fices destroyed. Description of the northwest spared district. The dead-house. Fatal results 
of the calamity upon life and health. Poem 353-403 



V.-MINISTERED TO BY CHRISTIAN CHARITY. 

CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE WOBLD'S BENEVOLENCE. 

Law of compensation. Present application. Great rush of the need. Prompt relief. The noble- 
hcRited railroad maJi and his worthy wife. Grand poem recognizing the bounty. "Heathen 
Chinee." Letter from the South. Extract from Whittier's " Past." Cleveland, Springfield, 
Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsbm-gh, Boston, Montreal, a brilliant galaxy 404-413 

CHAPTER XXVII. 

INITIATORY STEPS OF RELIEF. 

President Holden's report. Graphic accoimt. Report of Western Committee, October 13th. 
Work turned over by Mayor Mason to the Relief and Aid Society. Churches exchanged 
for other depositories and asylums. Generally imposed jipon. Died in the churches. 
Reunions 413-421 

CHAPTER XXVIII. 

BELIEF AND AID SOCIETY. 

Poor fared well. Imposition arrested. Superintendent Gibbs issues admirable orders. Rations 
allotted. Great carefulness and kindness enjoined. Bureau of Special Assistance. "The 
boy who took care of his younger brothers." Committee of Special Relief hard at work. 
Specimen of distress relieved. Form of application. Magnanimity of railroads. Colonel 
James Fisk, Jr. Amount of money received. Houses for the poor. Other gifts not 
recorded except in Heaven 



Vlll CONTENTS, 

CHAPTER XXIX 

SUPPLEMENTAL WOEK. 

Toung Men's Christian Association. Women's Christian Union. Benevolent societies of a private 
character. Charity of citizens. A miser and a clergyman. No just account of aid possible. 
Newsboys hospitably entertained in New York. Irish Tim. Old England. Queen Victoria's 
interest. Chicago cosmopolitan 438-444 

CHAPTER XXX. 

AID FEOM THE STATE. 

Churches and orders assisted. Proclamations by Governors of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa 
and Illinois. Governor Palmer convenes the Legislature. His message and their action. 
The voice of the pulpit aud press. Extract from a poem by Tovvnsend 444-470 

CHAPTER XXXI. 

APPEECIATION OF THE BOUNTT. 

Surprise of oiu- citizens. Primitive fraternity revived. Men wept who had not shed a tear over 
their misfortunes. Tribune's eloquent acknowledgment. Day of fasting and prayer recom- 
mended by the Mayor. Sermon by Rev. E. J. Gocdspeed in the Second Baptist Church. 
Good deeds to be held in everlasting remembrance. New York congratulates mankind on the 
great beneficence. A blessing on all givers. Chicago's appeal 470-485 

CHAPTER XXXII. 

GENERAL EXPECTATION OF CHICAGO'S BESUEKECTION. 

Punch's rhymed pun. Reputation for boasting. But Cliicago had won respect for energy and 
power. Speculations by London Spectator, London Times, Bail!/ Telefjraph, DaHy Neios, 
New York Tribune. The St. Louis Democrat recognizes our recuperative force 48G-495 

CHAPTER XXXIII. 

EEBUILDINO. 

Horror of the situation after the fire. Rumors of incendiarism scouted. Spontaneous 
movement towards reconstruction. The cheerful voice of the press. Debris removed. 
"Our debts will be paid." The artists full of courage. No rush on the banks. Rents 
advanced. General inflation of prices. N. B. Judd. Help proffered. Plucky girl. Econo- 
my. Churches rismg again. Prognostications fulfilled 43C-512 



VII.— THE FUTURE. 

CHAPTER XXXIV. 

GLORIOUS ANTICIPATIONS. 

Whittier's "Chicago." Doubts and fears paralj'zod some. But a voice has said, "Rise." B. F. 
Wade's estimate iu 18G6 of our futvu-e. What would he have said in 1S71 ? 513-515 

CHAPTER XXXV. 

FAITH AND HOPE. 

Chicago must be greater than ever. The first reason for this is the confidence of our people. 
Faith not weakened. The Chicago Post's clarion-caU to hopefulness. Grounds assigned for 
renewed confidence 51G-518 

CHAPTER XXXVI. 

THE STRONG MEN REMAIN. 

Mercy of the fire. Our men of miRht in trade, art, and journalism survive, girded for the contest. 
J. Y. Scammon. Ai-chitects' monuments down. W. W. Boyington. Jno. M. Van Osdel. 
They are crowded with new enterprises. City more splendid than before. Merchants. Jno. 
V. Farwell. "Farwell Hall." C. T. Bowen. Libraiy for Youths. These men can repeat 
their careers 521-533 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

CHICAGO'S BESOUKCES. 

Faith supplemented by natxwe. "Wliat remains of Chicago. Harbor and shipping. The canal. 
The railroads converging here. Various nationalities. Actual indebtedness of Chicago. 
Comparative age and population of Western cities. Cattle trade. Union Stock Yards. Full 
description. Missouri Republican recognizes our geographical supremacy 53S-547 

CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

UTOPIA. 

Vision of what might be. Universal education. Temperance. Justice. Purity. Sabbath 
hon<ired. Religion protected. Literature, Science, and Art encouraged. Provisions against 
fii-e. Few fires in Paris. Magnificent possibilities. Pleasant picture of the Chicago of the 
future 547-549 



THE FIRES IN WISCONSIN AND MICHIGAN. 

CHAPTER XXXIX. 

WISCONSIN KAVAGED. 

General drought. Volumes of smoke. Violent winds. One hundred and fifty miles of coast on 
fire. The destruction of Peshtego. Founded by Wm. B. Ogden. Rich timber countiy. Ex- 
cellent water-power. Fires in the woods. Ko fear of danger. Strange noises Simdny night. 
Sudden onset of the fire. Flocking to the river. Three hundred roasted alive. Workmen 
with wives and children perished in a brick building. People immersed in water up to their 
necks. Terrible appearance on the day after the fire. Many escajjed by the bed of the river on 
the northern road. Corpses in the street. Rain Sunday night. People smothered among the 
Pines. Relief, losses, incidents. Relief Committee. Losses three millions. Letter from 
Mr. Ogden in behalf of "Little Frankie." The mother and her baby. A man svrfmming 
for his life. Strange phenomena. Wind, fixe, and electricity. One hundred and seventeen 
persons burned to death in Door County. Wide-spread desolation. Relief for the unfor- 
tunate. A Chicago man doubly injured 550-575 

CHAPTER XL. 

StTMMAET OP WISCONSIN LOSSES^ 

Captain Bourne's estimr.te of the loss of lumber. Thrilling story of adventures. With a 
maniac. Boston B.elief Committee's report. People thought the Judgment Day had come. 
Ample provisions for the suiferers. Announcement of the Milwaukee Relief Committee. .576-693 

CHAPTER XLL 

DESOLATION IN MICHIGAN. 

Steamers cruising off shore for the fugitives. Disaster less universal in its effects than that of 
Chicago. Flourishing villages entirely destroyed. A man in the water eight hours. A four 
hundred thousand dollar fire in Saginaw City. College students at Lansing fighting fire. 
Sickening, blinding smoke for weeks before. People crazed. " No more wigwam ! " A city 
saved. Manistee burned. Laird's heroism. Burning of Holland City. Distress of children. 
" Hurrah for God ! " A single county in Michigan and its losses. Tuscola County and its 
suffermgs. Skeleton found in a log 594-620 

CHAPTER XLII. 

LOSSES, INCIDENTS, CHAEITY, 

The relief work. Loans of money suggested. A Detroit lawyer's liberality. The people assist- 
ing ene another 621-6S6 



X CONTENTS. 

mSTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES IN THE PAST. 

CH^VPTER XLIII. 

FIRES EK DAKOTA. 

A soldier's experience w-ith Sherman, saved his life. A little girl's appeal. Miraculous escape 
from a prairie fire. The Black Year. War, famine, pestilence, fire, wind, water, and ice. 
Murders, suicides, viUanies 626-634 

CHAPTER XLIV. 

VIKGIL'S DESCRIPTION OF THE BURNING OF TROY. 

Virgil's poetical description of the burning of Troy. The wooden horse, .tineas couvej-ing his 
family out of the flames. Loses his wife and returns. Sees his own house burning. Meets 
the ghost of his wife. Flees from the city C35-C40 

CHAPTER XLV. 

ANCIENT ROME IN FLAMES. 

Description by Tacitus of the burning of ancient Rome. Misery of the dreadful scene. Incen- 
diaries 640-642 

CHAPTER XLVI. 

MOSCOW. 

Sir Archibald Alison's description of the burning of Moscow. Napoleon and his troops intoxi- 
cated with joy. Moscow silent. The Russian governor's inscription affixed to the gates 
of the palace. Fire breaking out. Autumnal tempest. Description of the fire. Drunken 
French soldiers. Moscow a heap of ruins ■. 643-648 

CHAPTER XLVII. 

LONDON. 

The great flre in London. Origin. Reservoirs empty. Fearful spectacle. Blowing up houses 
Devastation. John Howe's sermon. Rebuilding of London 648-653 

CHAPTER XLVIII. 

NEW YORK'S EXPERIENCE OF FIRE. 

Fire of 1835. Loss six millions. Flames stopped by blowing up buildings. Reminiscences of the 
fire. Speculations about " inflammable vacuum " in the air. Fire of 1845 654-658 

CHAPTER XLIX. 

OTHER CITIES VISITED. 

Pittsburg. Philadelphia. Poi-tland. Charleston. Chicago. San Francisco 658-664 

CHAPTER L. 
Table of flree. Conclusion 665-6CT 



ILLTJSTIlA^TIOISrS 



PAGE 

A Scene at the taking of Fort Dearborn, 1813 17 

Black Partridge holdijig Mrs. Helm in the Water 27 

Chicago in 1820 33 

Samuel Hoard 51 

Chicago in 1836 69 

The Court-House Bell 69 

Chicago Water-works from the Northwest 87 

Crosby's Opera House 87 

The New Pacific Hotel 105 

View from the Court-House looking south 123 

View from the Court-House looking southeast 123 

Drake & Farwell Block, Wabash avenue 123 

Unity and New England Churches 123 

The Court-House 141 

The Chamber of Commerce 141 

The Sherman House 143 

Clark street, south from Washington street 143 

Field, Leiter & Co.'s Building, State street 159 

Booksellers' Row 159 

The Tribune Building 160 

niinois and. Michigan Central R.R. Depot 160 

The Palmer House, State street 177 

The Shepard Block, Dearborn street 177 

Burning of the Chamber of Commerce 195 

Burning of the Crosby Opera House 213 

Burning of the Tremont House 331 

Burning of the Grain Elevators 349 

A Family Perish on the Roof of a House 367 

Ruins of the Masonic Temple 285 

Where the Fire began 385 

Ruins of the Land Office of the Illinois Central R. R 285 

Ruins of the Republic Life Insuijjince Company's Building. . . .'. 385 

Ruins of the Post-Office and Custom-House 385 

Ruins of the Chamber of Commerce and Court-House 886 

Ruins of Crosby's Distillery 386 

Ruins of the First National Bank 286 



X]l ILLUSTEATIONS. 

PAGE 

Ruins of St. Paul's Chufcli 303 

Ruins of the Methodist Church Block 303 

RiTins of the Church of the Holy Name 303 

Ruins of the First Presbyterian Church 303 

Ruins of St. James's Church 304 

Ruins of the Second Presbyterian Church 304 

Ruins of the New England Church 321 

Ruins of the Bigelow House 321 

Ruins of the Pacific Hotel 321 

Ruins of St. Joseph's Priory 331 

Ruins of the Land Office 321 

Ruins of the Great Union Depot 321 

Ruins of the Unity Church 322 

Ruins of the ]Methodist Church 322 

Ruins of Sands' Bre-^ery 322 

Ruins of the Tribune Buildhig 339 

Silent Forever 339 

Post-Office Cat 339 

Chicago will Rise Again 339 

General View of the Ruins of the North Division 339 

Ruins of Rush Medical College 339 

New Chicago 339 

Rums of Field, Leiter & Co. 's Store 340 

Relic found in the Ruins of the C'aurch of the Holy Name 340 

General View of the Ruins on the South Side 357 

Hon. Isaac N. Arnold 375 

Living Among the Ruins 398 

The National Hand of Charity '. . . 411 

The Relief Committee in Session 411 

General Depot of Supplies for the Suiierers by the Fire 429 

Young Ladies Ministering to the Homeless 447 

Opening Vaults of Merchants' Loan and Trust Company 465 

Hauling Safes from the Ruins 483 

The First Building Erected in the Burnt District 501 

John M. Van Osdel 519 

John V. Farwell 537 

The Burning of Peshtego 555 

A Wisconsin Home Enveloped in Flames 573 

Refugees from White Rock Seeking Safety in the Water 591 

Rebuilding Chicago 609 

A Young Merchant Disposing of Relics 627 



PEEFACE. 



Among tlie remarkable jjhenomena of modern times, 
Chicago occupies a leading jolace. Richard Cobden, the 
English statesman, charged Goldwin Smith on the eve of 
his departure for America : " See two things in the 
United States, if nothing else — Niagara and Chicago," — 
intimating thus that these were the two principal Vv^onders 
of the New World to a stranger. Since our Great Con- 
flagration, it has occurred simultaneously to many that 
the ambitious young city, always aspiring to lead, Vvdshed 
also to surpass the world in the way of a fire. And now, 
certainly, her fortunes attract and interest millions of 
mankind as never before. To satisfy this interest in part, 
many have undertaken to write up the city and its vicis- 
situdes. Believing that the story of its changes, pros- 
perity and calamity, of its help and hope, will be eagerly 
I'ead by millions, we offer this contribution, gathered from 
many sources and carefully prepared, to the generous 
public, who have already signalized their interest in our 
welfare by the most magnificent bounty to our suffering 
thousands. Let the poet no longer sing — 

" Oh, the rarity 
Of Christian charity ! " 

but rather celebrate 

" The quality of mercy, 
Which droppeth like the gentle rain from Heaven." 



Our parcHed soil, after fourteen weeks of drouglit, did 
uot rejoice in the showers that fell from God, as we 
exulted in the beneficence that poured forth upon us in 
our extremity of need. "The Lord loveth a cheerful 
giver ! " 

Chicago is great in its ruins and hopeful in its prostra- 
tion. The record of its herculean energy and manly hero- 
ism, and the outlook for its future, must animate and 
encourage the world, now smitten in every part by our 
misfortune. 

We send forth this venture in humble gratitude to the 
Almighty for such a past, in submission to His provi- 
dence, confidence for the future, and trust in the 
charitable generosity of the people, to whom it is boldly 
submitted for their patronage. 

We have faithfully sought to arrange all the lights 
needed for a complete illustration of the stupendous 
events recorded. In the full illumination afforded by 
these various torch-bearers, many of them brilliant and 
glowing, the reader may expect to see and appreciate, as 
no one eye-witness could, what must ever be considered 
marvellous among the marvels of time ! 

E. J. G. 

Chicago. 



" Hear the loud alarum bells — 

Brazen bells ! 
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells I 
In the startled ear of night 
How the J scream out their affright I 
Too much horrified to speak, 
They can only shriek, shriek, 
Out of tune. 
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire, 
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire, 
Leaping higher, higher, higher, 
With a desperate desire 
And a resolute endeavor, 
Now — now to sit or never. 
By the side of the pale-faced moon. 
Oh, the bells, bells, bells. 
What a tale their terror tells 
Of despair ! 
How they clang, and clash, and roar, 
What a horror they outpour 
On the bosom of the palpitating air! " > 



i^OTICE. 



The Publishers purpose, after defraying the expenses of pub- 
lishing and selling this book, to devote a portion of the profits 
which may arise from the sale thereof to the aid of deserving- 
mechanics, working-M'omen, etc., who have suffered by the fires. 
Having already made several instalments, the following letters 
are appended to show the manner in which aid is proposed to be 
rendered. 

The Publisheks, 



Chicago, Noveniber 25, 1871. 
H. S. GooDSPEED & Co. : 

Gentlemen — I have received tlie elegant sewing-machine sent by you to me, 
to be given to the most deserving person of my acquaintance who suffered in the 
late terrible fire here. May God bless you in your endeavors to help our suffering 
people, so many of whom will have a hard struggle to live through the cold 
winter. 

I am very truly yours, 

Mks. lizzie AIKEN, Missionary. 



$100. CmcAGo, Tall JSfovemier, 1871. 

Received from J. W. GooDSPEED, of Chicago, One Hundred Dollars, for the 
Chicago Relief and Aid Society. 

GEORGE M. PULLMAN, Treasurer. 
Per W. C. Nichols, Cashier. 



Fkee Reading-Rooms and Libraky op the ) 
* ■ Young Men's Christian Association, >- 

97 W. Randolph st., Chicago, Nov. 28, 1871. ) 
TAx. J. W. GooDSPEED, Publisher, 
51 S. Carpenter street, Chicago : 
Dear Sir— On behalf of the Yoimg Blen's Christian Association of Chicago, I 
would gratefully acknowledge the receipt of your order upon Lyon & Healy for a 
Burdett Organ for the use of the devotional meetings, upon account of Dr. Good- 
speed's " History of Chicago and the Great Fire." May all the other results of 
that wonderful visitation in like manner tend to promote the praise of God and 
the edification of his Church. 

Yours in Christ, 

ROBERT PATERSON. 



Rooms Ladies' Christian Union, ) 
Cor. Peoria and Jackson streets. ) 
Mr. J. W. GOODSPEED, Publisher : 

Dear Sir — The Ladies' Christian Union do most gratefully acknowledge the 
receipt of a Home Shuttle Sewing-Machine from you, as publisher of Dr. Good- 
speed's " History of Chicago and Great Fires." It is a most timely and accept* 
able gift, and our prayers are that ' ' He wlio loveth a cheerful giver " may 
reward you, who, in giving to the poor in time of their utmost need, but lend to 
Him. 

Yours tmly, 
Mrs. 0. P. KNOX, Fres't Ladies' Christian Union. 



HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 



I.— THE INFANT. 



CHAPTER I. 



Cities, which are but an aggregation of individuals, have their 
periods of development, changes, growth, checks, prosperity and 
adversity, sickness and recovery, and alas! of decline and dissolu- 
tion, like men. The proudest of earth's great gatherings of 
human beings had their origin in some accident, or, we may 
better say, some providential circumstance or course of events, 
and their progress from humble beginnings has been slow. As 
rivers rise in some small obscure fountain in the depth of the 
forest, or upon the mountain side, and wind onward for long dis- 
tances, fed by other streams till they become like the foaming 
Rhine or the majestic Father of Waters, so the metropolis now 
teeming with vast multitudes of busy men, began in a group 
of lowly huts or cabins, and increased by degrees from within 
and from without, by births and immigration, till it reached 



lb USTORY OF THE GKE.VT FIRES 

greatncfcS and became a power in the earth, "VVe may compare it 
to the snowball whicli boys roll along the whitened field till it be- 
comes an immense mass. It was at first just a handful of white 
crystals massed together ; it ends by assuming gigantic proportions. 
Our Londons and other capitals grew np in this manner, and 
]jad in their histui'y all the elements of crudeness and feebleness 
which marked Chicago's infancy. 

The age of fablf has [lassed. and in telling the story of Chicago 
we have no Romulus and Remus suckled by a wolf to adorn our 
tale. Yet if all that was experienced by the first white people 
who settled the shores of this magnificent lake could be de- 
scribed with gra[ihic pen, the story would be full of romance. 
yVc cannot point to such an origin as Venice had, whicli was the 
retreat of robber bands who built among the shallow waters and 
upon the mud a nest for themselves, to which they might bring 
their plunder. Yet upon these sands, and beside the river that 
winds along the prairie as if loth to leave the Lake, savages 
roanied or built their wigwams for temporary residence. And these 
^\•aters echoed to the war-whoop, and the shriek of the despairing 
was heard in unison with the moan of the waves along the beach. 
Eut the white people who came to this Far West were men of 
adventurous, but not bloodthirsty natures, who sought for them- 
selves a fortune in these untrodden virgin regions of the New 
World. These hiudj^ pioneers were tired of restraint in older 
countries, and pined for the freedom of the wild prairies, where 
tlie winds were no freer than the spirits of the hunter. Woman, 
ever clinging fondly to man, accompanied the bold adventurer to 
cheer and bless him in his wanderings, and to help him sustain 
the hardships of frontier life. 

In the fearful Indian massacre which early stained these shores 
with blood, there shone forth the heroism and fidelity of the female 
character — even as sixty years afterwards, in the horrors of the 
furious assault of nmrderous flames, woman exhibited heroism and 



IN CHICAGO AND TUE WEST. 19 

Dobleness, and proved herself worthy to be termed man's "belp- 

aicet." 

O woman, in our hours of ease 
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please, 
And variable as the shade 
By the light, qiiivering aspen made ; 
WTien pain and anguish Avring- the brow, 
A ministering angel thou ! 



CHAPTER IL 
In the alternation ot victoiy and defeat during the wars of 
France and England, the native people, the aborigines, were some- 
times on the side of the colonists and sometimes against them. 
It was natural for them to incline to the dominant party, and 
they became the prey of intriguers Vv'ho bought their treacherous 
aid with presents. It was needful to protect outlying settlements, 
where trade was carried on by adventurous white men, by means 
of forts and garrisons. Chicago, a term said to have denoted a 
king or deity, a skunk or a wild onion, was much haunted by the 
Indians, and a fort there arose to give the shelter of its guns to 
the whites. Often had it been marked for assanlt, but always 
escaped, till the period of the last war with Great Britain, when 
certain circumstances conspired to prepare the way for the great 
tragedy described by the histoi-ian Brown. 

INDIAN MASSACRE. 

When war was declared in 1S12, the little garrison at Chicago, 
consisting of a single compa.ny, was commanded by Captain 
TToald ; Lieutenant Holm and Ensign Eonan were officers under 
him, and Dr. Yan Voorhes its surgeon. 

On the Tth of August, 1S12, in the afternoon, "Winnemeg, or 
Catfish, a friendly Indian of the Pottawatomie tribe, arrived at 
Chicago, and brought dispatches from Greneral Hull, containing 



20 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

the first intelligence of the decianition of war. General Hull's 
letter announced the capture of Mackinaw, and directed Captain 
Heald " to evacuate the fort at Chicago if practicable, and in that 
event to distribute all of the United States property contained 
in the fort, and the United States factory, or agency, among the 
Indians in the neighborhood, and repair to Fort Wayne." Winne- 
meg urged upon Captain Heald the policy of remaining in the 
fort, being supplied as they were with ammunition and provi- 
sions for a considerable time. In case, however, Captain Heald 
thought proper to evacuate the place, he urged upon him the 
propriety of doing so immediately, before the Pottawatomies 
(through whose country they must pass, and who were as yet 
ignorant of the subject of his mission) could collect a force suifi- 
cieut to oppose them. This advice, though given in great 
earnestness, was not sufficiently regarded by Captain Heald ; 
who observed, that he should evacuate the fort, but having 
received orders to distribute the public property among the 
Indians, he did not feel justified in leaving it until he had col- 
lected the Pottawatomies in its vicinity, and made an equitable 
distribution among them. Winuemeg then suggested the expe- 
diency of marching out, and leaving everything standing ; " while 
the Indians," said he, " are dividing the spoils, the troops will be 
able to retreat without molestation." This advice was also 
unheeded, and an order for evacuating the fort was read next 
morning on parade. Captain Heald, in issuing it, had neglected 
to consult his junior officers, as it would have been natural for 
him to do in such an emergency, and as he probably would have 
done, had there not been some coolness between him and Ensign 
Ronan. 

The lieutenant and ensign waited on Captain Heald to learn 
his intentions, and being apprised for the first time of the course 
he intended to pursue, they remonstrated against it. " We do 
not," said they to Captain Heuld, '' believe that our troops can 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 21' 

pass in safety through the country of the Pottawatomies to Fort 
Wayne. Although a part of their chiefs were opposed to an at- 
tack upon us last autumn, they were actuated by motives of pri- 
vate friendship for some particular individuals, and not from a 
regard to the Americans in general ; and it can hardly be sup- 
posed that, in the present excited state of feeling among the In- 
dians, those chiefs will be able to influence the whole tribe, now 
thirsting for vengeance. Besides," said they, " our march must 
be slow, on account of the women and children.- Our force, too, 
is small. Some of our soldiers are superannuated, and some of 
them are invalids. We think, therefore, as your orders are dis- 
cretionary, that we had better fortify ourselves as strongly as pos- 
sible, and remain where we are. S^iccor may reach us before 
we shall be attacked from Mackinaw ; and, in case of such an 
event, we had better fall into the hands of the English than be- 
come victims of the savages." 

Captain Heald replied that his force was inadequate to contend 
with the Indians, and that he should be censured were he to con- 
tinue in garrison when the prospect of a safe retreat to Fort 
Wayne was so apparent. He therefore deemed it advisable to 
assemble the Indians and distribute the public property among 
them, and ask of them an escort thither, with the promise of a 
considerable sum of money to be paid on their safe arrival; add- 
hig that he had perfect confidence in the friendly professions of 
the Indians, from whom, as well as from the soldiers, the capture 
of Mackinaw had studiously been concealed. 

From this time forward the junior officers stood aloof from their 
commander, and, considering his project as little short of mad- 
ness, conversed as little upon the subject as possible. Dissatisfac- 
tion, however, soon filled the camp ; the soldiers began to mur- 
mur, and insubordination assumed a threatening aspect. 

The savages, in the mean time, became more and more trouble- 
Bome, entered the fort occasionally in defiance of the sentinels, 



22 mSTOEY OF THE GREAT FIBES 

and even made their way, without ceremony, into the quarters of 
its commanding otHcer. On one occasion an Indian, taking up a 
rifle, fired it in the parlor of Captain Heald. Some were of 
opinion tliat this was intended as the signal for aii attack. Tlie 
old chiefs at this time passed back and forth among the assembled 
groups, ap^:)arentlj agitated ; and the squaws seemed much ex- 
cited, as thongli some terrible calamity was impending. ISTo fur- 
ther manifestations, however, of ill feeling were exhibited, and 
the day passed without bloodshed. So infatuated, at this time, 
was Captain Ileald, that he supposed he had wrought a favorable 
impression upon the savages, and that the little garrison could 
aow march forth in safety. ^ 

From the *^th to the 12th of August the hostility of the Indians 
was more and more apparent ; and the feelings of the garrison, 
and of those connected witli, and dependent upon it for their safety, 
more and more intense. Distrust everywhere at length prevailed, 
and the want of unanimity among the oflicers was appalling. 
Every inmate retired to rest, expecting to be roused by the war- 
whoop ; and each returning day was regarded by all as another 
step on the road to massacre. 

The Indians from the adjacent villages having at length arrived, 
a council was held on the 12th of August. It was attended only 
by Captain Ileald on the part of the militarj' — the other officers 
refused to attend, having previously learned that a massacre was 
intended. This fact was communicated to Captain Keald ; ho 
insisted, however, on their going, and they resolutely persisted in 
their refusal. When Captain Ileald left the fort they repaired to 
the blockhouse which overlooked the ground where the council 
was in session, and opening the port-holes, pointed their cannon 
in its direction. This circumstance, and their absence, it is sup- 
posed, saved the wliites from massacre. 

Captain Heald informed the Indians in council, that he would, 
next day, distribute among them all the goods in the United 



•m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 23 

States factory, togetbor witli the ammunition and provision?, 
with which the garrison was supplied; and desired of them an 
escort to Fort Wayne, promising them a reward on their arrival 
thither, in addition to the presents they were about to receive. 
The savages assented, with professions of fi'iendsliip, to all he 
proposed, and promised all he required. 

The council was no sooner dismissed, than several waited on 
Captain Ileald in order to oi)en his eyes, if possible, to their 
condition. 

The impolicy of furnishing the Indians with arms and ammu- 
nition, to be used against themselves, struck Captain Ileald with 
so much force that he resolved, without consulting his officers, 
to destroy all not required for immediate use. 

On the next day (August 13th), the goods in the factory store 
were distributed among the Indians; and in the evening the 
ammunition, and also the liquors belonging to the garrison, were 
carried, the former into the sally-port and thrown into the well, 
and the latter through the south gate, as silently as possible, to 
the river bank, where the heads of the barrels were knocked in, 
and their contents discharged into the stream. 

The Indians, suspecting the game, approached as near as 
possible, and witnessed the whole scene. The spare muskets 
were broken up, and thrown into the well, together with bags of 
shot, flints, and gun-screws, and other things; all of little value. 

On the 14th the despondency of the garrison was for a while 
dispelled by the arrival of Captain Wells and fifteen friendly 
Miamies. Having heard at Fort Wayne of the order to evacuate 
Chicago, and knowing the hostile intentions of the Pottawato- 
mies, he hastened thither in order to save, if possible, the little 
garrison from its doom. He was the brother of Mrs. Ileald, and 
having been reared from childhood among the savages, knew 
their character; and something whispered him "that all was not 
well." He was the son of General Wells of Kentucky, who, in 



24 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

the defeat of St. Clair, commanded three hundred savage war- 
riors posted in front of the artillery, who caused extraordinar}' 
carnage among those who served it; and, uninjured himself, 
picked off the artillerists, until "their bodies were heaped up 
almost to the height of their pieces." 

Supposing that the whites, roused bj their reverses, would 
eventually prevail, he resolved to abandon the savages and rejoin 
his countrymen. 

This intrepid warrior of the woods, hearing that his friends 
at Chicago were in danger, and chagrined at the obstinacy of 
Captain Heald, who was thus hazarding their safety, came 
thither to save his friends, or participate in their fate. He ar- 
rived, however, too late to effect the former, but just in time to 
effect the latter. Having, on his arrival, learned that the ammu- 
nition had been destroyed, and the provisions distributed among 
the Indians, he saw- there was no alternative. Preparations were 
therefore made for marching on the morrow. 

In the afternoon a second council was held with the Indians, 
at which they expressed their resentment at the destruction of 
the ammunition and liquor in the severest terms. Notwith- 
standing the precautions which had been observed, the knocking 
in of the heads of the whiskey-barrels had been heard by the 
Indians, and the river next morning tasted, as some of them ex- 
pressed it, "like strong grog." Murmurs and threats were ererj- 
where heard; and nothing, apparently, was wanting but an op- 
portunity for some public manifestation of their resentment. 

Among the chiefs there .were several who participated in the 
general hostility of their tribe, and retained, at the same time, 
a regard for the few white inhabitants of the place. It was im- 
possible, however, even for them to allay the angry feelings of 
the savage warriors, when provocation after provocation had 
thus been given ; and their exertions, therefore, were futile. 

Among this class was Black Partridge, a chief of some renown 



lif CHICAGO AND TBE WEST. 25 

Soon after the council had adjourned, this magnanimous warrior 
repaired to the quarters of Captain Heald, and taking off a medal 
he had long worn, said: "Father, I have come to deliver up to 
you the medal I wear. It was given me by your countryman, 
and I have long worn it as a token of our friendship. Our 
young men are resolved to imbrue their hands in the blood of the 
whites. I cannot restrain them, and will not wear a token of 
peace when compelled to act as an enemy," 

Had doubts pi-eviously existed, they were now at an end. The 
devoted garrison continued, however, their preparations as before ; 
and amid the surrounding gloom a few gallant spirits still cheered 
their companions with hopes of security. 

The ammunition reserved, twenty-five rounds to each soldier, 
was now distributed. The baggage-wagons designed for the 
sick, the women, and the children, containing also a box of car- 
tridges, were now made ready, and the whole party, anticipating 
a fatiguing, if not a disastrous, march on the morrow, retired to 
enjoy a few moments of precarious repose. 

On the morning of the 15th the sun rose with uncommon 
splendor, and Lake Michigan " was a sheet of burnished gold." 

Early in the day a message was received in the American camp, 
from To-pee-na-bee, a chief of the St. Joseph's band, informing 
them that mischief was brewing among the Pottawatomies, who 
had promised them protection. 

About nine o'clock the troops left the fort with martial music, 
and in military array. Captain Wells, at the head of the Mia- 
iiiies, led the van, his face blackened after the manner of the 
Indians. The garrison, with loaded arms, followed, and the 
wagons with the baggage, the women and children, the sick and 
the lame, closed the rear. The Pottawatomies, about five hun- 
dred in number, who had promised to escort them in safety to 
Fort Wayne, leaving a little space, afterward followed. The 
party in advance took the beach road. The}' had no sooner ar- 



26 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

rived at tlic sand-hills, which separate tlio prairie from the beach, 
about a mile and a half from the fort, than the Pottavvatomies, 
instead of continuing in rear of the Americans, left the beach and 
took to the prairie. The sand-hills, of course, intervened, and p;d- 
sented a barrier between the Pottawatomies and the American 
and Miami line of march. This divergence had scarcely been 
effected, when Captain Wells, who with the Miami es was cun- 
sidei-ablj in advance, I'ode back and exclaimed: "They arc about 
to attack us ; form instantly and charge upon them." Tlie word 
had scarcely been uttered, before a volley of musketry from 
behind the sand-hills was poured in upon them. The troops were 
brought immediately into a line, and charged up the bank. 
One man, a veteran of seventy, fell as they ascended. The battle 
at once became general. The Miamies fled at the outset ; their 
chief rode up to the Pottawatomies, charged them with duplicity, 
and brandishing his tomahawk, said, "he would be the first to 
head a party of Americans, and return to punish them for their 
treachery." He then turned his horse and galloped off in pursuit 
of his companions, who were then scouring across the prairie, 
and nothing was seen or heard of them more. 

The American troops behaved gallantly. Though few in num- 
ber, they sold their lives as dearly as possible. They felt, how- 
ever, as if their time had come, and sought to forget all that was 
dear on earth. 

While the battle was raging the surgeon. Doctor Yoorhcs, 
who was badly wounded, and whose horse had been shot from 
under him, approaching Mrs. Helm, the wife of Lieutenant Ilelm 
(who was in action, participating in all its vicissitudes), observed: 
'• Do you think," sfiid he, " they will take our lives ? I am badly 
wounded, but I think not mortally. Perhaps we can purchase 
safety by offering a large reward. Do you think," continued he, 
" there is any chance ? " " Doctor Voorhes," replied Mrs. Helm, 
" let us not waste the few moments, which yet remain, in idle 




BLACK PARTRIDGE HOLDING MRS. HELM IN THE WATER. 



IN CHICAGO AND THPi WEST. 27 

orill-fouridecl hopes. Our fate is inevitable. We must soon ap])ear 
at tlie bar of God, Let ns uiake snch preparations as are jet in 
our power." " Oh ! " said he, " I cannot die. I am unfit to die ! 
If I had a short time to prepare ! Death ! — oh, how awful ! " 

At this moment Ensign Ronan was fighting at a little distance 
with a tall and portly Indian ; the former, mortally wounded, was 
nearly down, and struggling desperately upon one knee. Mrs. 
Helm, pointing her finger, and directing the attention of Dr. 
Yoorhes thither, observed: " Look," said she, " at that young 
man ; he dies like a soldier." 

" Yes," said Doctor Voorhes, " but he has no terrors of the 
future ; he is an unbeliever." 

A young savage immediately raised his tomahawk to strike Mrs. 
Helm. She sprang instantly aside, and the blow intended for hei 
head fell upon her shoulder. She thereupon seized him around 
liis neck, and while exerting all her efforts to get possession of his 
ecalping-knife, was seized by another Indian, and dragged forcibly 
from his grasp. 

The latter bore her, struggling and resisting, towards the lake. 
Notwithstanding, however, the rapidity with which she was 
hurried along, she recognized, as she passed, the remains of the 
imfortunate surgeon stretched lifeless on the prairie. She was 
plunged immediately into the water and held tJiere, notwith 
Btauding her resistance, with a forcible hand. She shortly, how 
ever, perceived that the intention of lier captor was not to drown 
her, as he held her in a position to keep her head above the 
water. Thus reassured she looked at him attentively, and in 
spite of his disguise recognized the " white man's friend." It 
was Black Pai tridge. 

When the firing had ceased, her preserver bore her from 
the water and conducted her up the sand-bank. It was a beauti- 
ful day in August. The heat, however, of the sun was op- 
pressive ; and walking through the sand, exposed to its burning 



28 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

rays in her drenched condition, weary, and exhausted by efforts 
beyond her strength, anxious beyond measure to learn the fate of 
her friends, and alarmed for her own, her situation was one of 
agony. 

The troops having fought with desperation till two-thirds of 
their number were slain, the remainder, twenty-seven in all, 
borne down by an overwhelming force, and exhausted by efforts 
hitherto unequalled, at length surrendered. They stipulated, 
liowever, for their own safety and for the safety of their remain- 
ing women and children. The wounded prisoners, however, in 
tlie hurry of the moment, were unfortunately omitted, or ratlier, 
not particularly mentioned, and were therefore regarded by the 
Indians as having been excluded. 

One of the soldiers' wives, having frequently been told that 
prisoners taken by the Indians were subjected to tortures worse 
than death, had from the first expressed a resolutiou never to be 
taken, and when a party of savages approached to make her their 
prisoner she fought with desperation, and though assured of kind 
treatment and protection, refused to surrender, and was literall}'^ 
cut in pieces, and her mangled remains left oil the field. 

After the surrender, one of the baggage-wagons, containing 
twelve children, was assailed by a single savage, and the whole 
number were massacred. All, without distinction of age or sex, 
fell at once beneath his murderous tomahawk. 

Captain Wells, who had as yet escaped unharmed, saw from a 
distance the whole of this murderous scene, and being apprised 
of the stipulation, and on seeing it thus violated, exclaimed aloud 
so as to be heard by the Pottawatomies around him, whose 
prisoner he then was : " If this be your game I wiU kill too ! " and 
turning his horse's head, instantly started for the Pottawatomie 
camp, which was near what is now the corner of State and Lake, 
where the squaws and Indian children had been left ere the 
battle began. He had no sooner started than several Indians 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. Si9 

followed in his rear and discharged their rifles at him as he gal 
loped the prairie. He laid himself flat on the neck of his horse, 
and was apparently out of their reach, when the ball of one of 
his pursuers took effect, killing his horse and wounding him 
severely. He was again a prisoner — as the savages came up, 
Winnemeg and Wa-ban-see, two of their number and both his 
friends, used all their endeavors in order to save hin ; they had 
disengaged him already from his horse, and were supporting him 
along, when Pee-so-tum, a Pottawatomie Indian, drawing his 
scalping-knife, stabbed him in the back, and thus inflicted a mortal 
wound. After struggling for a moment he fell and breathed his 
last in the arms of his friends, a victim for those he had sought 
to save — a sacrifice to his own rash, presumptuous, and perhaps 
indiscreet intentions. 

The battle having ended and the prisoners being secured, the 
latter were conducted to the Pottawatomie camp near the fort. 
Here the wife of Waw-bee-wee-nah, an Illinois chief, perceiving 
the exhausted condition of Mrs. Helm, took a kettle and dipping 
up some water from the stream which flowed sluggishly by them, 
threw into it some maple sugar, and stirring it up with her hand 
gave her to drink. "It was," says Mrs. Helm, "the most 
delicious draught I had ever taken, and her kindness of maimer, 
amid so much atrocity, touched my heart." Her attention, how- 
ever, was soon directed to other objects. The fort, after the troops 
had marched out, became a scene of plunder. The cattle were 
shot down as they ran at large, and lay dead or were dying 
around her. It called up afresh a remark of Ensign Ronan's 
made before: "Such," said he, "is to be our own fate — to be 
shot down like brutes." 

The wounded prisoners, we have already remarked, were not 
included in the stipulation made on the battle-field, as the Indians 
understood it. On reaching, therefore, the Pottawatomie camp, a 
scene followed which beggars description. 



30 niSTOEY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

A wounded soldier Iving on the ground was violently assaulted 
by an old squaw, infuriated by the loss of friends, or excited 
by the murderous scenes around her, who, seizing a pitchfork, 
attacked with demoniac ferocity and deliberately murdered, in 
cold blood, the wretched victim now helpless and exposed to the 
burning rays of the sun, his wounds already aggravated by its 
heat, and he writhing in torture. During the succeeding night 
five other wounded prisoners were tomahawked. 

Those wounded remained in the wigwams of their captors. 
The work of plunder being now completed, the fort next day was 
set on lire. A fair and equal distribution of all the finery belong- 
ing to the garrison had apparently been made, and shawls and 
ribbons and feathers were scattered about the camp in great 
profusion. The family of the principal Indian trader having 
been moved across the river. Black Partridge and Wa-bau-see, 
with three other friendly Indians, stood sentinels at his door. 
Everything was now tranquil. Even savage ferocity appeared to 
be gorged. Soon, however, a partj- of Indians from the Wabash 
arrived, the most implacable of all the Pottawatomies. 

Runners had been sent to all their villages, and informatioa 
transmitted thither that the fort was to be evacuated, that its 
spoils were to be divided among the savages, and its garrison to 
be massacred ; they had therefore hurried on with their utmost 
speed to participate in the exhilarating and awful scene. On 
arriving at tlio Aux Plains they were met by a party returning 
from Chicago bearing a wounded chief along. Infoi'med by these 
friends that a battle had been fought and a victory won, that its 
spoils had been divided among the conquerors, and the prisoners 
scalped and slain (and they not present), their rage was unbounded. 
The}' therefore accelerated their march, and on reaching Chicago 
blackened their faces in token of their intentions, and entered the 
parlor of the Indian trader before referred to where the family 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 31 

were assemlilcd -.vitli their faithful protectors aronnd, and seated 
thcinselves without ceremony in silence upon the floor. 

Black Partridge, perceiving in theii' looks what was passing in 
tlieir minds, and not daring to remonstrate, observed in an under 
tone to Wa-ban-see, " We have endeavored to save onr friends, 
but all is in vain — nothing will save them now." At this moineiii 
another party of Indians arrived, and a friendly whoop was heard 
from the opposite shore. Black Partridge sprung upon his feet, 
and advancing to the river's bank, met tlieir chief as he landed. 

*' Who," said Black Partridge, " are yon ? " "A man," i-e- 
plied the cl\Ief ; " M'ho are you ? " "A man like yourself." " But 
tell me," said Black Partridge, "who are you for?" "I am," 
said he, " the Sau-ga-nash." " Then make all speed to the house," 
replied the former ; " your friends are in danger, and you only 
can save them." 

Billy Caldwell, the newly arrived chief (for it was he), there- 
upon hurried immediately thither, entered the parlor with a calm 
deliberate step, and without the least agitation in Ids manner, 
took off his accoutrements, and placing his rifle behind the door, 
saluted the hostile savages. " How now, my friends?" said lie, 
" a good day to you. I was told there were enemies here ; but I 
am glad to find none but friends. Why have you blackened _your 
faces ? Are you mourning for the friends 3^ou have lost in tlie bat- 
tle (purposely mistaking the token of their evil intentions), or are 
you fiisting? If so, ask our friend here and he wUl give you to 
eat. He is the Indians' friend, and never reli.r^ed them what 
they had need of." 

Taken thus by surprise, the savages were ashamed to acknowl 
edge their bloody purpose ; and in a subdued and modest tone said 
they had come to beg of their friend some white cotton, in which 
to wi-ap their dead before interring them. This was given them, 
with other presents, and they quietly departed. 

Captain and Mrs. Heald were sent across the lake to St. 



32 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FERES 

Joseph's after the battle ; the former was twice, and the laUer 
seven times wounded in the engagement. The horse rode by 
Mrs. Heald was a fine spirited animal, and the Indians were 
anxious to obtain it uninjured. Their shots were therefore prin- 
cipally aimed at the rider. Her captor being about to tear off 
her bonnet, in order to scalp her, young Chaudonnaire, an Indian 
of the St. Joseph's tribe, knowing her personally, came to her 
I'escne. and offered a mule he had just taken for her ransom ; to 
this he added a promise of ten bottles of whiskey. The latter 
was a strong temptation. Her captor, perceiving that she was 
badly wounded, observed that she might die, and asked him if ho 
would give him the whiskey at all events ; he promised to do so, 
and the bargain was concluded. 

Mrs. Heald was afterward put . into a boat in company with 
others, including her children, and a buffalo robe thrown over 
them. She was then enjoined to be silent, as she valued her life. 
In this situatio|> she remained, without uttering a sound that 
could betray her to the savages, who came frequently to the boat 
in search of prisoners. Captain Heald was captured by an Indian 
from the Kankakee, who, having a strong personal regard for 
him, and seeing the wounded and enfeebled condition of his wife, 
released him without ransom, in order that he might accompany 
Mrs. Heald^ to St. Joseph's. To the latter place Mr. and Mrs. 
Heald were conveyed by Chaudonnaire and his party. The 
Indian who had so nobly released his prisoner, on returning to 
his tribe, found them dissatisfied ; and their displeasure became 
so manifest that he resolved to make a journey to St. Joseph's, to 
reclaim his prisoner ISTews, however, of his intention preceding 
him, Mr. and Mrs Heald, by the aid and influence of To-pa-na- 
bee and Kee-po-tah, were put into a bark canoe, and paddled bj 
A chief of the Pottawatomies and his wife to Mackinaw, three 
hundred miles distant, along the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, 
and delivered to the British commander. They were kindly re- 



TN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 35 

ceived, and sent afterward as prisoners to Detroit, where they 
were finally exchanged. 

Lieutenant Helm was wonnded in the action, and taken pris- 
oner ; he was afterward removed by some friendly Indians to the 
An Sable, and from thence to St. Louis, and liberated from cap- 
tivity through the intervention of Mr. Thomas Forsythe, an 
Indian trader. 

Mrs. Helm was wounded slightly in the ankle, had her horse 
shot from under her, and after passing through several agonizing 
scenes, was taken to Detroit. 

The soldiers, with their wives and children, were dispersed 
among the Pottawatomies on the Illinois, the "Wabash, and Rock 
rivers, and some were taken to Milwaukie. In the following 
spring they were principally collected at Detroit, and ransomed. 
A part of them, however, remained in captivity another year, and 
during that period experienced more kindness than they or their 
friends had anticipated. 



CHAPTER III. 
The indolent, debauched barbarians were among the most 
serious obstructions to the progress of the infant town, as their 
bloody and vengeful ancestors had hindered the early settlement. 
Men were unwilling to hazard their scalps in unequal contests 
with these wild savages unless there was some pritG to be gained 
worthy the dangerous venture ; and when they had become tamed 
they were still animals, corrupt and corrrupting. The condition 
of the muddy banks of Chicago river and the outlaying prairie 
was not particularly inviting to persons of ^intelligence, who had 
been accustomed to the comparative civilization and improve- 
ments of the East. But one by one these obstacles disappeared. 



36 HISTOKT OF THE GKEAT FIEES 

The inferior race, made so bj ages of ignorance and superstition, 
mnst inevitably go down before the superior, exalted by centuries 
of education and Christian influences. Once, indeed, Teuton and 
Saxon and Celt were low down in the scale of humanity, scarcely 
equalling the North American Indian in his best estate; and long 
periods of revolution and elevation preceded the present high 
position they occupy in the New World. And now, placed on 
the borders of civilization, exposed to the low and debasing influ- 
ences of barbarism, they are liable to descend to a depth of degra- 
dation scarcely conceivable. In 1S27 an agent of the Govern- 
ment reported Chicago as having no dwellings above kennels and 
pens, and described the squatters as " a miserable race of men, 
hardly equal to the Indians." It was therefore a policy of wis- 
dom in the United States, and even of humanity, to remove the 
savages to a distance from the whites, between whom a mutual 
degradation was exerted. We submit Parton's description, which 
graphically tells the story and justifies the action of the authori- 
ties, while it enables us to realize some of the gigantic difiicultiea 
under which our infant city labored : — 

"On a day in September, 1833, seven thousand of them 
gathered at the village to meet Commissioners of the United 
States for the purpose of selling their lands in Illinois and Wis- 
consin. In a large tent on the bank of the river the chiefs 
signed a treaty which ceded to the United States the best twenty 
million acres of the Northwest, and agreed to remove twenty 
days' journey west of the Mississippi. A year later four thou- 
sand of the dusky nuisances assembled in Chicago to receive 
their first annual annuity. The goods to be distributed were 
heaped upon the prairie, and the Indians were made to sit down 
around the pile in circles, the squaws sitting demurely in the 
outer ring. Thoser who were selected to distribute the mer- 
chandise took armfuls from the heap, and tossed the articles 
to favorites seated on the ground. Those who were overlooked 



• m crncAGO axd tee west. 37 

soon grew impatient, rose to tlieir feet, pressed forward, and at 
last rushed upon the pile, each struggling to seize something 
from it. So severe was tlie scramble, that those who had secured 
an armful could not get away, and the greater number of empty- 
handed could not get near the heap. Then those on the outside 
began to hurl lieavy articles at the crowd, to clear the way for 
themselves, and the scramble ended in a fight, in which several 
of the Indians were killed and a large number wounded. Night 
closed in on a wild debauch, and when the next morning arrived 
few of the Indians were the better off for the thirty thousand 
dollars' worth of goods which had been given them. Similar 
scenes, with similar bloody results, were enacted in the fall 
of 1835 ; but that was the last Indian payment Chicago ever saw. 

" In September, 1835, a long train of forty wagons, each 
drawn by four oxen, conveyed away, across the pi-airies, the 
children and effects of the Pottawatomies, the men and able- 
bodied women walking alongside. In twenty days they crossed 
the Mississippi, and for twenty days longer continued their west- 
ward march, and Chicago was troubled with them no more. 
Walking in the imposing streets of the Chicago of to-day, how 
difficult it is to realize that thirty-two years have not elapsed 
since the red men were dispossessed of the very site on which the 
city stands, and were ' toted ' off in forty days to a point now 
reached in fifteen hours." 

Were there space to insert here, after the above interesting 
exit of "poor Lo," Judge Ruger's poem nailed to the walls of the 
Old Block House which was threatened with demolition, we 
slionld perceive how fondly the early settlers clung to the relic 
whose reminiscences were full of painful interest. The Fort 
was abandoned in consequence of the unsettled state of affairs 
in the country; but as men would congregate here, it was rebuilt 
in 1816, and finally demolished in 1856. Our people scarcely 
have time or space to devote to what is not strictly practicable 



38 HISTOKY OF THE GEE AT FIRES 

for present uses, and hence the relics of other days soon fade and 
perish from neglect or actual violence. 

She boldly faced the daring foe, 

She did her duty well. 
She kept the white men's foes at bay — 

The savage hounds of heU ! 



CHAPTER rV. 

Another difficulty which oppressed the early settlers was the 
mud, which at times seemed bottomless. Where the city lately 
prospered in all its glory and grandeur, with clean streets, deep 
basements, and dry cellars, and buildings rising in toAvered ma- 
jesty, the water stood a portion of the year, or teams struggled, 
helplessly " slewed " in the deep black ooze of the streets and 
prairies. Often a wagon would sink so far that little but the 
tongue appeared to indicate where the remainder lay. Or a 
board was set up with a rude inscription, evidently facetious, 
"No bottom here." The water was surface water, and little 
better than if dipped out of a pool by the road-side. The river's 
mouth was choked by a bar of sand which destroyed the har- 
bor, and communication with the better portions of the country 
was extremely precarious. More than two centuries after the 
Pilgrims landed at Plymouth all this vast prairie region was, as 
it were, a wilderness occupied by wild beasts and still wilder 
men, and the metropolis of the Northwest yet lay floundering 
like an infant in swaddling clothes — so slowly does the Creator 
evolve His plans, and leave something ever fresh and rich for 
human enterprise to discover and possess. The bold fathers of 
N"ew England wrung from nature's bosom scanty nourishment; 
and her cities grew slowly — far more slowly than the western 
Hercules. When the East had become established in wealth, and 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 39 

overflowed with brains and energy, here was the natural outlet 
and place for expansion and investment. God had made the 
flattest spot on the continent the fit location for that "city set on 
a hill which cannot be hid." For, singularly enough, the rain 
tliat falls in this spot finds its way by natural courses partly to 
the Atlantic by the St. Lawrence and partly to the Gulf of 
Mexico by the Mississippi. There is Lake Michigan connecting 
us with the northern seas, and the Illinois river bearing our 
sewerage to the southern ocean, A few men were gifted with 
that far-sightedness that enabled them to see how the .young 
child must grow. They had even seen his star in the East, and 
they came with their gifts of courage, talent, hope, and industry 
to lay them at his feet, and swear allegiance to the destiny of the 
promising Infant. 



40 HTRTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



IL THE YOUTH. 



CHAPTER V. 



Men early undervalued land without trees, and often chose the 
openings, or groves, the sheltered banks of streams, or hilly loca- 
tions, in preference to these naked prairies. All lived to regret 
their choice who saw the development of these portions of the 
soil which contain the largest and best accumulations of fertility, 
and offer the easiest opportunities for cultivation. At certain 
seasons they seem barren and gloomy in their nakedness, but at 
most periods there is something beautiful in their boundlessness, 
like the ocean's expanse; and their undulating bosom, like the sea 
in a storm,*is covered with a green spray, or lit up with the golden 
glory of abundant harvests. 

It was doubtless a blessing to our country that the Pilgrims did 
not, like the early Spaniards, light upon these rich parts of the 
country, or discover the mineral resources of the Pacific coast. 
The}'- grew a nobler race in consequence of their tough encoun- 
ters with savage men, and the rugged shores and hills of New 
England. We had a basis of moral and mental stability, and 
political prosperity, when the gates were flung wide and the 
world invited to pour their masses forth upon these virgin treasures. 

The Illinois river flows into the Mississippi, and is connected 
with Lake Michigan by a canal at La Salle, ninety-six miles from 
Chicago. This great work was begun in 1836, and completed 
fn 1848, and many thousands were already awaiting its benefits 
in the yoimg city, where the transshipment of the produce of the 
Southern counties must furnish employment and create business 



m CHICAGO AND THE AVEST. 41 

This enterprise gave Chicago its first strong push upward. In 
later days the ditch has been so deepened that the amber-colored 
waters of our lake flow through the Cliicago river and cleanse 
out its filth, so long an ofience whose rankness smelled to heaven 
Until last spring, or the early summer of 1871, at all seasons, 
except when the ice shut down the foul odors, there rose from the 
bayou or lagoon lying stagnant along its twelve or fifteen miles, 
unless stirred by the pumps, the vilest stench, which not only dis- 
gusted the senses, but attacked the health of our citizens. To 
strangers it was a perpetual source of raillery. A story is told of 
a citizen who made a visit in June to the country, and was so 
overpowered by the fresh air that he fainted, and was revived 
only upon the application to his nose of a^decayed fish. As he 
rallied, and speech returned, he asked, " Where am I ? It smells 
so much like home." The canal has, therefore, proved a double 
advantage, never to be overestimated, in bringing us into contact 
and relations with the wealthy heart of our State, and bearing 
away from us the sewerage of a populous city.. 



CHAPfEE VI. 

In 1832 there was a tax of one hundred and fifty dollars levied 
on the eight hundred people then dwelling on the banks of Chi- 
cago river, and the first public building consumed one-twelfth of 
the levy — " a pound for stray cattle." The population multiplied 
from 1S33, though in 183Y there were but 4,470 persons here. 
Government began to dredge out the river, and J^ature helped 
with a freshet that swept away the bar, and made a harbor acces- 
sible to the largest vessels. The Infant then became the Youth, 
and people were wild with excited hopes of sudden riches. 



42 HISTORY OF THE GRKAT FIRES 

Ford's History of Illinois says: In the spring and summer of 
1S3G the great land and town-lot speculation of those times had 
fairly reached and spread over Illinois. It commenced in the 
State lirst at Cliicago, and was the means of building up that 
place, in a year or two, from a village of a few houses to be a city 
of several thousand inhabitants. The story of the sudden fortunes 
made there excited at lirst wonder and amazement, next a gam- 
bling spirit of adventure, and lastly an all-absorbing desire for 
sudden and s])lendid wealth. Chicago had been for some time 
only a great town market. The plots of towns for a hundred 
miles around were carried there to be disposed of at auction. 
The eastern people had caught the mania. Every vessel coming 
west was loaded with them, their money, and means, bound for 
Chicago, the great fairyland of fortunes. But, as enough did not 
come to satisfy the insatiable greediness of Chicago sharpers* 
and speculators, they frequently consigned their wares to eastern 
markets. Thus, a vessel would be freighted with land and town 
lots, bound for New York and Boston markets, at less cost than 
a barrel of flour. In fact, lands and town-lots w^ere the staple ot 
the country, and were the only article of export. 

Outside the little town floundering in the mud, there were 
sturdy farmers wresting from the black and fertile soil their hid- 
den treasures. These men had Chicago for their chief market, 
and contributed to raise it from the revulsions which cast it down 
in 1836 and 183T. It is interesting to notice how the country 
made the city, and this reacted upon the country, so that the 
whole Northwest is vitally concerned in the prosperity of her 
metropolis. "We turn again to Barton's description of this period, 
and of the progress in business now steadily observable. 

" A little beef had already been salted and sent across the lake ; 
but in 1839 the business began to assume promising proportions, 
3,000 cattle having been driven in from the prairies, barrelled, 
and exported. In 1838 a ven turesome trader shipped thirty-nine 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 4S 

two-bnsliel bags of wheat. Next year, nearly 4,000 bushels were 
exported; the next, 10,000; the next, 40,000. In 1842 the 
amount rose, all at once, from 40,000 to nearly 600,000, and 
announced to parties interested that the " hard times " were com- 
ing to an end in Cljicago. But the soft times were not. That 
mountain of grain was brought into this quagmire of a town from 
far back in the prairies, — twenty, fifty, one hundred, and even 
one hundred and fifty miles ! The season for carrying grain to 
market is also the season of rain, and many a farmer in those 
times has seen his load hopelessly " slewed " within what is now 
Chicago. The streets used often to be utterly choked and impas- 
sable from the concourse of wagons, which ground the roads into 
long vats of blacking. And yet, before there was a railroad 
begun or a canal finished, Chicago exported two and a quarter 
millions of bushels of grain in a year, and sent back on the most 
of the wagons that brought it, part of a load of merchandise." 

In 1849 the first locomotive halted ten miles below the city, 
and heralded the coming of the tide that rolled across the prairies, 
as the Nile fi-eshets enrich its banks. The immigrants were 
usually of the better class, and made communities which have no 
superiors in the civilized world. 



CHAPTER VIL 

DuKiNG these years, between 1833 and 1850, men came here 
who have made the city great by their labors. Many of these 
noble spirits lived only long enough to see the name of Chicago 
respected and honored, and escaped the sorrow of ^vitnessing her 
proud career so cruelly arrested. Others still survive the confla- 
gration, who have lost much of their accumulations ; perhaps all 



M HISTOKT OF THE GKEAT FniES 

is cousumed; they are left to an old age of disappointment 
and want. Of the prominent citizens whose brain and energy 
gave the city its present pre-eminence, some are yet in the prime 
of vigorous manhood, and will rally to rebuild and restore that 
which was at once their pride and .joy. They are crippled in 
resources, but undaunted in spirit. We can give a view of the 
youth of this region and city with increased vividness by sketch- 
ing briefly the career of some of these ]3nblic-spirited men, who 
became early identified with the fortunes of Chicago. One, of 
whom all persons familiar with our affairs would be quick to 
speak and glad to hear, is a gentleman who has experienced very 
severe losses both here and in the States devastated at the same 
time. 

Wm. B. Ogden, the Railway King of the West, still towers 
among us, a strong refuge and help in our time of need. From a 
faithful notice in Biographical Sketches, we glean these items : — 

" He arrived at Chicago ^n June, 1835, having then recently 
united with friends in the purchase of real estate in this city. He 
and they foresaw that Chicago was to be a g©od town, and they 
purchased largely, including Wolcott's addition, and nearly the 
half of Kinzie's addition, and the block of land upon which the 
freight-houses of the Galena and Chicago Union Eailroad now 
stand. 

Mr. Ogden was very successful in his operations in 1835-6 ; 
but he became embarrassed in 1837- 8, by assuming liabilities for 
friends, several of whom he endeavored to aid, with but partial 
success. He struggled on with these embarrassments for several 
years. Finally, in 1842-3, Mr. Ogden escaped from the last of 
them ; and since then his career of pecuniary success has been un- 
clouded. They were gloomy days for Chicago when the old inter- 
nal improvement system went by the board, and the canal drew 
its slow length along, and operations upon it were finally suspend- 



EST CrnCAGO AND THE WEST. 45 

ed, leaving the State comparatively nothing to show for the mil- 
lions squandered in " internal improvements." 

Plis operations in real estate have been immense. He has sold 
real estate for himself and others to an amount exceeding ten mil- 
lions of dollars, requiring many thousand deeds and contracts 
which have been signed by him. The fact that the sales of his 
house have, for some years past, equalled nearly one million of 
dollars per annum, will give some idea of the extent of his busi- 
ness. He has literally made the rough places smooth and the 
crooked ways straight, in Chicago. More than one hundred miles 
of streets, and hundreds of bridges at street cornei-s, besides sev- 
eral other bridges, including two over the Chicago river, have 
been made by him, at the private expense of himself and clients, 
and at a cost of probably hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Mr. Ogden's mind is of a very practical character. The first 
floating swing bridge over the Chicago river was built by him for 
the city, on Clark street ; (before he ever saw one elsewhere), 
and answered well its designed purpose. He was early engaged 
in introducing into, extensive use in the West McCormick's reap- 
ing and mowing machines, and building up the first large factory 
for their manufacture — that now owned by the McCormicks. In 
this manufactory, during Mr. Ogden's connection with it, and at 
his suggestion, was built the first reaper sent to England, and 
Avhich at the great Exhibition of 1851, in London, did so much 
for the credit of American manufactures there. 

He was a contractor upon the Illinois and Michigan canal, and 
his efforts to prevent its suspension, and to resuscitate and com- 
plete it, were untiring. 

Mr. Ogden is a man of great public spirit, and in enterprise 
unsurpassed. To recapitulate the public undertakings which have 
commanded his attention and received his countenance and sup- 
port, would be to catalogue most of those in this section of the 
Northwest. 



46 mSTOKT OF THE GEEAT FIKES 

Mr. Ogden has never married. In 1837 he built a delightful resi- 
dence in the centre of a beautiful lot, thickly covered with fine na- 
tive growth forest trees, and surrounded by four streets, in that part 
of the city called North Chicago ; and there, when not absent 
from home, he indulges in that hospitality which is at the same 
time so cheering to his friends and so agreeable to himself. 

What the presence of a man, born like him to command, and 
organize action, might have done for our stricken city we now 
know not. As soon as the dreadful tidings reached him, as will 
be seen from his letter inserted below, he flew to the rescue. 
Thirty-five years ago Mayor Ogden forecast the future, as men of 
judgment may do, but this vision did not rush red on his sight 
Nevertheless, he rallies in youthful zeal, his eye not dimmed nor 
his natural force abated, to gather up the fragments, and recon- 
struct out of these shattered remains a city that shall be worthy 
of the lavish gifts of nature, and the splendid endowments of cap- 
ital. His words, spoken to the citizens amidst the ruins, and in 
their exchanges, have all been hopeful, conciliatory, and wise. 
May Heaven grant him years to see a rehabilitation of our dis- 
mantled town, so that, like the patriarch, his last days may be his 
best. His letter must strike every mind and touch the heart 
with the sense of the pathos of human life; for, like many oth- 
ers, he had doubtless come to feel that " nothing can stop Chicago 
now." A change of wind for a few hours on Monday would have 
fairly blotted us out, and scattered our three hundred thousand 
people to the four winds of Heaven. In his sublime faith, he 
says : The Northwest, which made Chicago, and forces her on 
more and more rapidlj^, is not, except in her sympathies for our 
great loss, affected by the Chicago fire, and her borders w^ere never 
being extended so fast, so broadly, or so far, by railways, by 
settlements, improvements, and added people and wealth, as 
now ; and Chicago's future and " manifest destiny " as a great 
metropolitan Western city was never so assured. 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 47 

" ChicacxO, October 11, 1871. 

" I left New York on Monday morning last, and readied this 
utterly indescribable scene of destruction and rnin on Tuesday 
evening after dark. 

" On the cars I kept hearing of more and more dreadful things 
until I reached here. The truth cannot well be exceeded by 
report or imagination. How it could be that neither buildings, 
men, nor anything could encounter or withstand the torrent of 
fire without utter destruction is explained by the fact that the 
fire was accompanied by the fiercest tornado of wind ever known 
to blow here, and it acted like a perfect blow-pipe, driving the 
brilliant blaze hundreds of feet with so perfect a combustion that 
it consumed the smoke, and its heat was so great that fireproof 
buildings sank before it almost as readily as wood — nothing but 
earth could withstand it; consequently my brother Mahlon's 
house is the only unburned dwelling on the North Side, from the 
river to Lincoln Park, within half or three-quarters of a mile of 
the lake shore; and the only other unburnt buildings were two 
down at the end of our north pier. On the South Side, east of the 
South Branch and north of Harrison street, but two buildings are 
left. 

" The fire advanced almost as fast as you could escape before 
it, and in a very few hours about one hundred thousand people 
had to leave their houses and fiee for their lives, carrying but 
little, often nothing, with them. 

"When I reached the depot on my arrival here it was quite 
dark. The burning district had no lamp. Thousands of smoulder- 
ing fires were all that could be seen, and they added to the mourn- 
ful gloom of all around you, and do so yet. I saw no one that I 
knew at the depot, and had as yet no definite knowledge of the 
extent and details of the ruin. I hired a hack and started for my 
own house, directing the hackman — who was a stranger — as well 



48 mSTOKT OF THE GREAT FIKES 

as I could. Often, however, I was lost among the unrecognizable 
ruins, and could not tell where I was. Not a living thing was 
to be seen. At length, however, more bj the burnt trees than 
anything else, I threaded my way over the fallen dehris, and past 
the pale blue iiames of the winter's stock of anthracite coal burn- 
ing in almost every cellar, until I came to the ruined trees and 
broken basement walls — all that remained of my more than 
thirt}^ years' pleasant home. All was blackened, solitary, smoul- 
dering ruins around, gloomy beyond description, and telling a 
tale of woe that words cannot. 

"I proceeded to learn the fate of Mahlon's and Caroline's 
beautiful places. Near the ruined water-works on Chicago 
avenue I saw a lantern ; stopped the carriage, got out and 
made my way, over fallen walls that blocked the street in 
many places, to it, and there met the engineer of the water- 
works, whom I knew, and from whom I first learned that 
Mahlon's house, through the efforts of General Strong, Charley, 
and others, was the only one unburned in all that region, and I 
gladly made my way to it. Found Mahlon, General Strong, 
and Charley there, all the rest of the family having fled to Eiver- 
side. 

" The wind at the time of the fire was from the southwest, and 
Mahlon's house being some six hundred to eight hundred feet 
distant from others across the park in that direction, the flames 
could not reach it so directly, and the air mingled with them 
more, and made it possible to live and breathe there while 
the fiery torrent which so filled the air passed. Everything 
but the two buildings mentioned is swept from our dock and 
canal property, and the new piers are considerably injured. 

" Aid and sympathy come to us from all quarters with a -will 
that touches our heart to the core, and serves us wondeifully in 
our hour of need ; but the great loss and ruin remain. 

" Worse than all here, so far as it goes, is the utter destruction 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 49 

of Pcshtego village, with all its houses, factories, mills, stores, 
machine-shops, horses, cattle, aud, sad to say, seventy-five to one 
hundred or more people. Tliev buried yesterday two hundred 
and fifty of the farming people around om- mills, burned by the 
tornado on their farms or on their way to the village for safety, 
and seventy-five more from the village ; and it is said others are 
drowned in the pond. 

" My large mills and buildings at the mouth of the river 
escaped entirely. One of my large barge-vessels was burned, and 
two others and the steamer that towed them are missing as yet, 
since the storm, with a million of lumber on them. 

" I have been two days, by snatches of time, writing this, with 
much difficulty. 

"W. B. Ogden." 



CHAPTER Vin, 

• 

One of the sadder features of the conflagration was the loss of 
property by men who have grown gray in the service of their fel- 
low-men, and whose competence seemed assured. Especially 
painful was this aspect of the case when men were sorely wounded, 
whose fortunes have been sacredly held as a legacy from God for 
the promulgation of truth and the amelioration of human sorrow. 
Hon. Samuel Hoard belonged to this privileged class whose delight 
is in promoting the welfare of mankind and the glory of God. 
He wears the hoary head which is a crown of glory, and has felt 
the truth of that scriptural saying that riches take to themselves 
wings and fly away. "What he has given he has as an everlast- 
ing treasure laid up with Him who loveth a cheerful giver. His 
life is inseparably bound up with young Chicago, and we take 
pleasure in reproducing a brief view of his history here, and hid 



50 mSTOET OF THE GREAT FIEE8 

general character and influence, for it should be known that thfi 
men who did most for the rising West were generally men of in 
tegrity and Christian virtue. We have been cursed with many 
bad men, and blessed with many whose names shine on the scroll 
of the wise and good. 

Becoming infected with the Western fever, he migrated to Illi- 
nois, and commenced life in Cook County, upon a prairie farm. In 
that early day the farmer paid great prices for oxen and seed, and 
obtained small prices for beef and grain, so that the prospects of 
sudden wealth vanished, or were dashed with disappointment. 
One of Mr. Hoard's neighbors spent two days in marketing a load 
of potatoes, and then, not finding a purchaser who w^ould offer 
more tlian ten cents a bushel, he drove to the wharf, dumped his 
load into the stream, and vowed that he would never bring anoth- 
er potato to that market. Tempora inutantur! In 1840 he was 
appointed to take the State census for the County of Cook. Chi- 
cago was then ambitious to be considered a large town. But 
neither he nor Sheriff Sherman, who took the United States cen- 
sus, could find five thousand persons in that infant city. In 1842 
he was elected State Senator, and served in the sessions of 1842-3. 
Being soon after appointed clerk of the Circuit Court, he removed 
to the city, and engaged in public affairs and the real estate busi- 
ness until 1845, when he formed a partnership with J. T. Ed- 
wards in a jewelry house, where he continued until the first year 
of the war. The love of country burned in his bosom, and he 
threw his whole soul into the work of saving the nation from dis- 
memberment and overthrow. He was an indefatigable member 
of the Union Defence Committee, and gave one year's gratuitous 
service, as secretary, to the patriotic labors in which they were 
absorbed. He was appointed by President Lincoln postmaster 
of Chicago, and retained his position, filling it with eminent suc- 
cess, until Mr. Johnson's general proscription cut him off, with so 
many others, from the public service. His last official position 




SAMUEL HOARD. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. Oj 

has been in connection with the Board of Health, where he has 
rendered the public invaluable benefits in warding off the scourge 
of cholera, the attack of which was universally dreaded. He has 
passed through an eventful experience, and in his old age has 
ample means, abundant honors, and hosts of friends. In personal 
appearance large and well-formed, with a broad and high forehead, 
and a digniiied yet graceful carriage, Mr. Hoard would be a no- 
ticeable gentleman in any company, and command instant respect. 
In society he is affable and courteous to all classes, and diffuses 
an agreeable atmosphere and influence wherever he mingles. He 
exhibits the effect of his association with men of talent and varied 
culture. 

Through his countenance and address shines also his kind and 
unselfish nature. He is a man who possesses a warm, generous 
soul, that throbs in sympathy with human experiences, and opens 
his ear and his hand to every call for attention and succor. Eter- 
nity only will reveal the instances of personal kindness, the timely 
gifts, the encouraging words, the helpful visits, the cordial greet- 
ing, which have made him beloved and honored. 

It would scarcely be possible to do justice to the Youth of this 
proud municipality without introducing "Long John," who 
shipped his trunk by the brig Manhattan from Detroit, and set 
out on foot to reach the new town then clustering on this spot. 
He was a Kew Hampshire boy, and his legs were long, and he 
soon made his way along the beach from Michigan City — this 
being the only road at that primitive epoch — and arrived upon 
the scene of his exploits and triumphs October 25, 1836. The 
railroad had progressed from Schenectady as far as Utica at that 
date, and Illinois was farther from the Yankees than Rome or 
Athens is from us, and almost as mythical a region as these 
places are now to many. 

" John Wentworth is one of the very few men now living who 
attended the meetings called in the winter of 1836-7, to consider 



54 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

the expediency of applying to the Legislature, in session at Van- 
dalia, for a city charter. 

He was secretary of the first political meeting ever called in 
the First Ward to make nominations preliminary to the first 
municipal election, and at which meeting Hon. Francis C. Sher- 
man was one of the nominees for alderman. In August, 1837, 
he was secretary of a convention held at Brush Hill (now of Du 
Page County), to nominate oflicers for the then county of Cook, 
and at which Walter Kimball was nominated for Judge of Pro- 
bate. In 1838 he was appointed school inspector; and he held 
the same office, under the new name of Member of the Board of 
Education, when he was last elected to Congress. He has met 
among the scholars, whilst making his ofiicial visits, the grand- 
children of those he met as scholars in his first year of service. 
He was the first corporation printer in Chicago, elected in 1837, 
and he held the position for about three-fourths of the period of 
the twenty-five years that he was sole editor, publisher, and 
proprietor of the Chicago Democrat. He commenced making 
public speeches at our first municipal election, when Hon, W. B. 
Ogden was elected Mayor." Often Mayor of Chicago, he always 
gave satisfaction and proved himself an energetic executive ofii- 
cer. To have seen him at the head of police and firemen during 
the Great Fire would have been a source of joy to the good citi- 
zens, and gallant little Phil. Sheridan would have- earned no 
laurels, for Mr. Wentworth would have had no need of military, 
and would have fired his own powder in arresting the flames. As 
it was, all things were ready, except our leaders, for the confla- 
gration, and it took its own resistless course, and won its awful 
victory. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 55 

CHAPTER IX. 

Among onr most influential men, and, alas! heavy losers by the 
fire, is Governor Bross, whose outline we borrow from a full por- 
trait in the " Western Montlily " : 

In October, 1846, Mr. Bross started out "West, and visited 
Chicago, St. Louis, and other Western cities. Chicago, though 
then an appai-entlj unimportant town — not a commercial empo- 
rium, but literally a " Garden City" — was recognized by his 
cultivated eye as the future focus of the great Northwest. He 
decided to make it his home. He returned to the East, closed 
his school, and moved to Chicago, arriving here on the 12th of 
May, 1848, as the active partner in the bookselling firm of 
Griggs, Bross & Co. 

In the fall of 1849, Mr. Bross commenced the publication of 
the "Prairie Herald," and two years afterwards the "Democratic 



The paper was " started " with a definite object — not as a mere 
shift. The proprietors had carefully canvassed the situation, and 
come to the conclusion that Chicago and the West were about 
to enter on a rapid and tremendous growth. They saw that this 
was inevitable; but they also recognized that the extent of that 
growth would largely depend upon the impression which Chicago 
should make abroad. Mr. Bross at once bent himself to a study 
of the resources of this i-egion, and then set about with equal 
diligence to let the world know their character and extent. He 
felt that all that was necessary was to exhibit the facts ; that the 
inference would be irresistible; that the brain and muscle, the 
energy, enterprise, and capital needed to develop this fruitful 
scene would roll in like the tide of ocean, if the world was posted 
in regard to what was being done here and what could be done. 

That year was really an epoch in the history of Chicago ; it 
marked the Ijeginning of her real prosperity. In 1852 the city 



56 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIBE8 

was opened up to direct relationship with the East by the twc 
great iron arteries known as the Michigan Southern and the 
Michigan Central Kailroads. The roads now leading westward 
from Chicago were also all projected, and some of them begun ; 
the Galena road being pushed as far as Elgin, and the Kock Island 
road to Joliet, while workmen were busy on the track of the 
Illinois Central. Our city was emerging from the lethargy which 
had weighed her down since the panic of 1837, and was asserting 
her claim to be the great railroad and commercial focus of the 
Northwest. 

Mr. Bross loved to write of Chicago in the then present ; 
but he also delighted to sketch its inevitable future as it appeared 
to him. Many even among those who believed that Chicago 
would be a great city, regarded him as a visionary ; but the most 
skeptical have since confessed that he saw and thought accurately, 
judging of the future from the causes then operating around 
him, and not fondly guessing or lazily dreaming out visions of 
grandeur. Our subsequent history has realized almost all that 
he dared to predict. In his pamphlet of 1854 we find such words 
as these : " We are now in direct railroad connection with all 
the Atlantic cities from Portland to Baltimore. Five, and at 
most eight years, will extend the circle to New Orleans. By 
that time also, we shall shake hands with the rich copper and 
iron mines of Lake Superior, both by canal and railroad, and 
long ere another seventeen years have passed away, we shall have 
a great national railroad from Chicago to Puget's Sound, with a 
branch to San Francisco." On another page of the same pam- 
phlet, after speaking of the advantages of the situation, glancing at 
the light death-rates, and alluding comprehensively to the position 
of Chicago at the head of the great chain of lakes, as guarantee- 
ing to her a focal point from and to which should flow for all 
time the articles consumed by, and productions raised in, that 
immense region of country lying to the westward, hg points confi- 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 57 

dently to the " free navigation of the St. Lawrence, by which means 
vessels loaded at our docks will be able to make their way to the 
ocean, and thence direct to the docks of Liverpool." Looking 
around on the great coal-fields of Illinois, the lead mines of 
Galena, and the grand copper mines of Lake Superior, he wrote, 
that they all "point to Chicago as the ultimate seat of extensive 
mamafactures." In the light of our present knowledge we might al- 
most be tempted to think that these expressions were mere antedat- 
ed history. Our railroad system now connects Chicago with every 
part of the Continent. Long before the seventeen years have 
passed over his head, he has lived to see the great Pacific Rail- 
road completed, and ship navigation around Niagara Falls almost 
a fixed fact. We are already manufacturing Lake Superior iron 
in our city, and our vessels carry its copper to the East ; while 
our grain and pork trade have long since mounted far up into the 
millions. « 

It is difficult to conceive how the burning of his fondly-cher- 
ished city must have crushed the heart of one who had done so 
much to raise it to its late eminence. Harder still to realize his 
feelings as he saw his own home and property melting and smok- 
ing before his eyes, and he powerless to save them ! Let us listen 
to him as he tells the story of his experience in the night of gloom 
and on the following day : — 

" About 2 o'clock on Monday morning, my family and I were 
aroused by Mrs. Samuel Bowles, the wife of the proprietor of the 
Springfield RepvMican^ who happened to be a guest in our house. 
We had all gone to bed very tired the night before, and had slept 
BO soundly that we were unaware of the conflagration till it had 
assumed terrible force. My family were all very much alarmed 
at the glare which illuminated the sky and lake. I saw at once 
that a fearful disaster was impending over Chicago, and immedi- 
ately left the house to determine the locality and extent of the 
fire. I found that it was then a good deal south of my house and 



58 mSTOEY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

west of the Michigan Soutliern and Rock Island Raih-oad depots. 
1 went home considerably reassured in half an hour, and finding my 
family packing things up, told them that I did not anticipate dan- 
ger, and requested them to leave oiF packing. But I said : " The 
result of this night's work will be awful. At least 10,000 people 
will want breakfast in the morning ; you prepare breakfast for 
100," This they proceeded to do, but soon became again alarmed 
and recommenced packing. Soon after 2^ o'clock I started for 
The Tribune office, to see if it was in any danger. By this time 
the fire had crossed the river, and that portion of the city south 
of Harrison street and between Third avenue and the river, seemed 
in a blaze of fire, as well as on the w^est side. I reached The Tri- 
bune oftice, and seeing no cause for any apprehension as to its 
safety, I did not remain there more than twenty minutes. On 
leaving the ofiice I proceeded to the ISTevada Hotel (which is my 
property), at Washington and Franklin streets. I ren%ained there 
for an hour watching the progress of the fiames and contemj)lating 
the ruinous destruction of property going on around. The fire 
had passed east of the hotel, and I hoped that the building was 
safe; but it soon began to extend in a westerly direction, and the 
hotel was quickly enveloped in flames. I became seriously 
alarmed and ran round North street to Randolph street, so as to 
head off the flames and get back to my house, which was on Michi- 
gan avenue, on the shore of the Lake. My house was a part of 
almost the last block burned. 

At this time the fire was the most grandly-magnificent scene that 
one can conceive. The Court-House, Post-Oifice, Bar well Hall, 
the Tremont House, Sherman House, and all the splendid build- 
ings on La Salle and Wells streets, were burning with a sublimity 
of effect which astounded me. All the adjectives in the language 
would fail to convey the intensity of its wonders. Crowds of men, 
women, and children were hurrying away, running first in one 
direction, then in another, shouting and crying in their terror, and 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 59 

tryiug to save anything they could lay their hands on, no mattei 
how trivial in value ; while every now and then explosions, which 
seemed almost to shake the solid earth, reverberated through the 
air and added to the terrors of the poor people. I crossed Lake 
street bridge to the west, ran north to Kinzie street bridge, and 
crossed over east to the North Side, lioping to liead off the fire. It 
had, however, already swept north of me, and was travelling faster 
than I could go, and I so-^n came to the conclusion that it Would be 
impossible for me to get east in that direction. I accordingly re- 
crossed Kinzie street bridge and went west as far as Desplaines 
street, where I fortunately met a gentleman in a buggy, who very 
kindly drove me over Twelfth street bridge to my house on Michi- 
gan avenue. It was by this time getting on toward 5 o'clock, and 
the day was beginning to break. On my arrival home I found 
my horses already harnessed and my riding-horse saddled for me. 
My family and some friends were all busily engaged in packing 
up and in distributing sandwiches and coffee to all who wanted 
them or could spare a minute to partake of them. 

"I immediately jumped on my horse and rode as fast as I 
could go to The Tribune office. I found everything safe ; the 
men were all there, and we fondJy hoped that all danger was 
passed as far as we were concerned, and for this reason: the 
blocks in front of The Tribune building on Dearborn street, and 
north on Madison street, had both been burned ; the only damage 
accruing to us being confined to a cracking of some of the plate- 
glass windows from the heat. But a somewhat curious incident 
soon set us all in a state of excitement. The fire had unknown 
to us crawled under the sidewalk from the wooden pavement, and 
had caught the wood-work of the barber's shop which comprises 
a portion of our basement. As soon as we ascertained the extent 
of the mischief we no longer apprehended any special danger, 
believing, as we did, that the building was fire-proof. My asso- 
ciates, Mr, Medill and Mr. White, were present ; and, with the 



60 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FLBES 

help of some of our employes, we went to work with water and 
one of Babcock's Fire Extinguishers. The fire was soon put out, 
and we once more returned to business. The forms had been 
Bent down stairs, and I ordered our foreman, Mr. Keiler, to get 
all the pressmen together, in order to issue the papers as soon as 
a paragraph showing how far the fire had then extended could be 
prepared and inserted. Many kind friends gathered round the 
office and warmly expressed their gratification at the preservation 
of our building. Believing all things safe, I again mounted my 
horse and rode south on State street to see what progress the fire 
was making, and if it was moving eastward on Dearborn street. 
, To my great surprise and horror, I found that its current had 
taken an easterly direction, nearly as far as State street, and that 
it was also advancing in a northerly direction with terrible swift- 
ness and power. I at once saw the danger so imminently threat- 
ening us, and with some friends endeavored to obtain some 
powder for the purpose of blowing up some buildings south of the 
Palmer House. Failing in finding any powder, I proposed to 
tear them down. I proceeded to Church's hardware store, and suc- 
ceeded in procuring about a dozen heavy axes, and handing them 
to my friends, requested them to mount the buildings with me, 
and literally 'chop them down.' All but two or three seemed 
utterly paralyzed at this unexpected change in the course of the 
fire ; and even these, seeing the others stand back, were unwilling 
to make the efibrt alone. At this moment I saw that some wooden 
buildings and a new brick house west of the Palmer House had 
already caught fire. I saw at a glance that The Tribune building 
was doomed, and I rode back to the office and told them that 
nothing more could be done to save the building, McYicker's 
Theatre, or anything else in that vicinity. In this hopeless frame 
of mind I rode home to look after my residence and family, 
intently watching the ominous eastward movement of the flames. 
I at once set to work with my family and friends to move as 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 61 

much of my furniture as possible across the narrow park east of 
Michigan avenue on to the shore of the lake, a distance of about 
three hundred feet. At the same time I sent my family to the 
house of some friends in the south part of the city for safety ; my 
daughter, Miss Jessie Bross, was the last to leave us. The work 
of carrying our furniture across the avenue to the shore M^as most 
difficult and even dangerous. For six or eight hours Michigan 
avenue was jammed with every description of vehicle containing 
families escaping from the city, or baggage wagons laden with 
goods and furniture. The sidewalks w^ere crowded with men, 
women and children, all carrying something. Some of the things 
saved and carried away were valueless. One woman carried an 
empty bird-cage ; another, an old work-box ; another, some dirty 
empty baskets, old, useless bedding, anything that could be hur- 
riedly snatched up, seemed to have been carried away without judg- 
ment or forethought. In the meantime the fire had lapped up the 
Palmer House, the th*.'atres, and The Tribune building ; and, con- 
trary to our expectation, for we thought the current of the fire 
would pass my resi'dence, judging by the direction of the wind, 
we saw by the advancing clouds of dense black smoke, and the 
rapidly-approaching fiames, that we were in imminent peril. The 
fire had already worked so far south and east as to attack the 
stables in the rear of the Terrace Block, betw^een Yan Buren and 
Congress streets. Many friends rushed into the houses in the 
block and helped to carry out heavy furniture, such as pianos and 
book-cases. We succeeded in carrying the bulk of it to the shore, 
where it now lies stored; much of it, however, is seriously dam- 
aged. There I and a few others sat by our household goda, 
calmly awaiting the contemplation of the coming destruction of 
our property — one of the most splendid blocks in Chicago. The 
eleven fine houses which compose the block were occupied by 
Denton Gurney, Peter L. Yoe, Mrs. Humphreys (owned by Mrs. 
Walker), William Bross, P. F. W. Peck, S. C. Griggs, Tuthill 



62 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

King, Judge U. T. Dickey, Gen. Cook, John L. Clarke, and the 
Hon. J, Y. Scammon. 

" The next morning 1 was of course out early, and found the 
streets thronged with crowds of people moving in all directions. 
To me the sight of the ruin, though so sad, was wonderful to a 
degree, and especially being wrought in so short a space of time. 
It was the destruction of the entire business portion of one of the 
greatest cities in the world ! Every bank and insurance office, 
law offices, hotels, theatres, railroad depots, most of the churches, 
and many of the principal residences of tlie citj a charred mass, 
and property without estimate gone! 

"Mr. White, my associate, like myself, had been burned out of 
house and home. He had removed his family to a place of safety, 
and I had no idea where he or any one else connected with The 
Tribune office might be found. My first point to make was nat- 
urally the site of our late office ; but before I reached it I met two 
former tenants of our building, who told me that there was a job 
printing office on Randolph street that could probably be bought. 
I immediately started for Eandolph street. While making my way 
west through the crowds of people, over the Madison street bridge, 
desolation stared me in the face at every step. And yet I was 
much struck with the tone and temper of the people. On all 
sides I saw evidences of true Chicago spirit. On all sides 
men said to one another : ' Cheer up ; we'll be all right 
again before long ; ' and many other plucky things. Their pluck 
and courage were wonderful. Every one was bright, cheerful, 
pleasant, hopeful, and even inclined to be jolly in spite of the mis- 
ery and destitution which surrounded them and which they shar- 
ed. One and all said Chicago miist and should be rebuilt at once. 
On reaching Canal street, on my way to purchase the printing 
office I had heard of, I was informed that, while Mr. White and 
I were saving our families and as much of our furniture as we 
could on Monday afternoon, Mr. Medill, seeing that The Tribune 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. . 63 

office must inevitably be burned, sought for and purchased Ed 
ward's job printing office, No. 15 Canal street, had got out a small 
paper in the morning, and was then busy organizing things. One 
after another all hands turned up, and by the afternoon we had 
improvised the back part of the room into our editorial department, 
while an old wooden box did duty as a business counter in the 
front window. We were soon busy as bees, writing editorials and 
paragraphs, and taking in any number of advertisements. By 
evening several orders for type and fixtures were made out, and 
things were generally so far advanced that I left for the depot at 
Twenty-second street with the intention of coming on to New 
York. Unfortunately, I missed the train and had to wait till 
Wednesday morning. We shall get along as best we can til] the 
rebuilding of our office is finished. Going down to the ruins, I 
found a large section thrown out of the north wall on Madison 
street. The other three walls are standing; but the east and 
west walls are so seriously injured that they must be pulled down. 
The south wall is in good condition. More of our office and the 
Post Office remains standing than any other buildings that I saw. 
Our building was put up to stand a thousand years, and it would 
have done so but for that awful furnace of fire, fanned by an intense 
gale on the windward side, literally melting it up where it stood." 



CHAPTER X. 
It was once said by Sir Astley Cooper, to his graduating class 
of medical students : " Now, gentlemen, give me leave to tell you 
on what your success in life will depend. Firstly, upon a good 
and constantly increasing knowledge of your profession ; second- 
ly, on an industrious discharge of your duties ; thirdly, upon the 
preservation of your moral character. Unless you possess the 
first — knowledge — ^you ought not to succeed, and no honest man 



64 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

can wish you success. "Without the second — industrj^ — no one 
will ever succeed. And unless joa preserve your moral char- 
acter, even if it were possible that you could succeed, it would be 
impossible you could be happy." 

The career of Hon. Charles N. Holden furnishes a practical 
illustration of the great surgeon's wisdom and correctness in this 
advice, and a healthful example for the young men of our coun- 
try. His parents, William C. Holden and Sarah Braynard, 
emigrated, soon after the war of 1812, from 'New Hampshire 
to Fort Covington, in Northern New York, where he was born 
May 13, 1816. His father was an industrious farmer, and his 
mother an energetic helpmeet, whose life was given to the wel- 
fare of her family. The necessities of that early day prevented 
him from devoting more than a few months yearly to the district 
school or village academy, but he progressed so well in his educa- 
tion that at the age of twenty he himself wielded the pedagogue's 
birch. After spending a year as clerk in a store, where he ac- 
quired a taste for business, he left home, with forty dollars in his 
purse, to make a home in Chicago. July 5, 1837, he landed here 
with ten dollars in his pocket, and found none of his friends, the 
Woodburys, w^ho preceded him, and no opening for a young man 
but the open country. With a brave heart in his bosom, and his 
clean linen in a bundle, he started to find his uncle, a farmer in 
Will County. Two days of wandering took him thither and 
introduced him to Western hospitality. He immediately located 
a claim, hired a breaking team of five yoke of oxen, with his 
cousin, a lad of ten, as driver, and commenced life on the 
prairie. That youthful driver is now President of the Common 
Council of this city, one of the most prosperous, respected, and 
noble among the prominent citizens of Chicago — Hon. C. C. P. 
Holden. 

From Fort Covington, Mrs. Woodbury, subsequently Charles' 
Diother-in-law, removed with her mother to Chicago. She was 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. Go 

the widow of Major Jesse Woodbury, who was the consin and 
associate of United States Senator Levi Woodbnry, Jolmson's 
and Van Bnren's Secretary of tlie Treasury, and uncle of Mrs. 
Montgomery Blair. This accession to Chicago proved a magnet 
to draw the young farmer to the city, where he was clerk in the 
lumber office of John H. Kinzie, Esq., whose magnanimity he 
recollects with gratitude. His leisure hours were spent in read- 
ing upon various subjects, which made him a careful observer, 
and a man of wide general intelligence. In the spring of 1837, 
with three hundred dollars which he had saved, he commenced 
business in a log store, near Lake street bridge. Tliree years 
afterwards he made another venture, the most successful of his life, 
and was married to Miss Frances "Woodbury. 

From his father he derived a sturdy constitution, a full mus- 
cular frame, and vigorous health. He seems to have but entered 
upon the prime of his manhood and powers of usefulness. He 
has probably been the counsellor and friendly adviser of more 
persons than any other man in his position, on account of the 
trust he inspires in the coolness and judicial weight of his opin- 
ions. His taciturn and abstract manner sometimes leads to the 
idea that he is cold, distant, and haughty. But nothing is less 
true. A tender heart beats in his breast, and he -weighs men in 
the scale of manhood, and delights in doing good. He has given 
his time and means to education with generous enthusiasm. He 
was chosen President of the Board of Education, and after his re- 
tirement, one of the new school buildings was named in honor of 
him. He had also manifested profound interest in the higher 
grade of culture provided for in the University and Baptist 
Theological Seminary founded in this city. Writing thus of Mr. 
Holden years ago, the author is now compelled to add that the 
blow which sent the Toung Giant reeling, also smote heavily 
upon him and his family. It remains also to be said that he 
stands erect in his sterlins: manhood to renew the conflict ; and to 



66 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

his co-laborers in the church his language is, "We must not begin 
to retrench with the Lord's cause." 



CHAPTER XI. 

The administration of justice in tliat early day was often exceed- 
ingly rude, on account of the dissipated habits of the magistrates 
and lawyers, whose great talents were often marred and wasted 
by the excesses of frontier life. Judge Spring was one of those 
brilliant men whose passions were in the ascendancy, and brought 
him to a premature grave with the delirium-tremens. It was 
peculiarly unfortunate that the Judge had his high-times of 
spreeing just at the busiest season, when court was in session and 
matters were most urgent. It was at such a time that his career 
came to a tragical end, and under the following circumstances : 
At the opening of the afternoon court the Judge appeared in the 
door of the room very promptly, for it was his pride to be prompt, 
and on each side of him was a lawyer — Ballingall and Phillips. 
They walked to their places, and the Judge crept up into his 
seat, and showed to the spectators that he was very drunk. The 
court was opened in due form, and Ballingall arose, and leaning 
against a post, turned to the Judge and said, " May it please your 
honor," and then facing the assembly, whom he imagined to be a 
jury, he added, " and gentlemen of the jury." Thereupon there 
was a general smile ; and Tracy, also very tight, arose and pro- 
tested that the lawyer was drunk, and appealed to the Judge to 
stop him. Mr. B., taken aback by this interruption, ventured an 
argument. Some gentleman of the bar suggested that the Judge 
and counsel looked sick, and moved an adjournment of the court 
until the next day at two. This was assented to, and the proceed- 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 07 

ino-s came to an end. The Judge was taken home, and his wife sent 
for Captain Kuger, of the police, to come in and qniet her husband. 
Knowing what M^as going on, he quietly dropped in, and found 
the Judge sitting in his dining-room, with his feet perched upon 
the table, and his hand on the coat-collar of his son, a lad ten 
years old. The Judge spoke to the Captain, and said he was very 
glad he had come in, as he held a prisoner whom he wislied to have 
locked up. " On what charge ? " asked the Captain. " Contempt 
of court." He promised to have the matter at once attended to, but 
inquired about a case that had interested the Court in the morning, 
and found the Judge clear and collected in his judgment. Mean- 
while Mrs. Spring is drawing near her son, and watching her 
opportunity to rescue him. The drunken man commenced an 
abusive assault upon her, in profane and obscene language. The 
Captain again provoked a discussion upon that morning's case, 
.and diverted his attention, so that the mother seized her boy and 
drew him away, and thrust him out of the open door, and the 
little fellow improved his opportunity to put plenty of distance 
bteween himself and home. The Judge demanded her arrest for 
rescuing a prisoner. The Captain said he had his eye on her, and 
would see that she did not leave the house. The Judge then be- 
gan to speak of his own situation, and to give the most solemn 
assurances that if he recovered from this attack he would never 
be guilty of touching another drop of liquor, and would die a 
sober man. The Captain left the house, and, returning at ten, 
he found the poor man a corpse. And such was the end of nearly 
all the prominent men of that early time, whose brains and culture 
gave assurance of distinction, honor, and usefulness, while animal- 
ism drew them into shame, ignominy, and death 

In refreshing contrast were the examples of many who lived 
Christian lives, and did not lose their religion on the Lakes, as 
they sailed to the Far "West. There were godly preachers of the 
Gospel, whose labors have helped to lay the foundations of the 



68 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

flourishing institutions which Christianity now uses as the ma- 
chinery of its advancement in the elevation of man's desires, and 
the purification of his character. 

There is something pathetic in tlie subjoined words, spoken by 
an old Methodist minister, in 1837, at " Lake Michigan Huddle," 
then the nucleus of what was but recently the "unrivalled me- 
tropolis of Chicago." He was a venerable person of seventy 
years, with profuse hair as white as snow. His face, however, 
was without a wrinkle ; and, what was very remarkable, his skin 
was as fair and smooth as that of a young man of five-and-twenty. 
The building in which lie spoke was constructed of rough pine 
boards, but it was crowded by devout and not irresponsive or 
silent listeners. 

The only thing about the speaker that was at all weak or fal- 
tering was his voice. It was sufficiently distinct, yet it trembled, 
and if anything, rather added to the effect of the ending sentences 
, which he uttered. In closing a brief description of the dangers 
that had beset him in the Far West, and of the benignity of the 
power M'hich had sustained him through every trial, he said : — 

" How often — how often — have I swam my horse across mid- 
night rivers, carrying the glad tidings of salvation to settlements 
in the wilderness, when the fearful cry of the wolves rang in my 
ears, and the watch-fires of the hostile Indians blazed beneath 
the giant pines ! How often have I wandered through the tall 
grass of the prairies, day after day, and night after night, with 
my overcoat for my evening pillow, and the star-gemmed vault 
of heaven for the curtains of my rest ! I was sad, but I was com- 
forted. I was thirsty, but my spirit had refreshment. I was 
weary, but the arm of the Omnipotent sustained my fainting 
footsteps, and I laid my head upon the bosom of Peace. I 
was far from man — in silence — alone ; and yet not alone, for 
my God was with me — the Saviour M^as by my side. . . . 

" This is the last time, dear friends, that my circuit will bring 




THE COURT HOUSE BELL. 




CHICAGO IN 1836— KINZIE'S HOUSE. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 71 

me before you. In a little while I shall depart hence, and be no 
more seen," 

Here the speaker clasped his hands, looked upward through his 
tearful eyes, and closed with the verse — 

" Then in a nobler, sweeter song, 
I'll sing thy power to save, 
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue 
Lies silent in the grave ! " 



72 mSTOEY OF THE GREAT FIKES 



III.— THE YOUNG GIAJ^TI 



- CHAPTER Xn. 

The infant, conceived bj Providence in the womb of Time, 
came to birth amidst the pangs and throes of travail, grew feebly 
and discouragingly, and even had no special promise of greatness to 
ordinary eyes, until it sprang into sudden manhood and girded 
its loins for a great destiny. In 1850 there were less than thirty 
thousand people here; in 1851 the increase had been six thou- 
sand ; and from that time the Young Giant advanced with amazing 
strides, distancing all competitors, and hastening to overtake the 
oldest and most prosperous cities of the Union. In 1857 there 
were gathered beside the oifensive waters of this stagnant stream 
100,000 human souls. In 1871, by census returns carefully made 
out, and giving the names and local habitations, there had con- 
gregated on this level plain 334,000 persons, and Chicago was 
the fourth city of this country. "When was there such a growth 
in so short a period, and a progress so real and substantial? Peo- 
ple who immigrated hither to make money and return to their 
Eastern homes to enjoy their fortunes, came to regard this city 
as the most desirable home, for themselves and their children, to 
be found on the green earth. The East was flooding in upon us 
to admire, and praise, and covet our situation, privileges, and op- 
portunities. Nature had been improved by art. Chicago no 
longer lay deeply engulphed in water half the year. Her citi- 
zens were not compelled to drink water pumped from the edge 



m CniCAGO AND THE WEST. 73 

of the Lake and half filled with little fish, or particles of earth 
and filth. The smell of " Bridgeport " was a painful memory 
only, and the river itself had hecome sweet and clear. Common 
schools, academies, colleges, seminaries, universities, societies for 
the enconragement of art, and science, and history ; churches and 
missions for the extension of religion and morality ; galleries, 
opera-houses, theatres, libraries, and every luxury and appoint- 
ment of modern times for the cultivation and entertainment of 
men, had here their best representatives and specimens, or the 
beginnings that gave noblest promise. The progress of improve- 
ments, partially arrested by the war, received new impulse when 
the cloud rolled over onr heads, and the sky again beamed with 
the radiance of peace. 

The following is a summary of the various branches of trade 
which have ministered to the city's wealth and population. The 
total exhibits the receipts. and shipments of the articles named, for 
the year 1870, together with the total valuation of receipts. 

The estimated value of the receipts of the articles named for 
the year 1871 is as follows : 

ARTICLE. • VALX7E. 

Flour $8,000,000 

Wheat 18,000,000 

Corn 13,000,000 

Oats 4,000,000 

Pork , 2,000,000 

Dressed Hogs 6,000,000 

Live Hogs 45,000,000 

Tobacco 6,000,000 

Cattle 22,000,000 

■ Coal 8,000,000 

Lumber 16,000,000 

Iron Ore 15,000,000 

Shingles 2,500,000 .: 

Lath 1,000,000 



74 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FLEES 

AUTICLE. VALTOE. 

Highwines $6,000,000 

Boots and Shoes 8,000,000 

Drugs and Chemicals 4,000,000 

Hardware 5,000,000 

Jeweh-y 6,000,000 

Dry Goods 85,000,000 

Groceries 53,000,000 

The total trade is estimated at $400,000,000, showing an in- 
crease of some nine per cent, on a gold basis over that of the 
previous j-ear. We had before the fire seventeen large grain 
elevators, having an aggregate capacity of 11,580,000 bushels, 
the largest accommodating 1,700,000 bushels. 

To carry on this immense traffic, eighteen banks were in oper- 
ation, with an aggregate capital of nearly $10,000,000, with nearly 
$17,000,000 of deposits. The total amount of checks passing 
through the Clearing House during the year 1870 was $810,- 
000,000. 

To accommodate this traffic and the vast travel, not less than 
100 passenger tmins and 120 freight trains arrive and depart 
daily, while full seventy-five vessels load and unload every day 
at our wharves. 

For the municipal year of 1870-71, the total assessed valuation 
of the city was $277,000,000, of which $224,000,000 was real and 
$53,000,000 persona.l. This, however, represents scarcely more 
than half of the actual value, which was in excess of $500,000,000. 
The taxes collected for that year were $3,000,000, besides nearly 
an equal amount for special improvements, grading, paving, and 
curbing. The personal property was classed as follows : Indi- 
^ddual personal property, $43,647,920; bank personal property, 
$7,511,600 ; vessels, $1,183,430. The whole number of pei-sons 
assessed for taxes on personal property was 14,633. 

The area of the city, according to the last arrangement of 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 



boundaries, including parks, public squares, etc., was about 35 
square miles, or 22,400 acres. The number of dwellings, accord- 
ing to the last enumeration, was nearly 60,000, of which about 
40,000 were wood. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

Wak came upon our country, bringing terror and agony to 
the hearts of all good men ; but its results, under Abraham Lin- 
coln's wise and honest administration, were so beneficent and 
sublime, that we cheerfully bear our losses and burdens, and feel 
that the sacrifices so freely and grandly offered on the altar of 
patriotism, were a sweet savor to God and an honor to this cen- 
tury of progress. Chicago gave to the army thirty thousand brave 
men, immense treasures, and a perpetual benefit. In our midst 
was established, with perfect confidence in the people's loyalty, a 
camp for rebel prisoners, named, in honor of our great fellow- 
citizen, the lamented Stephen A, Douglas, Camp Donglas. Un- 
like the Ark of God in the house of Obed-Edom, which brought a 
blessing, this establishment came near proving, like the wooden 
horse wn til which the Greeks captured Troy, our destruction and 
the loss of the Union. The story is told by Eddy, in " The Patri- 
otism of Illinois." 

CONSPIRACY. 

Tidings of a great organization, opposed to the Republic and 
friendly to the Confederacy, with ofhcers and five hundred thou- 
sand enrolled members, were floating about. Their object was to 
rise together in various States of tiie jN'orthwest, and co-operate 
with the Rebel armies from the South. " The first objective 
point was Camp Douglas, the real strategic importance of wliich 



76 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIRES 

was in the twofold fact that it was the phice where eight thon* 
sand rebel prisoners were held in durance, and that the abolition 
city of Chicago would aiford admirable foraging ground. The 
prisoners were to be liberated and joined by Canadian refugees, 
Missouri bushwhackers, and the five thousand members of the 
order in Chicago — in all a force of nearly twenty thousand men — 
which would be a nucleus for the conspirators in other parts of 
Illinois ; these being joined by the prisoners liberated from other 
camps, and members of the order from other States, would form 
an army a hundred thousand strong. So fully had everything 
been foreseen and provided for, that the leaders expected to gather 
and organize this vast body of men within the space of a fort- 
night ! The United States could bring into the field no force 
capable of withstanding the progress of such an army. The con- 
sequences would be that the whole character of the war would be 
changed — its theatre would be shifted from the border to the 
heart of the Free States ; and Southern independence, and the 
beginning at the North of that process of disintegration so confi- 
dently counted on by the rebel leaders at the outbreak of hostili- 
ties, would have followed. It was a bold scheme, and might 
have wrought mischief. 

" General Orme had been succeeded in command of Camp 
Douglas by Colonel Sweet, of Wisconsin, a gallant ofiicer, who had 
been severely wounded in the shoulder at Perry ville, and disabled 
for field duty.* The camp, which included about sixty acres of 
sandy soil, was inclosed by a board fence an inch thick, and four- 
teen feet high. The garrison ostensibly consisted of two regi- 
ments of Yeteran Reserves, but could not muster more than seven 
hundred men fit for the duty of guarding eight thousand prisoners. 
Among these were men of noted daring and ferocity — Morgan's 
freebooters, Texan rangers, guerillas — reckless, and ready for 
adventure. Many of the minor offices of the camp were per- 
formed by prisoners, who were thus in possession of the resources 



IN CHICAGO AND THE -WEST. 77 

of the commandant. Letters passing tlirongh the camp post-oQice, 
enigmatically worded, first roused liis suspicions. Subsequently 
he became convinced that it was designed to take advantage of a 
great convention to be held in the city, and convene the outside 
allies, who might at that time come to the city without suspicion, 
and carry out the plan. Prompt measures were taken, such as 
convinced the leaders that an attempt would be dangerous, as it 
was supposed. The Presidential election was approaching, and 
the commandant prepared to go home to take part in the canvass, 
when he felt, he knew not why, that he must stay at his post, and 
did so. The next day showed why he was needed. Another 
writer makes this statement : ' On the 2d of JSTovember, a well- 
known citizen of St. Louis, openly a secessionist, but secretly a loyal 
man, acting as a detective for the Government, left that city in 
pursuit of a criminal. He followed him to Springfield, traced him 
from there to Chicago, and on the morning of November 4th, 
aboTit the honr the commandant had the singular impression I 
have spoken of, arrived in the latter city. He soon learned that 
the bird had again flown. 

" ' While passing along the street (I now quote from his report to 
the Provost-Marshal General of Missouri), and trying to decide 
what course to pursue — whether to follow this man to New York, 
or to return to St. Louis — I met an old acquaintance, a member 
of the order of American Knights, who informed me that Marma- 
duke was in Chicago. After conversing with him a while I started 
up the street, and about one block further on met Dr. E. W. 
EdM'ards, a practising physician in Chicago (another old acquaint- 
a,nce), who asked me if I knew of Southern soldiers being in town. 
I told him I did; that Marmaduke Avas there. He seemed very 
much astonished, and asked how I knew. I told him. He 
laughed, and then said that Marmaduke was at his house, under 
the assumed name of Burling, and mentioned, as a good joke, that 
he had a British passport, vised by the United States Consul, un- 



78 mSTOET OF THE GEEAT FIKE8 

der thcat name. I gave Edwards my card to hand to Marmaduke 
(who was another old acquaintance), and told him I was stoppintr 
at the Briggs House. 

" ' That same evening I again met Dr. Edwards on the street, 
going to my hotel. He said Marmaduke desired to see me, and 
I accompanied him to his house. There, in the course of a con- 
versation, Marmaduke told me that he and several rebel officers 
were in Chicago to co-operate with otlier parties in relieving the 
prisoners of Camp Douglas and other prisoners, and in inaugurat- 
ing a rebellion at the North. He said the movement was under 
the auspices of the order of American Knights (to which order 
the society of the Illini belonged), and was to begin operations 
b}' an attack on Camp Douglas on election day.' 

"The detective did not know the commandant, but he soon made 
his acquaintance, and told him the story. ' The yonng man,' he 
gays, 'rested his head upon his hand, and looked as if he had lost 
his mother,' and well he might ! A mine had opened at his feet; 
with but eight hundred men in the garrison, it was to be sprung 
upon him. Only seventy hours were left! What would he not 
give for twice as many? Then he might secure reinforcements. 
He walked the room for a time in silence ; then, turning to the de- 
tective, said, ' Do you know where the other leaders are ? ' ' I do 
not.' ' Can't you find out from Marmaduke? ' ' I think not. He 
said what he did say voluntarily. If I were to question him he 
would suspect me.' That was true, and Marmaduke was not of 
the stuff that betraj's a comrade on compulsion. His arrest, 
therefore, would profit nothing, and might hasten the attack for 
which the commandant was so poorly prepared. He sat down 
and wrote a hurried dispatch to his general. Troops ! troops ! for 
God's sake, troops! was its burden. Sending it oft* by a courier 
— the telegraph told tales — he rose, and again walked the room 
in silence. After a while, with a heavy heart, the detective said, 
'Good niorht ' and left him." 



IN CmCAGO AND THE WEST. 79 

From another quarter he obtained a fall statement of the 
scheme, which was gigantic in detail, and contemplated a general 
uprising through the JN'orth, while Hood should move upon Nash- 
ville, Bnckner upon Louisville, and Price upon St. Louis, and 
the blow was to be struck in Chicago on the night of the 8th of 
November. 

The commandant took prompt measures, secured the police, and 
arranged his plans, and at two in the morning made his descent. 
When daylight came a hundred of the suspected leaders were in 
custody. The official report uf tlie commandant says: "Have 
made during the night the following arrests of rebel officers, 
escaped prisoners of war, and citizens in connection with them : — 

"Morgan's Adjutant-General, Colonel G. St. Legor Grenfell, 
in company with J. T. Shanks (the Texan), an escaped prisoner 
of w-ar, at Kichmond House ; Colonel Vincent Marmaduke, 
brother of General Marmaduke ; Brigadier-General Charles 
Walsh, of the Sons of Liberty ; Captain Cantrill, of Morgan's 
command ; Charles Traverse (Butternut). Cantrill and Traverse 
were arrested in Walsli's house, in wliicli were found two cart- 
loads of large-size revolvers loaded and capped, 200 stand of 
loaded muskets and ammunition. Also seized two boxes of guns 
concealed in a room in the city. Also arrested Buck Morris, Treas- 
urer of the (iJons of Liberty, having complete proof of his assisting 
Shanks to escape, and plotting to release prisoners at this camp. 

" Most of these rebel officers were in the city on the same 
errand in. xlugust last, their plan being to raise an insurrection 
and release the prisoners of war at this camp. There are many 
strangers and suspicious persons in this city, believed to be 
guerrillas and rebel soldiers. Their plan was to attack the camp 
on ehiction night. All prisoners arrested are in camp. Cap- 
tains Nelson and A. C. Coventry, of the police, rendered very ' 
efficient service. B. J, Sv;eet, Colonel Commanding. 

" Camp Douglass, Nor. Tth, 4 a.m." 



80 HISTOEY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

The city was horrified, and none knew certainly that the storm 
Avonld not yet burst. Husbands and fathers shuddered at the 
tliought of the city given up to the brutal control of tliat mob of 
eight thousand prisoners, and their more brutal allies. 

Never were so many citizens armed in Chicago as that day. 
Patrols rode to and fro, and the city wore the appearance of a 
military carap. The election progressed peacefully, additional 
arrests were made, and arms seized ; but the life was gone, and the 
conspiracy collapsed. 

The sealed findings of the Court which tried the prisoners 
arrested for conspiracy, were as follows : " Charles Walsh, Brig- 
adier-General of the Sons of Liberty, guilt_y, and sentenced to 
three years' imprisonment with hard labor in the Ohio State 
Penitentiary ; Buckner L. Morris, not guilty ; Vincent Marma- 
duke, not guilty ; G. St. Leger Grenfell, guilty of both charges 
and specifications, and sentenced to the extremest penalty, death ; 
Raphael S. Semmes, guilty, and sentenced to two years' imprison- 
ment. The prisoner Anderson, on the 19th of February, com- 
mitted suicide by shooting himself while confined in McLean 
Barracks ; and on the 16th of the same month. Traverse, alias Dan- 
iels, escaped from the custody of a careless guard, during a 
momentary recess of the Court, in the Court House." Thus 
another of the city's vicissitudes was safely passed, and the way 
was open to swift and sure prosperity. 



CHAPTER XrV. 

Among the first necessities recognized by the Creator in pro- 
viding a home for His creatures upon the globe, is an abundant 
supply of pure water, which flow^s from myriads of fountains, 
sparkles in running brooks, rushes in rivers, tosses in lakes, and 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 81 

lies in the bosom of the earth everywhere under their feet, read}- to 
bubble up at their stroke. There is danger in some new countries, 
or sections of primitive regions, that settlers rely on the first basin 
below the surface for their drinking water, and hence imbibe slow 
but certain poison from the vegetable matter accumulated through 
ages. This often accounts for the sickness which attacks persons, 
in becoming acclimated in the West. AVhen the city of Chicago 
began its rapid growth it was felt that a prime necessity was 
good water, and the subject received careful attention, which 
resulted in the use of the Lake water, which is clear and health- 
ful in the highest degree, and cool enough for use as a beverage 
in the heat of summer. It was at first pumped from wells at the 
shore ; but impurities unavoidably filtered in from the wash of 
the shore, the fish that sw^armed in millions, and the sewerage of 
the river. Then the gigantic plan was conceived and executed 
of drawing the water from the bosom of the Lake through a 
tunnel, connecting with a well two miles out from shore, and 
directly east of the old works, by which arrangement boundless sup- 
plies of the crystal fluid would be accessible. Other cities bring 
the water of rivers and lakes for many miles through pipes into 
reservoirs, from whence distribution is made to the population ; 
but this plan superseded any such necessity, and gave us an ele- 
ment of health and power which must forever contribute to the 
advancement of this city. Her Young Giant can never drink up 
the contents of Lake Michigan, however vast his wants become 
in the great future. 

It mnst be a source of interest to the public to follow the pro- 
gress of this new enterprise, and see the mode by which so many 
million gallons of this fluid are furnished daily to our people for 
the innumerable purposes of life. And while the reader wonders 
at the boldness and energy, skill and success of the projectors and 
contractors, he will also perceive how futile were all the efibrts of 
man to provide against such a catastrophe as that which prostrat- 



82 mSTOKY OF THE GKEAT FIEES 

ed US into the dust, and left us dependent — helpless in the hour 
of direst extremity, when fires were raging and hviraan moutha 
were thirsting. The works were commenced in 1852. In 1863 
the daily average consumption of water was 6,500,000 gallons, 
and it liad immensely increased in 1871, M'hen a new and more 
powerful engine was in process of erection within the buildings 
where the fire wrought such mischievous effects on the morning 
of October 9th. A description of these works is given us by 
Engineer Cregier, who has been in charge from the beginning, or 
since the old Hydraulic works at the ibot of Lake street were 
abandoned. They are situated on the North Side, and bounded 
by Chicago avenue, Pine street, Pearson street, and the Lake. 
They have a frontage on Pine street of 218 feet, and extend 
from the Lake west a distance of 571 feet. They are connected 
with reservoirs, throughout all divisions of the city, by immense 
iron pipes laid below the frost and under the river, and through 
those the engines propel streams of water day and night ; and 
under the pressure of the column in the water tov.-er, it rises to 
the upper stories and becomes one of the conveniences of city life, 
the loss of which was keenly felt during the week after the fire. 

" The style of architecture is castellated Gothic. The dimen- 
sions of the engine-room are one hundred and forty-two feet long, 
sixty feet wide, and thirty-six feet in the clear from the main 
floor to ceiling. A projection of twenty-four by fifty-six feet forms 
the centre of the main front. This portion is divided into two 
stories. The upper part is devoted to drawing-rooms and sleep- 
ing apartments for the engineers. The lower part is divided by 
the main entrance, the floor of which is tiled. On the south side 
of the vestibule is a large room designed for commissioner's or 
reception room. On the north side are offices and other conveni- 
ences for engineers. All the walls are two feet thick. The walls 
of the interior of the main building are rough cast, blocked off 
representing cut-stone work. The ceiling is divided into square 



IN CinCAGO AND THE WEST, 83 

panels, formed by projecting moulded purlins, supported by large 
Gothic brackets resting on heavy corbels built in the wall. The 
roof of the main building is constructed of massive timbers, cov- 
ered with slate and pierced with the necessary ventilators, etc, 

Midway between floor and ceiling, and extending around the 
entire interior space of the building, there is a handsome and sub- 
stantial gallery or balcony, protected by fancy Gothic iron railing, 
the whole resting upon brackets of like style built into the walls. 
From this point a pleasing view of the operations of the engines 
is obtained. This gallery is reached by two flights of spiral stair- 
ways constructed entirely of iron. Below the main floor of the 
principal building there is a space extending over the whole area, 
and nine feet high in the clear. Here are located the pumps, de- 
livery mains, stop-valves, etc., of the several engines, also store- 
rooms and other conveniences. From the floor of this large room 
the pump-wells connected w^ith the Lake Tunnel descend. The 
south well, intended for additional engines, was sunk to place in 
October last. The form and constructions of this curb, as well 
as the mode of sinking it to its place, is similar to that adopted 
for the north well ; it is, however, larger. The outside diameter 
is forty-four and one-third feet at the bottom, forty-three and one- 
third feet at the top, and twenty-two feet from the top of the 
cast-iron shoe to the top of the coping. The outside has a batter 
of six inches. The vertical bond consisted of forty-eight one-and- 
a-half-inch bolts. 

The boiler-rooms are placed nineteen feet apart, and are locat- 
ed in the rear of the main building. They are forty-six and a 
half feet long, thirty-six feet wide, and twenty-five feet from the 
floor to the ceiling. The floor is of stone, and the roof is wholly 
of iron and slate, thus rendering them fire-proof." 

If so, Mr. Cregier, why did they succumb so readily when they 
were most needed ? The answer might be returned, that this ex- 
traordinary conflagration melted iron into shapeless masses, and 



84: mSTOET OF THE GKEAT FIEES 

consumed stones into dust, and mocked at iire-proofs. The facts, 
probably, are these. The ventilators in the roof were left open, 
and the raging shower of sparks, cinders, and flames poured down 
these inlets into the engine-room, where vast timbers were built 
into stagings for the accommodation of mechanics in placing the 
new engine, drove out the workmen and watchmen, and con- 
signed everything to speedy destruction. There should have 
been no wood in the construction of the interior ; the win- 
dows should have had iron shutters, though they be unsightly ; 
and the ventilators and all openings in the roof should have been 
covered with wire sci'eens, impervious to fire, and the men in 
charge should have been early reinforced with ample resources 
for their entire safety amidst all possible contingencies and exi- 
gencies. How clear all this becomes after the event ! 

THE WATEE-TOWEK 

" Is the most imposing feature among the whole mass of buildings 
comprising the works, and is without doubt the most substantial 
and elaborate structure of the kind on this continent. Its centre 
is 106 feet west of the main buildings, upon ground purchased 
for the purpose in 1865 ; 168 piles, capped with 12-incli oak 
timbers, the spaces filled with concrete, constitute the foundation 
np to the surface of the water ; from thence to a point six feet be- 
low grade, solid, massive dimension-stones laid in cement inter- 
vene. At this point the gate, pit, and arched ways on each cor- 
ner for mains (large pipes of iron), are formed. The base of the 
tower is 22 feet square. The exterior of the shaft is octagonal, 
and rises 154 feet from the ground to the top of the stone-work, 
which terminates in a battlemented cornice. The whole is sur- 
mounted by an iron cupola (not yet finished), pierced with numer- 
ous windows, from whence may be obtained a magnificent view 
of the lake, the city, and surrounding country. The exterior of 
the tower is divided into five sections. The first section is 40 



m CUICAGO AND THE WEST. 85 

feet square, exclusive of battlements, turrets, etc., and surrounds 
the base of the shaft, forming a continuous vestibule nine feet 
wide on the four sides, with a grand entrance on each side. 
The floor and roof of this portion is of massive stone. The 
roof forms a balcony. The walls are plastered and blocked off 
like those of the engine-room. The ceiling is groined and cor- 
niced, and the sides are ornamented with tablet drinking foun- 
tains, etc. The otiier sections of the exterior recede from each 
other in graceful proportion, each having turreted cornice, battle- 
ments, etc. 

The bottom of the exterior is hexagonal ; here the base-piece 
of stand-pipe (a casting weighing six tons) is placed, having 
six openings, supplied with 30-inch gates, to which tlie water 
mains are connected. From this base, a 36-inch wrought-iron 
stand-pipe ascends to a height of 138 feet. Around this pipe is an 
easy and substantial spiral stairway leading to the cupola on the 
top, and lighted throughout with alternating windows. 

The whole structure is thoroughly fire-proof, being constructed 
wholly of stone, brick, and iron. 

THE LAKE TUNNEL, 

The work was commenced at the land-shaft on the 17th of 
March, 1864, the delay since the date of the contract having been 
caused by waiting for the cast-iron cylinders for the first 30 feet. 
These cylinders ai-e nine feet internal diameter, 1|- inches thick, 
and in three sections, each ten feet long. The bottom of the low- 
est section has a cutting edge. The sections were united by inter- 
nal flanges, bolts, and rust-joints. The top flange of the cylinder 
was fitted to receive an air lock, in case that should have proved 
necessary in the prosecution of the work. 

It was intended originally to make the lining of the land-shaft 
of brick, clear to the top, but the Board feared trouble from the 
quicksand which extended down about 14 feet from the surface, 



86 HISTOKT OF THE GEEAT FIKES 

and particularly as tlie inlet tlirongli which the city was supplied 
was not only in this quicksand, but very near the shaft. Owing 
to the want of suitable pumps, there -was unexpected delay in 
sinking the cylinders, but as soon as the clay had been penetrated 
a few feet all serious difficulty ended, and the remainder of the 
shaft was sunk to its proper depth, through clay of various de- 
grees of tenacity, from very soft near the top to indurated near 
the bottom. The shaft was walled up eight feet in diameter, with 
masonry 12 inches thick, to the bottom of the cast-iron, the inside 
of which M'as laid with masonry to the top of the lowest section. 
At the bottom of the shaft there was a sump six feet deep, be- 
low the bottom of the tunnel. This had to be emptied generally 
twice a day during the whole progress of the work, as the quan- 
tity of water discharged from a spring there continued very uni- 
form. 

From the bottom of the shaft a drift, at first only intended to 
be temporary, was made about 50 feet long westward, with a 
chamber at the end, with fixtures for mounting a transit. The 
regular tunnel work eastward was commenced May 26th, 1864, 

Here much pains were taken to introduce a curved surface in 
the niasonr}'^, between the shaft and upper side of the tunnel, and 
it was satisfactorily accomplished. The entrance to the tunnel 
was made six feet in diameter, and tapered down to five feet in a 
distance of twenty feet. The masonry on this portion was made 
of three shells of brick- work, each four inches thick, wdth cement 
joints half an inch thick between. The rest of the tunnel proper 
was lined with two shells of brick-work. It was intended at first 
to fill the cavities around the outside of the brick-work with w^ell- 
tamped earth, but it was soon found impossible to get this done 
in a satisfactory manner. For this reason, solid masonry was 
almost immediately substituted for the tamped earth. The upper 
arch was built on a ribbed centre of boiler iron, which diminished 
the open space inside of the tunnel only 4^ inches, and thus 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 89 

allowed the cars which conveyed away the earth to go up to the 
face of the excavation, usually kept from ten to tweety feet ahead 
of the masonry. The iron centre was 30 inches long, in the 
direction of the tunnel. About two feet in length of masonry 
was usually made at a time, and, as a rule, it was found safe' to 
strike the centre within fifteen minutes after the arch was keyed. 
At first it was supposed necessary to excavate nearly a foot 
above the top of the brick-work, in order to give the masons 
room to build the upper arch ; but very soon it was found that 
they could build it perfectly well, generally, without making the 
excavation any larger than the space required for the brick- work. 
This was done by driving the last four or five top courses of brick 
into well-tempered cement mortar first thrown into the cavity. 
The driving of the bricks effectually filled up the spaces which 
could not otherwise have been reached by hand. The ends of 
the masonry were left " toothing," and thus furnished a guide in 
driving the bricks on the upper arch. The lower arch was built 
by templets or patterns, as ordinary sewers are, and usually kept 
some six feet in advance of the upper arch, to allow of greater 
convenience in loading the cars with earth, which the miners had 
to keep at some distance behind them, and which the shovellers 
could not throw into the cars very well, when they stood under 
the brick-work. 

The excavation was generally through stiff, blue clay, but with 
the irregularities of character peculiar to the drift. It very sel- 
dom required bracing when not left to support itself more than 
thirty-six hours. Sometimes sana- pockets were met, and when 
tliose were over the upper arch they would empty themselves 
partly, leaving cavities to be filled with masonry, but these 
were seldom of much importance. Sometimes small bodies of 
quicksand were encountered, but they occurred only in pockets, 
and not in strata, and therefore gave no serious trouble. Some- 
times the clay would be soft enough for a miner to run his 
6 



90 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

arm into it, but with the exception of requiring a little more 
"triniminf^" for the masonry, this gave no trouble. Sometimes 
boulders weighing several hundred pounds were met, and inter- 
fered a little with the regular progress of the work, but seldom 
more than a little. 

The greatest and most dangerous difficulty met with was one 
that was not anticipated at first, and that was inflammable and 
explosive gas. Early in the progress of the work several acci- 
dents occurred from this cause, but fortunately without fatal re- 
sults to the workmen, though there were several narrow escapes. 
Yery soon the miners learned to detect the proximit}- of cavities 
containing this gas from the sound produced by striking over 
them with their picks. When a cavity was thus detected, it was 
bored into with a small auger, and the gas ignited as soon as it 
began to escape. In this way explosions were prevented which 
otherwise took place when large bodies of gas were suddenly al- 
lowed to mix with the air. The explosion ^ that did occur were 
slight in character, but left a body of flame in the upper part of 
the tunnel. At sncli times the miners fell with their faces to the 
ground, and thus escaped without any greater injury than singed 
beards and eyelashes and blistered faces, except in the first severe 
case, when a miner was badly burnt. At this time the gas kept 
the miners out of the tunnel three days. 

CHAMBERS. 

With trifling exceptions, this work was prosecuted day and night 
by means of two sets of miners and one of masons, working eight 
hours each in every twenty-four, for six days in the week, till the 
16th of October, when a point about 750 feet from the centre of 
the shaft was reached. Here it was determined to make two 
temporary chambers, one on each side of the tunnel, with which 
they were to be connected by small and short openings. It took 
K.bout one week to construct these chambers and connections, all 



IN CHICAGO AITD THE WEST. 91 

of which were supported b}' timbers and planks. In the tunnel, 
and at the connection between tlie chambers, a turn-table was 
placed. This arrangement permitted not only the passage of 
cars by each other, but also making up of trains, which soon 1)e- 
came an absolute necessity for the economical and rapid execu- 
tion of the work. By means of such chambers it was practicable 
to carry on the work a mile or more out under the lake as fast as 
could be done near the bottom of the land shaft; in fact, the 
progress upwards of a mile out was really greater than it was 
near the shore, owing to the greater skill and experience acquired 
on the way. A gap of about six feet in the masonry of the tun- 
nel was left at the connection between these, the first chambers 
to be built in after the completion of the rest of the work. After 
two or three weeks several cracks, entirely- around the tunnel, 
were discovered in the brick work within a distance of about 
twelve feet on each side of the turn-table. There were various 
conjectures as to the cause of these cracks, for up to this time re- 
peated careful observations had shown no indications whatever of 
any movement iu the masonry after the keying of the upper 
arch. Occasionally, in soft ground, the sides of the lower arch 
had been pressed in an inch or two before the upper arch was 
built, but no transverse crack was ever discovered except those 
near the chambers. The conclusion was that they were probably 
caused by the yielding of the earth in a pit of the turn-table ; yet 
no settlement in the masonry was observed. 

The second set of chambers was made one thousand feet be- 
yond the first, and the character of the work, as well as the mode 
of carrying it on, continued the same, except that the use of mules 
was substituted for men in the transportation of earth and ma- 
terials for the masonrj^ Stout abutments were built on each side 
of this turn-table to prevent the cracking of the brick work, ob- 
served on each side of the first, but just the same number and 
character of cracks occurred, notwithstanding. 



\)-J, HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

It then became evident that these cracks were owing to a 
tendency in clay to move, or " creep," as it is sometimes expressed^ 
towards any cavity made in it. The gap left at the connection 
between the chambers being only temporarily supported with 
wood, could not wholly prevent this creeping movement. It waa 
therefore determined afterwards to continue the brick work ovei 
and around the next turn-table, and to brick around the connec- 
tions between the chambers, groining carefully in their inter- 
sections with the tunnel. After this method of constructing the 
chamber connections was carried out, all trouble from cracks 
ceased. In this manner, placing the sets of chambers about a 
thousand feet apart, the work was continued to about a mile and 
a half from the land shaft. 

The character of the work continued throughout very much 
the same. 

The greatest progress made during any one week was ninety- 
three feet. Only once was a boulder so large as to require blast- 
ing met with. There was a little nervousness as to the effect of 
a blast under the Lake, but it caused no serious disturbance either 
of the ground or the masonry. 

VENTILATION. 

The ventilation of the tunnel was effected by means of tin 
pipes, through which the foul air was drawn out and fresh air 
consequently drawn in through the main opening. At first a 
six-inch pipe was used and this was connected with the furnace 
of the hoisting engine. Later it becaitie necessary to provide 
an engine and fan expressly for the purpose, and to put in larger 
pipes. Eight-inch ones were introduced. It was difficult to 
keep the joints of the pipes, which were only of ordinary tin, 
very tight, especially near the chambers, where the mules struck 
them with their heads in turning. Still they answered a very 



rN CHICAGO AND TITE WEST. 93 

good purpose, and the air, a mile and a half out, was about as 
good as it was much nearer to the land shaft 

Ordinarily there was so much smoke from the miner's lamps 
and vapor from the heat of the workmen, as to make it impos 
sible to see distinctly enough to run the lines and levels required 
to keep the tunnel in the right direction. On Sunday nights, how- 
ever, and on other holidays, the air became so clear as to cause 
sperm candles to burn with a beautiful silver brightness, visible 
sometimes two thousand feet. 

ALIGNMENT. 

To determine the position of the lake shaft and the line of the 
tunnel, much pains were taken to establish an accurate base on 
the shore for the purpose of triangulation. Owing to the build- 
ings in the way, this was no easy task. For the alignment of the 
tunnel, an astromonical transit of four-inch aperture, by Pike, 
of New York, was mounted on a tower built for the purpose, 
166 feet westward of the land-shaft, and sometimes used in the 
chamber below already described. To aid in placing the lake- 
shaft beyond all doubt in the line of the tunnel, a six-incli tube 
was sunk 280 feet eastward of the land shaft, after the masonry 
had been carried beyond that point. By plumbing up through 
this tube, a " range " of great accuracy for such a purpose 
was obtained. The astromonical transit could only be used 
on. the tower above, or in the chamber below. As soon as the 
work had been carried so far that the sperm candles used in the 
alignment could not be seen at "the face" of the work, the cen- 
tre line was produced from point to point by means of a gonio- 
meter with two telescopes, which, when in perfect adjustment, 
could be made to "reverse" on the same point, which was thus 
proved to be in a straight line with the instrument and the 
" back-sight." 

Mr. Kroeschell, an educated and experienced mining engineer, 



94 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

was principal inspector of mining, and directed tlie " brimming" 
shift, ■vvbieh worked the eight hours immediately before the 
masons commenced. He set the " patterns " by which the ma- 
sonry was built, producing for this purpose the lines and levels 
given by the engineer in charge, by means of plummets, ranges 
with sperm candles, and spirit levels. His shift consisted usually 
of four miners and four other men, who at first pushed the loaded 
cars to and from the shaft, but afterwards to and from the nearest 
chambers, from which tbey were hauled by mules to the shaft 
and back again, either empty or loaded with brick, cement, or 
sand. 

Only two of the miners usually were regularly trained men, 
the others being but picked laborers, who soon learned to use 
mining tools in the clay. 

The general custom was for two miners to work together for 
ten or fifteen minutes at a time with more than common vigor, 
and t^ien rest. 

The pushers loaded the excavated earth into the cars, brought 
as near the face as possible on a movable truck. 

This shift, besides frequently carrying the face of the excava- 
tion five feet ahead, did all the trimming necessary to form the 
interior of the excavation as nearly as possible to the exact out- 
side shape of the masonry. The next or mason's shift usually 
consisted of three masons, one mortar mixer, and four to six 
helpers, according to the distance between the chamber and the 
work. The water for mixing the cement mortar was all brought 
from the top of the land shaft in tank-cars, made especially for 
the purpose. The average length of, masonry laid by this shift 
was twelve feet a day for the entire distance, but for the first 
2,000 feet the greatest progress scarcely equalled this rate. After- 
wards it sometimes reached 15^ feet a day ; but this latter rate 
could only be attained by putting on a couple of miners during 
the shift ; but this course enabled the contractors to advance the 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 95 

whole work two feet more a day than they could have done 
without it. 

PLAN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE CEIB. 

Preparations for commenciMg operations at tlie outer end of 
the tunnel were early made, but owing to disappointments of the 
contractors in getting the necessary timber for the crib, and other 
delays, the foundations of the outer, and only one it was found 
necessary to build, were not laid till May, 1864. This was done 
on the north side of the river, about 800 feet west of the Light- 
Honse. 

The dimensions of the crib, as required by the specifications, 
are fifty-eight feet horizontal measurement on each of the five 
sides, and forty feet high. The inner portion, or well, has sides 
parallel with the outer ones, and twenty-two feet long each, leav- 
ing the distance between the inner and outer faces of the crib, or 
thickness of tlie breakv/ater, twenty -five feet. This breakwater 
was built on a flooring of twelve-inch white pine timber laid close 
togethez*. The outer and inner vertical faces and the middle 
wall between them were all of solid twelve-inch white pine tim- 
ber, except the upper ten feet of the outside, which was of white 
oak, to withstand better the action of ice. Across the angles of the 
outer and middle walls were placed brace walls about ten feet 
long, of solid twelve-inch timber. The middle wall on each side 
of the crib was continued straiglit through to the outside wall. 

Connecting the outer and inner walls, and passing through the 
middle wall, were cross-ties of twelve-inch timbei", placed hori- 
zontally about nine feet, and vertically one foot apart. The ends 
of the timbers, wlieve they passed through the outer and inner 
walls, were dovetailed, and notched half and half into the timbers 
of the middle wall. 

All of the timbers used were carefully inspected and well 
jointed, which was mostly done by hewing, though nearly all oi 



96 HISrOEY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

it was first sawed. It was foun(^ impossible, however, to get 
sawed timber of perfectly uniform dimensions. The floor tim- 
bers were laid on ground timbers placed directly under the outer, 
middle and inner walls of the crib. Round one and a half inch 
bolts, thirty -six inches loDg, with large washers at the bottom, 
were placed vertically, four feet apart, to hold the ground and 
floor timbers firmly to the first two courses of wall timbers above 
the flooring. All of the wall timbers were fastened to each other 
by one and a quarter square inch bolts thirty-four inches long, 
pointed and driven somewhat slanting into one and a quarter 
inch auger-holes about five feet apart. The slant was given in op- 
posite directions to the bolts nearest each other, to avoid the pos- 
sibility of their being drawn out by the buoyancy of the timber, 
an accident which once occurred to a somewhat similar structure 
in the "West. 

Three rectangular openings, each four feet wide and five feet 
high, were made through the breakwater at dififerent depths be- 
low the surface of the Lake, so that the water could be drawn 
from near the bottom, middle or top, as future experience might 
show to be best. These openings, and wells four feet square from 
them to the top of the breakwater, were timbered around in the 
same careful manner as the rest of the crib. Each well was pro- 
vided on its inner face with slides for a temporary gate to cut ofl' 
the water whenever thought necessary. 

The floor and walls of the crib were all carefully calked. The 
interior of the breakwater was divided into seven water-tight 
compartments, made so by the calking already mentioned, and 
" matched sheathing " between the walls. The object of these 
water-tight compartments was to make it easy to build solid ma- 
sonry in the whole of the breakwater at any time within the 
course of a few years, if it should be thought best. 

The whole of the outside surfaces of the outer and inner walls 
were sheeted with two-inch pine plank carefully jointed, placed 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 97 

vertically, and spiked on. Instead of pine, three-incli white oak 
was used for the upper portion of the outside, to resist the ice. 
The npper ten feet of each outside corner was protected by angle 
irons, extending each way two feet, and firmly fastened by two-inch 
round bolts. From the bottom to the top of the crib, and into 
which the ends of the angle irons were let, there were ten pieces 
of white oak, 5 x 14 inches, fastened every two feet to the middle 
wall with two-inch round bolts. 

Similar pieces, 3 x 12 inches, thirty-nine feet long, reaching 
from the top of the crib to the flooring, were fastened by the same 
bolts to the inside of the middle wall. It will thus be seen that 
apparently excessive care was taken to make the crib strong, but 
subsequent experience showed that this care was none too great. 

The crib, when built, was in a horizontal position. In order 
to launch it, it was raised by screws, and inclined at an angle of 
one in twelve towards the water. Seven ways were placed 
imder it, and extended out sixty-four feet into the river on 
trestle work. The river portion of the ways gave a great deal 
of trouble, on account of the uneven and stony character of the 
bottom, and accidents caused by passing vessels. Eveiything 
being ready, the launch took place on the 24tli day of July, 
1865, when the crib glided without accident or delay gracefully 
into the water in the presence of a large number of spectators. 
Immediately after the launch, the contractors towed the crib out 
to its position in the Lake. As soon as the bar was passed, three 
small gates near the bottom of the crib were opened, and the 
draft of water, which at first was but a little over eight feet, in- 
creased soon after reaching the anchoring ground to twenty-one 
feet. A mooring screw, opposite the intended position of each 
angle of the crib, had been placed under the direction of Mr. Clarke. 
To each mooring screw a one and a half inch chain cable was 
attached, and the loose end of the chain fastened to a buoy. 
Unfortunately, lake propellers had destroyed three of these 



98 HISTOKY OF THE GREAT FERES 

buoys, and it was thought most expedient to substitute for the 
sunken chains ordinary anchors and lienip cables. As soon as the 
crib was brought near its position, the work of filling with loose 
rubble was commenced. Very soon the crib got " out of trim," 
and one corner of it rested on one of the low bars, peculiar to the 
Lake at this distance from the shore. After some time had been 
lost in vain efforts to get the crib righted, and into its exact posi- 
tion, the Board became alarmed for its safety, in case a severe 
storm should arise, and directed that no expense be spared 
that might seem necessary to the engineers to secure it with the 
utmost despatch. 

A wrecking pump was at once employed. By means of this, 
sufficient v/ater was pumped into or out of the crib, as occasion 
required, to right it. The partitions between the compartments 
failed, and it was a matter of rejoicing that they did, for other- 
wise the removal of the wrecking pump from one compartment 
to another could not have been made in time. 

Three powerful tugs were hired, which, by the aid of sufficient 
tackle, finally towed the crib to its exact position. Immediately 
the contractors resumed the operation of filling tlie crib with 
stone, but very soon after a violent storm set in, and drove the 
vessels loaded with stone into the harbor. This storm continued 
for three days, and threatened, before it abated, to do serious, if 
not fatal, injury to the crib. In order to hold it in its position as 
firmly as possible, the wrecking pump was kept at work to fill it 
with water, the stone thrown in previously not being sufficient to 
hold it down. During the height of the storm, every wave caused 
a perceptible rocking of the crib. The angle joints of the inner 
and n)iddle walls began to separate, and for a time caused intense 
anxiety. When tlie storm was over, two of the inner angle 
joints had parted an inch on top, and the entire crib had worked 
against wind and waves thirteen feet, and the northwest angle 
was three and a half feet lower than the southeast. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 



The great difficulty there would have beet in restoring the 
crib to its exact position, and the fear there might be another 
storm in the meantime, prevented any attempt of the kind from 
being made. The very slight deflection this rendered necessary 
in the line of the tunnel, was of no practical importance what- 
ever, though regretted, and the variations of the sides of the crib 
from perpendicular, though a constant eyesore, did not aflcct its 
stability. 

The filling of the crib with stones was proceeded with as fast 
as the contractors could, and since it v/as completed, about the 
middle of August, no variation whatever in the position of this 
structure has ever been perceived. A slight tremor is sometimes 
felt during severe storms, and when large fields of ice are passing. 
The rubbing of the field-ice against the crib is occasionally accom- 
panied with a fearful noise. At such times the crib appears to a 
spectator on it to be an immense plough moving through the ice. 
On several occasions the broken masses lodged on the south side 
of the crib, forming banks several hundred feet long, and reaching 
from the bottom of the Lake to ten or fifteen feet above the surface. 

The breakwater portion of the crib being filled with stone, the 
contractors erected over it a temporary wooden covering, with a 
light-house on top, and rooms above and below for the accommo- 
dation of their own men, as well as the inspectors employed by 
the Board. It may be said, in passhig, that the air was so pure 
at this dwelling-place as to cause complaints, at first, from the 
cook of the voracious appetites of the men. The reputation of 
the crib for healthfulness is still maintained, the present keeper 
being now quite vigorous and hearty, although apparently a feeble 
consumptive when he went tliere to live, about eighteen months 
ago. 

CYLINDER AND LAKE SHAET. 

The cast-iron cylinder for the lake shaft was made in Pittsburg, 
by Messrs. James Marshall & Co., who also made the one for the 



100 HTSTORy OF THE GREAT FIKEB 

land shaft. It consists of seven sections, each nine feet in length, 
nine feet internal diameter, two and a quarter inches thick, and 
in all other respects like the one for the land shaft, except that 
the lowest section was turned on the outside, to make it penetrate 
the clay more easily, and the upper end was provided with two 
gateways, for the introduction or exclusion of the lake M^ater. 
The gateways are each fifty-four inches high by thirty-two inches 
wide, and placed with their tops below the lowest known level of 
the lake. Each gateway was provided with a sliding gate on the 
outside of the cylinder, raised by a screw worked at the top of 
the cylinder. Provisional arrangements were made at each gate- 
opening for forming chambers on each side, in case it should 
ever be necessary to repair either gate, by simply sliding in tem- 
porary gates. The sliding faces for those temporary gates, as well 
as of the permanent ones, were made of " composition." In- 
clined ways were placed inside of the crib during its construction, 
to aid in lowering the cjdinder to its place, but the storm already 
mentioned destroyed them. The lowest and next cylinder-sec- 
tions were put together on an incline. They were held in place, 
when required, by chains on the outside, secured to the lower 
end of the bottom section, and a brake over the upper side of the 
cylinder. They were lowered gradually on the incline by means 
of screws attached to the upper flange. These screws had to be 
removed, of course, for every new section put on. Care was 
taken to have sections enough together before removing the 
chains from the bottom of the cylinder, to reach above the water. 
This required five, or forty-five feet altogether, to be sure. A 
false bottom of wood was put into the cylinder at its lowest sec- 
tion, to keep out as much water as practicable. This gave the 
cylinder great buoyancy when sunk to a depth of thirty feet, and 
made it very easy to handle with blocks and falls placed overhead. 
On being lowered the cylinder sunk by its own weight two oi 
tln-ee feet into the clay, when the false bottom stopped it. A 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 101 

hole was then bored through the false bottom, and the cjlinde 
went down several feet further by its own weight. After the 
sixth or gate-section was put on, and the false bottom removed 
and excavation made within, the cylinder continued to sink by 
its own weight. After the top section was put on a moderate 
force only was necessary to push the cylinder down twenty-three 
feet below the bottom of the Lake. Below this point the work of 
sinking the shaft was substantially a repetition of that at the 
shore end of the tunnel, except that no water was met with, and 
no pump ever put in or required. The little leakage that oc- 
curred was easily removed in buckets. 

An extension eastward, about fifty feet, was made, in anticipa- 
tion of the possible extension of the tunnel, at some future day, 
still further out into the Lake. This was provided with the neces- 
sary sump and bottom on which to place another iron cylinder. 
The extension was of great service during the construction of the 
work as a turn out of the cars, and afforded, by means of a six- 
inch tube, sunk perpendicular from above the surface of the Lake 
to its outer end, an excellent opportunity to start the line of the 
tunnel below with great accuracy towards the deflecting point 
in the middle. 

TUNNELLING FROM LAKE SHAFT. 

The work of tunnelling was carried on from this end in very 
much tlie same manner, and about as rapidly as it was on the 
first 2,000 feet from the land shaft. The average progress made 
was 9^ feet a day till a point 2,290 feet from the lake shaft was 
reached, when operations in this direction ceased. When the 
work from the land shaft was within 100 feet of the same point, 
it was thought best to stop the masonry there and run a small 
timbered drift through to the east face to be certain as to how 
the lines were going to meet. The two faces were brought to- 
gether on the 30th of November, 1866, when it was found that 



102 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

the masonry at the east face was only about 7i inches out of the 
line from the west end. The horizontal measurements were only 
three inches longer than was estimated by triangulation. This re- 
sult, considering the great difficulty of getting a clear atmosphert 
in the tunnel, was deemed very good, and much better than was 
generally expected. 

The last of the masonry in the regular tunnel, when the two 
faces were brought together, was completed on the 6th of Decem- 
ber, and a stone commemorative of the event placed there b}^ the 
Mayor of the city, in the presence of the City Council and Board 
of Public Works, both of which bodies, together with a number 
of citizens, passed from the shore through the tunnel to the crib, 
and then by a tug to the city on that day. 

The ventilation of the east end of the tunnel was effected by 
means of six-inch tin pipes, connecting with the furnace of the 
hoisting engine. The pipes extended to the end of the masonry. 
Occasionally, ashes from the furnace would stop the ventilation, 
which would soon be discovered at the face. 

GATE-CHAMBER, CONNECTIONS, AND COMPLETION. 

In December the work of filling up the chambers was com- 
menced, and also that of connecting the tunnel with the pumping 
wells. Much had been done previously towards constructing a 
gate-chamber between the land shaft and the pumping wells. This 
was made nineteen and a third feet exterior, and sixteen feet interior 
diameter, and divided into five compartments, separated by walls 
twenty inches thick. The outer walls were first built on a boiler- 
iron slioe, or curb, and then sunk by excavating within. An old 
abandoned inlet gave a great deal of trouble by letting in water; 
and the boiler-iron shoe, which was adopted for the sake of econ- 
omy, proved more expensive in the end than a cast-iron one would 
have been. The foundations were on a bed of concrete twenty- 
four inches thick, on which the footings of the exterior and division 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 103 

•walls, all of briek, were built. Tlirongh the bottom of each divi- 
sion wall there were left rectangular gate openings, three feet 
wide and five feet high. The tops of these openings are 23-^ feet 
below low-water in the Lake. In each opening a cast-iron gate 
frame was built. The gates themselves are tapering. The frames 
were fitted with wedging grooves or ways projecting beyond the 
walls, just sufficient to free the gates when raised or lowered. It 
was hoped that the wedging grooves would allow the gates to be 
screwed down perfectly tight ; but in practice they have given 
more trouble than was anticipated, and it is believed now that 
in making future structures of the kind for the city, if any should 
be required, it would be safer and better to put a gate on each 
side of the wall, so that the pressure of the water could always 
be used to keep the gate tight. The gates are operated by means 
of rods, stayed at intervals, and by screws with hand-wheels at 
the top of the walls. 

The connection between the land shaft and the gate chamber 
was of precisely the same size and form as the main tunnel. The 
connections with the old and new pumping wells, and a partial 
one with the provisional or south pumping well, as also about 
180 feet of a provisional connection with the Lake shore, are all 
four and a half feet interior diameter, and were tunnelled through 
soft clay Avithout any difiicultj^, except a little trouble in working 
under and through the piling beneath the old pumping well. 
The connection with the Lake shore, or rather the old inlet basin, 
is to be used, in case it should ever be necessary to suspend the 
supply through the main tunnel, either to examine, cleanse, or 
repair it. 

A temporary connection between the land shaft and the mouth 
of the old inlet was made by means of a timbered drift through 
the clay, and a brick well four feet interior diameter and thirty 
feet deep, provided with a curb built above the water on an iron 
shoe, held together by irou rods, and sunk by means of the same 



104 HIBTORT OF THE GREAT FIRES 

dredging apparatus that was used for sinking the curb of the new 
pumping well. Two wooden gates were left in the top of the 
curb, just below the surface of the water. A small area, enclos- 
ing the well and the inlet, were coffer-dammed around as far as 
necessary to cut them off from the flow of the Lake whenever 
desired. 

The work of tilling the chambers of the main tunnel, and the 
cleansing of that structure having been completed, water was 
first let into it on the 8th of March, 1867, when only the hori- 
zontal portion was filled, this precaution being taken to avoid 
too sudden a pressure on the masonry. By the morning of the 
11th, the shafts were filled to the level of the Lake. For the pur- 
pose of ascertaining if any defective workmanship existed where 
cavities on the outside of the masonry had been filled in, the 
water was pumped out of the tunnel sufficiently to permit the 
engineer and three representatives of the city press to go upwards 
of half way through the tunnel. I^ot a brick was observed to 
be out of its place or to have started. The party not being able 
to push their boat any further without great discomfort, returned, 
but were upset and left in total darkness about 600 feet from the 
Lake shaft, to which they walked. Had this accident occurred 
a mile out, it would have proved very serious, if not fatal, to 
most of the party, as the water was too cold to be endured long. 

After the examination the tunnel was again filled, and on the 
24th, about 4 p.m., the mouth of the old inlet was cut off from 
the Lake. Immediately the pumps, which were not stopped at 
all, drew down the surface of the water at the mouth of the inlet 
upwards of a foot. For a moment it seemed to some of the 
bystanders as if the tunnel would not perform its intended office, 
but the next instant the water began to bubble up beautiful and 
clear at the top of the well, and continued to do so till the tem- 
porary connection was no longer needed ; when this most pleasing 
and unexpected feature of the works ceased to delight the public. 




THE NKW PACIFIC r 




I'EL FNT r'HTf'AfJO. 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 107 

The formal celebration of tlie completion of the tunnel and 
introduction of pure Lake water, by appropriate public ceremonies, 
took place March 25, 1867. From that time to this there has 
been no cessation in the supply except three times, when stop- 
pages of a few hours by anchor ice occurred. The experience 
thus far gained in this respect is believed to be sufficient to show 
how to prevent the recurrence of such accidents. 

Careful observations have frequently been made to ascertain 
the head required to deliver given quantities of water through the 
tunnel, and it is found to exceed in capacity the original estimates. 
No indications whatever of internal injury to the structure have 
yet been observed. 

The original estimate of the probable cost of the work was 
$307,552. The actual cost, including all preliminary and other 
expenses of whatever nature chargeable to the Lake tunnel, up 
to April, 1867, was $457,844.95. 

Thus was completed this important series of works which 
deliver to us the pure crystal contents of our mighty inland seas. 
What man's forethought could devise was here planned and pre- 
pared to guard against the possibility of failure to supply the city 
in its largest need. But the fire, which tried every man's work 
of what sort it was, could be stayed by nothing human. How need- 
ful that every man keep, in his own place of humble dependence 
on the Almighty. " Blessed is every one who trusteth in Him! " 



CHAPTER XV. 

The river makes the harbor, and the harbor determines the 
location and greatness of the city. This cut into the shore, or 
bayou, first extends west about one mile, and then forks north and 
south, dividing the place naturally into three sides, north, south, 



108 HISTOKT OF THE GEE AT FLEES 

and west. The first lies between tlie Lal^e, the north branch, 
and the main river. The West comprises all west of the two 
forks or branches, and the South is bounded by the Lake, the riv- 
er, and the South Branch. The great ships and propellers sail 
grandly into the harbor, and float away inland, yet remain ever 
in close proximity to the business and the people. This gives 
peculiar facilities for commerce, but impedes intercourse between 
the three sections, because the river is crossed by swinging bridg- 
es which whirl upon a table in the centre of the stream. When 
the bridges are " open " the people must wait till they shut. Tug- 
boats draw fleets of vessels through the sluggish water while the 
impatient multitudes gather, and long lines of teams stand wait- 
ing, each eager to be on the move. We have sometimes consid- 
ered this enforced delay a blessing, inasmuch as it gave the hur- 
rying Chicagoans a breathing spell and moment to collect their 
thoughts. It is to be feared that the majority do not indulge 
pious thoughts, or confine themselves to words of gentleness, while 
they fume and fret over the impediment to their onward pursuit 
after money or pleasure. To obviate this difiiculty and facilitate 
the necessary interchange between the three great divisions, tun- 
nels have been constructed underneath the river and South Branch, 
both for vehicles and foot-passengers. They were finished none 
too soon, for in our present distress they have paid for themselves. 
Business was mainly in the South Division till that was ravaged 
by destruction, and people were compelled to transfer the chief 
portion of it to the West Side, where also the large majority of 
dwellings stood and still remain. In the time of the conflagra- 
tion, when bridges fell into the river smouldering masses, these 
became necessary for the escape of those who were driven before 
the fire. They were the scenes of some peculiar experiences on 
that dreadful night. When the gas works let off" the gas to pre- 
vent explosion after midnight, the Washington street tunnel was 
full of vehicles, and the footway erow^ded with fugitives bearing 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. IOC 

away their families and possessions to a place of refuge. This 
being illuminated bj gas was light and safe, even with a dense 
throng pressing excitedly through it. But in an instant the 
flickering flames were extinguished, and the place was dark as 
midnight without a star. One shriek of anguish rang out along 
the arches, and then the voices of men were heard quieting the 
people. " Be still," " move slow," " there is no danger," " do 
not push or crowd," were some of the directions given and carried 
out, so that the whole procession felt their way composedly 
to the farther end, and not a person was trodden down or in- 
jured. Reports went over the land by telegraph that hundreds 
of people were smothered in the tunnels and fearful deeds were 
perpetrated in their darkened passages ; all of which proved false, 
and these excavations were coverts from the storm of flame, and 
by their means many escaped who otherwise must have become 
victims of the fiery demon. 

Those who sought exit from the furnace by the La Salle street 
tunnel were less fortunate, according to the succeeding description, 
for which, however, we do not vouch, although every word is 
possibly true : 

" One of the inost dramatic and impressive scenes of the fire 
not yet recorded, was the flight through the new La Salle street 
tunnel, under the river, during Sunday night. It was about 2 
o'clock when this strange hegira began, and in ten minutes it 
became a furious rout. The bridges on both sides were on fire, 
and the flames were writhing over the decks of the brigs in the 
river, and winding their fierce arms of flame around the masts 
and through the rigging like a monstrous luminous devil-fish. 
The awful canopy of fire drew down and closed over Water street 
as the shrieking, multitude rushed for the tunnel, the only avenue 
of escape. There was no light in any house, save the illumination 
which lighted up only to destroy. But into the darkened tave 
rushed pell-mell, from all directions, the frenzied crowd - bankers. 



110 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

thieves, draymen, wives, children^n every stage of undress, aE 
they had leaped from burning lodgings, a howling, imploring, 
cursing, praying, waiting mob, making their desperate dive under 
the river. It was as dark in the tunnel as it is in the centre of 
the earth, perhaps darker. Hundreds of the fugitives were laden 
with furniture, household goods, utensils, loaves of bread, and 
pieces of meat, and their rush through the almost suffocating 
tunnel was fearful in the extreme. They knocked eacli other 
down, and the strong trod on the helpless. Nothing was heard 
at the mouth of tlie cavernous prison but a muffled howl of rage 
and anguish. Several came forth with broken limbs and terrible 
bruises, as they scattered and resumed their flight under the blaz- 
ing sky to the North." 

The tunnels having become an established institution, will be 
multiplied as the necessities of the future require, till the river 
shall become no barrier to the intercourse of the inhabitants in 
every part of the city. They exist as a monument of the un- 
conquerable energy of the people under whose patronage they 
have been constructed. 



CHAPTER XVI. 



OuB city has enjoyed an unenviable reputation abroad for 
wickedness. Doubtless the sins of our people are a cause of 
reproach, weakness, and shame. "Righteousness exalteth a 
nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." We have had 
all the vices of large populations, both open and secret. The 
divorce business is especially a crying evil of the time, and our 
foreign element have been peculiarly given to disregard of the 
marriage tie. It was said of us that the newsboys cried at the 
approach of railway trains: "Chicago, fifteen minutes for divor- 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. Ill 

ces!" The annals of crime have been full and red. Only the 
week preceding the fire a mysterious murder occurred which sent 
a thrill throughout the community. Drinking was carried to 
excess, even Sunday dram-selling being tolerated by the executive 
to an alarming and shameful extent. Covetousness also prevailed 
nnder the forms of prodigality and avarice. The Sabbath was 
terribly profaned by our foreign population, and the demoraliza- 
tion ran along all orders of society. Sinful or doubtful amuse- 
ments received the devotion of multitudes. At an expense of 
eighty thousand dollars Crosby's Opera House had been refitted, 
and the winter was expected to be one of unusual gayety and 
excitement. Money was to have flowed like water from the rich 
and the poor alike. "We had our low resorts in great numbers. 
The harlot plied her trade with success and profit. Blocks of 
buildings were occupied by young men who 'lad their orgies and 
debauches, where young women were we.come visitors. The 
secret immoralities of a great city are innumerable and shocking. 
None but the Omniscient can spy them out. Occasional revela- 
tions are like flashes of lightning upon a stormy sea, disclosing 
the rush of black billows and the seething of bottomless eddies of 
corruption. Alas for our city ! Pompeii could scarcely excel the 
madness of its passion, though law gives no sanction to iniquity, 
as it did in that vile nest of heathen immorality. 

While we thus glance at the darker aspect of life here, in order 
to be just and true to facts, we turn gladly and boldly to another 
side of the picture, and hold up a people whose liberality, gener- 
osity, piety, and morals will compare in their fruit — their actual 
out workings — with those of any other people under the sun. It 
must be remembered that in the new West everything has had to 
be done, as it were, at once — every necessity to be provided for 
within a generation. We have not had two and a half centuries 
to grow all these institutions and make the improvements needful 
to our comfort. True, we have had the benefits of other men's 



112 HISTOKY OF THE GKEAT FERES 

capital and culture, and used them well. We claim nothing 
more, and demand the recognition of this from our fellow-citizens 
in older and well-regulated communities. The " almighty dollar " 
has not absorbed attention and made us forgetful of the higher in- 
terests, nor have we failed to recognize the immutable principles 
of justice and honesty in our political or commercial relations. 
Some of the best church edifices in the country were and are still 
standing in our city, and these were and are carefully attended 
and liberally supported. In mission work among the poor and 
neglected we have not fallen behind our brethren elsewhere. The 
names of our workers and their labors have become famous not 
only in America, but abroad ; and the good report has had no 
small share of influence in bringing to our city a better class of 
people, and inspiring confidence. D. L. Moody's enterprise as a 
missionary and a leader in the Young Men's Christian Associa- 
tion had so widely ahected the public mind, that contributions to 
rebuild his burned edifice come pouring in upon him from all 
quarters. The various churches have been awake and earnest in 
their fields, to gather the harvest for God's kingdom. The ITorth 
Star Mission found friends familiar with its holy fame, who gener- 
ously came forward to restore it upon a good foundation of useful- 
ness. On a late Sunday in October, the Sabbath preceding the 
catastrophe, in the Second Baptist Church audience-room were 
collected a vast number of children. First came the infant class 
of the Home School to the front, and took their places ; then the 
middle classes followed, and lastly the Bible Classes filed into the 
centre of the house. Upon the one side marched in 600 German 
youth and infiints ; upon the other, Danish, Swedish, and others, 
from one mission. A company clean and bright came from 
Bridgeport, and another from the Union Stock Yards. It was a 
gallant array, of whose conduct and appearance the earnest, self- 
sacrificing workers were justly proud. These were allowed to 
sing, and, after listening to the speeches, to depart. Carriages 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. IIS 

and cars had been provided, and great pains taken to make all 
comfortable and liapp}-, that they might join in a welcome to the 
pastor, who had just returned from a long absence. This is a 
specimen of the manner in which Christians in Chicago have k- 
bored and sacrificed to build up the youth into a maturity of 
knowledge, religion, and virtue. The inner life of the churches is 
sweet and vigorous, and their beneficence has begun to bear gold- 
en fruit. They have given their energies, talents, and money to 
found and endow institutions of learning. The Methodists have a 
University, Female College, and Seminary in one of our beautiful 
suburbs, Evanston ; theCongregationalists have a noble Seminary 
for the education of Ministers; the Presbyterians, also, have the 
same ; the Baptists have a University and Seminary in the city, 
at Cottage Grove, already educating hundreds ; the Catholics had 
several institutions, and all Christians had their organs of the 
press, their organizations and associations for disseminating their 
views and evangelizing the world. There is a pleasant fraternity 
of feeling manifesting itself in a variety of forms, and especially 
through the Young Men's Christian Association. There are 
many living, devoted men of God, laborious, prayerful servants 
of Christ, benevolent, helpful followers of Him who went about 
doing good. If the devil is active, his opponents are thoroughly 
awake and ready to give him battle on every side. Since the dis- 
aster which destroyed so many sanctuaries and crippled the bene- 
volent, one of the first thoughts has been to re-establish these in- 
stitutions of religion and save the seats of learning. This fact 
speaks volumes for the character of our people, showing their ap- 
preciation of the value of Christianity and their profound interest 
in its progress. Many of them, though burned out or injured, 
sought out the Lord's treasury and divided their little remnant of 
money for the care of their church servants and services. 

Besides all this, they have manifested great kindness and honor 
in the hour of mutual adversity, and are seeking to do the thing 



114 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

that is right between man and man. There is much reason t<s 
take pride in such a people, who have gathered here from all 
quarters, and scarcely learned to know and appreciate one an- 
other. It was but simple justice which led an eminent writer to 
say: " It is my impression that human nature there is subject to 
influences as favorable to its health and progress as in any city of 
the world, and that a family going to reside in Chicago from one 
of our older cities will be likely to find itself in a better place 
than that from which it came." 

A gentleman .who spent a Sabbath here and spoke in the even- 
ing at Farwell Hall, in giving an account of what occurred, said 
that he thought, as he saw the liquor saloons open and thronged, 
that Chicago was the worst place he was ever in. But before he 
reached the Hall several young men met him, and invited him to 
go to church, and addressed him and others with great courtesy 
and earnestness. He said he concluded that if the devil was well 
served, certainly the Lord's people were the most devoted workers 
he had ever met. 



CHAPTER XVIL 

OuK Republic has become an asylum for strangers from all na- 
tions. Ancient Rome drew to itself, by conquest, representative? 
of many countries, and trade attracted others, so that it became a 
Babel. Chicago has been the star in the West by whose beams 
multitudes have been guided to the Yalley of the Mississippi, from 
almost every nation under the whole heaven. It has offered a 
home to many, and a market to others. The country makes 
the city, and the city develops the country. Thus they act and 
react perpetually upon each other in respect to all the various in- 
terests and concerns of life. It was a hazardous thing in the 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 115 

eyes of some persons to encourage railroads, lest they should 
divert and scatter trade from Chicago all along their lines. It 
took but a slight experience to demonstrate that if ever the city 
attained greatness, steam must have the glory of it. Railroad 
therefore followed railroad, till now, from having forty miles in 
1850, this metropolis has already groAvn to be a chief railway 
centre of the world. More than 8,000 miles of rail centre here, 
and fifteen trunk lines radiate every way, each from three hun- 
dred to one thousand miles in length, and still they come. These 
marvellous facilities make us the focal point of the great West, 
and bring to our doors all peoples, languages, and colors. The 
grain trade, as we have shown, is very great, and our advantages 
for handling it are unsurpassed. All persons have heard of the 
elevators, and we subjoin an account of one lately built. 

" The building is 312 feet long, 84 feet Avide, and 130 feet high; 
machinery is driven by a 400 horse-power engine. It is divided 
into 150 bins 65 feet deep, with a storage capacity of 1,250,000 
bushels. The yard will hold 300 or 400 cars. 

" Two switch engines, when in full operation, are required to 
put in and take out cars. 

" Two tracks receive each ten cars, unloaded at once, in six to 
eight minutes, each car having its elevator, conveying the grain 
to its large hopper scale in the top of the building. There 
weighed, it is spouted to the bin appropriated to that kind and 
quality. To carry grain to the several bins renders the elevation 
necessary. Allowing fifteen minutes to unload each set of ten cars, 
four hundred are unloaded in ten hours, about 140,000 bushels. 

" Shipping facilities equal receiving, there being six elevators 
for that work, each handling 300 bushels per hour, or 180,000 
bushels in ten hours. The grain is run out of the bins to another 
set of elevators, which throw it into large hoppers at the top of 
the building, in which it is weighed, and sent down in spouts into 
the hold of the vessel. 



116 raSTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

" The same company have another elevator on the opposite 
side of the slip — for a slip at right angles to the South Branch 
is cut to lay vessels alongside the warehouse — and ten other 
large elevators and five smaller, afford the same facilities. Any 
one of thirteen of them, too, will unload a canal-boat of 
5,000 or of 6,000 bushels, in an hour and a half to two hours ; 
an aggregate from 65 canal boats alone of 357,000 bushels in ten 
hours." 

Modern invention economizes the results of industry and the 
productions of the earth, as well as human muscle and time. 
Many are not aware of the process by which corn can be stored 
and preserved, with an immense saving from waste and deteriora- 
tion. The subjoined brief picture of the dryer and its operations 
may interest a large class of readers : 

" A tower seventy-five feet high, built of brick and iron, fire- 
proof, receives the^ grain at the bottom, where it is elevated to 
the top, and passes slowly down over perforated iron plates, the 
motion of the falling grain being constant and uniform, regulated 
by slides or valves at the bottom. • 

" The grain in motion forms a solid column seven feet wide 
and three inches deep. There are two columns of grain, and a 
furnace at the bottom supplies hot air, which is evenly dis- 
tributed by suction-fans, so as to pass constantly and equally 
through the grain the entire height of the kiln. Temperature is 
regulated by thermometers set in the walls at several points, 
avoiding all danger of over-heating. Impurities or foreign sub- 
stances are passed off in vapor or steam. Then it is thoroughly 
cooled before being passed to the bins in the elevator by the same 
process, except cold air instead of hot is used, which contributes 
further to dry as well as cool." 

It is a marvel to many how drainage has been secured upon so 
flat a plain, the highest point of the city being but twenty-five 
feet above the surface of the river. This important and essential 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 117 

end lias been achieved by raising the whole land some fourteen 
feet. High stone walls are built, the interior is filled with earth, 
and the pavement laid upon that. The sidewalks are built from 
each wall to the yards or fronts of the lots, and the houses are 
raised up to grade. This gigantic operation is still going forward, 
and miles of wooden streets offer their noiseless surfaces to the 
wheel of the vehicle. This elevation of grade has made the ways 
of our city rather uneven, and suggested forcibly the ups and 
downs of Chicago. A man in New York, arrested for drunkenness, 
pleaded not guity, and said that being just from Chicago, where 
the sidewalks were so uneven, his gait was mistaken for that of 
an intoxicated man. Gradually men are bringing themselves up 
to level, mending their ways, and making pedestrianism less dan- 
gerous and more agreeable. We lost in the fire one hundred and 
twenty-two miles of sidewalk, which gives some idea of the ex- 
tent of territory it traversed, and the amount of labor required to 
remove the traces of its progress. 

Among modern precautions against fire, the fire-alarm telegraph 
occupies a conspicuous place, and has been for some years in full 
operation in Chicago. Wires are stretched over house-tops 
throughout the cit}'', and boxes placed at frequent intervals for 
the use of these wires by citizens, who wish to call the attention 
of the Fire Department to any outbreak of fire in their vicinity. 
The turning of the handle in the box is felt at the rooms in the 
Court-House, and the number of the district indicated to the 
opei'ator, who sends it to the engine houses, where horses are 
standing harnessed day and night, ready to speed the steam-engine 
to the point of attack. There is also a watchman in the cupola 
of the Court-House, who sends word to the operator of any fire 
he may see, and rings the great bell (now, alas ! forever silent), 
to warn the firemen and people of the location of the fire. Sup- 
pose the conflagration is in district one hundred and twenty-three ; 
he strikes the bell once, then rests a moment, strikes it twice, 



118 HISTOEY OF THE GEE AT FIRES 

then rests again, strikes it three times, and then, after a longei 
interval, repeats this process, till the city is made fully aware of 
the situation of the danger, nearly every house having a printed 
list of the fire districts. In this connection, the following state- 
ment of one of the operators on dnty the night and morning of 
the Great Fire, is full of interest: " I arrived at the office 12.30, 
A. M. "While I was on duty. Stations 19, 13, and 10 were turned 
in, and struck by me in rapid succession. About this time some 
man came into the office and notified me that the fire had crossed 
to the soutli side of the river. At the same time the watchman 
in the tower told me that the wooden ventilators on the west 
wing were on fire. I then asked the man on duty in the Central 
Station (Policeman Yesey) to send me a fire-extinguisher, which 
he did. With the aid of the extinguisher and the assistance of 
the two watchmen in the tower, I managed to keep down the 
small fires which were constantly appearing on the wooden tower 
and ventilators, until about half-past 1 o'clock a.m., when a ball 
of tar, or a piece of tarred paper, came through the windows 
nnder the balcony of the dome, and fell on the stairs, just where 
some plastering had been pulled off. I started up the stairs to 
put it out, but before I could reach it, the lathing and some dry 
material under the roof had ignited. I then called loudly for Mr, 
Deneson, the M^atchman, to come down from the tower, which he 
did, making a narrow escape with his life. Knowing by the ap- 
pearance of things that the building was doomed, I returned to 
the office and struck my electric repeater, striking upwards of 
seventy blows on the outside bells, thinking that, perhaps, the 
noise would awaken some of the many sleepers with whom I 
knew many of the blocks were filled. Previous to this, I caused 
the Court-House bell to be rung by hand. As the office was by 
this time full of smoke, and the heat was becoming intense, I 
was obliged to switch off my repeaters and leave tlie office, which 
I did, with one or two others, by way of the west wing, stopping 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 119 

to close the iire-doors between the two buildings. Once out of 
the building, I procured a fire-hat, and worked until 3 o'clock on 
Monday afternoon, at the south end of the fire, when I went 
home to get some sleep." 

Brave fellow ! he had earned his coveted repose, and we do 
well to honor the men who keep watch and ward over our dwel- 
lings and lives, while we sleep and while we wake. His in- 
genious meclianism, and all the appurtenances of his department, 
must be renewed, and even upon a grander scale, in the Chicago 
of the future. 

Eecognizing the value of universal education, our city has pro- 
vided, partly through StSte liberality, g, splendid system of com- 
mon-school instruction free to every child, of every nationality, 
religion, and condition among us. The ofiicers and teachers of 
these schools are persons, many of them, of the higliest intelligence, 
culture, and skill, and generally we are admirably served. A 
vast throng of children gather in the buildings devoted to this 
purpose, which are, almost all of them, noble, commanding, com- 
modious edifices, capable of providing room for all the youth who 
choose these facilities. In addition, there are numerous private 
schools and academies, both for primary and higher education, 
whicli find ample patronage from a people who prize the power 
of knowledge and despise ignorance as weakness. 

It has been the honorable aim of our city to place the highest 
objects of ambition among men upon a footing worthy their pre- 
eminence. Eeligion, morality, knowledge, culture, and social 
enjoyment have their temples and seats, paraphernalia and ap- 
paratus, in as advanced a state of perfection as in any commu- 
nity under the sun. And all this, be it ever remembered, has 
been the growth of a heterogeneous people, upon a new soil, within 
the period of a generation. Their enterprise and its results consti- 
tute a fitting symbol and monument of the age. 

Want of space must prevent an elaborate account of those 



120 HISTORY OF THE GKEA.T FIKES 

splendid blocks wliich bad sprung up on every band, built both 
by borne and foreign capital, many of tbem rivalling in beauty 
tbe finest models of architecture in the Old World ; those grand 
hotels, both old and new, which had a national reputation and a 
promise of eclipsing the world ; those beautiful homes, where taste 
and wealth combined their resources to provide elegance and 
comfort ; those public buildings, stored with the trophies of 
genius and the results of scientific research ; those sanctuaries, 
proclaiming the purpose of the people to give God the best ; to- 
gether with a myriad tokens of prosperity, so many of which are 
now level with the ground, or stand in unsightliness and ruin to 
mock the pride of man. At the height 'of a proud and princely 
position the Young Giant stood erect, beckoning the world to 
his arms, when the fatal decree went forth, and his might, touch- 
ed by the flaming breath of Omnipotence, shrivelled and shrunk, 
and he lay prone like a tree, storm-bent and fire-scathed. 



GEEAT FIEES IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 121 



lY.— THROUGH FIRE. 

CHAPTEK XVIII. 

The cliurelies were just dismissing their devout worshippers 
after evening service, when the lire-bells rang their loud alarum. 
The evening befoi-e, a fire had raged of unparalleled violence, and 
the embers still glared in the darkness, and people were easily 
roused to intense alarm. Many hastened from the House of God 
to the scene of the fire, fearing that the high wind might imperil 
even larger districts of the city. None dared to dread any such 
devastation as that which followed. 

It was a period of peculiar drought in the whole w^estern 
country, and the dryness of the atmosphere was so remarkable 
that an intelligent physician, observing that his plants became 
desiccated in a few hours after the most profuse watering from 
the hydrant, trembled all day Sunday lest a spark of fire should 
drop near his dwelling. There was a strange lack of moisture in 
the air, which condition did nut change until Monday afternoon. 
On Saturday evening, October Y, about 11 o'clock, a fire caught 
in a planing-mill, west of the river and within a block of it, in 
the neighborhood of a wooden district full of frame-houses, lum- 
ber, and coal-yards, and every kind of combustible material. 
Some contend that it originated in a beer salo >v\. and thence was 
communicated to the planing-mill. 

In the almost inflammable state of the atmosphere, and under 
the propulsion of a strong wind, the tinder-boxes on every side 
ignited, and ruin rioted for hours over a space of twenty acres, 
and destroyed a million dollars' w^orth of property. Grand and 
awful as this conflagration seemed to the thronging thousands. 



122 HISTOEY OF TUB GEEAT FIRES 

who crowded every approacli and standpoint where a view could 
be obtained, it paled and faded awav in comparison with that 
of the following night; but, as the event proved, this first fire 
saved the remainder of the West Division of the city, for when 
the raging element came leaping and roaring onward it found 
nothing to burn, and then paused and was stayed, while it 
rushed across the river, and satiated itself upon the noblest and 
best portion of the town, east and north. 

Of this eventful period so many writers have wrought out 
descriptions which are unapproachable in graphic delineation and 
powerful word-painting, that simple justice to our readers de- 
mands that we collate from these all that is necessary to present 
the whole mournful subject in its many-sided aspects. Like a 
great battle, with its multitudinous features unobservable by any 
combatant or spectator, this conflagration presented so many 
phases that each was absorbed in what he saw, while matters 
of unspeakable interest were occurring on everj- side beyond his 
ken. Let, then, many testimonies combine to set forth to the gaze 
of mankind what has perhaps never been equalled, and certainly 
never surpassed in the checkered experience of humanity. We 
bring together around this terrific scene the sketches of the press 
published in Chicago and elsewhere, and individual experiences. 

THAT KICKING COW. 

The reporters gave the world to understand that a woman 
named Scully had gone to milk her cow or tend a sick calf in her 
stable — a crazy wooden shanty filled witli loose hay — bearing a 
candle or lamp in her hand. Stories varied as to these details, 
but all agreed that the light had been overturned, and that the 
building had on the instant burst into flames. So rapid was the 
progress of the fire that in less than ten minutes two blocks be- 
tween Jefferson and Clinton streets were all ablaze. 



#!f!iii i ttfe i iwi^ 




VIEW FROM THE COURT-HOUSE. I-OOKING SOUTH-EAST. 




UNITY (MR COLLYtR S) ANO NhW ENCL^^NU CHURCH 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 125 

Upon this report the London Punch becomes funny, and kindiy 
too : — 

'' We suppose that the most costly pail of milk ever heard of 
in the world was the pail which burned Chicago. "The gallant 
Americans are the last people to cry over spilt milk or burned 
cities. Chicago will quickly be Rediviva. She has very likely 
accepted the omen that she will soon be flowing again with milk 
— and honey — has elected in her cheery way to call herself the 
Cow City. Therefore, Bull, evince the aiFection of a relative ; 
show that you have what Benedick calls " an Amiable Low " 
(needless to say that we do not allude to any keeper of the pub- 
lic purse), and that you come of the stock of the Golden Bull. 
With which sweet, choice, and dainty, conceits to lighten the way, 
let the pensive public be off to the Mansion House with their 
help for the homeless by Lake Michigan. The Americans 
remembered us in the time of Ireland's hunger and of the cot- 
ton famine, and must now allow us to remember them. And 
let's be quick about it, or the city will be rebuilt before the money 
gets there. ' Eight away — this very now,' as they say." 

We thank Mr. Punch for his generous confidence and witty 
appeal, and assure him that this is our purpose, to revive in more 
than former splendor and power, that our city may be able to 
help the poor, and empty its cornucopia into the lap of the world. 
The story of this origin of the disaster may be true, in spite of 
affidavits to the contrary, or may have but a spark of truth in its 
fabric ; at all events, the fire commenced at the barn, and grew into 

THE GREAT CONFLAGRATION. 

Before we summon our eye-witnesses, we are willing to allow 
the inveterate joker of the Hartford Post to have his bit of fun at 
their expense, since he is a newspaper man and cannot be expect- 
ed to " set down aught in malice " against his brethren. 

"The reporters and correspondents did try to ' do the subject 



126 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

justice' in writing up the Chicago fire. "We can imagine them 
looking on the roaring sea of flames and the crazed multitudes 
seeking refuge from them, and making up their minds deliberate- 
ly that in the matter of describing the fury of the fire and the wild 
tumult of the crowd, nothing was left to exaggeration ; they must 
climb up by dizzy successions of polysyllabic adjectives as nearly 
as possible to the heights of the great occasion, and feel then that 
words were unequal to it; that they had not and could not exag- 
gerate it. Of course it piqued their ambitious pens. It occurred 
at length to one of them that it was an exceedingly proper time 
for bloodshed, that in all this chaos there was a lack — to the re- 
porter a painful lack — of devilishness. It was a horrible picture, 
but it lacked murder to make it complete. What so good time 
as this for hangings and lynchings, and other such bloody carry- 
ings on. It was such a happy thought, that the first reporter in- 
terpolated forthwith into his account the shooting down of an in- 
cendiary. It took. The reading public licked its intellectual 
chops and said : ' All, now it begins to be congruous and coher- 
ent-like. This is something like it,' And the reporter thereupon, 
after the manner of the menagerie man tossing raw beef to the 
tigers, jerked into his account the sweet little sentence : ' Seven 
men have just been shot down in the act of kindling incendiary 
fires.' 

" ' Only seven,' growled the public. ' There must be more than 
that ; the fire was a very large one.' 

"The reporter was equal to the occasion. 'Forty-seven men 
have already been shot,' he telegraphed; ' no arrests are made. 
Incendiaries are shot down wherever taken.' He had kindled to 
it. The raging public wanted blood. He could furnish it. 
Then it occurred to him to heighten the interest by giving names 
— it wanted local and personal color. So with a dash of the pen 
he strung Barney Aaron, the pugilist, to a lamp-post, and shot 
another notoriety named Tracy, with a file of muskets. He was 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 127 

doing well. The fire was subsiding, but there never was such an 
opportunity for murderers, never a man so handy at inventing 
them. But the fire was the biggest thing the world ever saw, 
and these were only ordinary murders. He had not worked bru- 
talit}^ enough into the picture. And so, to finish and crown all, 
he strung up a boy by the heels, head downward, and described, 
with horrible minuteness, how the crowd amused itself by stoning 
him to death. And then that reporter retired from business. 
Next day General Sheridan, who was in command, in reply to 
some sort of a telegram, possibly asking him if it was not feasible 
to quench the flames with the human gore this sanguinary report- 
er had set running, said it was very quiet there, and no disturb- 
ance of any account. But a blood-thirsty public was not to be so 
deceived. 'Ah!' they said, 'Sheridan is so used to blood! 
This is nothing to him. To a man who has swam his horse 
through it in the Shenandoah a mere streetful of blood is noth- 
ing. Ah, ah ! Ob, yes ! " very quiet " — that's good; but of course, 
as a matter of fact, they have shot incendiaries, and hung thieves 
to lamp-posts and stoned them to death, and there is no doubt 
that Barney Aaron and Tracy were killed, for the telegraph has 
distinctly said so.'" 

And yet, ten days after the event, it turns out that the boy was 
not inverted and hung and stoned to death, and that the soldiers 
did not shoot anybody, and that nothing of the sort happened. 
And Barney Aaron, who was hung to a lamp-post, sits on the 
steps of a New York gambling-house, and asseverates that he was 
not killed. 

That reporter rose to the occasion. He writes with a harrow. 

Had this hard joker, who rightly takes off sensational writing, 
been a spectator and sufferer on that woful night, doubtless he 
would have felt that a pen dipped in Tartarean flames would 
have been needed to adequately depict the scenes that transpired. 

" None but an eye-witness can form an idea of the fm-y and 



128 HISTOKY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

power of the fire among the buildings and warehouses on the 
South Side, with the wind blowing a hurricane. At times it 
seemed but the work of a moment for the fire to enter the south 
ends of buildings, fronting on Randolph, Lake, and Water streets, 
and reappear at the north doors and windows, belching forth in 
fierce flames which often reached the opposite buildings, and then 
the flames, issuing forth from the buildings on both sides of the 
street, would unite, and present a solid mass of fire, completely 
filling the street from side to side, and shooting upward a hundred 
feet into the air. Thus was street after street filled with flame. 
Huge walls would topple and fall into the sea of fire, without 
apparently giving a sound, as the roar of the fierce element was so 
great that all minor sounds were swallowed up, and the fall of walls 
was only perceptible to the eyes. Many of the buildings situated 
along South Water street buried their red-hot rear walls in the 
water of the river, into which they plunged with a hiss. The 
heat was so intense at times from some of the burning buildings 
that they could not be approached within 150 feet, which accounts 
for the manner in which the fire worked back and often against 
the wind. The fire, after reaching the business portion of Ran- 
dolph and South Water streets, leaped the river to the North Side 
in an incredibly short space of time, and thence among the wooden 
buildings on that side, reached the lake shore after destroying 
block after block of happy dwellings. A scene of such utter 
powerlessness in the face of an enemy was never presented as that 
of this people trying to combat the flames. • 

"Now was to be seen the most remarkable sight ever beheld in 
this or any country. There were from 50,000 to 75,000 men, 
women, and children fleeing, by every available street and alley, 
to the southward and westward, attempting to save their cloth- 
ing and their lives. Every available vehicle was brought into 
requisition for use, for which enormous prices were paid. 
Thousands of persons inextricably commingled with horses and 



DT CHICAGO AJSTD THE WEST. 129 

vehicles, poor people of all colors and shades, and of every nation- 
ality — from Europe, China, and Africa — mad with excitement, 
struggled with each other to get away. Many were trampled 
under foot. Men and women were loaded with bundles, to whose 
skirts children were clinging, half-dressed and barefooted, all 
seeking a place of safety. Hours afterwards, these people might 
have been seen in vacant lots, or on the streets far out in the sub- 
urbs, stretched in the dust. These are the homeless and destitute, 
who now call on the rich world for food and clothing. One of 
the most pitiful sights was that of a middle-aged woman on State 
street, loaded with bundles, struggling through a crowd, singing 
the Mother Goose melody, 

' Chickery, Chickery, Crany Crow, 
I went to the well to wash my toe ! ' 

" There were hundreds of others likewise distracted, and many, 
made desperate by whiskey and beer, which, from excess of thirst 
and in the absence of water, they drank in great quantities, spread 
themselves in every direction, a terror to all they met." 

Instead, therefore, of considering these descriptions which fol- 
low as exaggerations, we do well to remember that all concur in 
declaring that language fails to do justice to the roar and rush of 
the elemental forces, combining to demolish the proudest monu- 
ment of American enterprise, the glory and boast of our country, 
and the wonder of the world. All things concurred to make this 
the climax of triumph for the j&re-fiend. 

Sunday evening seemed to have been designed purposely for a 
repetition of the horrors of Moscow, or the " calamitous and pite- 
ous spectacle " of old London. A strong wind, rising at times to 
a hurricane, blew across the city. Every roof was baked dry as 
tinder by fourteen rainless weeks. The power to disseminate 
and the readiness to receive were there, and but one spark was 
needed to blot out a city and blacken the prairie with houseless 
heads. 



130 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



CHAPTER XIX. 

Every thinking man inquires for a philosophy of the fire, and 
the world wishes to guard itself from a recurrence of the calam- 
ity that has fallen like a thnnderblast on the Great West. Mr. 
Charles Barnard thus writes of 

THE REMOTE CAUSE OF THE WESTERN FIRES. 

Chicago has burned down, and whole square miles of western 
land are burned up. That misguided cow and unhappy lamp 
have been berated enough. If the barn had been damp with re- 
cent rains perhaps the fire had gone no farther. Certain is it that 
if the roof-tops had not been baked dry by a summer's drought Chi- 
cago would not have mourned her lost children and ruined homes. 

Had not those "Wisconsin fields been as ashes in the dry wind, 
had plentiful rains drenched the Michigan woods, the country 
would have been happier to-day. Everything there was as dry 
as tinder, say all the papers. 

Now whose fault was it ? People with more piety than wis- 
dom may say, in a horrified way : " What a question ! Do you 
arraign the acts of Providence?" No. There has been blame 
Bomewhere. We are not inclined to shift it upon heaven. Men, 
not Providence, brought this calamity upon us. It is we who 
have created these dry summers. Had there been no drought 
there had been no such wide ruin. 

The time was when such long-continued dry seasons were not 
known. Men can and do change the character of climates. We 
can cause the rain to fall, or drive away the clouds. Men have 
altered the temperature and moved the dew-point. The farmers 
of the Northern States are, in a measure, responsible for the series 
of dry summers that have prevailed for the last ten years. 

Meteorology is beginning to take a high position. We have 
mapped the winds, and can signal the coming storm to the sailor and 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 131 

farmer. The laM's of the weather are no longer a matter of guess- 
work. Cause and effect are as sure in the clouds as on the ground. 
Observing the effect, we can trace the cause. Given this series of 
dry summei's, science points to the cause — our denuded forests. 

In our foolish American haste we have wastefully cut down 
the trees, dried up the springs, raised the temperature, so that 
precipitation of moisture is reduced, and have driven the rain 
away in useless clouds or invisible vapor over the Atlantic. Chi- 
cago is burned down, and we are solemnly saying, " How heavy 
is the hand of heaven upon us ! " We have prayed for rain one 
day of the week, and driven it away with an axe on six. 

The mischief is done, and the best thing we can now do is to 
examine the matter with a view to future prevention. How shall 
we bring back the rain? How restore our forests ? Simply by 
planting our woods anew. 

This is not a new or untried idea. Artificial woods are no 
longer a novelty in Europe. There this whole matter is well un- 
derstood. In parts of the Continent foresters are appointed by 
government. It is their duty to inspect all standing forests. 
Schools of arboriculture are established. The habits of the trees 
are considered, the soil examined, and tree-planting carried on 
over hundreds of square miles. For every tree cut down one or 
more new ones must be set. Nurseries, producing millions of 
young trees, do thriving business in supplying this material. 
Under the advice of the foresters the new forests extend year by 
year. On the rocky hills of Scotland the oak, maple, and chest- 
nut are planted ; the willow is set out by the million on the 
marsh-like "polders" of Holland; about Utrecht, and on the 
sandy plains of Zelderland, near Arnheim, the traveller passes 
artificial pine-forests by the hour. 

In view of these western fires it is high time we prepared to imi- 
tate our transatlantic friends. At once the great cost of such an 
undertaking comes up. Now we think it can be shown that 



132 nisTORY or the great fires 

the thing will pay to do. If there is money in it, it will get itself 
done fast enough. 

The land used for such forest is generally fit for nothing else. 
"W"e have millions of acres that are barren wastes — an eyesore and 
a tax on the owners. By examining the most flourishing trees 
growing in similar soil in the neighborhood, we can decide what 
to plant. By sowing the seed or buying young trees a year old, 
we can soon start a forest that in twenty years will bring a cash 
return that will cover the cost of planting, interest, and taxes, 
and leave a margin of profit besides. 

To come down to details, let me present an estimate prepared 

for a gentleman who had a hundred acres of nearly valueless land 

in Eastern Massachusetts. It was a continual tax-bill, and brought 

no return whatever. The land was valued at fifty dollars an 

acre. The interest for twenty years would be $6,000; the taxes, 

$5,000. If he did nothing to the land he would be $6,000 out ot 

pocket at the end of that time. There was a fence round the 

whole lot that it was estimated would cost twenty dollars a 

year to maintain. Each acre would hold five hundred trees, or 

fifty thousand in all. The trees could be bought for $1,500.. 

The planting would cost about $600. The trees, at the present 

price of posts and sleepers, would be worth at least seventy-five 

cents each. To sum up : — 

Interest $6,000 

Taxes 5,000 

Fencing 400 

Oversight, at $50 per year 1,000 

Fifty thousand trees 1,500 

Planting 600 

$14,500 

Fifty thousand trees at 75 cts 37,500 

Five per cent, loss 7,360 

$30,200 
Cost 14,500 

$15,700 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 133 

The care would be slight, as there is no culture of any kind. 
Certainly this would be a nice little piece of property to leave to 
the children, or set them up in life with. Were the trees cut 
down, the place could be replanted. With better kinds of trees, 
and more time, a greater price could be obtained. The trees to bo 
used were maples and chestnuts. The Scotch are noted for mind- 
ing the " mickle" that brings the " muckle," and the Zelderland- 
ers are the closest-fisted people in Europe. That they plant trees 
in countless thousands proves they have an eye on the above 
cheerful pennies. 



CHAPTER XXi 

Whatever the indirect cause of the fire, it is plain that the 
immediate aggravating conditions were such as rarely occur. 
Long-continued positive drought, peculiar dryness of the atmos- 
phere, a heavy wind that increased to a tornado, vast masses of 
pine wood and coal, weary firemen, and finally utter loss of water 
to feed the engines, account for what followed, and prepare us to 
accept the glowing paragraphs and solemn lines which tell the 
tale of general and individual woe. 

THE post's version. 

At 9.32 an alarm was sounded, summoning the brigade to the 
corner of Jefierson and DeKoven streets. Ere the first engine 
was on the ground, the flame had enveloped half a dozen outbuild- 
ings, and was pouring its columns upon the city to the southward 
and eastward with the resistless grandeur and celerity of a bar- 
baric invasion. 

The firemen, convinced of the impossibility of saving anything 
in the district now attacked, confined their effbrts to checking the 
northward march of the fire. , Heroic as these efforts were, they 
were in vain. The flames ran along the wooden sidewalks, and 
wbDle tenements would burst into flames as simultaneously as if 



134 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

a regiment of incendiaries were at work. The narrow streets 
were crowded with appalled spectators, half-dressed women with 
aprons thrown over their heads rmming distractedly hither and 
thither, and men tearing furniture to pieces in the furious haste 
with which they flung it out of doors or dragged it through the 
crowd. The element had the best of the battle so far. Engine 
No. 14, driven back foot by foot, was penned in a narrow alley; 
in another moment a gush of flame came from the rear, and the 
firemen could only cover their eyes from the blinding heat and 
stagger desperately to safety through the burning belt that fringed 
them round, abandoning the engine. Still they fought on gal- 
lantly. The advance of the fire was strongly defined in two 
great columns running north, one between Jefierson and Clinton 
streets, the other between Clinton and Canal streets. The latter 
led the way, and as one o'clock struck, had seized the buildings 
on Yan Buren street, while the other was spreading more slowly 
along West Harrison. 

One o'clock had just struck, and a sudden puff" of the variable 
wind blew down a curved wing of the great golden-red cloud 
above our heads. It fell like the sheer of a sabre, and in a second 
a red glare shot up on the South Side, as if the blow had fallen 
on a helmet and sent up a glitter of sparks and a spurt of blood. 
The fire had overleaped the narrow river and lodged itself in the 
very heart of the South Division. The angr^^ bell tolled out, and 
in a moment the bridges were choked with a roaring, struggling 
crowd, through which the engines cleft a difficult way toward the 
new peril. The wind had piled up a pyramid of rustling flame 
and smoke into the mid-air. Lower currents at times varied and 
drove tides of fire athwart the great roaring stream. When these 
met, eddies that made the eye dizzy were formed, which sucked 
up blazing brands and embers into their momentary whirl, and 
then flung them earthwiu-*]. In "such a fiery maelstrom had a 
shower of sparks and large fragments of detached roofing been 
hurled into the neighborhood of the old Ai-mory. The skirmish 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 135 

ing was over, and man and fire were now grappling in earnest 
where the prize was millions of money and hundreds of lives. 

When once the fire had established itself in the South Divisiou 
the task of following the course or describing its ravages in detail 
became an utter impossibility. As well might a private soldier 
endeavor to paint Waterloo, Sedan, or Gravelotte. All that the 
writer can say is that everybody was mad, and everything was 
hell. The earth and sky were fire and flames; the atmosphere 
was smoke. A perfect hurricane was blowing, and drew the fiery 
billows with a screech through the narrow alleys between the tall 
buildings as if it were sucking them through a tube ; great sheets 
of flames literally flapped in the air like sails on shipboard. The 
sidewalks were all ablaze, and the fire ran along them almost as 
rapidly as a man could walk. The wooden block pavements,, 
filled with an inflammable composition, were burning in parallel 
lines like a gridiron. Showers of sparks, intermingled with blaz- 
ing brands, were borne aloft by one eddy of the breeze, and rained 
down into the street by the next, while each glowed a moment 
and was gone, or burned sullenly, like the glare of an angry eye. 
Eoofing became detached in great sheets, and drove down the 
sky like huge blazing arrows. The dust and smoke filled one's 
eyes and nostrils with bitter and irritating clouds. There was fire 
everywhere, under foot, overhead, around. It ran alcng tindery 
roofs, it sent out curling wisps of blue smoke from under eaves, 
it smashed glass with an angry crackle, and gushed out in a tor- 
rent of red and black ; it climbed in delicate tracery up the fronts 
of buildings, licking up with a sei'pent tongue little bits of wood- 
work ; it burst through roofs with a rattling rush, and hung out 
towering blood-red signals of victory. The flames were of all 
colors, pale pink, gold, scarlet, crimson, blood-hued, amber. In 
one place, on a tower covered with galvanized iron sheets, the 
whole roof burned of a light green, while the copper nails were 
of a beautiful sparkling ruby. Over all was the frowning sky, 
covered with clouds varied by an occasional nndazzled star. 



136 HISTOEY OF THE GREAT FIEES 

The brute creation was ci'azed. The horses, maddened by heat 
and noise, and irritated by falling sparks, neighed and screamed 
with aflfright and anger, and reared, and kicked, and bit each 
other, or stood with drooping tails and rigid legs, ears laid back, 
and eyes wild with amazement, shivering as if with cold. The 
dogs ran wildly hither and thither, snuffing eagerly at every one, 
and occasionally sitting down on their haunches to howl dismally. 
When there was a lull in the fii'e, far-away dogs could be heard 
barking, and cocks crowing at the unwonted light. Cats ran 
along ridge-poles in the bright glare, and came pattering into the 
street with dropsical tails. Great brown rats with bead-like eyes 
were ferreted out from under the sidewalks by the flames, and 
scurried hither and thither along the streets, kicked at, trampled 
upon, hunted down. Flocks of beautiful pigeons, so plentiful in 
the cit}', wheeled into the air aimlessly, circled blindly once or 
twice, and were drawn into the maw of the fiery hell raging 
beneath. At one bird-fancier's store on Madison street, near La 
Salle, the wails of the scorched birds, as the fire caught them, 
were piteous as those of children. 

The firemen labored like heroes. Grimy, dusty, hoarse, soaked 
with water, time after time they charged up to the blazing foe 
only to be driven back to anotlier position by its increasing fierce 
ness or to abandon as hopeless their task. Or, while hard at 
work, suddenly the wind would shift, a puff of smoke would 
come from a building behind them, followed by belching flames, 
and then they would see that they were far outflanked. There 
was nothing for it then but to gather up the hose, pull helmets 
down on their heads, and with voice and lash to urge the snorting 
horses through the flame to safety beyond. 

The people were mad. Despite the police — indeed the police 
were powerless — they crowded upon frail coigns of vantage, as 
fences, and high sidewalks propped on rotten piles, which fell 
beneatli their weight and hurled them, bruised and bleeding, intc 



LN" CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 137 

the dnst. They stumbled over broken furniture ai.d fell, and 
Avere trampled under foot. Seized with wild and causeless panics 
they surged together backwards and forwards in the narrow 
streets, cursi«ig, threatening, imploring, fighting to get free. 
Liquor flowed like water, for the saloons were broken open and 
despoiled, and men on all sides were to be seen frenzied witli 
drink. Fourth avenue and Griswold street had emptied their 
denizens into the throng. Ill-omened and obscene birds of niglit 
were they. Yillanous, haggard with debauch, and pinched witli 
misery, flitted through the crowd, collarless, ragged, dirty, un- 
kempt, these negroes with stolid faces, and white men who fatten 
on the wages of shame ; glided through the mass like vultures in 
search of prey. They smashed windows reckless of the severe 
wounds inflicted on their naked hands, and with bloody fingers 
rifled impartially till, shelf, and cellar, fighting viciously for the 
spoils of their forays. Women, hollow-eyed and brazen-faced, 
with foul drapery tied over their heads, their dresses half torn 
from their skinny bosoms, and their feet thrust into trodden-down 
slippers, moved here and there, stealing, scolding shrilly, and 
laughing with one another at some particularly " splendid " gush 
of flame, or " beautiful " falling-in of a roof. One woman on 
Adams street was drawn out of a burning house three times, and 
rushed back wildly into the blazing ruin each time, insane for the 
moment. Everywhere dust, smoke, flame, heat, thunder of falling 
walls, crackle of fire, hissing of water, panting of engines, shouts, 
braying of trumpets, roar of wind, tumult, confusion, and uproar. 
From the roof of a tall stable and warehouse to which the 
writer clambered the sight was one of unparalleled sublimity and 
terror. He was above almost the whole fire, for the buildings in 
the locality were all small wooden structures. The crowds directly 
under him could not be distinguished because of the curling 
volumes of crimsoned smoke through which an occasional scarlet 
lift could be seen. He could feel the heat and smoke, and heai 



138 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

the maddened Babel of sounds, and it required but little imagi 
nation to believe one's self looking over the adamantine buhvarks 
of hell into the bottomless pit. On the left, where two tall build- 
ings were in a blaze, the flame piled up high over our heads, 
making a lurid background against which were limned in strong 
rehef the people on the roofs between. Fire was a strong painter 
and dealt in weird effects, using only black and red, and laying 
them boldly on. We could note the very smallest actions o± 
these figures — a branch-man wiping the sweat from his brow 
with his cuff and resetting his helmet, a spectator shading his 
eyes with his hand to peer into the fiery sea. Another gesticula- 
ting wildly with clenched fist brought down on the palm of his 
hand, as he pointed toward some unseen thing. To the right 
the faces of the crowd in the street could be seen, but not their 
bodies. All were white and upturned, and every feature Nvas as 
strongly marked as if it had been part of an alabaster mask. Far 
away, indeed for miles around, could be seen, ringed by a circle 
of red light, the sea of housetops broken by spires and tall chim- 
neys, and the black and angiy lake on which were a few pale, 
white sails. 

As many as a dozen different fires were raging at once ; the 
flames on Wells, Franklin, and Market streets marched steadily 
toward the north-east, crossing Madison street, below Wells. But 
before they had reached this point, the Union Bank and Oriental 
Building were on fire, the Chamber of Commerce was seamed 
with thin wreaths of smoke, the low brick block opposite the 
Sherman House was ablaze, and the roof of the Court House was 
strewn with embers, each of which sank out of sight to be suc- 
ceeded by ominous puffs of pale-blue smoke, slowly reddening. 

It was this peculiar progress of the flames which lent to 
the great flre a distinctive and terrible eliaracter. The 
flames advanced like the advance of an army. Single Uhlans 
skirmished here and there far in front, then small detachments 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 139 

cut off the weaker and outlying forces, then well developed 
battles took place around the stout buildings, which stood firm 
like the squares of the Old Guard amid the rout at Waterloo, 
and finally the main body of fire came up and swept these solitary 
resisting eddies into the great general tide of ruin. So while the 
scenes in one street and at one hour might stand for those in the 
city generally and through the whole night, yet around each of 
the great buildings, as the Court House and the gigantic hotels, 
episodes of peculiar and thrilling interest took place. 

At the Court House the fire had communicated with the roof 
and dome several times, only to be extinguished. Finally it 
caught such a hold that the tower had to be abandoned. The 
great bell, which had been clanging fitfully all night, now kept up 
one incessant rattle, the machinery having been set by the keeper 
as he descended. The buildings on all sides were in flames, and the 
streets filled with the ruins of fallen walls. The prisoners in the 
County Jail, almost suffocated with smoke, ran to the doors of 
their cells and shook the iron bars with the strength of frenzy, ut- 
tering dreadful yells and imprecations of despair, as a horrid fear 
that they were to be burnt alive possessed them. Captain Hickey, 
seeing that there was no hope of saving the building, ordered the 
cells to be unlocked, and in a moment the released prisoners, all 
bareheaded, many barefooted, rushed into the street, yelling like 
demons, A large truck, loaded with ready-made clothing, was pass- 
ing the corner of Kandolph street at the time, and in a moment the 
convicts swarmed upon it, emptied it of the contents, and fled to 
remoter alleys and dark passages to don their plunder and dis- 
guise themselves. Not all, however, escaped. Those charged 
with murder, except Nealy, accused of murdering a man on 
Canal street, were securely handcuffed and led away between 
guards, scowling and downcast. Meanwhile the bell still jangled, 
the fl.ames lit up the faces of the great clock with more than noon- 
tide light, the building glowed without and within like a furnace. 



140 HISTORY OF THE GEPJAT FIRES 

Suddenly, when the liands of the clock pointed to 3.10, the dome 
sank a little, rocked, then fell with a tremendous crash and clang, 
while a pyramid of red fire and black cloud towered up for a mo- 
ment and then melted into the general blaze. 

The Sherman House, with its hundreds of windows, resisted 
stoutly. The flames were around it and beyond, but it stood up 
majestic, its white walls rosy and its windows bright with the re- 
flected glare. The roof and woodwork were smoking in places, 
but for nearly an hour the house held good. Suddenly a spurt of 
flame came from a window in the third story on the southern face, 
another and another followed, and in twenty minutes, from every 
window hung out a red festoon, while great coils of black smoke 
twisted around the eaves and met above the roof with the flames 
already bursting through. Then all was over, and people could 
only watch it burn. 

It was broad day now, and the sun was up. At least a small crim- 
son ball hung in a pall of smoke, and people said that was the sun. 
For the rest, all consciousness of the hour and date was lost. The 
Vind had freshened, and the tumult increased.. The fire had pur- 
sued its inexorable march in the van of the south-west wind across 
the south side of the river. Toward the west it had burned more 
slowly, and it was nearly noon before the distilleries at Madison 
street bridge yielded. The north side was already attacked in a 
dozen places. Of the south division, between State street and the 
river, all the slighter buildings had been wiped out, many of the 
larger edifices were in ruins, and a few of the stoutest were still 
ablaze, islands of fire. Streets and blocks were no longer dis- 
tinguishable. The gap beween the ruins were, it is true, still 
filled with people, but they were not working to save anything. 
There was nothing to save, no place whence to escape. The tu- 
mult was Still loud, but it was changed in its character. It M^as 
now the wailing of children seeking their parents, of mothers seek- 
ing their families, of men maudlin with liquor and stupefied with 




THE CHAMBER OF. COMMERCE. 




;iARKt.lRtbI so IH ^)<-OM WASHINCTON SI liht 



m cnic.vGo and the west. 14 S 

grief bewailing their losses. The curious now pressed forward 
to see, and the dishonest to steal. These coming from the west 
and extreme south, met the throngs flying from the north, and 
made human eddies in every street. But the fire was practically 
over, the battle had rolled away to the northward, leaving behind 
it its ruins, through which poured the fugitive and the wounded, 
those who came on errands of curiosity or mercy, and those who 
prowled about to pillage and destroy. 

ON THE EXTREME SOUTH. 

That a fire of considerable proportions was raging on the West 
Side was known at ten o'clock on Sunday night to persons resid- 
ing on the South Side, but the fact created so little apprehension 
that people sought their beds, and many never knew of the 
awful destruction until their usual rising hour in the morning. 
This, however, was not true of people living north of Twelfth 
street, for long before daybreak they were fully warned of the 
destruction which came upon most and threatened all. At two 
o'clock a reporter of The Post ran from his residence to Pulk 
street bridge. The fire at that time had not crossed the river so 
far south, but to those residing between the river and the lake it 
seemed, from the tiames, that the fire was immediately upon them. 
No one knew the extent the disaster had attained even at that 
hour ; none would have believed it. From the bridge the West 
Side seemed all in flames. The crowd cried, Is the river a bar- 
rier? Will it stay the stalking fiend? The answer came from 
the flame itself. It did not cross the bridge, for that had been 
swung open, it leaped the river at a single leap, and caught in a 
hot and destructive embrace the lumber yard lying south of Polk 
street. So sudden was its crossing that numbers of persons stand- 
ing upon the approach to the bridge narrowly escaped suffocation, 
and saved themselves only by a hasty retreat through the hot, 
black smoke that already swept across the street. On the north 
side were the old Bridewell buildings, wdiich were being used as 



144 niSTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

the headquarters of the First Precinct Police. The buildings 
were of wood. In a moment they were in flames. In the lock- 
up were twenty-five prisoners. The keeper opened the door and 
bid them run for their lives. They leaped from the crackling ruin 
and ran from death with a fleetness that they never displayed 
with a policeman pursuing. One prisoner was lying upon the 
floor stupidly drunk. The keeper could not rouse him. To 
Sherman street and Clark, to Fourth and Third avenues, to State 
street and "Wabash avenue ran back the cry, " The flames are upon 
us ! God alone can stop them ! " Tliat cry of horror woke every 
one to frenzied exertions, and, for blocks and blocks, the people 
who inliabited the houses did nothing but throw out furniture 
from the homes that they felt were certain to be doomed. The 
gas ceased to burn, but the fierce fire furnished a ghastly light by 
which every one could work. The streets were crowded by half- 
clad multitudes. 

Frightened horses were hastily harnessed into wagons, and 
every one who could command a vehicle commenced to move. 
Hurried on by the howling wind, the flames spread northward 
and swept away block upon block of the wooden tenements 
which were crowded into that quarter of the city ; but though 
the general direction of the fire was northward, yet the fierce 
heat fought in the face of the blast, and though slowly, yet 
surely, gained in the south. Punning down Clark to Taylor, 
and on Taylor to the river, the writer found himself south of the 
fire. From Polk street the flame had eaten back until it had 
found Gurney's tannery, which, with its cords upon cords of dry 
bark, made a morsel that was soon devoured. On the West 
Side, the immense brick walls of the Chicago Dock Company's 
storehouse presented a formidable barrier to the further south- 
ward progress of the flames, but along the dock the sheds were 
burning. The framework seemed of harder wood than the cov- 
erings, for while the boards were rapidly consumed the beams 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST, 145 

were but slowly devoured. The framework fretted with fire 
looked like a golden grapery. Upon, the building a stream from 
a single engine was pouring, but as well might one oppose the 
straw of a pigmy to the sword of a giant. Looking down the 
river, Polk street bridge was seen tumbling into the stream that 
quenched its burning timbers. Burning rafts floated upon the 
water. Tugs with steam up essayed to reach the brig Fontinella, 
M^hich was lying at the dock near the burning tannery. Twice 
they made the attempt and twice fell back. A third was useless. 
The flames boarded her, ran up her rigging, cut her loose to float 
from tlie dock, and left her a blackened hull. The stone-yard of 
the Illinois Stone Company prevented the fire running southward 
on the river side, but the wooden houses on Wells street were 
quickly in flames. Looking northward, the street was a fiery 
vista. A lot of Norwegian emigrants were grouped about. They 
wei-e stupid with fear, and had to be almost forced from the 
street. Returning as he went the writer reached the corner of 
Clark and Polk streets, where St. Peter's German Catholic 
Church is located. To it as to the sanctuaries in the old feudal 
times the people had crowded for safety. Its portals were piled 
up with the Lares and Penates of many a burning home. A 
block across, the flame was seen running up the golden cross that 
topped St. Louis Church. A moment later the church was in 
ashes. On the west of Sherman street, running from Taylor to 
Polk, from Polk to Harrison, and terminating on Yan Buren 
street in the magnificent passenger depot, were the long freight 
houses of the Michigan Southern Railroad. Those who had the 
coolness to think thought tliat these would save tlie district east 
of them, a hope that could hardly be entertained in the face of 
the fact that the massive stone passenger depot was toppling into 
ruin; and j^et these brick depots did save everything between 
them and the lake. A portion of the massive walls of the 
Pacific Hotel was seen to tumble, and to the East and North 



146 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

nothing was visible but crackling ruin, nothing heard but the 
roar of the flames which sounded just like the roar of the sea. 
It was nearly daylight. The water supply had given out, but no 
one in the south part of the city dreamed that tlie water had 
ceased because a mile and a half away the walls of the AVater 
"Works had tumbled upon the engines. People merely supposed 
that the fire engines had exhausted the supply. Even then the 
man who would have predicted the burning of the North Side 
would have been considered a madman. Anxious to see the 
situation down town, the writer essayed to proceed thither by 
Clark street. He could not reach Yan Buren. State was open 
as far as Madison. Potter Palmer's buildings were tumbling in. 
Hissing and hurrying on came the flames. They laughed and 
crackled and roared with demoniac humor. Darting at huge 
piles of masonry they kissed them with fatal fervor, and rushing 
on with hellish appetite they embraced whole blocks of brick and 
marble, leaving them dust and ashes. Driven back on State 
stregt, the writer reached the Palmer House. Porters stationed 
at the doors refused entrance to any but recognized reporters. 
The Sherman was gone, the Tremont was in ashes, the Briggs 
had shared the common ruin, the massive Pacific was a red-hot 
ruin, the Bigelow in the next block was crackling; the question 
was, Shall we have a hotel left ? And the people in the Palmer 
had the madness to believe that the Palmer would be saved. In 
half an hour it too was a shapeless mass of stone and mortar. 

It was broad day. The wind had not lulled nor the fire ceased. 
On and on sped the flames in their hurried and horrible march 
of death and desolation. Strong men who loved Chicago better 
than they loved many a friend, bowed their heads and wept at 
her destruction. Terror was written upon the face of some; 
despair stared from the countenance of others. Many for the 
moment believed the last day had come. People prayed, and 
cursed, and hurried on, and at their backs was the ever-con- 
suming, horrid hell of flame. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 147 

It is pr*per to narrate how the flames were stayed in their 
progress southward. At the corner of Clark and Harrison streets 
the Jones school was burned. A wooden primary on tlie same 
lot escaped destruction. Why it escaped would be curious to 
know. The flames, as if weary of the awful race they had run, 
did not cross the street. At the corner of Fourth avenue and 
Harrison street the Jewish Synagogue burned fiercely, but the 
Otis block of brick buildings, on the northeast corner of the 
street, did not burn. At the corner of Third avenue and Harri- 
son, men with chains pulled down a wooden residence which, 
though it was consumed, did not burn fiercely. At the corner 
of State and Harrison, O'Neil's brick block was blown up by 
powder, and prevented the further spread in that direction. At 
the corner of Harrison and "Wabash avenue the Methodist Church 
stood as if defying the flames, and as though it uttered with the 
voice of authority, " Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther." 
The flames did not cross Wabash avenue south of Congress street, 
one block north of Harrison ; and the south side of Congress was 
saved, the Michigan Avenue Hotel standing upon the corner 
like the huge battlement of a fortress that had withstood a siege. 
By noon the fire had ceased in its progress southward, and, ex- 
cept by uncertain rumor (and during all the fire many-tongued 
rumor spread its baleful tales more rapidly than ran the wild 
fire), no one south of Harrison street knew the desolation which 
reigned in the N'orth Division. Nor was it known that the city's 
situation had excited the active sympathy of its neighbors, and 
that steam engines had upon the wings of steam flown to our 
rescue. 

The lake front was filled with household goods piled in the 
utmost confusion. Weary M'atchers stood guard about their little 
all; and hundreds of people, homeless and without property of 
any kind, were lying about exhausted. The last was a grievous 
annoyance, but the roar of the fire was a positive terror which 



148 HISTORY or THE GEEAT FIRES 

drove minor considerations from the mind. From the hike front, 
the destruction of the palatial block of residences known as Ter- 
race Kow M^as watched with intense interest. Its burning, 
although occurring in the day-time, when the spectacular effect 
of fire is greatly lost, was one of the remarkable scenes of the 
great tragedy. If it alone had burned, all the rhetoric at the 
command of the writers on the press would have been used in its 
description. 

IN THE NOETH DIVISION. 

The citizens of the North Division, up to three o'clock on that 
terrible Monday morning, put their trust in tlie river and Provi- 
dence, hoping that their side of the city, at least, would escape. 
This was not to be. The rolling Hudson itself could hardly liave 
stayed that tempest-driven tide of flame which was hurled irre- 
sistibly to the main branch of the Chicago river. Already, at 
three o'clock, the court-house bell had tolled the funeral requiem 
of Chicago, the gas-works had exploded, the hotels had succumbed. 
The air was hot with the breatli of fiends, and the fiery brands 
t-hat crossed the city on the wings of tlie storm obscured the stars 
above, and rendered blood-red the flood beneath, while they 
rained a lava-shower on the roofs of dwellings, factories, and 
storehouses — a shower that to describe would need the pen of the 
great novelist who has chronicled the desolation of Pompeii. 
Ere yet the bridge-railings on the south side of the river had 
ignited, North Water street was blazing, almost along the entire 
line. The terror on the North Side now became a panic. The 
thousands who had crossed the river to see the fire in the West 
and South Divisions, came pouring back over the bridges and 
through the tunnel, all hurrying to tlieir homes and friends— all 
flying from the furious enemy that roared and howled behind 
them. The noise of the exploding material used in blowing up 
houses in the track of the flames reminded one of the booming of 



IN CHICAGO AjSTD THE WEST. 14:9 

heavy siege guns, and the commune and the reign of terror were 
being realized in the very heart of the Garden City of the West. 

Wells and State street bridges were caught by the flames, and 
were soon enveloped by them from one end to the other. La 
Salle street tunnel drew in the mighty volume of flame from the 
Bouth, and became a submarine hell. With electric velocity the 
■flames seized upon the frame blocks fronting the river on the 
north, and leaped from square to square faster than an Arab steed 
could gallop. The brands formed a kind of infernal skirmish line, 
feeling the way for the grand attack. The storm howled with 
the fury of a maniac, the flames raged and roared with the un- 
chained malice of a million fiends. Nothing human could stand 
before, or check these combined elements of annihilation. 1'hey 
defied man's greatest efforts, and appeared to be kindled and fed 
by the arch-demon himself. 

When the fire had passed Kinzie street the terror was some- 
thing indescribable. Every available means of conveyance — 
wagons, buggies, drays, carriages, hacks, and even hearses — were 
used to convey from danger the terror-stricken people and sucli 
household goods as they could bear away. Thousands, hastilj^ 
summoned from their beds, escaped from their already burning 
liomes in tlieir night-garments. The Nicholson pavement in the 
streets was on fire in every direction. The flames did not ad- 
vance in a solid column as on the south side, but broke into sec- 
tions, starting conflagrations here and there, while the great 
main fire rushed upon what was left, and made havoc of the 
whole. The fire spared one corner of Kinzie street, a few houses 
between Market street and the bridge, one elevator (Newberry's), 
a few lumber yards, and a coal yard or two. With this exception 
it swept along the North Branch to the gas-works, taking every 
stick and stone that lay in its line. If it forgot anything by ac- 
cident, it would return like an imsated hyena, and lick up the 
miserable remains. It did not take a regular course on the 



150 HISTOEY OF THE GREAT FIEES 

north side. Some streets were ablaze half a dozen squares ahead 
of the big fire. It worked with the wind and against it, with a 
fi-ightful impartiality. It held a direct northward course to Divi- 
sion street bridge, near the gas-works, where there are some large 
vacant lots, rather damp, and without any combustible surround- 
ings. At this point it took an oblique turn eastward, toward 
Lincoln Park, leaving the Newberry School on North avenue, 
and sweeping along to Lincoln avenue to Dr. Dyer's new house, 
where, on that side, it halted, having burned itself out. It left a 
couple of frame buildings in front of the park entrance, sparing 
the fine park itself, hardly a shrub being injured. Not so with the 
old cemeteries, Protestant and Catholic. The grass on the graves 
was burned, the wooden crosses were consumed, and the grave- 
stones were splintered into dust. The trees were withered like 
dry leaves, hardly a skeleton remaining, while furniture piled 
there for safety by the earlier fugitives only served to make a 
funeral pyre. The very pest-house, down on the lake shore, was 
burned to the ground, the miserable patients being obliged to 
seek in the water the fate from which they fled. The affrighted 
fugitives in the cemeteries fled madly towards the park, while the 
air resounded with their cries and lamentations. Meanwhile the 
conflagration swept eastward to the lake, taking everything that 
lay before it. By this time daylight was beginning to dawn, and 
with it the great water works, the pride of the city, were dis- 
covered to be charred and unrecognizable ruins. 

To describe this fire in its details through the North Division 
would be utterly impossible. It was like a battle, where all was 
din, smoke, confusion, and turmoil. Each individual of the vast, 
fleeing tide can tell a different story of peril and escape. Before 
that awful front of flame the streets yet unburned were packed 
and jammed with myriads^ of human beings of every age, sex, and . 
condition. It reminded one of a disastrous retreat, the baggage 
blocking up the highways, while the very horses were burned to 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 151 

death beneath the loads of houseliold goods crowded upon their 
wagons. Hundreds of the affrighted animals ran away, mad with 
pain and terror, crushing in their flight men, women, and chil- 
dren. The principal lines of retreat for the north side community 
living west of Clark street and north of Oak street were over Erie 
and Indiana street, Chicago avenue, and Xorth avenue bridges. 
They retired to the prairie in the neighborhood of the rolling 
mills, or else took refuge with their terrified and trembling friends 
in the West Division. The North Side, taking a line from Canal 
street north, was completely annihilated. The little portion that 
escaped belonged more properly to the north-western section. 

On Erie street and Chicago avenue the loss of life was fearful. 
The bridges were choked with fugitives and baggage. The wag- 
ons became entangled, and the frightened people either plunged 
into the river and were drowned, or else fell down never to rise, 
suffocated by the frightful smoke. The scene was enough to un- 
nerve the stoutest heart. 

Through the hellish splendor of mingled gloom and fire the tall 
church steeples loomed proudly against the fiery firm'ament. 
The first spire that went down was that of the Holy Name — 
Roman Catholic — Church, on State street. The crash was fearful, 
and was only exceeded by the terrific noise produced by the fall- 
ing of the North Presbyterian Church, on Cass street, a moment 
later. It was a sad sight to see the beautiful little church of 
Robert Collyer succumb to the pitiless enemy ; and the hardly less 
beautiful German Catholic Church of St. Joseph met the same 
untimely doom. And sad was it to see the fine rows of stately 
trees, which formed the shade of the North Side streets, go down 
like grass, withered and blackened. The marble can be replaced 
and the stone can be laid afresh, but many a long year must pass 
ere we shall see again the maples and poplars and elms. 

Those of the North Side inhabitants who lived in that section 
lying between Clark street on the west and Lake on the east, and 



152 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

between Chicago avenue on the north and tlie river on the south, 
were the last to suffer. They expected that the jflames would pass 
by them, as they had already burned up to the Newberry school 
•before Rush street was engulphed. This hope, like so man}' 
others, was doomed to be of short duration, Yery soon the cry 
arose that Ilnsh street bridge was burning, while the large reap- 
ing machine factory of C. H. McGormick was discovered to be a 
blazing ruin. Presently the old Lake House, built in 1837, and 
situated on Michigan, near tlie corner of Eush street, shot up a 
colunm of flame, which proclaimed that the fiend had seized 
upon it. 

This was the signal for a general stampede. The roughs that 
infested the lower streets, near the river, l)roke into the saloons 
and drank wliat liquor they could find. Many of these rufiians 
were draymen and wharf-rats, and their conduct was ruffianly in 
the extreme. liell seemed to have vomited these wretches forth 
as fitting denizens of the fiery air around them. The robbers 
broke into and sacked many houses, the inhabitants thereof being 
only too' glad to get aw^ay at any piice. Retreat to the north was 
cut off', for already the flames had fired tlie water works and were 
burning the pier at the foot of Superior street. The destruction 
of Rush street bridge precluded a southward flight, and, besides, 
the South Side was one ocean of fire. Everything was burned 
on a line with Rush street, and tliat was already beginning to go. 
Language cannot portray the scenes that ensued. Everything 
was placed on some kind of vehicle, horses were let loose from 
their stables, children were flung into carts with their half crazy 
mothers, the lower orders were raging drunk, while the respectable 
people were wholly demoralized. For a time it looked as if the 
final day had come for all these thousands, for the fire was rush- 
ing down upon them like an avenging spirit. On most faces was 
depicted terror; on the fewer calm indifference or detestable bru- 
tality. Women cried out for aid to save their little ones. Their 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 153 

entreaties were disregarded, or else were made the theme for ri- 
bald jokes by tlie inebriated ruffians from the purlieus of North 
Water and Kinzie streets. Happy were those women and chil- 
dren who had husbands and father to protect them. Where were 
all these afFrighted beings tending to ? The cry of " To the 
sands ! To the sands ! " was heard on every side, and to the sands 
everybody fled as by common intuition. 

The "Sands" have long been notorious in the annals of the 
city. They used to be infested with the vilest of vile rookeries 
until long John Wentworth, when he was Mayor of Chicago^ 
became a justifiable incendiar}' and burned them all out. Since 
then they have been almost deserted. They are that portion of 
the lake shore lying. between St. Clair street and Lake Michigan, 
and between the North Pier and the Water Works. A more 
desolate place could hardly be imagined. The sand there has 
been drifted into small mountains, which half conceal knots of 
miserable shanties, wherein the Arabs of the North Side used to 
dwell. In most parts these houses reached nearly to the water's 
edge. In a few places there was an extent of some hundred yards 
in width. The place might have been comparatively safe from 
the fire, only that at the foot of Erie street was the large wooden 
bath house, dry as tinder, and along the southern section, toward 
the pier, stretched an immense varnish factory, an oil refinery, 
and a long range of sheds in which pitch and tar were stored in 
large barrels. All this made the situation anything but pleasant, 
and very far from secure. All the space unoccupied by houses 
and lumber was, on that eventful morning, crowded with trunks, 
bedsteads, mattrasses, pianos, chairs, tables, bundles of clothing, 
feather-beds, people, horses, wagons, and almost everything that 
goes to make up a large city ; besides there were numerous bar- 
rels of whiskey which had been rolled down from the hell shops 
further up by the dissolute wretches. , 

Day was just breaking when the conflagration had reached the 



154 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

edge of the sands. The gale continued to drive with fury, and 
the sand and smoke combined to pelt the very eyes out of the 
wretched thousands crowded on that desolate place. Soon the 
smoke became so dense that the sands were dark as at midnight. 
The strongest constitntion could not look that wind in the teeth 
and remain alive. The people fled down to the very water, while 
the flames burst through the dense smoke and leaped after them. 
The fiery brands fell amid the furniture and bed clothing, soon 
Betting the entire shore in a blaze. Hundreds of horses broke 
from their owners and ran into the lake ; the wagons, which were 
run into the water for safety, took fire where they stood, and 
burned to the water's edge. Scores of horses perished in the 
waves, which, even against the wind, leaped upon the shore like 
mad things of life. 

At nine o'clock on Monday morning, sixteen hours after the 
breaking out of the conflagration, the varnish factory and the rest 
took fire, raising a wall of flame between the people and the west. 
All now gave themselves up for lost. The brands came down by- 
thousands, causing the water to hiss where they fell. The clothes 
of women caught fire from this fatal shower, and one old woman, 
named McAvoy, was burned to death before she could be rescued. 

The smoke grew more dense every moment, and the sense of 
sufibcation was dreadful. Women screamed in utter despair, 
while the poor children were stricken mute with terror, A num- 
ber of people were smothered at the bath house. Thousands 
threw themselves on their faces in the hot sand, while hundreds 
rushed into the lake up to their necks. The final day could not 
have brought more terror with its dawn. The great fear was 
that the north pier itself would go, in which event hundreds, if 
not thousands, of people must have perished. Fortunately, be- 
tween the varnish factory and the foot of the- pier there lay a 
broad expanse of sand, and the people on the pier used their hats 
and a few buckets to extinguish the brands that continued to fall 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 155 

upon the structure. At eleven o'clock that morning the factory 
was burned out, the pier was saved, and the people began to 
hope. There was no food and no prospect of any. Five large 
steamers — Goodrich's — were standing out near the crib in the 
lake, and a score of steamers were lying to, under bare poles, 
watching the tableau on shore. Not a sail ventured to approach 
the sands. The afternoon wore away and the evening shadows 
were coming to lend a deeper gloom to the smoke-wreaths when 
a fleet of tug-boats, sent down by the Mayor, came to the relief 
of the unfortunates. Most of them were taken ofi" and landed, 
up through the heated river, at Kinzie street bridge, while the 
others slept that night on the shore, guarding the few household 
articles that remained to them. The wreck of home comforts lay 
along that sorrow-laden beach, and some human beings lay there 
dead. When the sun went down that Monday night, the 10th 
of October, 1871, he set upon a waste of ruined homes, the lost 
treasures of grief- wrung hearts, all that remained of world- 
renowed Chicae-o. 



CHAPTER XXII, 

Men are always anxious to search out the origin of things that 
interest and concern them. They spend their energies in the inves- 
tigation of the origin of the human species, and some are even will- 
ing to trace their ancestry back to the monkey, or to lower animals. 
The old Scripture remark is verified once more — " How great a 
matter a little fire kindleth ! " and we are reminded of the in- 
definite influence of trifles upon human destiny. To a very 
humble and mean source must we trace the fire that consumed 
the great city ; and we confess that if God had any retributive 
design, He employed an instrument well calculated to humble 



156 HTSTOKY OF THE GEE AT FIRES 

our pride. The reporters are doubtless disposed to throw an aii 
of tragedj' around what is commonplace, or to set forth by hidi- 
crous description the comedy of the 

CRADLE OF THE FIRE. 

The Times said : — Flames were discovered in a small stable in 
the rear of a house on the corner of De Koven and Jefferson 
streets. Living at the place indicated was an old Irishwoman, 
who had for many years been a pensioner on the county. It was 
her weekly custom to apply to the county agent for relief, which 
in all cases was freely granted her. Her very appearance 
indicated great poverty. She was apparently about seventy 
years of age, and was bent almost double with the weight of 
many years of toil, and trouble, and privation. Her dress corre- 
sponded v/ith her demands, being ragged and dirty in the extreme. 

One day an old man entered the county agent's office and 
asked that a load of wood be sent to his house, on the West 
side. On being questioned, he acknowledged the ownership 
of considerable property, but said he was no better off than 
Mrs. So and so, referring to the old woman. This remark led to 
further inquiries, when the agent learned to his astonishment that 
his supposed pauper owned the ground and the house in which 
she lived, and was besides the proprietor of a famous milch cow, 
which furnished enough of the lacteal fluid to supply innumera- 
ble neighbors. As a matter of course the agent at once cut off her 
supplies, and when he took her to task for having deceived him, 
the old hag swore she would be revenged on a city that would 
deny her a bit of wood or a pound of bacon. How well she 
kept her word is not known, but there are those who insist the 
woman set the barn on fire, and thus inaugurated the most terri- 
ble calamity in the history of nations. In justice, however, to 
the old lady, her own story is given. 

On the morning of the fire she was found sitting on the front 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 157 

steps of her own house. Her attenuated form was bent forward, 
her head resting on her hands. Slie was rocking to and fro, 
moaning and groaning, and crying aloud after the manner of her 
countr}' women when in great trouble. At first she refused to 
speak one word about the fire, but only screamed at tlie top of 
her voice, " My poor cow ; my poor cow. She is gone, and I 
have nothing left in tlie world." Finally she Avas induced to 
talk, and this is what she said : It had been her regular nightly 
habit to visit the stable and see if her cow was all right. On 
Sunday night, about half-past nine o'clock, she took a lamp in her 
hands, and went out to have a look at her pet. Then she took a 
notion the cow must have some salt, and she set down the lamp 
and went in the house for some. In a moment the cow had 
accidentally kicked over the lamp, an explosion followed, and in 
an instant the structure was enveloped in flames. 

The house on the corner, owned by the old hag who had caused 
all the desolation, -was untouched. It stood there yesterday, and 
it stands there to-day, a sad monument of the past. It rears its 
lowly front on the borders of an almost destroyed city, and is the 
only srui'vivor of hundreds of neighbors like itself, lowly in ap- 
pearance, but the all of many a working man. Alas ! how 
miserable a monument it is, and how sickening the thought that 
it alone should escape the sea of fire ! 

The New York Tribxm^s correspondent thus immortalizes the 
humble scene : I have here before me six miles, more or less, of 
tlie finest conflagration ever seen, I have smoking ruins and 
ruins which have broken themselves of smoking ; churches as 
romantic in their dilapidation as Melrose by moonlight ; moun- 
tains of brick and mortar, and forests of springing chimneys; but 
I turned from them all this morning to hunt for the spot where 
the fire started. It is the greatest and most brilliant apparition 
of the nineteenth century — more reckless than Fisk, more remorse- 
less than Bismarck. Some details of its early life might not be 



158 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

without edification. There may be lessons in its cradle and it3 
grave. These were the thoughts that justified me in going 1^ 
De Koven street, though the real reason was that I was curious to 
see the first footprint of the monster who had trampled a great 
city out of existence in a day. 

Nothing could be more ignoble and commonplace than this 
quarter of Chicago. I readied it by crossing over the long draw- 
bridge at Twelfth street, which was swinging gracefully on its 
pivot as I came. The streets were all filled with wagons loaded 
down with furniture, which exposed to the gaze of the loungers 
the broken life of the family. The air of the quarter was wholly 
foreign, and not quite reputable. Even the little church of St. 
"Wenzel added to the Bohemian air of the district. German 
volunteers were guarding the relief stores from hungry Czechs, 
who would make irregular forays on the provisions. Both sides 
thought their dignity required they should speak English instead 
of their native tongue. " Keep your fingers von dem pretzels off, 
or you'll git a het on you." "Yes ! I bet you got a heap o' style, 
don't it." These colloquies sometimes give us moments of con- 
jecture as to the final doom of our language. I found De Koven 
street at last, a mean little street of shabby wooden houses, with 
dirty door-yards and unpainted fences falling to decay. It had no 
look of Chicago about it. Take it up bodily and drop it out on 
the prairie, and its name might be Lickskillet Station as well as 
anything else. The street was unpaved and littered with old 
boxes and mildewed papers, and a dozen absurd geese wandered 
about with rustic familiarity. Slatternly women lounged at the 
gates, and bare-legged children kept up an evidently traditional 
warfare of skirmishing with the geese. On the south side of the 
street not a house was touched. On the north only one remained. 
All the rest were simply ashes. There were no piles of ruin here. 
The wooden hovels left no landmarks except here and there a 
stunted chimney too squat to fall. The grade had been raised 



IN CHICAQO AND THE WEST. 161 

in places and left untouched in others, so that now, as in the 
North Division, the roads seemed like viaducts, and scorched 
and blackened trees seemed growing out of sodded cellai-s. 
But of all the miserable plain stretching out before me to 
the burning coal-heaps in the northern distance, I was only 
interested in the narrow block between De Koven and Taylor 
streets, now quite flat and cool, with small gutter-boys marching 
through the lots, some kicking with bare feet in the light 
ashes for suspected and sporadic coals, and others prudently 
mounted on stilts, which sunk from time to time in the spongy 
soil and caused the young acrobats to descend ignominiously and 
pull them out. This was the Mecca of my pilgrimage, for here 
the fire began. One squalid little hovel alone remained intact 
in all that vast expanse. A warped and weather-beaten shanty 
of two rooms, perched on thin piles, with tin plates nailed half 
way down them like dirty pantalets. There was no shabbier hut 
m Cliicago nor in Tipperary. But it stood there safe, while a city 
had perished before it and around it. It was preserved by its 
own destructive significance. It was made sacred by the curse 
that rested on it — a curse more deadly than that which dai'kened 
the lintels of the house of Thyestes. For out of that house, last 
Sunday night, came a woman with a lamp to the barn behind the 
house, to milk the cow with the crumpled temper, that kicked 
the lamp, that spilled the kerosene, that tired the straw, that 
burned Chicago. And there to this hour stands that craven little 
house, holding on tightly to its miserable existence. 

I stood on the sidewalk opposite, as in duty bound, calling up 
the appropriate emotions. A strange, wrinkled face on a dwarf- 
ish body came up and said, " That's a dhreadful sight." I assent- 
ed, and he continued in a melancholy croon : "Forty year I've 
lived here — and there wasn't a brick house but wan, and that was 
tlie Lakeside House, and it's gone now; an' av ye'll belave me, 

Soor, I niver see a fire loike that." I believed him thoroughly, 
10 



162 HISTOKT OF THE GREAT FERES 

and he went away. My emotions not being satisfactory from a 
front view of the shanty, I went around to the rear, and there 
found the man of the house sitting with two of his friends. His 
wife, Our Lady of the Lamp — freighted with heavier disaster than 
that which Psyche carried to the bed-side of Eros — sat at the win- 
dow, knitting. I approaclied the man of the house and gave him 
good-day. He glanced up with sleepy, furtive eyes. I asked him 
what he knew about the origin of the fire. He glanced at his 
friends and said, civilly, he knew very little ; he was waked up 
about 9 o'clock by the alarm, and fought from that time to save 
his house ; at every sentence he turned to his friends and said, "I 
can prove it by them," to which they nodded assent. He seemed 
fearful that all Chicago was coming down upon him for 
prompt and integral payment of that $200,000,000 his cow had 
kicked over. His neighbors say this story is an invention dating 
from the second day of the fire. 



CHAPTER XXn. 



A City Sovereign in the golden West, 
But yesterday magnificent in pride, 

To-day the wail of anguish from her breast 
Wakes echoes to each mighty ocean's tide. 

A wail of anguish, rung out by the flames 
That licked her splendors level to the dust, 

Aad blazoned hers the chief of ill-starred names 
That history holds in melancholy trust. 

Her matchless miracle of sudden rise, 
That mocked at fable and enchantment's art, 

Is peerless now no more in our sad eyes. 
That see her glories like a dream depart. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 163 

Her palaces were poems wrought in stone — 

Her marts, like Egy|)t's, for the world ponred grain. 
Her prairies girt her with a golden zone : 

Her fame seemed that of Carthage come again. 
But Roman legions at Chicago's breast 

Hurled no red bolts that hapless Carthage rent ; 
In peace the hot cup to her lips was prest, 

And shrieking to her funeral pyre she went. 

day of horror ! day of ruthless woe, 

That stripped the West's young queen of all her pride; 
Her stately domes and lofty towers laid low, 

And 'whelmed her homes in terror's crimson tide. 
Checked are the currents of her boundless trade, 

Her giant granaries smoke with smoldering wheat ; 
Her daughters, in her sUks no more arrayed, 

Half clad and homeless, shiver on the street. 
If of her magic growth her heai-t beat proud, 

And in her stones and stocks she took delight, — 
If rivals lightly called her fast and loud. 

None grudge her tears of pity in her plight. 
Proud, but beneficent, and fast to spend 

The easy gold her skill was swift to make ; 
Of arts and toil at royal rate the friend. 

And wisdom's lover for its own sweet sake. 

Ah, luckless queen — her strength and beauty scarred 

She lies to-day on a,shes for her bed ; 
And all the land iu her despoil is marred. 

And aU its joy in her despair is dead. 

The East and West their eager hands stretch forth, 

To pour their wine and oil at her scorched feet, 
lu love and largess blend the South and North — 

A people's pain and pity swift to meet. 

Her sons her crumbled greatness will rebuild. 

When the blanched terror flies their kindling lips, 

And the glad glow of pride again shall gild 

Their Queen's fair face, now prone in foul eclipse. 

W. C. RrCHAEDS. 



164 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIBE9 

In accordance with our purpose to allow the reader to see thia 
terrible panorama in all its length and breadth, under the best 
lights available, we place at this points 

THE times' KEPOKT. 

Hardly had the first alarm sounded than it was followed by 
another from the same box, and this in turn by a third, or general 
alarm, which summoned to that vicinity every available steam-en- 
gine in the city. 

But all the engines in the country were powerless to have pre- 
vented the disaster which already seemed inevitable. The wind 
was blowing a perfect gale from the south-southwest. With ter- 
rible efi'ect the flames leaped around in mad delight, and seized 
upon everything combustible. Shed after shed went down, and 
dwelling-houses followed in rapid succession. With a fierceness 
perfectly indescribable the fiery fiend reached out its red-hot 
tongue and licked up the dry material. Block after block gave 
way, and family after family were driven from their homes. The 
fire department were powerless to prevent the spreading of the 
calamity. The red demon of destruction was let loose, and in 
all his fierceness increased by a long restraint, it seized upon 
every destructible object and blotted it from the face of the 
earth. 

At first it was one structure on fire ; then another and another 
were swallowed up in a whirlpool of flames. 

The wind continued its roaring, driving fierceness, and house 
after house was burned. To the left the fire spread forth its 
heat like the leaves of a fan Until all of the eastern side of Jefi'er- 
son street was enveloped in the furnace. To the right it had 
been driven with great fierceness, and Clinton street and Canal 
street, and Beach street, and then the railroads which run along 
the western shore of the south branch were in its grasp. Now 
was the fire at its fiercest. Upward of twenty blocks were burn- 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 165 

ing. Upward of 1,500 buildings, including oithouses, were on 
fire. Upward of 500 families were fleeing from the seeming 
wrath to come. The streets were almost impassable. Carriages 
and wagons, and drays, and carts, and all sorts of vehicles were 
brought into requisition, and were speedily loaded with household 
goods. Empty wagons were filled with freight, and where there 
were no beasts of burden to draw the load human hands sprang 
to the rescue and dragged the property toward the north. Then 
the fire reached over the street, and while that terrible southwest- 
ern wind howled in mad delight, it forced its way into the 
planing-mills, and the chair-lactories, and all the other shops 
which skirted the creek in that portion of West Chicago. Then 
it got into the lumber-yards, and into the railroad shops, and the 
round houses were soon wrapped in its dead embrace. The bricks 
themselves seemed only additional fuel. The rolling-stock in the 
railroad yards seemed but a bit of kindling which helped along a 
fire already fiercely intense. 

But, worst of all, the elevators were next in danger. For a few 
moments it seemed as though one or two of the largest ones would 
resist the fiames and pass through the fire ordeal unscathed. But 
this thought was not of long duration, for an instant later and 
the immense piles were in flames from top to bottom. 

Like the advance of a great army the fire 

MOVHD EORWAED TN SEVERAL COLUMNS, 

and like a well-whipped, but unconquered foe, the fire depart- 
ment slowly retreated. But they stubbornly contested every foot 
of ground, however, and would not surrender, although often 
almost entirely surrounded by the dread enemy. Then they 
would cut their way out and retreat for a short distance, only to 
turn again and hurl their charges of thousands of gallons of water 
full into the face of the enemy. But no power on earth could 
stem the torrent. Never did firemen fight more fiercely to con- 



166 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIKES 

quer, and never before did their heroic efforts seem so utterly in 
vain. Folk street was reached, and here a desperate stand was 
made. One steamer, the Frank Sherman, stood at the plug on the 
corner of Folk and Clinton streets until the heat had scorched hair 
from the impatient horses' limbs, and the brave engineer and the 
plucky stoker had almost lost all their whiskers. Then the word 
was given to retreat and run. As they went the pipemen faced 
the foe and shouted to the driver to stop at the first plug and let 
them at it again, Hope street proved a sad misnomer for the 
firemen, and the poor folks who lived thereon, like those entering 
Dante's hell, were forced to leave all hope behind. 

And now to add to the terrible reality of the dread scene it was 
discovered that a building was on fire away to the rear. Between 
Gurley and Harrison streets a barn was all ablaze, and before a 
steamer could reach the spot other barns innumerable were 
fiercely burning. It was the onslaught of a cavalry corps on the 
retreating, array's rear, and all seemed hopeless. There was one 
thing noticeable, however, and worthy of special mefition. The 
fierce wind had veered around toward the west somewhat, and 
now the fire was skipping some houses on the western outskirts of 
the block bounded by Jefferson and Clinton streets. To be sure 
there were not many of these escapes, but the fact was apparent, 
and it cheered the soul of every one. Every one seemed to think 
it would surely stop at the river, so far as the eastern wing of the 
advancing flame was concerned, and now that the western wing 
seemed willing to be lenient, it only depended on its front when 
a permanent check would be placed upon it. It was only about 
three blocks to Yan Buren street, and here commenced the burnt 
district of the night before. Ko one supposed it would be able 
to go fiirther in that direction. There was nothing for it to feed 
upon. The four blocks of fire which had raged with such fierce- 
ness on Saturday night had left no supplies for the invaders, and 
its further march -^^ould either have to stop or continue over a 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 167 

barren desert. This latter could not be, and more and more 
hopeful grew the immense concourse of citizens. 

Acroos Harrison street and Tyler street and along Yan Buren 
street the monster ran, carrying destruction in its fiery course. 
At the approach to Yan Buren street bridge stood the steamer, 
Fred Gund, a first-class Amoskeag engine, with a complement of 
officers and men in skill and daring second to none in the land. 
The steamer was completely surrounded by fire, and for their very 
lives the boys were forced to fly. They left their engine, but they 
have the proud consciousness of knowing she went down in a sea 
of fire with steam up and while fiercely fighting the advancing 
foe. 

Here and there, and almost everywhere, lay thousands of feet of 
hose stretched to its utmost tension with watery ammunition, 
which the powerful engines were constantly throwing on the 
blaze. The fire had now reached what was supposed its limits. 

TO THE NOKTH, 

illuminated by the great light of thousands of burning buildings, 
lay stretched out those four or five immense blocks of blackened 
ruins. It w!is not possible for the fire to continue further in that 
direction. It seemed hardly possible for it to reach across the 
river at this point. The width of the stream precluded such a 
thought. The wind was blowing the sparks and large firebrands 
toward the north and east, but, while all feared for them, no one 
supposed for an instant the sequel. The newspaper reporters, 
who had been from the first alarm fighting with fire and with 
human beings in the endeavor to obtain authentic information as 
to losses and insurance, and, failing in that, were only dealing in 
general results, hastened to their respective offices to " write up " 
the grandest blaze they had ever seen. Only one man was left tc 
watch the final result and take to the office, as was then supposed, 
the going down of the fire. Blackened with smoke, with hair 



168 HI6T0RY or THE GREAT FIRES 

and clothing scorched, tired and thirsty, the weary reporters for 
The Times sought their carriages and were driven ever so fast to 
the office on Dearborn street, South Side. Hardly had they 
started, however, than away to the north and east, fully fiv« 
blocks distant, a small flame broke forth and lighted up the 
already brilliant heavens. The sight sent an awful shudder to 
the soul of every man, woman, and child who saw it. For a 
moment every one was spell-bound and speechless. Just where it 
was, was as yet unknown ; but it seemed to be in the neighborhood 
of the South Side gas works, and there was no one in all that vast 
concourse of people but who knew the great danger which was 
already threatening the other side of the river. Every moment 
witnessed an increase in the blaze, and presently the outlines of 
the immense reservoir told the story of its immediate vicinity. 
Fire-Marshal Williams at once sent every available engine to the 
South Side, and prepared to follow with the remainder immedi- 
ately. But the flames mounted higher, and the fire grew fiercer, 
and spread itself out in all directions, until it was impossible to 
stay its further progress. 

In the South Division as early as twelve o'clock the air was 
hot with the fierce breath of the conflagration. The gale blew 
savagely, and upon its wings were borne pelting cinders, black 
driving smoke, blazing bits of timber, and glowing coals. These 
swept in a torrid rain over the river, drifting upon housetops 
and drying the wooden buildings along the southern terminus of 
Market, Franklin, Adams, Monroe, and Madison streets, still 
closer to the combustion point for which they were already too 
well prepared. 

The housetops were covered with anxious workers, and cistern 
streams, tubs, and buckets were in constant use to subdue the 
flying bits of fire that were constantly clinging to shingles and 
cornices. 

Passing eastward over the Madison street bridge, at this hour, 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 109 

was an undertaking accompanied with the risk of suffocation, 
while once across, the hot wind tore so fiercely along tlie thor- 
onghfare in question, as to wrench off signs and topple over 
sheds. The streets were now swarming in this portion of the 
city with the wretched people who had been driven from their 
homes by the fire in the West Division. A large portion of these 
were directing their way toward the North Side, and one of 
the most pitiable sequences of the continued conflagratioft was 
that hundreds of poor families were forced, on several occasions, 
from the places where they had vainly hoped to find rest, after 
having been burnt out before. 

The writer, near the corner of Madison and Wells streets, aided 
a Swede in extinguishing a blazing pile of bed clothing which 
had ignited, as he was rushing along with his burden, from a 
brand of burning wood that might have been whirled through the 
air a mile or more. Several similar incidents were noted, and, 
in the frightful rapidity with which the clothes of the hurrying 
pedestrians and the more exposed portions of the smaller build- 
ings took fire, a terrible premonition was afforded of what would 
be the fate of this portion of the city if the conflagration should 
but once obtain a hold within its precincts. 

Van Buren street was soon crossed ; the gale continued to in- 
crease ; the air was flecked with burning cinders as high as the 
eye could reach ; immense firebrands were carried for a distance 
of more than a mile, dropping them all over the eastern portion 
of the South Side, and then were the first misgivings felt that the 
destruction would not stop at the river — apprehensions destined 
but too soon to be fully realized. 

The first foothold obtained by the destroying angel in the 
South Division was in the tar works adjacent to the gas works, 
just south of Adams street, and nearly opposite the armory. 
Almost instantaneously the structure was one livid sheet of flame, 
emitting a dense volume of tin -k black smoke that curtained this 



170 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

portion of the city as with the pall of doom. Faster than a man 
could walk the flames leaped from house to house until Fifth 
avenue (Wells street) was reached. A steamer or two were sent 
around, but their previous experiences were only repeated, and 
no perceptible check was given to the onward progress of the 
flames. From the gas works to the point it had now reached, 
nearly the entire space was filled with small wooden structures, 
and their demolition was the work of but a few minutes. 

Apparently but a few minutes subsequent to the ignition of 
the gas works the wooden buildings south of the armory were 
found to be on fire, forming the apex of another widening track 
of desolation, and very soon joining with the other, the two unit- 
ing like twin demons of destruction, the armorj^ helping to glut 
their fiendish cravings. Its massive walls soon yielded, and were 
tumbled into a shapeless mass. 

It might be of interest here to note the peculiarities of the wind 
currents and their effects, which were such as could only have 
been produced by such a conflagration as is being described. 
During all this time, as during the entire continuance of the fire, 
the wind was blowing a gale from a southwesterly direction ; and 
above the tops of the buildings its course from midnight until 
four or five o'clock varied but little, not veering more than one 
or two points of the compass. To the observer on the street, 
however, traversing the main thoroughfares and the alleys, the 
wind would seem to come from every direction. This is easily 
explained. New centres of intense heat were being continually 
formed ; and the sudden rarefication of the air in the different 
localities, and its consequent displacement, caused continually arti- 
ficial currents, which swept around the corners and through the 
alleys in every direction, often with the fury of a tornado. This 
will account partly for the rapid widening of the tracks of devas- 
tation from their apex to the Lake, as well as the phenomenon of 
fire — to use a nautical phrase — "eating into the wind." 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 171 

The grand Pacific Hotel, upon which the roof had bnt jnst been 
placed, and which, like the still-born child, was created only for 
the grave, was among the first of the better class of structures 
assaulted by the fire. Angered at its imposing front, and scorn- 
ing the implied durability of its superb dimensions, the flames 
stormed relentlessly in, above and around it, until, assured that 
it was at their absolute mercy, they left it tottering to the earth, 
and crawled luridly along the street in search of further prey. It 
was now that the waves of fire began to take upon themselves 
the mightiest of proportions. 

How it was that while even a hundred buildings might be 
blazing, others, far in advance of the track of the storm, could not 
be protected, has not been understood by those who were not de- 
spairingly following the course of destruction. It was partly on 
account of the artificial currents already mentioned, and because 
the huge tongues of flame actually stretched themselves out upon 
the pinions of the wind for acres. Sheets of fire would reach 
over entire blocks, wrapping in every building inclosed by the 
four streets bounding them, and scarcely allowing the dwellers 
in the houses time to dash away unscorched. Hardly twenty 
minutes had elapsed from the burning of the Pacific Hotel before 
the fire had cut its hot swathe through every one of the magnifi- 
cent buildings intervening upon La Salle street, and had fallen 
mercilessly upon the Chamber of Commerce. The few heroic 
workers of the police and fire department who had not already 
dropped out of the ranks of fighters from sheer exhaustion, sought 
to once more check the progress of devastation by the aid of 
powder. A number of kegs were thrown into the basement of 
the grand business palace of the Merchants' Insurance Company. 
A slow match was applied, and as the crowd drew back the ex- 
plosion ensued. A broad, black chasm was opened in the face 
of the street ; but with as little attention to the space intervening 
as though it had only been across an ordinary alley, the arms of 



172 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

flame swung over the gap, and tore lustily at the rows of bank- 
ing houses and insurance structures beyond. 

The Court-House was 7iow faced with a swaying front of fire on 
the south and west sides. But as the building was in the centre 
of an open square, and solidly constructed, it was taken as a 
matter of course that it would be able to survive, if nothing else 
should be left standing around it. 

" Talk about the Court-House," said a leading banker, among 
the spectators, whose own establishment had already been melted 
to the very foundations, " it will show to be about the only sound 
building on the South Side to morrow." And yet, in another five 
minutes, a great burning timber, wrenched from the tumbling 
ruins of a La Salle street edifice, had been hurled in wild fury at 
the wooden dome of the Court-House. As if a thousand slaves of 
the fire-king had hidden within the fatal structure awaiting this 
signal, the flames seemed to leap to simultaneous life in every 
part of the building, and soon the hot, smirched walls alone re- 
mained. The course of the fire was now directed almost due east 
for a few minutes, and Hooley's Opera House, the liepublican 
oifice, and the whole of Washington street to Dearborn, was con- 
sumed. Crosby's Opera House came next in order. Renovations 
to the extent of $80,000 liad just been instituted in this edifice, and 
the place was to have been re-dedicated that same night by the 
Thomas Orchestra. The combustible nature of the building caused 
it to burn with astonishing rapidity, and soon its walls surged in, 
carrying with them, among other treasures, the contents of three 
mammoth piano houses and a number of art treasures, including 
paintings by some of the leading masters of the Old and New 
Worlds. The St. James Hotel was next fired, and here, at the 
corner of State and Madison streets, the two savage currents of 
fire that had parted company near the Chamber of Commerce 
joined hideous issue once mm^e. The course of one of these cur- 
rents has been indicated. The other had sWept down Franklin. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST, 173 

"Wells, and La Salle streets to the main banks of the river, swal- 
lowing elevators, banks, trade palaces, the Briggs, Sherman, 
Tremont, and other large hotels, Wood's Museum, the beautiful 
structures of Lake and Randolph streets, and the entire surface 
comprised between Market, South Water, "Washington, and State 
streets. Many lives were known to have been lost up to this time. 
But in the infernal furnace into which Chicago had been turned, it 
was impossible to conjecture or dare to imagine how many. The 
heat, more intense than anything that had ever been recorded in 
the annals of broad-spread conflagrations in the past, had fairly 
crumbled to hot dust and ashes the heaviest of building stone. 
What chance was there then of ever finding the remains of lost 
humanity by those who were already inquiring with mad anxiety 
for the missing ones? 

But all thoughts of others soon began to vanish in fears foi 
the safety of the living. 

The stoutest of masonry and thickest of iron had disappeared 
like wax before the blast, 

FIELD & LEITEe's MAGNIFICENT STORE, 

second only in size and value of contents to one dry-goods house 
in the land, was already in flames. The streets were fast becom- 
ing crammed with vehicles conveying valuables, and the side- 
walks were running over with jostling men and women, all in a 
dazed, wild strife for the salvation of self, friends, and property. 
The thieving horror had not yet broken out, and up to this time 
there had been a common, noble striving to aid the sufferers and 
stay the march of the demoniacal fire. 

But now the sensation of weary despair, mingled with a grim 
acceptance of crushing fate, began to be noticed in the tones and 
doings of the populace. Liquor had flown freely, and from its 
primal nerving to heroism had passed to the usual inciting tc 
recklessness and indifference. Thieves were beginning to ply their 



1Y4 mSTOKT OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

trade, and for once found more to steal than they could carry 
away ; and express drivers and backmeu were charging atrocious 
prices ere they would consent to aid in removing goods from 
buildings thus far unconsumed. Hundreds of poor families were 
being rendered homeless, presenting pictures of squalid miseiy 
most pitiable. This was the first path that, like an immense 
windfall, mowed its way through the heart of the city to the 
North Division on the one band and to the Lake on the other. 
Crackling and laughing demoniacally at the ruin and misery left 
behind, eager for more valuable prey, the flames sped on, taking 
in their course — the track continually widening from the causes 
mentioned above — Farwell Hall and the elegant stone structures 
surrounding it, and all the newspaper offices except that of the 
Tribmie, leaving nothing behind but the grandest ruins the world 
ever saw. The reporters continued their work until what had 
been probable became a certainty — that The Times was doomed. 
It was then resolved to go to press at once, and, if possible, serve 
a portion of the subscribers, at least, with an account of the fear- 
ful calamity. The last words written were in the shape of a 
postscript, as follows : 

''The Very Latest — The entire business portion of the city is burning up, 
and The Times building is doomed." 

The fire had already crossed Madison street, and it soon became 
apparent that the idea of issuing any copies of the paper must 
be abandoned. All efibrts to that end ceased, and all endeavors 
were directed to the saving of as much as possible. It was too 
late, however, and comparatively little excepting the files were 
saved. The building caught fire in the upper story at about 
three o'clock, and fairly melted away under the intense heat to 
which it was subject. In half an hour nothing remained but a 
pile of smoking, smouldering debris. 

The block bounded by Dearborn, Washington, State, and 
Madison streets was some little time in burning. Indeed, after 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 175 

the corner occupied by the Union Trust and Savings Institution 
had burned, it was believed that the vacant 150 feet front lot, cre- 
ated a short time before by the tearing down of the old Dearborn 
school, would save Mayo's corner and the St. Denis Hotel. But 
the fire, in spite of the terrible strength of the wind in the other 
direction, eventually contrived to beat up against the gale, and, 
by devouring the stores of Gossage and others, on the west side 
of State, and the book-houses of Griggs, Keene & Cooke, and the 
Western News Company, on the east side, to blister the St. 
Denis to the igniting point, and then McVicker's Tlieatre and 
the Tribune building formed the northern boundary of the South 
Division. 

It was here that the few workers now left with coui-age enough 
to contest with miserable fortune made their final stand. The 
Trihune building was believed to be fire-proof, if any structure 
devised by man could be proof against such a combination of the 
elements as was now raging. 

The Post-office had yielded to the assault and was only a 
smoldering ruin, and from away down to the devastated depot 
of the Illinois Central the flames had pushed back until they in- 
terlocked once more at the Custom-House with the fire that had 
torn its way from the Michigan Central Depot. Surrounded 
by the enemy on every quarter, and having held proudly up 
against the attack till long after daybreak, there was the same 
sad capitulations enacted here that had been the story of the 
entire night. 

McYicker's yielded first, and was instantly a heap of brick and 
ashes, and the Tribune structure was not long in following, the 
walls of this latter structure, with those of the Custom-House, 
First ]*Tational Bank, and Court-House, proving the most stub- 
born evidences of the worth of the architect's skill remaining in 
Chicago. 

Up to this time the elegant and costly row of buildings on 



176 mSTOKY OF THE GREAT FIKES 

Dearborn street, north of the Post-Office, had escaped. They 
included the two Honore structures, the Bigelow House, which 
was soon to have been opened, and the De Haven block, the 
latter extending from Quincy to Jackson street. The two blocks 
bounded by Monroe, State, Jackson, and Dearborn streets, that 
resting on Jackson street, including the Palmer House and the 
Academy of Design, were also intact. A new line of flame, how- 
ever, had been formed some distance to the southward of the 
Armory and west of the Michigan Southern Depot, and was 
sweeping on in its mad, resistless career, and it was felt that the 
above-mentioned property was in the greatest peril. 

The depot, a noble stone structure, upon which great reliance 
was placed for the safety of the adjacent property to tlie eastward, 
made but a feeble resistance, and soon, with a large number of 
passenger-cars inside, was in ruins. The large row of wooden 
tenements on Griswold street, fronting the depot on the east, suc- 
cumbed at once, presenting a wall of fire of the length of the 
depot. It burned rapidly through to Third avenue, but at that 
point the wind, which had begun to show a changeableness it had 
not previously exhibited, veered to a point Considerably east of 
south, in which quarter it remained for some time. Encouraged 
by this, a desperate fight was made on Third avenue, and for 
some minutes — minutes that seemed hours in the torturing alter- 
nations of hope and fear — the fiery monster was held at bay. 
The stone-yards on La Salle street also temporarily checked the 
progress of the tire south. Thousands of people occupying the 
large tract .from Third avenue and Dearborn street to the Lake, 
watched the result of the battle that was to decide the fate of 
their homes with anxious countenances and bated breath. The 
wind benignly continued to blow from the same quarter, and the 
hopes that had been raised, slight at first, grew stronger. It was 
an awful crisis. 

At no period in the history of that terrible day were more mo- 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 170 

mentous interests trembling in the balance. The occupants of 
the Michigan-avenue palaces and the humble cottagers were there 
side by side, breathing supplications and agonizing prayers that 
their hearthstones might be spared. Many who read this were 
there ; how futile the attempt to portray their feelings to those 
who were not. 

Making a clean skip over the De Haven block, a shower of fire- 
brands, hurled thither by a treacherous gust of wind, alighted on 
the roof of the Bigelow House, and that magnificent building was 
soon a seething furnace of flame, quickly followed by the two 
Honore buildings. 

The one nearest the Bigelow Hotel was unfinished, but was rap- 
idly approaching completion, and as a model of architectural 
beauty was hardly rivalled in the city. 

From these buildings, as if maddened at their slight detention, 
the flames spread to the standing buildings west and southwest, 
with redoubled fury, enwrapping the block containing the Palmer 
House and Academy of Design, and that directly north, in an in- 
conceivably short time. 

The Palmer House was the tallest building in the city, being 
eight stories, three of which were comprised in its Mansard roof; 
and the scene of its demolition, which was more rapid than the 
account can be transmitted to paper, was inexpressibly grand. 
The march of the devouring element from this point to the Lake 
was uninterrupted, the intervening buildings, including many of 
the finest private residences in the city, melting away like the dry 
stubble of the prairie. 

For some time after the ignition of the Bigelow House, the De 
Haven block stood unscathed, but, at last it, too, was forced to 
yield to the inevitable. It was a long three-story building, the 
opposite side of Dearborn street being occupied by a row of 
small wooden tenements. A stream was brought to bear upon 
these, and in the blistering heat three firemen, hei'oes every one, 
11 



180 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

fully conscious of the tremendous interests committed to tliem, 
stood manfully at their posts. They did their work nobly and 
successfully. The De Haven block was levelled to the ground, 
and the whole row of wooden buildings had been perfectly pro- 
tected. From a thousand parched throats the thankful ejacula- 
tion went up : " We are saved ! " Delusive hope ! One danger 
was averted only to be succeeded by others beyond the power of 
man to avert. The wind again suddenly turned to the south- 
west, carrying with it a baptism of fire which made it apparent 
that tlie whole remaining portion of the city north of Ilarrison 
st^-eet was doomed. Churches, palatial residences, everything was 
swept by the besom of destruction, an irresistible avalanche of 
flame. 

In concert with the work of devastation just described, from the 
track of flame several blocks below, which had long before cut its 
way to the Lake, as if executing a well- devised military manoeuvre, 
the fire had been steadily eating its way against the wind, the 
point of junction being at or near Adams street. From this it was 
evident that, even with the wind blowing a gale from the south, 
unless checked, the entire South Division was in danger. The sup- 
ply of water had long before failed- except from the basin, and 
more heroic treatment alone could save what remained of the 
city. It was at once and unhesitatingly determined upon, and 
then commenced the first systematic and thorough use of gun- 
powder as the only^ means of preventing the continuance of the 
work of ruin. It was conducted under the personal supervision 
of General Sheridan. Building after building was demolished, 
the reports of the successive explosions coming at intervals of a 
very few moments, and being plainly audible above the continu- 
ous din, each discharge announcing that at last the battle was 
being fought and won. The great fii-e which was to render 
Chicago forever memorable in the annals of history was ended 
in the South Division. 



OHIOAGO AJTO THE WB8T. 181 



THE LAST BUILDING TO BURN 



was " Terrace row," a palatial block of private residences ou 
Michigan avenue, extending north vs^ard from Harrison street. Its 
destruction required two or three hours, as nothing remained in 
its rear to accelerate the work. About eighteen hours from the 
iiret discovery of the lire on De Koven street, the last wall of 
" Terrace row " fell, in 'the South Division, north of a diagonal 
line, reaching from the east end of Harrison street to Polk street 
bridge, there remained two buildings unharmed — one the large 
business block immediately north of Randolph street bridge, and 
the other an unfinished stone structure at the corner of Mom-oe 
and La Salle streets. The entire business portion of the city was 
obhterated. Two-thirds of the territorial area of the city was 
unscathed, but Chicago as a great business mart, the proud com- 
mercial centre of the growing West, was no more. Was ever de- 
vastation more complete? 

Immense as is the burnt district in the South Division, for a 
single fortunate circumstance it might, and probably would, have 
been doubled. Immediately south of the Michigan Southern 
passenger depot was a long fire-proof warehouse; on the side 
fronting the fire there were but two windows, which afforded the 
only possible opportunity for the fire-fiend to efiect a lodgment. 
These were successfully guarded by a small corps of men with 
pails. The building was saved, and with it undoubtedly the 
entire tract north of Twelfth street. 

To complete the picture of ruin so vigorously painted already, 
we drop the Times' report here for a moment, and let another add 
a few touches with his gorgeous brush. The N. Y. Tribune^ s cor- 
respondent says : How can I give you an adequate conception of 
the vast and awful ruin which now occupies the entire site of the 
Chicago of a few years since ? Standing at the Michigan Avenue 
Hotel, at the northeast corner of that avenue and Congress street, 



182 HI8T0ET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

you look north along the Lake shore over nothing but ruins as far 
as the city extended in that direction, a distance of some six miles. 
A solitary grain elevator out on the pier at the mouth of the river 
is the only monument which remains on the Lake front. The eye 
utterly fails to take in the sweep of this field of ruin, even when 
you recall familiar knowledge of every foot of the ground. How 
can you make real hundreds upon two or three thousand acres of 
ashes, lime, and broken brick, where stood a day since a great 
city ! Come back, then, to my spot of observation, the uninjured 
hotel just named. Directly before you was the large and ele- 
gant garden of J. Y. Scammon, and north of it a terrace of fine 
residences, among which were those of ex-Gov. Bross and Mr. 
Griggs, the well-known bookseller. All these went down before 
noon of yesterday, the fire spitefully beating back against a furi- 
ous south wind, with a fierceness which made all South Chicago as 
fearful as if the hour of final doom had indeed struck. In several 
(j[uarters during the morning there were amazing instances of this 
beating back of the fire, in consequence of the gustiness of the 
wind, and the ease with which the fire caught in all directions, in 
consequence of the excessive dryness of everything. The large 
empty corner occupied by Mr. Scammon's garden proved an op- 
portunity to stop this on the Lake front ; so Congress street became 
the southerly limit of the fire at the Lake front. This means a 
Lake front of ten blocks south of the river destroyed. Back from 
this front the solid business quarter of the city was built, eight 
blocks deep, every foot of which is down, with one or two shght 
exceptions on the extreme west of tlie district at the river bank. 
This is not all, either, that is down on the South Side. Going west 
from Michigan avenue, the southerly fire limit drops one block 
south to Harrison street, on Wabash avenue, and runs west on 
Harrison several blocks, and then on a diagonal southwest to the 
river and across, where, on the west side, in a tinder-field of dry 
lumber and exceedingly combustible buildings, an irresponsible 



DSr CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 183 

COW kicked over the kerosene lamp which lighted all this disas- 
ter. 

That unconcerned cow could not have chosen a point more admi- 
rably to the windward of the most solid and superb part of the city. 
It was at the close of a day of violent and really hot southwest 
wind, and that, too, after a month of most unusual dryness, when 
everything of wood, and especially everything of half-rotted wood, 
which abounds everywhere, was so perfectly dried that not petro- 
leum itself could have made more entirely ready the destined vic- 
tim of the fire-fiend. The danger, too, had come by stealth. The 
end of summer was really cold, though there was but little rain ; 
but the latter half of September and the fatal first week of Octo- 
ber brought constant, warm winds, under the pleasant softness of 
which field and forest and city became literally as dry as tinder. 
Chicago deceives any but a cautious eye. The ruin which defied 
the sea of fire most successfully is that of the First National Bank. 
(On the site of this bank, less than four years ago, stood an old 
wooden house, so decayed as to be well-nigh ready to crumble 
into ruins. There is still a world of old pine in this condition in 
Chicago, where the original cheap structures are waiting until the 
lots are wanted at fancy prices, to cover with Athens marble, brick 
and iron. These vistas of decayed pine, dried to the condition of 
tinder, were the trains which fate had laid for firing our city. 
And every roof of the whole city, that even of the Water Works, 
which caught and burned before the great brewery near by was 
touched, had been put in perfect order for the swiftest and surest 
sweep of universal conflagration by the day and night steadiness 
of the southwest wind, and fairly heated for the match and 
the spark by the hot breath of Sunday's steady gale. And 
when the night of Sunday had closed in, without a vestige oi 
moisture in the air, and fire broke out a little distance to wind- 
ward of the costliest and closest square mile of Chicago, the end 



184 HTSTOKY OF THE GREAT FIKKS 

was as sure as if a fiend had prepared every inch of the devourer's 
path. 

Half a dozen engines together, near the Conrt-Honse, had to be 
abandoned because of the rapidity with which the flames flew from 
point to point, minding no more about open spaces, streets, or 
squares than if tliey were carried over the distances between by 
so many trains of powder. One of the finest structures on State 
street, a great dry-goods house, seized in the rear, was seen to go 
down in barely fifteen minutes. The large hotels were bright 
spots in the burning, which raged from midnight to morning, and 
from morning to noon. The great book-stores, three standing 
side by side on State street, the finest single haunt of average 
book-buying in tlie country, and the store of S. C. Griggs & Co., 
exceptionally rich in all America in rare stock, were lapped by 
tongues of heat as many as tlie innumerable pages which shri- 
velled under the quick destruction, and all was gone. Tiorth and 
east of this point one solid mass of wholesale stocks, reaching to 
the depot and warehouses at the mouth of the river, crumbled 
into the maw of the easily-conquering doom. Taking in what lies 
(Uitside of the district, ten blocks nortli and south by eight blocks 
oast and west, a mile square of the very best of the city lies in 
ruins south of the short main trunk of the river, and between the 
Lake and the South Branch. This does not include the compara- 
tively small district west of the South Branch, where the fire origi- 
nated, and just north of which several blocks had been burned 
over on Saturday night. 

Tlie da}'^ of the fire was one of the worst which a dry and dusty 
city could experience. Beyond the limits of the fire was a fright- 
ful storm of dust and sand, blinding to the straining eyes of the 
hurrying throngs which illled the sti-eets. It was a trifle of course 
compared with the other miseries, but it gave a dreadful added 
sense of the malignant character of the day. And now every 
wind that blows stii-s a waste of ashes and lime, acrn<5s which 



m CHICAGO AJJD THE WEST. 185 

curious and sorrowing throngs tranj[) all day long, in and out 
among the remnants of brave buildings, over the charred pave- 
ments — never satisfied with gazing on a sight which perhaps may 
never be repeated. All accounts increase more and more the 
evidence of the most terrible intensity in the progress of the fire. 
The case of the Court-House, vpitli the whole front of the block 
open on the south and the same on the north, suddenly bursting 
into a light flame, as if from oil easily ignited by intense heat, is 
as much in point as any. The fact was that the burning heat, 
which chipped the heaviest stone to such a singular extent, caused 
simultaneous combustion of large areas of exposed surface before 
any flames were actually communicated, or upon the first touch 
of flame at any one point. Among th.e tindery wooden build- 
ings, which abounded especially on the north side, a rush of hot 
air — air that was almost red hot — would melt roof or walls as if 
they had been the lightest flummery. And these jets of heat 
went spitting about in the most capricious fashion, sometimes 
inexplicably avoiding an exposed corner, then returning to glean 
what remained. It was this in part which made so useless all 
efibrts to head off" or to stop the conflagration, though undoubt- 
edly a more dreadful perplexity was to meet the shower of fire- 
brands which, were sweeping along on the heated gales. It 
was remarked on Sunday that pieces of burning pine fell on 
Saturday night two miles, or nearly that, from the fire of that 
night, and set fire to where they fell ; and it was then said 
that it would seem as if a fire once under way in the city must 
sweep everything before it. The next twenty-four hours proved 
the justice of this apprehension. 

The powers of the air defied interference, as soon as a sea of in- 
tense heat was created. On the south line of the burnt district 
the evidence is conclusive that the fire took all that was in its 
path, and took no more only from circumstances very little in- 
fluenced by human intervention. The original fire burned east 



186 HISTORY OF THE GEE AT FLRES 

along tlie north line of the street which was its limit to the build- 
ings of the Michigan Southern Railway, where the immenselj" 
long freight-houses, with the breadth of tracks west of them, 
proved a barrier which saved a large section of the city. Behind, 
or east of these freight-houses, is a row of peculiarly inflammable 
low houses. Happily the railroad buildings which were burned 
furnished less flying fire than that elsewhere, or the wind may 
have favored at the .critical moment. At any rate, no tire took 
east of these freight-houses, while round the north end of the 
north one the line of conflagration went directly east along 
Harrison street to within one block of the Lake. On this block 
you still see where the work of demolition was commenced, but 
was suspended because the fire did not take hold of either the 
west or south sides of it. Along the line of Harrison street, men- 
tioned just now, are two or three structures saved just as they 
stood, because the fire chanced to go round them. The eastern- 
most of these is a church, north of which there was considerable 
vacant space, and west of which the houses were of brick, kindled 
from the rear and top, and burned out without verj^ great inteu- 
eity of conflagration. It becomes plain, therefore, that so much 
■backing up of the fire as took place on Michigan avenue was only 
dn conjunction with conflagration west of those blocks, which 
brought them under currents of fiei'ce heat, and finally helped to 
destroy them. 

Here we resume the thread of our former spectator's description 
of the fire in the l!^orth Division. 

The four bridges on the main trunk of Chicago river fell an 
easy prey, but they were not needed to conduct the conflagration 
across, and speed it on its destroying way. The greatest number of 
easily combustible structures invited its progress in all directions^ 
and so easily were new fires lighted far in advance of the general 
march of the destruction, that no regular line of fire front was 
preserved, nor did separate tongues of fiery advance, four or five 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 187 

of which existed most of the time, steadily hold their relative 
position. Now the burning terror would dart ahead a block or 
two in one place, and now in another, frequently giving less than 
time enough to the escaping population to put on necessary 
clothing. Great numbers, of course, were advised of the danger, 
and hurried their goods into the streets, to open squares, to the 
Lake shore, to any supposed place of safety — there to be burned, 
nevertheless, in the far greater number of cases. In all Chicago 
there were no finer private houses than great numbers of those 
here destroyed. The ISTorth Side was the earlier aristrocratic 
quarter, and numerous elegant residences, with a rare charm 
of spacious grounds and fine shrubbery, maintained for this part 
of the city a New- England sort of charm not elsewhere to 
be found. All this was swept as if it had been a litter heap 
of tow and shavings. 

The commencement of the fire on the Horth Side seems to 
have been at the Galena elevator, which is located on the north 
side of the main branch between State street and Rush street, the 
time when it first crossed over being about twenty minutes to six 
o'clock in the morning. Having once got a start to the north 
of the river, the fire rapidly progressed north, east, and west, the 
back fire west being unusually rapid. The corner of Rush and 
Illinois streets, three blocks beyond the elevator, where Judge 
Grant Goodrich resided, was soon reached. 

The fire, then, as above intimated, progressed rapidly west, as 
well as north and east, first burning down the old Lake House, 
one of the oldest, if not the oldest brick hotel in Chicago. In its 
course west it also burned down, in addition to the other build- 
ings, old St, James' Church, the oldest brick church in Chicago, 
which was occupied as a store-house. About this time, other 
portions of the North Side adjoining the river caught fire, and 
soon all North Water street, which was occupied by wholesale 
stores and large meat establishments, was in flames, the Galena 



188 mSTOBY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

depot, the Hough House on Wells street, and the Whe6lei 
elevator west of "Wells street, being also burned down. The 
bridges also were rapidly burned up, the flames from them help- 
ing to communicate the fire rapidly all along the north shore of 
the main branch. J^ot a bridge connecting the North Side with 
the South Side was left ; "Wells street bridge, Clark street bridge, 
State street bridge, Eush street bridge, all being burned. 

The La Salle street tunnel also l)ecame impassable, the fire 
from the South Side rushing through it along the pedestrian 
walk, which was soon consumed, and filling the tunnel with 
smoke. At the mouth of the tunnel at the south end was found 
a dead dog, which had evidently met its death between a sheet of 
flame and a cloud of smoke issuing from the tunnel. The solid 
stone walls of the tunnel itself were cracked and chipped with 
the intense heat of the fire, the iron railings which protect the 
carriage approaches at each end being literally torn off' from the 
walls and curved and bent into innumerable fantastic shapes by 
the fiery demon. Between Kinzie street and the river all was 
laid low and buried in a mass of undistinguishable ruins — whole- 
sale houses, Uhlich's Hall, the Ewing block, the Galena depot, the 
offices of the Northwestern Company, at the corner of "Wells and 
Kinzie streets, the Galena elevator, all were burned down in a 
miraculously short space of time. Between Kinzie and Illinois 
streets, from the North Branch to the Lake, nearly all was 
burned ; among the prominent buildings consumed being the 
Revere House, on the northeast corner of Kinzie and Clark, the 
North Market Hall, one of the oldest buildings in Chicago, the 
Lake House, one of the oldest brick structures in the city, the 
mammoth reaper factory of McCormack & Co., a large sugar 
refinery, and an extensive coal yard ; the last three establish- 
ments being located east of Rush street. The splendid new 
block, owned by McGee, on the corner of Michigan and Clark, 
was also burned down. A few fortunate buildings were left 



IN CTTTCAOO AND THE WEST. 18^ 

standing, but they only seemed to emphasize the rniiis aronnd 
them. These exceptions were about a block of buildings extend- 
ing west from Market street to the Nortli Branch, on the nortli 
side of Kinzie street, and a large brick building, occupied as a 
stove warehouse by Eathbone & Co., located to the south of 
Ogden slip, on the land which has been made between it and the 
slip, and which extends out into the Lake several hundred feet. 
A little to the east of the Rathbone building were several large 
piles of coal, which were burned up. 

Between Illinois street and Chicago avenue the fire progressed 
with irrepressible fury and rapidity, soon enveloping the whole 
section, including in it both the most beautiful and the most for- 
bidding portions of the North Division. On the west of Clark 
street and south of Chicago avenue was a section of the city 
densely populated; filled with bnildinus" occupied, many of them 
by two and three families ; a region which in years gone by was 
noted for the disorderly character of its elections. Its only prom- 
inent features were a few churches, including the German Lu 
theran church, on the corner of La Salle and Ohio streets, and a 
Norwegian Lutheran church, built in 1855, on the corner of Su- 
perior and Franklin streets ; the Kinzie school, a four-story brick 
building on Ohio street, between La Salle and Wells : the fine 
large structure known as the German House, dedicated last year, 
and containing one of the finest and best proportioned halls in 
the city. This portion of the city had, in fact, just begun to ren- 
ovate itself; its streets were being raised and graded, and new- 
buildings erected. East of Clark street to the Lake, between Illi- 
nois street and Chicago avenue, was the pride of the North Division, 
Its streets were bordered with rows of magnificent trees, beautiful 
gardens, elegant mansions, noble churches, all of which fell before 
the destroyer. Among the churches were the North Presbyterian 
church, an immense brick structure, on the corner of Indiana and 
Cass streets ; a couple of frame churches on Dearborn street ; the 



190 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

new St. James church, a beautiful Gothic stone structure, on the 
corner, of Huron and Cass streets ; and the vast structure of the 
Cathedral of the Holj Name, on the corner of State and Superior 
streets. Among the other prominent public buildings were the 
Catholic College of St. Mary of the Lake, occupying the whole 
block north of the Cathedral of the Holy Name; the. Orphan's 
Home, conducted by Sisters of Mercy ; the Historical Society's 
building on Ontario street, east of Clark, in which were kept, 
among many other valuable historical records, the original procla- 
mation of emancipation by President Lincoln ; and the North-side 
police station on Huron street, between Clark and Dearborn 
streets, a substantial and well-arranged building. Among the 
prominent residences were those of Mrs. "Walter L. Newberry, 
whose grounds occupied the whole block bounded by Ontario, 
Rush, Pine, and Erie streets ; that of Isaac N. Arnold, occupying 
the block north ; that of McGee, occupying the block southwest 
of the Ogden block, etc. In short, this section of the North Divi- 
sion was full of beautiful residences and gardens. 

Before tracing the progress of the fire further northward we may 
mention the burning of the water-works, and the curious, or rather 
incomprehensible manner in which it caught fire almost two 
liours before the time that the fire first reached the North Divi- 
sion across the main branch. As stated above, the Galena eleva- 
tor at the edge of the main branch canght fire from the South 
Side at about 20 minutes to 6 o'clock. At about 20 minutes be- 
fore 4 o'clock, a fire was discovered in the carpenter shop of Mr. 
Lill, built on piles above the shallow water of the Lake. The 
employes at the brewery immediately endeavored to extinguish 
the flames; but it was found impossible, and all the efforts of the 
men were confined to prevent their extension. Standing between 
the burning carpenter-shop and the water-works, extending north- 
west of the shop, stood one of Mr. Lill's book-keepers. Turning 
round toward the water-works, he exclaimed : " My God, the 



m CHICAGO AJSTD THE WEST. 191 

water-works are in flames ! " This gentleman states positively that 
the flames from the water-works, when he first saw them, were is- 
suing from the western portion of the pumping works, no flames 
being seen from the eastern portion of the grounds, which were 
occupied 'with coal sheds, etc. On the other hand, the employes 
at the water-works say that the fire commenced about half-past 
3 o'clock in the morning ; that it commenced in the eastern part 
of the water-works, and that it took fire* from the shed. Another 
gentleman testifies that the carpenter-shop, or the cooper-shop, as 
he called it, was burned down before the fire commenced in the 
water-works, and that when the water-works were in full flame, 
the main body of Lill's brewery, with the exception of the car- 
penter-shop, was intact. The time of the commencement of the 
fire in Lill's carpenter-shop and the water-works, however, dilfers 
one hour; the last-named witness asserting that the water-works 
commenced burning at about half-past 2 or 3 o'clock. The gentle- 
man referred to states that he had been to the Commissioners of 
Public Works several times to induce them to take precautions. 
But whatever may have been the origin of the fire at the water- 
works, it is certain that when it did commence the whole building 
was soon in flames, and in a few minutes the engineers had to rush 
out of the building to save their lives. The machinery was very 
considprably injured. The water-tower, however, to the west of 
the' pumping works, was almost entirely uninjured. 

Before relating the further progress of the flames northward, 
we must also notice the mingled scenes of sorrow and laughter, 
or tragedy and comedy, which were presented on what were once 
known as the sands — that part of the Lake shore which lies east 
of that portion of the North Side which has been described above. 
This sandy waste varies in width between one and two blocks, 
being the widest at the southern end near the river, where a frame 
building stood here and there before the fire. As soon as the fire 
broke out along the north side of the main river, and the rapidity 



192 



HISTOKY OF THE GKEAT FLBES 



of its progress showed that it would sweep the North Side or a 
considerable portiou of it, all the iuhabitants of the district de- 
scribed, lyiug east of State street — botli rich and poor, both the 
tenants of the shanties and cottages which occupied North "VVatei 
street, Michigan street, Illinois street, and the south end of St. 
Clair street, and the tenants of the aristocratic mansions north of 
this locality — ^fled to the Lake shore, carrying with them whatever 
they were able to carr/ in their hands, but little and but short 
opportunity being offered to do more. The scene was one of in- 
describable confusion, of horror and dismay, intermingled to the 
mere spectator with laughable incidents, which were, however, 
quickly drowned in the overwhelming horror which surrounded 
them all. Where the Lake shore or sands were narrow, and the 
burning buildings approached close to the Lake shore, despair 
reigned. The water was the apparent boundary of the place of 
refuge. The intense heat from the burning buildings, even the 
Hames from them, reached the water and even stretched out over 
It, and the Hying men, women, and children rushed into the Lake 
till nothing but their heads appeared above the surface of the 
water; but the Hery Hend was not satislied. The hair was 
burned oft" the heads of many, while not a few never came out 
of the water alive. Many who stayed on the shore, where the 
space between the fire and water was a little wider, had the 
clothes burned from off. their backs. The remnants of the sad 
scene presented a curious appearance on Monday. Scattered 
over the sands were broken chairs, shattered mirrors, drenched 
clothes without their owners, dresses, pants, coats, a motley array 
of clothing disowned. Boys wandered around picking out of the 
pockets of the desented garments knives, change, etc. 

Those again who lived west of Clark street in the district 
named, as soon as they saw that they must succumb to the ad- 
vancing flames, after flying and moving north their goods from 
block to block, rushed across the bridges which, with one excep- 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 193 

tion — that of the Chicago avenue bridge — remained standing. 
There was a grand emigration to the West Side of people and 
goods; of little children and big; of crying women and excited 
men ; of broken furniture and cracked crockery ; of wheelbarrowc, 
buggies, one-horse teams, two-horse teams, heavy wagons, and 
light wagons — everything that could be saved. 

But there was one bridge which proved unfaithful to its trust. 
Chicago avenue bridge appears to have caught fire from sparks 
before the main fire reached it. Thinking to be able to cross over 
this bridge, many people delayed their flight, hoping to save at 
least a part of their furniture before the flames re^-ched their 
houses. But the delay was too long and the advance of the 
flames too rapid, and when they finally fled to the bridge it was 
too late. It was in flamos. Under the approaches to the bridge 
the exhausted people tried to hide themselves from the flames, the 
stronger and less exhausted flying to the next bridge north — that 
at Division street. But the refuge under the bridge soon became 
a burning furnace. Those gathered under it soon saw the mistake 
they had made. The despairing ones stolidly stayed where they 
were, and were sufibcated or burned to death. Those with hope 
still left ran out and attempted to fly north through the flames 
which were crossing the avenue. A few escaped, but with many 
it was only a death postponed for the space of a few minutes — 
burning garments, tottering footsteps, and then a fall to rise no 
more. 

BORN ON THE STREET 

As the flerce flames ran along the avenue, a woman ran out 
into the street, fell down, and gave birth to a child, but the birth 
soon became a death, and the mother and babe were soon lifeless 
bodies. In the mad hurry after each one's self, the mother and 
the child were deserted and left to their fate. 
* From the observation of many it would seem that the terror 



194 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

and force of the conflagration on the North Side were aggravated 
by a fresh fire breaking out just north of Chicago avenue bridge 
at a time when the fire from the south had not advanced to 
within three or four blocks of Chicago avenue. It was this fire 
to the north that undoubtedly induced the weak and exhausted to 
take refuge under the approaches to the bridge, being unable to 
run around the fire to the north of the avenue, which was rapidly 
progressing both north and east. How many threw themselves 
into the river, with the vain hope of being able to cross the river 
or of being picked up, it is impossible to tell, but it is to be feared 
that in their mad and hopeless desperation many people in their 
flight from a death by fire, found a death by water. 

SIXTEEN BURNED TO DEATH OR KILLED. 

In a large blacksmith-shop, just south of the bridge, a number 
of workmen — stated to be sixteen — ^rushed into their burning build- 
ing to save their tools, but the fire proved too much even for the 
sons of Yulcan. While catching up their tools, the walls of the 
building fell in and buried them in its burning ruins. 

Perhaps the finest street running east and west in the North 
Division was Chicago avenue. Along its entire length, east of the 
river, it was filled with fine and costly buildings. During the 
present season alone several splendid buildings had been erected 
or were in process of erection. Among these were the building 
which was known, or to be known, as the Norwegian Hall, which 
contained, besides fifteen or sixteen stores, a large hall. The 
building had a marble front, and was nearly completed. To the 
east of this about two blocks, on the northwest corner of Clark 
street and Chicago avenue, was another fine marble front building 
almost completed. To the east of Clark street the avenue was 
filled with fine frame and brick residences. Among the residences 
on this street was that of the late Michael Diversey, the former 
partner of "William Lill, and one of the earliest residents of 



IN CHICAGO AND TirE WEST. 197 

Chicago, bis house being perhaps the oldest residence of its size in 
the city. All these were burned from one end of the avenue to 
the other. Nothing was left but the water- works, 'ihemselves 
battered and torn by the devouring flames. 

The surroundings of the water- works even were not without their 
tragedies. One of the firemen thinking, perhaips, that the heat 
of the approaching fire would not prove to be so intense and 
destructive as it actually was, crawled into a large water-pipe lying 
on the ground and was roasted to death. When fully awake to 
his mistake, probably all he saw at either end of his last refuge 
was a flame of fire. 

North along Clai'k street, and on the branch tracks along Chi- 
cago avenue. Division street, Larrabee street, Sedgwick street, and 
Clybourne avenue, the horse-tracks were more or less injured ; 
the tracks in some places being doubled up to a height of three 
feet. The tracks of the North-western road along North Water 
street, and extending between the government pier and the Ogdcn 
slip, were still more damaged, many of the ends of the rails being 
thrown eight or ten feet from their original position. In many 
sections of the track the rails have assumed a zigzag course. 

At this time, between five and half-past five, the line of the 
fire as it progressed north was about a mile in width. Along the 
entire hue the fire appeared as if attempting to see which portion 
could surpass the other in its march of destruction. To the 
east, near the Lake shore, were the large ale and lager-beer 
breweries of Sands, Hucks, Brandt, Bowman, Schmidt, Busch, 
Doyle, etc. ; to the west, near the North Branch, was a densely 
inhabited district filled with wooden houses as dry as tinder. 
From the three, four, and five stories' height of the one, the 
sparks and burning charcoal from the wooden cupolas of the 
breweries were blown blocks northward, setting fire to the build- 
ings on which they fell. On the west, the closely built wooden 
frame buildings, having no brick walls to temporarily stay 
12 



■^Qg HTPTORT OF THE GEE AT FIRES 

their progress, seemed to surrender instantaneously to the rag- 
ing fire-fiend that did not crawl, but seemed to rush upon them 
with unrestrainable furj'. 

A TERRIBLE SCENE. 

All seemed to be immersed in a hell of flame. No attempts 
were made to stem the progress of the fire. All that the tenants 
of the houses could do was to save a few of their household goods, 
and this, too, at the risk of their lives. The scene was rendered 
still more terrible and despairing by the fact that during the 
earlier stages of the fire thousands of the able-bodied men had 
rushed to the South Side to witness the fire there, not then dream- 
ing that it would reach their own homes. Before the fire on the 
South Side, these fathers, brothers, and sons were gradually driven 
across the river, until the rapidity of the progress of the flames 
convinced them that their own families were in danger. Being 
at last convinced, they rushed in frantic haste to save what little 
they could. But they arrived at their homes, most of them, in 
an exhausted condition. They did their best, but the best was 
but little. All that many could do was to aid in saving the 
lives of their wives and children. With their all standing in 
their houses, many attempted impossible things, and rushed into 
burning buildings never to come out alive ; for the wind rushed 
on in horrible fury, and seemed to envelop three or four houses 
at once in one fell swoop. 

BETWEEN CHICAGO AVENIHE ANT> NORTH AVENUE. 

Until this densely populated district to the west of La Salle 
street, and between Chicago avenue and ]S"orth avenue, had been 
wasted, there was no stay to the rapid progress of the fire. All 
that many people could do was to save themselves, and perhaps a 
few valuables that they could carry in their hands. A few, in- 
deed, of those who saw beforehand that their homes would be 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 199 

burned down, even when the flames were half a mile off, saved, 
perhaps, half of their furniture ; but many of these even were 
able to save but little. No conveyance could be found, in many 
cases, and piles of furniture were only saved from the house to be 
burned in the street. East of Dearborn street the scene was a 
parallel one ; the homeless occupants of the houses in many cases 
rushed to the narrow beach which bounds this portion of the 
North Division on the east, and the same sufferings that occurred 
on the portion of the beach referred to south of this were repeated 
and aggravated by the narrowness of the beach. How many 
were killed, how many dangerously burned, it will be impossible 
to find out. Relatives and friends have not waited for the coroner, 
but have buried their own dead on their own responsibility, and 
no one person will ever know the names, or even the number, of 
the victims of the fire in the North Division. In the district men- 
tioned, with the exception of La Salle street, Clark street, and 
Dearborn street, the population was densely packed. In many 
of the houses lived two or three families. To the east of it 
were large breweries, where, till the last moment, the employes 
worked to save the buildings, at last rushing to their own already 
burning buildings to save their families. Children, as is usual in 
poor districts, seemed to swarm around every building, and how 
many of these, left to their own care, infants, toddling children, 
little boys and girls, sank before the fire, it is impossible to esti- 
mate. Suffice it to say that hundreds have been missed who 
were seen at the fire, but never since. 

The beautiful New England church went early in the day. 
Robert Collyer's stood defiant with its sturdy breadth and bigness, 
while behind and beyond it the conflagration did its will with 
everything else. There was some attempt to bring water in 
buckets from an open place, but it was not long before the ven- 
geance which smote so mercilessly all around struck this noble 
monument also, and soon left the front and towers bereaved of all 



200 HISTORY OF THE CiliEAT FUSES 

that made this one of the bravest and brightest spots in the whola 
city. In front of these two churches was Dearborn Park. North 
of this park a single residence was spared, ahnost capriciously and 
insolently. But from the wide scene of ruin, extending all the 
way across North Chicago, from the east bank of the North Branch 
to the Lake, the fur}' raged on to Lincoln Park, and far on 
between the park and the North Bi-anch until North Chicago was 
almost completely blotted out. 

On Dearborn street, diagonally opposite to the southwestern 
corner of "Washington Park, was burned the New England Con- 
gregational church, one of the finest buildings of its kind in Chi- 
cago, and the most elaborately constructed of any ecclesiastical 
edifice in the city. The walls of the building stand. On the cor- 
ner of "Whiting and Dearborn streets, nearly opposite "Washington 
Park, a block north of the last-named building, stood the beauti- 
ful edifice of Unity Unitarian church, of which Rev. Robert Coll- 
yer was pastor. The walls of this building also bravely withstood 
the advance of the flames ; but it is to be feared that they will 
have to be rebuilt in order to secure a perfectly safe new struc- 
ture. The whole length of Dearborn and La Salle streets, which 
from Chicago avenue to North avenue were two of the finest 
streets in the North Division, being lined with beautiful trees and 
splendid marble-front residences, were totally destroyed, not a 
house being left with the exception of that of Mahlon D. Ogden. 

LINCOLN PAKE AND OLD CITT CEMETERY. 

These deserve special mention, Lincoln Park — the glory of the 
North Division — has been almost entirely preserved. But few 
trees have been injured except in the southeastern portion of the 
park, where the dead-house stood, and w^here a few trees are 
burned ; the small-pox hospital to the east, on the • Lake shore, 
being also destroyed. The grave-stone, or rather board memorials 
of the dead poor are many of them destroyed, and their relatives 



IN CHICAGO ANI> THE WEST. 201 

will know no more the place of rest of tlieir kindi-ed. The fences 
around the graves, the boards which have told to the wanderer 
their names, are all destroyed in the southern portion of the old 
cemetery. In the park itself many took refuge, though the gi-eat 
majority, as hereafter stated, fled to the prairies on the north- 
west. 

North of North avenue no efforts whatever were made to stop 
the progress of the flames, with one exception, which will be here- 
after mentioned. They followed out their course, the only means 
that prevented their progress both north and west being stretches 
of bare prairie, on which there was nothing to bnrn. Excepting on 
Clark and Wells streets, the houses were more or less separated 
from each other, occupying or being separated from each other by 
two or three lots, and often more. A small portion of the district 
north of North avenue and west of "Wells street was thickly 
settled. At the corner of Linden and Hurlbut street stood the 
vast edifice of St. Michael's church. Its walls were left standing, 
but that was all. Its splendor is gone. A little church on the 
corner of Centre avenue and Church street, a branch of the New 
England church, was also burned, as also a German Methodist 
church on the corner of Sedgwick and Wisconsin streets ; a little 
church on the corner of Clark and Menomonee, also the sub-police 
station on the corner of North avenue and Larrabee street. 

At EuUerton avenue, a little over two and a half miles north 
of the river, the progress of the fire was finally stopped. A lull 
of the wind, between 2 and 4 o'clock on Tuesday morning, 
aided in the work of preventing the further progress of the 
flames northward ; the only houses burned north of Fullerton 
avenue being Mr, John Huck's residence, and a building occupied 
by a Mr. Falk. Between the hours named, Mr. Huck's men 
turned out and beat out the sparks that came from the south as 
they fell on the ground. A slight rain falling at the same time, 
aided in the work. 



202 HISTOEY OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

During all this time, however, that the lire had been raging in 
the North Division, sometimes advancing directly northeast, some- 
times progressing westward with a terrible back fire, people had 
been flying north and northwest until the few houses within 
reach in Lake Yiew and beyond the limits were crowded full of 
refugees, and the flying population were compelled to take refuge 
on the open prairie. Here were gathered thousands of people — 
tired men, delicate women, children in arms without cover — 
without shelter of any kind ; many indeed without clothes on 
their backs. Worse than all, here too were compelled to rest 
from their long-continued flight, the sick and the wounded. 

The North-side horse-railroad stables were entirely consumed, 
and it is stated that over forty head of stock were burned up. 

The boundaries of the fire in the North Division were as fol- 
lows : With the exception of the few buildings mentioned above, 
the fire extended over all' the North Division from the main 
branch to Division street, and from the North Branch to the 
Lake ; very nearly seven hundred acres of territory. The fire left 
the North Branch at Division street, where it left a few houses 
standing along the side of the river. The back fire then extended 
to the river again, or to what is known as the North Branch canal,, 
which connects the ends of a semicircle in the river, which 
bends over to the west. Following the canal or new channel of 
the river for a short distance, the fire then tended a little to the 
east as far as Halsted street, up which it extended to Clybourne 
avenue, the back fire extending along the avenue northwest to 
Blackhawlv street and a little west until it reached Orchard 
street — a north and south street, excepting at its junction with 
the avenue, where it runs for about a block in a northeast direc- 
tion. After reaching Orchard street, the fire proceeded north to 
Willard street, where it proceeded east along Howe street to 
Hurlbut street, across a couple of undivided blocks. Along Hurl- 
but street the fire proceeded north to Centre avenue, on which 



m CHICAGO AJSfD THE WEST. 203 

only three bouses were burned down ; the biockc around being 
nearly vacant. It then advanced up Hurlbut street to within 
about one hundred feet south of Fidlerton avenue. In the mean- 
while the fire had taken all east of this, with the exception of 
Lincoln Park. North of Fullertpn avenue, the fire burned up 
only two houses ; these being located east of Clark street. Here 
the progress of the fire was stayed in the manner stated above. 
C. Kaggio's and two other houses on ISlorth Clark street, opposite 
the park, escaped destruction. 

Here we part company with our guides, who have led us along 
the paths pursued by the hydra-headed monster, and turn again 
to hear the account of the 

GRAVE OF THE FIKE, 

from him who described to us its cradle. 

Having seen the beginning of the fire, we thought it worth 
while to track it through its rise and its grandeur to its magni- 
ficent end after a glorious day's life. Tliere is a very singular 
caprice of the fire in the l^orth Division, equally remarkable 
with that in De Koven street. The house of Mr. Mahlon Ogden, 
a large frame building standing very near the street, is entirely 
untouched, while the entire region around it is laid bare. Even 
the church across the street, which stands entirely detached, is 
destroyed. The escape of the Ogden mansion is as complete and 
as mysterious as if it had worn an invisible coat of asbestos. 
The fire was no less singular in what it attacked than in what it 
spared. Just beyond this house, which would seem with its dry 
seasoned pine a most appetizing morsel for the fire-devil, there 
lies a green and tranquil grave-yard, with nothing in it which 
could attract a well-regulated fire. But this fiery tempest has 
swept in among these graves and tombstones, has sought out 
with an apparent disregard of conducting material, the humble 
wooden head-boards, and has even gnawed the marble in many 



204 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

places. The last expiring efforts of the flames were iu the quiet 
German cemetery at the gate of Lincoln Park, b}^ the shining 
beach of the Lake. It is here that hundreds of the hunted 
fugitives of the E'orth Division, hotlj chased by the fire, came tc 
pass that first miserable night of hunger and cold. Loads ol 
household goods were brought here, and dashed carelessly upon 
the ground. As the hard night wore on, and the cold wind came 
blowing in from the "unsalted sea," chilling the blood after the 
fever of the day, these unhappy people began to break up and burn 
the furniture they had saved, and brought so far with labor and 
pain. Everywhere you may see the traces of that wretched vigil 
of heart-breaking desperation. At one point there is a pile ot 
half-burned picture-frames profusely gilded and elaborately 
carved, and at another there lie the scattered fragments of a. 
richly inlaid cabinet. A library-chair has its back burned awaj 
and its upholstery wrinkled and singed with the watch-fire. 
But there are other and more revolting evidences of the misery 
^v'hich on that night gave many over into infernal guidance. I 
passed one modest grave, near the scene of a night-camp. A 
heart was carved upon the wooden tombstone by pious hands, 
and into this touching emblem a steel fork had been driven by 
some brutal fist. Above the outraged blazon were the tender 
words, Buhe Sauft ('' Sleep Softly "). 

The scenes witnessed in that quiet grave-yard during that nighi 
of horror were enough to appal the stoutest temperamentsr A 
throng of half-maddened sufferers straggled through the grove 
looking for their friends and finding no one, oppressed by a 
weight of anxiety that caused them to neglect their physical dis- 
comforts. Delicate women came as they had escaped from death 
in thin fiuttering night-clothes, blown about by the surly Autumn 
wind. Several were in a state which demanded the gentlest care 
and sympathy. Many little children were thrown into the crowd 
too young to speak their parenls' names. And upon all, the 



m CmOAGO AND THE WEST. OQg 

crushing blow of an enormous and irremediable disaster had 
fallen, and rendered them for the moment incapable of any 
rational judgment. I heard of one company of German singers 
from a low concert saloon who flew out into the night with nothino 
but their tawdry evening dresses, who sat shivering and silent in 
a huddled group in the lee of a tombstone, their bare arms and 
shoulders blue and pinched, and the tinsel flowers in their hair 
shining with frost. They talked little, but sometimes they cheat- 
ed their misery with songs, and it had a strange effect to hear iu 
that gloomy and sorrow-stricken place the soft impurities of the 
Vienna muse, and the ringing and joyous jodel of the Tyrol. 
Near by, the fragments of a Methodist congregation had impro- 
vised a prayer-meeting, and the sound of psalms and supplication 
went up mingled with that worldly music to the deep and toler- 
ant heavens. 

The fire could get no hold on the green wood of Lincoln Park, 
and so gave it up and went furiously off to the left, and ate 
up all the pretty suburban houses on that side, and ended only 
when the wide prairie lay before it, with nothing more to burn. 
At the cornej- of Willow and Orchard streets the noble outline of 
the ITewberry school bounds the line of devastation, as if to say 
that the future hope of Chicago, the power that shall yet rise 
superior to calamity, is Intelligence. 



CHAPTER XXIIL 

Thus ended what must be considered one of the most stupen- 
dous events of history, and the gorgeous descriptions above 
carry the reader, in imagination, onward from street to street, till 
darkness gathers upon the desolate scene, and the more desolate 
myriads who had been chased from their dwellings, and left roof- 



206 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIBES 

less and almost penniless, many of them worse than beggars, oe- 
cause saddled with debts for property now hopelessly lost, and all 
securities utterly ruined. That night was the saddest ever expe- 
rienced in our city — terribly gloomy for those who had not been 
burned out, and infinitely darker to the unfortunate. Everybody 
was thrown out of business, or had friends cast upon them for 
support or aid. The hungry were fed, the shelterless welcomed 
to a refuge, the naked clothed, and a general sharing of every- 
thing — an equal division — seemed going forward in every part of 
the saved district. Many people packed their goods and made 
arrangements to fly at the first alarm of new fires. Few slept 
soundly, even of the worn and weary. Children were in great 
distress, through the excitement of the day and the rumors that 
spread in wild profusion. The rain that fell was soothing to the 
mind and grateful to the eyes of those who were compelled to 
venture out the next day. Such dust had scarcely ever afflicted 
a people, and the smoke aggravated the visitation. 

The presses were all lost, and there was an absence of any me- 
dium of reliable news. Correspondents are right in saying that 
" the wildest rumors were afloat, and people on the South Side 
were perfectly beside themselves with fear. The dead were mul- 
tiplied into thousands; the fire was attributed to incendiaries ; 
forty people had been burned in the Court-House; incendiaries 
had been caught in the act and thrown into the fire ; vigilance 
committees had lynched others; men were dangling from lamp- 
posts everywhere ; all the bank vaults had been burned out ; the 
rest of the city was to be burned at night. The boldest robbery 
was still going on ; organized gangs of thieves prowled through 
the streets laden with plunder. The police were worn out, and 
were worse than useless. Citizen patrols of the most ferocious 
character were firing off pistols everywhere. All along the north- 
ward progress of the fire there had whirled in uttermost confu- 
sion a throng of hurrying people, and of carts, wagons, carriages 



IN CHICAGO A2<D THE WEST. 207 

— whatever could be drummed into the service to ieino\ e goods ; 
and when night fell 75,000 to 100,000 people — north, west, and 
south — had either sought refuge with friends or were refugeless 
in the streets J and, added to all this, the citj was wild with fear 
of what the night might bring forth ; torches said to be ready to 
finish the destruction of the city ; 1,500 thieves said to be organ- 
ized for a raid of pillage upon the bank vaults, and whispers 
hoarsely breathed everywhere of fever and pestilence ready to fall 
upon a population left without water, with but short rations of 
food, with most insufficient shelter, and in the midst of loosened 
spirits of noxious evil stalking through the wide ruin; monsters 
of imagination evidently enough, and yet amply real to minds 
that could not possibly imagine a few hours before that any com- 
bination of effort could have burned to the ground the half that 
has fallen before the tumbling of one lamp into the litter of a 
stable." 

If we dreaded the night, morning was, if possible, more dread- 
ful still, for there lay the remnants of our lost city, and all around 
us were multitudes of dependent people and of wicked despera- 
does. Bnt the ground looked damp and the air was soft and 
mild, and the sun still shone in the heavens, reminding us of the 
ever-during mercy of Him in whose hands we were — " The 
Father of lights, with whom is no variableness or shadow of turn- 
ing." It was well for us that our hands were so full of work for 
the miserable victims, for thus our own griefs were forgotten in 
the humane labors of relief, and our attention was diverted from 
those sickening ruins where lay the dead undiscovered, and the 
unopened smoking safes, and the wreck of all our city's great- 
ness. 

A ride over the burnt district from the little shanty to 
Lincoln Park, was more dismal than a walk through Pom- 
peii, or an excursion among the wrecks of Paris, wrought by 
Communists from within, and Prussians from without. We 



208 HISTORY OF TFTE GREAT FIRKS 

leave a faithful observer to record what he saw in such a 
tramp. 

Thursday, the third day after the fire, was clear, bright, aiul 
cloudless. The wind had died away, and I rode over the whole 
area of the disaster. There was no smoke or sign of remaining 
fire save in the great burning coal heaps along the river, or where 
mountains of smouldering grain were all that remained of the di- 
stroyed elevators. The fierceness uf the flame had burned up 
everything combustible, and swept away the ashes as fast as con 
sumed. The piles of crumbled masonry, hundreds of acres in 
extent, were even free from smoke stains. The streets were free 
enough to allow me to drive unimpeded. The Court-House is the 
most imposing ruin. Generally the larger structures are flat 
with the ground. The Sherman House debris are shapeless — 
almost level. So is all that remains of Field & Leiter's white 
marble store. The Pacific Hotel walls are one-third down, the 
interior totally bnrned out. The following costly buildings were 
designed to be fire-proof: — The Republic Life Insurance Com- 
pany's building, Nixon's adjoining" unfinished building, First 
National Bank, the Safe Depository, the Tribune building. 
Only Nixon's remains, it having been exposed to far less heat 
than the others. The rest are ruined. The late busy corners 
are almost undistinguishable, and old citizens contest the point as 
to whether this is Lake or Randolph, that Clark or Dearborn, 
until some familiar recovered landmark decides it. The only 
route to the North Division is across Lake street to the West 
Side, where we cross the North Branch at Indiana street, and 
drive northward three miles. We ride the whole distance on 
the raised grade of the Nicolson pavement, across a bare, treeless, 
vacant plain, and as we near Wright's G-rove, we look southward 
and see from where we stand in our vehicle, the first and nearest 
unharmed structure, the Wabash avenue Methodist church at 
Hai-rison street, nearly four miles away. The elegant frame villa 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 209 

of Malilou D. Ogden, iu its wooden enclosure of an entire square, 
its graperies and wooden out-houses, is alone unharmed, an oasis 
in a wide desert. From the burned tract of nearly two huiich-ed 
squares, every trace of combustion and combustible has dis- 
appeared. Even the turf burned up and its ashes blew away, 
leaving the naked soil. 

The city will be rebuilt better than before. It will be a hand- 
somer and a safer city than it could ever have been without this 
fire, but its purchase money strikes at the money centres of tlie 
world. Eecuperation has already commenced, but it began in 
Chicago on Tuesday, in a city from which every public building, 
evei-y ncM-spaper, every power-press, all leading hotels, all but 
one wholesale store, eighteen churches, two great railway depot 
structures, six of its bridges, six large elevators, fifty vessels, and 
sixteen thousand dwellings had disappeared totally. 

Using again the pen of the correspondent of the I^ew York 
Tribune^ we show what was transpiring by day, and how the scene 
appeared by night, as the time passed on. He is writing October 
Mth: — The town is beginning to fill with aesthetic sight-seers. 
The artists of the illustrated papers are seated at every coign of 
vantage, sketching for dear life against the closing of the mail. 
Photographers, alarmed by the prospect of speedy reconstruction, 
are training their cameras upon every unprotected point of pic- 
turesque ruin. They are sure of a ready sale of all the shadows 
they seize in these days. There has rarely been ofi'ered to the 
pitying admiration of men a collection of pictures of more poig- 
nant beauty. If one could divest himself of all feelings of sym- 
pathy and pain he could gain from these smoking squares the 
finest intellectual enjoyment. Monotonous as the gray stretch of 
desolation appears at first, the longer you look and linger the 
more this uniformity of character and color breaks up and reveals 
to you an infinite study of lines and forms. Of course, these ruins 
lack the consecration which has come with the couree of ages to 



210 HISTOKT OF THE GEE AT FIKEB 

the splintered monoliths of Thebes and the gnawed plintks of 
Paestum. But is there not an equal if not greater human interest 
in Burvejing these brand-new shards of a great city, and reflecting 
that the builders do not hide from our sympathies in the mists 
of immemorial time, but to-day live and breathe, think the same 
thoughts which found expression in these broken walls and melted 
columns, eat and drink and love and grieve and hope, and go on 
with work kindred to that which now has suddenly taken its 
place in the Past ? Every one who has looked upon ruins has 
felt the keen, imperious desire to know what manner of men it 
was that built them and looked upon them when they were fresh 
in the sunshine of those older days. Half the joy and half the 
pain of travel is in this vain imagining. But here you look at 
these imposing wrecks, still Titanic and most impressive in a 
decay that already seems historical, and you reflect with a sudden 
feeling of surprise that you know by heart the sermon they are 
preaching. Tou are yourself a part of the life they symbolize, 
of the civilization which they express. Tou have heard the 
prayers and the oaths, the laughter and the cries, to the sound ot 
which those walls went up. There is no unknown quantity in the 
problem they present. There it is — make of it what you will. If 
you come to nothing, do not blame time or history for the dust 
that is in your eyes. . 

Strolling through the town in the day-time, you see that it must 
}iave been a heat of singular intensity that melted down six miles 
of brick and mortar so soon into one un distinguish able mass. It 
took only about twelve hours to virtually finish the work; all that 
was done after that, was the after-wrath of the flame gleaning 
about the edges of the field it had reaped. But there has never 
been a fire which so completely attended to its business and 
slighted no part of its work. It seems like a mere figure of 
speech to speak of a quarter utterly destroyed. The phrase is 
always used about great fires, but usually means that all the 
houses are more or less dauuiged. In this case it is literally true. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 2|1 

Most of the houses are level heaps of calcined building material. 
The walls of the Custom-House are still standing ; the Court- 
House wings refuse to fall. The fire-proof Tribune disdains 
surrender, though only a phantom house. A few heavily 
buttressed church towers wait also for the hammer of demo- 
lition. But with these exceptions, the central region of Chi- 
cago has ceased to exist. You can look through it to the far- 
off waste of the E'orth Division. In many places the solid granite 
has cracked and peeled in great flakes, like stucco in the frost. 
The iron castings are partly melted and partly twisted into forms 
of startling grotesqueness. I have seen fluted columns, bell wires, 
gas and water pipes, wreathed and twisted among the smoulder- 
ing ashes of a cellar like a coil of snakes of assorted sizes. Even 
the pretty gratings of the Safe Deposit Company, the best pre- 
served of all, are fearfully warped and bent, like a character 
which has resisted temptation with a woful loss of temper. 

These details we have been permitted to see for some days ; for 
although the proprietors are eager to begin their work of recon- 
struction, the lack of water has thus far made it impossible to 
quench the smouldering flames. So that the light shimmer of the 
brooding heat hangs all day above the rubbish, and the air is full 
of the pungent odor of coals. When night comes a strange and 
beautiful transformation is wrought in the scene. Every evening 
since I have been here I have watched with increasing interest 
this marvellous and fascinating change. As the sun goes down 
in the prairie, and the night wind comes in from the Lake, this 
sleeping fire rouses and stirs in its slumber like a woman who 
shakes off the day's decorum, and flushes at the coming of her 
lover. The vast ignited coal-beds on the shore of the river throw 
red greetings to each other through the gathering shadows. The 
darkness slowly veils the lines of shattered walls, and one 
by one through the gloom twinkle out the delicate blue 
flames that spring from the anthracite coal-boxes of the burned 
mansions. They are so blue, and fine, atid*fragile, that they seem 



Ot2 HISTORT OF THE GREAT FIRES 

lilce forget-me-nots gemming the dusk}'- field. They are very per- 
sistent though. They have been pouring tuns of water through 
the sidewalk upon one small deposit in front of Gov, Bross's resi 
dence, and yet at night it blooms as bluely and vigorously as if t 
were refi-eshed by the watering. 

As the darkness deepens, the show increases in brilliancy, 
until, by a most lovely effect of reflection, the blaze from the 
unquenched fires strikes the clouds of smoke that hang over the 
city, and turns them a brilliant rose. The pillar of cloud be- 
comes a pillar of fire, and all at once the dead lustre of tliis 
reflected light falls back upon the ruins and brings them out into 
pale and singular distinctness. It is not possible td imagine 
anything more terribly beautiful than this wild commerce of the 
fire and the darkness. From ray window I see the whole sweep of 
the vast illumination. On the left a coal heap stretches beyond 
the river like a shore of fire ; a boat on this side is blackly painted 
athwart the blaze. The sky is flushed with the flame and mot- 
tled with driving clouds, and against it loom the ragged and torn 
walls of the Pacific Hotel, the sturdy arch of tlie First Presby- 
terian Church, and further to the right the broken outlines of the 
Court-IIouse, far more reverend and graceful than ever in their 
forlorn incompleteness. All along the red horizon the coal heaps 
blaze and the sky is on fire, and the sharp angles of broken walls 
and tlic slim stems of black chimneys like minarets are drawn 
Bharply on the crimson background. I do not know if it could 
be within the reach of painting to give any hint of the unuttera- 
ble magic of this spectacle. No sunset was ever so rosy as that 
Bmoky sky, ISTo frost-castle built on a window-pane out of a 
child's breath was ever more delicate than those fantastic ruins, 
flung like tattered lace against the drifting clouds. On the ex- 
treme right, just within the yellow blaze of the light that guards 
the breakwater, the great Central Elevator towers above the 
shore, shrugging its vast shoulders over the desolation, contem- 






BURNING OP THE CI 




r OPERA-HOUSE. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 215 

plating its mirrored bulk by the flickering blaze of its fallen 
companion. After all this revel of form and color it is a relief 
to look to the east, where Lake Michigan lies in his night-dress 
of mist, and whispers as peacefully to the sandy beach as he 
did in the days before Columbus, and as he will in the days after 
Jonathan. 

The crowning evil of all times of tumult and disaster is sus- 
picion. We cannot burn witches now, nor tear out the tongues 
of Jews for imaginary crimes. But we can shoot old women for 
pumping petroleum if we are Parisians, and we can resurrect 
them in back alleys if we live in Chicago. That famous South- 
western verdict, which attributed a suicide to " accidence, inci- 
dence, and the acts of the incenduary," seems to have possessed 
the Chicago fancy ; and though they do not positively hang or 
shoot their petroleum population, they say they do in their news- 
papers, and occasionally seize a shivering vagabond whom they 
find skulking on the sunny side of a barn, and drag him 
before General Sheridan for trial. Luckily this sagacious sol- 
dier has a cool head and an honest judgment, and insists 
on better evidence than poverty and dirt to hang a man, and the 
consequence is that not one case of incendiarism has been shown 
at headquarters. There have been two or three fires in regard 
to which the cry of incendiarism was promptly raised, but 
investigation at once made evident their accidental character. 
This general suspicion, however, has resulted in the establishment 
of an institution which is altogether laudable as long as the em- 
bers of the conflagration remain alive. A patrol of citizens has 
been formed in every block, and they all do sentry duty at stated 
hours. Every man out at night without cause finds it a little in- 
convenient to give repeated accounts of himself, and this of itself 
is promotive of tlie domestic virtues. The rule is certainly ad- 
mirable in its application to that portion of the twilight popula- 
tion which always comes to the surface at such hours. In the 
13 



216 HISTORY OF THE GEKAT FIEES 

day-time you may see them sloucbing about Wabasli avenue, 
where their rascal faces and hang-dog air are never seen in ordi- 
nary times. It would certainly not be prudent to give the city 
up to them, and so at night they are kept in their own haunts. 
It is astonishing to see how simple and provincial Chicago has 
become. Standing sentry is positively the only recreation of men 
of the world. There are no clubs, no restaurants, no theatres, no 
libraries. There is no need of going out — if you go, a wall falls 
on you by way of warning. A little while ago, as I sat here 
writing, I heard a loud crash, and looking out, I saw that the high 
wall of Mr. Scammon's house bad fallen. A furious gale was 
blowing from the south and roaring among the ruins. As I 
looked another wall came sprawling over the sidewalk. As the 
white dust rose and fled away with the wind, I heard a pitiful 
cry, " Help over dere I A man's got his leg broke," A dozen per- 
sons ran from the hotel and brought in a poor German who was 
watching the building, and had imprudently taken shelter from 
the wind under the wall. After he was safely bestow^ed I stood 
for a moment at the window looking westward at the fine arch of 
the Presbyterian Church, clearly and richly defined against the 
red glow of the sky. Full in my sight it tottered, parted with a 
dull report, and tumbled forward into the street. The gale in- 
creased in violence ; the pale, shadowless light faded from the 
city as the wind drove away the illuminated clouds. The black- 
ness of night, which had been hanging in the eastern horizon, 
swept in over the Lake to the town. The whistling wind was 
thick with lime-dust and sparks of fire. The blue flames of the 
anthracite burned more gayly, looking now like the witch watch- 
fires on some unusually tempestuous Walpurgis-night. A gentle- 
man with a white cravat and a black face knocks, and requests, 
with the compliments of the authorities, that lights may be put 
out and windows closed. And so to bed, with a gale lashing the 
calm Lake into discontent, and the intermittent rattle of falling 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 217 

ruins, reminding one of an artillery battle between two absent 
minded armies. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 



In the Sacred Yolmne, the same incidents, scenes, and narra- 
tives are repeated nnder various forms, in order to give all shades 
of the important truths recorded, and impress all minds accord- 
ing to their different constitutions and conditions. It is necessary 
to read many histories in order to obtain just and adequate views 
of the course of events. One corrects another, or supplies what 
seems deficient in his story or estimate of things and men. In the 
accounts of some writers, the gas-works on the South Side ex- 
ploded with noise and fury. Whereas the facts are these : When 
the fire seriously menaced the gas-works, to avoid an explosion, 
a sixteen-inch pipe was opened and the whole dischargod into the 
air. The wind carried it swiftly over the buildings, and the in- 
cendiary sparks set it afire, and in five minutes three squares 
were wrapped in a blaze. Thus everything conspired to give 
impetus to the work of destruction from first to last. All things 
seemed leagued in a fell conspiracy, and the efforts of man were 
almost powerless against the combined forces of nature, which 
wrought so eagerly together. 

The New York Indejpendent said " the great fire at Chicago 
need not have occurred if the firemen had been sober : " a state- 
ment either grossly unjust or frightfully significant. In order to 
do justice to the Department, we must let them be heard, and 
the verdict, based upon such evidence, will be more likely to ac- 
cord with truth. Like the human face in its infinite variety of 
form and expression, every individual experience has some char- 
acteristic peculiarities. A gentleman telling his story, said to the 



218 mSTOEY OF THE GKSAT FIRES 

writer : Mj house was as far from the fire, when I got home, aa 
yonder brick building, a block away, one-twelfth of a mile, and 
yet I could not stand in the doorway, such was the violence of 
the heat at that distance. In speaking of his light, insurance, 
he explained it, by observing that he did not consider his stock 
combustible, viz., marble for tombstones, mantels, and buildings; 
yet scarcely a whole piece survived the fierce heat, and his ware- 
house stood on the edge of the north side at the river bank. 

A lovely Christian woman, who was in the heart of the burn- 
ing fiery furnace, evidently realized the situation, at least in 
spirit, of the three worthies in Nebuchadnezzar's seven times hot 
'oven, who had the form of the fourth with them, and so perished 
not, but triumphed through His grace. In describing her 
feelings as she fled, she said, she turned from flight and looked 
back upon the vast column of fire that swept adown the street 
burying all in destruction, and she thought of Paul's words 
— "as having nothing, yet possessing all things," and she seemed 
to herself, though stripped of everything and destitute at mid- 
Qight, to be rich, because God was hers. My Father is bet- 
ter than His gifts, and He is still mine, blessed be His name! 
Her grief, though real, found its sanctifying grace, and out of all 
that burning she comes, as gold refined, shining and pure as a 
saint of God. 

Many such true hearts were strengthened in their attachment 
to God. As a godly deacon said, I have my papers and my 
children— I am tiiankful. To him there was no such thing as 
despondency or gloom, for his treasures were laid up above 
the reach of the flames, and his hope did not consist in earthly 
prosperity, but in the mercy of Jesus Christ. 

In sad contrast was the first utterance of a liberal minister as 
he opened his sermon among the ruins of his church edifice : I 
have nothing to thank God for. There can never occur such a 
crisis in any Christian's career, however dark ; and adversity is the 



m CHICAGO AlTD THE WEST. 2J9 

blessing most approved in the New Testament. Such seemed the 
prevalent view of the Christian people of Chicago. Mr. Moodj, 
who saved from his library nothing except his Bible, not a scrap 
nor a book besides, was unchanged in the cheerful tone and tem- 
per which characterize his buoyant, believing heart. Said he, I 
asked myself, what shall 1 take? and I grabbed my Bible and 
ran out of my house. 

Many men had their hair-breadth 'scapes and peculiar perils 
to encounter, either in rescuing their property, families, or neigh- 
bors. ** 

Mr. George J. Kead got together the firm's books and papers 
and put them in a bag to remove them to his own residence on 
the West Side, and oftered men large sums to convey him and liis 
valuables across the bridge. Finding time short and no one wil- 
ling to aid him, he boldly proceeded to drag his load from the 
alley between Lake and Water streets ; and, the fire drawing 
near, he chose Water street, and was making what haste he could, 
when a large mass of felt roofing came whirling down all al)laze 
and struck him fairly upon the chest. Quicker than thought he 
turned, so as to give the wind a chance to catch the burning 
mass, and send it flying away over the tops of the buildings 
across the street. By this sudden detaching of the incendiary 
felting from his person, he has no doubt he saved his life, as, in 
that hurricane, he would have been set on fire in an instant 
and perished there. He pursued his way amidst showers of 
fire and secured his precious treasure and reached his home 
in safety. 

Mr. J. W. Goodspeed, the publisher, found himself encom- 
passed with flames, in trying to get away from the store with his 
papers, which he fortunately took from the M'orthless safe, and, 
making a rush to break through, he was compelled to retire. 
Placing a handkerchief over his head and face, and measuring 
his distance, he leaped forward and reached a place of safety. 



220 HISTOEY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

He tells how the wind poured the sparks down into the streets 
and narrow passages by which he and his father sought to make 
their way homeward from Lake near La Salle street, and whirled 
his chromos out of his arms through the air, almost prostrating 
them. They found an old cart back of their building, and loaded 
it with what few articles they could snatch from the clutches 
of the fire, and drew it some two miles in the night amidst the 
thronged avenues. 

Mrs. Hobson, the milliner, carefully placed in a wagon her 
choicest goods, as many as she could collect at such a time, and, 
putting herself in the thills, drew her load down toward the Lake, 
where she hoped for safety. Stopping a moment to rest, she 
turned to her load — and it was gone; all had been stolen on the 
way, after her endeavor to save them. The powers of darkness 
seemed to be let loose to prey upon the people and turn human 
creatures into fiends. • 

A gentleman, who succeeded in getting a new carpet out 
of his dwelling, and removing it to a basement where he and 
his family took refuge, looked in vain for it the next morn- 
ing. It was stolen. There was no mercy in the hearts of these 
plunderers. 

A good deacon, trying to carry away his goods in wagons, saw 
a woman take up a valuable package and start ofi^ with her 
plunder, when he called to her and she laid it down. A moment 
after she repeated her attempt, and he laid hands on her. Again 
she took advantage of bis momentary absence, to steal, and he, 
finding her obstinate, deliberately smote her with his fist, and 
she fell to the earth. This put an end to her depredations, and 
the church militant became the church triumphant. 

A portion of the North Division was saved by Mr. Davis, who 
early saw that all was gone in the business portion of the town ; 
and returned home to protect what little remained, his house, the 
shelter of his family. Procuring help, he dug three wells, and 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 221 

obtained water enough to wet the roof of his house and to keep 
carpets and blankets wet, by which all incipient fires from sparkg 
were put out at once. He took a pail of water and a shovel and 
stationed himself where he could prevent the sidewalk and fence 
from burning. Being far out, the fire came to him late in the 
day. As flames would creep along the walk, he used sand and 
quenched them. Often tlie heat was so intense that he was 
obliged to wet his handkerchief from the pail, and breathe 
through that. He felt several times as if he must abandon his 
post, and allow his home to go down with the rest ; but renew- 
ing his courage and moistening his face and hands, he continued 
to fight the fire till darkness set in on Monday night. While he 
still struggled with the devouring element, he felt a drop of rain 
fall on his cheek, the forerunner of the shower, and his grateful 
heart poured forth a shower of tears from his eyes. He could 
then retire and sleep with a sense of repose, and a consciousness 
that God had appeared for his deliverance. 

Mr. Kimball, of the Michigan Central Railroad, was driven from 
his house towards morning, and fled to the beach, leaving choice 
mementos and collections. Many years ago, probably twenty- 
two, he was in India, and procured for a favorite aunt, who liked 
good coffee, a parcel of peculiar excellence. On a recent visit 
she gave him two pounds or more of this package of coffee, and 
he had determined that they would use it only on Sundiy morn- 
ings for a luxury, as coffee like wine improves with age. That 
was burned too brown — probably scorched and spoiled. The 
birds were let out of their cages, and the books left to consume, 
and they seized what few things they could carry in bundles, and 
ran for dear life to the edge of the Lake. Here they stayed in a 
prison of fire and water, alternately wetting their faces and their 
handkerchiefs, through which alone they could breathe at times, 
and putting out fires that caught in their bundles from flying 
sparks. Seeino; no other hope of rescue, Mr. K. and his wife 



222 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

made their way to the river, and stepped aboard the Alpena, 
whicli was in tow of another propeller, and rode out into the 
Lake three miles, where the boats anchored. There were sixty 
persons on board, and not a mouthful of food. The Lake was 
very rough, and, as a matter ul course, it set them all cascading 
violently ; from which condition they did not recover till an engi- 
neer came aboard and got up steam, and they were transferred 
to a large propeller that lay in the basin inside the dock by the 
light-house. Here they were generously provided with supper, 
at 11 o'clock at night, and tasted food for the first time since three 
the day before. They could not determine during that day, while 
they were riding at anchor, whether the whole city was burnt or 
not. They did see Terrace row on Michigan avenue in its confla- 
gration, but the smoke was too dense and blinding over the water 
to allow any true knowledge of the extent of the destruction. 
Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, were similarly tortured by 
anxiety and doubt, until Tuesday morning, or late Monday 
evening. 

A North-sider, worth a quarter of a million at the time of the 
fire, was glad to accept two pairs of blankets, as he said, " to keep 
the family warm." He had seven dollars in his pocket Saturday 
night, and spent two of that amount to pay a man for setting an 
article of furniture into the street, which was afterwards burned. 
His wife's and daughter's clothing on their wagon took fire and 
had to be abandoned. The latter became a mother that night in 
the basement to which they fled. His work-people clamored for 
their week's wagDS, cr wi-hed his assistance, ac rhcy were penn'iess. 
His safe was entirely lost. There was no bank open, and he was 
in straits such as press the life out of a proud man. How they 
su'wiv^d t^'U b"^ co'ild «end into the countrv and make collections, 
and what they suffered, it were hard to tell. 

A mother got separated from her two boys, and such agony as 
she experienced only mothers can realize. Through the bulletin 



m CHICAGO AJ5TD THE WEST. 223 

in the church where the bureau of missing and found ones was 
kept, she learned that her jewels were safe in the little town of 
Austin, a few miles distant. Some farmer had picked them up, 
given them shelter, and reported them for the benefit of their 
mother if she were alive. 

Mr. Holden reports, that when the throng was greatest about 
the First Congregational Church he saw a woman at a window 
beckoning earnestly to be admitted. Something in her appear- 
ance arrested him strongly, and he sent a policeman to bring her 
in through the crowd. In an hour from that time, perhaps, she 
stood by his side and explained that her husband, a German, was 
badly cut from his shoulder down to his waist, and had no at- 
tention. While she was telling her pitiful story, the poor woman 
fainted and fell to the floor, and was removed and cared for. 

Some of the scenes that transpired about and in the tire were 
disgraceful beyond measure. The saloons were, many of them, 
thrown open, and men exhorted to free drinking needed but one 
invitation. Hundreds were soon dead drunk, or fighting and 
screaming; many thus fell victims to' the flames, and some were 
dragged away by main force and rescued from roasting. Even 
respectable men, seeing that all was lost, sought to drown their 
misery by intoxication. 

"Would that more had been able to answer according to the 
hero of the following Chicago dialogue : — 

" Well, Jim, are you burnt out ?" Jim : " Not I ; I don't drink." 

We have too many whose very manhood is consumed by the 
*'• hot damnation," and stand like some of oui blacicencd ruins, a 
mockery of poor humanity. Di Goodwin tells us how the 
streets were here and there choked with the whiskey barrels rolled 
out of their hiding-places, and how they fairly ran, and were 
flooded with the infernal stufi: Why, there were quarters where, 
because of burst barrels and broken demijohns, the very air was 
drunk a square away. I remember down on YanBuren street, in 



224 msTOET OF the great fires 

one of the early hours of the fire, that while two or three of us 
were trying to help a poor widow save her little handful of stuff, 
we ran against a saloon-keeper hammering away furiously to 
tighten the hoops on a cask that had sprung a leak, and calling 
vigorously on tlie bystanders to help save his treasures ; whereup- 
on one of our Sunday-school boys mounted on a pile of barrels, 
and with a sly nod to me, set the spigot of a cider brandy-cask 
running ; and I did not turn the spigot back, nor scold the boy ! 

But worse than this were the instances of theft and cold- 
blooded avarice which occurred and have come to light. One 
person was trying to remove valuable papers from an ofiice and 
asked two firemen to help him, but they refused unless he paid 
them $50 ; the papers were destroyed. Drivers of express wagons 
have taken $100 and even $500 for an hour's use of their vehicles, 
in getting distressed people away from danger. 

A book-keeper, engaged in conveying away the firm's records, 
fell fainting in the alley behind the store, overcome by exertion 
and suffocated by the smoke and dust. The shock restored him 
to consciousness, and upon attempting to rise he found himself 
unable to stand. Just then a man was passing, and he hailed 
him with a request for help. The wretch offered to assist for a 
hundred dollars. The fallen man said, ''I have but ten, and I 
will give you that." For this amount he gave his arm to the 
poor sufferer, and saved his life. A girl carried her sewing-ma- 
chine to four different points, and was forced from each by the 
advancing fiend. At last an expressman seized her treasure, 
and in spite of all her efforts drove away with it. Said the im- 
poverished girl, "Do you wonder Chicago burned?" In front 
of a wholesale house the sidewalk was bloody from the punish- 
ment inflicted by the police upon sneak-thieves. Trunks were 
rifled after their owners had placed them out of reach of fire. 
They were broken open by dozens on the Lake shore, and the 
empty trunks tossed into the water. Pieces of broadcLth were 



IN CinCAGO AJSfD THE WEST. 225 

torn into strips three yards long and distributed among a party 
who said, " These will make us each a good suit." Persons who 
saw and heard these things were powerless, and the confusion was 
so terrible that no one could look out for any one but himself, or 
interfere for the protection of others' property. It was a time 
when the worst forces of society were jubilant, and all the villains 
had free course. The Court-House jail had one hundred and sixty 
prisoners, and these were let loose to prey upon the people in the 
time of their helplessness and extremity. Such an event was a 
public calamity ; but humanity would not permit the poor wretch- 
es to perish there, and no means were at hand to convey them to 
any other place of confinement. 

One of our city papers tlius deals with the oil-stone story : 

The New York Journal of Commerce has swallowed the oil 
stone story ; and assuming it as a tact that Chicago was built of 
stone heavily charged with petroleum, thus describes the process 
of destruction : 

" An eye-witness of the process says he saw the flames cross 
streets and lick with long tongues at the stone buildings opposite. 
The latter, as they became intensely heated, emitted jets of gas, 
upon which the flames would catch and then go out agaiji, 
repeating the operation a number of times, when — presto — the 
stone would apparently be in flames. This is precisely the 
action of fire on anthracite, as any one may see by watching 
a large lump of coal in his grate. Like coal, these stones were 
reduced to ashes." 

That eye-Avitness had a lively imagination. We repeat that the 
only building in this city of any size built of. the supposed oil- 
stone was the Second Presbyterian Churcli, and the walls of that 
building were not reduced to ashes, but stand conspicuously erect 
among the ruins of a hundred other buildings utterly destroyed. 
The foundation for this oil-stone theory is the following from a 
number of Chambers' Journal : 



^26 HISTOBT OF THE GREAT FIRES 

"• In the neighborliood of Chicago there are enormous deposits 
of this oil-bearing limestone ; some of the houses in the city are 
built of it, and after a while present a smeary appearance from 
exudation of the oil. The least thickness of the mass is thirty- 
five feet, and it has been estimated from experiment that each 
square mile of it contains seven and three-quarter million barrels, 
each of forty gallons, of petroleum." 

Some years ago, when the oil-fever was at its height, and men 
were making fortunes in a week, some persons conceived the 
idea that the stone in an old quarry northwest of the city gave 
-evidence of oil. If we mistake not, certain disembodied spirits 
encoui-aged the idea, and boring was begun. The oil-rock was 
perforated without getting a drop of oil ; but the boring went on 
until at last they struck a vein of water in no wise tinctured with 
petroleum. 

A countryman with a carpet-bag appeared the second week 
after the fire, and told his errand. He had a debt of five hun- 
dred dollars on his farm, and having heard of the great liberality 
of the Chicago people, how they took up collections of many 
thousands on a single Sabbath morning, he thought that they 
would be willing to pay off that mortgage for him, and thiis 
enable him and his wife, as they were growing old, to live easy 
and take comfort the rest of their days. I suggested to him that 
'the fire had impoverished us. Well, he said, he had thought of 
that, and had made up his mind, as he had some good apples, 
that he would donate to every person who gave him five dollars, 
a barrel of apples. Thus they would be helping him, and get 
something for themselves. Dinner was ready, and he sat down 
to a good meal ; and after dining he entered into some account 
of his experience, and asked earnestly my opinion of certain 
heresies that were being promulgated in his neighborhood. 
Having run through all the subjects he could think of, he sug- 
gested that he should have to stay all night, and perhaps I could 



IN CHICAGO ANT> THE WEST, 22^ 

keep him, or send him to some of the benevolent people for a 
night's lodging. I intimated to him that every body was full, on 
account of the exodus of so many tliousands from the burnt dis- 
trict to our quarter. Bethinking himself of another pastor, he 
started off to try and interest him, as I could give him little 
or no encouragement. It was doubtful whether he found the 
doctor in a mood to entertain his appeal for charity at that 
juncture. For charming simplicity and cool audacity this sur- 
passed anything in my former experience. 

How different the case of a noble man who came to his pastor 
for comfort and for nothing more : although he had been ruined, 
and his son had been driven away to another city for employ- 
ment as an engraver, and his wife was in a distant city, lie 
would not allow any appeal for assistance, as he had gone to 
work, though not a carpenter, as a foreman in re-erecting build- 
ings on the desolated grounds. Won't you have a pair of boots ? 
No ; I can buy some. Nothing w^ould he receive. He had been 
formerly burned out in Wisconsin, and had many times aided his 
unfortunate neighbors in similar troubles. He told how he had, 
early in Chicago's history, refused to invest his money in a block 
now worth half a million, and gone away up into Wisconsin, and 
there struggled and toiled, and finally lost everytliing. 

A gentleman relates the following case of selfish, brutal mean- 
ness : — 

In a church some blocks away, quite on the northwest verge of 
population, I found other examples of suffering. The first to 
greet me was a bright and brave German fellow, also a dry-goods 
clerk, who had rescued his wife and five children, and had saved 
plenty of good clothing and household stuff enough for tolerable 
comfort, only that he had no money and no chance of securing a 
house. He took little thought for himself, however, but showed 
me a family of ten — eight small children— the father and mother 
workers with the sewing-machine. They had owned a house and 



228 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

lot worth $4,000 or $5,000, with a debt of $700. The half-weekly 
pa3'ments for.making up clothing had been their living. "When 
the fire came, the two Singer sewing-machines were saved by 
burying them in the garden behind the house. Tuesday morning, 
on going to inspect, the man found ghouls just ready to make oS 
with them. One of these saved appearances for the moment by 
offering to carry them to the owner's place of refuge, but on reach- 
ing this demanded $10, and took one of the $85 machines in lieu 
of payment, I am happy to say that two of Sheridan's bayonets 
are after that fellow, and that we have stern law for these extor- 
tions if the perpetrators are caught. 

Another, a sufferer, states his bitter experience, and adds sev- 
eral interesting incidents: — 

His residence was situated in the centre of the burnt district, 
and at an early hour was consumed. One of the first places to 
which he repaired was the Sherman House, in which he had 
friends. He found it on his arrival still untouched, but the guests 
were passing out in all directions. 

Among other incidents he witnessed is one not the least strange 
of the many which have been told. A guest of the house, on his 
►vay from the West, had with him his invalid wife and children. 
In the hurry of the moment they were overlooked, and as the fire 
was rapidly encroaching on the building, he became frantic in his 
efforts to save his family. The conveyances around the hotel 
were all engaged, but by paying $1,000 he managed to secure an 
express wagon and thus escaped. On Wabash avenue the owner 
of one of its marble houses had his carriage and colored coachman 
drawn up at his door, preparatory to conveying his family to a 
place of refuge. Three ruffians on the look-out for plunder ap- 
proached the carriage, and, jumping on to the seat, threw a sack 
over the head and shoulders of the coachman and hauled him to 
the ground. They rapidly drove away in the vehicle, leaving its 
owner to shift as well as he could without it. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 229 

Along lower Clark and State streets were located many livery 
stables. The horses were taken out at the first alarm and brought 
to what was thought to be a place of safety. Hundreds of them 
were gathered together in one inclosure. When the fire ap- 
proached them they became strangely agitated, and their terror 
finally became so great that they broke from their fastenings, 
causing a general stampede. The scene was a frightful one. In 
their madness they trampled each other to death, and breaking 
loose among the crowds of fugitives, added not a little to the 
general alarm. 

Going along Madison street, our informant was met by an ex- 
cited individual, who was wildly shouting, "I knew they would 
do it ! — I knew they would do it 1 " 

On being asked to explain, he exclaimed, " The bloody Ku- 
Klux have done this, knowing us to have been extra loyal. They 
have burned our city, and it is useless for us to attempt to escape, 
for they will burn us up too ! " 

On lower Clark street, just below the Court-House, were some 
rows of splendid business houses. The upper portions were fitted 
up in furnished rooms, and, sad to say, were let to the less disre- 
putable portion of the demi-monde. 

Being steeped in the heavy slumber of vice, the fire had reached 
the lower part of the building before they were apprised of their 
awful danger. "When they were roused from their lethargy, their 
terror was fearful. Appearing at the upper windows of the burn- 
ing blocks, they found their communication almost cut off, and 
their screams were terrific. The staircases were still partly 
standing, and after great difficulty the girls were rescued from 
their perilous position. One young girl, an Italian, attracted 
the attention of all by her picturesque beauty, which was height- 
ened by the tragic situation in which she was placed. Her hair, 
wildly flowing, reached almost to her feet, while the foreign ex- 
pression of her features and the tragic pose of her attitude made 



230 HISTOET OF THE GEEAT FIEE3 

her look like a tragedy queen. She was a striking illustration of 

the line, 

Beauty tmadomed, adorned the most. 

Poor unfortunate ! She looked fitter for a better life than the 
awful one she was pursuing. Who can say what treatment had 
driven her from her own sunny clime to our colder climate ? Her 
looks were noble and striking, her bearing patient and courageous, 
and a feeling of intense relief was experienced by the spectators 
when she was rescued from the jaws of death. 

Immediately before this incident occurred, a fearful scene was to 
be witnessed at the corner of Sherman street, about half a block 
west of La Salle, near the Michigan Southern Eailroad depot. 
The street (which was a small one) was entirely occupied by 
bagnios, conspicuous among which was the corner one, run by a 
courtesan well known in Chicago as one of the worst characters 
that ever disgraced a city. Her name was ISTelly Grant, other- 
wise known as Tipperary Kell, as that historic county had the 
honor of giving her birth. As usual the inmates on that fatal 
Sunday night were in a beastly state of intoxication. The fire 
crept upon them unperceived, and had it not been for a burly 
driver, the bully of Nelly, the inmates would have been burned in 
their beds. As it was the house had caught before any of them 
got out, and the screams, curses, and lamentations of the unfortu- 
nates were terrible to hear. ^' Nelly " herself was insensible from 
the efiects of her potations, and her lover had to carry her out — 
no easy job, for she was not by any means what you would call a 
" light weight." He succeeded, however, in carrying her to a 
place of safety, and the remainder of the wretches were rescued 
without harm. 

Going down Dearborn street our informant came to a gents* 
furnishing and jewelry store, which the fire was rapidly approach 
ing. A crowd had gathered around, and the proprietor, unable to 
save his goods, said to them, " Take all you can, boys., for I can't 



f-x 



i 




REACHED THE TREMONT HOTTSK. 



IN CinCAGO AJSTD THE WEST. 233 

save anything." Several took wallets and filled them with valu- 
ables, -but the police outside caused them to be delivered up, 
doubtless for the benefit of the relief fund. i 

A MUSEUM. 

At Colonel Wood's Museum great preparations had been made 
for the production of "Divorce," but it has been indefinitely 
shelved till a new building is erected. The drama was one which 
would have exactly suited Chicago, as the city is celebrated for 
the ease and celerity by which the marriage tie can there be cut 
asunder. 

The greatest contrasts were presented on all sides during the 
burning. Brave men were endeavoring to cheer downcast women 
Math an appearance of light-heartedness which was far from real. 
Individual instances of gallantry on the part of women were not 
wanting, and our informant is in rapture with the coolness dis- 
played by a widow, whose bravery extorted the admiration of 
all who beheld her. She had to cheer the spirits of some half 
dozen drooping maidens and guide them to a place of safety, 
which she did with perfect success. She was none of your "fair, 
fat, and forty " ones, but instead a young and pretty woman, and 
from all we can learn she will not long live in widowed blessed- 
ness, if any of her numerous admirers on the trying Monday can 
trace her. 

The most ridiculous scenes ever mingled with the most terrible 
ones, and the spectacle of the effects that were being carried away 
was in many instances extremely amusing. 

A lady who kept a boarding-house on Adams street struggled; 

hard to get her stoves out at the risk of her life, and frantically. 

abused her lodgers for defacing the walls of her house in carrying 

out their trunks. The flames were only half a block away at the 

time, and before she had ceased scolding her house had: fallen 

in, nearly burying her in the ruins. By some- the most, selfish, 
14 



234 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIEES 

spirit was displayed. Next-door neighbors in many instances re- 
fused each other the slig-htest assistance, and much valuable prop- 
erty was thus lost that would otherwise have been saved. On 
the other hand, many whose homes escaped the conflagration 
acted with a large-hearted generosity, and freely shared their 
homes with all the suiferers they could accommodate. This spirit 
was particularly manifested by those whose losses had been great- 
est, and too much praise cannot be bestowed on conduct so noble. 
The sights to be witnessed on Tuesday were of the most heart- 
rending description, but as our correspondents have already nar- 
rated the most of the incidents seen by our informant we need 
not recapitulate them. One of them is, however, new. A mother 
who had lost her only child was wandering frantically among the 
ruins in search of her darling, and when she could discover no 
traces of it her reason fled, and she became a raving maniac. On 
Tuesdaj^ night the gentleman left the city for New York, and he 
presents a graphic picture of the excitement and suspense all 
along the line of the railroads. The train on leaving the depot 
was densely crowded, the aisles of the cars were filled with 
passengers, so that the wheels pounded with the weight, and two 
powerful engines were scarce sufficient to carry the convoy along. 
When it had got about three miles from the city a cry arose in 
the cars that the South Side was on fire, and a rush was made for 
the windows, from which a lurid glare could be perceived in the 
heavens over the lower part of Cottage Grove avenue. 

A NEWSPAPER EXPLOIT. 

The pluckiest thing we have heard of in coimection with the 
conflagration is connected with the persistent issue of thoj Chicago 
Evening Post. That journal, like the others, and even more 
completely than the others, lost everything — building, presses, 
type, paper, material, and even the books. Two of the Post 
■compositors, driven to the "West District by the fire, found a little 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 235 

job-office, about Monday noon, open and completely deserted, the 
occupants having rushed to the fire then raging and seething like 
a hell across the city. One instantly wrote out an account of the 
fire as far as it had progressed, and the other put it in type, and 
they clapped above it the old familiar words, " The Evening 
Post^'' made it up in a page about six by eiglit inches, and exult- 
antly printed it. So not one issue of that paper has failed. 

It being announced that Rev. T. W. Goodspeed, of Quincy, 
Illinois, of the Yermont Street Church, who was present in Chicago 
at the time of the fire, and had witnessed many of its scenes and 
incidents, would give a narrative thereof at his church, an im- 
mense crowd was early in attendance, filling all the space in the 
building, while hundreds of others were unable to gain admit- 
tance. Mr. Goodspeed took no text, giving simply a narrative of 
what he saw. He commenced by saying: — 

It was my fortune to be in Chicago when it was destroyed. I 
do not propose to give you a complete history of the conflagration. 
You are getting that from day to day through the newspapers. 
Many have said to me, " Tell ns all you saw\" This great calamity 
is in all hearts. We are not prepared to speak of or listen to 
anything else ; and I have thought there was a sufficient reason 
for giving up this service to telling my congregation what I saw 
of this unparalleled conflagration. Sympathizing with this 
feeling, Mr. Priest has given up his service to be witli us, as 
has also the congregation of the First Church. I fear you will bo 
disappointed in listening to me, as I design to tell you only what 
came under mj^ observation, and there were a thousand things I 
did not see. 

The Chicago river runs directly west from the Lake almost a 
mile. It then branches north and south. That part of tlie city 
lying south of the main river, and east of the South Bi-aiich, is 
called the South Side. That part lying north of the main river, 
and east of the North Branch, is the North Side; and all west of 



236 msTOKY OF the geeat fiees 

the two branches the West Side. Each of these divisions is about 
one-third of the city. 

You are aware tliat the great lire of Saturday night, which 
destroyed several blocks, was on the West Side, near tlie South 
Branch of the river. The fire of Sunday night and Monday began 
also on the West Side, near the scene of the other, destroying, 
with that, forty blocks on the West Side ; swept across the South 
Branch, destroying a mile square of the South Side — the entire 
business portion of the city — crossed the river and laid in ruins 
almost the whole of the North Side, about 400 blocks. 

Sunday evening I preached in the Second Baptist Church, 
whicli is nearly a mile west of the South Brancli. We stopped 
in the study about half an liour after service, and started for my 
brother's home a few minutes after nine. It was then that w^e 
first saw the fire, a mile to the south-east. We continued to 
watch it from time to time till eleven o'clock, wlien, supposing it 
under control, we retired. 

We were aroused a little before four in the morning. Hurrying 
on my clothes, I went out. The fire had got far up on the West 
Side of the South Branch, and had evidently crossed the river to 
the South Side, and was beyond all control. The wind was 
blowing fiercely from the south-west. The whole city was 
lighted up by the flames almost like day. As I hastened toward 
the river I noticed that the stars were all obscured as efiectuallj 
as if the sun were shining, and the moon gave a feeble, sickly 
light. It was almost gray, altogether unlike itself. 

As I proceeded the streets became more and more crowded. 
The whole West Side was gathering and crowding toward the 
river. I stopped to rouse my brother, but he had long been 
gone. A woman stopped me on Washington street and said : 
" My husband's place of business is destroj'ed, and we are 
ruined." 

Beaching the river, I found that a large part of the South Side 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 237 

was still unharmed. Here I saw the massive blocks of the South 
S'lde in flames, and saw vessels being towed north to escape the 
fire. I followed the South Branch up to where it joined theKorth 
Branch and the mahi river, and looked down the latter to 
the Lake, Three or four blocks away the fire had crossed the 
river. Wells street bridge was burning. The spectacle was 
grand and awful beyond description. Great billows of flame 
swept clear across the river, while countless myriads of sparks 
and burning brands filled the air. 

Proceeding, I crossed the Kinzie street bridge to the ISTortli 
Side. Here I met the fugitives — thousands of people, indeed, 
were going both ways — spectators to see, fugitives to escape. 
The streets were filled with merchandise and furniture. Women 
were everywhere guarding their household goods. The air was 
filled with a thousand noises. The screaming of the steamers, 
the whistle of the tugs, the cries of children, the shouting of 
men, the howling of the wind, the roar of the flames, the crash of 
falling buildings. 

I went on as iar as Wells street, and the wind was here a 
hurricane. The buildings on Water street and the south bank 
of the river caught, and almost instantly they were one vast vol- 
cano, throwing up great volumes of flame that were caught up 
and carried bodily across the stream. The river seemed a boil- 
ing caldron. We stood under the great elevator at the Wells 
street depot and saw on one of them a man wetting the roof. 
He had hose, and must have saturated the entire building with 
water, yet within fifteen minutes the building was aflame. I 
returned to the West Side. The fleeing people were carrying 
off articles of every description. Tw^o men were wheeling away 
the Indian figure that had stood before their cigar store. One 
m.an was hurrying off with two whiskey bottles. I stopped 
again to look down the main river toward the Lake. The scene 
was even more magnificent and awful than before. This was 



238 HISTORY OF THE GEE AT FIRES 

indeed the grandest spectacle of all. The whole length of the 
river was then one broad sheet of fire. 

With every fresh blast of wind great billows of fire would roll 
across toward the doomed North Side, as if filled with a mad 
desire to sweep it away in ruin. Then for a moment they would 
subside and show the three bridges wreathed in flames (the water 
apparently boiling underneath them), the black walls of the 
buildings on either side, and here and there tongues of flame 
shooting out from doors and windows and roofs. Then again 
two walls of fire, extending a mile away to the Lake, would flame 
up toward heaven for a moment, to be caught by the gale and 
tumbled in fiery ruin to the ground, or carried in great masses of 
fire to spread the conflagration. Going on from here 1 took my 
stand on Lake street bridge. The line of fire extended a mile 
or more down the South Branch. Several bridges had already 
been consumed. The great coal-yards were beginning to burn, 
and almost all the magnificent blocks of the South Side were in 
flames. From the slight elevation of the bridge, I could see 
almost two square miles of fire. 

Looking toward the north-west, and seeing how directly toward 
the water-works the flames were rushing, it crossed my mind that 
they would be destroyed. I turned and hastened to my friend's 
house, a mile on the West Side, and immediately tried the water. 
I was too late, it would not run, and the great city of 300,000 
people was without water. 

Before seven o'clock I went to another friend's house and 
found him just returned from saving his books, and what mer- 
chandise he could. He had got into his place of business- by the 
back way, and had been driven away by the swift demon of 
destruction. I went to another friend's house to inquire if his 
store was safe. He had visited the fire at lialf-past ten, and 
gone home confident it was under control. At three he had 
tried to reach his business place, and been driven back by the fire 



EST CHICAGO AISTD THE WEST. 239 

that raged between him and it. I got into his buggy with him 
and we started to find it. Keaehiug Twelfth street, which runs 
across the South Branch, a mile and a quarter south of the Court- 
Ilouse, we found the street crowded with people and vehicles, 
and all pressing toward the South Side. It was a little after 
seven o'clock, and of course daylight. We made our way to 
Wells or La Salle street, and tried to go np, but the flames 
stopped us. We went on to Wabash avenue, and found it to be 
so crowded as to be utterly impassable. We crossed to Michigan 
avenue, fell into the stream of travel, and worked our way np to 
the Michigan Avenue Hotel. My friend asked me to hold his 
horse five minutes, while he went to see what he could find. Left 
to niyself, I had time to look about me. I despair of describing the 
scene to you. It beggars description. It was here that my friend 
Sawyer, who is with me in the desk, joined me; his clothes cov- 
ered with dust, his hair filled with dust and cinders, his eyes red 
from smoke, his face black, so unlike himself that I hardly knew 
him. Michigan avenue was burning from within a block of where 
w-e stood a mile away to the river. The magnificent residences and 
great business houses w^ere going up in flames and doM'n in black- 
ness before our eyes. Great volumes of smoke rolling away before 
the gale, concealed the North Side from view. But at every 
break or lift of the smoke, the great Central Depot could be seen 
all in flames. The fire was creeping away out on the piers, and 
had reached one of the immense elevators that stood near its 
end, and the flames were soon reaching up one hundred and fifty 
feet into the air. Every monient we expected to see the great 
Central Elevator, standing very near the burning one, fall be- 
fore the conflagration that had devoured everything else in its 
path. But the wind seemed to veer suddenly to the south, and 
remained there an hour, and the great elevator was saved ; with 
one exception, the only one on the South Side north of the line 
of fire. A uteamer had reached the mouth of the river, but here 



240 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

tlie fire caught lier, and I saw it run from one end to the otlier in 
little lines of light, and so over the rigging till the ship was all 
ablaze. 

Meantime I was in the midst of the wildest confusion I had 
ever witnessed. The open space between Michigan avenue and 
the Lake was filled with every variety of houseliold goods and 
merchandise. There must have been the furniture of a thousand 
families crowded into this narrow space. Rich and poor, white 
and black, were together. Over every pile of goods stood some 
one to guard it. Meantime other fugitives were every moment 
crowding into the already overcrowded space, and seeking room 
for their goods as well. Thousands of people pressed along the 
walks and filled the open spaces — some coming to see and others 
fleeing. The avenue was for hours one solid mass of teams. 
Up and down the street they pressed endlessly, going up empty 
and returning full. At length the press became so great that the 
street was completely blockaded, and the police began to turn 
the still on-coming nniltitude of vehicles backward. They chose 
the spot where I stood to accomplish this. Then began cursing 
and shouting; the teamsters insisting that they must go on, 
every one of them having valuable property just ahead ; and the 
police insisting that to save men's lives they must turn back. 
The more determined teamsters went through in spite of the 
police, who were strangely inefficient. The more timid or rea- 
sonable tried to turn back in a street where there was hardly 
room to move forward. One backed into my buggy wheels 
as I crowded the sidewalk and waited ; another ran into one 
of the shafts. Twenty feet ahead of me a horse tried to run 
away, starting directly toward me. He ran about ten feet 
and smashed two buggies. A rod to my left a driver ran 
against a buggy wheel and crushed it, regardless of the other's 
load. I grew more and more nervous, expecting every mo- 
ment to have the horse and buggy ruined. Two hours and a 



m CHICAGO AND THlE WEST. 241 

half passed, and still I waited. I had plenty of time to look 
about me. 

Every variety of vehicle passed me, loaded with every variety 
.of article. I saw one of onr former citizens, Mr. Pearson, carry- 
ing one end of a long glass case filled with his goods — hair done 
up in many forms. A dozen or twenty cows picked their way 
among the wagons. A woman found her way across the street, 
when there chanced to be an opening, leading a great black 
dog. The confusion was beyond all description. Up and 
down the Michigan Central track locomotives were constantly 
moving, drawing heavy trains, or alone, and, it seemed to me, 
blowing their unearthly whistles all the time. The fire-engines, 
a block away, added theirs, which were worse still. The voices 
of the police calling to the teamsters, the responses and often 
curses of the drivers, their impatient yells to one another, the 
cry of distressed citizens to the expressmen, the voices of the 
crowd, the roaring of the gale, the howling of the conflagra- 
tion, the crackling of burning houses, the crash of falling walls, 
the ringing of bells, the shouts that greeted some new freak 
of the flames, and suddenly the sullen thunder that told us 
buildings were being blown up only a block away. The con- 
flagration of the great day will hardly bring a confusion worse 
confounded. 

The fire still made progress towards me, until the people in all 
the houses above and below me removed their goods and fled. 
Again came the thundering and shaking of the earth that accom- 
panied the blowing up of a building. It seemed ominously near; 
I could see the fire on the Wabash Avenue Methodist Cliurch, 
and was snre it was going, and that was behind me. At length 
the vast crowd, men and teams, precipitated themselves down the 
avenue like a falling avalanche, and the cry went up that the 
building on the corner just above us was to be blown up. Wait- 
ing no longer, I joined the fleeing multitude and made my way 



242 HISTORY *0F THE GKEAT FEKES 

as fast as possible a block farther away. After three hours my 
friend returned ; his coat gone ; his face so black and his eyes so 
nearly put out, that for a moment I did not know him. He took 
his horse, to my great relief, and I proc(3eded up the avenue 
toward the Central Depot, to see w^hat g(»od I could do. On 
beyond Terrace I'ow I went, and had the whole horrible scene 
before me. iNTot long, however, could I see it. The magnificent 
Terrace row was in flames, and the air was filled with smoke, 
and dust, and cinders, and live coals, and fagots of fire. The 
middle of this great row fell first, the ends following, covered in 
one black cloud of smoke, and ashes, and dust. It was almost 
past endurance. 

Meanwhile the inflammable material in this narrow space 
caught fire in a hundred places. Beds, pillows, quilts, carpets, 
sofas, pianos, furniture, and it seemed to me that everything 
must be burned. "With a small tea-chest I spent hours bringing 
water from the Lake, helping to extinguish numberless incipient 
fires which broke out continually among the heaps of goods. I 
returned home at three p.m., having had nothing to eat since six 
o'clock Sunday evening. Helping to carry a mirror up-stairs, I 
asked a woman on the wa}^ down to give me a drink from a full 
pail she c?aTied, and she refused. In the evening, Monday even- 
ing, I took my station in the cupola of a four-story building to 
view the fire and watch, and for hours witnessed a scene wdiich 
no language can describe. 

In contrast with this calm and clear sketch of that memorable 
day by the young clergyman providentially in the city, we pre- 
serve 

A woman's stort of the fire. 

Where shall I begin? How shall I tell the story that I have 
been living during these dreadful days? It's a dream, a night- 
mare, only so real that I tremble as I write, as though the whole 
thing might be brought to me again by merely telling of it. 



EST CHICAGO AJSHD THE WEST. 24:3 

We lived on the Xortli Side, six blocks from the river — the 
newlj-regenerated river, which used to be at once the riches and 
the despair of our city, but which had just been turned back by 
the splendid energy of the people to carry the sweet waters of 
Lake Michigan through all its noisome recesses. We were quiet 
people, like most of the Nortli-siders, flattering ourselves that our 
comfortable wooden houses and sober, cheery, New England- 
looking streets were far preferable to the more rapid, blatant life 
of the South Side. 

Well, on Sunday morning, October 8, Robert Collyer gave his 
people what we all felt to be a wonderful sermon on the text, 
"Think ye that those upon whom the tower of Siloam fell were 
sinners above all those who dwelt at Jerusalem?" and illustrated 
it by a picture of the present life, and our great cities, their gran- 
deur, their wickedness, and the awful though strictly natural con- 
sequences of our insatiable pursuit of worldly prosperity, too often 
unchecked by principle; and instanced the many recent dreadful 
catastrophes as signs that not the Erie speculators alone, nor the 
contractors alone, nor the recognized sinners alone, but we, every 
man and woman of the United States, were responsible for these 
horrors, inasmuch as we did not work, fight, bleed, and die, if ne- 
cessary, to establish such public opinion as should make them 
impossible. 

I came out gazing about on our beautiful church, and hoping 
that not one stone of the dear church at home had been set or 
paid for by the rascality which our preacher so eloquehtly de- 
picted as certain to bring ruin, material as well as spiritual ; and 
so we pass the pleasant, briglit day; some of us going down to 
the scene of the West Side fire of Saturday night, and espying, 
from a good distance, the unhappy losers of so much property. 
About half-past five in the evening our neighboring fire telegraph 
sent forth some little tintinnabulations, and we lazily wondered, 
as D played the piano, and I watered my ivy, what they 



4 
244 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

were burning up now. At ten o'clock tlie fire bells were ringing 
constantly, and we went to bed regretting that there must be 
more property burning up on the "West Side. Eleven o'clock — 
twelve o'clock — and I woke my sister, saying, "It's very singu- 
lar; I never heard anything like the fires to-night. It seems us 
if the whole West Side must be afire. Poor people ! I wonder 
whose carelessness set this agoing?" One o'clock — two o'clock 
■ — we get up and look out. " Great God ! the fire has crossed the 
river from the south. Can there be any danger here ? " And 
we looked out to see men hurrying by screaming and swearing, 
and the whole city to the south and west of us one vivid glare. 
" Where are the engines ? Why don't we hear them as usual ? " 
we asked each other, thoroughly puzzled, but even yet hardly per- 
ponalh^ frightened by the strange aspect of the brilliant and sur- 
ging streets below. Then came a loud knocking at the back 
door, on Erie street — " Ladies, ladies, get up ! Pack your trunks 
and prepare to leave your house ; it may not be necessary, but it's 
well to be prepared !" It was a friend who had fought his way 
through the La Salle street tunnel to warn us that the city is on 
fire. We looked at each other with white faces. Well we might. 
In an inner room slept an invalid relative, the object of our cease- 
less care and love, the victim of a terrible and recurring mental 
malady, which had already sapped much of his strength and life, 
and rendered quiet and absence of excitement the first prescrip- 
tion of his physicians. Must we call the invalid? and if we did, 
in the midst of this fearful glare and turmoil, what would be the 
result? We determined to wait till the last minute, and threw 
some valuables into a trunk, while we anxiously' watched the 
ever-approaching flame and tumult. 

Then there came a strange sound in the air, which stilled, or 
seemed to still for a moment, the surging crowd. " Was it thun- 
der ? " we asked. No, the sky was clear and full of stars, and 
we shuddered as we felt, but did not say, it was a tremendous 



IN CHICAGO AISTD THE WEST. 245 

explosion of gunpowder. Bv this time the blazing sparks and 
bits of burning wood, which we had been fearfully watching, 
were fast becoming an unintermitting fire of burning hail, and 
another shower of blows on the door warned us that there was 

not a moment to be lost. "Call E " (the invalid) ; "do not 

let him stay a minute, and I will try to save our poor little birds !" 
My sister flev/ to wake up our precious charge, and I ran down 
stairs, repeating to myself to make me remember, " birds, deeds, 
silver, jewelry, silk dresses," as the order in which we would try- 
to save our property, if it came to the worst. 

As I passed through our pretty parlors, how my heart ached. 
Here the remnant of my father's library, a copy of a Bible 
printed in 1637. on one table ; on another, my dear Mrs. Brown- 
ing, in five volumes, the gift of a lost friend. What should I 
take? What should I leave? I alternately loaded myself with 
gift after gift, and dashed them down in despair. Lovely pic- 
tures and statuettes, left by a kind friend for the embellishment 
of our little rooms, and which had turned them into a bower of 
beauty — must they be ieft ? At last I stopped before our darling, 
a sweet and tender picfure of Beatrice Cenci going to execution, 
which looked down at me, through the dismal red glare which 
was already filling the rooms, with a saintly and weird sweetness 
that seemed to have something wistful in it. I thought, " I will 
save this, if I die for it;" but my poor parrot called my name 
and asked for a peanut, and I could no more have left him than 
if he had been a baby. But, could I carry that huge cage ? 'No, 
indeed ; so I reluctantly took my poor little canary, who was 
painfully fluttering about and wondering at the disturbance, and, 
kissing him, opened the front door and set him free — only to 
smother, I fear. But it was the best I could do for him if I 
wished to save my parrot, M'ho had a prior right to be considered 
one of the family, if sixteen years of incessant chatter may be 
supposed to establish such a right. 



246 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

"What a sight our iisually pretty quiet street presented ! As 
far as I could see, a horrible wall — a surging, struggling, encroach- 
ing wall — like a vast surfoce of grimacing demons, came pressing 
np the street — a wall of fii-e, ever nearer and nearer, steadily 
advancing upon our midnight helplessness. Was there no wag- 
on, no carriage, in which we could coax our poor E , and 

take him away from these maddening sights ? Truck after truck, 
indeed, passed by, but filled with loads of people and goods. 
Carriages rushed past drawn by struggling and foaming horses, 
and lined with white, scared faces. A truck loaded with goods 
dashed np the street, and, as I looked, flames burst out from the 
sides, and it burned to ashes in front of our door. No hope, no 
help for property ; what we could not carry in our hands we must 
lose. So, forcing my reluctant pari'ot into the canary bird's cage, 
I took the cage under one arm and a little bag, hurriedly pre- 
pared, under the otlier, just as my sister appeared with E , 

who, thank God, was calm and self-possessed. At last the good 
friend wdio had warned ns appeared, and, leaving all his own 
things, insisted on helping my sister to save ours, and he and she 
started on, dragging a Saratoga trunk. They were obliged to 
abandon it at the second coi'uer, however, and walk on, leaving 

me to follow with E . " Come, E , let ns go," said I. 

"Go where ? I am not going. What is the use? " he answered, 
and he stood with his arms folded as if he were interested merely 
as a curious spectator. I urged, I begged, I cried, I went on my 
knees. He would not stir, but proposed going back into the 
house. This I prevented by entreaties, and I besought him to fly 
as others were doing ; but no. A kind of apathetic despair had 
seized him, and he stood like a rock while the flames swept nearer 
and nearer, and my entreaties, and even my appeals to him to 
save me, were utterly in vain. Hotter and hotter grew the pave- 
ment, wilder the cries of the crowd, and ray silk and cotton cloth- 
ing began to smoke in spots. I felt beside myself, and, seizing 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 247 

E , tried to drag liim away. Alas ! wliat could my woman's 

strength do? There followed another shout, a wild push bach, a 

falling Avail, and I was half a block away and E was gone. 

" O God, pity those poor worms of the dust, and crush them not 
utterly ! " was my prayer. 

How I passed the rest of that cruel Snnday night I scarcely 
know. Wandering, staring, blindly carrying along my poor par- 
rot, who was too tired to make a sound, 1 seemed to be in a 
dream. Starting north to get help, running back as near to the 
tlame as I could in the vain hope of finding E , bitterly re- 
proaching myself that I had ever left him an instant, I passed 
three hours of which I can hardl}^ give any account. I know that 
as I turned wildly back once toward Dearborn street, I saw the 
beautiful Episcopal Church of St. James in flames. But they 
came on all sides, licking the marble buttresses one by one, and 
leaving charred or blackened masses where there had been white 
marble before. But the most wonderful sight of all was the 
white, shining church tower, from which, as I looked, burst 
tongues of fire, and whicli burnt as though all dross of earth were 
indeed to be purified away from God's house forever. As the 
tower came crashing down, the bells with one accord pealed forth 
that grand old German h}MTin, "All good souls praise the Lord." 
I almost seemed to hear them, and to see a shadowy Nicholas 
striking the startled metal for the last time with his brave old 
hands. "If this is right, if it can be right, make me think so," 
groaned my soul, and the souls of many weeping women that 
night, as they fled homeless and lost through that Pandemonium 
of flame and tumult. 

Constantly faces that I knew flashed across me, but they were 
always in a dream, all blackened and discolored, and with an ex- 
pression that I never saw before. " Why, C , is this you ? " 

some frightened voice would exclaim, and a kind hand would 
touch my disordered hair, from which the hat had long since 



HISTOEY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



fallen off, and some one, only a little less distracted, would whisper 

hopefully a word about E ; that he might not be lost, that 

the actual presence of flame would arouse him, and so on ; and I 
loved them for saying so, and tried to believe them. Yery little 
selfishness and no violence did I see there. Neighbors stopped 
to recognize neighbors, and many a word was exchanged which 
brought comfort to despairing hearts. " Have you seen m}^ wife 
and children?" would be asked, and the answer given: "Yes, 
they are safe at Lake Yiew by this time." "Won't you look out 
for my baby? " (or AYillie or Johnny, as the case might be). Out 
would come tablets or papers, or names or inquiries would be 
noted down, even by the man who was making almost superhu- 
man efforts to save a few goods from his burning liouse. Some 
friend — it was days before I knew who— took my parrot and 
forced a little bottle of tea and a bag of crackers into m}'- hand as 
I wandered, and I was enough myself to give it to a friend, whom 
I found almost fainting with heat and fatigue, and who declared 
that nectar and ambrosia never tasted better. At last I found 
myself opposite Unity Church. Dear Unity ! will her little circle 
of devoted ones ever come together again, and worship some- 
times, and work for the poor sometimes, and sing and play in her 
beautiful under-parlors sometimes, and love each other always? 
I know not, but I know that I wept and beat my hands together, 
and raged hopelessly, whqn I saw that the beautiful homes on 
the west side of Dearborn street were gone, and the Ogden Pub- 
lic School was one bright blaze, while the graceful and noble 
Congregational Church, next to Mr. Collyer's Church, had 
caught fire. Nothing could save our pride and joy — our darling 
for which we had made such efforts in money and labor two short 
years ago, that the fame of Chicago munificence rang anew on our 
account through the civilized world. 

I was grieving enough, Heaven knows, over my private woes ; 
but I awoke to new miseries when I saw our pastor's great heart, 




T.M.AVERY 
LUMBER 




SCENE AT THE JUKCTTON OF THE CHK.^AGO RIVER— THE FLAMES COl 




CATE WITH THE SHIPPllJG A>rD DESTROY THE GRATX ELEVATORS. 



rsr CHICAGO aistd the west. 251 . 

which had sustained the fainting spirits of so many, freely give 
way to lamentations and tears as his precious library, the slow 
accumulation of twenty laborious and economical years, fell and 
flamed into nothingness in that awful fire. I turned away heart- 
sick, and resumed my miserable search after the face which I now 
felt almost sure I should never see again, A new sight soon 
struck my eye. What in the world was that dark, lurid, parplish 
call that hung before me, constantly changing its appearance, 
like some fiendish face making grimaces at our miserly ? I looked 
and looked, and turned away, and looked again. i..iay I never 
see the sun, the cheerful daily herald of comfort and peace, look 
like that again ! It looked devilish, and I pinched myself to see 
if I was not losing my senses. It did not seem ten minutes since 
I had seen the little, almost crescent moon, look out cold, quiet, 
and pitiless, through a rift in. the smoke-cloud, from the deep blue 
of the sky. 

Two d6ar children, whom I had taught peacefully on Friday 
in our cheerful school-room on Chicago avenue, met me, crying, 
" Oh! have you seen mother ? "We have lost her," This appeal 
brought me to myself. I felt that I had something else to do 
than wander and grieve ; so I persuaded the lost lambs to go 
with me to a friend on La Salle street, where 1 felt sure we should 
find help and comfort, and which everybody supposed would be 
safe. Indeed, a very curious and rather absurd feature of this 
calamity was that nobody thought his house would burn till he 
saw it bla"zing, and also felt perfectly sure that this was the last 
of it, and that he and his family would be safe a little further 
up ; so the IS^orth-siders never began to pack up till the fire 
crossed the river, and then the lower ones moved about to Erie 
street, six squares from the river, then stopped. Then they were 
driven by the flames another half-dozen streets, losing generally 
half of what they saved the first time ; then to Division street, 

then to Lincoln Park, where heaps and heaps of ashes are all that 
15 



252 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

remain to-day of thousands of dollars' worth of eatables and 
furniture. 

Exhausted and almost fainting, weeping and sorely distressed, 
I finally landed in a friendly house, far up on La Salle street. 

As I stepped inside the door E appeared, quiet, composed, 

and almost indifierent. Burnt? Oh, no ; he was all right. Did 
I suppose he was fool enough to stay and be burned ? There was 
D , too, if I wanted to see her, in the parlor. Did I feel rev- 
erently thankful ? Ask yourself. 

We recall Byron's lines in Childe Harold, although the situa- 
tion is inverted : — 

" Oh ! who could guess if ever more should meet those mutual eyes, 
Since upon night so sweet such awful mom could rise ! " 

The night here was "awful" and the morn "sweet," 

We give another leaf from personal experiences of painful in- 
terest. The narrator was a lodger in the St. James Hotel, and 
says : — 

I was awakened about three a, m. by some one pounding upon 
my door, and after springing from my bed, discovered that the 
whole city was in flames. I hastily put on ray clothing, and going 
into the corridor I saw a crowd of men, women, and children clus- 
tered about the door, Returning to my room, I gathered my 
goods quickly into boxes, and carried them down to the sidewalk. 
Hearing a shout, I seized a satchel and a small trunk, and rushed 
out. As I reached the door, I saw some men coolly loading my 
boxes into a wagon, I called to them, but they laughed and 
drove away. The street was full of people with bundles of every 
description on their backs, I pushed at, once for the West End, 
Neither Michigan nor Wabash avenues were then on fire, and I 
rushed down the former. The hot air almost burned my face. 
The smoke was stifling me, and my clothes were covered with 
ashes and cinders. As I passed along the avenue, I looked up 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 253 

each street to the west to see where the fii-e headed me off in th:>,t 
direction. 1 had the fire behind me on the north, and the Lake 
was on my left. My object was to try and get to tlie west ,side 
of the 3ity, near Union Park, where 1 knew a gentleman named 
Mason. The Lake was on my left, the city on fire behind me, 
and as I passed along Wabash avenue I could see the fire raging 
furiously on West street, at the head of Lake, Randolpli, 
Madison, Monroe, Congress, Adams, Jackson, and Yan Bnren 
streets, and away to the south as far as Fourteenth street. Here 
for the first time I saw a clear passage to the west. When I 
reached this point I was utterly wearied out, and I sat on my 
trunk in the street. In a few moments I saw a man pass by, 
and I asked him to give me a hand with ray trnnk. He said he 
would, and we walked up Fourteenth street. After going a short 
distance I saw that I could not carry the trunk any further, and 
1 told the man who was assisting me that I must give out. He 
urged me on, and after going about a block I saw a man stand- 
ing at his own door, looking in the direction of the fire, 1 told 
him that I had been burned out, and that I was so wearied I could 
carry my trunk no further. I asked him for permission to put 
it in his yard until I should be able to convey it to a safe place. 
He gladly consented, and between us we took the trunk into the 
yard. He and I then returned in the direction of the town. In 
the mean time tlie fire had reached the great business quarter, 
and most of the streets from South AVater street to the river 
were in flames. After waiting until the progress of the fire was 
arrested, I made my way across Twelfth street bridge, which was 
then the only one standing on the south, to Union Park, on the 
western side of the city. Here I found my friend's house, and 
was joyfully and hospitably received. I was so wearied out that 
I remained there asleep all day on Monday. Such a gale never 
raged before as that which blew from the southwest in Chicago 
during the night of Sunday and the morning of Monday. 



254 HISTORY or the GKEAT FIKE8 

The only fragment of literature saved from the immense stock 
of the Western i^ews Company was this 

CUKIOUS MEMORIAL. 

A single leaf of a quarto Bible, charred around the edges. It 
contained the first chapter of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, 
which opens with the following words : — " How doth the city sit 
solitary that was full of people ! how is she become as a widow ! 
she that was great among the nations, and princess among the 
provinces, how is she become tributary ! She weepeth sore in the 
night, and her tears are on her cheeks : among all her lovers she 
hath none to comfort her." It was a singular circumstance, that 
Kev, Mr. Walker, of Connecticut, upon hearing of the catastrophe 
at Chicago, preached from this text, not knowing that this was all 
that remained of the store in which his son was a clerk. Tliere 
was only a general correspondence in the actual experience of our 
city to that of the city bewailed by the prophet, for we were not 
solitary nor widowed, neither did we become tributary. There 
was sore weeping, but our lovers did rise up and comfort us with , 
solid comfort. The relic hunters were extremely busy, and some 
of them coined money by the sale of their commodities to 
strangers and citizens who wished to retain some small remem- 
brance of the powerful heat that melted everything in its pro- 
gress. Glass two inches thick fell before it in streams. A 
gentleman found in the ruins a lot of dolls melted and run 
together. He called them fire-proof babies. In a store fur- 
nished with paints, oils, and glass, the specimens were elegant. 
Glass, in masses, was tinted with brilliant colors of every hue. 
So great a variety of curiosities was never found unless in old 
Pompeii, where the ashes preserved objects in a more perfect 
state. It seemed sad to see the merchant princes succeeded by 
little boys, whose stands were upon the corners where the 
heaviest business transactions occurred, or the most elegant 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 255 

displayed. It gives an air of romance to many- 
spots, to remember that here and there men struggled for life, in 
the dark hours, and surrendered to the foe. Take, for instance, 
a scene like tliis which is vividly sketched by the Tribune : — 

While Madison street west of Dearborn, and the west side of 
Dearborn, were all ablaze, the spectators saw the lurid light ap- 
pear in the rear windows of Speed's Block. Presently a man who 
had apparently taken time to dress himself leisurely appeared on 
the extension built up to the second story of two of the stores. 
He coolly looked down the thirty feet between him and the ground, 
while the excited crowd first cried '-jump ! " and then some of them 
more considerately looked for a ladder. A long plank was pres- 
ently found and answered the same as a ladder, and it was placed 
at once against the building, down which the man soon after slid. 
But while these preparations were going on there suddenly ap- 
peared another man at a fourth-story window of the building be- 
low, which had no projection, but was flush from the top to the 
ground — four stories and a basement. His escape by the stair- 
way was evidently cut oif, and he looked despairingly down the 
fifty feet between him and the ground. The crowd grew almost 
frantic at the sight, for it was only a choice of deaths before him 
— by fire or by being crushed to death by the fall. Senseless 
cries of "jump ! jump ! " went up from thecrowd — senseless, butfull 
of sympathy, for the sight was absolutely agonizing. Then for a 
minute or two he disappeared, perhaps even less, but it seemed 
so long a time that the supposition was that he had fallen, suffo- 
cated with the smoke and heat. But no, he appears again. First 
he throws out a bed ; then some bedclothes, apparently ; why, 
probably even he does not know. Again he looks down the dead, 
sheer wall of fifty feet below him. Pie hesitates — and well he may 
— as he turns again and looks behind him. Then he mounts to 
the window-sill. His whole form appears naked to the shirt, and 
his white limbs ffleam ao-ainst the dark wall in the bright light as 



256 HISTORY or THE GREAT FIRES 

he SM'ir.gs himself below the window. Somehow- -how, none can 
tell — he drops and catches upon the top of the window below him 
of the third story. lie looks and drops again, and seizes the frame 
with his hands, and his gleaming body once more straightens and 
hangs prone downwaid, and then drops instantly and accurately 
npon the window-sill of the third story, A shout, more of joy 
than applause, goes up from the breathless crowd, and those who 
had turned away their heads, not bearing to look upon him as he 
seemed about to drop to sudden and certain death, glanced up at 
him once more with a ray of hope at this daring and skilful feat. 
Into this window he crept to look, probably for a stairway, but 
appeared again presently, for here only w^as the only avenue of 
escape, desperate and hopeless as it was. Once more he dropped 
his body, hanging by his hands. The crowd screamed, and waved 
to him to swing himself over the projection from which the other 
man had just been rescued. He tried to do this, and vibrated 
like a pendulum from side to side, but could not reach far enough 
to throw himself upon the roof. Then he hung by one hand, and 
looked down ; raising the other hand, he took a fresh hold, and 
swung from side to side once more to reach the roof. In vain ; 
again he hung motionless by one hand, and slowly turned his 
head over his shoulder and gazed into the abyss below him. Then 
gathering himself up he let go his hold, and for a second a gleam 
of white shot down full forty feet, to the foundation of the base- 
ment. Of course it killed him. He was taken to, a drug store 
near by, and died in ten minutes. 

But by far the saddest case here was that of a beautiful and re- 
fined woman, known in art and operatic circles, whose husband 
is missing, and who escaped herself in only a niglit wrapper; was 
driven to distraction by the terrors of the wild flight, and was 
picked up in Lincoln Park in a state of more than half insanity. 
In the direst need of care from her own sex, ready to die almost 
from extreme exhaustion, and wandering in mind most of the 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 257 

time, she had had last night only the nursing and help which two 
men could give, and now lay on a pallet upon the church floor, 
directly beliind the rear pew on one side. A young woman cared 
for her during the day, but at night female imagination lent par- 
tial insanity too great terrors, and care which should have fallen 
to womanly sympathy, devolved on the rude, though kind and 
skilled hands of men. The man whose brave and clear head 
gave him chief charge had had experience in a hospital; but it 
was pitiful that womanly protection should not be at hand, and 
that the couch of such a suiFerer should not be tenderly spread 
under a private roof. Unhappily, the entire length of burnt 
Chicago intervened between all these sufferers, on the North Side, 
and that part of the city where suitable care could have been 
Becured for them. 

The most disastrous event in the horrible whole seemed, for a 
time, to be the destruction of the books of record in the Court- 
House ; but it is found, on examination, that the loss is by no 
means irreparable. Many of the essential books are safe, though in 
one case — that of Messrs. Shortall & Hoard — the rescue was a mar- 
vellous achievement. This firm was located in Rooms 1, 9, and 10 
Larmon Block, northeast corner of Washington and Clark streets. 

The following account of the way in which the books were 
extricated was taken vtrhatim from Mr. John G. Shortall, senior 
member of the firm, by a Tribune reporter: — 

I had just come home from church, and had been sitting in my 
house. No. 852 Prairie avenue, and was going to bed. I looked 
out of my north window and noticed a very bright light in the 
sky. I had been, from some unaccountable cause, quite appre- 
hensive in regard to fire for some time previous ; and, on noticing 
the light, determined to go to the fire, although it was not in the 
direction of my office. 

I met a friend on the cars who was also going to the fire, and 
we crossed Twelfth street bridge, and got up to the side of the 



258 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

lire on Canal street, and followed it up from block to block to 
Adams streets We then got on Yan Buren street bridge, and 
watched the progress of the flames for probably an hour and a 
half. I then had no idea that the fire would cross the river, and 
1 argued with myself several times whether I had not better go 
home, but kept on staying watching the fire ; and, while standing 
on Yan Buren street bridge, I noticed a new body of flame — I 
should think there was an intervening space of fully half a mile 
untouched by fire. This new fire broke out, as it seemed to me 
then, in the vicinity of South Water street and Fifth avenue. 
When I saw this new light, I started for my office in Larmon 
Block immediately. 

On reaching the ofiice I found, as I apprehended, great danger 
existing from the awnings, which were outside the building, the 
embers dropping down very thickly on the roofs of the buildings, 
and on the fronts, and signs, and awnings. I ran upstairs, got into 
the ofiice and tried to cut away the awnings in front of our build- 
ing and that of the building adjoining ; but, owing to the absence 
of anything adequate, I had to give that up, and simply press 
them close to the wall, that the embers might drop ofi" them, and 
not be caught in them. Even then I scarcely believed it possible 
that the Larmon Block could take fire, and I requested the men 
in the upper portion of the building with buckets of water, to put 
out any embers that might fall there and endanger the building. 
In another half hour I felt more apprehensive, and went on the 
street to find an express wagon. This must have been an hour 
and a half before the building actually burned. I stopped 
probably fifteen different trucks and express 'wagons, offering 
them any pay to work for me in saving the books. Seven of 
them at least I engaged, one after another, they faithfully promis- 
ing me that they would come back when they had carried the load 
and done the work in which they were engaged; but no one came 
back. At this juncture I met a friend, Mr. ^ye, who was look- 



IN CHICAGO AJSTD THE WEST. 259 

ing out, as I was, for the danger. I told him I needed him, and 
he answered me promptly that he was at my service. We both 
watched some time longer for express wagons, but could find 
none. At last, when the Court-House cupola took fire I told my 
friend that we must have an express wagon within the next five 
minutes or we were utterly lost. Hfe stood on Clark street and I 
on Washington, determined to take the first expressman we could 
find. The first one happened to come along on his side. He 
seized the reins with one hand, and taking a revolver from his 
pocket with tha other, " persuaded " the expressman to haul up 
to the sidewalk, notwithstanding his cursing and swearing. 
When I came back from my unsuccessful watch, I found the ex- 
pressman there, and my friend, handing the lines and revolver to 
me, went upstairs to help our employes, who were then in the 
ofiice, to carry down the volumes. We got round with the wag- 
on to the Washington street entrance, and, after filling the wagon, 
found that we had but about one-quarter of our property in it. 
Just at that critical moment I saw a two-horse truck drive up to 
where I was superintending the packing of the books, and my 
friend Joe Stockton, whose face was so covered with smut and 
dust that I did not recognize him until he spoke, turned over the 
truck and driver to me, with the remark : " I think, John, this is 
just what you need." I never felt so relieved or so thankful for 
anything as I did at his appearance with that substantial aid at 
that moment. We unpacked our impressed expressman immedi- 
ately and set him adrift with $5 in his pocket for his five min- 
utes' work, and commenced to pile our property on friend Stock- 
ton's truck. Meanwhile the flames were roaring and surging 
around us. Six of our boys were carrying down the volumes as 
rapidly as they could, and I, standing on the truck, was stowing 
away the books economically as to space. About that time they 
told me the Court-House bell fell down. 

It must have been about two o'clock. I never heard the bell fall, 



260 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

I was so excited. Toward the last, when we had got our indices 
all down safely, and we were trying to save other valuable papers 
and books, many of which we did save, it was stated that Smith 
& Nixon's Building was about to be blown up. Our truck was 
headed toward that building. The sky was filled with burning 
embers, which were falling around us thickly. As soon, I think, 
as the information was given that that building was to be blown 
up, the crowd rushed past us down Washington street, toward 
the Lake, terribly excited, shouting and warning everybody 
away. My driver was very nervous, and, o^ one pretext or 
another, would start his horses up for a rod or so, swearing that 
he would not be blown up for us or for the whole country ; but I 
succeeded in stopping him eight or ten times during the excite- 
ment. In the mean time, our men were coming down the stairs 
laden with our property and returning as rapidly as they could. 
I was standing on the books, packing them in the truck, and the 
embers were flying on them, and I picked them off as they fell 
and threw them into the street, until, a rod at a time, we reached 
the corner of Dearborn and Washington. Messrs. Fuller and 
Handy were the last to leave the office, and they did not leave 
until Buck & E-ayner's drug store was on fire. The store, as 
we believed, was full of chemicals and explosive matter. At that 
time the Court-House was a mass of flames, and our own build- 
ing was burning, and other buildings in the immediate vicinity 
entirely destroyed. Three of us then started with the truck for 
my house, which we reached about three o'clock that morning. I 
had our property unloaded and placed securely within ; and, after 
giving the driver and others some refreshments, I started again 
for the fire to see what aid I could give other sufferers. 

There are three abstract firms who have saved portions of their 
books. Our own firm and Chase Brothers & Co. have saved 
their indices, digests of records, judgment dockets, and tax-sale 
records complete, together with many valuable memoranda, and 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 261 

probably 130,000 pages of copies of abstracts and examinations 
of titles, which are sufficient, we believe, with the aid of proper 
legislation, to establish the title to every tract of land in the city 
of Chicago and Cook County. Messrs. Jones & Sellers, I am 
informed, have saved their books of original entries, but have lost 
their indices. They have also, I understand, saved many volumes 
of copies of abstracts made. All these valuable documents, in 
the absence of the records themselves, are a firm security for titles 
to real estate in the city and county, and are sufficient to pre- 
vent any iniquity being done. Without them we should have to 
return to the tomahawk, pre-emption, and possession. 

THE POST-OFFICE CAT. 

A sketch of the doings of the Post-office in connection with 
the fire would not be complete without a notice of the office cat. 
She (or he) had been once before burned out, and was therefore, 
in a measure, prepared for this calamity. On the night of the 
fire the cat was present and assisted in the removal, though she 
did not go herself. When the work of removing the safes was 
in progress, the tearing away of a portion of the ruin revealed 
the faithful public servant in a pail partially filled with water. She 
had rented this as temporary quarters, and apparently enjoyed 
the cool shelter which it afibrded. From her position it appeared 
impossible that she could have gone away and returned after the 
fire, and so she may be set down as the only living being who 
passed Sunday night and Mondaj^ in the burnt district. 

A little before two o'clock on Monday morning, when the fire 
M'Hs raging, G. W. Wood, Assistant Superintendent of Railway 
Mail Service and Special Agent of the Post-office Department, 
arrived at the Post-office, convinced that the building would go. 
He was, of course, aware of the responsibilities which he would 
incur in removing anything from the office ; but chose to disre- 
gard the requirements of red tape in the interests of the citizens 



262 msTOKY OF the gkeat fiees 

who would suffer by the loss of their letters. "When remonstrated 
with by a gentleman connected with the customs, he defined his 
position by saying that they might wait for an act of Congress if 
they chose, but he should do his best to save what he could. On 
this declaration of principles he proceeded to load everything 
portable into wagons belonging to the department. The force 
of men was large, the transportation ample, and the direction 
vigorous, the result being that every letter, both registered and 
common, in all the boxes and compartments of the office wa? 
hastily dumped into sacks and removed out of reach of the fire. 
All the mails in the building were rescued, with the single excep 
tion of a small one which came over the Fort Wayne road, and 
which, owing to the fact that it was four hours late, no one knew 
anything of. The registers and other matters belonging to the 
office, including the furniture in one of the private rooms, were 
also loaded in the wagons, and the whole was taken up town. 
Some of it had to be moved a second time, its first station having 
been on Harrison street; but everything eventually brought up 
in safety. On the evening of Monday, Mr. Wood telegraphed to 
Postmaster-General Creswell what had been done, and on Tues- 
da}' was instmicted by that officer to spare no expense to carry on 
the mail service as well as before. 

The work of getting out the sates belonging to the office from 
the ruins was undertaken a day or two after the fire had passed 
over, and the result was, in the main, satisfactory. There were 
some $60,000 worth of postage-stamps on hand, and these were 
rendered useless. Though not totally destroyed, they were so 
badly charred as to render their use impossible. They were for- 
warded to Washington immediately. The most valuable contents 
of the safes — the books of accounts — were found uninjured and 
in perfect order. The only exception was the cash-book, which, 
through some inadvertence, was left in a desk. 

A gentleman savs of the sufferino; : — 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 263 

'' I have jnst made a personal inspection of the condition of ISTorth 
Chicago. I entered by the northernmost of the bridges on the 
North Branch, in order to see first what was left. On my way to 
this bridge I came upon a young man, in the open lot, sitting on 
tlie ground by the side of a box of bread. Inquiring if he had 
gone into business as a baker, I found that he had been to some 
freight cars near by to procure some supplies, that his box con- 
tained meat and apples as well as bread, and that he was resting 
on account of feebleness produced by exposure after the terrible 
exhaustion of Monday. I shouldered his box and went with him 
just over the bridge to the temporary refuge which he had found. 
Besides himself there were his wife, three young children, and 
a widowed aunt with eight children, the eldest a girL He had 
had a good situation as a clerk in one of our leading dry-goods 
houses in State street, and, with his aunt, owned four small 
houses, the rent of two of which was the sole dependence of the 
widow and her eight children. The fire took all they had, except 
the clothes in which they escaped, and about fifty dollars in 
money, which the young clerk had just invested in boards to 
build a shanty on their lots in which to house the double family 
of thirteen. The chance of obtaining employment for the man 
seemed fair. He slept out on the prairie the night after the fire, 
and was nearly helpless the next day from fatigue and severe 
chills. Probably great numbers laid that night the foundation 
of ague or consumption. The Sunday night had been very warm, 
and Monday, until toward midnight, was so mild as to make sit- 
ting out not quite uncomfortable for a well person. But a sharp 
change occurred about midnight, rain came, with violent and 
very chilly winds, under which even the robust suffered severely. 
Those who had some covering found the wind too much for them, 
and many lacked even the chance to shield their wearied bodies 
from the blast, and their little ones from the chill unfriendliness 
of the dropping skies. The rain was not drenching, nor was the 



264: HISTOKY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

wind uear to freezing, but both were just at the point wliieli 
makes excessive discomfort to the hardy, and to the enfeebled is 
the touch of distant but certain death." 

A lady from St. Louis found in her rounds of mercy a mother 
and her daughter under a sidewalk. The latter had been confined 
there, and her babe was in sucli distress that the little creature's 
eyes protruded upon its cheeks. They were instantly provided 
for, but the little one could not survive the shock. The world 
into which it came was too hot just then, and not the "cold 
world " of poetry and despair. 

I am told by the physicians here tliat as many as live hundred 
cases of premature birth have been reported, and the many help- 
less mothers who gave birth to children along the Lake can be 
numbered by scores. I can only weep as I hear this terrible tale. 
One told me last night is almost too much for human heart to 
bear. The daughter-in-law of a clergyman here gave birth to a 
child in the flight along the shore, and was separated from the 
family, and neither mother nor child have been found. Another 
— a lady in the Sherman House — was carried out in tlie arms of 
her husband, the new-born babe clasped to her breast, and both 
died in the fatlier's arms before reaching a place of safety. The 
poor man, crazed with grief, was last seen along the shore of the 
Lake, with his dead across his shoulder. Again, I heard of a fine- 
looking woman in a night-dress being seen wandering along the 
Lake shore with twin babes, all of whom have died without 
recognition, and been buried by the city. These are but a few 
among the many awful horrors of that night. 

FEARFUL ADVENTURES. 

A graphic writer, not wholly reliable, liowever, says he had been 
watching the fire for hours, till at length it began to approach his 
boarding-house on the avenue, when he became seriously alarmed 
for the inmates, many of whom were helpless women, and among 



TN CHICAGO AND THE WEST 265 

them Rosa D'Erina, the Irish prima donna, who had just conclud- 
ed a series of entertainments. 

I had previous to this made no efforts to save my effects, and it 
was now too late, as I found the balcony of the house (a wooden 
one) on fire when I got down. The women were panic-stricken, 
and seemed utterly incapable of action, but we succeeded, amid 
great difficulty, in rescuing them from danger, and, along with 
them, we wended our way towards the Lake shore. But my feel- 
ings were so much excited I could not remain long in any one 
place, and I again went citywards. I walked along Adams street, 
which had up to that time escaped, and found the Academy of 
Design, situated corner of Adams and Dearborn streets, still un- 
touched. The Palmer House, on State street, a little lower 
down, also stood, and for a moment a feeling of hope sprang up 
in my breast that something might be . spared even then. But 
this was a short-lived feeling. The Honore Block, in process of 
erection by the father-in-law of Potter Palmer, caught, and now 
the Post-office, which had acted as a barrier against the progress 
of the flames eastward, was in imminent danger, and the district 
around seemed abandoned to destruction. The utmost exertions 
were made to save the mails, papers, and valuable contents of the 
office, and in a great measure, I believe, they were successful. 
Finally the Post-office caught ; but being a very solid and sub- 
stantial structure, it withstood the fire longer than any other 
which I had seen. Its interior was completely gutted, but the 
walls remain, and on Tuesday they served me as a guide through 
the ruins. Familiar as I was with the city, I could not otherwise 
have found my way. No chance now remained for the Academy 
of Design, and we mournfully watched the rapidity with which 
the fatal element was surely encircling it. It was filled with val- 
uable paintings, among others Rothermel's great picture of " The 
Battle of Gettysburg," which had been on exhibition for some 
weeks past. I heard the picture was taken out in safety, but it 



266 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

\vfis considerably darnaged, and the largest portion of the remain- 
ing paintings had to be abandoned to the fire. The building was 
not fire-proof and, being built with more regard to display than 
utility, was quickly and efi'ectually consumed. The walls toppled 
over with the heat, and fell with an awful crash, and it is feared 
many perished in the ruins who had recklessly ventured too near. 
There were a large number of valuable stores in this district, and 
they with their contents were completely destroyed. I had a 
narrow escape for my life just then, and even now I can scarcely 
realize how great the risk was. I had, in my eagerness, gone too 
near the Honore Block, when a falling timber struck me on the 
forehead and felled me to the ground. I was completely stunned 
for a moment, but the love of life was strong, and I struggled up, 
minus a hat, a loss which I soon replaced, as there were hundreds 
of them flying through the streets minus heads. I picked one up 
which made my appearance more picturesque than flattering. 
The east side of State street, towards the bridge, was now in 
flames, and the block of buildings north of Field, Leiter & Co.'s 
extensive wholesale store (the largest in the West) was being 
rapidly consumed. The employes of the house, some five hun- 
dred in number, had been busily engaged all the night in re- 
moving the most valuable portion of the goods to a place of safety; 
but the heat had become so intense that they beat a retreat and 
abandoned the immense stock to its fate. The building itself be- 
longed to Potter Palmer, and was the finest business house in the 
city. It could not be valued at less than a million and a half of 
dollars, only part of which was covered by insurance. It caught 
in the roof, and in an instant was enveloped in flames. Gunpow- 
der had previously been placed in the basement, but the fire was 
long in reaching it. At length a terrific explosion apprised the 
spectators that the end had come. The fragments were scattered 
around for blocks, wounding and maiming many persons, and 
shaking the foundations of the solid earth on which we stood. 




A rAMILY TKKfiTI'.I-Y I'tVJ.lSH OK THE EOOF OF A H 














-rK-\r OK THK ^iri.rnroi; ;:i;t<a\ 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 269 

When I opened my eyes again (which I had closed on account, of 
the flying sparks) all I could perceive was a smoking heap of 
ruins. Immediately adjoining Field & Leiter's stood the book- 
sellers' block of Chicago, in which the largest book trade in the 
West was transacted. It remained intact at six o'clock, when 
everything around it had been burned ; but the fire, which 
by this time had made its way east to Wabash avenue, ignited 
it in the rear, and it burned up like tinder, the stock, of course, 
being perfectly inflammable. The loss must have been immense, 
as, the book trade being unusually active, a tremendous stock was 
on hand. Previous to this the water- works had been burned, and 
the city was now without light or water. The water-works were, 
in the opinion of the Chicago people, the finest in the world ; but 
whether this be so or not, they were magnificent structures of 
their class, fitted up with all the modern improvements, and in 
perfect working order. When they burned, the Fire Department, 
Avhich had never rendered much service, practically ceased to 
exist, and seven of the engines were abandoned to the fire. 

The panorama was now awfully grand and magnificent, and 
presented a most imposing spectacle to those who had coolness 
enough left to appreciate the vividness of the scene. On eveiy 
side, far as the eye could reach, the forking flames were shooting 
lip, jumping entire blocks with the rapidity of lightning, filling 
the air with burning timbers, seizing fragments and inflammable 
material of every kind. The crash of falling buildings would at 
swift intervals drown all other sounds, and almost blind the spec- 
tators with dense masses of smoke, causing for a moment a dark- 
ness that could be felt. The entire northeast part of the city 
had now been consumed as far as the river, and the interest be- 
came concentrated in the southern part, towards which the fire 
was cleaving its resistless way. It was daylight, but you could 
not distinguish the difierence between day and night, as the 
streets presented the same appearance, and the atmosphere and 
16 



270 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIEE8 

heavens looked as thej had done for hours previous. Lower 
State street, south of Jackson, was one vivid blaze, the ruined 
structures belching fortli whole columns of Sre and smoke^ and in 
the midst 1 perceived the Palmer House still standing. 

I was astonished that it had held out so long. From its great 
height one would imagine that it would be one of the structures 
most liable to go, but it stood longer than others supposed to be 
completely fireproof. Its entire contents had been saved, and 
Mr. Palmer remained in the building to the last. I was told by 
a gentleman that Mr. Palmer's wife, who was waiting outside the 
building for her husband, had been struck in the building with 
a blazing fragment and severely burned. I did not see this my- 
self, but I have no doubt of its veracity, as occurrences like this 
were innumerable. When the hotel finally caught, it rapidly 
burned up, and communicated tllfe flames to St. Paul's TJniversal- 
ist Church, situated on Wabash avenue, which in its turn carried 
them further on. Adjoining the hotel were a great number of 
saloons and some of the most disreputable bagnios in the city, and 
when the dwellings cauglit it was horrifying to see the rascally 
proprietors selling liquor in the front part of their premises, and 
the rear on fire. Many of them met the fate they so richly deserved, 
the buildings falling on them before they could manage to escape. 
The burning district was now abandoned by all who valued their 
lives, and all who could reach the Lake shore, where they hoped 
to be safe. Subsequent events will prove how futile were their 
hopes. 

But I am anticipating the order of my narrative. Wabash 
avenue, adjoining the Palmer House, was principally built of 
marble blocks, which were used for the better class of boarding- 
houses. Just above, where the private residences commenced, was 
located the Farwell Block, occupied by Farwell, Hamlin & Hale, 
and other prominent merchants. It had been destroyed about a 
year ago, in the great fire ; but had been rebuilt at an enormous 



IN CHICAGO Airo THE WEST- 271 

cost, and made more magnificent than it had been at any previous 
period. I thought it might have been saved, but it was not to 
be; it seemed as if all that was valuable, costly, and noble must 
be sacrificed to the relentless and conquering element, which was 
*' monarch of all it survej^ed." I did not witness the burning of 
this block, but I was told that it burned up with a rapidity that 
was perfectly terrific. On the opposite side the boarding-houses 
commenced, and in one of them, ISTo. 159, a lady was burned to 
death before she could be rescued. The cross streets intersecting 
those running north and south were everywhere igniting, and I 
saw that everything was going to be swept clean to the Lake. 
I had by this time found the ladies of our party, and a few of us 
set to work to erect a kind of breastwork as a protection against the 
blazing fragments, which were falling thickly around. The scene 
on the Lake shore was awful in the extreme. Hundreds and thou- 
sands of people had carried what effects they had saved down there, 
in the hope of safety ; but the last hopes they entertained were gone 
when they perceived Michigan avenue, the last street east facing 
the Lake, ablaze in several places. The terror and agony became 
intense ; women were wildly screaming ; young girls, with di- 
shevelled hair and apparel all awry, could with difficulty be pre- 
vented from throwing themselves into the Lake. Children were 
seeking lost parents, and parents lost children ; wives their 
husbands, and husbands their wives. Strong men fainted with 
the agou}'^ of despair ; while high above all could be heard the 
brutal cries of wretches, who, maddened with strong drink, 
which was flowing like water, seemed bent on rapine and 
pillage in the midst of the universal dismay. I think history 
has never recorded a scene so full of all the elements of ter- 
ror and dismay ; for my part, the remembrance of it shall haunt 
me as long as I live. The breakwater became crowded with 
fugitives, and the trains of cars which were being taken from 
the Great Central depot must have caused numerous accidents. 



273 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

Many had got along the edge of the Lake and immersed them- 
selves in the water up to their waists, in the frenzy of the mo- 
ment ; and even here they were not for a moment safe. My 
position was immediately opposite Adams street, to which the fire 
had not' yet come. On the corner opposite stood the magnificent 
residence of Mr. Honore, the father-in-law of Potter Palmer. 
The next building was a Swedenborgian church, one of the 
strongest stone edifices I ever saw. So strong was it that I was 
certain the flames could not penetrate it. They did, however, 
and now our danger was great, as the fire was directly opposite to 
where we stood. We made all the precautions possible to save 
om- lives, as we knew when the fire should pass a given point we 
would be comparatively safe. We confiscated two large carpets 
which ,we found on the ground, and immersing them in water, 
placed them on the tops of chairs, and got the five women of our 
party under them. We had not a moment to lose, as the fragments 
from the church and Mr. Honore's house were rapidly coming in 
onr direction. The heat was so intense that the carpets imme- 
diately dried up, but we had pails, and as fast as they dried we 
wet them again from the Lake. I had, on leaving my residence 
the night before, put on my overcoat, and I was congratulating 
myself all the time on my forethought; but even this had to go, 
as it took fire on my person, and I had to be baptized over again, 
adopting the plan of total immersion, for I jumped into the Lake. 
My companion's pants were on fire in several places, and he had 
to do likewise, so we were both in at the same time. We got out 
again, I minus my coat and he with his pants in a tattered con- 
dition. The heat was terrific; my face was literally scorched, 
and my eyes I thought would melt out of my head, but I was 
mercifully preserved, and I weathered the storm until the fire 
passed. When the smoke had cleared a little I looked north, 
and what attracted my attention first was the Pullman Jjuilding, 
which had just caught fire. It burned to the ground in thirty 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 273 

minutes, and the great Central Depot, one of the ornaments of 
the city, adjoining Pulhnan's, was soon a living flame. It was 
occupied by the Illinois Central, Michigan Central, and Chicago, 
Burlington & Quincy Railroads, and was the head-quarters of the 
former and latter companies. Just beside were the two lai-ge 
elevators, in which were stored millions of bushels of grain ; and 
taken as it was, all in all, it was one of the most valuable 
parts of the city. The depot burned up, and along with it "hun- 
.dreds of cars of every description ; but the elevators remained 
standing entire when the depot had been utterly consumed, 
I believed them, as did every- one else, to be safe; but a new 
and unperceived danger soon attracted our attention and con- 
vinced us that we had been too premature in our suppositions. 
There was a large quantity of shipping anchored at the mouth 
of the Lake, waiting to be laden with grain from the elevators. 
No one thought of these, as it was supposed they had made their 
escape out; but it was not so, and the tall masts catching fire 
from the sparks, communicated with the nearest elevator and 
set it instantly ablaze. It made a terrific fire, auj burned 
the entire day; but, strange to say, its companion, just beside, 
escaped uninjured, and is preserved, with its immense stock of 
grain. 

The fire companies from other towns were beginning to arrive, 
but owing to the scarcity of water they could accomiplisli but 
little. In one district they did good service, however, as they 
had a supply of water from the river, and, owing to their exer- 
tions, the fire did not spread to the West Side. All the stores of 
goods which were piled up on the banks of the Lake had become 
ignited, and the entire ground was one sheet of fire; yet, in the 
midst of all, fiends in the shape of men were pursuing tlieir hellish 
trade. "Whiskey barrels, which had been rolled down, were burst 
open, and men, and even women eagerly drank the fire in liquid 
form. 



274: HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

Free fights were, iu numerous iustauces, indulged in^ and the 
ruffians, rolling over each other, were burned and trampled to 
death. We had succeeded (after paying a fabulous price for an 
express wagon) in removing our women from the scene, and they 
made their escape to the southern part of the city, where they 
were for the time being safe. I remained, as I was determined 
to see the last of the spectacle, and I made my way, along with 
a printer on the Evening Journal, to the West Side. The task 
was one of no ordinary difficulty and danger, as walls were every- 
where falling, and the ground was strewn with burning embers. 
We found the bridges gone, and could not tell how we were to 
cross the river until we met an attache of the Journal, who told 
us we could cross at Madison street, a portion of the bridge still 
standing. I was surprised to find the Pittsburg and Fort Wayne 
depot still unburnt, when the stronger built ones had perished ; 
but the fire on Saturday night had cleaned a space around it, and 
this, probably, accounted for its preservation. On reaching 
Canal street, we found that the Evening Journal had, with com- 
mendable enterprise, secured the Interior Printing House, and 
had already commenced to get up an extra, which they issued 
the same evening. My companion was called upon to work, and 
I was now left alon6, and I went on towards the Galena depot 
of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, which I could not 
find, it having been long before consumed. The freight houses 
attached to it had also been destroyed, so that wherever I went 
nothing but ruin, complete and awful, met my gaze. The fire 
seemed to have spent itself on the South Side, and as the ITorth 
Side then seemed safe, I thought I would go and endeavor ^ to 
find a place of refuge, which I did far down Indiana avenuej I 
was so blinded with the smoke and scorched with the fiames that 
the two ladies of the house could not recognize me, and it was 
with difficulty I gained admittance. I could find no water ; so I 
took a couple of pails and started for the Lake, which was more 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 275 

thai^a mile away. I could scAvcelj drag my legs after me; but 
I managed to get back, and, as it was now pretty late, I retired to 
bed, but not to sleep. The heavens were more lurid than they 
had been the night before, and 1 was at a loss to imagine the 
reason of tliis, little dreaming that the whole North Side was being 
rapidly consumed. I rose early and went north, and I shall never 
forget the sigljits I witnessed on that terrible Tuesday. When 
Twelfth street bridge was leached, the roads leading out of the 
city were ^rfectly blocked with people, hurrying away, while 
vehicles of every shape and description were engaged in carrying 
their efl'ects. Many fires were still blazing, and around Madison 
and Washington streets immense coal heaps were burning, the 
heat from which was very acceptable, as the morning was bitterly 
cold. Crowds were gathered reading 

THE mayor's proclamation, 

the first which had been issued, and a universal gloom seemed to 
have settled on all faces. 

We interrupt the story here to give this document, a full ac- 
count of its origin being furnished in the next division of this 
work. Strange as it may appear, and the fact illustrates the 
completeness of the ruin, it was not for hours that a press could 
be found on which to print the proclamation. 

The following proclamation was issued, and gave confidence : — 

" Whereas, in the Providence of God, to whose will we hum- 
bly submit, a terrible calamity has befallen our city, which de- 
mands of us our best efibrts for the preservation of order and the 
relief of the suffering, 

" Be it known that the faith and credit of the city of Chicago 
is hereby pledged for the necessary expenses for the relief of the 
suffering. Public order will be preserved. The Police, and 
Special Police now being appointed, will be responsible for the 
maintenance of the peace and the protection of property. All 



27G HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEE8 

oflScers and men of the Fire Department and Health Departq^ent 
will act as Special Policemen without fm-ther notice. The Mayor 
and Comptroller will give vouchers for all supplies furnished by 
the different Belief Committees. The head-quarters of the City 
Government will be at the Congregational Church, corner of 
West "Washington and Ann streets. All persons are warned 
against any acts tending to endanger property. All persons 
caught in any depredation will be immediately arrested. 

" With the help of God, order and peace and private property' 
shall be preserved. The City Government and committees of 
citizens pledge themselves to the community to protect them, 
and prepare the way for a restoration of public and private 
welfare. 

"It is believed the fire has spent its force, and all will soon 
be well. 

" E. B. Mason, Mayor. 
George Taylor, Comptroller. 

(By R. B. Mason.) 
Charles C. P. Holden, 

President Common Council. 
T. B. Brown, 

President Board of Police. 
" CmcAGO, Octoier 9, 1871." 

We allow our reporter to continue his sad tale : — 
The ground was so hot as to be almost unfit to walk upon, and 
in passing over it I thought of the torture of olden days, when 
wretches were forced to walk on heated metals as an ordeal for 
their real or fancied crimes. Dead bodies were being everywhere 
picked up. In one group I saw as many as thirty-eight corpses 
which had been gathered together for interment. I went over 
the ruins of my former abode, on Wabash avenue, and, while 
doing so, stumbled over something which I at first supposed to 
be a charred timber, but a nearer investigation proved it, to my 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 27^7 

horror, to be a dead body. The head, arms, and legs were gone ; 
nothing remained but the trunk. Who it was, whether one of 
the inmates or a stranger, I could not learn ; but it was there, and 
I felt a sickening sensation creep over me I could not control. 

The Mayor had issued another proclamation directing the 
closing of the saloons, but no attention was paid to it ;.the police 
made no endeavor to enforce it, and in nine cases out of ten were 
themselves intoxicated. Even had they been closed, there was 
plenty of whiskey left; barrels of it were to be found in all 
quarters, and they certainly were freely broached. I never saw 
so many under the influence of drink, and where the roughs 
came from I cannot imagine. Full as Chicago was with them, I 
had never believed she contained so many as I saw on the streets 
on Tuesday. Many had come in from other cities; every train 
was bringing its contingent, and many began to look anxiously 
for the military, as it was feared the ruftians would complete the 
destruction by setting fire to what remained. All the available 
citizens were enrolled as special constables and invested with ex- 
traordinary authority, and they did all that men could do to sub- 
due the disorderly element ; but it was beyond their power to do 
80 effectually, and outrages and rapine were hourly on the in- 
crease. As the day wore on the exodus from the city increased, 
the railroads furnishing free accommodation. All who had 
friends outside were leaving in hundreds, and long trains were 
leaving in rapid succession, carrying their loads of living freight 
to all points. As the lines had been burned up near the scene of 
the fire, passengers for the East and West had to go out to 
Twenty -second street to get their trains, and the rush and jam 
around these places was something terrific. I went to the tem- 
porary depot of the Michigan Southern and saw the afternoon 
train leave. The most pitiable sights were to be witnessed among 
the heart-broken refugees. I saw one woman, who had lost her 
child in the tire, seized (just before the train left) with strong 



'^ib HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIEE8 

convulsions, so severe that a medical man present said it was im- 
possible for her to live. She was carried to the nearest dwelling, 
but I did not succeed in ascertaining her subsequent fate. 

This was no isolated instance. Scenes like this were so numer- 
ous, that after a time they ceased to cause any surprise. The 
train, which consisted of seventeen coaches, slowly steamed away, 
and in the annals of travelling a more sorrow-stricken multitude 
was never carried by a company. 

Thus abruptly breaking off from this narrator, we introduce 
our readers to one of the professors in the Academy of Design, 
Mr. Alvah Bradish, who writes the following letter concerning 
this institution and its recent destruction : — 

To the Editor of the Chicago Tribune: 

Sm: Among the more recent and cherished institutions of 
Chicago that fell a victim to the late fire, none will be more 
missed than the Academy of Design. The artists of Chicago 
had been organized for several years, and were steadily advancing 
the cause of fine art. Within the year they had planned, and 
seen growing up under their fostering care, a most beautiful 
edifice, almost wholly devoted to art purposes. It was situated 
on Adams street, between State and Dearborn, near by the Palmer 
House, and three blocks south of the Crosby Opera House. The 
academy building had been constructed especially to meet the 
wants of the artists. It comprised eighteen studios, all of which 
had been engaged before the building was finished. It was, in- 
deed, a beautiful home for the arts, and for those who were making 
art a profession. The gallery was spacious. For fine proportion, 
for a true elevation and clear light, it was not surpassed in this 
country. The lecture room was ample, and the handsomest in the 
city ; the reception room and studios, the stair-cases, approaches, 
school-rooms, were all fitted up in a style of elegance that speedily 
won the popular favor. The Academy had been thus founded by 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 279 

an enlightened body of artists, who were animated by the true 
ambition of adding the glory of art-culture to the other distinctions 
of the Garden City. Tliese artists are mostly men of reading and 
culture. They foresaw the three essential conditions of a perma- 
nent and beneficent institution of fine art — an Acadeuiy of De- 
sign founded on principles that would insure growth, durability, 
and popular favor ; schools, life and antique, for the thorough dis- 
cipline of students; a gallery, open at all times for the display of 
the best works, pictures, and statuary ; and lectures, both opecial 
and general. No academy can stand long without the full recog- 
nition of these three conditions ; and they had been abundantly 
discussed, recognized, and established. During the past twelve 
months — the brief existence of their beautiful home — the artists 
had given numerous public receptions, and had varied their col- 
lection of pictures. They had ofiered to the public many rare 
works of the best modern masters, both American and European. 
Already the Academy had become the centre of art-attraction and 
art-culture in Chicago. Her schools, conducted by competent 
professors, had attracted a large number of pupils. Applications 
from the country and from the city were numerous for the coming 
winter. A centralized home had united the artists. They were 
working in good faith. Members of Council had, with unselfish 
enthusiasm, devoted a large portion of their time and thoughts to 
a wise administration of their trust. The younger members were 
making rapid progress in their studies, and felt the influence of a 
generous competition and the' example of such rare works as the 
gallery contained, always open to their inspection. Already the 
Academy owned some good pictures ; some f thers had been gen- 
erously given. The Scammon collection of «intiques was the gift 
of a gentleman of taste — an example that would soon have been 
followed by others. An art library was in contemplation. The 
artists were proud of their success. I can declare that no insti- 
tution in Chicago had so speedily won such general favor. Its 



280 HISTOKY OF THE GREAT FIEE8 

influence on public taste, and on the life, labor, and future of the 
artists was so manifest and so admirable, that it was universally 
j-ecognized and acknowledged, 

Mr. Rothermel's great picture, the Battle of Gettysburg, 
ordered by the State of Pennsylvania, had been on exhibition for 
two months. It was an immense canvas, sixteen feet by thirty- 
three, and was drawing crowds of admirers to the gallery. The 
attendance had boen on the increase for two weeks past, when, 
on the Saturday previous to the destruction of a great part of the 
city, the visitors numbered one thousand. The coming winter 
would have witnessed one of the rarest exhibitions ever seen west 
of New York. Many pictures had arrived. The schools, thor- 
oughly organized, would have been full ; special lectures would 
have been enlarged and continued ; and the course on the theory 
and history of the fine arts, first opened at the inauguration of the 
Academy, would have been given during the season. The leading 
artists were preparing pictures for the coming reception in No- 
vember. It should be observed that Mr. Potter Palmer was 
putting up an edifice next to the Academy, with an iron front, of 
an elegant design, to be constructed especially for art purposes, 
studios, music rooms, etc. Most of these had been already taken. 
The struggle which the artists had thus made in the noble cause 
of art in Chicago would be crowned with success ; for this new 
building would be opened through to the halls of the Academy 
proper, — thus concentrating the entire art interest and artistic 
genius of Chicago on Adams street. At this time there were a 
great many valuable works of art in the gallery and scattered 
through the studios — Drury's large and precious collection; 
Ford's beautiful Ohio wood scenes; Delhi's careful studies and 
designs ; Jenks' conscientious labors ; Elkin's world of Rocky 
Mountain studies ; Bradish's popular " Leather Stocking," his 
full-length portrait of the late Douglass Houghton, and numerous 
smaller works ; Pine's attractive group of children ; James 



IN CHICAGO AJSTD THE WEST 281 

Gookin's charming " Fairy Wedding," a gift co the Academy, 
Cogsweirs studio contained some of his best portraits. Eeed & 
Son's studio was crowded with pictures and studies. Pebble's 
studio contained numerous works of high promise. Other young 
artistSj or students, occupied rooms and pursued their studies in 
the building; so that, with these hundreds of pictures and out- 
door studies, the Academy was emphatically the centre of art- 
interest and the cherished home of the artists. 

On that memorable morning, the ninth of October, that wit- 
nessed the most dreadful conflagration of modern times, some of 
the artists were at the Academy by one o'clock. The great fire 
had only reached Clark street at two o'clock. The artists were 
not yet alarmed. At three o'clock the fire had advanced greatly 
northward on La Salle and Clark streets ; the wind was sweep- 
ing through the streets, and carrying the fierce element towards 
the Chamber of Commerce and the Court-House. By four 
o'clock the great Pacific Hotel and the iiock Island Railroad 
depot were enveloped in flames, ' Would' the new Bigelow 
Hotel and the Honor^ Block be saved? The artists, gathering 
on Adams street, waited in painful suspense. Would the wind, 
now more terrific and pitiless than ever, lull for a moment, or 
would it veer a degree north, and thus save all this portion of the 
city ? These thoughts flashed through our brains or quivered on 
our lips. Soon the Pacific Hotel— a magnificent structure, and 
nearly finished — was in ashes. The forked flames, m.ade irresistible 
by the hurricane of wind, had struck the Bigelow Block, standing 
on Dearborn street, and wrapped it in a red winding sheet in a 
moment. The atmosphere was filled with brands, cinders, com- 
bustibles, all on fire, careering through the air. The splendid 
Honore Block was seized by the devouring element, the un- 
finished roof furnishing the ready kindling, and these two stately 
blocks — the pride and ornament of a new street — faced with new 
marble, five or six stories high, were all enveloped in a few mo- 



282 HISTORY OF THE GEE AT FIEES 

ments; were penetrated and swept by the fire fiend. Though 
we knew tliat on Adams and Qnincy, Monroe and Madison 
streets, west, to the river, the finest structures had sunk before 
the blast of fire, we still clung to some hope. But the wind was 
on the increase, if possible. The writer stood for an hour close 
by, and witnessed the approach of the awful tornado, advancing 
rapidly and with irresistible strides north, but with less violence 
east, and at times hesitating to cross a broad street or strike a 
new victim. But what power could resist this hurricane of fire 
that came, as it were, in isolated sheets of flame through the 
air? The interior of these two noble structures were like appal- 
ling volcanoes that swallowed, from moment to moment, heavy 
timbers, walls, columns, as they fell inward. It was a sublime 
sight. Before this awful conflagration, in which already some of 
the most beautiful and costly structures of the city had melted 
like soft metal, the artists stood helpless in their anguish, but still 
hoping, praying, that they and their cherished home might be 
spared. A slight change in the wind would do this, for as yet 
not a building east of Dearborn street had been touched. The 
Academy was still safe; the eastern walls of the two noble 
blocks, though all luminous with interior fires, were still stand- 
ing. Especially the Honore Block, with its colonnade of white 
marble still firm, seemed to offer a solid bulwark to defend the 
more eastern portion of this part of the city. So intense was the 
heat of these edifices, all on fire from the pavement to their roofs, 
that the artists and groups that pressed forward toward Dearborn 
street to witness the sublime spectacle were obliged suddenly to 
retire and cover their faces. The south end of the Honore Block, 
struck and torn by the blast, would give way. It bent, swayed, 
and surged for a moment, and finally twisting round, as it were, 
by the insatiable embrace, toppled over, stayed a second, then fell, 
with three upper columnar stories, carrying roof and cornice, 
crushing over into Adams street, shaking the earth for many rods 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 2S3 

about. Then shot np from the wreck a column of flame, tlirough 
black smoke and cinders, that lit up the Palmer Hotel and threw 
a ghastly light on the facade of the Academy. In half an hour 
these volcanic fires liad perceptibly decreased, and the artists 
were greatly encouraoed. 

But soon the Bigelow Block became the centre of tragic in- 
terest ; for here the fires, sweeping over from the Pacific Hotel, 
now in hopeless ruin, seizing every intervening building and 
every combustible object in its way, had acquired a vehemence 
and violence most appalling. Now seemed the moment of great- 
est danger ; for the Bigelow was directly west of our block. Be- 
tween us was one brick five-story building ; the others were low 
wooden tenements. They Were like ovens, but covered by a hose 
in the hands of two colored men, who, with unsurpassed heroism, 
stood their ground. For a long time, by moistening the sides 
and roofs of these two buildings, the fires were kept at bay. 
They might burst into flame at any moment ! Now the lofty 
walls of the Bigelow Hotel were all aglow with the tire inside, 
that seemed to crackle and roar with a triumphant sound as 
everything was devoured ; the windows and archways belching 
forth tongues of red and white flame that reached nearly across 
Dearborn street. But, even up to this moment, when we saw 
the walls of the Bigelow and Honor^ Blocks still standing firm, 
though greatly shattered, the artists took courage. Tliese walls, 
that had risen like a dream of beauty under the eye of their archi- 
tect, who stood now in our midst, seemed to ofier a solid bulwark 
to the advancing enemy. Indeed, there was almost a shout of 
gladness heard from the group of artists that gathered in front of 
these torn and shattered battlements. There was a moment — 
one short moment — of congratulation and joy. It was five o'clock 
— not quite daylight. The wild ocean of fire had gone far off 
northeast. The awful destruction, the ruin, the dreadful havoc 
that followed that fierce march, cannot be told. We did not 



284 mSTORT OF the great FIEE8 

dream of its extent ; we might hope some beneficent power would 
arrest its progress. We could hear the crackling of flames, the 
hurricane that scourged every street — that sent the fierce fiend 
through whole blocks ; we could hear the distant roar, overpower- 
ing like an ocean- symphony, all near sounds. This sublime roar 
went moaning, like a storm at sea, through all the beautiful struc- 
tures on Washington and the dense blocks north to the river. 
Who shall describe the swift horror that suddenly overwhelmed 
all those beautiful homes on the J^ortli Side ? Happily, at that 
moment, we could not know of the dreadful scourge that was 
passing two miles north of us. 

In the mean time, by six o'clock, in the face of so imminent a 
danger, the artists had taken measures to save such pictures as 
could be reached. All the smaller pictures in the gallery had 
been cut or torn from their stretchers. Some of the artists were 
too far away to be present. Some, living on the West Side, were 
cut off by the intervening fire. Up to half-past six, even, there 
was hope for us ; but, before seven, some of the artists had gone 
several blocks south on State street, to make observations. The fires 
were advancing directly across Dearborn, along Jackson — the 
wind unchanged, and blowing with all its untamed violence, and 
rolling an ocean of fire over whole blocks of wooden dwellings, 
devouring everj^thing it touched. No human power could save 
now the blocks south to Yan Buren street, and we had become 
directly in range of this new danger ; for no abatement could be 
seen, but, if anything, more fierce, more insatiable, this hated 
tornado carried whole roofs, planks, windows, all on fire, directly 
over the intervening tenements. And the Palmer House stood in 
range of this fiery storm, and the Academy but twenty feet from 
its walls, and overtopped by its stately Mansard roof. What pen 
shall depict the scene that appeared to our view ? Every street 
and alley crowded with crazed, helpless fugitives; Adams and 
State, Quincy and Ja,ckson, Yan Buren and Wabash, one living, 




■^^^^V"^ ^ i 


■HHi 


M 


1^111 


■ 


^^3k<H' 


^s 



ttEPUBLIC LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY. ' MASONIC TEMPLE, DEA 

SOME OF THE RUINED BUILDINGS IN CHIC. 




ORJJ STREET. 

0. — Photographed by Thomas T. Swkeney. 



l'lJ.'-\ NATIONAL BAXK. 



rN CHICAGO AND THE WESl. 28T 

inoving, screaming mass ; helpless families ; decrepit old age ; 
infants on pillows in the streets ; ■ sidewalks erowaea with furni- 
ture, chests, glasses, bedding, horses, wagons — all in confusion, 
without order, without kindness to neighbor, and aone to direct 
or advise, but all fieeing from the brands and cinders that hlled 
the atmosphere ; rushing from block to block, weighed down by 
household goods ; driven from house to house, till they reached 
the Lake shore beyond Michigan avenue, where hundreds uf 
loads had been left or thrown on the sands. A few hours after 
this everything along the water's edge here was on fire, — the 
poor, desperate owners escaping only with their lives. 

The artists had stood bravely by their beautiful temple, ready 
to aid if, by any chance, hope could come through any eflbrts or 
sacrifice of theirs. Up to this hour when the flames crossed 
Dearborn street, the Palmer House and the group of buildings 
near by could be saved ; but when word was brought that State 
street was threatened south of us, all hope was abandoned, and 
the artists were obliged to look for personal safety. In the mean 
time, long before this hour — by seven o'clock — Mr. Eeed, our Sec- 
retary, had given orders to have Kothermers great battle-piece 
taken from its stretcher and saved from the approaching flames. 
There was ample time for this, though, in taking it down, it has 
suffered serious injury. Its great weight required several men to 
carry it out, and, in a bent, broken condition, it was taken to the 
steps of Trinity Church, Jackson street, and afterward to the uni- 
versity building, four miles south. Its subsequent fortunes for two 
weeks, to the time it was delivered to the distinguished artist who 
had designed it, may be given to the public by Mr. P. F. Reed, 
in whose charge it was. The Academy had a policy on it of 
$30,000. Such of the other pictures as were not carried by hand 
were placed on carriages and wagons. These were tied together, 
and, under the guidance of one of the artists, were moved by hand, 
by slow degrees, through the deni:e crowd, through Adams street 
17 



288 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

and Michigan avenue, often blocked and arrested bv opposing 
teams, and tlie suffering, crazed fugitives, but from time to time 
making progress, until, after infinite difficulty, the precious loads 
reached Harmon court, out of danger. By eight o'clock the wide 
area from Harrison street south, and Dearborn street west to the 
Lake, was all threatened with destruction which a few hours after 
witnessed. The writer of this, as he. saw the five or six vehicles 
loaded with their precious freight of pictures, frames, books, 
trunks, and boxes belonging to artists and others, did' not feel too 
sure they could make their way through such a confused mass o: 
human beings in a state of indescribable excitement and frenzy. 
"When the cortege passed tlie superb block known as Terrace 
row, facing the Lake, little did he think that, within two hours, 
all those beautiful homes would be levelled to the earth. Here 
lived Governor Bross, Mr. Griggs, Mr. Scammon, and other gen- 
tlemen of wealth and culture. The block was much admired for 
its stately grandeur. The next day its location could hardly be 
identified, — a shapeless mass of undistinguishable, smoking ruins. 
It might be nine o'clock, and the Palmer House was still untouch- 
ed. An imposing edifice, surrounded by an ocean of fire, its 
lofty three-storied Mansard roof, with five stories beneath it, rose 
supreme over all other buildings near by. But, soon after this 
hour, from pavement to roof it was one sheet of flame. Its walls 
swayed and trembled as the wind roared against its projecting 
portico, its windows and doorways belching forth to the north 
long spikes of red flame, forked, like ten thousand serpents, reach- 
ing out and lapping the walls of the Academy building as in hor- 
rid derision. The hotel thus covered with a sheet of flame, — its 
interior all red and dazzling with inextinguishable fires,— the 
walls of the Academy, only a few feet off, were heated, and the 
lower windows and doorways penetrated by an element as irresis- 
tible as fate. Was there any hope now left for the academy? 
Soon through its broken windows, down through its noble ex- 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 289 

panse of skylight, came the whirlwind of flames aud murky ele- 
ments, down-crushed timbers and walls, staircases, pictui-es, casts, 
— all the precious works that filled the studio^ of absent artists, 
— now all on fire, and adding intensity and grandeur to the 
whirling volcano of the interior, — a blackened burned mass of 
art ruins for one moment, then shot up a sharp, dazzling spire of 
red flame, far into the impending smoke-cloud that rolled like a 
pall over the expiring structure, as though to proclaim a savage 
triumph over the fond hopes and labors ofgenius. 

Thus perished the Chicago Academy of Design. 

From this letter it may be seen how widely the blow smote ; 
and yet, even farther than many think, were these tidings like 
deep wounds piercing. In the studio of one of our Chicago artists 
in Eome, we sat and heard the future of the Academy discussed 
with enthusiasm. Mr. Leonard W. Yolk, who stands pre-eminent 
in sculpture, and was President of the Academy, and had pur- 
chased several valuable works for its use, has been cut to the heart 
by this loss. Far from home, and among a foreign people, this 
great sculptor has wept over the disaster which has come upon 
his own fortunes, and upon the career of his cherished insti- 
tution. 

A gentleman who had been presented with an expensive 
watch, went abroad a few months since, and left this valued gift 
in his safe, in a fire-proof building. Doubtless he wishes he had 
even exposed it to all the dangers of a foreign tour, now that it 
has been so thoroughly destroyed. One who has given his life 
to the examination of shell-flsh, and had collected the materials 
of a scientific work on conchology of special value, and expected 
an appropriation from Government for the publication of his re- 
searches, has not a scratch of the pen nor the minutest shell left 
out of the conflagration. Such losses can never be replaced. In 
a great city, where everything was done by the representatives of 
all nations, there is an almost infinite variety of loss, from the toy 



'2^0 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

all along up to the Medical College with its collections cf a quar- 
ter of a century of existence. 

"The lamentable tragedy at the Kistorical Society building is 
the darkest episode of this day. The people in the vicinity of 
this edifice, confident of its strength, gathered their most valued 
possessions and crowded the cellars in assurance of perfect safety. 
Among them were citizens of note, the venerable Col. Stone and 
wife, Mr. and Mrs. Able and two daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Car- 
penter, Dr. Leai and family, with several others not so well 
known. While the frightened group were moving a trunk, the 
librarian caught sight of a flame, and shouting to the rest, rushed 
from the fatal place. The others, at least twenty in number^ 
were not seen to emerge, and there is nc doubt that they per- 
ished, as the building was soon tottering in utter wreck. The 
original copy of the Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation per- 
ished among the most cherished memorials of this Society. 

" Death came to the crowds in the open air as well as in the 
buildings. A great following of rufiians, emboldened by the 
absence of the police and half maddened with liquor, assaulted 
several saloons on the verge of the fire, and held the ground 
against the advancing flame. When the moment of need came 
they were too drunk to get away. In this portion the fire came 
on with such incredible rapidity, that mothers threw their chil- 
dren down from the windows and then leaped down after them. 
Throughout the day and night every foot of advance was a com- 
plete surprise. In Chicago avenue, a noble thoroughfare one 
hundred feet wide, the people were confident of escape, and took 
little or no precaution. Here, as on Wabash avenue, when the 
fire did come, panic aided the devastation. Thoughtless women 
piled mattrasses and fragile goods in the street, and the droppipg 
sparks took but an instant to make the avenue a glowing pathway 
of fire. The side streets were built wholly of wood, and the thin 
walls burned like shavings. This region, over by the Lake and 



IN CHICAGO AND THB WESI. 291 

the great Lincoln Park, seeiDed to offer safety. So a great rush 
•was made for the park, and the refugees made themselves com- 
fortable in the delusion of security. After ravaging to the limits 
of the city, with the wind dead against it, the fire caught the 
dried grasses, ran along the fences, and in a moment covered in a 
burning glory the Catholic Cemetery and the grassy stretches of 
the great park. The marbles over the graves cracked and baked, 
and fell in glowing embers on the hot turf. Mames shot up from 
the resting-places of the dead ; and the living fugitives, screaming 
with horror, made for a moment the ghastliest spectacle that ever 
fell upon living eyes. The receiving vault, solidly built and 
shrouded in foliage, fell under the terrific flame, and the dead 
burst from their coffins as the fire tore through the walls of the 
frightful charnel-house. In the broad light of to-day the place is 
the most ghastly I ever saw, not even Cold Harbor exceeding it 
in awful suggestiveness. Above the graves charred stones stand 
jgrim sentinels of the dead, no more memorials of anything but 
disaster. Every inscription has disappeared, and even the dead 
are robbed by the flames. The park turned into a wilderness of 
fire, the crowds doubled backward and made for the avenues 
leading westward and to the south, to reach which they must 
•cross the river. Many of the bridges were in flames — the rest 
were already choked with the heavy wagons which, tearing the 
way through, cruelly aggravated the distress of the thousands ot 
foot-sore women and weary men. Fully 30,000 people were 
afoot in this quarter, and this mass densely wedged into barri- 
caded streets between trampling horses, kept up a ceaseless 
stream far into the night. With the night new volumes of flame 
shot out on the air, and new crowds were hurled among tlie 
flying masses. There was no hope of saving the city : the 
struggle was simply for life. Half-clad women fled moaning 
through the streets, and at this time, it is asserted, robberies were 
-perpetrated in some of the remote private residences. A vast 



292 IIISTOEY OF THE GlffiAT FIRES 

throng readied the prairie, and sunk exhausted on the ground ; 
^ht' a;ir was filled with a torrid heat, and even at this great dis- 
tance immense particles of cinders fell in showers. The dread- 
ful agony of separated families came to add its horrors to the 
calamity. Babies were found alone in the multitude, and count- 
less little people crept about crying wildly for their parents, A 
blessed rain came down slowly, and the fire, stayed in its ad- 
vance, rolled backward and flamed up with greater fierceness in 
the immense coal piles in the very centre of the town. Then a 
new agony came upon the people. The only untouched portion 
of the town was brilliantly illuminated, and for a time it seemed 
as though not a roof was to be left in the great city. 

" The first victims were the poorer classes, and as they were 
driven from their burning homes they hurried with the goods they 
had been able to save (or to steal) to the eastern and southern parts 
of the city, as if with an instinct that the fire must fall back be- 
fore the stone and brick palaces of the rich. Thus the lower end 
of Wabash avenue became choked with the debris of disaster 
and flight. Cursing men, shrieking women, and terrified horses 
stumbled over the streets and sidewalks, pursued by the tempest 
of flame and the scorching blast of heat which swept on from 
the centre of the city. For one awful moment the whirlwind 
rushed through the beautiful avenue ; but, happily, at Congress 
street its ravages were stayed. How shall any one forget that 
extraordinary scene, where the horrible and the ludicrous, the 
mournful and the grotesque, mingled like the visions of a night- 
mare ? Ladies half-clad, but loaded with heavy burdens, rushed 
madly from those luxurious houses, and joined the liideous 
throng of the struggling poor, inextricably entangled with wagons 
and horses, and trampled by thieves and outcasts. Some had 
just put on all their finery to save it. Many wero almost naked. 
Kot a few carried infants nursing at the breast, and a great many 
were hugging lap-dogs. Tipsy men, fantastically clad, made 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 293 

ribald jokes upou tlie fugitives. Families ^vlio had been iucky 
enough to get trucks to cart away their valuables and bric-a-brac, 
sat disheartened on top of the load., Parties interrupted m tlie 
midst of a carouse ran madly about, too drunk to know what it 
all means. All the wliile the motley throng pushed frantically 
southward. The weak were thrown down by the press and trod- 
den under foot. For hours and hours the panic hegira continued, 
pushing out towards the prairie. From Monday morning at day- 
light th§ fear was for life, not for property. In this dire extremity 
the greed of man added to the horror of the scene. Drivers of 
carts and carriages crowded over from the divisions of the city 
presumed to be safe, and demanded outrageous rates for the 
slightest services. Yet it is to be said to the credit of human na- 
ture that hundreds of honest men turned out heartily to aid their 
more unfortunate neighbors. In all the horror of this southward 
pressure there was a continual stream of curious people from the 
distant regions crowding eagerly forward to see the vast illumi- 
nation. The counter-currents, as they met, caused friglitful mis- 
haps and confusion. Men and women, maddened by the red ter- 
ror behind, fought ferociously for a pathway to safety. Near each 
church vast masses were assembled with a sort of assurance of 
safety in those sacred precincts. Presently ruuior came that it 
had been resolved to fight fire with fire. Laird Collier's church 
was to be blown up, and the dense crowd in the vicinity broke 
frantically for a new refuge. 

" Late in the morning the people of the Korth Division were 
involved within the sudden horror of fire and death. A great 
crowd had assembled at one of the avenues leading to the burn- 
ing region, wliere the close approach of the fire moved the 
bridgemen to turn the draw. The move was of not the slightest 
avail. The fire lapped the slender wood-work in the vicinity, 
leaped lightly from bank to bank, and before the bewildered 
people could make a movement toward safety they were help 



.294 HISTORY or the great fires 

lesfily environed b}' raging walls of fire, the Lake rolled lazily be- 
yond them, and with one impulse the great crowd made for its 
shelter, and buried themselves in sand and water. This scene 
was simultaneous with the Wabash avenue stampede." 

In illustration of the excitement that robbed some of their 
senses, and made them do the thing they did not care to do, and 
leave undone Avhat they ought to have done, we mention the case 
of a lady who gatl^ered her silver into a basket to place it in her 
husband's safe, as they could scarcely bear it away with them 
without danger of losing it. When she came to the -moment of 
depositing the valuables, she took instead of the silver a pin- 
cushion, worth half a dollar, placed it carefully inside, closed the 
safe, and ran out of the house. The safe preserved everything it 
contained, and the lady now possesses her pin-cushion as a relic of 
the Great Fire. Truly it must be considered a costly reminder 
of the agony and fright of that dreadful morning. 

We have heard of people becoming so upset in such a moment 
as to throw mirrors out of the window and carry cook-stoves down 
stairs with particular care. In such heat it was difficult to keep 
cool. Men 3ntered their stores in the rear, and before they could 
open their safes they were driven out of the front door by the 
pursuing flames. It became then a race for life, and sometimes 
the fire proved too swift for the unfortunate fugitives. Horses 
grew frantic, and refused to move until a blanket or robe was 
wrapped about their heads to hide the fearful glare. 

A mother, escaping with her babe clasped to her bosom, sud- 
denly plunged from the darkened staircase into tlie blaze of the 
approaching fire. Her darling, terrified and shocked by the quick 
flood of light, and partaking the mother's alarm, made one quiver- 
ing motion and died in her arms. This was worse than loss of 
home. What a burden did that mother bear through the horrors 
of that conflagration ! 

A business man, who had seen his buildings and machinery sink 



IN OHIOAGO AIJE THE WEST 295 

into asnes, aud a prosperous ousiness disappear in an hour, was 
summoned a few weeks afterwards to bury a new-born babe. He 
was a strong man, to whom tears were strangers But when he 
communicated the sad news to his pastoi, he exclaimed in the 
midst of sobs and weeping, " Oh, this is our first great sorrow. 
The loss of property is nothing; but our little one is gone, and I 
feel so sorry for my poor wife." 

A business man, watching by the couch of his dying wife, knew 
that his books and papers were all burning ; but he stirred not 
from her side, and ere the embers were cold amidst the ruins of 
his marble store, he saw the remains of his companion lowered 
into the grave. Everything seemed to combine to crush him, but 
he bore np like a Christian hero. 

A clerk of the Court, who muist be a man of kind heart, since a 
merciful man is merciful to his beast, put his cats in a bag, and 
tied a string around the neck of his dog, and thus laden sought 
safety in swift flight. Another clerk of the Court, having put all 
things in order for removal, was about to leave his house, when 
his little rat-and-tan dog sprang from his perch and clasped his 
legs around the neck of his master, and there clung like a child, 
and thus was saved. He too perceived the danger, and loved his 
life too well to be sacrificed without a struggle. Doubtless dumb 
animals felt the horrors of that woful night as well as human 
beings. 

As an instance of the sagacity of the dog, so often observed and 
justly celebrated, a gentleman fleeing before the flood of fire ran 
down a street across which the flames were already pouring in 
torrents, when his faithful dog began to bark and jump up upon 
him, and hinder his advance in the fatal direction. The master 
at length perceived the animal's purpose, and stopped to take a 
view of the course before him, when he was able to discern the 
danger of further progress, and turned in time to escape by 
another way. In a bank vault under one of the great buildings 



■2d6 HI8T0KT OF THE GREAT FIKES 

tliat fell befpre the blast of heat, a mouse was discovered safe and 
lively, without the smell of fire on it. This relic may hope to 
become one of the " lions." 

The President of the Illinois Central Railroad, arriving early 
npon tlie scene, found that he could not reacli his family on the 
North Side by the bridges, and, after arranging for the safety of 
freight-cars, books, papers, and other property, he employed a tug 
to convey him down the river, out into the Lake, and so along the 
shore till he could gain a landing, and thus access to his wife and 
children. , But the fearful smoke and he.it made the attempt a 
failure, and he returned bewildered and almost crazed by anxiety 
and the horrors of the time. He put every machinery in motion 
for the purpose of ascertaining the fate of those dear to him, and 
on Tuesday, at four in the afternoon, he learned that they were all 
safely housed in Evanston. How many happy meetings like this 
occurred within that mournful week of the fire ! 

A gentleman, living near the corner of La Salle and Madison, 
started early at the commencement of the fire to relieve his 
brother in-law, near whose home it began. At midnight he has- 
tened back, fearing the progress of the devastating element, to 
provide means of escape for his own household. When he ar- 
rived within two blocks of his late dwelling, all was gone in 
smoke and flame. They had been in the very central line of fire, 
and now where were his wife and four children ? Scouring Madi 
son street, he at last discovered his wife seated on her trunk in a 
doorway., and disconsolate as ever wo^nan was. His joy upon 
seeing her was swept away by the information that the children 
had gone north by La Salle, while she went east down Madison. 
The eldest, a girl of eighteen, had taken in charge the three boys 
and two trunks full of clothing, and sought escape or protection 
with a friend at the mouth of the tunnel leading to the North 
Side. Leaving his wife in a place of supposed safety, the anxious 
father engaged a man to go round the blocks where they might be 



LN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 297 

expected to have fled for refuge, while he also sought for them 
where he hoped tliej might be. He was compelled to return, 
baffled and disappointed. Removing his wife and the trunk still 
further, he stayed and fought the fire till the water-supply failed, 
and then they joined the procession marching along the avenue 
southward out of the range of the fire, now rising {igain into 
uncontrollable fury. The crowd seemed orderly, solemn, and 
composed. Ladies of wealth and position were blackened by 
Boot and dust, many of them dragged trunks by their handker- 
chiefs fastened into the handles, or carried bundles or boxes. All 
were intent on saving their lives and something besides from the 
general wreck and ruin. 

The purpose of those whose fortunes we are describing was to 
gain the "West Side by way of Twelfth street bridge, and then to 
seek a refuge with old friends. There they hoped to meet the 
children if they were yet alive. Twelve mortal hours elapsed 
before this worthy couple rested under the hospitable roof of 
their friends on Park avenue. Their children were not there. 
Their hopes were dashed, and whither to turn they knew not. 
The father, almost frantic, returned to the scene of desolation, 
hurried from place to place, made inquiries of all his friends, and 
got no tidings of his lost ones. At night he turned homewards 
with a heavy heart. But upon reaching the threshold, there 
were the gleaming faces of his loved children. Two hours after 
he left the house of his friends they had appeared, bag and bag- 
gage. Their story was one of romantic interest. When the 
alarm of approaching peril roused them, the women wakened the 
other members of the family. With great difficulty they got 
their colored servant sufficiently wide awake to realize the situa- 
tion. They at once resolved to save their best clothing, and the 
boys were dressed up in their Sunday best. They loaded them- 
selves down with whatever apparel they could get on their per 
sons. Tlie mother wore away several skirts, and both were ar- 



298 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

rayed in their finest silks. They also filled three trunks, and 
throwing their beds over the piano to save it from water in case 
the engiues should deluge the house, they bade adieu to their 
home. The mother took one direction and the children the other, 
in hopes that between the two routes one would prove to be safe. 
They did* not then apprehend the magnitude of the danger, nor 
conceive that the gigantic blocks could be melted by the flood 
that was sweeping across the city, driven by the hurricane. The 
young lady bethought herself )f the sewing-machine, and found 
two men willing to aid her in its removal. Back she went with 
her noble helpers. One of these had a wooden arm, which he 
lost without knowing it at the time, in aiding her to save the 
machine. Driven from the refuge she had hoped to be secure, 
at the mouth of the tunnel, she found a milk-wagou, and got her- 
self and the boys and their rescued property conveyed to the 
North Side. The driver proposed to stop at his residence, be- 
lieving it to be out of danger. But the young woman said no, 
and induced him to convey them still further. When he finally 
returned to his home, after they had been disposed of, he saw only 
its smoking embers. So fast had the demon wrought ! 

Supposing themselves secure in their distant retreat, they be- 
gan to think of father and mother. Soon, however, the tidings 
came that their refuge was threatened, and they were about to 
load up for a retreat still further north, when the heroine be- 
thought herself of her West Side friends, and hiring a dray, she 
packed the goods upon it, and for ten dollars she and the children 
and property were conveyed to their asylum, which they reached 
some time in the afternoon. And at night the family were re- 
united, glad and thankful, even though they were homeless and 
almost like beggars, upon the verge of winter. 

A white-haired Scotch lady, who was taken from the fiery 
furnace, aud barely saved, said that her father's picture, an 
oil painting, and her mother's Bible, were consumed, and her 



ESf CHICAGO AND THF WEST. 



eyes became moist and her voice choked, as she added, " These 
are the things that trouble me most." Choice mementoets of 
those dear to her heart, never to be replaced, were more precious 
than jewels and velvets. Oh, the diabolical energy of this fiend, 
which spared nothing sacred, nothing cherished, and smote, 
with hnman bodies, the idols of the lieart, and reduced to ashes 
fondest memorials of the past ! Bridal gifts presented to 
those who were about to l^ecome brides, and nuptial offer- 
ings half a century old, were all melted and dissolved without 
mercy. And some who had expected to approach tho 
altar in gorgeous array, stood up in calico, and were adorned 
with paper flowers. Doubtless they were as happy in these 
simple fixings as if they had been peers of Solomon in all his 
glory. Yet some courage was necessary on the part of those who 
plighted their faith and took upon them the yoke of matrimony 
amidst the ruin of their fortunes and prospects. And common 
sacrifices and struggles will knit them into closer and tenderer 
fellowship. 

Among the peculiar losses by this fire were heir-looms long 
held in families as sacred treasures, and never to be restored. 
Their value was inestimable to those who had them in charge. 
A man of gray hairs, describing to his pastor the events of 
that fearful morning when they were hurried out to escape 
personal injury, said that they seized in their haste things 
least valuable, and left other articles that money could not buy 
or replace, " There was my father's picture, the only one ownod 
by any of the family relations. It was forgotten and lost." As 
lie uttered these words his voice faltered, and he broke down in 
tears. 

A German musician of splendid abilities, who had lately come 
from his fatherland with his wife and five children, was driven to 
the prairie, where they lay out two nights exposed to the autumn 
blasts and dews without protection. His loss of personal effects 



300 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

was almost entire, and beggary stared him in the face; but kind 
f-ieuds sought him out and relieved their necessities with abun- 
dant supplies. There was one thing no hand of mercj' and 
charity could return. He had brought with him a violin three 
hundred years old, for which Ole Bull had offered the family 
three thousand dollars, and been refused. It was a darling 
of the artist's heart, and when he feared lest it would suffei- 
harm in the flight out of the flames, he resolved to bury 
it in the yard, and did so. Ordinarily such a precaution 
would avail much, even if the earth was but slightly piled 
above it. But, alas! the precious wood was consumed by the 
fierce heat, and he found, upon returning for his treasure, only 
charred remnants. Who can ever describe or enumerate the 
losses of this kind in such a sweeping, all-consuming conflagra- 
tion, which allowed so little time for reflection or action ? 

A gentleman who owned a choice librarj' ordered the express- 
men to load up with books. When another team came for its 
load, the question was, What shall we bring out? The answer 
came, " Books ! " And so he saved his whole collection, and has 
them intact, wbile all else was lost. 

Other men employed all the hands they could find to roll 
out their liquor casks and save this fiery fluid, wliose ruinous 
effects are worse than those of flame, because they burn up men's 
souls, and involve them in other evils than those which end with 
time. 

, Some ladies resolved to secure their best clothing, and accord- 
ingly dressed themselves up in silks and velvets and jeweby, 
even putting on several skirts and dresses in order to carry away 
as much as possible by their only means of conveyance. 

It was the only thing possible to many to remove their fami- 
lies, and then they were " saved, yet so as by fire." One man 
brought from an upper story his aged mother, and left her stand- 
ing upon the sidewalk, while he hastened back for his sick wife. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 3Ul 

Upon reachiiig the rendezvous, the poor man missed his mother. 
The flame and smoke and confusion were so great that he had but 
a moment to search for her, and was obliged to fly and leave the 
spot. He never looked upon that venerable form again. She 
was lost, and perished. 

A gentleman in one instance was coming down the steps of his 
house, in perfect safety for the moment, as he supposed, when a 
vast sheet of flame whirled down over the whole building, striking 
him to the ground, and only not making an end of him because it 
was lifted up for a moment by a gust of fresh air, under cover of 
which he staggered away. A saddle-horse just left unhitched be- 
fore the door dropped in his tracks with no attempt to get away, 
and died almost instantly. A house-owner went for a wagon and 
assistants, expecting to have ample time to remove all his goods ; 
when the wagon was procured he found that it was hopeless to 
attempt so much; then he made up several bundles, only to find 
that the larger of these must be left behind ; then the bundles 
first carried out were set 'on fire by the shower of sparks in the 
street, and the last man coming out was smitten down, as I have 
related, on the very steps ; so that the party not only did not save 
their goods, but barely escaped with their lives. Remembering 
that in very many cases the getting away the family was similarly 
interrupted, some idea may be formed of the terrible fashion in 
which people were surprised and almost swallowed up. In the 
case of a family particularly known to me, the lady looked out of 
her window to get a glimpse of what she had heard of as a fire 
two miles off, and before she could summon her household and 
get on her clothes her house was in flames. She got away herself 
half dressed, with but a wrapper hastily snatched, as she hurried 
her little ones into the, street. This was before day on Monday ; 
but during that forenoon of flying terrors, groat numbers had 
equal difficulty in getting out, after discovering imminent danger 
where it was supposed no danger existed. I have learned definitely 



vL 



302 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

since mj last, that Kobert Collyer and his family made their first 
removal to his church, then a second to the house of a friend 
several blocks west and a little north, where there was supposed 
to be no danger, and thence they were driven in a short time to 
find refuge eventually in the son's cottage, on the remote edge of 
the city, at a point where something was spared. 

child's RELIC. 

A child of seven years went, at five in the morning, to her 
church, which was likely to be burned, and looked for some ar- 
ticle which she might save. Her younger sister stole away with 
her, and they both fixed on the communion-service as the most 
valuable and precious thing they could carry. This had been 
purchased by special contributions, and was sacred in the chil- 
dren's eyes. The plates and cups were taken charge of by the 
eldest, and the fiagon by the youngest. Out into that cloud of 
smoke and dust these heroines marched in that early twilight, and 
they faced it four hours — the younges't, meanwhile, having lost 
her burden, and become separated from her sister. Three days 
after the fire the father found the eldest child, and she still clung 
to her treasure, and would give it to no one but her minister. 
Such an instance of pious love and devotion to the sanctuary has 
hardly an equal in the annals of time. Both these dear girls 
were dearer than ever to the father's heart, and we trust God 
himself looked on them with a smile. 

The greater part of the fire in the North Division occurred 
after daylight on Monday, and the spectacle presented in that 
quarter was such as would be presented by a community fieeing 
before an invading army. Every vehicle that could be got was 
hurrying from the burning district loaded with people and their 
goods. Light buggies, barouches, carts, and express-wagons were 
mingled indiscriminately, and laden with an indescribable variety 
of articles. Others were hurrying to the scene from curiosity, or 




METHODIST CHURCH BLOCK. FIRST PEESBYTEEIAN 

SOME OF THE RUINED CHURCHES OF CHIC 





^^^ 




^^^^^J 


E- 


-ROMAN CATHOLIC. 




■ 1 



ST. JAMES'S CHTmCH-EPISCOPAL. 




[jrch— south side. second presbyterian chijrch. 

>.— Photographed by Wujjam Shaw, Chicago. 



-4- 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 305 

to complete the work of rescuing friends and property before the 
monster could destroy theuj. 

People crowded the walks, leading children or pet dogs, carry- 
ing plants in pots, iron kettles not worth ten cents, or some value- 
less article seized in the excitement ; many looked dolefully upon 
the lurid clouds, still far away, and wondered whether they and 
their homes were in danger ; and others looked as though they 
had spent the night in a coal-pit or a fiery furnace. There was 
Buch '' hurrying to and fro " as the world seldom sees, with univer 
sal agony and distress. 

A gentleman on the train with several of our merchants going 
home from New York, says : 

A wretched cripple came into the train with a doggerel petition 
asking for aid to put him on his legs again. " Just our affair," 
they laughed ; " we're all cripples together ; " but they showered 
the " stamps " upon him, which he received with all the surly 
discourtesy of his race. Then they began to ask each other where 
they would put up, facetiously mentioning the burned hotels. 

" Is the Pacific open ? " asked one. 

'' Yes, at the top," said another, and the jest was highly rel- 
ished. 

At Laporte a man came ou board, of whom one of the passen- 
gers asked : " How about my house ? " 

" Burned," was the reply. The next question consisted merely 
of a searching glance, and the answer was, " She's all right at our 
father's ; we got your papers out of the safe this morning ; they 
are all right, too." 

" Well," said the merchant coolly, " when a man has his wife 
and his papers, what more does he want ? " 

A CHICAGO man's GOOD FOKTHNE. 

The first man I met on leaving the train was the Hon. L. 
Swett. I asked if he was one of the few fortunates. He smiled 

18 



306 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEEe 

and nodded. I congratulated him on the safety of his house. 
" Oh ! that's another matter ; my house is gone, but my wife and 
children were saved." This spirit is too common to be remarked, 
yet when you compare it with what you see among other people, 
it seems very admirable. 

A druggist came to me one day in Madrid, half insane because 
he had bought a soda-fountain which he could not work. He 
tore his hair, bit his fingers, and called down maledictions on his 
birthday, because he saw $300 in danger of being lost. "My 
ducats and my daughter ! " A Chicago man is very fond of 
his daughter, if he has one ; if not, he is equally fond of his 
neighbor's daughter. As for dncats, he likes the gaining of them 
remarkably well ; but when he loses them, he thinks much less 
of them than of those he intends to gain. 

The gloomiest man on the train was the representative of a 
great New York house, which had large credits in Chicago. 

Potter Palmer left home on Sunday night worth many millions ; 
despatches reached him at every station on his way East, and 
every despatch announced the loss of a fortune. But he did not 
tear his hair, nor did he speak disrespectfully of the day he was 
born. He doubtless thought very vigorously how he was to go to 
work to get back those millions. 

A lady who resided on the North Side, thus gives her experi- 
ence : I do not speak or write of this terrible event as one who 
has only listened to the report that flew from lip to lip, but as 
one who stood face to face with death, and counted the leaden - 
footed hours ^s they dragged by their endless length, and prayed 
for the coming of the morn — that morning whose dawn was to re- 
veal only more clearly than the lurid glare of the flames had done, 
how wide-spread was the ruin that the flre had wrought. I had at- 
tended service at St. James, and returning, retired early to rest. 
At twelve I was awakened by some of the boarders in the house 
coming in from the fire, and passing through the hall up to their 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 307 

•rooms in the storj above mine. M,y room was on the south side 
of the house, and the light shone through tlie shutters and fell in 
red bars on the opposite wall. I sprang up and looked from the 
window. The fire was a mile or more away, but the roar of the 
flames and the crash of falling buildings could be plainly heard, 
while a meteoric shower of sparks filled the air, and cinders fell 
like snow around us. The wind was blowing very hard, and con- 
Btantly increasing. At one o'clock footsteps were heard hurrying 
through the house, doors opened and shut, and anxious faces 
peered out to ask, " What of the night." At two o'clock a mes- 
sage was sent the round of the rooms, " Pack your trunks." The 
fire was rapidly nearing us. At three, the order came to " bring 
out the baggage " — human strength was in vain — human power 
was as a thing of nought — human ingenuity or courage was 
powerless before that angel of destruction whose red torch lay at 
our doors. The fire could neither be controlled nor checked. 
The gas, already burning low, went out, and with a terrible, op- 
pressive sense of the impending danger, we went outside the 
door, and sat down on our trunks, wher« they were piled await- 
ing transportation to a place of safety. Our house, 364 and 366, 
was in the centre of the last block of buildings at the east end of 
Ohio street. Beyond that was a space of unimproved ground 
about two blocks in extent, then a large lumber yard, then the 
beach and the Lake. Opposite us was a fine block of buildings, 
consisting in part of the residence of H. M. Miller, the well- 
known jeweller, and a large first-class private boarding-house. 
Like our own, it was the last block, and beyond it the unim- 
proved ground spread down to the water. Upon this space our 
trunks were placed, but the heat and the falling cinders soon 
drove us down to the beach, to the very water's edge. 

There we again sat down, only, as it proved, to wait the com- 
ing of the hungry flames. At five o'clock, all that was left of 
what had been our pleasant home, was a heap of iron, brick, and 



308 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

ashes ; and even while we congratulated ourselves upon our per- 
sonal safety, and jested lightly about a " tent on the beach " foi 
a temporary local residence, the cry was heard, " The lumber-yard 
is on lire ! " It was only too true. Like flashes of lightning from 
the breast of some purple cloud, fire leaped forth red-tongned 
from a score of points, then a broad sheet of dancing flames and 
flying cinders; and in a moment more the heat from the dry, 
seasoned pine lumber was intolerable. N"o pen can do justice to 
the scene that ensued. No imagination has power to picture the 
sickening details. No tongue can conyey to another an idea of 
its horror. As far as we could see to the north, the beach was 
covered with goods of every description. The household gods of the 
rich and the poor lay side by side, and the millionaire and laborer 
sat down together to guard them. If death is a leveller, what 
less can be said of a calamity like this ? The lady who yesterday 
rolled by in her carriage with her coachman in livery, or who 
held her silken robes daintily aside, while some child of poverty 
crept humbly by in rags, hushed her own bitter lament to speak 
soothing and gentle, but groundless words of hope and encour- 
agement to the homeless wretch by her side. The sparks fell 
amidst the piles of bedding and clothing around us ; fire broke 
out in every direction, and we were compelled to abandon every- 
thing, and fly as fast as our weariness would permit, toward the 
North Pier. What hand guided our flight, only the heart that 
is stayed upon its Maker, knows; — surely it was not reason, for 
that seemed to have utterly forsaken the mass of humanity that 
fled, amidst groans, and tears, and curses, and prayers, the neigh- 
ing of frantic horses, the lowing of frightened cattle, the yelping 
of dogs, and the cries of cats that were half consumed by the fire 
while they yet lived. Neither the weakness of age nor the help- 
lessness of infancy were sacred in that hour when all were despe- 
rate. Suddenly, while we pressed on in our mad wild flight, a 
shriek — a woman's shriek — freighted with inexpressible agony, 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST 309 

rang out on the air, rising above the Babei-like confusion that 
surrounded us, and, looking back, I saw a sight that chilled my 
blood, even in that moment when our terror was so intense as 
almost to preclude the possibility of another sensation. A pair 
of powerful horses rendered uncontrollable by the heat and smoke 
and confusion, had thrown down a boy of six or seven years of 
age, and the heavily-laden dray to which they were attached 
passed over his head, killing him almost instantly. The mother 
sprang forward and caught up her child, and, with the mangled 
and bleeding head pressed to her bosom, gave expression to her 
sorrow in most heart-rending cries, that rose, shriek upon shriek, 
as she staggered on with her lifeless burden. Scorched by the 
intense heat, suffocated by the dense smoke, blinded by the 
sand and ashes and cinders, the crowd pressed on. Alas for 
him or her who fell by the way ! There was a cry, a groan, and 
the tidal wave of humanity swept on, and all was over. 

Our flight was stopped at last by the river. Kind hearts had 
devised means to aid us, and kind hands drew from shore to 
shore a dry dock laden with its living freight. I crossed with 
the first, and climbed from the dock to' a schooner, thence to 
the shore, and then, over piles of hewn timber, over heaps of 
stone, and bricks, and rubbish, — how, is known but to Him who 
has promised that " as thy day is, so shall thy strength be." 
Three or four steamers lay moored at the North Pier that had 
come into port during the night, and our party went on board 
the Alpena, while others went on board the Morning Star and 
the Corona, and as many as could be were taken off by schooners 
and tugs, but yet the majority were left upon the beach. Soon 
the flames spread to the shipping ; several schooners were burned, 
then the flames were seen bursting from the windows of the 
steamer Navarino, and the miserable refugees who had sought 
phelter here fled panic-stricken from this new danger. For a 
time it seemed that our own boat must share the same fate, for 



Jr- 



310 mSTOBY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 



she was aground, with her fires out, and only the ahnost super- 
human eiTorts of her officers saved her. At nine o'clock we were 
safely anchored in the Lake, and the doomed city was hidden 
from our sight by the pall of smoke that enveloped it. We 
secured a state-room, and the three ladies and two children who 
made our party crowded into the berths, where we tried in vain 
to rest our throbbing temples and weary limbs. The day wore 
slowly by, and as the gray shadows of the early dusk crept over 
us, I went out on the deck to take, what it seemed then, must 
be my last look at Chicago. The long, low stretch of shore lay 
spread out before us, and as far as the eye could reach was an 
almost unbroken line of lurid, cruel fire. To the north and to 
the south the flames leaped, and swayed, and surged like hungry 
fiends. The wind still blew a perfect tornado, and, in spite of 
two anchors, our boat rocked to and fro on the wild waters, like 
a spirit that could not rest. One long look of sorrow and de- 
spair ; one long look of bitter, unavailing regret for her fate ; 
one long, sad, unspoken look of farewell to the Queen of the 
West, that peerless city that was being tried as by fire, and I 
turned to enter the cabin, when a group attracted my attention. 
In the centre was a woman who, under other circumstances, 
must have been very beautiful, crouching upon the floor, with 
her white hands fast locked together. Her great brown eyes 
were tearless, but eloquent with their dumb woe, and ever and 
anon moans burst from the quivering lips that spoke no word of 
the sorrow that had almost unseated her reason. They told me 
she was the mother of three little children ; the youngest a babe 
of a few weeks old. 

Her husband had gone out in the night and had not returned, 
and when the fire drove her from her home, she started down the 
beach with the crowd, a little nurse girl, herself, a mere child of 
a dozen or fourteen years, assisting in the care of the children. 
One of them had fallen, and being injured, she had put her babe 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WKST. 3U 

in the nurse's arms to be able to better assist the child, when the 
crowd pressed forward, and before she could recover herself she 
was parted from her helpless little brood. Back and forth 
through the throng she had run, calling aloud for them to come 
to her, until exhausted, when, she could not tell how, she had 
come upon the boat. Frantic with suspense as to the fate of her 
husband and children, she paced the cabin through the long cold 
night, and her moans and the sullen plash of the waves, as they 
broke against the boat, mingled with my dreams, as in imagina- 
tion I lived over again the scenes of that terrible night and day. 
At midnight sufficient rain had fallen to subdue the fires, already 
partially exhausted, and when the bleak, cold morning broke we 
looked upon a scene of desolation such as never was seen before 
in the New World. We had partaken of no food since our late 
Sabbath dinner, the Alpena having no stores on board, and in- 
deed the excitement had stimulated us to that extent that it is 
improbable that even the nectar or ambrosia of the gods w^ould 
have tempted us to break our fast, or that the royal banquets of 
Cleopatra would have provoked a thought of hunger ; but now a 
sickening faintness crept over us, and we were weak and worn. 
At eleven o'clock Captain Samuel Shannon, of the propeller 
" Toledo," came into port and visited the Alpena, and learning 
the facts, invited us, with a seaman's proverbial generosity, to 
come upon his boat and eat a warm breakfast, to which he had 
the satisfaction of seeing full justice done. At noon we left the 
boat and once more trod the streets of that city whose wealth, 
and prosperity, and luxuriant growth had been the pride of the 
world, as well as the marvel of the age. But now, shorn of her 
glory by one fell blow, she sat, a queen indeed, but a queen 
whose emblems of royalty were broken, whose robes of Tyrian 
purple trailed in the dust, whose shapely limbs were swathed in 
sackcloth, whose feet were buried in the ashes of her ruined 
palaces. Yet with all our hearts we did her homage, for the 



-H 



812 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



world of earth and air and water were her emv:>ii'e. and her throne 
was as enduring as the blue Lake that lay Defore her. 

A wholesale grocer, residing on the North Side, was absent 
from the citj. His wife, a delicate woman, finding the flames 
suddenly upon her house, snatched up a silver cake-basket and a 
valuable little clock, took one of ner two children in her arms 
and another by the hand, and fled. As she sped before the pur- 
suing Are, slie found her strength failing, and begged the driver 
of a passing express wagon, lightiy laden, to help lier in her ex 
tremity. He would for the clock. She submitted to the exac- 
tion, was carried three blocks, and then forced to get down. The 
cake-basket bought her another ride of about the same aistance, 
and then she was forced to finish her flight on foot, her means of 
satisfying the rapacity of drivers being exhausted. Finally, more 
dead than alive, she reached a place of safety. 

On Monday evening a knot of men, from 35 to 40 years of 
age^ stood on Michigan avenue, watching the fire as it fought its 
way southward in the teeth of the wind. They were looking 
grimy and dejected enough, until another, a broad-shouldered 
man of middle height, a face that might have belonged to one 
of the Cheeryble brothers, shining through the overspreading 
dust and soot, approached them, and clapping one of their num- 
ber on the shoulder, exclaimed cheerfully : " Well, James, we 
are all gone together. Last night I was worth a hundred thou-' 
sand, and so were you. Now where are we ? " " Gone," returned 
James. Then followed an interchange, from which it appeared 
that the members of the group were young merchants worth from 
$50,000 to $150,000. After this, said the first speaker, "Well, 
Jim, I have a home left, and my family are safe; I have a barrel 
of flour, some bushels of potatoes, and other provisions laid in for 
the winter ; and now, Jim, I'm going to fill my house to-night 
with these poor fellows," turning to the sidewalks crowded with 
fleeing poor, " chuck full from cellar to garret ! " The blaze of 



IN CHICAGO /LND THE WEST. 313 

the conflagration revealed something worth seeing in that man's 
breast Possibly the road to his heart may have been choked 
with rubbish before. If so, the fire had burned it clear, till it 
shone like one of the streets of burnished gold which he will one 
day walk. 

A woman Jving on Ontario street, between Market and Frank- 
lin, brought out her two children, aged five and seven, safely, and 
then went for a baby. The children followed her back, and none 
came out a.'ve. 

The Quinn brothers went into their house while it was untoucn- 
ed by the fire to secure some clothing, but in getting out had to 
jump through the windows. 

Mr. Malcomb, who died about two hours before the fire reached 
his residence, was burned almost beyond recognition. 

A story is related of the proprietor of St. Caroline's Court, a 
hotel on the West Side of Chicago, illustrative of General Sheri- 
dan's idea of the eternal fitness of things. The General called 
at the hotel and inquired the price of board. " Six dollars per 
day," was the reply. " The pnce before the fire ? " inquired the 
General. " Two dollar:^ and a half" General Sheridan replied 
that he would run that hotel himself, and at $2.50 per day. lie 
placed an orderly in charge, and at once put a stop to exorbitant 
charges. 

The following curious incident is well authenticated : Mrs. 

, the housekeeper of a prominent hotel, had made up her 

mind to leave the city a few days before the fire. She had not 
drawn her salary for some time, and it amounted to $1,000. On 
Saturday this amount was handed to her by the proprietor. The 
boarders at the same time got up a testimonial, amounting to $150, 
and presented her with the money that evening. She deposited the 
greenbacks under the carpet in a corner of her room. When the 

fire was raging, Mrs. rushed into her room and succeeded in 

saving a favorite canary-bird. But she forgot all about the money. 



X 



314: mSTOKY OF THE GREAT FIKE8 



The son of Mayor Mason, of Chicago, is worthy of Chicago and 
of his large-hearted sire. Everything was swept away except his- 
wedding presents, which were at the house of his father. This 
hoflse was saved. He sold them to Tiffany & Co. for $5,000. 
"With this money he will now re-establish himself, opening a 
stove store for the time being in the basement of his father's ele- 
gant residence. The young man shows the real Chicago pluck. 

A locomotive engineer was on his freight-train, forty miles 
from the city, when he heard the fire was raging on Michigan 
avenue. He said, " I asked permission to go on with my train, 
and was forbidden ; I put on steam, and they put down the brakes, 
but I pulled my train as near to the depot as I could, and left it 
in charge of the fireman. I hurt nobody and did no harm to 
anything ; I went straight to the place where I left my family^ 
and dragged out their bones. When I came back to my situation 
they told me I was discharged, and I am now homeless and 
helpless." 

Men were desperate, and deemed almost anything justifiable. 
One who saw that he could not escape, opened his veins that he 
might not know the horrors of death by fij'e. Another, probably 
rendered insane by losses and terror, was found with his throat 
cut fi'om ear to ear. Men who were laboring to rescue their 
books and papers from the peril, were so involved in the mazes 
of the fire, that they tried several streets before they were able to 
escape, and then suffered serious inconveniences or injury in the 
final struggle that saved them. One, in trying to gather a few 
things from his room, fell suffocated, and, recovering presence of 
mind, crawled to the window, and calling on men to catch him, 
leaped from the second story, and was able to rejoin his family, 
A fireman brought a two-year-old child to a lady, which was 
enatched out of the upper story of a lofty building in the heart of 
the fire. The little thing was scorched and singed, and when 
asked, " Where is papa ? " he answered, " Gone to church." 



> 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 315 

" Where is mamma ? " " Gone to chm-ch." So unexpected was 
the fire, that the parents had not time to find their darling after 
church. Some 300 were caged up near the river, and taken off 
by the steamer that lay close at hand. Others, hurried out of 
their home and cut off from egress by any street, fled to the Lake 
shore, and as the furious element closed around them they were 
pressed into the water, and kept themselves for hours by dipping 
their heads into the cool element. Children were immersed 
repeatedly, in order to keep them from being scorched, and 
many came from their wet refuges more dead than alive. A 
family who had spent several years abroad, and collected many 
valuable works of art and souvenirs t>f their journeys, were driven 
from one place to another, and finally took refuge in a stable. 
The proprietor begged them to take his carriage and drive it oli: 
to save it. In this they escaped several miles to a place of safety, 
having nothing left but what they wore upon their persons. 

A man at the corner of Division and Brandt streets had appa- 
rently secured his household goods in an open lot ; but the flames 
mercilessly attacked his effects, and seeing there was no further 
chance of saving them, he knelt down and offered a brief prayer, 
after which he arose, clasped his hands in wild despair, and look- 
ing to heaven, exclaimed, " God help me now," and was soon lost 
to view in the dense smoke through which he endeavored to make 
his escape. 

Mr. Kerfoot gives the following graphic account of his escape 
from the fire with his wife and children : " Being the owner of 
a horse and carriage which I used to go to and fro from my busi- 
ness, when I became satisfied that my house would soon be en- 
veloped, I brought my horse and carriage before the house, and 
placed my wife and children in it. There was then no room for 
me, so I mounted the back of the animal and acted as postilion. 
While driving through the flame and smoke which enveloped us 
on all hands, I came across a gentleman who had his wife in a 



31 G HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

buggy, and was between the thills hauling it himself. I shouted 
to him to hitch his carriage on behind mine, which he did, and 
then got in beside his wife. I then drove forward as fast as I 
could, for the flames were raging around us. After proceeding 
a short distance, another gentleman was found standing beside 
the street, with a carriage, waiting for a horse, which was not 
likely to come I directed him to fasten on behind the second 
carriage^ which he did, and in this way we whipped up and got 
out of the way of the flames with our wives and children, thank 
God." 

A remarkable instance of courage and presence of mind is told 
of Mr E. I. Tinkham, of the Second National Bank. On Mon- 
day morning, before the flre had reached that building, Mr. Tink- 
ham went to the safe and succeeded in getting out $600,000. 
This pile of greenbacks he packed into a common trunk, and 
hired a colored man for $1,000 to convey it to the Milwaukee 
depot. Fearing to be recognized in connection with the precious 
load, Mr. Tinkham followed the man for a time at some distaace, 
but soon lost sight of him. He was then overtaken by the fire- 
storm, and was driven toward the Lake on the South Side. Here, 
after passing through several narrow escapes from suffocation, he 
succeeded in working his way, by some means, to a tug-boat, and 
got round to the Milwaukee depot, where he found the colored 
man waiting for him, with the trunk, according to promise. Mr. 
Tinkham paid the man the $1,000, and started with the trunk 
for Milwaukee. The money was safely deposited in Marshall & 
[llsley's bank, of that city. 

Mr. Nathaniel Bacon, of Niles, Michigan, student-at-law with 
Messrs. Tenney, McClellan & Tenney, at No. 120 Washington 
street, slept in their office. On waking at about one o'clock, and 
seeing tlie Court-House on fire, he saw that the office, which was 
immediately opposite, would surely go. Judging that one of the 
safes in the office would not prove fire-proof, he promptly emptied 



IN OHIOAGO AJO) THE WEST. 



317 



the contents of his trunk on the floor of the doomed building, 
and, filling it with the interior contents of the safe — books, valu- 
able papers, money, etc. — shouldered the trunk and carried it 
to a place of safety on Twenty-second street, losing thereby all 
his own clothing and effects except what he had on. That young 
man is a hero. 

In the midst of all that was sad and terrible, there was an 
occasional gleam of the humorous. 

One merchant, who found his safe and its contents destroyed, 
quietly remarked that there was no blame attached to the safe ; 
that it was of chilled iron, and would have stood, but that the 
fire had taken the Ghill all out. 

A firm of painters on Madison street, bulletin their removal 
as follows, on a sign-board erected like a guide-board upon the 
ruins of their old establishment : — 



MOOEE & GOE, 

House and Sign Patnteks, 

Removed to 111 Desplaines st. 

Capital, $000,000.30. 



An editor of a daily paper ha? received several poetical 
effusions suggested by the late disaster ; but he declines them all, 
on the ground that it is wasteful to print anything which requires 
every line with a capital, when capital is as scarce as it is now in 
Chicago. 

A bride, who entered the holy married * state on Tuesday 
evening, determined to do so in a calico dress, in deference both 
to the proprieties and the necessities of the occasion. But she 
desired that her toilette de chambre should be, if possible, on a 
more gorgeous scale. Being destitute of a role de nuit of suit- 
able elegance, she sent out to several neighbors of her temporarj" 



"7 

318 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FLEES 

hostess to borrow such a garment, stipulating that it must he a 
fine one. So peculiar is the feminine nature, however, that her 
modest request excited no enthusiasm in her behalf among the 
ladies to whom it came. This is not a joke. 

A sign-board stuck in the ruins of a building on Madison 
street, reads : " Owing to circumstances over which we had no 
control, we have removed," etc. 

Uhicago, October 12, 1871. 
To the Editor of the Chicago Evening Journal : — 

The attention of Chicagoans is called to the 8th chapter of 
Deuteronomy, and the clergy of the city are respectfully re- 
quested to take the same for a text on Sunday morning next. 

Merchant. 

One of our merchants, reported insane, was heard from at 
^ew York — where he had gone to bury a sister — in the following 
noble manner : — 

Mrs. Potter Palmer : 

I have particulars of fire. Am perfectly reconciled to our 
lojses. We shall not be embarrassed. Have an abundance left. 
Be cheerful, and do all possible for sufferers. Will return by first 
train after funeral. Potter Palmer. 

The fugitives from our city were good, bad, and indifferent. 
The men of pluck and value to us generally stood by the wreck 
to restore the town. Many truly unfortunate could do no better 
than to leave for a time. Some found the place too hot for them. 
Among these may be reckoned the villain who thus ignobly 
perished in Ohio, where he had gone to retrieve his fortunes, 
the Lima Gazette : — 

The fire in Chicago has begun to make itself felt in the rural 



IK CHICAGO AJSTD THE WEST. 819 

districts. Additions are daily made to the population of the 
country towns. These additions consist generally of men with 
scarred faces and sinister looks, who are looking around for some 
opening in the way of business and trade. 

On last Saturday, October 28, one of these enterprising unfor- 
tunates visited some of our farmers in Amanda, German, and 
Marion Townships, in this county. He was in the horse trade. 
Wherever he went he wanted to buy horses. All day Saturday 
was consumed in fruitless attempts to buy a horse. Night found 
him in Marion Township, about three miles west of Elida. 

Between seven and eight o'clock in the evening he entered the 
house of Andrew Stever. Stever is about sixty years old, a 
bachelor, and has the reputation of owning considerable of this 
world's goods. He lives alone in a small log cabin, is the owner 
of the farm on which the house is situated, and has resided here 
for twenty years past. He has the reputation of being a peace- 
able, quiet, inoifensive man. 

After entering the house of Stever, our horse-buyer from the 
burnt district introduced the subject of horses, and proposed to 
buy one from Stever. Stever had none to sell. He then in- 
quired for matches, and requested Stever to furnish him with 
some. This Stever proceeded to do. The matches had scarcely 
passed from his hand before the stranger drew from his pocket a 
revolver, and, presenting it at Stever, asked him " if he saw 
that ? " Stever replied that he did, but that " this was no place 
for it." Stever in the mean time had observed that the features 
of his visitor were disguised by daubing mud in his moustache 
and whiskers, which were of not more than a week's growth. 
Stever, therefore, by way of precaution (and which precaution 
had also probably been quickened by the sight of the revolver), 
apened the blade of a pocket-knife, and kept it in his hand — his 
hand in his pocket. 

A motion on the part of the stranger to present his revolver 



320 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

was the signal on which Stever acted. Grasping the hand that 
held the pistol with his left hand, he told the man he must leave 
the house. A terrible struggle ensued. Tables were turned over, 
and broken, and everything movable in the house was displaced. 
Stever kept his hold upon the pistol-arm, while the stranger 
strove to beat him over the head with the pistol as severely as was 
possible under the death grip of Stever. While this was going 
forward, Stever continued with his right hand to ply the knife. 
This he continued to do, although he was under, to so good pur- 
pose, that, to use his own language, he made him " grunt." His 
hold upon Stever relaxed, when Stever rose from the floor, the 
stranger rising with him. On getting to their feet, the stranger 
reeled and fell in the portal of the door, when Stever jumped 
over him and ran to a neighbor — a Mr. Carr. With Mr. Carr 
he returned to the house, where they found the nocturnal visitor 
where he fell. He gave one or two gasps after they got to the 
house and was dead. The Coroner's inquest on Sunday devel- 
oped the following facts: Before entering the house he visited 
the stable and procured a bridle. This, with his hat, overcoat, 
and shawl, he left near a stack of straw. On his person were 
found six watches, two revolvers, one single-barrelled pistol, and 
$82,50 in money. His arms were tattooed with India ink. He 
was apparently about forty-five years old, with as forbidding fea- 
tures as one seldom sees. , There was nothing on his person to 
mark who he was or whence he came. The Coroner's jury ex- 
amined Stever, and the body of the unknown was disposed of by 
the Coroner. 

A policeman in New York City found four women and a child 
standing on the corner of Chambers and West streets. In answer 
to his inquiry they told him that they had just arrived from Chi- 
cago by the eight o'clock train, and, being entirely destitute, they 
did not know what to do. The officer took them to the station- 
house, and Sergeant John J. Fitzgerald, who was in charge^ 




HnXS OF THK PACIFIC HOJEI.. 



RXTIXS OK THE GKE 




iERMAN CATHOLIC 




UNITY CHUKC U DR v OLLYEE 




jNTRAL LAMU OFFICE 





TTTSriON DKPOT. 



RIJINIs OF s^AJvD ^ BrEWERY 



\ 




m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 323 

examined the cnse. Finding the women were jnst what they 
had represented themselves to be, sufferers by the disaster in Chi- 
cago, he made every effort in his power to accommodate them 
the best way he could for a short time in the station-house. He 
then sent men out to the neighboring houses to state the case 
of the poor people. Assistance soon came in the person of Mr. 
K. Huggins, proprietor of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, who desired 
the sergeant to send the women over to his house, and they 
should have everything they needed until the proper authorities 
came to look after them. The women were then sent to the Cos- 
mopolitan, and gave their names as Lina Mylo, Minnie Ditzler, 
Annie Fris, and Bridget Mahon and child. They were sent up- 
stairs, were properly cared for, and, being tired from the hard- 
ships they had lately undergone, they all retired except Annie 
Fris, who made the following statement to a Herald reporter of 
the scenes through which she had jnst passed: — 

My father was a silversmith on State street, and lived in the 
house with my mother. I wanted to learn to cook, so I went out 
to the house of a young friend of mine to get taught. My father 
wanted to bring her into the house, but I did not want that, as I 
preferred to go to where she lived. He tried to keep me at home, 
and bought me a piano for $1,000, and I had only just taken two 
lessons on it when all was burned. 

I am the only child my father and mother had in this country. 
We belonged to Medo, in Bohemia, where I have a sister married 
now. On Sunday night, about nine o'clock, I went to bed, and 
had been asleep for about an hour, when the other girl woke me, 
crying fire. I jumped up and rushed to the windows, but every- 
thing all around where I could see was in a great big blaze. I 
pulled on something, and all ran down the street to save my 
father and mother, but when I got within about half a block of 
them the fire was all in the house, and father was hanging out of 

the window, stretching his hands out to me, calling to me to help 
19 



><s 



324 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIEES 



liim, but I could do nothing. Then I turned to go back to my 
friend's house, but some men had come along the street, and they 
threw bottles of kerosene and matches into the place until every- 
thing was on fire. I don't remember what occurred after that, I 
was so frightened. When I saw ray poor father burn np before 
me, and heard my mother shrieking out to me, and 1 could do 
nothing for tliem, I would have rushed into the house' and died 
with them, but some men picked me up, threw me into a carriage, 
and took me away out to the other side of the city. I was on 
the college grounds with hundreds of other people. I did not 
know any one there, and no one knew me. I have no relatives 
in this country anywhere. I was two days in that place without 
anything to eat but some little bits of bread that a lady gave me. I 
did not want to eat. I was so distressed about my family, and 
having nowhere nor any one to go to, I went into the woods with 
all the other people, when the fire came to us, and there we had 
nothing scarcely for three days. We had to sleep on the grass 
when we did sleep, but that was very little, as we had too much 
trouble to think of it. On Friday 1 left Chicago because I did 
not know what to do. Some ladies gave me a pass to New 
York in a church, and I came on here. It made me so sad and 
sick to remain in Chicago that I thought I would rather go any- 
where than stay there. Two of these ladies who are with me 
promised to take me with them, as they have some friends here, 
but they are very poor themselves, and I don't know what they 
will do. My father had some money in the bank, but I don't 
know in what bank, or how much it was, so that I suppose that 
is gone too. I am just fourteen years of age, and I have nothing 
in the world but just what is on me. I think if I could get back 
home to my own country I might get something. I don't know 
what to do. I have scarcely thought about it yet, for my poor 
father and mother they did everything for me. All the people 
were very kind to me since I left Chicago. I got something to 



IN CHICAGO AND TIIE WEST. 325 

eat at Buffalo, and then the people on the train gave us some- 
■thing as ^ve came along. The police were unusually kind to us 
when we came here, and it makes up a little to us to find so much 
charity and feeling in the people. 

Miss Fris is an interesting-looking young lady ; she speaks 
English freely; and as soon as the present grief of her loss and 
the bewilderment of the strange situation she finds herself in wear 
ofi^, would prove a great acquisition to many a private familv in 
some position, as she is willing to work. 

Our young city had many charitable institutions, and among 
them, on the extreme north, was the Half Orphan Asylum, where 
much good was being done by a few benevolent ladies, in relieving 
these unfortunate children whose natural protectors were unable 
or unwilling to care for them in a tender and humane manner. 
There were some seventy odd children in the asylum at the time of 
the fire, including about a dozen infants, and when it became evi- 
dent to the matron that the building would have to be vacated, she 
at once made preparations and looked about for the safest means of 
removing her charge of little children. The North Side line of 
omnibuses had removed some half dozen of their vehicles to the 
neighborhood of the Asylum for safety ; and Mrs. Hobson at once 
Bent a gentleman to secure the services of a few omnibuses in 
which to remove the children to a place of safety. His efibrts 
were fruitless, and he returned to the asylum with the intelligence 
that the omnibuses could not be had, as the persons in charge 
would not allow them to be used. Mrs. Hobson immediately 
went herself to represent the urgency of their claim, but utterly 
failed to procure even the use of one omnibus, to which number 
she at last reduced her request. 

Failing to secure assistance, Mrs. Hobson returned to her charge, 
and at once, with the assistance of some kind friends, got the 
children in readiness to find safer quarters, which they hoped to 
do in the new building built for the Asylum on North Halsted 



326 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIEE3 

street, near Centre, which was as yet in an unfinished condition. 
About ten o'clock on Monday morning the little troop of children 
started to find a new place of shelter, each little one able to walk, 
carrying some article of furniture or utensil, endeavoring with 
their puny strength to save something for the general good. They 
finally reached their destination in safety. With the aid of a 
cart, some ten loads of bedding, clothing, etc., were removed from 
the old to the new quarters, and the little ones were made as 
comfortable as possible, and finally put to rest. But their sleep 
was to be of but a short duration, for the fire-fiend threatened to 
pay them another visit, and again the little ones had to be re- 
moved, and again they fled from before the line of fire whose 
progress no human power could arrest. The streets were crowded 
with a multitude of people who were frantically hurrying toward 
the West Division, endeavoring to carry some of their household 
goods to a place of safety, disputing the right of way with teams 
of every description, loaded with every conceivable variety of 
household goods. Amid this thronging multitude, and under a 
heavy rain which had set in, the poor little children had to en- 
deavor to pick their way along. xVt Clybourne avenue bridge, 
foot passengers and wagons had to mingle in one common road- 
way, and nothing but an overruling Providence could have 
brought these little children in safety through such a hurrying 
and dangerous crowd. They crossed the bridge in safety and 
were now out of immediate danger, and by two o'clock Tuesday 
morning a church building was reached, the key found, and again 
the tired little crowd were in a place of shelter, but wet, hungry, 
and tired. The neighboring people kindly assisted in hunting 
up bread and milk for the children, and sleep once more kindly 
took possession of their weary frames. 

But Mrs. Hobson's task was not yet done. As soon as her 
charge was in safety she returned to the Halsted street building, 
only to find that the bedding, clothing, and provisions which she 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 327 

and others had saved with so much labor during the day had been 
stolen during her absence. Disheartened, but not discouraged, 
she sat down on the steps, wrapped in a blanket, intending to 
keep guard over the building the balance of the night. And wel. 
it was she did so, for soon after a couple of fellows entered the 
inclosure and came toward the rear entrance of the building, ex 
pecting probably to have matters their own way. But Mrs. Hob 
son was equal to the emergency. She called out to them to stop, 
as they had no business there. This did not intimidate them but 
for a moment, and they again advanced toward the building, 
when Mrs. Hobson raised her arm toward them and told them 
if they came any further she would blow their brains out. Tliia 
frightened the scoundrels, and turning about they hastily ran 
away. Thus was the Asylum building probably saved, and the 
orphans placed in security through the efforts of the noble matron, 
Mrs. E. L. Hobson, and a few devoted friends. 

Some people had a less noble mission than this, so nobly per- 
formed. Says one : — 

It was almost as ridiculous as melancholy to watch the long 
stream of people who poured out of the tenements on Adams street, 
Yan Buren street, and the alleys near the river, both on the "West 
and South Sides, and to notice what each bore. On Adams street 
the perambulators outnumbered every other article saved. About 
every third person wheeled one, and about every seventh perambu- 
lator contained a baby. One man in his shirt sleeves, and with but 
one boot, wheeled a child's carriage, in which was a baby, perhaps 
eighteen months old, astonished at its sudden awakening and the 
crowd, and sucking lustily at a green paper lamp-shade. Tliese 
alone evidently remained of all his Lares and Penates. Another, 
perfectly frenzied with excitement, rnshed along Harrison street, 
waving over his head the handle of an earthenware pitcher, and 
shouting at the top of his voice. The women, with hardly an excep- 
tion, carried a bundle in one arm an:l a baby in the other, and had 



7 



328 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIEE8 



tlieir shawls thrown over their heads. Perhaps a couple of older 
children clung, frightened and crying, to their skirts. "When the 
hotels were menaced, out poured from each a long string of guests, 
each with a valise in one hand and dragging behind him a trunk. 
The fate of these amateur baggage-smashers is wrapped in mystery, 
as hardly a travelling trunk was anywhere to be seen on Tuesday. 

If all our citizens, as Marshal Williams suggests, had been 
as fertile in expedients as the one below, much more might have 
been spared. 

" One building on the "West Side, which was saved after des- 
perate exertions, owes its preservation to an agent, rarely if ever 
used before for such a purpose, and which in efficacy was a 
formidable rival to the Babcock. The roof was covered with 
wetted blankets, and when water for this purpose failed, two 
barrels of cider were employed with success. The flames retired, 
and the proprietor on the roof caroled a joyous pean, 'A little 
more cider, too.' " 

A good story is told of Mr. Milligan's trotter, a splendid animal, 
worthy the industrious and successful owner, who had but recently 
rebuilt his magnificent store after a fire had consumed it to th« 
ground. 

Peoria sent a steam fire-engine to the relief of Chicago, and in 
one of the narrow streets it was so nearly surrounded by the flames 
that the men had given up hope of saving it, and were about being 
forced to seek their own safety in flight. At this juncture Mr. 
Milligan, of the firm of Heath &; Milligan, came along with his 
roadster. Perceiving their peril, in a moment he had hitched the 
fast trotter to one side of the pole, the men caught the tongue, 
pole, and wheel, and with a cheery shout, out they whirled 
through the smoke and cinders at a four-minute gait. The Peo- 
rians saved their steamer, and vow that they will get up a sub- 
scription and purchase Milligan's sorrel if the city has to issue 
more bonds. 



EST CHICAGO AOT5 THE WEST. 329 

An Eastern man, who felt somewhat incredulous about the re- 
porters' marvellous tales of the fire and its merciless devastation, 
thus describes 

THE SCENE OF DESOLATION. 

As I have said before, I had a sneaking idea, while I was yet in 
the suburbs, that the extent of the fire had been exaggerated in the 
Eastern papers, and that I would be certain to find a very difier- 
ent state of affairs fi'om that which I had anticipated before I got 
out of the cars. But how mournfully was I disappointed ! We 
entered the burned district by passing through State street. It 
was dusk as we got near where the Court-House once stood, and 
the feeling that came over me as I stopped my horse at this point 
and looked about me, v/as one of positive awe and dismay. As 
far as the eye could reach was a waste, a desert, with here and 
there a standing wall of some great building, through whose open 
windows the lurid glare of the coal fires beyond and around could 
be seen fiilling and rising with the wind as regularly as if worked 
by machinery. I shall never forget the scene. On, on we went, 
turning here and there from one street to another, picking our 
way carefully over the well-tried and yet perfect wooden pave- 
ment, lest by a misstep we should be plunged headlong into some 
cellar way or vault screened from .view by a pile of brick or stone 
that had once been a building. After making all sorts of wind- 
ings, witli the same interminable view of gaunt walls and burning 
coal piles surrounding us whiciiever way we went, we reached a 
bridge which was solid enough to admit of our crossing to the 
North Side. Indeed, wh'en I had got to the bridge I was under 
the impression that I had reached the full limit of the fire track ; 
but how wonderfully mistaken did I find myself when, on getting 
to the other side, I saw before me a plain tM^o or three miles 
ahead, as clear of anything like a house as the wild prairie itself! 
I noticed, as we passed along the deserted streets south of the 



4s 



330 niSTOET OF THE GKEAT FIEES 



river, wliich were lined with the debris of hundreds of buildings, 
that here and there the walls of some stanch old pile had resisted 
the shock of the flames and yet stood — though mere skeletons — 
monuments of the handiwork of the men who had put them 
together. But once we got to the Nortli Side, how changed was 
everything! It is true that here and there a wall of some 
church yet reared itself above the level of the street. Yet for 
miles about the perspective was that of a desert waste, with 
nothing to break the clear view of the horizon on every side but 
the tall blackened telegraph poles, and .the innumerable trees 
which still stood charred and dead, with their despoiled branches 
stretching out over the streets, like skeleton hands pointing to the 
graves of the many who were lost and buried beneath the ruins. 
Way out to the north, way to the south, to the east, and to the 
west, the view was tlie same — nothing but a level plain, broken 
slightly here and there by a pile of marble, crumbling to dust, or 
a great mound of brick, once red, but now white as snow, and yet 
so hot that not even the sentinels stationed near the safes dared to "rf"^ 
stand within a yard of them. I don't think a Kew Yorker can 
have any idea of this awful scene unless he brings it home to 
his own city. Let him imagine a Are to have broken out on 
Tenth avenue, near Twenty-eighth street, to have crossed in a 
straight line to Third avenue, and then to have made a clean 
sweep between these two lines clear down to the Battery, not 
leaving over a hundred walls standing, every house being levelled 
to the gutter, and he can then have some idea of the ravages of 
the awful Chicago Fire. Then let him try to do as I did, travel 
through the awful waste on horseback and try to find out where 
this and that building stood, and I guarantee he would find the 
task no child's play. 

You would no doubt laugh it' I should tell you that, if New 
York was ravaged as 1 have supposed it to have been, you could 
not drive down Broadway in the waste and point out where once 



IN CHICAGO AKD THE WEST. 331 

stood the St. Nicholas. Yet I assure you my guide had been a 
resident of Chicago for twenty years, and, when we were about 
crossing to the North Side, so great was the desolation, so level 
the track the fire had made of wall and cellar, that he could 
not tell me where once stood the Sherman House. Can any bet- 
ter idea than this be given of what a desert the great business dis- 
trict of Chicago was in ? But to continue my narrative. During 
our exploration of the North Side for an hour or so we came across 
— will you believe it ? — a frame house amid all the ruins intact 
and without a singe ! There it stood, with the crumbling remains 
of a great granite building all around it, and a few blocks off, sur- 
rounded by the blackened iron beams of a fire-proof brick build- 
ing that fell a prey to the raging flames, was a neat little green- 
house, with not a pane of glass broken, not a whitened sash 
blackened by the smoke, "What a freak of the conflagration was 
this ! But when we rode over to the South Side again what was 
our surprise to find intact a frame building that stood just in front 
of the barn where the great fire first was started, and which it 
had to leap over in order to devour the city beyond. Before 
we had reached the North Side I was very much amused with 
many of the notices I caught a glimpse of as I galloped past 
among the ruins. There was one of a real estate man, who had 
been burned out, and who with wonderful enterprise had already 
erected a small wooden shanty as an office, upon the ruins of his 
former place of business. And this was his sign-board : " All lost, 
except my wife, my baby, and my energy." Who dare assert that 
that man will ever fail in the struggle of business life ? Another 
extraordinary scene I witnessed with no small amount of interest. 
The safes of a safe-depository company had the day before been 
dug out and opened, and their contents found uninjured ; and, in 
answ^er to an advertisement in the morning papers, there were 
right in the ruins before my very eyes, crowds of merchants 
hauling over their valuables to be put into the safes amid the 



X 



332 HISTOET OF THE GKEAT FIRES 



general wreck. Just think of it — placing your treasure in a safe, 
surrounded by a thousand fires, and with the very stones aboat 
cracking from the yet unintensified heat. Still, the guarantee of 
a guard of " blue coats " appeared to make the safe investment 
all the safer to the merchants. What a confidence in military 
authority was there ! But here let me pause, for just at this point 
myself and my guide took it into our heads to go back to the 
North Side, and go we did! ^efore we had well left the river ten 
blocks to the south the darkness of night was upon us. The 
wind at the same time began to blow at a fearful rate, and in a 
second a dense volume of smoke from the fires to the rear drove 
across the river and separated us ; and thus it was that I lost my 
way, and had to wander out to the prairies, where I witnessed the 
encampment of the refugees. 

I lost my way while taking a horseback ride through the ruins 
on Tuesday night. I was on the JSforth Side. It was growing 
very late, and I knew not what to do. To turn back would have 
exposed me to dangers that I was unwilling to face, even witl^r^ 
Sheridan's guards within a few hundred feet of every street, or 
rather roadway, one might traverse ; so I chose the less of two 
evils, and made up my mind to keep straight ahead. I knew that 
straight ahead meant due north, and that by keeping on I would 
be certain to come into "open land" sooner or later, and not 
tumble headlong into cellar-ways made bristling with glass and 
broken iron by the falling-in of buildings that once sheltered 
them. So on I went. It was a long route still, although I thought 
that I. was at the end of the city, or what I suppose most people 
call the North Side, when I first hesitated about my course ; for I 
must have ridden fully twenty blocks afterwards, as I could tell 
by the resounding of the horse's feet on the pavement that the 
so-called prairie was still far out of reach. But this was not all. 
I could almost feel the darkness that surrounded me, rather which 
confronted me, for behind me were thousands of coal fires that 



~i 



nr CHICAGO AXD THE WEST. 333 

lit up the sky for miles to the south and made the darkness ahead 
all the more dense by contrast — and, under the circumstances, my 
situation was not very pleasant. How long I continued to ride 
at a slow pace — for it was a faneral pace — from the moment I 
found the blue fires getting to the rear, I know not ; but this I 
do know, it was an age to me. The low rumble of the wind 
through the ruins to the south, and the distant hum as of a bustling 
city, far, far off to the westward, broken now and then by what I 
imagined to be a piercing cry of distress, but which proved to be 
the sudden rushing of the wind through the yet standing open 
walls of the city that was, made me, it is needless to state, very 
anxious to get out of the wilderness of the dead city to tlie wilder- 
ness of the prairie itself. Suddenly the horse stumbled under me, 
and his hoofs made no longer an echo. At last I knew the un- 
worked sod of the prairie had been struck. Cautiously I urged 
the beast to go a gentle trot, and in a few seconds came to a very 
abrupt halt by running plump against a sort of fence, which some 
worthy farmer, as I supposed, had erected to mark off his legiti- 
mate domain from outside limits. Almost at the same moment 
the darkness ahead of us began to clear away as the wind increased 
in strength (for it was the smoke from the smouldering fire to the 
rear that made the darkness ahead), and tliere right ahead of me, 
within a stone's throw, flashed over the plain a thousand twinkling 
lights. What I had not heard before I now heard plainl}^ — the 
commingling of many voices, some low and some boisterous, the 
clinking of ware, the hallooing in the distance of men to other 
men nearer by, and here and there the thud of a hammer or the 
creaking of a cart-wheel. Dismounting, I tied the horse to the 
fence and jumped to the other side, and began slowly to pick my 
way over the field. An instant afterwards I heard a rustling in 
the dead grass a few feet to the right, and then came a clang as of 
steel against steel, followed by a loud gruff voice crying out, 
"Who goes there?" 



334 HISTOKT OF THE GKEAT ITKES 

I knew by this time that I was among the lots and near the 
park where thousands of the refugees had fled for shelter, and a 
feeling of relief came over mo. A pass signed by the chivalrous 
Forsyth, and endorsed by "Little Phil," made the gruff "Who 
goes there?" answer himself a friend of mine, and bid me go where 
1 listeth. Now that I had got out of the wilderness of a city, 
where a silence of the desert reigned supreme, to the wilderness 
of the open plains, where everything was bustle and confusion, I 
was at a loss to know how to act, glad as I was to escape from one 
to the other. Owing to the darkness I was at first unable to see 
what kind of company I had fallen in with ; but as I made a slow 
and cautious approach to the nearest light which glimmered dimly 
through the chinks of what seemed to be a few planks carelessly 
nailed togetlicr, my ears were greeted with the cheering sounds 
of a woman's voice. It was a low and plaintive voice, broken by 
Bobs that made my blood grow chill in that out-of-the-way place ; 
but for all that it made me feel safe. From that moment my ap- 
prehensions of being attacked in the dark by the night-prowlers 
whose numbers the scared citizens had been for twenty-four hours 
increasing by hundreds, or falling into a den of encamped fire- 
fiends, vanished. I felt that the voice belonged to a woman who 
was a sufferer from the great sorrow of the great city, and the 
sobbings that came clearer and clearer to my ear as T felt my way 
nearer towards the light, were, I felt, my strongest guarantees of 
safety. I had got within a few feet of the light when in the dim 
distance I espied hundreds of forms moving about quietly and 
hundreds of otliers sitting upon the grass, and yet hundreds of 
others rolled up like mummies in blankets close to a fence, or 
half covered Avith such things as tables and chairs, and, in fact, 
every kind of household furniture which could be turned into a 
temporary roof. Jhere were liere and there lights, but they were 
not many, and as I went up to the first one that I had seen and 
exclaimed quite loudly: "Is there anybody here? " I felt a cold 



m CHICAGO AST) THE WEST. 335 

chill creep over me, so still did everything for a second seem about, 
although through the mist j smoke, driven into the plain by the ever- 
changing wind, I could still see the forms of many moving, moving, 
moving, never seeming to stand still for a single second, yet no one 
saying a word. 'Need I say that it was quite a relief to me when a 
quiet, gentle voice greeted me with " What is wanted ? " and the 
light of a candle fell upon my face. She was a little girl, not 
over twelve years of age, that held the candle, pale as marble, 
with large black eyes and a wealth of black hair, all tangled and 
neglected, that hung and swung in drifts over her face as the 
wild ruthlessly threw it about her shoulders. She had a blanket 
wound about her and was barefooted, and the little feet were 
covered with blood. This scene I took in at a glance, and for a 
moment I hardly knew what to say to the shivering little crea- 
ture who stood before me, her teeth chattering with the cold and 
her pale face wearing such a pitiful, oh, such a pitiful look! 
Presently came from out of the " shelter " — for shelter it was — 
composed of a high top buggy with several planks resting against 
it and the ground, having to stoop low as he came, a man about 
tliirty years of age, with a lantern in his hand. He was the very 
picture of despair. His eyes were swollen ; dark lines under them 
gave to them an unnatural, haggard expression, half wild, half 
pleading, and wrinkles that one would expect to find traced on 
the face of a very old man alone furrowed the otherwise youthful 
face. What passed between us I need not now repeat. Sufficient 
it is that my horse was secured to the buggy with a halter and 
I was permitted to occupy a corner beneath the shelter, after the 
man, trying to be humorous in his sorrow, had excused himself for 
" not having any blankets in the house." 

When I lay down the lantern was still burning, and before it 
was extinguished I saw that on the other side of the " house " 
were huddled together, under one blanket and an old dress, a 
woman and two small children. I thought as I was falling into 



336 HISTOKY OF THE GEEAT FIKES 



y( 



a gentle sleep, with all I had seen during the day passing like 
a panorama before mj eyes, that I heard the same sobbing that 
had attracted my attention a few minutes before, and every now 
and then a manly voice soothingly saying, " It mil not last 
forever." But it may have been a delusion. It was bright 
daylight when I awoke, feeling rather stiff and cold, but, after 
all, considerably refreshed. The sun had not yet risen, and a 
keen, cutting wind swept over the lots, and what I discovered on 
getting up to be a large park adjoining. My kind host and his 
little family had risen before me, and had taken the precaution 
on going out to throw over me the only blanlcet visible in the 
shelter. It took me quite a while to collect my thoughts at first, 
and try to remember where I was and how I had got just where 
I was; but if I had not known anything about my where- 
abouts before, 1 certainly was not long left in ignorance once 
I had got outside the " shelter," where I had slept so soundly 
all night The sight that met my eyes fairly took my heart 
away. If I should live a thousand years I do not think I could 
ever efface it from my memory; and even now as I write, the im- 
pression it made upon me at the time comes back so strong that 
I seem to see staring at me from every quarter of my room the 
same pale, haggard, woe-begone faces, the same huddling crowds, 
the same weeping women and crying babes, that I beheld on 
emerging into the full light of the early morn. Words cannot 
describe the scene ; and no one who did not behold it, without 
expecting to behold it, as was the case with me, can imagine 
anything that could approach the reality. For a moment I stood 
rooted to the ground, as it were. My good friend, who had acted 
60 gracious a part toward me the night before, met me at the 
very threshold ; but as I grasped him by the hand in greeting, I 
stood speechless before him, the scene that met my gaze beyond 
where we both were, striking me with an awe that was unspeak- 
able. And how could it have been otherwise ? As far as the 



m CniCAGO AND THE WEST. 337 

eye conlcl readi was a vast concoarse of men, women, and chil- 
dren, all huddled together over the Park and in the lots, amid 
wagons, horses, and carts innmnerable. Hundreds were still 
lying sound asleep ; some with a sort of wooden shelter over 
them ; some under tents ; and yet others, and by far the greater 
number, with no shelter at all but the canopy of dark smoke that 
came wafting along overhead in thick rolling masses, that one 
could almost imagine to hear moving in the air. I fancied, even, 
in the midst of all the confusion that I witnessed among those 
who were already up and going about like ghosts from place 
to place, seeking apparently for some articles they had mislaid the 
night before, that I could tell one family from another, so distinct 
in the hustling, bustling crowds that moved here, there, and 
everywhere, was each little group from the otlier. There must 
have been on all sides fully 30,000 persons ; and yet one of the 
most striking features about the wonderful scene was the absence 
of that very thing which, under almost all circumstances, is sup- 
posed to be inseparable from a large and mixed gathering of men, 
women, and children — boisterous noise. There Vv'as confusion, 
there was pushing and there was crowding in places, there was 
talking and there was a moving of wagons and carts from one 
place to another; but otherwise over the whole scene reigned 
a sad quietness that reminded me of the quiet; crowds I have often 
Been at a funeral in a large church. There was not a joyous face 
about me. It was in vain that I tried to imagine I heard a laugh 
from some group which looked less disconsolate than another ; 
but in every case the laughter I thought I heard, turned out to 
be a wail of anguish. My pen almost refuses to write further of 
this terrible evidence of what the disaster had done in one of its 
phases — of how it seemed to have stabbed to the heart, without 
actually putting out of life, each one of the hundreds that were 
within calling distance of my voice, yet every one of whom 
seemed as full of physical health as could be. I wandered about 



338 niSTOET OF the gkeat flees 

amoug the crowds that vrere walking in little groups and talk- 
ing in low tones together, feeling as thongh I were the only 
person with life and thought in me, and that all who passed me, 
heedless how I knocked against them or got in their way, were 
so many antomatons, with power of sorrowful speech only. It 
would be a futile task for me to attempt to describe the many lit- 
tle scenes that were so intimately interwoven with the main scene 
of the encampment, and which made it the mournful gathering it 
was. To the right and left — no matter what way I turned or 
how anxiously I tried to peer beyond the groups for a vacant 
space — my searching eyes were met with little knots of men, 
women, and children, some sitting, some standing, some lying on 
the ground, and all, even to the little prattling ones, wearing a 
look of such supreme sadness that my heart bled as I gazed and 
continued to gaze, fascinated in a strange way by the sorrow and 
anguish depicted upon every countenance. Did you ever look 
upon the face of a man who escapes from a shipwreck and gets to 
the shore, knowing that his wife and little ones had gone down, 
down under the pitiless waves, never to rise? Did you ever 
notice how, if he be a man of will, he says not a word ; how his 
face, pale as the whitest marble, seems to you paler every time 
his eye meets the pitiful glare of his neighbor; how the lips 
tighten and the hands clench, and he thinks all the while he is 
concealing his great sorrow within his own breast ? Such was 
the look of about every man I came across in this field of woe, for 
they had every one of them, it is true, escaped a danger that was 
past ; but how many — oh, how many, as they wandered about 
with that agonizing look upon their faces and turned their eyes 
toward the black clouds that hovered over where their homes 
were once, were thinking of those loved and dear ones who had 
tried to escape when they did, and who are now — God knows 
where? "What if a child was missing, a wife not found, a sister 
not heard from since the roof of the little home fell in, was it not 




rVANZ CM 

CHICAGO WILL RISE AGAIN. 



NEW CHICAGO 




RELIC FOUND IN THT! RTTrNR OF THE nHIJRr!H OF THE HOLY NA:ME. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST, 341 

almost the same as actual death to them in their great desolation ? 
Thej knew not wliere those they sought for were ; and the mere 
thought that the smouldering ruins which lined the distant road- 
ways for miles around had hid the missing ones forever from their 
sight, was of itself as harrowing as the dread certainty itself. 
When I now recall the low, suppressed cries of anguish that 
greeted my ears from one shelter after another, as I passed my 
mournful way along through crowd after crowd of these victims 
of the great disaster ; when the scenes that I beheld come now 
vividly back to my mind as I write; of the mothers that I met, 
with their babes closely pressed to their bosoms, and refusing, 
with a half cry, half shriek, the relief of food that kind hands prof- 
fered ; of the little children I found lying sleeping sweetly amid 
the whole confusion, as though their mothers had not been lost to 
them, and other mothers who had lost their own Avere caring fur 
them in their stead ; of the men who sat w^ith their heads bowed 
on their hands, and swayed to and fro, and looked up at you when 
you spoke to them as tliough they heard you but saw you not ; 
of the girls of a tender age who hid behind one another in their 
shelter as you passed, lest you would notice that they had reached 
the prairies with scarce enough covering. to hide their nakedness; 
of the hundreds upon hundreds, that were about me in the 
park and out of it, all so sad, all so silent in their sadness, yet 
so many crying, strong men, too, crying in a stifling way for 
fear wife or child would see them so weak — when I recall all 
these things now, is it a wonder that I find difficulty to portray 
that terrible scene on the prairie, which probably, after all, had 
less of real agonj^, real suffering about it in itself than any other 
sorrow that befell the unfortunate people of Chicago during the 
fatal days of last week. Yet in it we saw reflected all the suffer- 
ing, all the losses, all the heart-breakings, all the trials endured 
elsewhere and still to be endured ; and that was what made it 
seem to me, and what would have made it seem to any one who 
20 



.X 



342 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



belieW it, the saddest scene of all the sad scenes witnessed during 
the wreck of desolation. I had scarcely the heart, as I went about 
among the people, to say a word to any one I met. It was no 
place for words of pity, and expressions of sympathy would have 
been horrid mockery ; yet occasionally I plucked up courage 
enough to speak to a few of the men and women, careful all the 
while to speak feelingly of the great misfortune that had befallen 
the people, without for a moment making my sympathy look like 
pity for their own particular desolations; for, strange as it may 
seem, the more I wandered among these unfortunate, brave- 
hearted refugees, the more did I become impressed that they felt 
their own sorrow so deeply, that a third person who dared to 
express sorrow for them in particular would have been treated to 
a quick rebuff. I sat down beside one young man and his wife in 
the park, and partook with them of the food which the young 
man had procured, I believe, from the place where the Relief 
Committee had sent food for distribution. I could not but pity 
the poor young wife as she sat with her head upon her hus- 
band's knees, and her face covered with her hands, while she 
cried, oh so bitterly ! And clinging to her were three little chil- 
dren — one a girl of about seven and another about five, and a 
chubby faced boy about two years of age. They werfe all three 
beautiful children, and they seemed to know something awful had 
happened, without exactly knowing what, to make "mamma" cry 
so. And they toyed with her hair with their tiny hands, and the 
little boy would everj^ now and then put his little arms round the 
mother's neck, place his lips against her cheek, and murmur : 
" Don't ki, mamma, don't Id." 

Do you wonder that the man gulped down his food chokingly 
when he beheld this? I more than once saw him turn his head 
from me and wipe his eyes with his sleeve. I got into conversa- 
tion with him after awhile, and he said to me, as I rose to go : 
" Well, sir, it can't be helped. I had a home and was worth 



m CHICAGO AND TIIE WEST. 343 

$10,000 a day or two ago, and now here's all I've got between me 
and the grave ;" and he put his hands in his pockets and showed 
me a two-dollar bill; and then pointing to his wife and cliildren, 
and smiling through his tears, he exclaimed, as he laid his hand 
softly on his wife's covered head: "Thank God, I have not lost 
these. I am better off than many." 

This was but one of many instances of the same kind I came 
across in the camp ; but now let me draw a veil over the picture. 
It is too sad even to think about. Thank God, most of the 
" campers" are now housed, and, let us hope, the time is not far 
distant when they will one and all have their own homes again. 
But what, oh what of those' whose now missing ones are destined 
never to return ? 

" Sorrow never comes single spies, but in battalions," is Shak- 
speare's observation on human life, which many men find true to 
the last letter. And often a city attacked, as ours has been, be- 
comes the field where those battalions deploy and assault success- 
fully what remains of human joy and pride. Among several 
instances of the accumulation of disasters, we read the follow- 
ing:— 

Dr. Henrotin, who lived on the Korth Side a little more than a 
fortnight ago, was among the thousands who were compelled to 
pull up stakes and fly before the fiery breath of the great confla- 
gration. He succeeded in accomplishing no less than six diflerent 
moves, leaving some goods at every fancied place of security, 
until at last he found he had nothing left him but his family 
and a horse and buggy. He had congratulated himself on saving 
the horse and buggy, for the reason that both were of a suj)erior 
quality. His horse he had refused to part with for a large sum of 
money, and he put a high valuation on the vehicle. On Saturday 
he was driving along Ashland avenue, and, when about to cross 
the railroad track, found a locomotive almost upon him. The 
signalman's hat and a long line of fence had intercepted the view, 



344 HISTOET OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

nor did the signalman think proper to show himself until the 
locomotive was close np. The horse was frightened, leaped across 
the track, threw the Doctor out of his buggy, smashed the vehi- 
cle to sticks and shreds, ran like a streak to Western avenue, 
plunged his head against a curbstone, and broke his neck. The 
Doctor had, on the previous day, invested in a pair of cheap shoes, 
which saved him from injury, as the lines caught round his heel. 
He would doubtless have been dragged some distance had not the 
cheap heel come off. 

A New York paper describes a Fire- wedding : — 
Chicago (October 18). — Among all the pictures of " Chicago 
as it is " which have been photographed with the pen, I wonder 
whether any one has seen the chronicle of a " Fire- Wedding " — 
a wedding whose whole aspect and circumstances were so altered 
by the fire as to be inextricably connected with it forever after 
in the minds of the lookers-on. There was such a wedding in 
our poor desolated ISTorth Side the other day. The first house 
outside of the burned district on the north contained a most 
motley crowd for several days after the fire, for the owner had 
received everybody, high and low, till the house would have 
furnished excellent material for a new " Decameron " or " Can- 
terbury Tales," if the fire had only unearthed a modern Boccac- 
cio or Chaucer. As it was, wonderful stories flew about, rather 
monotonous as to tone, but evidently diversified as to incident : 
" Have you seen the three-days'-old baby in the barn : they 
picked it up with the mother in the park." " That German, 
covered up with greatcoats, on the corner, was found almost dead 
with cold and exposure." " Three men have just come in who 
have had but four soda-crackers between them since Sunday, and 
this is Wednesday morning." And so on, till one of our couriers 
brought in a story before which the others paled their ineffectual 
fires. A friend had just told him of meeting a woman, during 
the fire on Monday, who was struggling along under a heavy 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 345 

bundle wrapped in a sheet. Offering to help her, she said : 
" Do you know what is in here ? God help me ! the bodies of 
my two children, who were suffocated in the fire ; but I could 
not leave them to burn." The atmosphere was full of startling 
and blood-curdling ruinors, and every hour brought a new excite- 
ment. Incendiarism was said to be rampant ; frightful and 
summary vengeance was reported as meted out to even supposed 
evil-doers. The house had twelve revolvers, loaded and capped, 
arranged on the parlor windows every night, and no one thought 
of sleeping in a house not guarded by a patrol. 

So, when it was whispered about that sweet Minnie T , a 

relative of our host, and who was to have been married according 
to the strictest sect of the fashionables, if Superior street had not 
been burned, would really carry out her intention and take the 
holy vows on the twelfth, the house was in the wildest excite- 
ment. How could they get a license? how find a clergyman? 
The trousseau was burned ; the intended guests were burned out ; 
the caterers and florists had neither flowers nor food. How 
could a fashionable young lady make up her mind to be married 
without these things ? But she did ! And what was more, 
being a girl of exceeding sweetness and womanliness, she did 
not seem to care a whit about her lost splendors. Thursday 
came, and with it a tremendous sweeping and dusting of the 
house of refuge ; for, let me tell you that a running fire of run- 
ning guests does not leave a house swept and garnished, but 
quite the contrary. A license had been obtained, and Minnie's 
own burnt-out clergyman had come to marry her, but what 
should be done for decorations ? The large house-parlor had 
never been furnished, and there was not even a mantelpiece in 
the room. But it seemed as if the fire had developed as much 
feminine ingenuity as it had destroyed feminine property. Theo- 
dore Winthrop said that if the order had been given in the 
Seventh JSfew York Eegiment, " Poets to the front," a goodly 



34:6 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

company would have answered to the call ; and so now a call for 
decorators of burned property brought a perfect rush of talent to 
the rescue In the unsightly chimney-hole was placed an inverted 
soap-box, covered with a crimson cloth. On this sat a tall slop- 
jar, cribbed from a bedroom, filled with lovely crimson and green 
autumn leaves. To be sure, a slop-jar is not ^er se a handsome 
ornament ; but then some refugee had left a magnificent stag's 
head and antlers, which, set up in front of the objectionable 
crockery, left nothing to be desired. A white cravat, lost by 
some city exquisite, who probably found it was impossible to 
save both that and his neck, tied more autumn leaves into a true- 
lover's knot of colossal size, and hung high in the pier. Branches 
of richest color filled all sorts of niches and corners, and the 
room was declared magnificent. Some one, however, suggested 
that there was no sort of table or altar for the minister's use. 
But fortune favors the brave ; a pair of library steps was pro- 
duced from somewhere, and a sheet pinned around them. 
Another treasure-trove was a scarlet cloth in illuminated work, 
with the motto, " Cast thy care upon Him, for He careth for 
thee." Our little white altar, with this pinned to the front face, 
and surmounted by a big Bible and prayer-book, made a very 
canonical appearance indeed. 

Then the room was ready and we had a rehearsal. But, alas ! 
what bride and groom of the present day could kneel on a bare 
floor and get up again gracefully ? In vain blocks of wood, box- 
es, and books were tried — one was too high, another too low. At 
last a bright thought came — carriage cushions ! For it must be 
said that in burned Chicago now there are forty carriages and 
pairs of horses to one house, as these first were mostly saved ; so 
that beggars ride where beggars never rode before. Four cush- 
ions were brought from the barn, and an Afghan converted them 
into a lovely hassock. As it is (or was) impossible in these days 
to have a wedding without showing " the presents," a vine-wreath- 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 347 

ed table in one corner held a most elaborate display. A beautiful 
jewel-case contained what was set forth as the bridegroom's gift — 
a set of exquisite pearls, which you had to look at very nearly to 
discover that they were moulded from the fine white ravellings of 
cotton cloth. Other cases contained sets of pickle-forks, preserve- 
spoons, and so forth, cut out in pasteboard, with mouldings and 
monograms in lead-pencil. Yaluable jewelry was plenty, only 
unfortunately the lava earrings had been dug out once too often, 
and the cameos looked very black and queer round the edges. A 
pewter table-spoon, a german-silver fork, and some valuable aids 
to housekeeping in the broom and dust-pan line, completed the 
array, wliieh certainly was unique, and interested the spectators 
much more than the usual show. But when it came to dressing 
the bride, serious difficulties occurred. Her wedding-dress and 
veil had never come from Field & Leiter's. Never mind, she had 
a white cambric morning-dress, which, looped over a nice petti- 
coat, would make her slender figure look lovely, and her married 
sister had saved her own wedding veil. Some simple white flow- 
ers from a neighbor's yard took the place of orange blossoms, and 
a set of pearls was borrowed from a friend who had brought them 
out of the fire in her hands. As for stockings, handkerchiefs, etc., 
the various guests provided these from among them. So the pret- 
ty bride looked, after all, as sweet as a rose, and the long-laid- 
away tulle veil became her soft, fair locks to a charm. The 
groom was dressed in borrowed clothes from head to foot, as was 
the first bridesmaid, while the brother w^ho gave away the bride 
complained that he, being five feet nine, was obliged to borrow 
the dress suit of a man who stood six feet six in his stockings, and 
that consequently, when he stepped forward to perform his broth- 
erly duty, he was obliged to take a reef in his habiliments to 
prevent falling over on his nose. At last all was ready. I wonder 
if just such an assemblage ever met together at a wedding before. 
There were about forty guests, all but one of whom had been 



> 



MS HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIEES 



driven from their houses bj the actual presence of fire — the bride 
and groom had hastened their wedding so as to go away together 
among friends who could shelter and help them. The minister 
who married them had promised his congregation that lie would 
stay among them, and work with his hands if necessary, being 
bereft of all he had in the world. And this was all that was left 
of one of the richest congregations in the richest city of the "West. 
But never have I seen among rich or poor a sweeter and more 
holy-seeming wedding; and when, after the solemn words were 
said, the congregation, at a sign from the minister, dropped on 
their knees and offered a solemn thanksgiving to the Almighty for 
their preservation through the horrors of the last few dreadful days, 
broken voices and tender heartfelt tones attested the reality of the 
service. And so the warm biscuit and cold water that stood for 
wedding-cake and wine were partaken of with a plentiful season- 
ing of cheerful words and even jests, and all felt that to be poor 
in such good company robbed ruin of half its sting. 

Before closing this chapter of incidents and individual experi- 
ences, we must allow the Fire Marshal, Mr. Williams, to give his 
vindication of himself, which was addressed to the Editor of the 
Tribune : — 

Sir : You, as well as the readers of your paper perhaps, have 
wondered somewhat at the non-appearance of a card from me, as 
Fire Marshal, relative to the late conflagration. I deemed it best 
to wait until the excitement and bustle had quieted a little, and 
the community had time to settle again. I have noticed and 
read the suggestions and articles in regard to the '*' man Williams." 
The authors of those extracts being so modest as not to sign their 
names, I cannot hope to see them individually, but take this 
method of extending to them my heartfelt thanks for the " praise 
and honor " they so kindly and profusely bestowed upon me in 
the high and noble manner in which they have done. 

They should have considered well the difficulties that the Fire 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 349 

Department had to encounter on that dreadful nigiit before try- 
ing to ''comment" upon it. They had just passed tnrough a 
severe fire twenty-four hours previous, and part of the companies 
had left the scene of the old fire but a few hours when they were 
called again, tired and worn out from hours of hard labor, to 
another still more fearful than the one they had just dealt with. 

While we were working on the original fire, which was sur- 
rounded and under our control, the fearful gale which was raging 
at the time, carried not only sparks but brands and pieces of 
boards on fire, the distance of two to four squares. To our sur- 
prise we were informed that a church over two blocks to the 
north was on fire. We were then obliged to form a new base of 
operations to protect the property around the burning church. 
Wliile thus engaged in staying the fiery element, Avhich we also 
conquered and had under our control, we were again informed that 
the fire had taken another leap, and had broken out in the match 
factory, lumber yard, and shingle mills of W. B. Bateham. 

People living in the vicinity had carried out bedding, furniture, 
etc., into the street for safet}^, which was soon all ablaze. The 
strong wind carried the burning material to the east side of 
Canal street, communicating the fire to the wooden structures 
on that side of the street ; these buildings being elevated to the 
height of five to seven feet above tbe ground, together with the 
sidewalk, formed a complete tunnel, and the draught carried the 
flames for a whole square without meeting even the resistance of 
a common board partition. In the mean time the intense heat 
drove us, and we were compelled to remove some of our appara- 
tus, which occupied quite a length of time ; also losing consider- 
able hose. During this time the fire made fearful progress, and 
wliile trying to rescue one of the steamers from its dangerous 
situation, it was discovered that the fire had crossed to the South 
Division, into the second street east of the river. I immediately 
ordered part of the Department, and went myself to the new field 



350 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIRES 

of action. On my arrival tliere, I found not only a few buildings 
on fire, but the largest portion of two squares. So rapid did the 
fire spread, that the wooden buildings on Quincj street, the Ar- 
mory building, the square known as " Conley's Patch " (all com- 
posed of wooden shells), the Gas Works, and the roofing material 
yard of Barrett, Arnold & PoM-ell, were one sheet of flame in a 
short space of time. This yard being composed of combustible 
material, together with the Gas Works, threw out a terrific heat, 
more especially after the gas was allowed to escape to prevent an 
explosion and the destruction of the works. Through the agency 
of the burning of this yard, large fire-brands, composed of tar 
and pitch felting some two or three feet in length, were whirled 
through the air for a number of blocks, and would alight on some 
building, and hardly a minute would elapse before the whole 
structure would be involved in one mass of fire, thus starting in 
diflei-ent parts of the city what you might call difl:erent fires, and 
all burning at the same time. 

I rallied the greater part of my force to the South Side, but it 
was of no avail. The wind blew so hard at this period as to cut 
a solid stream of water into spray before it had gone the dis- 
tance of twent}' feet from the pipe. The fire made such rapid 
headway that we were constantly compelled to move some of 
our steamers to save them from destruction, and by so doing lost 
large quantities of our hose, so much so that we were soon short 
of a supply. 

Wlien at woi-k at Monroe street, I was informed that the flames 
were in our rear as far as Madison street. I immediately repaired 
to that street, and found that a large building, known as the Ori- 
ental Block, was on fire in the rear, and in a few minutes the 
entire block was enwrapped in a sea of burning matter. The 
next to be seized in the embrace of the fire-fiend was the Court- 
House and Chamber of Commerce buildings, which burned very 
wickedly. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 351 

Shortly after this I received intelligence that the Water Works 
were on fire. I then had uo hope whatever of staying the flames. 

Nearly four years ago, when I was appointed Fire Marshal, in 
my estimate of wants for the Fire Department I recommended 
to the Board of Police the necessity of having one or more " Float- 
ing Fire Engines," for the protection of the property along the 
river. They acquiesced in my recommendation, and asked for 
an appropriation to purchase the same, but without success. 
They have made several attempts since to obtain the necessary 
appropriation. This floating engine, or engines, would have 
done much in stopping our late great fire, as there could be two 
powerful pumps on board of each, throwing two or three streams 
of water, which would have been sufficient to keep wet the build- 
ings on the sides of the river for a number of squares, and in pro- 
tecting the elevators. 

The public are probably aware of the fact that the foot of our 
streets are leased from time to time for dock purposes, which has 
always interfered with the Fire Department in obtaining a sup- 
ply of water from the river. We have been deprived of the use of 
these docks, and also of the floating engines, which we have had 
occasion to regret in this as in many other instances, as either 
would have rendered great aid to the department. 

One other circumstance that has greatly crippled our Fire De- 
partment, is the scanty supply of hose purchases from year to" 
year ; also an insufficient number of fire engines. I have always 
failed to obtain the amount of hose I have asked for from time 
to time, as in the case of the present year I requested 15,000 feet, 
which was small enough an amount for the number of fires we 
are having in Chicago (amounting to nearly 700 during the last 
year) Instead of allowing me the full amount, 1 was cut down 
one- third, and allowed 10,000 feet. I was also cut short of one 
additional steamer. 

After all this, it has been stated by one of your correspondents 



353 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

that, had there been some engines phxced upon flat-boats, canal- 
boats, or scows, and propelled in the river by the aid of tugs, 
it would have prevented the fire from crossing. Allow me to 
ask, where were those scows ? "We tried to obtain one to enable 
us to extinguish the coal fires; none were to be found this_side 
of Bridgeport, and it took from four to five hours to obtain it. 
What time did the Fire Marshal have to hunt scows and flat- 
boats at that stage of the fire ? 

Correspondents in difierent papers have asked why the Fire 
Department did not do thus and so ? Why did not the people 
try to protect their buildings from sparks and embers as did 
the watchman at the crib in the Lake ? Instead of standing in 
the way, and finding fault with the Fire Department, the drought 
of the season, the state of the atmosphere, and the high gale, 
they should have turned their attention to the roofs of buildings. 
How could the firemen be battling the fire and watching buiJd- 
ings squares in their rear ? 

To a careful reader of the Marshal's letter it becomes evident 
that discontent exists in the public mind ; and, accordingly, as 
after a great battle, the vanquished frequently fall into disagree- 
ments, bickerings, and mutual criticism, so also now every one is 
ready to justify himself, if his neighbor sufiers in the result, and 
many seek to cast blame upon parties who did the best tliey could 
in the peculiar and trying circumstances. The Fire Department 
sufi"ered a great defeat ; but their enemies were peculiarly power- 
ful, and they were wearied out by a previous day and night's 
struggle. Instead of ill-natured invective or attempts to shirk 
responsibility, there should be a calm determination to learn from 
experience how to avoid the recurrence of similar disasters. 
Such is the end the practical Chicagoans will reach. 

And now must close this long chapter of personals, which have 
served to reveal the breadth and characteristics of that suffering 
which was experienced by the multitudes, who went forth home- 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 353 

less and impoverished on the evening of the 8th and the morning 
of the 9th of October, 1871. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

" This kingly Wallensteiu, wliciie'er he falls, 

Will drag a world to ruin down with him ; 

And as a ship that in the midst of ocean 

Catches fire, and shivering springs into the air, 

And in a moment scatters between sea and sky 

The crew it bore, so will he hiirry to destruction 

Ev'ry one whose fate was joiried with his." 

— Schiller. 

It is now in place to mention, more definitely and comprehen- 
sively, the losses, by this calamity, of property and life. 

This city and its interests are intimately bound up with those 
of the whole world. The losses by the fire were not local but 
well-nigh universal. The representatives of all nations were here, 
and of all States and communities in North America — the busi- 
ness world were here by their money or agencies, and the fall of 
Chicago sent a tremor throughout the whole fabric of society. 
This may account, in part, for the uprising of all Christendom to 
assist in the terrific exigency, and roll away the burden tliat was 
crushing us into the dust. 

It is scarcely possible to visit a city or enterprising village in 
our own country, or certain parts of Europe, without meeting per- 
sons, many or few, who say we have friends who suffered, or we 
ourselves have lost, by the great conflagration. Our population 
was not native to the soil, and our capital was largely from abroad. 
As a place for investment of funds none was deemed preferable ; 
and this drew heavily upon the resources of men who had money 
to spare in all parts of the country. Insurance companies had 
sought this field in great numbers, and their losses have been 



354 



HISTOKY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



v'ery widely felt. The home companies, having their assets very 
considerably, or perhaps entirely, in property burned, and the 
stockholders themselves being comparatively helpless from their 
private losses, are unable to pay their policy-holders, and have 
lost their own capital and business. 

The following tables furnish an exhibit of all the companies 
doing business in Cliicago There is a large number which have 
no connection witli this city, and do not require to be named here. 
The latest data enable us to furnish a very full and accurate 
statement of the capital, gross assets, and losses of such as have 
offices and representatives in this city : — 

NEW YORK COMPANIES, 

Gross Assets^ 

Name. Ca/pital. Jan. 1, 1871. Losses. 

^tna, City $300,000 |442,709 $660,000* 

Adriatic, City 300,000 246,120 8,500 

Albany City Albany 200,000 397,646 800,000* 

American, City . .^ 300,000 741,405 35,000 

American Exchange, City 300,000 277,350 58,000 

Astor, City 350,000 405,571 400,000* 

Atlantic, City 300,000 556,179 600,000* 

Beekman, City 200,000 261,851 350,000* 

Buffalo City, Buffalo 200,000 370,934 600,000* 

Buffalo Fire and Marine, Buffalo 304,222 473,577 625,000* 

Buffalo German, Buffalo 200,000 270,081 5,000 

Capital City, Albany 200,000 293,766 270,000* 

Citizens, City 300,000 684,798 35,000 

Columbia, City 300,000 451,332 3,000 

Commerce, Albany 400,000 692,877 400,000 

Commerce Fire, City 200,000 249,373 25,000 

Commercial, City 200,000 306,002 5,000 

Continental, City 500,000 2,538,038 1,000,000 

Com Exchange, City 300,000 398,986 55,000 

Excelsior, City 200,000 335,724 600,000* 

Exchange, City 150,000 183,959 3,500 

Firemen's, City 304,000 359,961 15,000 

Firemen's Fund, City 150,000 173,477 35,000 

* Suspended. 



> 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 355 



Name. Capital. 

Firemen's Trust, City $150,000 

Fulton, City 200,000 

Germania, City 500,000 

Glens FaUs, Glens Falls 300,000 

Guardian, City 200,000 

Hanover, City 400,000 

Hoffman, City 200,000 

Home, City 2.500,000 

Howard, City 500,000 

Humboldt, City 200,000 

Importers and Traders', City 200,000 

International, City 500,000 

Irving, City 200,000 

Jefferson, City 200,010 

Kings County, City 150,000 

Lafayette, L. L, City 150,000 

Lamar, City 300,000 

Lenox, City 150,000 

LoriUard, City 1,000,000 

Manhattan, City 500,000 

Market, City 200,000 

Mechanics' , L. I., City 150,000 

Mechanics and Traders', City 200,000 

Mercantile, City 200,000 

Merchants', City 200,000 

National, City 200,000 

New Amsterdam, City 300,000 

New York Fire, City 200,000 

Niagara, City 1,000,000 

North American, City 500,000 

Pacific, City 200,000 

Phenix, L. L, City 1,000,000 

Relief, City 200, 000 

Republic, City 300,000 

Resolute, City 300,000 

Security, City 1,000,000 

Sterling, City 200,000 



Gross Assets, 




Jan. 1, 1871. 


Losses. 


$226,269 


$5,000 


363,002 


900,000* 


1,077,849 


236,500 


571,123 


13,000 


279,688 


40,000 


700,335 


225,000 


235,243 


30,000 


4,578,008 


3,000,000 


783,851 


375,000 


351,186 


34,000 


302,589 


23,500 


1,329,476 


500,000 


321,745 


550,000* 


411,155 


43,500 


263,573 


31,000 


214,751 


7,500 


551,403 


450,000* 


340,801 


33,000 


1,715,909 


1,500,000* 


1,407,788 


1,250,000* 


704,684 


1,000,000* 


318,047 


33,500 


460,003 


41,500 


273,399 


100,000 


443,690 


10,000 


382,671 


37,500 


432,638 


300,000 


392,278 


15,000 


1,304,567 


235,000 


770,305 


730,000* 


443,557 


13,500 


1,890,010 


350,000 


310,908 


40,000 


683,478 


235,000 


253,453 


75,000 


1,880,333 


1,500,000* 


247,037 


7,500 



H- 



356 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 



Gross Assets^ 

JTamb, Capital. Jan. 1, 1871. Losses. 

Tradesmen's, City $150,000 $423,181 " $25,000 

Washington, City 400,000 774,411 900,000* 

Western of Buffalo, Buffalo 800,000 582,547 750,000* 

Williamslxirg City. City 250,000 539,692 60,000 

Yonkers and New York, City 500,000 868,933 700,000* 

MISSOURI COMPANIES. 

American Central, St. Louis $231,370 $254,875 $375,000 

Anchor, St. Louis 105,225 121,974 27,000 

Boatmen's, St. Louis 106,530 51,786 20,000 

Citizens', St. Louis 175,000 271,373 25,000 

Commercial, St. Louis 40,660 43,896 20,000 

Excelsior, St. Louis : . . 73,087 19,815 15,000 

Globe Mutual, St. Louis 125,000 150,793 05,000* 

Jefferson, St. Louis 101,272 121,842 10,000 

Marine, St. Louis 150,000 210,925 10,000 

Merchants', St. Joseph 60,636 79,682 10,000 

JSTational, Hannibal 111,201 147,738 10,000 

North Missouri, Macon 184,050 154,166 21,500 

Pacific, St. Louis 25,000 36,835 10,000 

Phoenix, St. Louis 108,950 126,654 10,000 

St. Joseph, St. Joseph 64,000 105,729 10,000 

St. Louis, St. Louis 240,000 307,342 15,000 

State, Hannibal 109,820 162,099 21,500 

MASSACHUSETTS COMPANIES. 

Bay State, Worcester $104,800 $196,275 $5,000 

Boylston, Boston 300,000 933,256 13,000 

City, Boston 200,000 399,427 15,000 

Eliot, Boston 800,000 672,212 12,500 

Firemen's, Boston 300,000 1,038,330 85,000 

First National, Worcester 100,000 157,356 2,500 

Franklin, Boston 300,000 541,908 50,000 

Hide and Leather, Boston 800,000 419,211 720,000* 

Howard, Boston 200,000 358,642 27,500 

Independent, Boston 300,000 • 646,648 1,100,000* 

Lawrence, Boston 250,000 262,502 10,000 

* Suspended. 



A 




m CHICAGO AND THE WEST, 359 

CasTi Gross Assets, 

Name. Capital. Jan. 1, 1871. Losses. 

Manufacturers', Boston $400,000 $1,480,464 $120,000 

Merchant's, Boston. .... 500,000 958,559 10,000 

National, Boston 300,000 821,840 400,000 

Neptune, Boston , 300,000 852,195 60,000 

New England Mutual M., Boston... . 200,000 1,080,973 1,000,000=:- 

North American. Boston 200.000 601,747 10,000 

People's, Worcester 400,000 887,756 300,000 

Shoe and Leather Dealers', Boston. . . 200,000 549,806 25,00C 

Springfield, Springfield 500,000 930,101 450,000 

Suffolk, Boston 150,000 283,288 23,000 

Tremont, Boston 200,000 294,543 70,000 

Washington, Boston 300,000 985,975 25,000 

RHODE ISLAND COMPANrEf. 

American, Providence $200,000 $374,969 $600,000* 

Atlantic, Providence 200,000 326,614 325,000* 

City, Providence 50,000 72,150 7,500 

Hope, Providence 150,000 211,673 325,000* 

Merchants', Providence 200,000 372,199 15,000 

Narragansett, Providence 500,000 792,947 25,000 

Providence Washington, Providence.. 200,000 415,149 550,000* 

Roger Williams, Providence 200,000 278,966 225,000* 

OHIO COMPANIES. 

Alemannia, Cleveland. $250,000 $285,555 $175,000 

American, Cincinnati 100,000 125,513 12,500 

Andes, Cincinnati 1,000,000 1,203,425 850,000 

Burnett, Cincinnati 60,000 75,369 2,500 

Butler, Hamilton 14,000 22,322 

Capital City, Columbus 60,000 78,000 

Central, Columbus 40,000 55,541 

Central, Dayton 20,833 29,896 

Cincinnati, Cincinnati 150,000 209,223 60,000 

Citizens', Cincinnati 52,500 67,690 25,000 

Cleveland, Cleveland 414,400 530,208 700,000* 

Commercial, Cincinnati 100,000 158,987 13,000 

Commercial Mutual, Cleveland 210,210 349,624 400,000* 

21 



360 niSTOEY OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

Casli Gross Assets, 

Name. Capital. Jan. 1, 1871. 

Cooper, Dayton $23,800 $32,527 

Eclipse, Cincinnati 27,350 4a,G67 

Farmers', Cincinnati 23,300 24,142 

Farmers', Jelloway 100,000 131,626 

Farmers & Merchants', Dayton 32,000 55,770 

Farmers, Mer. & Mfctrs.', Hamilton. 100,000 123,366 

firemen's, Cincinnati 100,000 225,600 

Firemen's, Dayton 100,000 126,893 

FranHin, Cincinnati 100,000 132,465 

Franklin, Columbus 70,000 88,071 

German, Cleveland 200,000 281,260 

German, Dayton 22,500 28,347 

Germania, Cincinnati. 100,000 127,858 

Gsrmania, Toledo 45,000 54,500 

Globe, Cincinnati 100,000 178,143 

Hamilton, Hamilton 17,500 41,620 

Hibemia, Cleveland 200,000 225,000 

Home, Columbus 500,000 637,947 

Home, Toledo 69,000 76,335 

Jefferson, Steubenville 43,392 60,032 

Merchants & Manufrs.', Cincinnati. . . 150,000 266,780 

Miami Valley, Cincinnati 100,000 141,094 

Miami Valley, Dayton 26,100 51 ,133 

Mutual, Toledo 90,000 90,249 

National, Cincinnati 100,000 120,514 

Ohio, ChiUicothe 40,000 49,092 

Ohio, Dayton 35,282 54,818 

Ohio Valley, Cincinnati 50,760 79,921 

People's, Cmcinnati 20,000 48,928 

Sun, Cleveland 200,000 801,340 

Teutonia, Cleveland 200,000 237,016 

Teutonia, Dayton 25,000 46,572 

Toledo, Toledo 75,000 105,837 

Union, Cincinnati 100.000 130,845 

Washington, Cincinnati 129,100 148,747 

Western, Cincinnati 100,000 178 550 



Losses. 

$2,500 
10,000 



29,500 

65,000 

436,657* 

3,500 

7,000 

40,000 

360,000* 
300,000 



14,500 
15,000 



3,000 
3,000 



32,000 . 
5,000 
175,000 
1,000,000* 



27,500 
21,000 
81,000 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 361 

Cash Gross Assets, 

Name. Capital. Jan. 1, 1871. Losses. 

CALIFORNIA COMPANIES, 

Firemen's Fund, San Francisco $500,000 $799,627 $300,000 

Occidental, San Francisco 300,000 474,095 300,000 

Pacific, San Francisco 1,000,000 1,777,267 1,500,000 

People's, San Francisco 300,000 * 500,000 400,000 

Union, San Francisco 750,000 1,115,574 450,000 

MICHIGAN COMPANIES, 

Detroit Fire & Marine, Detroit $150,000 $273,063 $175,000 

ILLINOIS COMPANIES. 

American, Chicago $150,000 $548,875 $1,000 

Aurora, Aurora 200,000 220,471 * 

Chicago Fire, Chicago 101,800 181,566 3,000,000* 

Chicago Firemen's, Chicago 200,000 372,544 3,000,000* 

Commercial, Chicago 180,000 266,535 3,000,000* 

Equitable, Chicago 100,000 120,191 3,000,000* 

Farmers', Freeport 100,000 191,303 

Garden City, Chicago 150,000 181,489 2,000,000* 

German, Freeport 101,000 119,824 

German Ins. & Sav's Co., Quincy 132,900 158,951 

Germania, Chicago 200,000 257,821 1,500,000* 

Great Western, Chicago 222,831 274,125 227,000 

Home, Chicago 200,000 245,338 2,000,000* 

Illinois Mutual, Alton 113,000 350,016 1,100,000* 

Knickerbocker, Chicago 160,000 170,129 750,000* 

Merchants', Chicago 500,000 878,253" 6,000,000* 

Mutual Security, Chicago 118,325 145,584 1,800,000* 

Republic, Chicago 998,200 1,132,813 3,500,000* 

Rockford, Rockford 100,000 235,443 

State, Chicago 425,000 460,000 3,000,000* 

MARYLAND COMPANIES. 

Maryland, Baltimore $200,000 $251,157 $12,000 

Merchants & Mechanics', Baltimore.. 250,000 324,208 290,000* 

National, Baltimore 100,000 224,000 33,165 



362 msTOET OF the gkeat fires 

CasTi Gross Assets, 

Name. Capital. Jan. 1, 1871. Losses. 

Peabody, Baltimore $125,000 $190,388 $10,000 

People's, Baltimore 100,000 113,094 17,000 

Potomac, Baltimore 75,651 97,209 10,000 

Union, Baltimore 100,000 164,986 25,000 

Washington, Baltimore ". 100,000 121,804 

CONNECTICUT COMPANIES. 

^tna, Hartford $3,000,000 

City, Hartford 250,000 

Charter Oak, Hartford 150,000 

Connecticut, Hartford 200,000 

Fairfield County, Norwalk 200,000 

Hartford, Hartford 1,000,000 

Merchants', Hartford 200,000 

North American, Hartford 300,000 

Norwich, Norwich 800,000 

Phoenix, Hartford 600,000 

Putnam, Hartford 500,000 

MAINE COMPANIES. 

Eastern, Bangor $150,000 

National, Bangor 200,000 

Union, Bangor 200,000 

PENNSYLVANIA COMPANIES. 

Alleghany, Pittsburg $50,000 

Allemania, Pittsburg 50,000 

Alps, Erie 250,000 $265,524 $185,000 

Artisan's, Pittsburg 64,000 

Ben. Franklin, Allegheny 2,000 

Boatmen's, Pittsburg 125,000 

Cash, Pittsburg 100,000 

Citizens', Pittsburg 100,000 

Enterprise, Philadelphia 200,000 611,654 825,000* 

Enterprise, Pittsburg 25,000 

Eureka, Pittsburg 175,000 



$5,782,635 


$2,500,000 


554,287 


650,000* 


251,951 


400,000* 


405,069 


600,000* 


216,358 


25,000 


2,737,519 


1,200,000 


540,096 


1,000,000* 


456,503 


800,000* 


381,736 


350,000* 


1,717,947 


800,000 


785,783 


1,000,000* 


$237,648 


$7,500 


241,308 


17,500 


421,205 


5,000 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 36S 

Casli Gross Assets, 

Name. Capital. Jan. 1, 1871. Losses. 

Federal, Alleghany $20,000 

Franklin, Philadelphia 400,000 $3,087,452 $500,000 

German, Pittsburg 50,000 

Girard, Philadelphia 200,000 403,062 13,000 

Ins. Co. of N.America, Philadelphia.. 500,000 3,050,536 500,000 

Ins. Co. State of Pa., Philadelphia... 200,000 542,908 25,000 

Lancaster, Lancaster 200,000 250,349 84,000 

Lycoming, Muncy Mutual. 516,896 500,000 

Manuf ac'rs & Merchants', Pittsburg. . . 125,000 

Monongahela, Pittsburg 140,000 

National, Alleghany 50,000 , , 

Pennsylvania, Pittsburg. 115,800 

People's, Pittsburg 76,000 

Pittsburg, Pittsburg 100,000 

Western, Pittsburg 98,000 

■WISCONSIN COMPANIES. 

Brewers' Protective, Milwaukee $164,175 $183,681 $200,000 

Northwestern National, Milwaukee... 150,000 191,202 90,000 

MINNESOTA COMPANIES. 
St. Paul Fire and Marine, St. Paul $120,000 $280,593 $100,000 

FOREIGN COMPANIES. 

Commercial Union $1,250,000 

Imperial 3,500,000 

Liverpool & London and Globe 1,958,760 

North British & Mercantile 1,350,000 

Royal 1,444,475 

It will be seen that the United States companies have lost 
$82,821,122 ; the foreign, $5,813,000 ; and grand total of losses 
by all companies is $88,634,122. Such a sum is almost incom- 
prehensible, or altogether beyond the adequate grasp of any 
human mind. In this connection it is curious to observe how 
the stable institutions at once received an increase of business 
almost incredible, and hope to place themselves upon a more 



$4,000,000 


$65,000 


5,438,665 


150,000 


20,130,420 


3,500,000 


4,104,598 


2,000,000 


9,274,776 


98,000 



364 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

Bolid foundation, which shall be practically immovable. Here is 
another illustration of the old truth — " To him that hath shall 
be given, and he shall have abundance ; but from him that hath 
not shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." This 
was also verified in the case of the elevators that survived. 
Their grain belonged to merchants who held checks for it. In 
many, perhaps most instances, these checks were destroyed, and 
the grain belongs to the elevator companies. Thus they must 
become immensely rich. In some instances, where the checks 
v/ere not wholly burned up. Professor Wheeler, of the University 
of Chicago, took these charred and obliterated checks, and, by a 
chemical process, restored the numbers to a momentary exist- 
ence, and enabled the owner to recover the property. Laying 
the thin black slip of paper on a plate, he passed a liquid over it, 
which burned all but the writing and printing, and gave the eye 
a flying glimpse sufficient to indicate the contents. This fact 
reminds us of the almost utter worthlessness of safes not pro- 
tected by vaults. It was sad to see these vaunted '"' safes " 
turn out so generally unsafe. " If my safe is all right," said 
one man, " I am worth ten thousand dollars." He opened it, 
and instantly, so intense was the heat, all the contents flamed up 
under^ the draft of fresh air, and consumed before his eyes, and 
under his grasp. ' Probably there w^as no difference in the pow- 
erlessness of safes to resist that burning. My attorney's safe, 
containing my papers, fell into the coal bin, and lay there roast-, 
ing like a chestnut, till everything was just in a condition to be 
blown away by a breath. Some things from some safes in favor- 
able positions were preserved. The little fire box within, in a 
few instances, appeared to attract heat, and left the contents in 
a worse condition than those that were outside of it. Men 
will hereafter trust to nothing less substantial than brick vaults, 
built underground, or upon foundations that rest on the solid 



IN CUICAGO AND THE WEST. SG5 

earth. Iron columns twisted and fell, and ruined the vaults they 
supported, and their contents. 

A curious paragraph is worth preserving, to show how the 
government deals with tlie charred currency. 

" I wandered into the Treasury Department a day or two ago 
to ask General Spinner to let me see what was being done with 
the charred money from Chicago. I was shown to the room 
occupied by the ladies employed on the burned money ; shall I 
call it cinder-ca.tes'i. This room is very large and pleasant, and 
was selected because, having a southern exposure with nothing 
near to intercept the light, it has special advantages for this kind 
of work, which needs the strongest light possible. The charred 
packages of money which have been almost reduced to cinders, 
and which crumble at the slightest touch, are brought to the 
ladies skilled in dealing with such cases. The contents of a safe 
which was in Adams Express Company's building, in Chicago, 
were being counted when I went in. There were National Bank 
notes, United States Treasury bonds, nickels, railroad bonds, and 
postage-stamps upon the tables. All these must be sorted and 
arranged, counted, and the value estimated. Such work as this, 
as may easily be believed, is no light task. The notes are baked 
to a crisp, and are perfectly black, and the idea of separating 
them, and deciphering the engraving on their faces, seems at first 
utterly absurd. Some of the packages are in tolerable order, in 
other cases three or four hundred notes which have been care- 
lessly thrown into a box, are so melted together that it seems 
impossible to separate them ; in others, bonds have been tied up 
in a roll for convenience' sake, and are in the worst condition 
possible to be separated. And here I would give a word of 
warning. Anybody is liable to be burnt out; any fire- proof 
safe is subject to being brought under the test of extreme heat, 
and its contents roasted, so that all persons having notes, bonds, 
or postage-stamps put away for safe keeping, should take tho 



o6G HISTOET OF TnE GKEAT FIRES 

precaution to keep them spread out their full size, one placed 
neatlj over the other, and, in case of an accident or calamity 
such as tliat at Chicago, very little will be lost in the process of 
redemption. All notes, whose value can be made out, are re- 
deemed at full value. There is no discount on burnt money. 
The safes or the boxes containing the money are sent at once 
from the Treasurer's ofEce to the ladies, whom long experience 
has proved qualified for the delicate and difficult task of handling 
it and deciphering its value. They take it carefully from its 
receptacles, and proceed to separate the notes with the utmost 
skill. Those notes which are so far gone that they crumble at 
the slightest touch, have their cinders carefully pasted together 
on sheets of tissue-paper. Great care is taken to prevent the loss 
of a single note. The ladies are supplied with various aids in 
their work. Each has a magnifyiug-glass and several small, 
thin, sharp, steel instruments with flat blades, which last are indis- 
pensable in separating the notes. With National Bank notes the 
name of the State, the bank, and the denomination of the note 
must be deciphered, that the money may be returned to the 
banks which issued it for redemption. The counter certifies to 
the number of packages, of pieces, denomination, and the total 
amount. In the case of the Treasury notes, the counter furnishes 
a schedule for the office of the Secretary of the Treasury, another 
for the Treasurer, and a third for the liegister. These schedules 
are carefull}' looked over in these bureaus, signed, and afterward 
the notes are burned in the presence of representatives of the 
three officers above named. This work is not only complicated, 
but imposes great responsibility upon those having it to do ; 
nevertheless, it is proper to state that the ladies receive but $900 
per annum for their labor. 

The postage stamps found in the express safes are arranged, 
counted, and returned to the General Post Office; the railroad 
bonds are returned to the railroad companies who issued them 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 3G7 

The National Bank notes, after being returned to the banks 
which issued them, are sent to the agents of the banks in Wash- 
ington, and by them sent to the office of the Comptroller of the 
Currency, in the Treasury Department. In the redemption 
division of this office they are counted by ladies, one a representa- 
tive of the Secretary, a second a representative of the Comp- 
troller, and a third a representative of the Treasurer, and lastly 
by the agent of the bank, making four countings in all. 
Accuracy is thus secured, and each counter is a check upon the 
rest. Afterward the certificates are signed by gentlemen repre- 
senting the officers above named, and the money is taken in strong 
boxes, securely locked, to be burned. There is a considerable 
degree of ceremony attending upon the burning of the notes, 
although they have already been cancelled and reduced to the 
value of waste paper. The representatives of the offices named 
and the agent of the bank whose notes are to be burned go down 
into the cellar of the Treasury building into a small room resem- 
bling a prison cell more than anything else. The furnace resem- 
bles an oven, and is set in the wall. It has an iron door which is 
fastened with three padlocks. Each lock will open only to its 
own key. The gentlemen acting as representatives of the three 
officers before mentioned have each a key, and each in turn 
unlocks the padlock which his key fits. The boxes containing 
the money are opened by the Secretary's representative ; the 
messenger in attendance sweeps back the ashes of yesterday's 
burning, ]>ile3 shavings in the furnaces, throws in a package of 
notes as a first ofit'ering, closes the furnace door, and the fire 
begins to roar. The door is opened again, and package after 
package of notes is thrown in ; mutilated notes, defaced and time- 
worn notes, and the charred relics of the Chicago disaster are 
tossed in. There is a species of excitement in throwing money 
into the fire. There is a dash of recklessness in it which is fasci- 
nating to sober-minded persons accustomed to economy. I know 



363 HISTOIiY OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

of no better way to ease one's mind after being forced to look 
twice at every penny before spending it, than to be allowed to 
participate in the incremation of that money-god which has been 
tormenting you. You have your revenge on yourself for your 
enforced niggardliness, and on the dire necessity which has caused 
your straits. It is almost exhilarating to toss $20,000 that doesn't 
belong to you into the flames. Nothing equals it, except perhaps 
Artemus Ward's self-sacrifice in sending his wife's relatives into 
the army. 

After all the money is thrown in, the door of the furnace is 
locked with the same ceremony with which it was unlocked, and 
the money is left to burn alone. 

Once upon a time this draught in the furnaces used to burn 
Treasury notes and fractional currency, and was so strong as to 
carry notes up the chinniey, whence they would fly a short dis- 
tance in the air and fall in the court-yard. It was discovered 
that these were picked up and used again as money, so measures 
have been taken to prevent any such occurrence in the future. 

This writer has not told us how the gold and silver coin that was 
melted into masses was separated by the experts, but it was in- 
geniously counted, and as far as possible restored without remint- 
ing. Yast sums of money perished of which no record can be made. 

There were in the vault of the Sub-Treasury, at the time of the 
fire, $1,500,000 in greenbacks, $300,000 in National Bank notes, 
$225,000 in gold, and $5,000 in silver; making a total of $2,030,-. 
000, of which $230,000 was in specie. 

In an old iron safe which was left outside the vault was deposited 
$35,000 consisting of mutilated bills and fractional currency. 
When the building caught fire, and blazed with fervent heat, the 
immense vault, with its fabulous treasures, fell to the basement, 
burying the insignificant safe and its mutilated contents. The 
contents of the latter were saved, while $1,800,000 in currency 
was burned to ashes and hopelessly lost. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 369 

The specie was scattered over the basement floor and fused 
witli the heat. There were lumps of fused eagles valued at from 
$500 to $1,000, blackened and burned, but nevertheless good as 
refined gold. The emplojes raked the ruins of the whole building, 
and recovered altogether about five-sixths of the whole amount. 

It was a fortunate circumstance that only a week before 
1500,000 in gold, and $25,000 in silver, had been shipped from 
the city. 

ISTot a single indictment was left on record by the fire against 
any rogue in Chicago ; no/ n paper to show that there is a suit 
pending in any of the six courts of the county ; not a judgment, 
not a petition in bankruptcy in the federal courts. And worse 
yet, so far as is known, all the records of deeds and mortgages 
are destroyed. The loss of deeds must entail immense trouble 
upon the owners of lands, and require special legislative enact- 
ments to secure proprietors of real estate in their titles. The 
wisest men are maturing plans to provide against losses and liti- 
gations, and make investments in real estate as safe as ever. 

INDIRECT LOSSES. 

A naked estimate of the value of property actually destroyed 
cannot contain any adequate conception of the immense damage 
sustained by the city in its industries and in near and remote 
business prospects. If we say that 1,100 squares, or more than 
2,200 acres, were swept by the remorseless flames in the space of 
twenty-four hours ; that from 20,000 to 26,000 buildings were 
utterly devoured or left in heaps of unsightly ruins ; that the 
value of the buildings alone was fully $Y5,000,000, and of their 
contents at least as much more, we are oppressed by the magni- 
tude of our statements and really comprehend nothing. Eegard- 
ing the $150,000,000 of property consumed as productive capital 
—and most of it was that or its equivalent — the income therefrom, 
reckoned at the jnoderate rate of six per cent, was no less thac 



370 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FLEES 

$9,000,000 a year ; a sum sufficient to pay perpetually the wages 
of 7,000 workmen at two dollars a day each, and 3,000 salaried 
men witli salaries of $1,500 a year each ; in other words, a sum 
sufficient for the comfortable support of no less than 40,000 souls. 

In saying that the direct losses, regarded as capital, represented 
the wages fund of 10,000 men, and that the arrest of business 
represents for the time being a wages fund even greater, it is not 
b}' any means meant that more than 20,000 men are thrown out 
of employment, and 100,000 human beings deprived of the means 
of support. Thanks to the modern system of insurance, to the 
modern spirit of enterprise, and to the energy and large-hearted- 
ness of our own people, but very few willing hands will long re- 
main idle. Common laborers and such mechanics as are willing 
to rough it for a season, will find plenty to do in clearing away 
the rubbish and erecting either permanent or temporary struc- 
tures. 

The Chicago Law Institute reports that, on the 8th day of 
October, 1871, it had acquired about 7,000 volumes of law books, 
valued at about $30,000. In October, 1867, it owned, by actual 
count, 4,681 volumes, which number has since rapidly and steadily 
increased, and embraced a nearly perfect scries of American 
reports ; all the reports of the English courts, and many of the 
most valuable Irish and Scotch reports; all the law journals of 
the United States and England ; most, if not all, the modern 
text-books published in this country and England, and also the 
old English digests, together with a large collection of rare and 
valuable works on the civil law. While the institute had been 
aided by many generous gifts from personal and professional 
friends, yet most of the library had been procured with its own 
funds, derived from the sale of its stock and assessments upon its 
members. The library was the property of the shareholders, and 
freely used by them and all subscribers to the stock who were not 
in default in the payment of their dues, and v/as free to all judges 



ra CHICAGO AND THE WEST 371 

and lawyers living outside of Cook county, either in this or any 
other State. It had always been kept in rooms m the court-house 
furnished by the county of Cook; convenient to all the State 
courts, and freely used by all the judges holding courts in this city ; 
and was in charge of a librarian and assistant, one of whom was 
always in attendance, and was insured for $20,000, divided among 
■.different companies, as follows ; — Five thousand each in the Lum- 
berman's, Merchants', Firemen's, and Equitable Insurance Com- 
panies, all established in the city of Chicago, and organized under 
charters granted by the State of Illinois. 

Besides its library, the Institute had, on the 8tli day of Octo- 
ber, 1871, $1,318.58 in the hands of its treasurer, and owed only 
about $350 for all purposes. 

On the night of the 8th of October, 1871, a memorable fire 
destroyed all the books, records, vouchers, and papers of the 
Institute, with every record of deeds and wills, and all the files 
and records of all the State and Federal courts established and 
held in the city of Chicago. The Law Institute thus lost every- 
thing it possessed, except its name and legal organization, the 
balance of $1,318.58 in the hands of its treasurer, and what may 
be realized upon its insurance, which will not, in the present 
judgment of this committee, exceed $1,500. In addition to their 
loss as members of the Institute, the lawyers of this city, with, so 
far as now known, but one or two exceptions, lost at the same 
time all their private libraries and papers, although some of them 
saved a very few sets of reports — mostly those of the State of 
Illinois and the Supreme Court of the United States. 

The following is a complete list of the breweries destroyed by 
the late fire. The insurance on the property was generally light, 
and much of it uncertain pay : — 
Lill's Brewing Company $500,000 

J. A. Huck .„,. .eoe.. 400,000 

Sand's Brewing Company 333,000 



372 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIEES 

Bush & Brand $250,000 

Buffalo Brewery 150,000 

Schmidt, Katz & Co , 60,000 

Metz & Stage 80,000 

Doyle Bros. & Co 45,000 

Mloeler Bros » 20,000 

K. G. Schmidt 90,000 

George liiller 35,000 

Schmidt & Bender 25,000 

Mitinet & Puopfel 12,000 

John Behringer 15,000 

J. Miller 8,000 

William Bowman 5,000 

George Wagner 5,000 

$2,025,000 

The loss of Mr. Bill has been estimated at $240,000. Mr. 
Bill's residence alone was filled with furniture valued at over 
$10,000, much of the furniture being made in imitation of old 
English furniture, and constructed of the finest materials. 

There were eighty-nine newspaper establishments burned, em- 
bracing dailies and monthlies. 

Thus eloquently has Townsend, " Gath," described the resist- 
ance of the fire-proof Tribune building, which long withstood, 
but finally succumbed with everything around it. 

Oh ! thou, iny master, champion of the people, 
Tribune august, who e'er kept righteous court, 

Long after fire had toppled church and steeple, 
Thou stoodst amidst the ruins like a fort. 

High and serene thy cornices extended, 

Though scorched by smoke, and of the flame the prey, 

Above the vault where, grim, and calm, and splendid 
The sleeping lions of thy presses lay ; 

t 



IN CniCAGO AISTD THE WEST. 3Y3 

Till looking round on the wondrous pity. 

Thyself alone erect, intact, upreared, 
Disdaining to outlive the glorious city, 

With innate heat transfigured, disappeared. 

The following estimate of losses of city property under the ju- 
risdiction of the Board of Public Works, is given by Commissioner 
Kedmond Prindiville, who has devoted considerable attention to 
the subject. This estimate does not inclnde the school-houses, 
engine-houses and apparatus, police stations, sidevs'alks, etc. The 
item of sidewalks only refers to those in front of city property, 
together w'ith all street and alley crossings, which are constructed 
by the Board of Public "Works. The item of the City Hall embra- 
ces only the west half of the Court-IIouse, the remainder being 
owned by the County. The list is as follows : — 

City Hall, including furniture $470,000 

Water Works, engines 15,000 

Water Works, buildings and tools 20,000 

Eush street bridge 15,000 

State street bridge 15,000 

Clark street bridge 13,800 

Wells street bridge 15,000 

Chicago avenue bridge 26,700 

Adams street bridge 37,860 

Yan Buren street bridge 13,470 

Polk street bridge 29,450 

Washington street tunnel 2,000 

La Salle street tunnel 1,800 

Lamp-posts 25,000 

Fire hydrants 15,000 

Street pavements 250,000 

Sidewalks and crossings _ 70,000 

Eeservoirs 15,000 

Docks CO. . 10,000 



874 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIEES 

Sewers $10,000 

Water service 15,000 

Total $1,085,080 

It is safe to estimate that the aggregate losses of the several 
religious denominations by the Great Fire, by the destruction of 
churches, schools, and other property, approximate $4,000,000. 
The Roman Catholics alone lose $1,500,000, and the Methodists 
$600,000. The Presbyterians lose probably about $250,000. The 
other denominations do not lose so heavily, but the Congregation- 
alists, Baptists, Unitarians. Swedenborgians, Universalists, and 
Israelites all lost valuable church buildings. In several instances 
not only the churches vrere destroyed, but all their members lost 
their homes. 

The Rev. Dr. Bolles writes from Chicago, under date of Octo- 
ber 11, as follows: — "Our church (Episcopal), on the North Side, 
with its 70,000 or 80,000 inhabitants, is completely burned out of 
existence. Not only has every church edifice been destroyed, but 
there is not a single parishioner whose private dwelling has not 
been annihilated in the great conflagration, except that of Mr. 
Ogden. Among the snfFerers are the clergy, and especially the 
Re%^ Mr. Street, the Rev. Mr. Dorset, and the Rev. Mr. IBredbnrg 
the Danish missionary; all of whom are reduced to the lowest 
depths of poverty and destitution." 

The Interior thus summarizes the Presbyterian losses by the 
file: — "Our three oldest, largest, and wealthiest churches are 
utterly destroyed ; a number of our mission schools are burned up ; 
the homes of nearly 1,500 members of our congregations are in 
ashes ; almost every prominent business man in any one of the 
ch arches — whether of those destroyed or of those saved— is crippled 
if not ruined, by losses sustained by the fire ; our Seminary is 
pbiCed in straitened circumstances because of the failure of its in- 
vested funds to yield a revenue sufiicient to meet its expenses." 




HON. ISAAC N. ARNOLD. 



IN CHICAGrO AJSTD THE WEST. B77 

** Out of two hundred and fifty families on my list/' said Rev. Mr. 
Parklmrst, of the Grace M. E. Chm'ch, " not one has a roof left. 
Church, parsonage, homes, all were gone, literally annihilated." 

Some idea of the proportion of losses may be gained from the 
following estimates : — 

Dry Goods $6,045,000 

Groceries 2,452,500 

Clothing houses 1,911,000 

Stationers, blank books, etc 1,110,000 

Jewellers, watches and clocks 1,335,000 

Hardware 1,280,000 

MiHincry 1,100,000 

Hotels 1,210,000 

Church societies and corporations 4-,21:0,000 

City property 1,005,000 

Railroads 2,000,000 

Boots and shoes 975,000 

Drugs, paints, and oils 621,000 

Books 864,000 

Hides and leather 428,000 

Restaurants, saloons, etc 528,000 

Furniture 510,000 

Music dealers Y75,000 

Hats, caps, and furs 423,000 

Glassware, ci'ockery, etc 133,000 

Auctioneers 306,000 

Tailors and outfitters 178,000 

Commissions, etc 128,000 

Nothing gives a clearer idea of the magnitude of the great fire 
than the fact that no one man or body of men can, of themselves, 
give any idea of the damage done. Every man doing business in 
the city has it in his power to contribute a valuable chapter to 
the history which will some time be written of the conflagration. 

00, 



378 UlSTOKY OF THE GKEAT FLKE6 

An untold amount of literary and art treasures have gone dowiy 
into ashes. In addition to the hundreds of private libraries and 
collections of works of art, all our public libraries^ and an im- 
mense number of law libraries, are among the lost. 

The collection of the Historical Society, which was among the 
largest in the country, cannot be replaced. It was the work of 
years to get it together, but a few hours served to destroy it. The 
Young Men's Association Library, and the Farwell Hall Library, 
and several other lesser ones, have passed away. Many gentlemen 
had extensive private collections of rare and valuable works. A 
large portion of the members of the bar were sufferers, in this 
respect, to the aggregate extent of tens of thousands of volumes 
of costly law books. And then many of the more wealthy of the 
citizens were liberal patrons of the fine arts, and had brought 
from Europe valuable paintings with which to adorn their resi- 
dences. These were left behind in their flight for life before the- 
great sea of flame, which, with the irresistible tread of fate, wa& 
sweeping towards them. And last, there are the Sunday-school 
Libraries of at least half a hundred churches — all gone. And libra- 
ries of clergymen, and the great and the small bookstores, scores 
of them. There is scarcely any end to the loss of the literary and 
art treasures of the city. It will be long years before our people: 
will be in a condition to restore these adjuncts of our civilizatiouv 

Says a correspondent : — 

" I walked down the avenue with Eobert T. Lincoln, son of the 
late President. He entered his law-office about daylight on Monday 
morning, after the flames had attacked the building, opened the 
vault, and piled upon a table-cloth the most valuable papers, then 
slung the pack over his shoulder, and escaped amid a shower of 
falling firebrands. He walked up Michigan avenue, with this 
load on his* back, and stopped at the mansion of John Young 
Scammon, where they breakfasted with a feeling of perfect se- 
curity. Lincoln went home with his papers, and before noon the 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 379 

hoTjt«e of Scammon was in ruins, trie last which was sacrificed by 
the Lake side." 

Mr. Benjamin F. Taylor, the poet and lecturer, who was for- 
merly the literary editor of the Journal, and one of tlie pioneer 
citizens of Chicago, was in Bufialo when he learned of the great 
'salaraity, and thus, in a note to a Buffalo editor, tells in a few 
tvords the feelings and the spirit of Chicago : — 

" What time but this," he says, " ever showed the world an ex- 
tinguished city and an extinguished press? It seems to me as 
terrible as the day of doom. I cannot realize it. To me it is as 
if a best-known, best-loved part of the planet had been stricken 
off with a hammer and lost in space. To speak of small things, 
but things very near home : here am I, a roll of paper I can carry 
in my pocket is all I have to show for twenty-one years of daily 
writing, such as it was. I^ot a paragraph but these few left to 
prove I ever penned a line. I feel as if somebody had set me 
adrift in a boat with a biscuit, and nobody in all the world to 
make a signal to. But for those who have lost their all — whose 
niagnificent, tangible monuments of wealth, money, and skill, 
have perished like a wisp of smoke — those who are homeless on 
the footstool, there is no rhetoric to meet theii* case. They stand 
literally duastered in the world. And how much grander than 
eloquent words was the action of the city of Buffalo that sent aid 
and hope and good cheer to them that stand desolate on the shore 
of Lake Michigan. God bless Buffalo 1 And yet I cannot think 
that the soul of the West is scorched at all — that there is so much 
as the " smell of fire " on the garments of the enterprise that 
found Chicago like little Moses in the bulrushes, and reared it 
into a mighty leader, and set the star of the West upon its brow ; 
for I believe the spirit of the little Scot, when 'whelmed beneath 
the falling house in the Canongate of Edinburgh, is not extinct — 
the lad who cried out from his living tomb, and so lent nms- 
cle and heart to the rescuers, 'Heave away, chaps; I'm not dead 



380 mSTORY OF THE GREAT FIREf 

yet ! ' I can hear that voice this iDorniug from away there on 
Michigan, and even, here rises the shout of a rescuer where she 
sits on the sliore of Lake Erie." 

The following paragraph is deeply interesting and painfully 
true : — 

Ko calculation can begin to tell the talc of ruin. Banks, ho- 
tels, wholesale houses, all gone — this is indeed fearfully signifi- 
cant ; but of the amount and multiplicity of losses no estimate 
can be bronglit home to the mind. A volume needs to be written 
to portray all that Burnt Chicago means. I sat at a railway sta- 
tion the other day by a gentleman who told mo his story. He had 
had nothing burned np. But nearly all that he possessed was in 
the keeping of the banks. Twenty years ago he went into business 
with a dentist who has been of late among the first in the city. 
He prospered greatly, but worked too hard, and for three years he 
has been wandering into all lauds and all climes where possibly 
he might find relief from intense pain. He looks a young man 
still, but is broken down, and Will the Batiks Pay f is his prob- 
lem of existence. His case is a typical one in this respect, the 
illustration which he is of prosperity gained here by too great 
strain upon body and mind. There is no more terrible feature of 
this calamity than the condition, from excessive overwork, of 
many of the minds on which it falls most heavily. Can they look 
into the gulf of madness which this ruin opens at their very feet, 
sobered instead of crazed, or will they plunge over the brink, 
either into instant insanity or into utter madness of new excess 
of exertion ? The rage of speculation which has run such a course 
here vastly complicates all the perplexities of our present situa- 
tion. All these speculative values — boulevards, suburbs, South 
Side, etc., etc. — are gone for the present. What might have been 
available resources in the hands of active business men have been 
risked and lost. One move of fate has blocked tlie whole game. 
Here is my neighbor who was considered worth a million and a 



IN CHICAGO Al^r. THE WEST. 3S1 

half over his debts, yet was under sc many mortgages that 
he must be penniless now; and he is away looking for the 
power to Sleep. 1 iiiight ennuierate many typical instances of 
enterprise cverwhelmed by the descent ol this storm while carry 
ing too much sail. The men that had great liabilities on account 
of real estate speculations, and those who had been taxed in brain 
and nerve already to the breaking point, were far toe many in oar 
city, even compared with the average downward tendency of 
civilization, in this respect, at the present time. Then there wore 
very many, including many widows and heirs, who had obtained 
very comfortable means by the rise in value of cheap houses and 
lots, and whose property had behind it no habit oi capacity of 
self-help. A great deal of the property of this class was in small 
loans on property. Now all is gone. Time may give some value 
to the titles or the claims, but all income is cut off. Even the 
metes and bounds are blotted out. 

A description like this below, which some friend of the fanwly 
ho.s written, enables us to look into the inner circle of losses, 
and apprehend their exceeding greatness. 

Among the many beautiful homes destroyed by the great fire 
which laid Chicago in ruins, few, if any, were more attractive 
and home-iiice tnan that of Hon. I. >T. Arnold, The house was 
a large, plain, double house, situated nearly in the centre of the 
block bounded by Erie, Huron, Pine, and Eush streets. The 
grounds were filled with the most beautiful shrubbery and trees, 
and entirely secluded by a very luxuriant lilac hedge. Perhaps 
the most noticeable feature was the vines of wild grapes, Virginia 
creeper, and bitter-sweet, which hung in graceful festoons from 
every tree, and covered with a mass of foliage piazzas and sum- 
mer-houses. There was a simple but quaint fountain playing in 
front— beneath a perfect boweu of overhanging vines— a great 
rock, upon whose front had been rudely carved the features of an 
Indian chief, which had been pierced, and a way made for water, 



382 HISTORY OF THE GBEAT FIKJES 

and through the head of the old chief tlie water of Lake Michigan 
was always throwiug its spray. On one side of the entrance was 
a little green-house, always gay with flowers. Two vineries of 
choice varieties of foreign grapes, a large green-liouse and barn, 
constituted the out-houses. On the lawn was a sun-dial, with the 
inscription, 

'•'■JJoras non numcro nisi serenas." 
("I number none but sunny hours.") 

Alas, its tablet was broken with the destruction of the house it 
seemed to guard — but a brighter day may come, and " sunny 
hours " be again numbered. 

But pleasant as was the outside, it was the interior where its 
great attractions lay — and chief of these was tlic library. 

Here were the collections of a life — a law library, and a miscel- 
laneous library of about seven or eight thousand volumes. Many 
of the books were specialties and the objects of pride and affec- 
tion. The speeches of Burke, Sheridan, Fox, Pitt, Erskine, 
Curran, Brougham, Webster, Wirt, Seward, Sumner, etc., all 
superbly bound ; a pretty full collection of English literature, 
poetry and history. Among the notable books were the Abbots- 
ford edition of Scott's novels in full russia binding, Pickering's 
Bacon in tree calf, six copies of Shakespeare, Knight's illustrated 
edition, a full set of the British poets, all of Bohn's Libraries, 
Milton, Bolingbroke, Hume, etc., etc. In American literature 
and history the library was rich. Beautiful editions of the works 
of Irving, Cooper, Paulding, Willis, Bryant, Longfellow, Pres- 
cott. Holmes, the writings of Washington, Madison, Jefferson, 
Hamilton, Marshall, Story, Bancroft, etc. 

The pictures were not numerous, but of very decided merit. 
Landscapes by Kensett, Brown, and Mignot, family portraits by 
Healy, the original study of Webster's reply to Hayne, now in 
Faneuil Hall, Boston, in which were some forty portraits of dis- 
tinguished Americans, many of them from life a portrait of Web- 



LN GlIIGAGO AJS'D THE WEST. o63 

ster bj Chester Harding, etc. Mr. A. bad a verj' complete col- 
lection of tbe proceedings of Congress, and tbe debates, from the 
organization of tbe Federal government down. In tbis library 
was perhaps as full a collection of tbe books and pamphlets in re- 
lation to slavery, tbe rebellion, tbe war, and President Lincoln,, 
as existed in any private hands. 

There were ten large volumes of manuscript letters written by 
distinguished military and civil characters, during and since the 
war of the rebellion, including many from Lincoln, McClellan, 
Grant, Farragut, Sherman, Ilalleck, Seward, Sumner, Chase, Col- 
fax, and others, of great personal and historic interest. 

For the last ten years Mr. Arnold has been collecting the 
speeches, writings, and letters of Lincoln, for publication, and 
had many volumes of manuscripts and letters, the material for a 
strictly biograpliical work upon Mr. Lincoln, several chapters of 
which were ready for publication. These, with many rare and 
curious relics, prints, and engravings, have all perished. 

The failure of Mr. Arnold to save anything was the result of a 
most determined effort to save his house, and a confident belief 
that he could succeed. This confidence did not seem to be un- 
reasonable. The house standing in the centre of an open block, 
with a wide street, and Newberry block with only one bouse in 
front, the Ogden block with only one house directly in the path- 
way of the fiames, it is not surprising that he believed he could 
save his home. Besides he had connections by hose with the 
hydrants both in the front and rear. Mrs. Arnold had a better 
appreciation of the danger, and calling up the family and dress- 
ing little Alice, a child of eight years old, she left tbe house, and 
went to her daughter's, Mrs. Scudder's, leaving Mr. A. and the 
remainder of the family, consisting of a daughter, a lad of thir- 
teen, a school-girl of fifteen, and the servants, to fight the battle 
with the flames. There was a sea of fire to the south and south- 
west ; the wind blew a gale, carrying smoke and sparks, shingles, 



3S'i: HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

pieces of lumber and roof directly over the house. Everything 
M'as parched, and dry as tinder. The leaves from the trees and 
shrubbery covered the ground. The first thing was to turn on 
the water to the fountains in front and on the east side of the 
house to wet the ground and grass, and attach the hose. He sta- 
tioned the servants on each side of the house, and others on the 
piazzas, and for an hour and a half, perhaps two hours, was able 
by tlie utmost vigilance and exertion to extinguish the flames as 
often as they caught. During all this time the fire fell in tor- 
rents ; there was literally a rain of fire. It caught in the dry 
leaves; it caught in the grass, in the barn, in the piazzas, and as 
often as it caught it was put out, before it got any headway. 
"When the barn first caught, the horses and cow were removed to 
the lawn. The fight was continued, and Avith success, until three 
o'clock in the morning. Every moment flakes of fire falling, 
touching dry Mood. with the high wind, would kindle into a 
blaze, and the next instant would be extinguished. The contest 
after three o'clock grew warmer and more fierce, arid those who 
fought the devouring element were becoming exhausted. The 
contest had been going on from half past one until after thrce^ 
Avhen young Arthur Arnold, a lad of thirteen, called to his father, 
"The barn and hay are on fire." "The leaves ai-e on fii'c 
on the east side,"" said the gardener. " The front piazza is 
in a blaze," cried another. " The front green-house is in flames, 
and the roof on fire." '■'■The water has sto2^j>ed! '''' was the 
last apalling announcement. "ISTow, for the first time," said 
Mr. A., " I gave up hope of saving my Jtome^ and considered 
whether we could save any of the contents. My pictures, papers, 
and books, can I save any of them ? " An efibrt was made to cut 
down some portraits, a landscape of Kensett, Otsego Lake, by 
Mignot — it was too late ! Seizing a bundle of papers, gathering 
the children and servants together, and leading forth the animals, 
they started. But where to go? They were surrounded by fire 



m CHICAGO AiW TllJiJ -WEST. oS5 

on three sides ; to the south, west, and north raged the flames, 
making a wall of fire and smoke from the ground to the sky; 
their only escape M'as east to the Lake shore. Leading the horses 
and cow, they went to tlie beach. Here were thousands of fngi 
tives hemmed in and imprisoned by the raging element. The 
sands, from the Government pier north to Lill's pier, a distance 
of three-quarters of a mile, were covered with men, women, and 
cliildrcn, some half-clad, in every variety of dress, with the mot- 
ley collection of things which they sought to save. Some had 
silver, some valuable papers, some pictures, some old carpets, 
beds,, etc. One little child had her doll tenderly pressed in her 
arms, an old woman a grunting pig, a fat woman had two large 
pillows, as portly as herself, wliich she had apparently snatched 
from her bed when she left. Tliere was a singular mingling of 
the awful, the ludicrous, and the pathetic. 

Reaching the water's edge Mr. A. says he paused to examine 
the situation, and determine where was the least danger. South- 
west toward the river were millions of feet of lumber, and many 
shanties and wooden structures yet imburned, but which must be 
consumed before there could be any abatement of the fires. The 
air was full of cinders and smoke, the gale blew the heated sand 
worse than any sirocco. "Where was a place of refuge? AV. B. 
Ogdcn had lately constructed a long pier north of and parallel to 
the United States pier, and it had been filled with stone, but had 
not been planked over, and it would not readily burn. It was 
" a hard road to travel," but it seemed tlie safest place, and Mr. 
Arnold and his three children worked their way far out on this 
pier, but it became so uncomfortable that he at length deter- 
mined to cross the Ogden slip to the light-house, situated well out 
on the United States pier. With much difliculty the party 
crossed the Ogden slip in a small row-boat, and entered the light- 
house, and here they and all others met the kindest reception and 
hospitality. 



^SQ HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

The party remained prisoners in the light-house and on the pier 
in which it stood, for several hours. The shipping above in the 
river was burning ; the immense grain elevators of the Illinois 
Central and the Galena railroads were a mass of flames, and the 
pier itself some distance up the river was slowly burning towards 
the light-house. A large propeller fastened to the dock a short 
distance up the river caught fire, and the danger was that or soon 
as the ropes by which it was fastened burned oif it would float 
clown stream and set fire to the dock in the immediate vicinity of 
the light-house. Several propellers moved down near the mouth 
of the river and took on board several hundred fugitives, and 
steamed out into the Lake. If the burning propeller came down 
it would set fire to the pier, the light-house and vast piles of lum- 
ber, which had as yet escaped in consequence of being directly 
on the shore and detached from the burning mass. A fire company 
was organized of those on the pier, and with water dipped in pails 
from the river the fire kept at bay, but all felt relieved when the 
propeller went to the bottom. The party were still prisoners on 
an angle of sand, and the fire running along the north shore of the 
river. The river and the fire prevented an escape to the south, 
west and north. The fire was still raging with unabated fury. 
The party waited for hours, hoping the fire would subside. The 
day wore on, noon passed and one and two o'clock, and still it 
seemed diflicult if not dangerous to escape to the north. Mi-. 
Arnold, leaving his children in the light-house, went north 
towards Lllrs, and thought it was practicable to get through, but 
was not willing to expose the females to tiie great discomfort and 
possible danger of the experiment. On this occasion Mr. A. saw 
his gardener with the horses and cow, wliich could not approach 
the light-house on account of Ogden's slip. The faithful fellow 
had ridden the horses far out in the Lake, and he sat on the horse's 
back several rods from the shore, holding the pony by the halter 
and the cow by the horn. He saved the animals. 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 387 

THE GAUNTLET OF FIKE, 

Between three and four in the afternoon the tugboat Clifford 
came down the river and tied up near the light-house. Could she 
return — taking the party up the river — through and beyond the 
fire to the West Side, or was it better and safer to spend the 
night at the light-house ? If it and the pier, the lumber and shan- 
ties around should burn during the night, as seemed not unlikely, 
the position would not be tenable, and might be extremely peril- 
ous ; besides Mr. A. was very anxious to hiow that Mrs. A. and 
little Alice were safe. The officer of the tug said the return pas- 
sage was practicable. Rush, Clark, State, and Wells street bridg- 
es had all burned and their fragments had fallen into the river. 
Tlie great warehouses, elevators, storehouses, docks on the banks 
of the river, were still burning, but the fury of the fire had ex- 
hausted itself. The party resolved to go through this narrow 
canal or river to the south bank, outside the burned district. 
This was the most dangerous experience of the day. The tug 
might take fire itself, the woodwork of which had been blistered 
with heat as she came down ; the engine might get out of order 
and the boat become unmanageable after she got inside the line 
of fire, or she might get entangled in the floating timber and de- 
hris of the fallen bridges. However, the party determined to go. 
A full head of steam was gotten up, the hose was attached to the 
engine so that if the boat or clothes caught it could be put out. 
The children and ladies were placed in the pilot house, and the 
windows shut and the boat started. The men crouched clear to 
the deck behind the butt works, and with a full head of steam the 
tug darted past the abutments of Rush street bridge, and as they 
passed State street bridge the pilot had to pick his v>^ay carefully 
among fallen and floating timber. The extent of the danger now 
became 'obvious, but it was too late to retreat. As the boat pass- 
ed State street the pump supplying cold water ceased to work, 
and the exposed wood in some parts was blistering. " Snatching 



388 HISTOKY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

a handkerchief," says Mr. Arnold, " I dipped it in water, and 
covering the face and head of Arthnr, whose hat tlie wind had 
blown- away, I made him lie flat on the deck, as we plunged for- 
ward through the liery furnace. On we sped past Clark and 
"Wells streets. " Is not the worst over ? " he asked of the Captain, 
as the boat dashed on and on. "We are through, sir," answered 
the Captain. " We are safe." '• Thank God ! " came from 
hearts and lips as the boat ^ emerged from the smoke into the 
clear, cool air outside the fire lines. 

Going ashore near West Lake street, Mr. A. obtained a hack at 
the depot of the Northwestern Railroad, and drove to Mr. Geo. 
Davis', and leaving his children there he boi-rowed a horse and 
rode north on the West Side of the ISTorth Pranch to get around 
and above the fire, which was still raging, to try and find Mrs. 
Arnold and Alice. He crossed at North avenue and went to 
Lincoln Park, but could get no intelligence of tliem until ho 
reached General Stockton's, at the end of tlie Lake shore drive, 
whose house was filled with North Side fugitives. Here, on the 
Lake shore, a mile north of the park, he was relieved to learn of 
Mrs. A.'s safety, and he was advised that she had gone with some 
friends and neighbors to Lake View or Evanston. It was now 
dark, and Mr. A. returned to the house of Mr. Davis for the 
night. 

Early Tuesday morning ho started to renew the search. Pass- 
ing through Lincoln Park and the Lake shore drive, he went 
north, inquiring at every house until reaching Mrs. Snow's, where 
he learned that Mrs. A. had gone to the West Side. Returning, 
on his way he met friends who gave him the cheering words tliat 
Mrs. A. and Alice, with many neighbors and friends, had on the 
evening before taken the cars for Winfield, and were all well at 
the house of Judge Drummond, and there, Tuesday 'evening, 
the family all met, and returned thanks to God for each other's 
safety. 



m CHICAGO AlfD THE WEST. 380 

The Trihun^s account of Allan Pinkcrton^s loss reveals a 
ciu-ious feature of our modern city life : — 

Thousands of thieves, and hundreds of thousands of respect- 
able people, were as fully acquainted with the name of Allan 
Pinkerton as of Thomas Jefferson, or Jack the Giant-Killer, and 
his detective agency was as famous an institution as Boston Com 
mon. The system over M'hich he presided was the result of years 
of patient toil and persevering energy, and the reputation enjoyed 
by him w^as the fruit of that toil and energy and perseverance. 
With a huge central office in Chicago, and branches in New 
York and Philadelphia, the champion thief -catcher had his prey 
so uncomfortably situated as to be all the time in the toils, only 
they didn't know it. 

The system was not destroyed, but a portion of its foundation 
has given way, and the savings of twenty years — not in dollars 
•and cents, but in records which dollars and cents can never 
replace — vanished in about half an hour, Mr. Pinkerton started 
his famous detective agency in Chicago in 1852, and two yeai-s 
later, when it began to assume large proportions, the records 
were commenced. The most minute details of every case wei"o 
all faithfully recorded ; the statement of every applicant foi 
assistance in receiving property; the detectives to whom the 
*' job " Avas intrusted ; his orders ; his report of the operations ; 
the disposition by the thief of the property stolen; the amount 
recovered, and indeed every detail of the case. Then, when the 
thief was brought to trial, the whole of the testimony in the case 
was taken down, and tlie final disposition of the prisoners duly 
}'ecorded, so that from the time a complaint was made at Pinker- 
ton's headquarters that money or property l:^d been missing, a 
complete history of the thief and his pursuers until the disapjjear- 
ancc of the former in the Penitentiary or his acquittal, was 
recorded. The amoimt of matter thus created was astonishing. 
For the mere clerical work upon it more than $50,000 had been 



§90 mSTOEY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

paid. Of such curious records there were no less than 400 gigan- 
tic volumes of great value. These were nearly all stowed away 
in six of Harris' largest safes, while the remainder were placed in 
wooden cases. It is needless to state that every one of them was 
destroyed. That in itself would have been a public calamity. 

Mr. Pinkerton also possessed complete records of the secret ser- 
vice of the Army of the Potomac. They were of immense value, 
being not only the complete, but the only set in existence. Mr. 
Pinkerton, whose facilities for obtaining correct information 
during those days were, of course, very much greater than those 
of any one else, valued them at $50,000. The government 
had already offered $30,000 for them — 59 volumes altogether — 
and negotiations were still going on. The whole set perished. 
That was also a public calamity. 

Pinkerton had in his employ a large number of preventive 
policemen, whose occupation was " to watch while all the city's 
sleeping, to chase the rogues that prowl by night," as the two 
yendarmes were wont to sing. These men had orders every 
night to make out a report when they came in. They had to give 
an account of their proceedings on their beat, the condition of the 
weather, what unusual circumstances they witnessed, who they 
saw, and what they said or did to him or her. These reports were 
all copied into the recc^rds. There were forty of these ponderous 
volumes, which were obtained at a cost of $40 each. Their value 
may be imagined. They were frequently consulted in court pro- 
ceedings for the purpose of gaining information as regards the 
weather, the condition of the streets, the presence or absence of 
the moon, and other policemen. There were in all forty-eight 
patrolmen, who gave each an account of these particulars, and it 
is presumable that their accounts generally coincided so far as at- 
mospheric conditions were concerned. Of course the records were 
all destroyed. lu the first-made rush, when the men seized every- 
thing on which they could lay hands, they carried two of these 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. d\)i 

volumes down-stairs and threw tliem on a wagon, into wliicli nmc-h 

/Other nuscelhxncons matter was tlirown also. The remainder 

shared the fiery fate common to e^-erything in the burnt district. 

In a small room adjoining Mr. Pinkerton's private office vv'cre a 
number of plain wooden cases in which were stored the files of 
the daily papers since 1854. There was not a copy of a daily or 
weekly paper issued since 1854 of which Mr. Pinkerton had not a 
duplicate. Many were bound together, and 105 volumes covered 
them all. There were printed instructions posted all round the 
wall, giving directions to the men, in case of fire, to move these 
perishable goods first, trusting the safes to protect the records. It 
AS'as supposed that the Harris safes, which cost $370 each, and a 
Herring safe which cost $600, would be worth something as a pro- 
tection against fire, but the result proved them valueless. Only 
one safe preserved its contents uninjured, and that one by a for- 
tunate accident. Owino- to some misconstruction in the buildino^ 
one safe, containing some of the account books and receipts from 
express companies of money restored, fell into the street, and es- 
caped being melted. The contents were valuable in their way, but 
to Mr. Pinkerton only. The other records were completely wiped 
out, and with them was wiped out the foundation for a complete 
and exhaustive history of the Northwest, besides matter enough 
for thrilling stories without end; groundwork for sensational 
stories innumerable. It was Mr. Pinkerton's intention to have 
some of them published in due time, when the parties were dead 
or foi'gotten. Indeed, many of them were already written, and 
were waiting but a favorable opportunity for introduction to the 
world. The recent heated term has interfered materially with his 
designs, and crumbled plans and papers into one common ruin. 
When the fire first broke out a rush was immediately made to save 
the most valuable property. All that could be moved in Mr. 
Pinkerton's room was transf ei'red to a wagon, and the newspaper 
files were mnde ready for removing. But before the lowering 



392 HISTOKY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

tackle could be put into satisfactory operation the flames were dart- 
ing through the hatchway, and the wagon containing the trifling 
proportion of salvage drove quickly ofi^ to Mr. Pinkerton's home 
on West Monroe street. Besidesthese losses there were others. The 
storeroom where the disguises and other paraphernalia of a detec- 
tive were stored ; the dormitor}- and the extensive household ar- 
rangements necessary for the accommodation of the small army of 
men in constant employ in the building also were burned. The 
greedy fire here did all the damage it could. In half an hour the 
best regulated oflice in the country, aud the most accurate and 
probably minutely detailed records, lay in the basement — a red- 
hot, indescribable heap of rubbish, the only recognizable article 
whereof, a fortnight later, was a heap of bricks, surmounted by 
the remains of a pen-holder. 

The damage to the teiegrapli system was such that every wire 
in the city was disarranged, all the instruments misplaced, dam 
aged aud remo^•ed, aftd, to crown all, a half-dozen wires between 
Chicago and Xew York were completeh^ broken down. To re- 
establish connection, the whole post of operators moved before 
the fire three or four times, and the bridgelcss stream has been 
crossed by the reconstructed wire. 

Mr. Mullett, supervising architect of government buildings, 
after inspecting the Post-Oflice and Custom-House of Chicago, 
says he is satisfied, from the appearance of the building, that if it 
had been provided with fire-proof shutters and a safe roof, its 
contents would have been preserved. Tie also says that if there 
had been a whole street of such buildings with fire-proof shutters, 
it would have stopped the fire and saved the rest of the city. He 
says the city should be divided into fire districts, so that tlie fii'e- 
men should have some rallying point, and that there should be a 
law requiring every building on certain streets to be built of mate- 
rials to resist flames, and thus prevent the annihilation of the city 
at a single conflagration. The government will not entertain auy 




>N(; TUE KUINS. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 395 

proposition for the removal of the public buildiugs in Chicago, 
but will probably purchase the entire block if it can be obtained 
at a reasonable price. One of the owners agreed to sell his lot at 
the same price asked for it before the fire, while the owner of a 
small shop, learning that the government wanted to purchase, has 
raised his price two or three times higher than it was before the 
fire. The Secretary of the Treasury will probably ask Congress to 
condemn the property, when it will be taken and the regular price 
paid for it. Mr. Mullett will at once begin the plans for a new 
building, which will be submitted, with the estimates, to Congress. 
It is thought the buildings will cost from $2,000,000 to $3,000,- 
000, and the land $1,000,000. 

The Chicago Library possessed many costly works, among 
which were the records of the English Patent Office, in 3,000 
volumes. The destruction of the files of the Tribune is an 
immense loss to Chicago, and an ii-reparable one to the Tnhune. 
There was a duplicate copy presented to the Historical Society. 
They contained a complete and exhaustive histoiy of Chicago 
from its first settlement. 

The following is a list of the principal edifices destroyed : 
Great Central Depot, St. James Hotel, 

Palmer House, Matteson House, 

Tribune Building, Sherman House, 

Post-Office, Hejpuhlican Building, 

Bigelow House, Chamber of Commerce, 

Evening Post Building, i\evada Hotel, 

Tremont House, Gas Works, 

Court-House, Briggs House, 

Lombard Block, Crosby's Opera House, 

Times Building, Stoats- Zeitung Building, 

Terrace Block, McVicker's Theatre, 

Armour Block, Wood's Museum, 

Journal Building, Dearborn Theatre, 

23 



896 



HISTOET OF THE GKEAT FIREB 



Adams House, 
Massasoit House, 
City Hotel, 
Metropolitan Hotel, 
Union Building, 
Post-Office JJlock, 
McCormick's Block, 
Western News Co.'s Block, 



Hooley's Opera House, 
Mail Building, 
Shepard Block, 
Honore Block, 
Eeynolds' Block, 
National Bank of Commerce, 
Illinois National Bank, 
Cook County National Bank, 



Manufacturers' National Bank, ^tna Building, 
S. C. Griggs & Co.'s Book House, Armory, 



German National Bank, 
Mechanics' National Bank, 
Commercial National Bank, 
Metropolitan Hall, 
Arcade Building, 
Merchants' National Bank, 
Loan & Trust Co.'s Buildino^, 



Brunswick's Billiard Factory, 

Farwell Hall, 

Union National Bank, 

Mer. and Farm.'s Savings Bank, 

Badger's Bank, 

Illinois Saving Institution, 

City National Bank, 



W. U. Telegraph Co. Building, Adams Express Co., 



Oriental Block, 

St. Mary's Church (Catholic), 

Palmer House, 

First National Bank, 

Trinity Church, 

Third National Bank, 

Jewish Synagogue, 

Mayo Block, 

Fifth National Bank, 

Burch Block, 

Lake Shore Depot, 

Second Presbyterian Church, 

Merchants' Ins. Building, 

Academy of Design, 

Water Works, 



W. Fire and Marine Building, 

First M. E. Church, 

Sturges Block, 

Second National Bank, 

Phoenix Club, 

Morrison Block, 

Fourth National Bant, 

Catholic Cathedral, 

McCormick's Factory, 

Galena Elevator, 

Galena Depot, 

German Theatre, 

Unity, N. E., and Westminster 

Churches, 
Sisters of Mercy Convent. 



IN CHICAGO AWD THE WEST. 397 

Clarendon Hotel, Hiram Wheeler's Elevator, 

Diversey Block, Elm st., Catholic Hospital, and 

Lill's Brewery, the Dearborn, Franklin, Mose- 

First Presbyterian Church, ly, Lincoln, Pierson street, 

Hubbard Block, Elm street, and other Schools, 

Chittenden Building, Sand's Brewery, 

Bryant's Commercial College, Church of the Holy Name, 
Otis Block, Alexian Hospital, 

St. Paul's Church, Armour & "Dole's Elevator, 

Academy of Music, Hatch House, 

Drake-Farwell Block, Hlinois street Church, 

Stone's Block, Jewish Hospital, 

North Baptist Church, North Star Mission, 

Historical Society Building. 
The best authorities concur in estimating the total loss at from 
$198,000,000 to $215,000,000, taking the total insurance to repre- 
sent one-third of the total loss. This may be divided as follows, 
on a rude approximate : 

Loss on buildings and property $106,590,000 

Loss on stock and plant 74,560,000 

Loss on furniture and personal property . . 24,850,000 

Total $206,000,000 ■ 

Such statements can" only be relative and proximate. Actual 
losses have in some instances been made up by anexpected gains. 
Interruption to business cannot be valued and may extend over 
years of the future. By such a view as is here given persons may 
obtain impressions of great value as to the immense destruction 
wrought. If fbst reports were exaggerated in some respects they 
have never fully comprehended the situation, and only as we 
travel over the desolated region of nearly three thousand acres, 
can we fitly conceive what awful damage was consummated. 

Before speaking of the dead who lost their lives by the lire, we 



o9S HISTOKY OF TKK GREAT FUSES 

give room to au appropriate paragraph from the iV! Y. Tribune^ » 
correspondence : — 

There was more spared of the remote Northwest of this North 
Side of Chicago than the reports had any of them admitted — an 
explanation of which fact I shall presently mention. In 1868, 
the city limits were at Fullerton avenue, the length of which, from 
the Lake to the north branch of the river, is two miles. North 
avenue, a mile back in the city, is but a mile and a half in length 
from lake to river. As fai- as North avenue there was little left, 
and clear up to Fullerton avenue, the more thickly occupied part 
was all swept away, but the limit of this part ran diagonally from 
near the west end of North avenue, to near the east end of Ful- 
lerton avenue. On the left or west of this limit is a large district 
mostly unoccupied, and yet sprinkled in various directions with 
residences of city people, as well as with the cottages of gar- 
deners. Unpaved streets, deep with sand or with earth which is 
like ashes, are opened, and to a considerable extent sidewalks of 
plank are laid ; and there are two or three small churches within 
the district. Thus in fact a territory, in shape an isosceles tri- 
angle, having the base nearly two miles long on Fullerton 
avenue to the north, and the sides (1) the river on the west, run- 
idng there northwest and southeast, and (2) the limit of closer 
building on the east, running northeast and southwest, was not 
swept by the fire, and is now the equivalent of a small, very 
sparsely settled village. Oak openings covered with a young and 
low growth of trees, squares bare even of fences and thickly 
covered with thistles, gardens occupying four to eight acres, make 
up a very large proportion of the district. The city limits were 
not long ago removed half a mile north of Fullerton avenue, add- 
ing a district of more than a square mile, the whole of which is 
as much " country " as if no city had ever been thought of in the 
vicinity. The fire actually crossed Fullerton avenue into this- 
district, and ran across its southeast comer, near the Lake on the- 



IN CHICAGO AND TKE WEST. 399 

€ast, and above Lincoln Park on the north. But it was the least 
possible snip of ground which was burned over here, and only one 
small building which was reached. The residence and grounds 
of Mr. Huck, one of the great JN^orth-side brewers, who lost 
$500,000 lower down on the Lake shore by the destruction of his 
brewery, occupies the Lake shore front on the north side of Ful- 
lerton avenue, his barn standing nearest the southeast corner of 
the premises, and just beyond it 'to the southeast is the small house 
which the fire reached. B}' great efforts, and aided by the police, 
whom Mr. Huck stimulated by the promise of $1,000 reward, the 
bam was saved, and the fire checked at that point. On the site 
of this one small house, therefore, just over Fullerton avenue, and 
right at the edge of the wide sands beyond which is the Lake, one 
stands at the finishing point of the conflagration. And here 1 
may correct the common accounts even of pei-sons resident at the 
extreme north end, in regard to the distance run by the fire. 
From Fullerton avenue south to Kinzie street is two and one- 
half miles by the survey. Kinjde street is the second street north 
of the main channel of the river. From Kinzie street south, 
across the river, and as far as Harrison street, is exactly one mile. 
Nearly all of one block was saved north of Harrison street, the 
last block to the east, directly on the Lake. Excepting this block, 
the distance due north from une limit of the fire to the other, or 
from Harrison street to Fullerton avenue, is precisely three-and- 
one-half miles. This, therefore, is the length of the broad sweep 
of conflagration. The average breadth on the south side is three- 
fourths of a mile, until one reaches Randolph street, going north, 
which is the third street south of the river. Here the great Cen- 
tral Depot grounds, at the foot of Lake and "Water streets, push 
the line of breadth out to exactly one mile. Thus the conflagra 
tion crossed the main trunk of Chicago River with one mile of 
front. Over the river the line of breadth pushes still more into 
the Lake, enough to give the fire a front of a mile and one-sixth, 



400 HI8T0ET OF THE GBEAT FffiES 

and this front is fully kept for the first half-mile north, and 
nearly or quite kept for the second half-mile ; it did not losff 
much of it for the thii-d half-mile. But for the last mile not 
more than half of the square mile was run over, the burnt half 
being a triangle, of which the base was about a mile in length, 
and the upper point was the finishing point of the fire. This 
whole region was not burned by a dii'ect northward progress of 
the fire, but in vast swaths from the river on the west, diagonally 
across to the Lake. First one vast sweep was made of the triangle 
the base of which is the main channel of the river, and the upper 
point of which is the Water Works. After this there struck in a 
dozen other sweeping scythes of flame, the fire first creeping a 
block or two along the bank of the north branch, and then tearing 
madly across in a northeast direction to the Lake. The swinging 
terrors did not sweep evenly forward, but sometimes one behind 
outran one which had the start, and they made horrible dashes 
into each other. As each new start was made higher up on the 
river bank, and the course was diagonally across, the effect was 
to maintain a general line of advance directly north, until the 
last start on the river was taken, when the front commenced 
steadily narrowing until the fire ended in a point as I have de- 
scribed. The effect of thus moving corps after corps of fire- 
terroi-s, their racing side by side, and their fierce mutual 
interferences, was one of compounded horrors and of amazing 
sublimity. It seemed as if the earth shook with the a^vful 
breathing of the fire monsters, while their voices roared in horrid 
unison or more horrid discord, as if earth and sky were rushing 
to ruin. The trampling of the fire-chased throngs, vast whirls of 
smoke and sj)arks constantly sweeping over them, fi-antic men 
dragging bundles or trunks, women hurrying forward little cliil- 
dren, teams dasliing recklessly or choked by their own mad rush, 
women's clothes constantly taking fire, and combustible bundles 
bursting into flame, while sighs and groans and shrieks made an 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 401 

undertone to the fire-tempest— such was the scene at the moment 
when the fullest and fiercest course of the manifold conflagration 
was reached, after successive starts of the fire had been made 
along the river bank, and when the full number of the reapers 
of destruction were in mad career across the doomed plain, 

A morgue, or dead-house, was early established, where all 
corpses were gathered for recognition, previous to interment. 

Here were enacted scenes of pathetic interest, as friends came 
to seek their lost ones, and were disappointed ; or, discovering the 
objects of their affection, were overwhelmed with grief. Two 
girls, looking for their father, recognized him as he lay upon his 
face, by the hair and shape of his head. They were motherless 
before the fire, and this robbed them of their chief earthly pro- 
tector. It was a sad funeral, when we buried him, amid all the 
excitement and tumult of the day succeeding the conflagration. 
But, away in the green recesses of the cemetery, there was sweet 
rest. Let us hope that the repose of Heaven is more sure and 
satisfying, after the excitement and agony of life. 

In the presence of death and woe will men forget the better 
part ? How insignificant seemed man as we stood by the dead in 
the morgue ! Mere pailf uls of charred Ijones and flesh indicated 
the existence of those who but the day before were full of lusty 
life. Oh ! helpless man, call upon God, the living God. Here 
lay the body of a beautiful young girl, of perhaps two-and-twenty. 

This poor victim has a wealth of rich brown hair, and brown 
eyes ; she is four feet in height, and posesses a handsome figure.. 
She must in life have been exceedingly lovely. Not being burnt 
at all, she suffocated in the smoke, as did many of the other 
victims whose remains were afterwards consumed by the flames. 

The fire, whose intensity melted all things, was able to so de- 
stroy human bodies that not a trace of them should remain. This 
fact serves to account for the utter loss of many persons known to 
have been in the vicinity where the fire appeared and wrought 



402 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

most suddenly and rapidly. It will, therefore, never be Imown 
who peiished, and how many, until God finally reveals all secret 
things. Besides the actually burned, many were so shocked as to 
sink down into death, A lovely aged woman, Mrs. Wright, had 
long been ill, and was convalescing finally, when her son came 
home, and said, " Mother, everything is gone. " The old lady an- 
swered with a smile, "James, then you won't have enough to bury 
me ; " and immediately she began to decline, and soon dropped 
away into that blessed sleep, " from which none ever wakes to 
weep." A little girl, dpng, said to her mother, "I knew it would 
rain, because I asked Jesus to send it ; " and amidst the falling 
drops, so grateful to a whole cityf ul, the trusting child went to her 
Saviour. Many infants saw the light only to close their eyes upon 
it forever. And while hundreds were gathered up out of the ruins 
others have not been discovered, others survived the wreck for a 
few houi-s or days, and others linger, who wiU owe their decease 
to the terrors, and anxieties, and sorrows of this signal calamity. 

Fair she rose, 
Liftmg liigli her stately head. 

Victor-crowned, 
Stretching- strong and helpful hands 

Far around ; 
Full of lusty, throbbing life, 

In the strife 
Dealing quick and sturdy blows. 

Sudden swept 
Through her streets a sea of fire ; 

Roaring came 
Seething waves, cinders, brands. 

All aflame ; 
Blood-red glowed the brazen sky ; 

Far and nigh 
Smoke in wreaths and eddies crept. 

Oh! the cries 
Shrill, heart-rendiug ! Oh ! the hands 



IN CHICAGO AINU THE WEST 403 

Frantic wrung ! 
Oh ! the swaying biuldings vast; ! 

Pen or tongue 
Ne'er the awful tale can tell. 

How they fell 
Undemeatb the dizzy skies. 

Low she lies, 
Bowed in dust her stately head, 

Desolate ; 
Yet, by all her glory past, 

Let us wait, 
Stand beside her firm and true; 

Built anew, 
Watch her, help her upward rise. 



404 



HISTORY OF THK GREAT FIRES 



v.— MINISTERED TO BY CHEISTIAN CHARITY. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

The greatest human ills liave their compensations. Every 
picture, however dark, has its bright side. Pain and sorrow save 
from evils deeper and more enduring. Misery and sin develop 
pitj, compassion, patience, and enterprises of recovery and salva- 
tion, which bring out the grandest heroes of history, and call forth 
the most beautiful and sublime qualities of our nature. The war 
of Revolution and the war against Secession, alike, had their 
compensations, so vast and real as to cover all the woe and loss 
they occasioned and entailed. 

A? great exigencies develop great men, and peculiar sorrows 
call fofth the best elements of human nature, thus compensating 
for labors and loss in some measure, glorifying mankind, and 
bringing down God's richest blessings, so on the bosom of this 
mighty sea of trouble rose a light that brightened into perfect 
day, and the people of this and other countries put forth their 
energies to relieve distress and provide for the army of sufferers. 

Severe and terrible though our sufferings were, and immense our 
losses, and the world's losses, yet the spontaneous and magnificent 
uprising of our countrymen and of people across the ocean, to aid 
the poor, to help the fallen, to relieve suffering, and prevent 
despair, was a spectacle unprecedented in history, and may be 
productive of results that shall be an abundant recompense for so 
painful a catastrophe. Persons abroad seemed to comprehend 
our case more perfectly even than we who were almost paralyzed 
by the shock. The telegraph made our situation known at once 
to all parts of the world; and while the grounds were red with the 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 40& 

embers of the conflagration, men and women began co take 
measures for the relief of tlie one hundred thousand sufferers in 
Chicago. 

Nor did they prepare a moment too soon. It will be seen that 
such a destruction, so sudden, speedy, and complete, must have 
left a great army utterly destitute of the commonest necessities 
of existence. Those who were able and accustv>med to provide 
for the needy were many of them as poor as the poorest they had 
ever assisted. This was our extremity. All were alike in a con- 
dition of partial demoralization, and the rush of needy ones from 
the flames was new turned towards the immediate supplying of 
their pressing wants. And they were destitute of everything but 
life and the little Ihey carried away in their hands and saved from 
plunder. On Monday and Monday night the farmers and inhabi- 
tants of the towns close at hand began to gather up clothing, to 
cook provisions, to empty their cellars, and pour their bounty 
upon us by means of the railroads. 

" An old man from Iowa no sooner heard of the conflagration 
than he took instant passage for the city to succor his son's family. 
It was his first visit to Chicago, and it is to be presumed he was 
ignorant of our geograpliical position. Still he meant well, so 
well indeed that on being informed at a way-station that the 
people were suffering from a scarcity of water, he alighted from 
the train, purchased a cask, filled it with water, and brought it to 
the city in triumph. It did not transpire, but is likely to have 
3een the case, tliat a philanthropic oxprsssman charged him $100 
to convey it from the railroad station." 

" A clergyman in Athol (Mass.), whose home, we are sorry to 
say, is not given, was so enthusiastic in packing clothing for the 
Chicago sufferers that he put his own hat by mistake into the 
box, and it has gone on with the rest of the donations. This 
was a truly charitable gift, for it is evident that the left hand of 
the reverend gentleman didn't know what his right hand was 



40 f) HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

doing; and can there be a more unconditional kind of self-sur 
render than that which is implied in the formula, ' Take my hat ' ? '' 

The papers told a good storj of Mr. Ed. Hudson, Superintend- 
ent of the P., P. & J. Railroad, and a gentleman well known to 
railroad men. Upon hearing of the burning of Chicago, his first 
act was to telegraph to all agents to transport free all provisions 
for Chicago, and to receive such articles to the exclusion of 
freight. He then purchased a number of good hams and sent 
them home with a request to his wife to cook them as soon as 
possible, so that they might be sent to Chicago. He then ordered 
the baker to put up fifty loaves of bread. He was kept brsy during 
the day until five o'clock. Just as he was starting for home the 
baker informed him the hundred loaves of bread were ready. 

" But I only ordered fifty," said Ed. 

" Mrs. Hudson also ordered fifty," said the baker. 

" All right," said Ed., and he inwardly blessed his wife for the 
generous deed. 

Arriving at home he found his little boy, dressed in a fine cloth 
suit, carrying in wood. He told him that would not do; he 
must change his clothes. 

" But mother sent all my clothes to Chicago," replied the boy. 

Entering the house he found his wife, clad in a fine silk dress, 
superintending the cooking. A remark in regard to the matter 
elicited the information that she had sent her other dresses to 
Chicago. 

The matter was getting serious. He sat down to a supper with- 
out butter, because all that could be purchased had been sent to 
Chicago. There were no pickles — the poor souls in Chicago 
would relish them so much. 

A little " put out," but not a bit angry or disgusted, Ed. went 
to the wardrobe to get his overcoat, but it was not there. An in- 
terrogatory revealed the fact that it fitted in the box real well, 
and he needed a new overcoat anyway, although he had paid $50 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 407 

for the one in question only a few days before. An examination 
revealed the fact that all the rest of his clothes fitted the box real 
nicely, for not a " dud " did he possess except those he had on. 

While he admitted the generosity of his wife, he thought the 
matter was getting entirely too personal, and turned to her with 
the characteristic inquiry: 
"Do you think we can stand an encore on that Chicago fire?" 
Rival cities forgot all the hard words uttered by Chicago, and 
rallied to our aid with a magnanimity unparalleled, and never to 
be forgotten. Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis were princely 
in their liberality, which has been eloquently celebrated in these 
ringing lines : — 

I saw the city's terror, 

I heard the city's cry, 
As a flame leaped out of her bosom 

Up, up to the brazen sky ! 
And wilder rose the tumult, 

And thicker the tidings came — 
Chicago, queen of the cities, 
Was a rolling sea of flame ! 

Yet higher rose the fury, 

And louder the surges raved 
(Thousands were saved but to suffer, 

And hundreds never were saved), 
Till out of tliC awful burning 

A flash of lightning went, 
As across to brave St. Louis 

The prayer for succor was sent. 

God bless thee, true St. Louis ! 

So worthy thy royal name — 
Back, back on the wing of the lightning 

Thy answer of rescue came. 
But alas ! it covild not enter 

Through the horrible flame and heat, 
For the fire had conquered the lightning 

And sat in the Thunderer's seat ! 



408 



HISTOEY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

God bless thee again, St. LouiB ! 

For resting never then. 
Thou calledst to all the cities 

By lightning and steam and pen. 
" Ho, ho, ye hundred sisters. 

Stand forth in your bravest might ! 
Our sister in flame is falling 

Her children are dying to-night I " 

And through the mighty republic 

Thy summons went rolling on, 
Till it rippled the seas of the Tropics 

And ruffled the Oregon. 
The distant Golden City 

Called through her golden gates, 
And quickly rxng the answer 

From the City of the Straits 

A:id the cities that sit in splendor 

Along the Atlantic Sea, 
Eeplying, called to the dwellers 

Where the proud magnolias ba 
From slumber the army started 

At the far-resounding call, 
" Food for a hundred thousand,'* 

They shouted, "and tents for all." 

I heard through next night's darkness 

The trains go thundering' by, 
Till they stood where the fated city 

Shone red in the brazen sky. 
The rich gave their abundance, 

The poor their willing hands ; 
There was wine from all the vineyards, 

There was com from all the landa 

At daybreak over tjjie prairies 
Re-echoed the gladsome cry — 

*'Ho, look unto us, ye thousands. 
Ye shall not hunger nor die ! " 



m CHICAGO AND THE WE8T. 409 

rheir weeping was all the answer 

That the famishing throng could give 

To the million voices calling 
" Look unto us, and live ! " 

Destruction wasted the city, 

But the burning curse that came 
Enkindled in all the people 

Sweet Charity's holy flame. 
Then still to our God be glory I 

I bless Him, through my tears. 
That I live in the grandest nation 

That hath stood in all the years. 

New York crowned her record of oenevolence by gifts that 
were positively enormous. The Old "World, thrilled to the heart, 
by the flash of the telegraph that showed our city burning and 
our people roofless, responded with promptness and munificence. 
Indeed, from one end of the land to the other there was a gen- 
erosity, such as declared that He who " went about doing good " 
had not lived in vain. Even the " Heathen Chinee " has a heart 
in his bosom to feel for others' woes. 

The Sau Francisco AUa says that when the Committee in 
that city to solicit contributions from the Chinese merchants for 
the relief of the Chicago sufierers made known the object of 
their visit, the response was a credit to the representatives of that 
race who have been treated with indignitj' on so many occasions, 
and are liable at any time to be assaulted when passing through 
the streets. In one case an intelligent merchant said to the 
collectors : " Me leadee in Alta, Melican man town all same hap 
gone — burnee up. Melican man wantee dollas ; some time poor 
Melican man strikee Chinaman with blicks ; Chinaman no care. 
Alice people Chicago losee everything — wifee and childlen burn 
out. Chinaman say alJee same my countree peoplee — wantee 
help. How muchee dollas you wantee ? Hundled dollas ? Alee 
light : you not find enough monee comee me again, give another 



410 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

bundled." The contributions tbus given by the merchants 
reached $1,290. 

From the South responses were slow and feeble. Yet Balti- 
more, Louisville, and some other towns gave nobly, and their 
representatives labored personally with efficient energy and wis- 
dom in the distribution of relief. From Falkland, North Caro- 
lina, Annie Jones wrote this letter — 

Dr. E. J. GooDSPEED, Chicago, 111. : 

Having just read in the Religious Herald of the great 
suffering of the Baptists of Chicago, by the late fire there, and 
wishing to give a little aid, you will please accept one dollar from 
a poor Baptist. Give it to some poor sufferer, and may the Lord 
open the hearts of many others to aid them, is the sincere prayer 
of Annie Jones. 

This may offset some of those bitter words written upon our 
fallen city, and printed in Southern papers, to 

" Show how ^:ts sins mvoked the Sovereign's frown." 

This seemed to have been a time for sympathy, and the 
cementing of ties, and not for malediction and savage triumph. 
So dire a misfortune gave men opportunities to wipe out a dark 
past ; for charity hides a multitude of sins. 

And who, hence looking backward o'er his years^ 
Feels not his eyelids wet with grateful tears, 

If he hath been 
Permitted, weak and sraful as he was, 
To cheer and aid in some ennobling caiise. 

His fellow-man ? 

If he hath hidden the outcast, or let in 
A ray of sunshine to the cell of sin — 

H he hath lent 
Strength to the weak, and in an hour of need, 
Over the suffering, mindless of his creed 

Or home, hath jent — 



^"':te3«;«i 



i,^\\j^t^h^i 



T-HE NATIONAL HAND OF FELLOWSHIP. 




THE EELIEP COMiQTTEE LN SESSI02*. 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 413 

He has not lived in vain. And while he gives 
The praise to Him, in whom he moves and lives, 

With thankful heart 
He gazes backward, and with hope before, 
Knowing that from his works he nevermore 

Can henceforth part. 

Among cities east of us, Cleveland was first to am%'e with 
bread and raiment; among cities south, Springfield perhaps took 
the lead on that memorable morning; among cities north, Mil- 
M^aukee ; and, indeed, from every point of compass, and grade of 
life, help came, and the one aim seemed to be, to do the utmost, 
in the speediest possible way, for the miserable sufferers. Phila- 
delphia, city of brotherly love, showed its fraternal spirit in 
ample gifts. Pittsburg, city of iron, rained gold upon us. Bos- 
ton, seat of all noble charities and beautiful accomplishments, 
lavished her thousands, and gave her heartiest toil. Montreal, 
the American city of Canada, was glorious in her liberality. 
And so, all around the galaxy, every star seemed to excel in 
brilliancy to light our darkness ; and when we begin to enumer- 
ate each bright particular star, they multiply, till we are dazzled 
and confounded. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 



The following oflicial communication sheds clear light upon 
the first steps of the citizens' course, and the initiatory acts of 
relief, which heralded the incoming of the river-like beneficence 
of mankind. It was addressed by the president, Hon. Charles C. 
P. Holden, one of our best citizens : 
To the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Chicago^ in Common 

Council assembled : 

Gentlemen: On the 8th and 9th of October last past the 
heart of our city was destroyed by fire. The territory covered 
24 



4] 4 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIKES 

b;^ this terrible conflagration, and the municipal, commercial, and 
private losses sustained by this fire are all familiar; many of yon, 
having been embraced in its territory, know full well the effect 
of this great calamity by sad experience. 

The undersigned desires to call your attention to tlie manner in 
which preliminary measures were taken and arrangements made 
for succor and relief. 

On Monday morning I tried to get the city government together, 
or portions of it, for the purpose of taking some action to meet 
the great emergency ; in this we failed. The North Division 
was at the time being burned to ruins ; its officers were 
busily engaged in trying to save their families and the lives 
of its inliabitants. The Mayor was in the South Division, using 
every available means to stay the further spread of the fire ; in- 
deed, at this particular time, all ceemed to be in a state of chaos, 
and all who had thus far escaped the terrible calamity, expected 
hourly to be numbered among its victims. At noon of that ever- 
memorable day, the undersigned called upon Orrin E. Moore, 
and after a few moments' conference with this gentleman, a gene- 
ral plan of action was fixed upon. In company with Mr. Moore, 
we at once drove to the Police Station, corner of Union and 
Madison streets, and after leaving word with Capt. Miller to 
have certain parties sent for, and to meet us at the Congrega- 
tional Church, corner of Ann and Washington streets, at the 
earliest possible moment, we repaired to that church, and at a 
quarter to one o'clock, in the name of the City of Chicago, we 
took possession of the same. Capt. S. M. Miller, Deputy Super- 
intendent Wells Sherman, of the Police Department, reported 
at once for duty. The Mayor was sent for, and before three 
o'clock the Mayor, Police Commissioner Brown, Hon. S. S. Hayes, 
Aid. Wilce, Aid. Witbeck, Aid. Bateham, H. Z. Culver, Dr. 
Goodwin, and very many other citizens had assembled. 

Mr. Hayes drew up a proclamation for general distribution, 



» IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 415 

pledging the credit of the City of Chicago for the necessary ex- 
penses for the relief of the sufferers; calling upon tlie entire 
police force, the Fire Department, and the Health Department 
to maintain the peace and good order of the city; establishing 
the head-quarters of the city government at the Congregational 
Church, corner Ann and Washington streets. This proclamation 
was signed by the Mayor, Comptroller, the President of the Com- 
mon Council, and President of the Board of Police. An organiza- 
tion was immediately effected for the great work in hand, and 
consisting of the following gentlemen : Orrin E. Moore, Aid. 
Buehler, Aid. Devine, John Ilerting, Aid. McAvoy, and N. K, 
Fairbanks. Orrin E. Moore was chosen President, C, T. Hotch- 
kiss was made Secretary, and C. C. P. Holden, Treasurer. 

All the churches and school-houses were thrown open to the 
distressed. Delegations were sent out to relieve sucli as they 
could. Scouts were sent to all parts of the city to watch for in- 
cendiarism, and also to watch and report the progress of the fire, 
wliere it was then raging, and before midnight of Monday many 
thousands of special patrolmen had been sworn into the service, 
and were doing patrol duty. Major Phelps had been detailed to 
get together a corps to aid him in looking after the sufferers in 
the South Division. As daylight came on Tuesday, also came 
E. B. Harlan, the Private Secretaiy of Gov. Palmer, tendering 
money, troops, and arms ; in fact, John M. Palmer saw at once 
our situation, and took immediate steps to meet the trying emer- 
gency. Committees from the nation commenced arriving — at the 
head of them was the St. Louis delegation — headed by the Hon. 
H. T. Blow. Yast quantities of supplies commenced arriving. 
Aid. Gill, Aid. McCotter, and Supervisor Pierce took charge of 
the work to receive and distribute supplies from that point; 
Gen. Mann and Col. Ptay took charge of receiving supplies from 
the railroads in the West Division, and Gen. Hardin had chai-ge 
of all supplies arriving on the railroads in the South Division. 



416 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES , 

Yarioiis parties were placed in charge of the various churches, 
school-houses, depots for supplies, etc., etc., to the end that all 
the suft'erers by the fire should be cared for at the earliest possi- 
ble moment. Aid. Wilce was requested to cause to be erected at 
once from 100 to 2,000 houses, to be occupied by families then 
homeless. lie was to take possession of any land suitable for 
this purpose. Most energetically did he perform his duty, in 
company with Aid. Bateham. The Water Works had been 
destroyed, and not only was there great suffering b}" those who 
had been burned out for tliis most important commodity, but the 
suffering was being felt by all classes. Water carts in various 
numbers, trucks, drays, express wagons, carriages, buggies, in 
fact every vehicle which would not volunteer to aid in the noble 
work was pressed into the service — water from the parks and 
artesian wells was distributed throughout the city. 

The suiferers were brought fronj the streets and other places to 
those where shelter was provided, and before eight p.m. of Tuesday 
it was reported by a well-known city officer that every liomeless soul 
had shelter, food, and water, and when we recollected that 100,000 
or more of our citizens had been rendered homeless by the fire, the 
result of this day's work must be satisfactory to you. At a meet- 
ing of the Committee early Wednesday morning, the Treasurer 
made a statement to the effect tliat all moneys should be paid into 
the City Treasury, where the safety guard of our municipal gov- 
ernment would be thrown around it ; and further, that this would 
meet the approval of the country at large, whose moneys were 
then en route here for our succor. David A. Gage was therefore 
appointed Treasurer. 

Mr. Moore and liis association had now the work well in hand, 
considering that the undertaking was less than forty-eight ho^irs 
old. An arrangement had been made with the railroads, and a 
Bureau established for the issuing of passes to all sufferers by the 
fire, another for the lost and found, another for medical purposes 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 41 7 

and so on, till there were some eight or ten heads of departments 
working for the common good in tliat churcli, corner of Ann and 
"Washington streets. During this day (Wednesday) numerous 
quantities of supplies were arriving by every train and on every 
road — committees from every principal city in tlie Union and 
Canadas kept pouring in, bringing words of cheer as they came. 
Governors of States, too, came — particularly do we remember the 
deep interest for the sufferers manifested by Gov. Hayes, of Ohio. 
The committee from the nation held their meetings in tha church, 
and gave us such advice and information as was calculated to 
inspire us with courage. 

Tlie Cincinnati committee commenced at once the erection of 
a mammoth soup-house, indeed it seemed that these committees 
from abroad comprehended the situation even better than our- 
selves. Everything that could be done in tliat hour of great dis- 
tress, by them was done. At their meeting held in the evening 
of Wednesday, they had more than one hundred present ; the 
result of the meeting was the issuing of an address to the nation. 
The effect of this address has had a wide-spread influence in mak- 
ing known to the country our real wants and needs. Thursday, 
the 12th, the Chicago llelief and Aid Society took cliarge of the 
great work then fairly commenced. On Friday evening the com- 
mittees from abroad held theirfinal meeting. At this meeting they 
issued an address to the citizens of Chicago. In it tiiey said : " We 
are perfectly-satisfied to recommend to the country that all moneys 
intended for your relief be sent to the City Treasurer, because we 
believe they will not only be safe, but will be expended in accord- 
ance with the wishes of the contributors. It w^as signed : H. T. 
Blow, Cliairman Western Committee; A. J. Goshoon, Chairman 
Cincinnati Committee ; W. M. Morris, Chairman Louisville Com- 
mittee. 

The undersigned remained at the head-quarters first established 
until Thursday evening, Oct. 24, doing all that he could do in behalf 



418 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIKES 

of the citj to caiT}' aid and relief to all the sufferers. In this great 
work there had been voluntarily engaged during the first week an 
army of our citizens, both male and female, and very many of them 
are still in the traces and at work. During this time great 
expenses were incurred in the procuring of lumber, nails, etc., for 
the building of temporary houses ; the providing of all classes of 
vehicles for the moving of families and their supplies ; during the 
same tinje the undersigned received numerous advices of the send- 
ing forward for the relief of the sufferers vast sums of money ; he 
also received in person the sum of $42.50 in cash, to wit : Com- 
mittee from Valparaiso, Indiana, the sum of $40, and from twc 
ladies $2.50, all of which was immediately turned over to D. A. 
Gage, treasurer. Before closing this report I desire to call the 
attention of the Council to the great good performed by the Board 
of Health, who were at the head-quarters night and day till the 
24th, doing all that could be done in the line of their profession to 
relieve the distressed. To all the niembers of your honorable 
Board I bear witness to the aid and efficiency rendered by you. 
Many of you lost your homes and places of business by the fire ; 
even this did not deter or keep you from rendering aid and assist- 
ance to others, as well became those occupying the positions you 
do. To the ladies, who rendered great assistance on this most 
trying occasion, no words can express the encomiums they have 
earned — their names are legion. 

Gentlemen, I have deemed it my duty to make this statement 
to you of matters pertaining to the great fire and subsequent 
thereto, and would ask your kind consideration of the same. 

In connection with this important contribution to the history 
of relief, we publish the following address to the citizens of Chi- 
cago, written October 13th, which was referred to above : 

The undersigned respectfully call your attention to the follow- 
ing facts : The committees from the principal cities of the West, 
with food and supplies of all kinds, have been in your city since 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 419 

last Monday night; they assembled at the head-qnarters of the 
Mayor and City Council, corner of Ann and Washington streets, 
and have since co-operated with Alderman Holden and other 
members of the Council. Mr. Moore and his associates being the 
only organization known to them in the city for the relief of the 
suflt'erers by the great fire, the St. Louis supplies, with large 
quantities intrusted to the delegation from Indiana and Illinois, 
were distributed by General Ilardie, who in person, under orders 
of General Sheridan, placed them, as we believe, most judiciously. 
We attest most heartily to the unselfish and arduous services ren- 
dered by Alderman Holden, Mr. Moore and his associate mem- 
bers, the Mayor, and many of the Common Council, Mr. Preston, 
of the Board of Trade, and especially General Sheridan and his 
aids, and yet deem it a duty to say to you that it is now 
absolutely essential that the work be systematically and econom- 
ically extended, that ample arrangements should at once be made 
for the reception and careful distribution of coming supplies, by 
an organization which will satisfy yourselves and encourage your 
friends to continued action. We are perfectly satisfied to recom- 
mend to the country that all moneys intended for your relief be 
sent to the City Treasurer, because we believe that they will not 
only be safe, but will be expended in accordance with the wish 
of the contributors ; but from the facts presented we trust you 
will see the actual necessity for the systematic arrangement 
alluded to ; and now that your best men can calmly survey the 
condition without fear of the future, we again most earnestly beg 
that you will take immediate steps for a thorough and permanent 
organization, that will be entirely equal to the great work before 
them. Henky P. Blow, 

Ch. of the Western Committees 

A. T. GOSHORN, 

Ch. of Cincinnati Committee. 
Wm. M. Morris, 

Ch. of Louisville Committee. 



420 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIRES 

And herewith is presented the Mayor's order, which gave univer- 
sal satisfaction : 

" I have deemed it best for the interests of this city to tnrn over 
to the Chicago Eelief and Aid Society all contributions for suf- 
fering people in thi? city. This Society is an incorporated, old- 
established organization, and has possessed for many years the 
entire confidence of our community, and is familiar with the 
"work to be done. The regular force of this Society is inadequate 
to this immense work, but they will rapidly enlarge and extend 
the same by adding prominent citizens to the respective commit- 
tees ; and I call upon all citizens to aid this organization in every 
possible way. I also confer upon them the power, heretofore 
exercised by the Citizens' Committee, to impress teams and labor, 
and to procui'e quarters so far as may be necessary for the trans- 
portation, distribution, and care of the sick and disabled. 

" General Sheridan desires this arrangement, and has promised 
to co-operate with this association. It will be seen from the plan 
of work detailed below, that every precaution has been taken 
in regard to the distribution of the contributions." 

Up to the time of this step towards a more thorough and ju- 
dicious management of supplies for relief, there had been various 
points selected in the unburnt district, especially churches, where 
the houseless found shelter and food. 

The rush to these depositories of food, and places of rest for the 
outcast multitude, M-as in many cases overwhelming and fearful. 
In my own church, every lower room was occupied by the sick as 
a hospital, by mothers as a nursery, by the conimittee on 
distribution, and for storage of goods and provisions. Orders 
from our committee were honored at the Rink, where tlie supplies 
were gathered for general distribution, and immense loads would 
melt away like snow in the summer sun. There M'as no lack of 
helpers to succor the unfortunate. We could not find work 
enough for those who were anxious to assist in caring for their 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 421 

more nnfortnnate fellow-eitizeng. Hundreds were comfortably 
lodged on the benches, which were cushioned. There was a re- 
cord of missino;, lost and found, kept in the church, and hundreds 
daily searched it ; and in sevei'al instances tlie long-separated met 
together in the sanctuary. ' A colored girl saved a charming 
white baby, an.d the exigencies of flight drove her here, and the 
mother found her beautiful child safely cared for by its nurse. 
Death came also to some who were hospitably entertained, and 
they gave up their lives in peace within the walls which often 
echoed to the message of eternal life. 

When shelter, tents, and baiTacks had been provided, one by 
one the lodgers left the church, every one being presented with a 
cushion and a blanket. The same scenes were enacted on every 
hand in the churches, which were homes, where the beautiful 
hand of charity gave cheer and aid, with kind words and tender 
acts. One learned to love the Chicagoans more, when we saw 
their self-sacrificing devotion to the welfare of their neighbors, 
amidst their own desolation, losses, and forebodings of coming 
want, or fears of present peril. Yet there were instances of des- 
picable thieving, pilfering, and hypocritical pretence, which out- 
rivalled anything we ever read of in history. Some parties made 
raids upon the public bounty, and supplied themselves with a 
winter's stock. There was a woman in one of the churches who 
got upon her person and in her bundle twenty-seven dresses. 
Wherever these instances were found they Avere speedily punished, 
and imposition was checked. But in the first hurry and pressure 
of want there was too little opportunity for discrimination ; and 
people said, we must not let any one suffer, even though impos- 
tors share with the actually destitute. It was soon seen that there 
must be careful, faithful discrimination, or the supply would be 
gone and the want unrelieved. At this juncture the entire matter 
was committed to the organization called the Chicage Relief and 
Aid Society. 



422 



HISTOEY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 
"While tlie boundless charity of tlie great-hearted AmericaE 
public made it possible to feed, clothe, and comfort one hundred 
thousand persons in an incredibly short period, so that the very 
poor fared better than it was their wont to do, and all classes 
were blest in some measure, the necessity of an efficient associa- 
tion for permanent and deeper work was instantly apparent, and 
grew more urgent every hour. This was the crisis, too, for the 
machinery of our Aid Society to be applied to the greatest prob- 
lem of the century ; and nobly has it met the emergency. Under 
the superintendency of a warm-hearted and large-minded Chris- 
tian gentleman, Mr. O. C. Gibbs, it had been for years efficient 
in providing for the large number of poor people always crowd- 
ing around i'ts doors, and so investigating their claims that 
imposition was well-nigh impossible. It was found all ready for 
indefinite expansion, and assumed the control of all contributions 
of every kind, except those sent to individuals. Its visitors were 
sent through districts to every house, and all applications were 
investigated thoroughly, and w^hen worthy sufferers applied, they 
were at once provided with what they needed for the time, and 
arrangements made to issue them rations till they could become 
self-supporting. The accompanying directions and information 
were furnished by printed circulars : — 

To all SuperiyitendenU^ Assistants arid Visitors in the Service 
of the Chicago Belief and Aid Society : 

In the distribution of supplies give uncooked instead of cooked 
food to all families provided with stoves ; flour instead of bread, 
etc. 

The Shelter Committee furnish all families for whom they 
provide houses and barracks, with stove, bedstead, and mattrass, 
and no issue of those articles to such families will be necessary 
on your part. 



IK CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 423 

Superintendents of Districts and Sub-Districts will so keep an 
account of their disbursements as to give a correct report to me 
at the end of each week, the number of families aided during the 
week, and the amount, in gross, of supplies distributed. 

Superintendents will also ascertain and report, as early as pos- 
sible, the amount of furniture, number of stoves, amount of 
common crockery, etc., which will be needed in their respective 
districts. 

Superintendents will also organize their working force as early 
as possible, retaining upon their force those who have proved 
themselves the most eihcient and capable in the discharge of their 
duties, reducing the number of paid employes to the smallest 
number consistent with the efficient performance of the work of 
their districts. 

A special organization charged with the relief of special cases 
is being effected, to which all that class of persons whose previous 
condition and circumstances in life were such as to make it 
unsuitable that they should be relieved through the ordinaiy 
channels of relief, can be referred. 

No person in the employ of the Society will be allowed to 
receive for his own use any supplies of any kind whatever, 
except it be through the ordinary channels of relief, and recorded 
on the books of the office in which he is employed. 

In all cases of applicants moving into your district from 
another, you will, before giving any relief, ascertain, by inquiry 
at the office of the district from which they came, if they had 
been aided in that district, and to what extent. 

In the issue of supplies you will discriminate according to the 
health and condition of the family, furnishing to the aged, infirm, 
and delicate, supplies not ordinarily furnished to those in robust 
health. 

The following has been adopted by the Society as the standard 
daily ration for a family of five persons ; you will vary from the 



424 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

amount according to the income of the family from labor or other 
sources : 

Bacon or pork 2 pounds. 

or beef, 3 " 

Beans 1 pint. 

Potatoes 2 quarts. 

Bread 3 pounds. 

or flour 2 " 

Tea 1 ounce. 

or coffee n " 

Sugar 4 " 

Kice 4 " 

Soap 4 " 

Soft coal f ton per month. 

The Department of Sick and Hospitals have adopted the sys- 
tem of Districts and Sub-Districts established by this department, 
and appointed a medical officer for each District. Visitors will 
report all cases coming to their knowledge requiring medical 
attendance, and the person in charge of each office will have 
such reports at all times in readiness for the medical officer of the 
District, when he calls. All possible aid must be given the med- 
ical officer of the District, and he is to be allowed free access to 
the office and books of the Society at all times. 

The bread now being furnished is contracted for by the pound. 
You will be furnished with platform scales, and required to 
weigh and receipt for all bread delivered to you. 

Superintendents and Visitors in those districts in which the 
Shelter Committee have furnished houses to men who were 
burned out, will inquire carefully into the condition and circum- 
stances of all persons who have been furnished houses by the 
Shelter Committee, and report to Mr. Avery, Chairman, all 
cases in which parties have obtained lumber or building material 
by fraudulent representations. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 425 

The Chicago Helief and Aid Society will, for the coming winter, 
have to provide for all of the pcjor of the city, as there will be no 
distribution of the out-door relief by the County Agent as here- 
tofore. While your first care should be for those who have lost 
all by the fire, those that are not direct sufferers by it must be 
aided according to their necessities. The loudest complaints 
will come from those least deserving, who are always on hand for 
their share when any distribution is to be made or relief given. 

You will have to refuse the application of many worthy people, 
who, having lost heavily by the fire, will think themselves entitled 
to a share of the relief fund, although still possessed of the means 
or ability to meet their present wants. You will explain to such 
as kindly as possible that the relief fund is not intended to make 
good losses by the fire ; that it can be used only to prevent and re- 
lieve actual suffering. 

We are not yet in a condition to be even liberal in disburse- 
ments. Three months hence we will be in better condition to 
decide how far we can be liberal than now. 

In the matter of fuel, soft coal only will be furnished to those 
whose stoves will burn it; hard coal only to those who cannot 
burn soft. No wood will be furnished, except for hospital use, 
and in case of sickness in families where it is necessary. 

Those having wood stoves will be furnished with grates to en- 
able them to burn soft coal. The Chicago & Wilmington Coal 
Company, and the Chicago Relief Society's yard can furnish oidy 
soft coal ; until further orders hard coal will be furnished by 
Ames & Co. and B. Holbrooke & Co. 

As fast as your stores will permit, give out a week's supply of 
food to those families whose cases have been thoroughly investi- 
gated — this can soon be increased to two weeks, which by so large- 
ly diminishing the number of daily applicants will enable you 
to dispense with a large part of the working force in your offices 



426 HISTOEY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

and stores, and relieve tlie applicants of the hnmiliation of dailj 
attendance upon your office to obtain their supplies. 

You will instruct those families who have been visited and 
found worth}^, and who wdll require aid during the winter, to 
make their applications to you hereafter in writing, either 
through the mail, or by the hand of a child, or some other 
messenger. It is a terrible trial to a sensitive woman or honor- 
able-minded man to be compelled to make a personal application 
at a relief office, and we must so arrange our work to relieve such 
as far as possible of this necessity. On receiving such application 
the necessary orders for supplies can be made, and the supplies 
sent directly to the family. To till these orders you w^ill require 
the services of an experienced retail grocery clerk, and one or 
more express or grocery wagons for delivery. 

I am informed that large numbers of servant girls are unem- 
ployed in the city, who refuse to go to employment at good 
wages in the country or other cities. Be sure that none such 
are fed by the Chicago Eelief and Aid Society. If there was 
ever a time when every person capable of earning his or her 
own support should be made to do it, it is now\ Help must 
even be withheld from families Avho harbor persons able to work, 
but who are unemployed. In all cases where help is discontinued 
or refused to families, your books must show the reason for 
such discontinuance or refusal. 

Thei'e are several thousand men and boys working this week 
whose families we are feeding, who will be paid for their work on 
Saturday night, sufficient to meet all the wants of the family for 
food or fuel next week. Be sure that every such family is known 
in your district, and reported at the office, so that no more supplies 
be given to it. Our supplies are going at ^fearfiil rate. If any 
men, boys, or women are not working, apply St. Paul's rule: 
" If any man among you wnll not woi^h^ neither let him eatP 

I think it will be conceded that the generous confidence be- 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 427 

stowed upon iis in the following paragraph from a ISTeAV York 
editorial, was justified by the manner in which these funds were 
distributed, and the supplies continue to be dispensed : " To feed, 
shelter, and clothe these suffering thousands, without waste or 
misapplication, will require all that executive capacity which 
the Chicago people eminently possess. But no one need fear 
that the relief so generously poured out will not be judiciously 
distributed. Difficult as must be the organization of a force to 
superintend and move the machinery to be called into operation, 
we know enough of keen, practical Chicago, to confide to the 
hands of its business men all the gifts which they are to receive 
in trust for the whole suffering people." 

There were cases where men, dressed in a little brief author- 
ity, or impatient under the accumulation of petty annoyances 
from the vast stream of applicants at the depots for distribution, 
gave just cause of offen^ on the part of sufferers. There were 
insults given and hardships endured. Wild rumors of extensive 
peculations ran o'ver the city. Fault-finding was as prevalent 
then and there as might have been expected ; but the gentlemen 
connected with the Society labored zealously and with extraordi- 
nary judgment and patience to satisfy the clamors of the eager 
thousands who thronged them. In their instructions to employ- 
es the Society said : — 

In all your intercourse with applicants for relief, your man- 
ners to and treatment of them should be kind and considerate. 
You will have to render aid to many families whose condition is 
one of chronic pauperism, resulting from their vices or improvi- 
dence. This class you can never satisfy ; like the daughters of the 
horse-leech, their constant cry is "give," but the gi-eat majority of 
your applicants will be people who have suddenly been reduced 
from a condition of self-support, and in many cases of affluence, 
to one of partial or entire dependence. Their case is a sufficiently 
painful one without anything in your intercourse with them to 



428 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIRES 

remind them that they are now dependent iipon charity. You 
will give such persons the preference over the class first named, 
so far as it is possible for you to do so, in receiving their applica- 
tion and supplying their wants, and let your intercourse with 
them be such that they will ever after look upon you as a friend 
in their time of need. While you may not be able to supply all 
their wants, convince them, by the kindness of your manners and 
your interest in their behalf, that you are doing all that is in 
your power to do for them. 

In the press of business at your office, you will not be able to 
give much personal attention to a statement of their wants and 
necessities, but the visitors at their homes can do so ; hence it is 
of the utmost importance that your visitors be persons fitted by 
character and experience for these delicate duties. 

The Superintendents will be required to dismiss from their 
further employ any person whose manner has been uncourteous 
or unkind to applicants for relief. 

The Bureau of Special Assistance is now in active operation, 
with head-quarters at the Church of the Messiah, Wabash ave- 
nue, near Hubbard court. Applications to this Bureau can be 
made either in person or by letter, addressed to its head-quar- 
ters, or through any pastor of the churches of the city, as may 
best suit the inclination or convenience of the applicant. 

Superintendents of districts and sub-districts will fill from their 
stores all orders addressed to them by this Bureau without ques- 
tion, the necessary investigation having in all cases been made 
by the Special Bureau. 

This allusion to the Bureau of Special Assistance requires a 
few words of explanation, since it grew out of the exigencies of 
the situation and supplemented the regular society's work. There 
was a vast number of cases where families or individuals had 
suffered the loss of all things, whose circumstances in life had 
been above all need, and whose delicacy of feeling would not per- 




I — f) i ~S 



THE WEST SIDE KINK, CHICAGO— GENEEAL DEPO' 




F SUPPLIES FOR THE SUFFERERS BY THE FIRE. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST, 431 

mit them to stand in line with hundreds of the very poor, degra- 
ded, and foreign applicants who iinblushingly pushed themselves 
into the front ranks. Many had been educated to abhor depend- 
ence as something worse than death. I recollect one boy of sev- 
enteen, who said one morning after sermon, " I can't stand it any 
longer, pastor ; we six are eating from a wash-stand, and sleeping 
on the floor ; I must tell you about it. I thought to work and 
get along, but we can barely get enough to eat. AYe were burnt 
out and lost everything except what we had on, and I have my 
three younger brothers to look after." " Of course," 1 replied, 
" you shall be attended to at once," and before forty-eight hours 
things were changed in that house, and no application was made 
to the Society. This boy has no father or mother, and I wrote of 
the case, after we relieved it, to a friend, who writes " To the 
boy who takes care of his helpless brothers " : — 

" East Orange, K J., Nov. 27, 1871. 
"My Young Friend : — I do not know your name, but Rev. Mr. 
Goodspeed, in a letter to me, spoke of you as one of those worthy 
ones who had suffered by the fire. lie spoke of your courage and 
brotherly care over some younger brothers. 

" That letter I read to some of my friends, and one of them, 
some days after, handed me these same bills, " for the boy who 
took care of his younger brothers." Fidelity, my young friend, 
will always be rewarded. 

" Yery truly yours, 

" Wm. D. IIedden, 

" Pastor of E. 0. B. 6%." 

To meet the multiplying cases of this kind that were known 

and suspected, a meeting of pastoi-s and representatives of 

benevolent organizations took place, at which a committee was 

chosen, by consent of the Relief and Aid Society, to constitute a 

'25 



432 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FERES 

Bureau of Special Relief. This splendid measure of assistance 
has proved of incalculable benefit to thousands, who otherwise 
must have suffered alone, and unknown to any but God who seeth 
all. At first there was a delay in securing men who could give 
their time to this important service. When the Committee had 
been filled, another meeting was held, at M'hich these resolutions 
were passed, and the Kew Bureau was fully launched : — 

Whereas^ The great exigency of public relief demands immedi- 
ate, large, and constant service in special council and assistance, 
and 

Whereas^ We learn that a portion of the Executive Committee 
originally appointed by this Bureau has been unable to meet the 
demands of this great work, on account of their inability to serve 
at all, and of others to give any considerable service ; therefore. 

Resolved^ That the Bureau cordially endorse the action of the 
Executive Committee in filling the vacancies in that body by add- 
ing to its members gentlemen widely known as wise, efficient, and 
eminently fitted to carry on the work. 

Resolved^ That the Church of the Messiah, the depot of special 
supplies, be also the place of special meeting of the Committee, 
and that said Committee be hereby instructed to make arrange- 
ments among themselves so as to have at least three of their mem- 
bers, two gentlemen and one lady, in attendance at the office dur- 
ing all the hours in which the depot is open for distribution. 

Resolved^ That all churches and beneficial societies should re- 
gard themselves as special bureaus for council and relief, and feel 
responsible, not only for looking up and bringing to the relief sup- 
ply through the appointed channels those who have been overlooked 
and are deserving, but also especially to guard the munificent boun- 
ty of the nation from plundering waste and ravaging imposture. 
And they are hereby earnestly exhorted to use their easy ap- 
proach to the masses, through necessary meetings and supervision, 
to prevent the Executive Committee of this Bureau and the Gen- 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 433 

eral Board of Kelief from being overwhelmed by a comitless mul- 
titude of unworthy or doubtful applications. 

This gave pastors and others great opportunities, and imposed 
grave responsibilities. Their hands were soon full, and the reve- 
lations of need yet unprovided for, after three %veeks had elapsed, 
were truly startling. We had not realized the appalling magni- 
tude of the calamity, though in its very midst. 

And we may ask, who will ever apprehend it, in all its gigantic 
proportions ? 

The " Special Relief " committee, charged with aiding cases 
of peculiar delicacy, from the former respectability of the sufferers, 
learned of a gentleman who, before that terrible night of the 
fire, was worth between $150,000 and $200,000. Tie boarded 
with his family at one of our splendid marble palaces known as 
hotels, where his elegantly furnished apartments and luxurious 
table, indicated his wealth and ministered to his ease. The next 
that was heard of him was some days after the fire, when he ap- 
plied to the committee, saying that the fire had literally burned 
up every dollar of his fortune, and he had no money, no home, 
no clothes, no furniture, and no food ! His family were living 
in a stable, sleeping on the hay, and eating the cold potatoes and 
bread which the children begged from the neighbors ! 

The duties of applicants were thus set forth in a notice by this 
Bureau, \vhich shows the public what care was exercised with 
their bounties. 

All applications to this Committee for Special Relief, must be 
certified by the pastor of a church, or proper officer of some or- 
ganized benevolent society, or by a member of the Executive 
Committee of the Relief and Aid Society, or of this Committee, 
who shall state in such certificate that the condition and needs 
of the applicant have been duly investigated, to the satisfaction 
of the persons so certifying, and stating what amount and kind 
of relief should be afforded to such applicant. 



434: HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

In every application, the name, residence, and relief district in 
which such applicant lives should be plainly wi'itten. 

Such application should state whether the applicant is married 
or single, the number of persons in the applicant's family, the age 
and sex of each member, and should set forth in detail the articles 
whicli are waiited, and the number, amount, or quantity of such 
articles. In applications for clothing, the kind of clothing, and 
number of pieces needed of each kind, should be distinctly 
stated, the pr<pper sizes, where necessary (as of boots, shoes, and 
other articles), given. 

Applications for groceries should state specifically the articles 
wanted, and amounts of each article, and wkere crockery, or 
furniture, or bedding is needed, the specific articles wanted, and 
the number of such articles should be stated. 

The committee desire to call the attention of the applicant 
specially to the following points, in regard to which information 
will be desired, and which should be stated : — 

The present and former occupation of the applicant, whether 
burned out and what loss they suffered, amount of insurance and 
in ^vhat company, wliat property applicant has, and what aid they 
have received from any source, or expect to receive. 

Careful attention to these requirements will save the applicant 
delay and trouble, and insure prompt action in the case. 

The railroads gave fi-ee transportation to seven or eight thou- 
sand persons, who left the city for refuge under friendly roofs 
elsevvhere, or to obtain employment, and brought in the stores 
that were contributed without charge, thus conferring benefits of 
immense value upon our people. On the eleventh of October, 
two days after the fire, the Erie Railroad had its relief cars on 
the way nt ten in the morning. The train consisted of seven cai-s 
heavily laden with provisions. Mr. George Crouch went with 
it as supercargo, and delivered the freight to the Mayor of 
Chicago. The train averaged about fifty miles an hour to Port 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST, 435 

Jervis. It reached SiisqHehanna at 3.05 p.m., and was last 
reported at Elinira, making unprecedented time to that point. 
Dense crowds of enthusiastic people were assembled at the depots 
in the principal towns, and many attempted to throw bundles on 
the train as it flew past. 

On the evening of that day, Col. James Fisk, Jr., writes : — 

We received to-day, since the departure of the lightning relief 
train at 10 o'clock this morning, over 10,000 consignments for the 
sufferers at Chicago, which were forwarded by the express train 
at 7 o'clock this evening. It would be almost impossible to 
enumerate the contents of the packages or their value ; but as far 
as we can judge, taking the entire shipment, nothing could be 
more appropriate had a month been occupied in the selection. I 
find that in a single consignment there were shipped 100 coats, 
100 pairs of trousers, 100 vests, while another consignment 
included 400 barrels of sugar and coffee, and still another con- 
sisted of 100 barrels of flour. A person competent to judge, who 
inspected the goods forwarded to Chicago by this single train, 
estimated their cash value at Over $100,000. 

We have, from appearance, as much, if not more, to receive 
to-morrow, which we shall forward by our express trains only at 
9 A.M., 12 M., 5-| P.M., and 7 p.m. 

It were idle to attempt an enumeration of the kindly offices of 
the railways, which made Chicago, which have ministered to it 
in distress, and must recreate and secure the future. 

AMOUNT OF MONEY KECEIVED. 

From the appended circular it will be seen what had been 
received in contributions from every source, down to November 
7, 1S71. 

The Executive Committee of the Chicago Eelief and Aid So- 
ciety are aware that the public desire to know the amount of the 
subscriptions to the Eelief Fund. It is impossible at present to 



436 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

give a detailed account of the amounts, for the reason that pur 
chases made in some cities, invoices of which have not yet 
reached us, are to be deducted from the gross amounts of the 
subscriptions. The previous report of our Treasurer stated the 
amount actually received at that date. We are now able to give 
the amount received to this date, November Yth, and tlie probable 
amount of the entire subscriptions, with approximate accuracy. 
We have actually received two million fifty-one thousand twenty- 
three dollars and fifty-five cents ($2,051,023.55). Arrangements 
have been made by which the Society draws five per cent, on all 
balances in bank. So far as our present information goes — and 
we think we have advices of all sums subscribed— the entire fund 
will vary but little from three million five hundred thousand dol- 
lars ($3,500,000). This includes the funds in the hands of the 
!N^ew York Chamber of Commerce, amounting to about $600,000, 
and the balance of the Boston Fund, about $240,000, both 
amounting to $840,000, not yet placed to the credit of this So- 
ciety, but which may undoubtedly be relied upon to meet the 
needs of the future. As to our disbursements, we can only say 
that we are at present aiding 60,000 people at our regular dis- 
tributing points. Some of this vast number we relieve in part 
only, but the greater portion to the extent of their entire support. 
This is in addition to the work of the Special Relief Committer 
for people who ought not to be sent to the general distributing 
points, and which is largely increasing upon our hands. It is 
also in addition to the expenditures of the Committee on Exist- 
ing Charitable Institutions. 

The great matter pressing upon the Committee is shelter for the 
coming winter. We may feed people during the mild weather, 
but where and how they are to be housed — permanently housed 
— we regard as the serious question. To this end we have been 
aiding those burned out to replace small but comfortable houses 
upon their own, or upon leased lots, where they can live, not 



IN CHICAGO AND THE ^VEST. 437 

only this winter, but next summer, and be ready to work in re- 
building the city. Of these houses — which are really very com- 
fortable, being 16 by 20 feet, with two rooms, one 12 by 10 feet, 
and one 8 by 16 feet, with a planed and matched floor, panel 
doors, and good windows — we have already furnished over 4,000, 
making permanent homes, allowing five for a family, for 20,000 
people, and with the 7,000 houses which we expect to build, shall 
have homes for 35,000 people. These houses and some barracks, 
ill both of which there is a moderate outfit of furniture, such as 
stoves, mattresses, and a little crockery, w^ill consume, say $1,250- 
000, leaving $2,250,000 with which to meet all the demands for 
food, fuel, clothing, and general expenses, from the 13th of Octo- 
ber last — when we took the work — until the completion of the 
same, which cannot possibly end with the present winter. We 
may say that particular attention has been paid to sanitary regu- 
lations. The entire work in this respect, as in others, is district 
ed. Medical visitors, dispensaries, and hospitals are provided. 

The Committee need hardly say, that if the demand should 
continue as great as at present, the fund would be exhausted by 
midwinter ; but we hope to cut this down very largely as soon as 
we can get people into houses, so that they can leave their fami- 
lies and find work. Indeed this is being done already. Witliin 
a few days we shall arrive at the exact daily expense of food and 
fuel rations ; but the demand, as might be expected, is a fluctu- 
ating one. If the weather is good and men can work, it falls off ; 
if cold and stormy, it at once increases at a fearful rate. 

The work has so pressed upon us, night and day, that we can- 
not present a detailed report to the public, but furnish this state- 
ment for the purpose of affording a general idea of what we have 
done and are trying to do, with an organization necessarily com- 
posed largely of unskilled forces, but the only one at hand for 
the emergency. Within the next ten days we shall be able to 
give a detailed report of the work as well as all sums contributed. 



438 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

December 1st, this sum bad been SAvelled to $2,508,000, with 
the current still flowing steadily into the treasury. 

Of other gifts, the value is known to One, who sees the wid- 
owjs mite as Avell as the millionaire's mightier help. But we 
cannot estimate the worth of all that vast store which was made 
up as rivers are — by ten thousand rivulets, brooks, and streams 
incessantly emptying in their precious contents. 



CHAPTER XXIX. • 

In addition to these organizations, there were movements 
among the citizens, and the Young Men's Christian Association 
early entered the field, with their forces generalled by Rev. 
Robert Patterson, D.D., who labored during the war in the 
Christian Commission. Their head-quarters were at the Seventh 
Presbyterian Church, and their charities were immense. Parties 
from Boston came on and superintended the distribution of the 
supplies from that city. Their work was largely among those 
who were not well served at the general relief depots, or who 
were looked up and searched out, on account of pride, or sick- 
ness, or some 'inability, moral or phj'sical, to make application in 
person. 

There was also the Woman's Christian Union, a society par- 
ticularly concerned with the employm.ent of women, who now 
supplemented this service with a relief duty, always aiming at 
securing means by wliich the poor women could become self- 
sustaining. They rendered most valuable aid to the suffering. 

Societies sprang into being on all sides, and made their appeals 
to the churches and benevolent societies, and their acquaintances 
throughout the land. They obtained clothing, made up gar- 
ments from new cloth, nursed the sick, and gave a helpful hand 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 439 

to any wliom they found neglected in the crowd of miserable 
beings that overflowed into every street, alley, garret, and cellar 
of the unbnrnt city. 

Private citizens donated from their own houses all that they 
could spare, in many instances, and vied with the outside public 
in liberality. It was pitiful to see the burned-ont parties, the 
morning of Monday and of Tuesday, begrimed, soiled, sconjhed, 
bearing a little truck, a trifling remnant of their possessions, to 
the homes of their friends, and begging for temporary shelter. 
But it was grand to observe the nobleness of the many, and their 
perfect sympathy with the distressed. And rising to the height 
of their obligation, our people are preparing for a campaign 
against poverty and misery, by leaguing in societies for service 
to the poor, that shall relax no effort during the long winter now 
marching down upon us. Rich and prosperous communities 
become greedy, selfish, covetous, and money-worshippers. It 
remains for us to prove the benefit of adversity by opening our 
hearts and hands to give and not to save. " Alms the salt of 
riches," is an old proverb. I kn'ow a man ruined by this fire, 
who was very rich, and refused to lend a poor woman fifty 
dollars, in an extremity, to save her house and furniture from 
the sherifiT. He had known her for many years, and she had 
claims upon him ; but no, he loved his money, and turned the 
poor woman off with stern denial. The week before the fire, she 
came to the gentleman who lent her the money — a poor man, 
and a minister — and paid it with interest, thanks, and tears. 
This gave the clergyman spending-money after the fire. And 
kow must the miser feel — yea, and many others like him — who 
have been close-fisted, hard-hearted, niggardly, and avaricious ? 
The worldling saves his money, yea, and the Christian too, for his 
children. But how often does its possession curse them. An 
eccentric D.D., in the course of a sermon in behalf of some 
charitable object, once said, " There are twenty men in this con- 



440 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIEES 

gregation who can give $20,000 each to this charity, and then 
have money enough left to ruin their children." Now there is an 
opportunity for the young men and women to show the quality 
of their characters. We shall be a better people for this trial, it 
we give with full-handed generosity, and learn that 
" To give is to live, 
To deny is to die." 

Among the impossibilities is any just account of the aid re- 
ceived by the sufferers ; because large amounts of moneys and 
supplies have been sent to private individuals, for personal use or 
disbursement; and thousands have gone home to their friends, 
who have proffered shelter and food for the winter. In time 
a book will be written, acknowledging these grand charities in a 
befitting manner. 

From a New York paper we clip the story of the reception of 
certain refugees from the fire. 

A few evenings ago eight newsboys of Chicago arrived in this 
city and sought shelter at the Newsboys' Lodging-House in Park 
Place. On Saturday six more arrived and went to the same 
home, and on Sunday four more. The ages of these youths were 
from sixteen to nineteen years. One of them, a lad of eighteen, 
had his face very much scorched by the tire, and some of the 
others were disfigured to some extent from the same cause. 
Tliose who arrived on Friday night left the next morning to 
seek fi'iends in this city or in Brooklyn, the six who came on 
Saturday, with the four who arrived on Sunday, remained in the 
Lodging-House until Monday afternoon, when they, too, left in 
pursuit of friends. Tlie New York boys gave their brothers of 
the West a very cordial reception, and as far as their little means 
allowed, lavished upon them a generous welcome. The New 
York boys, all so much younger than the Chicagoans, were 
profuse in their expressions of sympathy, albeit uttered in the 
vernacular of the profession, and poured out volleys of inquiries 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 4^1 

as to the state of trade in the ill-fated city. The usual sports of 
the evening were stopped immediately on the arrival of the 
immigrants, and each visitor, after a hearty meal, formed a 
centre of attraction for a score of boys, each of whom had some- 
thing to learn of the great lire. Sunday was a great opportunity 
for the exchanging of notes, it being comparatively a dull day, and 
the new arrivals of the evening previous were escorted to favorite 
haunts and lionized to an extraordinary degree. Those of the 
boys who had belonged to the boot-blacking profession very 
warmly discussed the depression of prices in that line, and though 
it was unanimously agreed upon that the profession should be on 
all occasions retained by a "choker" fee, yet, all things con- 
sidered, it was deemed best just now not to enter upon that 
dangerous experiment, a "strike," The Chicagoans were loud in- 
their admiration of Peter B. Sweeny, who, they said, deserved 
the presentation of a set of complimentary resolutions on account 
of his great services to the shine-em-up boys in beautifying the 
City Hall Park. Regrets were expressed tliat all tlie fountains 
were not in working order, as they are very inviting to custom- 
ers. The Chicagoans urged upon their New Yoi"k brothers to 
establish their headquarters around the fountain in front of the 
City Hall when completed, and not under any circumstances to 
yield their right on this point. It was also suggested tliat as 
many portable chairs as possible be provided, with a view to 
placing business on a footing more conformable to ordinary mer- 
cantile pursuits. It was said that the experience of a series 
of years has demonstrated that " chairs are good." The news- 
boys learned with great satisfaction that the people of Chicago 
were a newspaper reading community, and did not stick at 
trifles. All that was necessary to do in case of small change was 
to delay a few minutes in procuring it, and the " gent" was sure 
to " get." Harmony among members of the profession was also 
an admirable feature in Chicago, everybody " working his own 



442 msTOEY OF the geeat fibes 

route" on the square and with no nonsense. The Chicago dele- 
gation was enb'ghtened as to how trade stood in New York, and 
a comparative estimate given as to the daily receipts afforded by 
every evening paper in the city. Discussing these topics and 
similar ones the boys passed the day, and after a hearty supper at 
the Lodging- House in the evening, again resumed the entertain- 
ment. Cordial invitations were extended to the Chicagoans to 
join the honorable brotherhood of ISTew York, and assurances 
extended that a most friendly reception awaited thein in the 
arena of competition. No decisive answer was given to the New 
Yorkers' offer; but evidently the Chicago boys were deeply im- 
pressed with the tone and boyish bearing of their new acquaint- 
ances, and promised that if ever they should again return to 
" that line of business " New York City should be the theatre in 
M'hich their ambition gliould have a chance. When it was ap- 
proaching bedtime it was felt by New" York that it was neces- 
s&vj to do something grand on an occasion like that then being 
celebrated, and why should not the newsboys have a say of 
sympathy as well as every other brancli of business ? This idea 
became so impressed upon the mind of one of the boys — a sort of 
leader of a set — that he summed up courage, and, rising, said : — 

Gentlemen, — You know about the Chicago fire, and that 
these gentlemen (pointing to the ten Ciiicagoans) are sufferers. 
I now want to tell 'em that we're sorry for 'em. Our subscrip- 
tion list is making up, and I heard Mr. O'Connor say 'twill 
amount to $8.25, which they will get, though it's small and not 
as much as we'd like to. That's all 1 have to say, except that if 
these gentlemen stay here we'll post 'em. 

Another Boy. — Billy, propose a resolution. 

Billy. — I move that we're awful sorry for the sufferings of the 
newsboys and black-a-boots of Chicago, and that if they stay we 
post 'em, and that anything we can do we'll do to help 'em, and 
that we're sorry it ain't more than $8 . 25. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 443 

Great applause followed from all the other boys. 

One of the Chicago youths then rose, after some hesitation, and 
said : — 

" Thankee, gents, for what ye've done, an if it weren't that we 
had to go and see some friends we'd like to stay. Maybe, though, 
we'll come back." 

At this moment the Superintendent appeared on the scene, 
and this was the signal for the adjournment of the meeting sine 
die. 

The boys then went to their "little beds" and to sound sleep, 
New Yorkers to dream of Chicago, and the Chicagoans of the 
great fire and their recent hardships. 

A little Irish boy, Tim, employed in a bake-shop, sent five dol- 
lars from East Orange, N. J, 

And here speaks a voice from Old England : 

" CONYNGHAM-ROAD, YlCTORIA PaEK, ] 

'' Manchester, Oct. 16, 1871. f 

"My Dear Mr. Mayor: As you have convened a meeting, to 
be held to-morrow, of the inhabitants of Shefiield, to consider what 
measure should be taken to relieve the sufferers at Chicago, in tKe 
United States of America, under the calamity which has so sud- 
denly befallen them, I beg leave, as a native of the borough over 
which you worthily preside as Chief Magistrate, to ofler a contri- 
bution of two hundred guineas to the fund intended to be raised, 
for which sum I inclose a check payable to your order. I am 
gratified to learn that the people of America will accept the ex- 
pression of sympathy and sorrow in this country, in the kindly 
sense in which it will be offered to them ; and I consider it to be 
a privilege to have the opportunity of uniting in this undoubted 
sentiment of affection and regard of the inhabitants of Great 
Britain and Ireland towards the people of America. 

" May we and they ever be one people under our respective 



444 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

governments; and be bound together as lovers of freedom to the 
end of time. I have the honor to be your very obedient servant, 

" George Hadfield. 
" To the Mayor of Sheffield." 

The good Queen has thought of us and given for our relief. 
She reads every word of the tidings from our city with intense 
interest. Her subjects have also responded, in a most creditable 
manner, to the silent appeal of our distress. There is a very pro- 
found regard for our countrj' in the old world, and the ties that 
bind us together are strengthened by these expressions of active 
charity. Scarcely a hamlet in the British Isles can be found 
which has not its representative here, either among the humble 
or the influential. We are essentially cosmopolitan, and the 
world have taken us up, to nurse and cherish in our fall. It is 
true as ever, that one touch of nature makes the whole world 
kin. The natural feelings of all Christendom have been touched 
by the unvoiced woe of Chicago. The magnitude of this generous 
work, and the spontaneity of the timely giving, fitly symbolize the 
community of interest and feeling which now bind the human 
family together. 



♦ CHAPTER XXX. 

Beshdes the magnificent gifts for the body and for immediate 
comfort, there have been systematic and general efforts in aid of 
the churches and educational institutions, which must result in 
placing them once more in a position of usefulness and stability. 
It is impossible to chronicle these donations, as the tide is still 
flowing in upon us. Orders and societies are rising in their might, 
all over the land, to rebuild and re-establish the institutions lost 
in Chicago. Christians, surely, will prove their profound interest 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 445 

in their cherished cause, by responses that shall make the future of 
our city worthy of the Lord Jeliovah, and a centre of evangelical 
power. 

Capitalists came forward instanth', with offers of money and 
credit to any extent, for the reconstruction of what was their 
pride as well as our own. Merchants and business men received 
the heartiest assurances of sympathy from those to whom they 
were indebted, from their creditors and customers ; and every 
leniency was afforded and extended, compatible with safety and 
creditable to the heart. 

Governors of States took up our cause, and commended us to 
the philanthropy of their citizens. 



BY THE GOYEKNOR OF WISCONSIN. 

To the People of Wisconsin : 

Throughout the northern part of this State fires have been 
raging in the woods for many days, spreading desolation on every 
side. It is reported that hundreds of families have been rendered 
homeless by this devouring element, and reduced to utter destitu- 
tion, their entire crops having been consumed. Their stock has 
been destroyed, and their farms are but a blackened desert. Un- 
less they receive instant aid from portions not visited by this 
dreadful calamity, they must perish. 

The telegraph also brings the terrible news that a large portion 
of the city of Chicago is destroyed by a conflagration, which is 
still raging. Many thousands of people are thus reduced to 
penury, stripped of their all, and are now destitute of shelter and 
food. Their sufferings will be intense, and many may perish un- 
less provisions are at once sent to them from the surrounding 
country. They must be assisted now. 

In the aw'ful presence of such calamities the people of Wis- 



446 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

consin will not be backward in giving assistance to their afflicted 
fellow-men. 

I therefore recommend that immediate organized effort be 
made in every locality to forward provisions and money to the 
sufferers bj this visitation, and suggest to majors of cities, 
presidents of villages, town supervisors, pastors of churches, and 
to the various benevolent societies, that they devote themselves 
immediately to the work of organizing effort, collecting contribu- 
tions, and sending forward supplies for distribution. 

And I entreat all to give of their abundance to help those in 
such sore distress. 

Given under my hand, at the Capitol, at Madison, this 9th day 
of October, a.d. 1871. 

Lucius Fairchild. 



BY THE GOYERNOR OF MICHIGAN. 

State of Michigan, Executive Office, 
Lansing, October 9. 

The city of Chicago, in the neighboring State of Illinois, has 

been visited, in the providence of Almighty God, with a calamity 

almost unequalled in the annals of history. A large portion of 

that beautiful and most prosperous city has been reduced to ashes 

and is now in ruins. Many millions of dollars in property, the 

accumulation of years of industrj' and toil, have been swept away 

in a moment. The rich have been reduced to penury, the poor 

have lost the little they possessed, and many thousands of people 

rendered homeless and houseless, and are now without the absolute 

necessaries of life. I therefore earnestly call upon the citizens 

of every portion of Michigan to take immediate measures for 

alleviating the pressing wants of that fearfully afflicted city, by 

collecting and forwarding to the Mayor or proper authorities of 

Chicago supplies of food, as well as liberal collections of money. 




YOUNG LADIES MLNTTSTE: 



'i III 



r 






!'J 1 






mm 




\Q TO THE HOMELESS. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 449 

Let this sore calamity of our neighbors remind ns of the un- 
certainty of earthly possessions, and that when one member suffers 
all the members should suffer with it. I cannot doubt that the 
whole people of the State will most gladly and most promptly 
and most liberally respond to this urgent demand upon their 
sympathy; but no words of mine can plead so strongly as the 
calamity itself. 

Henry P. Baldwin, 
Governor of Michigan. 



BY THE GOYEENOE OF IOWA. 

To the People of Iowa : 

An appalling calamity has befallen our sister State. Her 
metropolis — thegreat city of Chicago — is in ruins. Over 100,000 
people are without shelter or food, except as supplied by others. 
A helping hand let us now promptly give. Let the liberality of 
our people, so lavishly displayed during the long period of national 
peril, come again to the front, to lend succor in this hour of 
distress. I would urge the appointment at once of relief com- 
mittees in every city, town, and township, and I respectfully ask 
the local authorities to call meetings of the citizens to devise 
ways and means to render efficient aid. I would also ask the 
pastors of the various churches throughout the State to take up 
collections on Sunday morning next, or at such other time as 
they may deem proper, for the relief of the sufferers. Let us not 
be satisfied with aijy spasmodic effort. There will be need of 
' relief of a substantial character to aid the many thousands to 
prepare for the rigors of the coming winter. The magnificent 
public charities of that city, now paralyzed, can do little to this 
end. Those who live in homes of comfort and plenty must furnish 



450 mSTORT OF THE GREAT FIEE8 

this help, or misery and suffering will be the fate of many thou- 
sands of our neighbors. 

Samuel Merrill, 

Governor. 
Des Moines, Oct. 10, 1871. 



BY THE GOYEKNOR OF OHIO. 

Chicago, Oct. 12. 
To the People of Ohio : 

It is believed by the best informed citizens here that many 
thousands of the sufferers must be provided with the necessaries 
of life during the cold winter. Let the efforts to raise contribu- 
tions be energetically pushed. Money, fuel, flour, pork, clothing, 
and other articles not perishable should be collected as rapidly as 
possible — especially money, fuel, and flour. Mr. Joseph Medill, 
of The Tribune, estimates the number of those who will need 
assistance at about T0,000. 

R. B. Hates, 
Governor of Ohio. 



BT THE GOYERNOR OF ILLINOIS. 

• State of Illinois, ) 
Executive Department. ) 

John M. Palmer, Governor of Illinois, to the Peojple of the State 

of Illinois: 

A fire of unexampled magnitude has devastated the city oi 
Chicago, depriving thousands of our citizens of shelter and food 
and clothing. 

Under these painful circumstances, I call upon you to open 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 451 

your hearts for the relief of the suffering. Contribute. of your 
abundance everything that you can — food, clothing, money; or- 
ganize committees and systematize your efforts. 

Remember those, our fellow-citizens who have always responded 
so nobly to every call. 

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand 

and caused the great seal of State to be affixed. 

[seal.] Done at the city of Springfield, this 10th day of 

October, a.d. 1871. 

John M. Palmeb. 
By the Governor, 

Edward Rummell, Secretary of State. 



State or Illinois, ) 
Executive Department. ) 

John M. Palmer^ Governor of Illinois, To all to whom these 

presents shall come, greeting: 

"Whereas, in my judgment, the great calamity that has 
overtaken Chicago, the largest city of the State; that has de- 
prived many thousands of our citizens of homes and rendered 
them destitute; that has destroyed many millions in value of 
property, and thereby disturbing the business of the people and 
deranging the finances of the State, and interrupting the execu- 
tion of the laws, is and constitutes " an extraordinary occasion " 
within the true intent and meaning of the eighth section of the 
fifth article of the Constitution. 

Now, therefore, I, John M. Palmer, Governor of the State of 
Illinois, do by this, my proclamation, convene and invite the two 
Houses of the General Assembly in session in the city of Spring- 
field, on Friday, the 13th day of the month of October, in the 
year of our Lord 1871, at 12 o'clock noon of said day, to t«ke 
into consideration the following subjects:— 



452 HISTOEY OF THE GREAT FIEES 

1. TcF appropriate such sum or sums of money, or adopt such 
other legislative measures as may be thought judicious, necessary, 
or proper, for the relief of the people of the city of Chicago. 

2. To make provision, by amending the revenue laws or other- 
wise, for the proper and just assessment and collection of taxes 
within the city of Cliicago. 

3. To enact such other laws and to adopt such other measures 
as may be necessary for the relief of the city of Chicago and the 
people of said city, and for the execution and enforcement of the 
laws of the State. 

4. To make appropriations for the expenses of the General 
Assembly, and such other appropriations as may be necessary to 
carry on the State Government. 

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand 
and caused the great seal of State to be affixed. 
[seal.] Done at the city of Springfield, this 10th day of 
October, a.d. 1871. 

John M. Palmek. 
By the Governor, 
Edward Rummell, Secretary of State. 



In response to the call of the Executive, the Legislature assem- 
bled, and received this further message from the Governor, Avhose 
contents met the warmest approval of all our citizens : — 

State of Illinois, Executive Department, ]^ 
Springfield, October IG, 1871. ) 

Gentlemen of the Senate and Plouse of Representatives : On 
the 8th day of the present month a fire broke out in the city of 
Chicago, which, in a few hours, destroyed a large portion of that 
city. I 

It is useless to attempt to describe the awful and saddening 



m CHICAGO AXD THE WEST. 453 

spectacle of the destruction of the most wealthy and populous 
parts of our great city. The destroyer came suddenly, and under 
circumstances well calculated to impress us with a sense of our 
littleness. 

Chicago is situated on the shore of a great lake ; it is inter- 
sected by rivers ; it was provided with all the meaiis for protec- 
tion against fire that are the product of the united efforts of the 
advanced science and skill of modei'n civilization; yet in the 
presence of the destructive element men were powerless, and it 
pursued its course until nothing was left for it to destroy. 

In the course of this remarkable conflagration, which has al- 
ready taken its place in history with the greatest calamities that 
have afflicted mankind, the flames, with unexampled fury, swept 
over the eastern half of the devoted city, destroying many lives, 
consumed chiu'ches, hospitals, schools, dwellings, warehouses, 
stores, bridges, and structm'es of every kind. Everything per- 
ished at their touch, and whole wards of the city were left without 
a house or an inhabitant. No reliable estimate of the number of 
lives lost can be made, but the amount of property destroyed is 
estimated at three hundred millions of dollars. 

In view of the circumstances, I felt it to be my duty to convene 
a session of the General Assembly, and, accordingly, on the 10th 
day of October, 1871, issued the proclamation which I have the 
honor to lay before you. 

At the time of the meeting of the General Assembly, all were 
still so far under the control of the feelings excited by this extra- 
ordinary calamity, that no scheme had been formed for the em- 
ployment of the powers and resources of the State to meet the 
duties that are imposed upon it by this unexpected condition of 



But before proceeding to invite your attention to the details of 
the business of the session, I must be permitted, in the name of 
the people of the State, to exDress their o-rateful thankfulness for 



454 HISTOKY OF THE GREAT FIKES 

the exhibition of outpouring sympathy and benevolence that this 
great and sudden calamity has excited in all civilized lands. Not 
only have our own people and the people of our sister States dis- 
tinguished themselves by an active liberality that is without a 
parallel, but in foreign countries the hearts of men and women 
have throbbed with pity for Chicago, and their hands, filled with 
contributions, have opened to supply the wants of its suffering 
people. Where all have aided, and all have done so much, it is 
impossible to give even the names of our benefactors. Their ex- 
ample, so honorable to them and to human nature, is worth}'' per- 
petual remembrance, and I trust that the General Assembly will 
provide for the preparation and publication of a memorial volume, 
in which their names shall be preserved. The people of the 
State should be permitted to know the names of those who, when 
their brethren were hungry, fed them, and when they were naked, 
clothed them. 

The first question to be decided by the General Assembly, after 
a careful review of the situation, is, what can be done for the re- 
lief of the people, and for the discharge of the duties of the State 1 
In finding an answer to this question, there are some difficulties 
and causes of embarrassment that are yet to be stated ; and these 
are, the court-house, jail, and public offices, and records of Cook 
county are destroyed. The tax-books are consumed, so that the 
collection of unpaid taxes cannot, without great difficulty, be en- 
forced. The courts are powerless. The utmost confusion, as to 
the titles of lands, must soon prevail. All the offices and most of 
the records of the city of Chicago are lost. Still the question, 
What can be done by the State? presses for an answer — and all 
the wisdom, experience, and patience of the General Assembly is 
invoked to furnish a full, complete, and satisfactory response. 

The general political proposition, that that government is to 
be regarded as the best that interferes with the people the least, 
will remain forever true ; and experience has conclusively shown 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 455 

tLat intelligent men and women are, under all ordinary circum- 
stances, more capable of providing for their own wants, managing 
their own affairs, and regulating their own conduct, than any 
government can be, however organized or administered. It 
seems to me, then, that the people of Chicago and Cook county, 
who have suffered losses, require nothing from the State but to be 
left free to employ their unexampled and unbroken energies in 
the great work of rebuilding their homes. 

They need no loans or gifts from the United States or the State 
of Illinois ; and, unless I greatly mistake them, they will ask no 
more than that the State shall assume the discharge of its own 
proper duties, and relieve them from burdens — that, from their 
peculiar situation, were always heavy, but have been cheerfully 
borne — so that they may be left to apply all their resources to their 
own great task. It is primarily the duty of the State to provide 
for the poor, the blind, the insane, and all other helpless classes, 
and for the enforcement of its laws everywhere within its limits. 
It is also its duty to provide for the construction of its highways, 
building bridges, and the support of schools. The State of Il- 
linois has always recognized the obligation of these duties, and 
for the more convenient performance of many of them, counties, 
townships, cities, towns, and other organizations have been estab- 
lished by law. They are but parts of machinery employed in car- 
rying on the affairs of the State, and the authority and the duties 
of each are confined to certain well-defined territorial as well as 
legal boundaries, that may be modified or destroyed, as the ex- 
igencies of the public may demand. And whenever, from any 
cause, any of these agencies become unequal to the discharge of 
the duties assigned them, or the public duties imposed upon thera 
become too burdensome or oppressive to the people embraced 
within their limits, it is the duty of the State to provide othel 
means for their performance. It is a fact that requires no proof, 
that the county of Cook and the city of Chicago, two of the most 



456 msTORY OF the great fiees 

Important of the classes of public agencies to which they respect- 
ivelj belong, are, from causes that are well understood, unable tc 
continue the full discharge of all the duties that were imposed 
upon them. From an inevitable accident, their lesources are 
diminished and their local burdens vastly increased, so that they 
are no longer available to the State as governmental agencies for 
all the purposes for which they were created, and it follows from 
that fact that to the extent that the requirements of such duties 
are in excess of the legal resources of the county and city — such 
duties must be resumed by the State, and the General Assembly 
must devise other methods for their performance. 

It is a most remarkable illustration of the difficulty of pro- 
viding for every possible contingency by constitutional regula- 
tions, that certain provisions of the constitution of 1870, that 
were intended to restrict the powers of municipal corporations, 
and were resisted upon that ground, will be found to operate to 
relieve the county of Cook and city of Chicago of what would 
otherwise be intolerable burdens. Every part of the constitution 
abounds with proof that its framers regarded the municipal 
organizations of the State as mere administrative agencies, and 
that they intended to deprive them of all emergent or discre- 
tionary authority, except within very narrow limits. 

By the twelfth section of the ninth article of the Constitution 
it is provided that "No county, city, township, school district, or 
other municipal corporation shall be allowed to become indebted, 
in any manner or for any jpurjpose^ to an amount, including 
existing indebtedness, in the aggregate exceeding five per centum 
of the value of the taxable property therein — to be ascertained by 
the last assessment for State and county taxes." .... And 
by the eighth section of the same article, county authorities are 
prohibited from assessing taxes, the aggregate of which shall 
exceed seventy-five cents on the hundred dollars valuation. 
Then, whatever power to raise money for necessary public pur- 



m CHICAGO AND TUB WEST. 457 

poses the State has denied its local or municipal organizations it 
has reserved to itself, to be exercised by the General Assembly. 
The financial resources of municipal and local organizations are 
necessarily limited to their powers to contract debts and to im- 
pose taxes. When these powers have been exerted to the utmost 
legal or possible limit, and are inadequate to the complete 
performance of their duties to the State, thej^ must be relieved ot 
such duties altogether; for the accepted construction of the con- 
stitution forbids the General Assembly to pay, assume to pay, 
or to become responsible for the debts or liabilities of, or in any 
manner give, loan, or extend its credit to or in aid of any public 
or other corporation or individual — (Sec. 20, Article 10, State 
Constitution). This provision of the Constitution was adopted 
for reasons well understood, and but few will doubt its policy or 
wisdom, and no one will, I apprehend, be willing to relax its 
stringency, or narrow its interpretation by constructions however 
ingenious or plausible. 

It has been proposed to give immediate aid to the city of Chi- 
cago, by discharging tlie lien of the city npon the Illinois and 
Michigan canal, authorized to be created by the act approved 
February 16, 18G5 ; and it is claiuied that if the State should 
now refund to the city the amount of money secured upon the 
revenues of the canal, with the interest thereon (which would be, 
in round numbers, about three millions of dollars), the city would 
be enabled to rebuild its bridges and public structures, remove 
the obstructions from and repair its streets, pay the expenses of 
its government, and other expenses pertaining to its own organi- 
zation, and discharge its general duties to the State. 

I am not prepared to express an opinion upon the question : 
'whether even that sum of money would be sufficient to supply 
all the essential wants of the city ; but my impressions incline 
me to admit that it would ; and I am prepared to say that while, 
under ordinary circumstances, influenced alone by my views of 



458 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

the proper policy to be pursued by the State, I would not advise 
the acceptance of the option secured to the State in the fifth 
section of the act of 1865, to refund to the city the sura of twc 
millions and a half dollars, with interest thereon. Under present 
circumstances, if the money can be raised by any satisfactory 
means for the purpose, it seems to me that it should be done. 
The county of Cook, alone, has heretofore contained nearly one- 
sixth of the taxable property of the State, and a proportion of 
this, which falls very little short of the whole, was situated in the 
city of Chicago. Now, nearly one-half of the productive pro- 
perty of the city is detroyed, and its present resources are crip- 
pled ; but the day is not distant when its walls will be rebuilt, its 
wealth and population not only restored but increased, and instead 
of requiring aid from the treasury of the State, it will be again its 
chief resource, and money now appropriated to meet its necessities, 
will be bread cast upon the waters, to be gathered again after not 
many days. But while policy as well as duty concur in sup- 
port of the propriety of an appropriation from the State treasury, 
either to discharge the dnties heretofore imposed upon the city, 
and which unaided it can no longer perform, and for that reason 
they now devolve directly upon the State — or to refund to the 
city the sum of money used by it in deepening the canal, and for 
which it has a lien upon the property of the State — it remains 
to be considered how the money is to be raised to meet such 
appropriation. , 

Two methods have been suggested for the accomplishment of 
this object. I am informed that the amount of the taxable 
property, as reported to the Auditor, for 1871 is about five hundred 
millions of dollars, which is probably less than one-tenth of the 
actual cash value of all the property in the State, From that 
sum will probably be deducted fifty millions, on account of the 
destruction of property in the county of Cook. Calculating, 
then, upon the basis of an actual assessment of four hundred and 



m CHICAGO ANT) THE WEST. 459 

fifty millions, the rate of taxation required to raise three millions 
of dollars is sixty-six and two-thirds cents upon the hundred dol- 
lars ; and when to this is added the probable rate of fifty-five 
cents, that may be required for revenue and school purposed, the 
rate of taxation for the year 1871 will be one dollar and twenty- 
one and two-thirds cents upon the hundred dollars. And I 
confess to a preference for this mode of raising all money required 
for public purposes. It is simple, direct, and, of all modes of 
raising money, it is the cheapest. It proposes that each genera- 
tion shall discharge its own duties, and it conforms to the golden 
rule of business morality : " Pay as you go." 

But the demands of the city of Chicago, for whatever sum may 
be appropriated for its use, are urgent and immediate, and months 
may elapse before the proceeds of taxation can be realized, and 
it may be the judgment of the representatives of the people, that 
the rate of taxation that it will be necessary to impose is, under 
present circumstances, too heavy to be conveniently borne ; and 
for some or all of these reasons, some other method of raising the 
requisite sum may be preferred. 

The only other mode of raising money that has occurred to 
me is that of borrowing the amount required. But it has been 
asked, with some degree of anxiety, under what clause of the 
present Constitution is the exercise of the power to contract a 
greater debt by the State than $250,000 to be justified ? and to 
find a satisfactory answer to the question, is thought by some to 
be a task not altogether free from difficulty. The provision of 
the Constitution relied on by those who question the power of 
the General Assembly to borrow money (and thereby contract 
a debt) to a greater amount than two hundred and fifty thousand 
dollars, is found in the proviso to the eighteenth section of the 
fourth article. The language of this proviso is : " The State 
may, to meet casual deficits or failure in revenue, contract debts 
never to exceed in the aggregate two hundred and fifty thousand 



460 HISTOET or TIIE GKEAT FIEES 

dollars; and moneys thus borrowed shall be applied to the pur- 
pose for which they were obtained, or to pay the debt thus 
created, and no other purpose ; and no other debt, except for the 
purpose of repelling invasion, suppressing insurrection, or defend- 
ing the State in war, . . . shall be contracted, unless the law 
authorizing the same shall have been submitted to the people at 
a general election." Those who deny the power to contract a 
debt to raise money to discharge the lien on the canal insist that 
the amount of money expended by the city of Chicago to deepen 
the canal does not, when tested by the proviso of the thirty- 
seventh section of the third article of the Constitution of 1848, 
constitute a debt against the State, and that now to borrow 
money to discharge the lien of the city would be to create a debt 
in violation of the eighteenth section of the fourth article of the 
Constitution of 1870 ; and they contend that the words employed 
in the section last referred to, that prohibit the General Assem- 
bly from contracting debts, " except for the purpose of repelling 
invasions, suppressing insurrection, or defending the State in 
war," are to be construed literally and strictly, and that their 
effect is to absolutely prohibit the State from contracting debts 
except for the very purposes and under the precise circumstances 
specified. 

It must be confessed that if those who thus reason are correct, 
the only mode that can be adopted to afford either direct or in- 
direct aid to the city of Chicago, is that of direct taxation ; and 
it is an argument in favor of the last-mentioned mode of raising 
money, that we thereby avoid the necessity of giving any other 
than the precise and literal construction to the words of the pro- 
viso that is insisted upon. But, as has often been suggested, with 
reference to other instruments, " the true construction is the only 
one that is admissible ; " and a literal construction is not neces- 
sarily true, for the object of construction is to ascertain the sense 
and purpose for which the words in question were introduced 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 461 

into the instrument, and that sense, when discovered, is to be ac- 
cepted ; and in that sense the instrument, if a Constitution, is to 
be obeyed and enforced. 

I do not believe that those who insist upon confining the 
power of the General Assembly to contract debts to the precise 
occasions of invasion, insurrection, or war, do justice to the pur- 
poses of the framers of the Constitution. They did intend, beyond 
all doubt, to deny to the General Assembly the power to con- 
tract debts beyond the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand 
dollars (which they have authorized it to do, substantially, at its 
own discretion), except under circumstances of extreme peril to 
the State. In defining the degree of peril tliat they intended 
should warrant the exercise by the General Assembly of the 
power that had been so much abused, they employed the strongest 
language ; but it cannot be inferred that they intended that the 
State should be defended from invasion — that it might employ 
its resources to suppress an insurrection, or to prosecute a war — 
but should be powerless to resist the greatest evils, or prevent the 
most tlireatening dangers that might arise from any other possi- 
ble cause. It seems to me that they intend to define the degree 
of urgency, rather than to express the particular occasions when 
the povv'er in question might be employed. The framers of the 
Constitution were statesmen familiar with the practice as well as 
the science of government, and well understood, from the ex- 
amples in which history abounds, that occasions might arise in 
the future of the State, when money would be required to be 
raised before the people could be consulted at a general election, 
to meet other exigencies than those of actual invasion, insurrec- 
tion, or war. They knew that the safety of a State is often im- 
perilled by the feebleness of its Government — by its inability to 
respond to the requirements of extraordinary duties, and that 
dangers sometimes impend over States, and evils overtake them 
(of which the dangers and evils produced by invasions, insurrec- 



462 HISTOKT OF THE GEEAT FIRES 

tions, and wars are but types and examples), that might require 
that all its resources should be employed at once to prevent or 
remove them; and with that knowledge, it cannot be presumed 
that they intended that the State, abounding in wealth, should 
submit to an unhappy fate, or invite an invasion, excite its peo- 
ple to insurrection, or engage in a war, to find a pretext for em- 
ploying its own resources to avert it. 

It was not the purpose of the framers of the Constitution to 
deprive the State of the power to discharge its vital and essential 
functions, as the narrow interpretation of the Constitution 1 am 
disputing undoubtedly does ; and the circumstances of the case 
of the city of Chicago, now under consideration, serves all the 
purposes of the most complete and satisfactory illustration. In 
that city, within a few hours, many millions of property was sud- 
denly destroyed ; nearly or quite one hundred thousand of its in- 
habitants deprived of food and shelter; the ordinary agencies 
created by the State were, by the same overwhelming calamity, 
deprived of their power and resources, and were helpless to feed 
or shelter them. The Legislature of the State was convened by 
the Governor ; they find the moneys in the treasury inadequate 
to meet the demands upon the State, but its credit is practically 
limitless, and the means to feed and give protection to the hungry 
multitude abound on every hand. 

The General Assembly cannot, as is claimed, draw upon the re- 
sources of the State, or anticipate its revenue beyond an amount 
limited — not by the urgency of its duties, but by certain techni- 
cal words contained in the Constitution. If this is the proper 
conclusion, and the people were not otherwise relieved, one of the 
conditions upon which the power to contract debts is said to de- 
pend, would be soon supplied, for the cravings of hunger will 
madden any population on earth to the point of insurrection. 

It is to be borne in mind that the State of Illinois is so far in- 
dependent of all other governments that it must at all times be 



m CHICAGO AJSID THE WEST. 463 

equal to the perfect discharge of its own obligations. It cannot 
relj upon the voluntary charities of the benevolent to feed or give 
shelter to its destitute population without at the same time ceas- 
ing to exist. 

It cannot and has not abdicated the most essential function of 
its existence, of raising moneys required for the discharge of its 
most important duties, by regular modes, for the safety of all the 
interests of the people forbid it. To claim that the people of the 
State have locked up their property so it cannot be reached by 
constitutional methods, to be used for the most urgent purposes 
of government and discharge the highest social obligations, is not 
only to do injustice to their character for humanity, but to their 
intelligence and discernment ; for the power to raise money to 
meet the great and sudden emergencies in the affairs of States is 
essential to their existence. 

Entertaining these views of the proper construction of the lan- 
guage of the proviso of the 18th section of the 4th Article of 
the Constitution, I feel no hesitation in recommending that if 
that course is deemed by the General Assembly most judicious, 
the amount necessary to meet the urgent demands upon the re- 
sources of the State be borrowed, and at the same time provision 
be made for its early and prompt repayment. 

It is proper that I should also invite the attention of the Gene- 
ral Assembly to the necessity of providing by law for the reassess- 
ment of property in Cook County for State and county purposes, 
and it is probably true that some legislation will be necessary to 
enable the authorities of the city of Chicago, and of the school 
and other minor districts of the county, to enforce the collection 
of taxes. 

I am not prepared to express an opinion as to what legislation 
is necessary, but feel that my duty is discharged, though imper- 
fectly, by commending the matter to your attention. 

There is too much reason to apprehend that the destruction of 



4:64 mSTOEY OF the great fires 

the public baildings and records that pertain to the county of 
Cook and the city of Chicngo have resulted in producing mtich 
mischief. How far such anticipated mischief, losses, and incon- 
veniences can be remedied by legislation, must remain a matter 
of uncertainty and doubt. 

Invoking your sympathies for that portion of our people who 
have suffered such unexampled losses, I can only express my most 
earnest desire to co-operate with you in any proper plan that may 
be devised for their relief. John M. Palmer. 

The members of both Houses adjourned to visit Chicago, and 
there saw what M^as needed, and returned to pass, with great 
unanimity, the following Act : — 

" A Bill for an ' Act to relieve the lien of the City of Chicago 
upon the Illinois and Michigan Canal and revenues, by refund- 
ing to said city the amount expended by it in making the im- 
provement contemplated by an Act to provide for the comple- 
tion of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, upon the plan adopted 
by the State in 1836, approved February 16, 1865, together 
with the interest thereon, as authorized by section five of said 
Act, and to provide for issuing bonds therefor.' 
" Whereas the city of Chicago has expended a large amount 
of money, to wit : the sum of two and a half millions of dollars, 
to secure the completion of the Summit division of the Illinois 
and Michigan Canal, under and pursuant to the provisions of said 
Act, so approved February 16, a.d. 1865, and Act supplementary 
thereto ; and whereas the said city has a vested lien upon the said 
canal, with its revenues, subject to any canal debt existing at the 
time of the passage of said Acts ; and whereas said then existing 
debt due by the State has been fully paid and cancelled ; and 
whereas the canal trustees have delivered to the State of Illinois 
possession and control of said canal ; and whereas it is provided 
by section five of said Act, as follows : ' The State of Illinois may. 



yk' 




OPENING THE VAULTS OF THE MERCHANTS' SAVINGS, LOAN AND 




RUST COMPANY, CORNER LAKE AND DEARBORN STREETS. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 467 

at any time, relieve this lien upon the canal and revenues, b}' re- 
funding to the City of Chicago the amount expended in making 
the contemplated improvement and the interest thereon.' Now, 
therefore, 

"Sec. 1. Be it enacted hy the People of the State of Illinois, 
represented in the General Assembly, That the sum of two mil- 
lion nine hundred and iifty-five thousand three hundred and forty 
dollars ($2,955,310) with interest thereon, until paid, be and the 
same is hereby appropriated, for the purpose of relieving the lien 
as aforesaid, being the principal expended and the interest there- 
on ; which said sum is hereby refunded to said city, and when 
paid, said city shall execute and deliver to the State of Illinois a 
proper release of said lien to the satisfaction of the Governor; 
and the auditor of State, under the direction of the Governor, is 
hereby directed to draw his warrants for said sum of money and^ 
interest, payable only out of any moneys in the Treasury belong- 
ing to the fund hereafter provided, to be known as the ' Canal 
Redemption Fund.' 

" That for the purpose of providing said fund, any funds that are 
now or may be hereafter in the State treasury, paid in on the 
settlement of the canal commissioners with the trustees of the 
Illinois and Michigan canal, as well as from the revenue of the 
canal, also all funds that are now or may hereafter be paid into 
the State treasury, known as the " Illinois Central Railroad 
fund," shall be transferred by the State treasurer, upon the 
auditor's warrant drawn for that purpose, to said redemption 
fund ; that a tax of one and a half mills on each dollar of the 
assessed value of all the taxable property of the State be levied as 
a special tax for the years 1871 and 1872, and to meet any deficit 
in said revenues to meet said appropriation, the governor, audi- 
tor, and treasurer are hereby authorized to issue bonds of the 
State of Illinois, to the amount of two hundred and fifty thou- 
sand dollars ; said bonds to bear interest at the rate of six per 
27 



468 HISTOHY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

cent, per annum, payable semi-annually, in the city of New 
York, and shall be paid at pleasure of the State, at any time 
after three years after the date thereof, and shall be of such de- 
nominations as the governor may deem advisable, and be known 
as the ' Revenue Deficit Bonds,' and shall be delivered to the 
city authorities of the city of Chicago, at par, as a part payment 
on above appropriations : Provided^ however^ that not less than 
one-fifth, nor to exceed one-third of said sum so appropriated, 
shall be received by said city, and be applied in reconstructing 
the bridges, and the public buildings and structures destroyed by 
fire, upon the original sites thereof, as already provided by the 
Common Council; and the remainder thereof to be applied to the 
payment of the interest on the bouded debt of such city, and the 
maintenance of the fire and police department thereof. 

" Whereas, by reason of a great conflagration in the city of 
Chicago, the public buildings, bridges, and other public improve- 
ments have been totally destroyed, and the business of the courts 
is suspended, whereby an emergency exists as a reason why 
this act shall take effect before the first day of July next ; there- 
fore, 

" Be it further enacted^ That this act shall take effect and be 
in force from and after its passage." 

This bill having received the Governor's approval became a law, 
and will work out its measure of relief. 

In addition to material aid, there fell upon our ears grand, cheer- 
ing utterances from the pulpits, platforms, and presses of the 
w^orld, which stirred again the pulses of charity, and gave strength 
and courage to a staggering people enslirouded in the smoke and 
gloom of battle and defeat. The muse of poetry thrilled to tlie 
tale of woe, and sent her sweet voice through the pall of grief, 
and woke the pride and liope of our people by her glowing and 
tender strains. Rebuking those who would attribute our disaster 
to God's anger against our special sinfulness, the poet proceeds : 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 4-69 

Briglit, Christian capital of lakes and prairie, 

Heaven had no interest in thy scourge and scath ; 

Thou wert the newest shrine of our religion, 
The youngest witness of our hope and faith. 

Not in thy embers do we rake for folly. 

But like a martyr's ashes gather thee, 
With chastened pride and tender melancholy, — 

The miracle thou wast, and yet wilt be ! 

Not merely in the homages of churches, 

Or bells of praise tolled o' er the inland seas, — 
Thou glorifiedst our God and human nature. 

With meeter works and grander melodies, 

Of cheerful toil and willing enterprises, 

Of hearty faith in freedom and in man ; 
The hoar old capitals looked on in wonder 

To see the swift strong race this stripling ran. '^ 

How like the sun he rose above the marshes. 

And built the world beneath his airy feet. 
And changed the course of immemorial rivers, 

And tapped the lakes for water cool and sweet. 

How skilfully the golden grain transmuted 

To birds of sail and meteors of spark. 
And, like another Noah, bade creation 

March in the teeming mazes of his ark. 

Yet in his power, most frank and democratic. 

He roxised no envious witness of his joy. 
And in the stature of the Prince and hero 

We saw the laughing dimples of a boy. 

Still wise and apt among the oldest merchants, 

His young example steered the wary mart. 
And amplest credit poured its gold around him, 

And trade imperial gave scope for art. 

His architectures passed all heathen splendor, 

The immigrating Goth drew wondering near ; 
To see his shafts and arches tall and slender 

Branch o'er the new homes of this pioneer. 



470 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

The Greek and Eoman there might see rebuilded 
In vastness equal and in style as pure, 

The merchants' markets like a palace gilded, 
With marble walls and deep entablature. 

His twoscore bridges swinging on their pivots, 
The long and laden line of vessels sped, 

WhUe he, impatient, marched beneath the sluices 
His hosts, like Cyrus, in the river's bed. 

Then, when all weak predictions proved but scandal, 
And the wild marshes grew a sovereign's home, 

A dozing cow o'erset an urchin's candle, — 
Once more a fool fired the Ephesian dome. 

The artless winds that blew o'er plains of cattle. 
And cooled the corn through all the summer days, 

Plunged like wild steeds in pastime or in battle, 
Straight in the blinding brightness of the breeze. 

And down fell bridge, and parapet, and lintel. 
The blazing barks went drifting one by one. 

The mighty city wrapped its head in splendor, 
And sank into the waters like a sun ! 



CHAPTER XXXI. 



HoAV did our people accept this widespread sympathy, and its 
godlike manifestation ? It was a surprise as great as the confla- 
gration. We scarcely believed it possible that our calamity could 
take such hold upon the universal heart of the race. And as the 
stream kept swelling till millions had been provided, and all im- 
mediate wants were supplied, and something was left for the 
stern winter's trials, our wonder grew. "We were lumibled by 
the spectacle. "We knew not our losses, but we felt buoyant with 
the consciousness that the whole world felt our loss to be its own, 



Iisr CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 471 

and was rallying to snccor and save from crushing ovei'throw 
The primitive fraternity seemed to be revived, which is described 
in the Acts of the Apostles, when " no man said that aught that 
he possessed was his own, but they had all things common." 
Wrecked by a surging ocean of flame, with peril overhung every 
hour, we heard a clieering voice sounding through the gloom, and 
our hearts bounded like the hearts of mariners ready to perish, 
when a sail is discerned upon the waters bearing down towards 
them. 

" There are men among us who have lost their all, w^ho have 
seen the labors, the plans, tlie hopes of a lifetime annihilated in a 
moment, who have stood unmoved amidst universal desolation, 
and wlio have witnessed all wdth tearless composure, and yet 
Avhose eyes have been often splashed with the spray of tears as 
they read of the unanimity, the cordiality, the lavish generosity 
with which people everywhere have contributed to our relief. 
Oftener from among these ghastly w^alls and smoking desolation 
has there been heard a fervent " God bless our sympathizers ! ' ' 
than a " God pity ouv sufferings ! " 

Men who had not shed a tear till then, shook with uncontrol- 
lable emotion and wept for joy. The gratitude was equal to the 
charity, if such an equalization were possible. 

We began to realize how intimately the interests of Chicago 
Avere bound up»with those of the whole country and the world. 
We were brothers in distress. The feelings of her citizens were 
well expressed in the Tribune^ which said : — 

" Amid the general gloom, the public distress, and the wide- 
spread wa-eck of private property, the heart of the most impover- 
ished man is warmed and lightened by the universal sympathy 
and aid of his fellow-countrymen. There were cities that looked 
upon Chicago as a rival. Iler unexampled success had provoked 
hostility, — amounting at times to bitterness. In the ranks of 
municipalities Chicago stood pre-eminent, and that eminence had 



4:72 HISTOET OF THE GKEAT FIEES 

drawn upon her the prejudices, and often the ill-natured jea- 
lousies, of her supposed rivals. But the fire ended all this. 
Hardly had the news reached those cities before our sorrows were 
made theirs. The noble-hearted people did not wait for details ; 
thej suspended all other business, each man giving of his money 
and his property to be sent to Chicago. Before the fire had 
ceased its ravages, trains laden with supplies of food and clothing 
had actually readied the city. St. Louis and Cincinnati, Mil- 
waukee, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Louisville w^ere active, even 
while the fire was burning, in providing for the relief of de^^as- 
tated Chicago. Every semblance of rivalry had disappeared. 
IS'ot an ungenerous or selfish thought was uttered — e\-ery where 
the great brotherhood of man was vindicated, and our loss was 
made the loss of the nation. 

" In the light of this experience, how absurd are the crimina- 
tions and controversies of men. The hospitality and humanity 
of those in our city who have retained their homes, toward their 
less fortunate neighbors, though marked by every feature of un- 
selfish charity, has failed even to equal the zealous efforts and 
generous actions of the people of the country, who have laid 
aside all other business to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and 
give shelter to the roofless of Chicago. 

" The national sympathy for us in our distress has shown that 
in the presence of human suffering there are ;io geographical 
lines, no sectional boundaries, no distinction of politics or creeds. 
The Samaritans have outlived the Le^ites, and there has been no 
such thing as passing by on the other side. The wine and oil 
have been distributed with a lavish hand, and the moneys have 
been deposited to pay for the lodging of the bruised and home- 
less. 

"Words fail to express the grateful feelings of our people. 
Men who braved the perils of the dreadful Monday, who wit- 
nessed the destruction of all their wordly goods, and who with 



IN CTIICAGO AND THE WEST. 473 

their families strnggled for life upon the prairies during the aw- 
ful destruction, and b]-avely endured it all, could not restrain the 
swelling heart or grateful tears when they read what the noble 
people of the country had done for Chicago ; how the rich and 
the poor, whites and blacks, all — men, women, and children — =had 
done something to alleviate the distress and mitigate the suffer- 
ing of fellow-beings in far-off Chicago. How true is it that ' one 
touch of pity makes the whole world kin.' In some cities the 
contributions have exceeded an average of a dollar for each mem- 
ber of the population, and in the abundance that has been given 
unto us the aggregate is largely made up from the prompt offer- 
ings of the humble and the poor as well as of the rich. Future 
statisticians may compute in tabular array the commercial value of 
the donations to Chicago ; but only in the volume of the record- 
ing angel will be known the inestimable blessings of that merci- 
ful, generous, humane charity which this calamity has kindled in 
the hearts of the whole American people. 

" In due time there will be a formal and complete acknowledg- 
ment of donations, public find private ; but in the mean time let 
the nation rejoice that underneath all the canflicts in which men 
are forever engrossed there is a latent spark of universal brother- 
hood, which needs but the occasion to develop into the most 
genial warmth. Pixjperty may be lost, wealth may be obliter- 
ated ; but that people must be great who have hearts in which 
charity for human suffering cannot be stifled in any event." 

It was felt to be a most appropriate recognition of God, and 
His mercy, and of the goodness of our fellow-men to us, when 
the following proclamation appeared : — 

" In view of the recent appalling public calamity, the under- 
signed, Mayor of Chicago, hereby earnestly recommends that all 
the inhabitants of this city do observe Sunday, October 29, as 
a special day of humiliation and prayer; of humiliation for those 
past offences against Almighty God, to which these severe afflic- 



474 UISTOKT OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

tions were, doubtless, intended to lead our minds ; of prayer for 
the relief and comfort of the suffering thousands in our midst ; 
for the restoration of our material prosperity, especially for our 
lasting improvement as a people in reverence and obedience to 
God. Xor should we ever, amidst our Josses and sorrows, forget 
to render thanks to Him for the arrest of the devouring fires in 
time to save so many homes, and for the unexampled sympathy 
and aid which has flowed in upon ns from every quarter of our 
land, and even from beyond the seas. 

" Given under my hand this 20th day of October, 1871. 

" E. B. Mason, Mayor." 

The day was generally observed and the churches were filled. 
The writer preached on a theme appropriate to the former part 
of the proclamation in the morning, and in the evening on 
Good Deeds, to be Held in Everlasting Kemembrance. Mat. 
26 : 13. " Yerily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall 
be preached in the whole world, there shall also this that this 
woman hath done be told for a memorial of her." 

This prophecy and command illustrate the divineness of our 
blessed Lord, because lie predicts the world-wide spread of His 
Gospel, and stakes his reputation upon it ; and because He exhib- 
its so delicate and perfect an appreciation of the generous care 
which this woman offers Him. The event has justified His grand 
prophecy, for the aroma of that noble woman's name has spread 
throughout the world. The recognition of her offering by the 
Saviour, and His award of praise, have given us an example 
which is equivalent to a rule, that we should treasure in grate- 
ful remembrance, and also commemorate the good deeds of our 
fellow-creatures. 

He has also further said, " And whosoever shall give to drink 
unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the 
name of a disciple, verily I say unto you he shall in no wise 



•r. 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 475 

lose his reward." Au act of kindness to God's people, however 
common and simple the deed of mercy, bestowed in the spirit of 
Christian love, shall be rewarded by Him. 

Possibly there may be some intimation of that Great Day 
when Christ shall judge men according to their doings, and con- 
fer eternal honor on the workers of mercy, saying, " Inasmuch as 
ye did it nnto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it 
unto Me." 

We read, also, that the works of the blessed dead do follow 
them, accompanying them into the very presence of God to speak 
for them and claim the reward. The Bible itself, God's own 
Word, is a history and memorial of some of the best actions ever 
performed among .men. It is therefore godlike to remember 
and to celebrate good deeds, especially when we ourselves are 
the objects of beneiicence. Ingratitude is the foulest, basest of 
sins ; gratitude the fruit of a noble nature. It is most becoming 
in us, who have been recipients of the charity of the world, to 
manifest our appreciation, to dwell npon the benevolence, to 
magnify the bounty, to love the donors, and glorify Him who 
is the Great Author of all good in man and the niiiverse. 

1. Let us notice the sjpontaneous overflow of sympathy and 
beneficence. Scarcely had the tidings gone forth to the sur- 
ronnding country, and the extent of tlie evil become known, 
when we heard that car-loads of cooked provisions were on the 
way to onr city ; tliat women sat np all night preparing food for 
our homeless thousands ; that the depots were full of supplies ; 
that distant cities were filling their trains with necessary articles 
for onr comfort; that corporations and communities v\'ere rais- 
ing moneys for onr relief ; that England was moving to our 
rescue, and Germany, and all Christendom, indeed, had been 
touclied, and the lines of commnnication were given up to 
the Chicago relief -work. ISTever in history was there a calamity 
so great and sudden, and never an uprising of manldnd so gene- 



476 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

rous and spontaneous. Unforced as the light, free as the crys- 
tal flood from the mountain-spring, gracious as the perfume from 
the flowers, came all the sympathy and all the help we could 
possibly receive and use. 

2. We may dwell wpon the magnitude of the world's charity 
toward our suffering people. Wliatever we had need of poured 
in upon us without measure, and the quality was unexception- 
able. The poor never lived so well as during the first few days 
after the fire ; at least we may reasonably suppose that they 
seldom had bread so white, biscuit so light, ham so sweet, pre- 
serves so rich, and everything eatable in such abundance. The 
munificence of the people at large provided all that heart could 
wish of food, bedding, clotliing, and household furniture. The 
railways were taxed to their utmost capacity, the churches were 
filled with material, and all the depots of supplies testified to the 
magnanimity of the American public. Immense contributions 
of money followed upon the heels of these gifts for immediate 
use. God opened M'ide men's hearts and unclasped their purses 
in our behalf. Across the water our necessities appealed to the 
generosity of foreigners and strangers, so that quantities of money 
will flow to our relief from lands beyond the sea. Churches 
gave, after the general f mid was raised in popular assemblies, their 
collections, and gathered their boxes and bundles, much of Avhich 
will be privately disbursed to the actually needy in the various 
Christian congregations. Farmers and merchants came in to 
open their houses to the homeless, and doors everywhere stood 
wide to welcome those suddenly left without a roof. Instances 
might be named and incidents given of the most interesting 
nature, all of which reveal a humanity and philanthropy which 
shed glory upon the age, and show the power of Christianity 
upon the world. " For this is the Lord's doings, and it is mar- 
vellous in our eyes." He has made all this OA-erflowing beneficence 
possible, and to Him be the glory ! Our thanks must be given 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 477 

to tlie railroad corporations for their nobleness in these times of 
distress. They have done everything in their power to mitigate 
and relieve the horrors and evils of our situation. We must not 
say, henceforth, that corporations have no sonls. Our own citi- 
zens have shown a magnanimity worthy of all praise, in opening 
the churches to the homeless, distributing Y\^itli what care they 
could exercise in the press of need the public bounty, offering 
hospitality and sympathy to the sufferers, to their own discom- 
fort, inconvenience, and loss ; cheering and helping one another 
by brave words, kindly offices, and lenient treatment, insomuch 
that there never was such a calamity accompanied by less actual 
suffering, or followed by sncli ample relief. The immensity of 
the loss was met by prompt and efficient assistance, unexpected 
and nnparalleled in history. 

The offers of pecuniary aid to men crippled in business were 
on the largest scale, as if men rose to the height of the emer- 
gency, under the inspiration of the Almighty. The Alabaster box 
was full of costly ointment, and when it was broken upon us, the 
fragrance tilled the world, aud will perfume the age. Its sweet- 
ness onght to possess mankind with a sense of brotherhood, and 
draw them into closer fellowship. It is here most fit to mention 
the boundless charity of cities heretofore our rivals ; instan- 
taneous and magnificent was their response to our deplorable 
need, and never can we cherish anything but gratitude to their 
warm-hearted, generous people. All feelings of bitter rivalry 
must die and perish forever, and only a lofty emulation charac- 
terize our mutual endeavors. Let the memory of their good 
deeds live in our hearts, and be transmitted as a precious inheri- 
tance to our children and the generations that follow. 

The considerate action of our Governor and Legislature 
deserves from us a particular recognition, and must knit our 
people more closely to the mass of our fellow-citizens in other 
sections of the commonwealth. And doubtless the magnitude 



478 niSTOKY OF the great fiees 

and far-reaching extent of the public charity will never be 
known until the Books are opened at the great Day of 
Accounts. Nor can our gratitude and thanks be too compre- 
hensive and deep, too constant and fresh, towards our Heavenly 
Father, and those whom His grace prompted to unexampled 
works of mercy. 

3. Xow, again, to heighten our conception of obligation, we must 
reflect from what possible evils we were saved by the spontaneous 
and magnanimous action of the American people and the civilized 
world. 

The scenes of Sunday and Monday, during the conflagration, 
were often of such revolting depravity as to remind us that a 
portion of our population were fiends incarnate, or beasts in hu- 
man form. The dregs of a great city contain elements of destruc- 
tion that rise to the surface when any storm or convulsion shakes 
it. !N"othing is then safe from their raging frenzy. The helpless 
community become their prey ; and they especially attack the 
better classes, because from them they expect plunder, and their 
envy of the more fortunate satiates itself in their ruin and distress. 

Besides, when disaster is abroad, and riots occur, a demoniac 
passion for devastation seizes on the ignorant and excitable, and 
they assist the elements in their fatal sweep. When law and its 
restraints are thro"\vn off suddenly, it is like unchaining and im- 
loosing a menagerie of wild animals and serpents. This is not 
too much to affirm ; because history confirms the statement, and 
shows bad men the worst at the very time when they should be 
most gentle, considerate, and kind. People without roofs, or rai- 
ment, or food, would not long brook the sight of comfortable 
homes and abundant supplies, without forcibly compelling a 
division. We shudder to think what might ha\e been, withoiit 
the ample bounty of which we were recipients. 

And again also the suffering that would have occurred but 
for this speedy and gigantic provision for all the hoineless 



IN CHICAGO AND TIIK WEST. 479 

multitude ! "W"e could scarcely have cooked and dealt out the 
food needful to prevent starvation ; nor would it have been in our 
power to furnish money and clothing, bedding and furniture ; 
abject poverty would have overtaken and swallowed us all down 
into a gulf of hopeless misery ; famine and death would have held 
sway over this proud metropolis. If Ave have thus far happily 
escaped, and feel measurably secure, let us praise God, for this 
unstinted liberality, and all the blessings it has insured us, — es- 
pecially deliverance from dangers of unseen horror and magnitude. 
4. Again, let us hold in grateful remembrance what has been 
done for our relief, that we may act worthily before our benefac- 
tors. It would be a shame for us to be avaricious and narrow, 
from this time forth. " Freely ye have received, freely give." 
The world expects every man to do his duty in this emergency. 
Cowardice or meanness now and henceforth must appear doubly 
degrading and despicable in a citizen of this city. 

' ' I will live so they shall remember me 
For deeds of such Divine beneficence 
As rivers have, that teach men what is good 
By blessing them. " 

Tiiere are some persons, who sit down and fold their hands in 
idleness, eating the bread of charity till such time as it shall 
cease to be given out. They are an excrescence upon society, a 
burning disgrace to humanity ; such men discourage benevo- 
lence, and thus curse the deserving. Any one who in any 
manner imitates them, must share their deep damnation. This, 
also, is no time for despondency, but rather for heroic action, in 
view of a helping world, whose aid clieers us to greater exertions 
tlian ever, and lays us under solemn obligations to prove our man- 
hood. And it is one of the best things in life, that " a man's 
life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he pos- 
sesseth." The poor r.re happy, they are often great ; their deeds 



480 HISTOET OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

live when pelf is burned or wasted upon folly and sin ; and if we 
were to take a survey of history, it would be found that, what 
men have nobly done, not Avhat they have gotten for them- 
selves, makes them remembered as a blessing to the world. ISTever 
mind whether you succeed in hoarding again, or in regaining 
your former position. Do not fall down in the dust and cry, or 
hesitate to do your duty, because all is swept down to ashes, and 
flung to the winds in smoke. 

" Nay, never falter ; no great deed is done 
By followers who ask for certainty ; 
No good is certain, but the steadfast mind, 
The undivided will to seek the good. 

* * * * 
The greatest gift the hero leaves his race 
Is to have been a hero. Say we fail ! 

We feed the high tradition of the world." 

Our names will brighten the list of those who have suffered 
patiently, toiled manfully, and sought, through misfortune and 
trial, a higher and better destiny. 

I have sometimes dreamed of the days of old, when our fathers 
were alike poor and struggling, and had little time for frivolous 
amusements. They were happier and truer then than people are 
now. And if there is any life that seems to me loathsome and 
detestable, it is that of the mass of the population of great towns. 
The very high are all gayety, fashion, folly, and luxurious vanity ; 
the very low are given over to cheap amusements, vile pleasures, 
and empty nothing. The large middling class are industrious, 
earnest, useful persons, who form the balance-wheel of the ma- 
chinery, the conservative element in society. Reduced as we are 
to a level, and brought back to first principles, we must humbly 
confess our indebtedness to our generous helpers, and order our 
future to please the Great Giver, and to honor those who have 
saved us from total wreck. Piety, prudence, industry, charity, 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 481 

and fidelity are tlie cardinal. virtues, whose exercise will form the 
best memorial we can raise to the remembrance of the world's 
great beneficence. 

5. Finally ; the offering of that precious ointment was love's 
gift to Jesus Christ ; and the Christianity of the Bible made 
men's hearts so tender, that when our calamity smote upon them, 
they broke and gave forth the generous offering, whose odor 
smells sweet in our nostrils. Christian brethren, be it ours to 
promote this same holy, humane religion, of which we have been 
made to partake, and whose fruits in a thousand ways we enjoy, 
and shall enjoy forever. We seem to labor sometimes in vain. 
But by patient kindness, bold persistence, and earnest fidelity, we 
make impressions M-hich affect the deepest elements of society, 
and mould the public mind. We must be true and energetic ; 
and the ever present recollection of Jesus' love in dying for us, 
and of his latest exliibition of the influence of His example and 
spirit upon the race, will especially spur us to new exertions, in- 
spire constancy and zeal, and enable us to give a good account to 
Him, and to Christendom, of the stewardship with which ^v^e are 
entrusted. As Mary was reproached for her beneficence, as 
Christ was crucified for his mission of love, we shall not find the 
path of benevolence one of flowers. We shall meet opposition 
and many a rebuff ; but looking unto Jesus, let us go forward 
doing with our might whatever our hands find to do, and His 
recognition and approbation shall be our exceeding great reward ; 
for no well-doing shall fail of His well-done. Amen ! 

Most happy are we to bear testimony that the sentiments of 
this discourse accord with those of the people at large. And 
while there may be difference of views respecting the adminis- 
tration of affairs and the disbursement of funds, there is a unan- 
imity of gratitude. This variance of opinions, and occasional 
asperity of temper concerning the disposition of moneys and sup- 
plies, arises from the extreme generosity and eagerness of some. 



482 HISTORY OF tup: great fires 

and tlie corresponding conscientiousness and practical wisdom of 
those actually at the helm. Men of power and men of benevo- 
lence are guiding the relief work, and the people will yet admire 
the tact, courage, and self-sacrifice of these men. With the sup- 
plemental offices of the good Samaritans in private life, and 
individual local societies, there will be no great amount of suf- 
fering, unless the winter should be unusually long and rigorous. 

It is gratifying to know that the people who have aided, are 
satisfied with the manner in which their bounty has been be- 
stowed. We enjoy the ring of the following paragraph from a 
city paper, where the gifts have mounted up into the millions : — 

"''No clear-sighted observer can have read the record of the 
weeks first following the great Western calamity without feeling 
that the effect of the great outburst of sympathy for the outcasts 
of Chicago has been most wholesome and elevating upon the 
national temper. We had all begun to l(3ok at human nature too 
much through the medium of Tammany thefts, Ku-Klux Klaus, 
and trials for adultery and murder. They had almost put out of 
our sight the actual framework of social and domestic life, its 
silent modesties, and pure affections, and the myriad unselfish 
ties which in real life bind men together. Only such a disaster 
as that of Chicago could call this hidden ground of humanity to 
light ill its most generous work. The country has had her mo- 
ments of justifiable pride before now, in tlie display of her 
strength, or wealth, or success of arms ; but she was never so great 
as when in the spirit of her Master she went into the higliways 
and byways and compelled the homeless and destitute to come 
into her royal feast — ^be warmed and clothed and fed. It will 
need many years of squabbles and thefts and international jeal- 
ousies to blot out this glimpse of the substratum of manliness 
and kindliness in ordinary human nature, or to make us forget 
how from every nation came the quick response when the great 
city sat in ashes, and cried aloud, like Job, ' My bone cleaveth to 




HAUMNG SAFES FROM THE RUIf 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 485 

my skin and my flesh. Have pity on me, O ye my friends, for 
the hand of God hath touched me.' " 

We close this division of onr subject witli regret, because so 
much is left unsaid of necessity, and here we leave a theme of 
the sweetest and most absorbing interest. 

If to give is more blessed than to receive, then indeed has 
there been a wave of joy rolling over the great human soul ; 
and the experience of this century shall be iUumined by a light 
above the flames of Chicago's burning. As they paled before 
the sun, so has our gloom fled from the sunburst of a world's be- 
neficence. In the language of Tiny Tim, in Dickens' Christmas 
Carol, " God bless you every one ! " 

The following is a list of the contributions in money received 
by the Chicago Relief and Aid Society, up to November 18, from" 
forty States and Territories : — Massachusetts, $517,730.12 ; Isew 
York, $392,987.90 ; Yermont, $359,220.00 ; Pennsylvania, $221,- 
158.04 ; Maryland, $179,327.93 ; New Jersey, $153,714.32 ; Cal- 
ifornia, $148,790.70; Connecticut, $65,970.18; Ehode Island, 
$45,384.70 ; New Hampshire, $36,834.35 ; Maine, $11,721.26 ; 
Washington, D. C, $34,065.05 ; Ohio, $46,299.12 ; Illinois, $46,- 
275.27 ; Yirginia, $27,464.81 ; Kansas, $26,225.35 ; Utah Teri-i- 
tory, $15,381.11; Oregon, $10,000.00; Indiana, $24,976.34; 
Missouri, 16,984.70; Minnesota, $24,108.40; Tennessee, $23,- 
655.10; Nebraska, $14,694.00; Colorado, $12,653.03; Louisi- 
ana, $11,604.80 ; Iowa, $9,274.51; Delaware, $8,070.70; Texas 
$7,725.82 ; Kentucky, $5,108.90 ; Arkansas, $2,536.55 ; Georgia, 
$2,070.76 ; Nevada, $1,505.83 ; New Mexico, $1,495.50 ; Florida, 
$1,041.23 ; South Carolina, $1,001.60 ; Michigan, $732.25 ; Wash- 
ington Territory, $500.00 ; Wisconsin, $356.00 ; North Cai'olina, 
$115.00; Mississippi, $48.50.— Grand total, $2,508,810.39. 
28 



^86 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 



VII.— CONVALESCENCE. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

Chicago 's been burnt down in timber to-day, 
Chicago 'U be built up in marble to-morrow ; 

Chicago has capital losses to pay, 

Or Chicago has credit her losses to borrow. 

No fabulous Phoenix, with flames circled thick. 
Give us henceforth, as swift resurrection's imago : 

In its stead paint up, heralds, an Illinois Chick, 
With the legend in gold letters tacked to it — " Ago^ 

For this Illinois Chick, from her circlet of flame, 
Looks calmly and coolly, victorious o'er ruin. 

And this word has a right to, in more than in name, 
For Ago 's " I do," and Chicago is doing. 



-Punch. 



The reputation of this city for boasting was such that people 
alwaj'S allowed a margin for exaggeration in statements made by 
our citizens. It was usual to observe an air of incredulity upon 
the countenances of those who listened, when Chicagoans told of 
their exploits and advances. Yet underneath all this apparent 
doubt, and mingled with this idea of vaunting, there was a grow- 
ing sense of the amazing energy of the western people. Other 
cities in the same region reproached one another with want of 
enterprise and spirit, and pointed hither for an example of what 
was needed to give them equal or greater prosperity. The world, 
too, liad begun to realize that the Young Giant was a power in 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 487 

the realm of commerce and of all activity. A lady said of her 
own great city, ''If we had been burnt out as you have, our peo- 
ple would have sat down with folded hands and made no effort 
to recover. Or if they had done anything, they would have 
waited till spring before they commenced." A St. Louis party 
tried to induce a friend on his way to Chicago, the day after the 
fire, to wait a little for them. "No," said he, "those fellows will 
liave it all built up in less than twenty-four hours, and I want to 
see the ruins." And on he went. This revealed the real reputa- 
tion of the city among those wlio knew, in the clash of contest for 
trade, the stuff of which our mercliants were made. 

The London Sj)ectator, looking at Chicago after the fire, specu- 
lates in an interesting way on the elastic energy displayed by 
business men: 

Kot a little of the surpassing energy and spirit displayed by 
individuals after the fire may be traced to the absence of that ap- 
preciation of the weiglit of circumstances which, like his liability 
to the laws, presses so heavily upon the Englishman. Mr. Joseph 
Medill, for. example, is one of the proprietors of the Chicago Tri- 
hune. It was thought that the Tribune office, a huge block of 
marble, might resist the fire ; the neighboring journalists sent in 
their presses, and the staff seemed to have waited for the flames 
as they would for an enemy's attack. Despite the strength of the 
building, however, the flames "licked in," and Mr. Joseph Medill 
walked out, to purchase there and then a store at some distance, 
and a couple of machines, with which, before his old oflice had 
grown cold, he was circulating Tribunes to the public. It is im- 
possible not to admire such energy, and impossible not to suspect 
tliat one source of it was indifference; that Mr. Medill did not 
really care, as an Englishman would liave done ; that his heart 
was not choking, or his brain bursting, with a sense of defeat and 
pain, as an Englishman's would have been. There is something 
of " What does it signify?" in it all, as there is in the Mayor's 



48B HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIRES 

Tigorous and benevolent leap tlirough the laws. A mei-cliant, 
hurrying back to Chicago to see what had become of house and 
home, is said to have met a friend and asked him of their fate. 
"House burned, wife safe at our father's, papers all right," was 
the reply, whereupon the merchant remarked, "Well, when a 
man has his wife and his papers, what more does he want ? " 
"Heroic stoicism," says the listener, and there is heroism, and 
Btoicism too, in the speech ; and so also there is indifference, easi- 
ness, fluidity of feeling on points which would have touched an 
Englishman very deeply. The American cared about his wife 
and about his papers, but about his house and its associations, and 
their sudden disappearance out of his life, he did not care at all. 
Even the burnt-out multitude seemed after the first shock to have 
turned to work again with an ease which is in itself admirable, 
but which would, we suspect, be impossible if the chances of life 
weighed there as they do here. Life, as well as the law, presses 
more lightly across the Atlantic, and men struck by misfortune 
turn to work again, not with the dogged resolution of the Eng- 
lishman, not by a supreme effort of the will, but with a light 
elasticity and heartiness which resemble frivolity, even while they 
have with frivolity nothing in common. 

It would be a benefit to mankind to ascertain, if only such 
ascertaining were possible, how far this elasticity is due to Amer- 
ican institutions. If it is due to theui, that would be the best 
argument ever advanced in their favor, one object at least of 
human institutions being liuman happiness, and there is some- 
thing to be said for American theories on the subject. The 
American social system is a result, in part, at all events, of the 
American political system; and its tendency is to lighten life by 
increasing sympathy, and diminishing that sense of isolation 
which so greatly intensifies the impression of any calamity, and 
which is, we suspect, one of the greatest causes of the depressed 
tone visible in Enojlish li.'e. But we believe that a much stronger 



nsr CHICAGO and the west, 489' 

cause is one with which institutions have very little to do, the vis- 
ible presence of innumerable chances in life, the sight, as it were^ 
of endless potential wealth besides that which has been destroyed. 
A great English peer is not very heavy-hearted if one of his 
houses is burnt down and no life is lost, and that is very much 
the American feeling about a similar calamity. The house he 
lives in is only one of his houses. He has no other just at present, 
but he will have, and in that certainty he loses the sense of the 
irreparable character of any loss not involving a human life. 
Prosperity is sure to come back to Chicago, or if not, then to 
Milwaukee, and Milwaukee will do just as well as Chicago ; and 
the American, as certain of that as he is of to-morrow's sun, feels 
misfortime not as a wound, but as a grain of sand in his eyes, an- 
noying, no doubt, but sure to be out in a minute. It is not the 
present men really fear, but the future ; and to the American, 
taught from childhood to appreciate the vast and certain rever- 
sions which belong to him, the future is always pleasant, and life 
therefore never without light. Tlie burning of his house or of his 
city matters no more to him than the wearing out of his furniture 
to the English rich man ; he has only to get some more. If his 
cheque-book is right, all is right ; and to Joseph Medill his paper 
is his cheque-book, and the grand office old furniture soon to be 
replaced. Americans have not developed a new strength, they 
only exert the strength they have through a lighter medium. 
The London Times closed an article with these words : — 
"When Mr, Cobden complained that English school-boys were 
taught all about a trumpery Attic sti-eam called tlie Ilissus, but 
nothing of Chicago, it should have been remembered in fair- 
ness that at that time Chicago had hardly existed long enough to 
be known by any but merchants. It will now not soon be forgot- 
ten. We may be confident, however, that the natural resources 
of the place and the native energy of the Americans, will more 
than repeat the marvels of the original development of the city. 



490 HiSTOKr or the gkeat fires 

The novelty and rapid growth of American civilization render 
the people far more indifferent to such calamities than dwellers 
in older countries who are conscious that their possessions are the 
accumulation of centuries. At the same time with the news of 
the lire the teleo^rapli informed us that its mercantile effects were 
already being discounted in New York, and we have no doubt 
there are numbers of enterprising speculators who see their way 
to fortune through the speedy leconstrnction of the city. The 
most cordial sympathy will be felt in this country with individual 
sufferers, and we can only wish the great mercantile community 
of the West the prompt recovery which their energy deserves." 

The Daily TeJegraj^h^ in a characteristic article, says : — 

It is idle to suppose that such a city is destined to become a 
Tadmor in the wilderness, or to sink into the chronic decadence 
of Sebastopol after the bombardment. " Resurgam " might be 
written upon every brick of the burned-up houses of Chicago. 
It will rise again, and with a vengeance. Luckily no venerable 
cathedrals, no historic palaces, no monuments of art, no hoary 
relics of antiquity, have perished in the colossal fire. Chicago 
has blazed away with the rapidity of lace curtains, or of orna- 
ments in a drawing-room grate. The articles were handsome 
and expensive, but they can be replaced. To repair the injury 
done, all that is wanted is a certain amount of resources, energy, 
and pluck; and in pluck, energy, and resources the American 
people will never be bankrupt. 

The London Daily News has a two-column editorial on the fire, 
in which it says : 

" Nowhere in the world — not in Manchester, not in London, 
not in New York were busier streets to be found. A river, 
hardly better than the Irwell, flowing through part of the business 
quarter of the city, and spanned by innumerable drawbridges, 
did, indeed, make hideous some of the city scenes, which showed 
like an uproarious Rotterdam or a great commercial Konigsberg. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WERT. 491 

But the streets of shops and banks and theatres and hotels might 
stand a rivahy with those of any city in the world. Enormous 
piles of warehouses, with handsome and costly fronts; huge 
'stores,' compared with which Schoolbred's or Tarn's seem dimin- 
utive, hotels as large as the Langham or the Louvre; bookshops 
which are unsurpassed in London or Paris; and theatres where 
Christine Nilsson found a fortune awaiting her such as the Old 
World could not offer — such were the principal features of that 
wonderful quarter which has just been reduced to ashes. TsTor was 
Chicago wholly given up to business. Her avenues of private 
residences were — some, we trust, still are— as beautiful as any 
city can show. Micliigan avenue and Wabash avenue were the 
streets where her merchant-princes lived; and there is nothing to 
be seen in Paris, London or jS^ew York to surpass either avenue 
in situation or in beauty. Michigan avenue is a sort of Piccadilly, 
with a lake instead of a park under its drawing-room windows. 
The other great avenue was distinguished from almost any street 
of the kind in Europe or the LTnited States by the variety of its 
architecture. Mr. Kuskin himself might have acknowledged that 
in this civilized and modern street, at least, the curse of monotony 
did not prevail, and the yoke of the Italian style was not accepted. 
Let it be added that Chicago, having the advantage of newness, 
and the warning of all the world before her, had but few narrow 
streets and lanes. The thorougfares were, as a rule, nearly all of 
the same width. The inexperienced traveller often found himselt 
sadly perplexed as he wandered through a city of broad white 
streets, each looking just like another, and any one seeming as 
well entitled as its neighbor to claim the leadership in business or 
fashion. 

" Chicago will not remain in her ruins as an ancient city might 
have done. Already in the thick of all the wreck and misery we 
maybe sure that active and undaunted minds are planning, the 
reconstruction of many a gutted and blackened building, the 



4:92 . rnsTOKY of the great fires 

restoration of many shattered fortunes. It is only a tew years 
since the city of Portland, in Maine, was destroyed by fire; and 
the traveller to-day sees there a new, hnsy, and solid town, where 
the story of the conflagration has already become a tradition. 
The people of Illinois are still more energetic and fertile of ex- 
pedient than the people of Maine, and they will not long leave 
the city, which was their pride, to lie in her smouldering ruins. 
The claims Avhich Chicago used at one time to urge for the trans- 
ference of the national Capital to the shore of her lake are, in- 
deed, put out of court for the present; and her rival, St. Louis, 
will, for some time to come, have the advantage of her in the 
race for commerce, wealtli, and population. But the city whose 
i-ate of growth distanced that of any other on the earth, will not 
he long in recovering the eft'ects even of the present calamity. 
So much at least of consolation maybe found. Before the widows 
and orphans, whom this catastrophe bereaves, shall have put aside 
the robes of mourning, Chicago will be rising from her ruins, 
perhaps more magnificent than ever. Her restoration, we may 
feel assured, will be in keeping \vith the marvellous rapidity of 
her rise, and the awful suddenness of her fall." 

While these generous words were heard from across the 
water, and we knew what men really thought of us, like one who 
reads his own obituaries, there was no lack of similar expressions 
from our fellow-citizens. The language of the New York 
Tribune was: — 

Chicago may be taken as a fair type of American material 
energy. We are proud to claim her as a representative city, so 
fir as vigor, boldness, self-poise, industry, and far-reaching enter- 
prise are the charact(»ri sties of the American Republic. The 
destruction of three hundred millions of substantial property is a 
lamentable disaster; and we shudder at the statement that 
hundreds of human lives went out with agony in the midst of 
the fiery furnace; but the indomitable energy of the great 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 4:93 

community still survives. As Cliicago was a representative city 
in the nation, so it shares in all the recuperative qualities of the 
Kepublic. The city which has been laid waste was not alone 
that of the three hundred thousand people who inhabited it; it 
was the city of many mighty States whose messages of cheer 
and trains of relief are this moment speeding to it from every 
quarter of the Republic. A nation that has survived a great 
rebellion, and has grown stronger and mightier in the work of 
replacing the wreck of a four years' war, has an interest in re- 
building Chicago, and in making it stronger, nobler, and more 
admirable than before. 

Though this is a great calamity to the City of Chicago and to 
the whole country, we shall doubtless be surprised to see how 
soon both city and country M'ill recover from it. The elasticity 
of a community which built a city by the Lake within the limits 
of a brief lifetime, raised its foundations again and again from the 
morass, drove a tunnel under Lake Michigan, and turned the 
course of a river against its natural flow, will be equal to even 
the present emergency. There will be no panic, but the auda- 
cious and cheery confidence of the people — not of Chicago alone^ 
but of the United States — will sustain the enormous burden; and 
mutual forbearance, help, and co-operation will tide over the dis- 
aster. Already there are comfortable indications that the Insu- 
rance Companies will weather the sudden storm ; and that the 
two hundred millions of dollars which are represented in the risks 
in Chicago may be forthcoming when the recovering city shall 
demand this prudent provision. For a time, of course, trade will 
suffer, and the multitudinous interests inwrought with the pros- 
perity of Chicago will languish. Rival cities will divide among 
themselves much of the business which Chicago has heretofore 
absorbed. 

Then the St. Louis Democrat^ a few weeks after the fire, thus 
recognized the recuperative force of the smitten Giant of the West : 



494 HISTOET OF THE GEEAT FIEE3 

The funeral sermon over the remains of Chicago maj be post 
poned for the present, owing to unmistakable signs of animation 
on the part of the corpse. If dead, she yet speaketh, and that, too, 
in the loudest and most understandable Saxon. Through the col- 
umns of her leading newspapers she tells the great Northwest — and 
is careful to make herself heard in bailiwicks which nature and art 
seem to have set apart for St. Louis — that her merchants arc 
ready with larger stocks of goods than ever before, and that they 
are prepared to sell cheaper and deal more justly with the gene- 
ral public than any other city, especially St. Louis. All this is 
done at a cost to the merchants and a gain to the newspapers of 
many tliousand dollars per diem. The merchants of Chicago 
have a lively faith in the efdcacy of printer's ink. They recog- 
nize it as an unquestionable truth that the long columns of ad- 
vertisements, for which they have so liberally paid, have had more 
to do in giving to Chicago her proud commercial position than 
any other instrumentality whatever ; and, so believing, they make 
tlie investment with a cheerfulness which sometimes quite over- 
powers the facilities of the newspapers. In Chicago the adver- 
tising merchant is the rule ; in St. Louis he is the exception. Up 
in that big city on the Lake the merchant has read and believes 
what Thomas Jefferson once said of the Richmond Enquirei', 
when it was published by his friend Tlitchie — that a man who 
put down a newspaper without reading the advertisements often 
missed the best part of it. And so they do not coincide with 
their wiser brethren of St. Louis, who seem to think that men's 
wives are more interested in police items than in discovering 
where they can find the cheapest and best silks and shawls, and 
other indispensables of the female form divine. They never made 
a greater mistake \n their lives. Bless their unsophisticated 
souls, let them follow the female eye as it traverses to-day's Dem- 
ocrat. First, marriages and deaths — with a smile for the first 
and a tear for the last ; then the latest fashion notes ; then an 



IN CHICAGO AND THE Wi:ST. 495 

elopement, if there be a first-class one ; and then a careful scru- 
tiny of the advertising columns, to see who has the largest and 
best stock for to-morrow's shopping. Tlie oountry merchant liv- 
ing near Cincinnati^ Terre Haute, Indianapolis, or other point 
within trading distance, reads the market reports first, and then 
turns to the advertising columns to see from wdiom he can get 
what he wants. If he can find more information on this subject 
in the Chicago papers than in tlie St. Louis papers, he will be 
very apt to patronize Chicago merchants in preference to those 
of St. Louis. Chicago understands this and acts upon it. Her 
business-men keep themselves before the people in flaming capi- 
tals on the first page of her newspapers. 

In all this, we discover a sidewise blow at the dilatoriness of 
the citizens of the rival metropolis, the Queen of the Rivers. A 
gentle rebuke was administered, here and there, to those who 
looked chiefly on the retributive aspects of the calamity, and 
recalled the peculiar sinfulness of our way. As e. g. the following 
paragraph : 

People who see a Providential judgment in the conflagration 
of Chicago, have very limited knowledge of Divine economy. 
God helps those who help themselves, and if two elements of 
nature — fire and wind — have torn down a mighty city. He who 
masters these elements and moves the seas and keeps the prairies 
fertile, has resolved that the city shall be rebuilt. The propliets 
should seek another occupation. 

In the next chapter we shall see how the kind opinions enter- 
tained concerning us were fulfilled and verified, and how " Chick 
— Ago " is " doing " according to Punch. 



4:96 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 



" The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times." 

Daniet.. 

Those who have kept the thread of this story have hecome 
impressed with a sense of the perfect desolation of the scene, and 
conceive the horrors of our situation when the enemy finished his 
victory. 

The water was everywhere about us, ^^et we were destitute of 
the precious element. Hydrants were dry, reservoirs and cisterns 
empty, and the atmosphere still parched and the wind raging. 
People resorted to the Lake and parks with tubs, buckets, pails, 
pitchers, and cups, a motley array, for enough to prevent thirst 
and filth. This continued for a week and more, until the water 
works and machinery were restored. The hungry and homeless 
were all about us by tens of thousands. Dread v;inter, a stern foe 
in our northern climate, stood near with menacing aspect. Men 
were in an agony, lest banks and all associations should fail, and 
they become totally bankrupt. Business, too, was imperilled and 
might be lost forever. It was a season of Egyptian gloom. 
Houses stood with furniture packed and doors ajar, ready for 
another alarm of fire. All was confusion and uncertainty. Some 
Baid, we must leave the city, as there can be no more to do here 
for years. Chicago is ruined and lost. 

But this was not by any means a general feeling, or one that 
received encouragement. " The strange people that built Chi- 
cago," as some one terms them, were not daunted by adversity ; 
neither did they believe that God had any plans of destruction to 
execute, by which the site should become a desert. They accept- 
ed the situation with better grace than could have been expected. 
They did not attribute the disaster to anybody's malice. Some, 
indeed, said the guerillas have done this, and some charged it on 
the Mormons ; but sensible people all scouted any thought of in- 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 497 

cendiarism, and looked on it as a great, mysterious dispensation 
of Divine Providence, vi^hich was permitted, and occurred in 
accordance with well-laiown laws of nature. There they left it 
for the time being, and turned their attention to the sublima 
charity of the hour — care for the poor — and then to the work of 
reconstruction. As in Nehemiah's day, when the fallen wall of 
Jerusalem was rebuilt, men worked with a weapon in one hand 
and a tool in the other ; so now a part of the day was devoted to 
benevolence, and a part to recovery from commercial ruin. It 
was a sad but noble spectacle ! 

The fires were not extinguished when some men had rented 
new places for the transaction of business, and advertised them- 
selves as prepared for customers. Others began to clear away 
the debris for new foundations. " Already," wrote one, " from 
the smouldering embers, the city is gathering strength for a re- 
newed career of prosperous activity." 

But that which was everywhere apparent in spite of the hor- 
rors of the scene and its sad hopelessness, was the indomitable 
pluck which the. Chicago men showed, all which no losses could 
damp and no wretciiedness subdue. "Chicago will be hard up 
for a time," said one ; " but we must try and pull through." " It 
will take a long time to build all this up again," said another. 
" 1 thought I was pretty well off yesterday," said a young man, 
cheerfully smoking a cigar ; " now all I have in the world is the 
suit of clothes I have on." " I think I might have saved my law 
libra'ry," said a rising young lawyer, "but, by Jove! it did not 
seem the thing to do, when everybody else's property was burn- 
ing up ; so I picked up a few papers in my ofKce, took some 
volumes of Kent given me by a friend, took off my hat to my 
old books, and left them to burn." 

Tlie spirit of the people is shown by the tone of the press, which 
gave no uncertain sound, but spoke confidently of the resurrec- 
tion in these words : — 



498 msTOET OF the great fires 

"Whoever has permitted himself to think that the great calamity 
which has befallen Chicago would paralyze the energies of lier 
people, and check her rapid march to the commercial great 
ness which is her destin}^, lias taken but an imperfect measure of 
the character of this city and of the men who, with nature's aid, 
have created it. The men who built Cliicago still live. The city 
was not their inheritance; it was the work of their own hands. 
What they have achieved they know they can achieve again. 
They have not to wait to consider how to begin ; they are begin- 
ning. They have already taken off their coats and commenced 
the work of rebuilding Chicago. 

The foundation upon which they have to begin exists in the 
remaining value of the land. It is impossible, of course, to ex- 
press anything more than opinion as to depreciation in this value 
which will be the result of the conflagration. A number of facts 
and circumstances combine to render it probable that no ruinous 
depreciation in prices will be witnessed. One of these is the 
value of insurance. If the value of good insurance should prove 
equal to one-half the aggregate loss, then the actual loss to the 
owners would be reduced from $150,000,000 to $75,000,000. 
But probably the whole amount of insurance is under rather than 
over fifty per cent, of the total loss, so that if fifty per cent, should 
be realized upon the total amount of insurance, the loss to owners 
would still amount to over $100,000,000. The indications cer- 
tainly are that, upon the average, considerably more than fifty 
per cent, of the insurance will prove good ; it is even hoped 
that seventy -five or eighty per cent, may be realized. What- 
ever the amount may be, in reducing the personal loss to 
owners it becomes an element of strength in the value of the 
land. 

The land value is still more strengthened by the existing city 
improvements ; the sewers, the water and gas mains, the pave- 
ments, etc. Twenty years ago none of these necessaries of a 



m CHICAGO AJTD THE WEST. 499' 

great city existed ; all had to be built. Now they are all fin- 
ished and in readiness for nse. 

But more than by all else the land value is strengthened by 
the fact that here, in the " burnt district," was the business heart 
of Chicago, and here, in the very nature of things, it must be 
again. Here, in the region bounded by the riv^er, the Lake, and 
the southern limit of the conflagration, is the locality where con- 
venience and accessibility for all parts of Chicago, and for all 
parts of the country, meet in a common focus. 

Here the connnercial heart of the city has been fixed by nature ; 
and here it must and will remain in spite of fire and in spite of 
every adverse influence. And here it is the duty and interest of 
every citizen to concentrate all his influence and exert all his 
moral as well as physical force to lift up Chicago from its ruins. 

This is the feeling and the common sentiment among all 
classes of men who " take stock " in Chicago, and among none 
has it been more promptly or vigorously manifested than the rail- 
way companies. All the railway companies having their termini 
in the South division are making preparations to rebuild imme- 
diately upon our old foundations. The companies on the Lake 
shore desire, indeed, to proceed at once to enlarge their facilities 
to three or four times their former capacity. The, Illinois Cen- 
tral company effected a contract on Friday for bricks to rebuild 
their freight houses. They have already advertised for 400 brick 
layers to commence work immediately. The work of clearing the 
ground is already begun. At present all their trains, as well as 
those of the Michigan Central and ihe Chicago Burlington and 
Quincy, start from the Twenty-second street station ; but their 
plan is to immediately erect a temporary roof upon the walls 
of the Union depot at the foot of Lake street, and return with 
their passenger trains to the old premises. So soon as it shall be 
possible to get new freight houses under roof, their freight trains 
will do the same. 



600 HISTOET OF THE GREAT FIRES 

Again the voice of prophecy was fortified by such living I'acts 
as the following paragraphs describe : — 

Persons travelling upon the prairie have noticed the mounds 
thrown up by the ants, and have wondered at the incessant activity 
of the multitude of laborers. Hardly less activity is to be wit- 
nessed among the ruins and upon the streets of the burnt district 
in the South Division. Never in all the previous history of 
Cliicago was such a scene of thriving activity witnessed. Even 
tliose most familiar with the wonderful resources of this city are 
forced to wonder at the multitude of wagons which are employed 
in hauling off the debris to make room for the workmen putting 
up the new structures. Workmen are everywhere at laboi', 
delvinaj amid the ruins to reach the old foundations, that the 
masons may set to work. Thousands of men and boys are clean- 
ing, wheeling, and piling bricks, while hod-carriers are supplying 
them to the masons. Teams loaded with lumber and lime throng 
the streets, carpenters and masons are working bravely ; the 
gatherers of old iron are busily employed collecting their material 
and carting it away. The removal of safes has ended ; every 
safe has been opened; those which were really safes have been 
carried off, the others abandoned to the purchasers of old iron. 
Broken walls have been levelled, and the tottering fragments of 
once stately buildings have been overthrown. But amid the 
smoke, the dust, the rain and the fog, there is an incessant throng 
of busy men, boys and teams, working as energetically as if the 
whole burnt district was to be restored before Christmas, and 
they were charged with the duty. The days seem all too short, 
and work goes on long after dark. 

An idea of the number of teams and men employed may be 
had from the fact that 5,000 loads of debris are emptied into the 
Lake basin daily, and this work can continue all through the 
winter, giving continuous labor to the thousands now employed. 
So great is the demand, that hundreds of boys from fourteen to 




THE FIRST BUILDING EBECTED IN THE BUENT DISTRICT, 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 503 

eighteen years of age are hard at work wheeling, cleaning, and 
piling bricks. All honor to the brave men who have met mis- 
fortune by resolutely beginning the work of reconstruction, and 
all honor to the men and boys who have gone to work, preferring 
to earn the bread and the shelter they enjoy, than to compete for 
the same with the sick and helpless at the churches. The man 
who thinks Chicago has been destroyed, has only to cross the river 
into the burnt district to be undeceived. Labor and skill, di- 
rected by en'ergy and enterprise, are working like bees in the 
hive, and, when the spring comes, the desolate places will be 
desolate no longer, and from the ashes will have arisen new 
monuments of industry and faith. 

Where the proud miles of white marble once extended, there 
are now ghostly and tottering walls, and a chaos of infinite ruin. 
One hundred thousand of our people have been rendered home- 
less, and men who were yesterday princes are to-day beggars. 
But, in view of this tremendous transformation, there is no faint- 
ness, no cowardly disposition to yield the battle. We have here 
won one of the grandest conflicts known to history, and although 
our defeat is without parallel, we shall marshal the remnants of 
our I'outed but not demoralized armies, and shall march once' 
more to victory. Chicago may be beaten, but it cannot be con- 
quered. In a week, or a month, or three months, may be, we 
shall be once more in line, shoulder to shoulder, and the world 
shall see us marching on as cheerily and determinedly as though 
naught save victory had ever perched on our banners. 

Seven days after the fire a gentleman wrote to the New York 
Evening Post, assuring the public that our debts were to be paid, 
and said : 

We are coming on well. There is a lull after the storm ; all 
eyes are now on the future, and our city is a scene of activity un- 
usual even for us. Residences are converting into offices and stores, 
temporary buildings are erecting, and all is hurry and bustle. 
29 



604 IIISTOKY OF THE GREAT FIKBS 

In one form or another, in municipal bonds, in mortgages or 
in commercial accounts, we owe a large amount in the Eastern 
States, and especially in your city. A word of assurance to our 
creditors : 

Chicago abhors repudiation. Our citizens detest that word. I 
attended a meeting of bankers and merchants in Standard Hall 
three days after the fire, when an insurance seemed worthless and 
our complications ruinous. The situation was looking desperate, 
and the matter of a general stay-law for the relief of debtors 
came up. It met with a burst of opposition that was electric. 
It was affirmed, amid rounds of applause, that the business men 
of Chicago would tolerate no such relief, and, whenever it be- 
came necessary for the pajanent of their debts, their remaining 
property also should go. Men lately of large fortunes declared 
they could not yet see in what condition their present troubles 
would leave them, but they were resolved every penny they still 
had should be turned over to meet their liabilities. Then the ap- 
plause would be renewed ; and this in a room where scarcely a 
man believed himself to be solvent. Everywhere in the city you 
meet with but one sentiment among our crippled and ruined men 
— that they may have to go down, but if they do it shall be hon- 
orably and with their colors flying. 

To the large holders of our city and county bonds let me say — 
have no fears about Chicago or Cook County. Every dollar of 
the principal will be paid, and the interest as fast as it falls due. 
Our people are already inquiring about this indebtedness, and 
affirming that whatever else is delayed, the interest on borrowed 
money must be paid the day when due. We are heavy losers, we 
are poor, but we have some money left in our city and county, 
and we will tax ourselves down to the last shirt sooner than have 
our public obligations dishonored. Even if our commercial honor 
were not what it always has been, any other course would be 
suicidal, for we shall want more money and must protect our credit. 



ESf CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 505 

This was an expensive city to build. Materials and labor were 
cheap enough, but our site was a swamp. The business portion 
of the town was many feet below its present level. The build- 
ings there are gone, but every dollar expended for street eleva- 
tion remains. There are the heavy curb-walls, the graded road- 
ways, and the long miles of JSTicolson pavement ; there, too, are 
the costly sewers, and gas and water-mains. We still have our 
river-tunnels, the lake-tunnel, and the water-works, the expendi- 
ture of many millions, almost unharmed. Had our buildings re- 
mained, and what is now left been taken, the loss would have 
seemed ruinous. 

No man is to b^ reckoned out of the fight until his spirit is 
broken ; and to-day we are more full of energy, hope, and confi- 
dence in ourselves than in our most prosperous times. Emerson 
speaks of a high order of courage which is attracted by opposi- 
tion, and which is never quite itself until the hazard is extreme. 
I am not boasting, but you ought to know we have some of that 
courage here. You might walk about our streets for hours and 
never read in men's faces a word of our hard story. The lines 
about the mouth are stern, but the eyes are bright and hopeful. 
I am proud of our city in its meeting with desolation. On the 
fireht avenues in that early Monday morning I saw gentlemen 
stop in the hurrying crowd and salute their lady friends with a 
word of cheer and all the formalities of a promenade, while they 
responded with eyes as bright and cheeks as unblanched as they 
had ever shown there in the sunny afternoons. Through the ter- 
rible hours until dawn, and amid the hurrying thousands in the 
long burning day, I saw but one woman in tears. The men 
saved theirs until the telegraph told us how the news was receiv- 
ing elsewhere. Your sympathy was the only thing to unman us. 
Since our visitation I have mingled with all classes, in public 
meetings and in private intercourse. I have not heard one word 
of complaint. 



506 HISTORY OF THK GREAT FIRES 

We are face to face with our ruin ; we owe jou eastern men 
much money, and I am writing to let you know how we feel. 
The day after the fire I determined to open a new office at once, 
so as to do what little T could by example to restore public con- 
fidence. After a long search, I was unsuccessful, because every- 
thing suitable had been already taken since the fire, the landlords 
said, '^o one can understand Chicago who does not remember 
that we have few old men — least of all among our prominent 
business men. The capital and influence of the city are in the 
hands of young men, or men in the prime of life, and these can 
face beggary more courageously than if their steps were feeble and 
their best working-days gone. Do not say we are still resoluti^ 
because we do not realize our misfortunes; we feel what none 
can feel who have not seen our ruins ; but we think that with 
unbroken courage, untarnished honor, and God's help, we can do 
again what you saw us do before. 

Kow, for our commercial liabilities we ask no releases, no stay- 
laws, no compromises. We are honest, we are energetic, and we 
have an enormous trade already established. Give us a little 
time, that is all we ask. The election is with you. If you do 
not press us, we can pay you, we hope, every dollar. If you do 
press us, you shall have what is left. 

And the editor responded cordially, recognizing the situa- 
tion, and acknowledging the splendid fortitude and recuperative 
energy displayed in all our departments of enterprise and ser- 
vice : — 

Those Chicagoans are people to be proud of — they are essentially 
American. The indomitable pluck they show under their calamity, 
and the manly cheerfulness they display amid the wreck of worldly 
fortunes, are grand. They have as good a right to sit down and 
grieve as ever Cains Marius had to mourn over the ruins of Car- 
thage. But there does not seem to be a Caius Marius in all Chi- 
cago. Nobody thinks of sitting down ; and as for grieving, they 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 507 

haven't time. Thej are burned out, but they refuse to continue 
so. Thej are impoverished, but they won't stay poor. On all 
sides they are up and doing. The activity with which they are 
covering the blackened, smoking plain with fresh frame buildings ; 
the vigor with which they proceed to dig bank vaults from the 
hot ashes, and resume payments out of them before they are cool; 
the philosophic composure with which laboring men go to put 
more money into the savings bank, instead of beginning a "run " 
on it ; the prompt decision with which the millioniare of yester- 
day, beggared to-day, resumes business by writing his name on a 
shingle and hanging it outside of his shanty ; the resolute energy 
with which the wholesalse merchant, finding his store gone, opens 
his pai'lor windows and announces his readiness to retail goods 
there at the usual prices — all these are illustrations of a spirit 
which no misfortune can appall, 

Mr. Bradish, one of our artists, after describing in eloquent 
language the burning of the Academy of Design, exclaims: 
Thus perished the Academy. 

But, thank God ! not the courage or the hopes of the Chicago 
artists. For the moment they are disheartened, — they are not 
dismayed. The great calamity has destroyed their art business. 
Many have families, and the citizens of Chicago are not able now 
to buy pictures. But the artists do not ask for cliarity ; they 
need and will accept orders. There can be no more suitable 
occasion to promote the cause of art than liberal ofiers to Chicago 
artists. This winter will be a severe one for those who must 
remain there. But already the burnt districts are alive with the 
pleasant sights and sounds of busy artisans. A great city still 
exists ; another one, as imposing as the first, will soon occupy 
the desolate places. Within the past month, more than 3,000 
buildings have been erected. 

A generous people, enterprise, genius, credit, indomitable spirit, 
the free flow of Eastern capital, the outburst of universal sym^ 



508 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

pathy, — all these give assurance of the rebirth of Chicago. And 
speedily will be seen a new edifice, a new Temple of Art, not 
less beautiful, that shall continue to be, for the coming years, the 
home of art, and the cherished abode of the stricken artists of 
Chicago. 

There was fear of a rush on the Savings Banks, and the police 
were guarding faithfully the avenues of approach, and all, with 
Indicrous gravity, awaited the coming of the deluge of excited 
depositors to clamor for their money. But, as the day wore on, 
now and then one straggled in to claim the proffered twenty per 
cent., but the number who came to deposit was altogether unex- 
pected. There was no run on any bank, and every one of these 
moneyed institutions commenced doing business within a few 
days of the fire, and all stand on a permanent basis for the future. 

Rents advanced to very high figures on account of the immense 
demand, and some men re-rented at an advance of five hundred 
per cent. A shrewd man hired a place, after he saw his building 
going into ashes and smoke, for twelve hundred, and leased it 
again for twelve thousand dollars. A correspondent of the New 
York press said : 

As early as Wednesday morning, when the fear of further 
danger had ceased, the work of reconstruction began. On the 
smoking ruins of their great edifices these unconquerable people 
set the signs of revived industry. The needs of so vast a body, 
homeless as they are, make a great market, and the thriving 
trade of old times commences at every uncovered corner where a 
temporary roof can be raised. Inspired by the opportunity, the 
thriving Shylocks came out Wednesday, resolved to turn the 
misfortunes of the city to golden account. Bread went up to 
fabulous rates. All sorts of provisions, though by no means 
scarce, were put up to extravagant prices ; the remaining hotels 
doubled their former rates, and general dismay fell upon the 
helpless community ; but General Sheridan fell upon tlie vam- 



IX CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 509 

pires with a general order, and routed them with real live words. 
To the baker he proclaimed cheap bread. To the hotel men, 
living rates, or he would run the machines himself. This restored 
the natural state of things, and the city under the new impulse 
fell into a more healthy attitude. Presently the newspapers,^ 
The Journal first. The Trilnme and Republican following, came 
to life again, and a glimpse of what the country was doing for 
Chicago reached the suifering people. The splendid record of 
beneficence aroused a new hope, and the people give evidence in 
unmistakable ways that they are neither crushed nor disheart- 
ened. 

After struggling through the mob of newsboys who were 
besieging newspaper offices, I met the Hon, N. B. Judd, who 
was returning home after an unavailing search for an insurance 
company in which he is interested. He spoke lightly, after the 
Chicago manner, of his losses, but indulged in some enthusiastic 
expressions about the beauty of the ruins on the South Side. 
The front fagade of the Bigelow House gives an exquisite hint for 
a triumphal arch, and the south angle of the Palmer House looks 
a little like the Campanila of the Duomo at Florence. I checked 
his flow of artistic appreciation long enough to ask him about the 
prospects of the situation. He answered with hopeful but 
seasonable words : " The city will be rebuilt ; its removal from the 
sphere of the commercial activity of the age is not possible, in 
view of its geographical position ; it is yet too early to predict 
with absolute certainty whether the future fortunes of the city 
are to remain in the hands of those who have so long controlled 
them, or whether new men are to guide the new destinies. 
There will be ruin of individuals ; whether of classes or not, is as 
yet unknown ; but the commerce of the world demands that 
there shall be a city here, and, by the .hands of one and another, 
the city will be rebuilt. 

" It was only yesterday that I spoke of the desolation of that 



510 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIKES 

beautiful line of palaces called Michigan Terrace ; to-day the 
garden and residence is covered with a crowd of mechanics, and 
the air is filled with the sound of hammers and chisels. The 
indefatigable owner is everywhere present, ordering and directing 
everything, and shedding about him a fresh and breezy atmos- 
phere of hope and energy. His losses, of course, are enormous ; 
but he owes nobody, and everybody owes him, so that there will 
still remain a large balance of this world's goods to one of the 
men who best know how to use them. He is building three 
houses for business purposes on his vacated lots, and has con- 
tracted to have them ready for their occupants in a week." 

While business men were providing for the resumption of trade, 
or were renewing it, in twenty-four hours, some had to furnish 
shelter for their families. All things had to be done at the same 
time. Within a month there were five or six thousand houses, if 
such the extemporaneous tenements can be called, in course of 
erection or occupied by families. There were also contracts for 
several thousand permanent buildings for business purposes, while 
hundreds of temporary structures rose like mushrooms on every 
side, for the accommodation of those who were determined to re- 
tain their trade by supplying their customers at the earliest possi- 
ble moment. And the people outside came to the rescue like 
true brothers in adversity. They profiored lielp in every form, 
promised to stand by the merchants and manufacturers, and gave 
their orders as freely as though nothing had occurred. Our mis- 
fortune was felt to be theirs, and they made it as light as possible 
upon us by receiving a portion of it themselves. It was inter- 
esting to see how the marriage statistics showed convalescence. 
The young people were not to be daunted by so small an obstacle 
as the Great Fire, and hundreds took the yoke upon them, in order 
to prove whether two were not better than one to pull a load. 

" A Chicago girl wrote to her lover in Springfield, Massachu- 
Bstts, just after the fire, saying : ' Our wedding was set for next 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 511 

week, and if yon will stand up with a woman dressed in a cotton 
skirt and her father's overcoat, come on.' The brave youth tele- 
graphed in reply, 'Get ready; I'll be with you.'" 

Another of our ladies, when offered a velvet cloak by her 
mother, at the East, replied that she would be ashamed to wear 
one this winter, when economy was the necessity and watchword 
of the hour. Not display, but work, frugality, charity, are the 
offices of our noble women, till Chicago is redeemed and our 
debts are paid. In accordance with this purpose, the papers 
warned off concert and theatre managers, and summoned the 
lovers of pleasure to seek cheaper amusements. 

The Christians also resolved to restore the lost edifices, by an 
appeal to the public at large, and exhibited a heroic spirit in un- 
dertaking to go forward with their Master's cause in undimin- 
ished efficiency and enthusiastic earnestness. The universal 
watchword was Resxirgain / and the world's answer is Resurget. 

Already, seeing that we mean to rise again — and the coun- 
try means that we shall rise again — multitudes are flocking 
hither, to enter upon business with their capital, to invest money 
in real estate, and to join in rebuilding our city. Thus the wall 
rises, by the blessing of God, even in troublous times ; fear has 
given place to hope, and convalescence is written on every fea- 
ture and movement of the Young Giant. 

As a matter of history, it is iiecessary to record that the poor 
people in their hasty dwellings were made as comfortable as cir- 
cumstances would permit. An unusually cold winter would 
entail much suffering, as many of them lack the fertility of inven- 
tion and enterprise of the genuine American, who is not content 
to live in squalor and discomfort, when tact and industry can 
give relief and better his condition. 

We close this division by quoting from a Liverpool paper, 
whose prognostications and comments have been evidently justi- 
fied to the fullest extent : — 



512 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

If anything could be more remarkable tban the rapidity with 
which Chicago sprang into existence, it was its sudden destruc- 
tion. There seems every probability of its resurrection being 
more remarkable than either. The recuperative power already 
developed is unequalled by anything in ancient or modern times. 
No sooner are the flames of the burning city extinguished, than 
workmen are busily engaged in clearing away the smouldering 
cinders, and making preparations for the erection of buildings as 
magnificent and costly as those which have been swept away. 
One is reminded forcibly of a colony of ants, which, when dis- 
turbed by the ruthless passer-by, no sooner recover from the 
panic of the moment than they set to work to repair the dam- 
age which has been done. The Chicago disaster was assuredly 
enough to have appalled the bravest, and disheartened the most 
sanguine. Such a calamity, breaking with such abruptness on a 
community, might well have paralyzed their efforts, and led to 
their practical annihilation. But there is about these mushroom 
cities of the West an energy of which we in the Old World know 
nothing. While Englishmen would be stopping to discuss the 
rival plans for rebuilding, and schemes for raising the money, and 
wasting time in long-winded speeches, America would have the 
whole thing done. This extraordinary energy and elasticity 
which enables its people to rise like giants refreshed from every 
disaster, is one of the most wonderful characteristics of the New 
World. It was developed to a remarkable extent after the War 
of Independence ; it was developed to a yet more remarkable ex- 
tent after the lamentable civil war of a few years since. Losses, 
both in men and money, which would have broken the credit of 
many countries, were to the Americans only stimulants to call 
forth their extraordinary qualities. Chicago is a splendid exam- 
ple of this splendid energy. 



■m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 613 



VII.— THE FUTUEE. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

Men said at vespers : ' ' All is well ! " 
La one wild niglit the city fell ; 
Fell shrines of prayer and marts of gain 
Before the fiery hurricane. 

On threescore spires had sunset shone, 
Where ghastly sunrise looked on none. 
Men clasped each other's hands, and said : 
" The City of the West is dead ! " 

Brave hearts who fought, in slow retreat, 
The fiends of fire from street to street, 
Turned, powerless, to the blinding glare 
The dumb defiance of despair. 

A sudden impulse thrilled each wire 
That signalled round that sea of fire ; 
Swift words of cheer, warm heart-throbs 
In tears of pity died the flame ! 

From Bast, from West, from South and North, 
The messages of hope shot forth, 
And, underneath the severing wave, 
The world, fuU-handed, reached to save. 

Fair seemed the old ; but fairer stiU 
The new the dreary void shall fill 
With dearer homes than those o'erthrown, 
For love shall lay each comer-stone. 



514 HI8T0KY OF THE GREAT FIEE8 

Rise, stricken city ! — From thee tkcow 
The ashen sackcloth of thy woe, 
And build, as to Amphion's strain, 
To songs of cheer thy walls again 1 

How shrivelled in thy hot distress 
The primal sin of selfishness ! 
How instant rose, to take thy part, 
The angel in the human heart ! 

Ah ! not in vain the flames that tossed 
Above thy dreadful holocaust ; 
The Christ again has preached through thee 
The Gospel of Humanity ! 

Then lift once more thy towers on high. 
And fret with spires the wfestem sky, 
To teU that God is yet with us, 
And love is still miraculous ! 

John G. WHiTTrEB. 

There were predictions of ill omen concerning the probability 
of resurrection within a brief period. To many the very 
removal of the wreck seemed an insuperable obstacle. The 
view of such gigantic ruin overwhelmed them ; and it is true that 
there is much that years alone can reproduce. The beautiful 
trees, that had slowly rooted and grown to towering majesty, can- 
not be soon replaced. For years the newness and rawness of a 
primitive city must again be suffered. Yet so much remains 
uninjured as to give us ground to expect that the resurrection 
may be far speedier than the first upbuilding. The representa- 
tive energies of the great North-West still hover amid the crum- 
bling ruins of what but yesterday was Chicago ; and as busy 
hands are already effacing the scars which now disfigure the 
site, so surely will they make for this noblest exponent of the 
free, elastic growth of the North-West a Future more brilliant 
than her past. 

There is not the remotest probability of our sinkijig back into 



IN CUICAGO AND THE WEST. 515 

insignificance, or dwindling intd extinction. The voice of the 
people is the voice of God, and they have said, by their capital, 
their charities, their grand utterances, that here must stand a 
great city, whose future no mind can fitly conceive. After visit- 
ing the Golden City of the Pacific, and riding through the region 
traversed by the new railroad that bound East and West into 
closer fraternity, the Hon. Benjamin F. Wade, the Statesman of 
Ohio, said in 1866 :~ 

" Again I say to you, that the importance of this location tran- 
scends what most now think of it. It will never have but two 
rivals. San Francisco, on the Pacific, may contest the palm of 
greatness with it, and New York has got to run fast to get out 
of its way. You may deem that an extravagant expression, but 
recollect that New York had to struggle for one hundred and 
fifty years before she had the population and wealth Chicago has 
to-day. No people of this country have more of intelligence, more 
of enterprise, more of the American Yankee go-aheadativeness 
than the people of Chicago. I say again, that there are but two 
cities on this continent that can compete with it for the palm of 
greatness. Thirty-two years ago it had a few rude buildings, and 
I have been amazed to-day, as I passed through and viewed the 
wonderful progress that has been made; I am sure I have 
had no conception of the importance of this point, and, what is 
still more important, of the vastness and richness of the great 
country that lies West, and which is bound to contribute in the 
future so much to build up the second, if not the first, city on this 
continent." 

If this man could have looked upon our city five years later, 
he would have seen more to admire, and to fortify him in his 
lofty expectations. And now we are to forecast the future in the 
light, not of blazing destruction, but of the glorious past and the 
actual present. 



616 HISTOBY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

CHAPTER XXXV. 

Chicago must be great, yea, far transcend all former greatness, 
because of several reasons ; among which is the marvellous faith 
which inspires those who have had the largest experience, and 
occupy posts of influence and power. It was, of course, a play- 
ful remark which an old gentleman made after visiting New 
York City, upon being asked what he thought of the metropohs. 
" Why," said he, " it is a fine place, but it lacks one thing. That 
is the only fault I find with it. It is too far from Chicago." 
Here w§,s the spirit that gave us our prominence, gone to seed. 
But the real creators of this amazing prosperity were animated 
by an intense conviction that here was the central focal point of 
America, and they must not rest until manifest destiny was con- 
summated. 

There seemed something almost irreverent in the confidence 
which men cherished and expressed. Says an eminent clergy- 
man: I recall the conversation of a leading citizen of Chi- 
cago with me at my last visit there, and his words stiU ring in 
my ears : " There is no possibility of checking the growth of this 
city ; its future is as fixed as God's throne." 

This language was not intended to be considered boastful, nor 
did it deseiwe to be termed blowing : to the minister it seemed ex- 
travagant, inasmuch as things had been slower in New England 
under his eye, nor did he see, as the enthusiast saw, the immense 
resom-ces upon which the city would build its f utm-e. 

I recollect a similar remark made to me by a gentleman con- 
nected with the railroad interest, as I was returning home after 
six months' absence : " Nothing can stop Chicago now. " 

Such was the belief of influential men, and they naturally im- 
parted their zeal and hopefulness to others; so that the entire 
population were combined in a mighty effort, not to inflate public 
expectation, but co give the city a position worthy its advantages. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 517 

" All things are possible to him that believeth, " is the solemn 
statement of Holy Writ. And om- Saviour said, " According to 
thj faith be it mito thee. " Of faith there was abundance and 
of works no lack. For in no city were men of ability and 
earnestness worked harder, and nowhere did talent and industry 
reap quicker and larger rewards. 

But is there the same firmness of faith in the future, since 
the sudden arrest of its onward career? Do the wise and far- 
seeing men anticipate a growth like that of the past ? Doubtless 
there was anxiety in the minds of many lest the crown should be 
plucked from the brow that wore it so proudly. But that soon 
gave place to the same marvellous confidence which made every 
man a hero, and banished slavish, enervating fear. The lan- 
guage of the press was like this which follows : — 

" Away with despondency ! With a world to comfort us, why 
should we not hope ? Fire has destroyed one-half of our substance ; 
but twenty-five years ago one-hundredth of that substance did 
not exist, and every cause which contributed to the making of 
our wealth then, exists in an improved form to-day ! We then 
had a marsh, with malaria and fever; we now have high- 
graded streets and pure, bracing air. We then had ox-carts and 
canoes ; we now have railroads and a mighty merchant fleet. We 
then had a foul river, whose stench was in our nostrils, and a 
^hort and shallow canal that half defeated its aims ; we now 
send a tide from the Lake to the Gulf, and our clear rolling river 
runs to the sea, while a lake tunnel fills om- reservoirs with sweet 
water. We then struggled with Nature to gain a little by Art ; 
now Art and Nature have become one in the physical advantages 
which no conflagration can destroy, and Chicago, with her great 
business division in mournful ruin, is greater, in the resources of 
regaining what she has lost, than any city ever built by human 
hands on a site possessing the greatest possible advantages of nature 
Moreover, there is in the histoiy of all great fires a lesson whoso 



618 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

unbroken force bears mightily upon our bewildering present. It 
is this : From the debris of all great conflagrations has sprung a 
sequel greater in eveiything that constitutes human good than was 
that which preceded the ruin. The great fires of London, with- 
out a single exception, increased the city's population and swelled 
her commerce. Every burnt portion of Constantinople, the city 
of fires, has been rebuilt so much better, that fire in the East is 
looked upon as an agent of civilization ; the new in eVery case is 
greater and stronger than the old. 

" New York, by her great fire, has gained ten times more than 
she lost. Portland, which lost $9,000,000 worth on July 4, 1866, 
now considers that conflagration a blessing, for the number of her 
people, their commercial prosperity, and her home and foreign 
trade have been enhanced in five years as they could not have 
been save by the occurrence of so tremendous a catastrophe. 

"Already the ring of the carpenter's hammer and the click of the 
mason's trowel tell of renovation. The ruins are being brushed 
away, and marts where busy trade will reign before a month has 
passed are springing up as if by magic. The marvel of Chicago's 
growth has been equalled only by the magnitude of her downfall ; 
but both will be sm^passed by the miracle of her resurrection. We 
have lost, it is said, more than $200,000,000. All that we had a 
week ago was made by these agencies: 

" 1. Individual energy, pluck, and enterprise. 

"2. The Lakes. 

"3. The Eailroads. 

" Is any one of these three agencies destroyed ? Not one ! " 




JOHN M. VAN OSDEL. 



m CUICAGO AKD THE WEST. 521 



CHAPTER XXXVL 



The men of nei-ve and brain, of energy and courage, remain to 
gnide the destinies and uphold the character of the city. In this 
the fire was merciful. Had a plague or other epidemic cut down 
our men, and decimated our population of leaders, this would have 
been a worse calamity than loss of property. 

The press is still in the field, imconquered, and binds its mag 
nificent powers to the i-e-creation of trade and confidence. 

The architects, builders, merchants, manufactm'crs, mechanics 
and artisans are working together manfully, and the future seems 
big with promises of superior excellence and grandeur. 

Several of these founders have ah eady been named and out 
lined on former pages of this book ; those who are to follow are 
but specimens of hundi'eds equally deserving as models in those 
qualities and deeds which have raised our city to its princely 
eminence, and shall lift it out of ruin into increased glory and 
greatness. These memoirs we have compiled from " Biographical 
Sketches," published in 1868. 

Mr. J. Y. Scammon, whose name has occurred in connection 
with the burning of his mansion in Terrace Kow, was a Maine 
boy, and after finishing his studies, he left his native State for a 
tour of observation. 

" In the course of this journey he reached Chicago, in Septem 
ber, 1835. He made the voyage on a steamer from Buffalo vid 
Green Bay, and the passengers were landed at Chicago by means 
of small boats, the steamer being unable to enter harbor. He put 
up at the old Saugauash Hotel, which was reached from the land- 
ing by a devious path through prairie-grass and deep mud. The 
hotel was crowded, the weather horrible, and large numbera of the 
people were sick with bilious fever. Chicago presented no very 
inviting prospect to the stranger. At that time the late Coloue'l 
Ki chard I. Hamilton was Clerk of the Court of Cook County, and 
30 



622 HISTORY OF THE GREAT PIRES 

Mr. Henry Moore, an attorney, was his deputy. Wlieu the weathei 
had improved sufficiently to justify his travelling, Mr. Scammon 
made ready to depart ; but on the very eve of his leaving, Mr. 
Moore called upon him, stating that the Circuit Court had com- 
menced its session ; that he could no longer serve as deputy ; that 
the person employed in his place had heen stricken down with 
fever, and therefore he desired Mi-. Scammon to assist Colonel 
Hamilton dm-ing the term. The request was complied with. In 
the rooms of this building Mr. Scammon performed the duties of 
Clerk of the Court, received his clients, and lodged at night. In 
1836, he entered into partnership with B. S. Morris, Esq., in the law 
business, which continued for eighteen months. A year later, he 
formed a law partnership with Norman B. Judd, which continued 
mitil 1847. At that time Mr. Scammon had become largely in- 
terested in the Galena Railroad enterprise, and devoted his time 
piincipally to that business. 

" The men of the present day can hardly be expected to com- 
prehend fully the courage and enterprise necessary at that time 
to keep alive the project of a railroad extending westward from 
Chicago. The construction at the present day of two or more 
railroads across the continent, with branches and cross-roads, is 
not one-half so imposing and startling an enterprise as that which 
in those days was projected by Messrs. Ogden and Scammon. 
When these gentlemen came to Chicago, Illinois was in the fuU 
glow of excitement upon the grand question of internal improve- 
ments. This system, which, so far as railroads were concerned, 
excluded Chicago, culminated in 1837, and sunk rapidly. A 
most disastrous torpidity of enterprise followed. Capitalists 
a\oided Illinois, and the hope of any railroads was abandoned 
by even the most sanguine. Messrs. Scammon and Ogden stood 
almost alone amid the ruins, unappalled by the overwhelming 
disaster. The Michigan Central Railway eventually extended its 
line to Lake Michigan, at New Buffalo, and there it had stopped. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 623 

Messrs. Ogden and Scammon, after a long effoi-t, succeeded in 
reviving an abandoned Indiana charter, giving the exclusive 
right to construct a railroad from Michigan City to Chicago, and 
to this law is Chicago indebted for its first continuous railroad 
communication eastward. 

" Previous to this, these gentlemen had travelled repeatedly 
from Chicago to Galena, holding meetings in every village and 
at every cross-road, urging the people to a united effort to secure 
& railroad communication from the Mississippi to Chicago, and 
thence east. They both had invested largely in the enterprise, 
and they, by personal pledges, eventually succeeded in obtaining 
subscriptions to stock to an amount sufiicient to authorize the 
commencement of the railroad, being the pioneer railroad in the 
vast combination of roads which now bring the treasures of the 
West to the lap of Chicago. 

" One of the early settlers of Chicago, he has been one of the 
early founders of many of its institutions. He was the first of 
the New Church or Swedenborgian body of Christians in Chicago. 
He and his wife and one other person were the founders of that 
body of Northern Illinois, and he has lived to see himself sui-- 
rounded by a numerous circle of religious associates, and wor- 
shipping in one of the finest church buildings in the city. He 
organized the Church of the New Jerusalem in Chicago. He 
was also the first man of any prominence in Chicago who 
favored the practice of the medical school of Hahnemann. He 
was, as we have seen, a pioneer in the railroad system ; he estab- 
lished the first bank under the general banldng law of the State ; 
he was one of the original founders of the Chicago Academy of 
Sciences, and of the Chicago Astronomical Society, and is the 
President of the Board of Trustees of each of those societies. 
The Dearborn Tower, the western tower of the grand edifice of 
the Chicago Univei-sity, in which is placed the Alvan Clark 
Telescope, the largest refracting telescope in the world, was 



524 HISTOBY OF THE GREAT FIKK8 

biult at liis expense, and named in honor of his deceased wif e^ 
whose maiden name was Dearborn. He was elected one of the 
Trustees of the Chicago University on his return from Europe, 
and one of its professorships was endowed bj his munificence. 
The family of Mr. Scammon consists of one son and two daughters." 

This man still Kves to consecrate his genius and experience 
with undivided earnestness to the rearing again of our fallen 
metropoKs. From this sketch we can see through what difficul- 
ties Chicago rose to power, and easily believe that the present 
obstacles are far less imposing than those which he materially 
helped to overcome. He may have less to give than before the 
fire, but having experienced the blessedness of large liberaHty, he 
will not be backward in renewing his labors in behalf of the 
institutions imperatively demanded by a vast population. 

The future appearance and character of the buildings of the 
new city must depend on its architects, among whom, representa- 
tive names are William W. Boyington and John M. Yan Osdel. 
When we have looked on the ruins of the superb edifices designed 
and erected under their supervision, we have felt sympathy for 
these men, whose monuments seem to have crumbled into dust. 
In the old world we see the names of architects imperishably 
connected with the massive and elegant structures which ai-e his- 
toric ; when these fall, the work of the builders passes away, and 
appeals no longer to men's admiration and reverence. It is the 
fortune of our architects that they live to renew these memorials 
of their skill and power, and to write their names indelibly upon 
the future of Chicago; and, already, their heads and hands 
are full of plans and contracts for buildings which shall rival 
those that have melted and perished. The men who have means 
eagerly place them again in brick, iron, stone, and niortar, demon- 
strating their unshaken faith in tlie inevitable greatness of the 
new city and in the ability of the architects whose work the fire 
destroyed. 



m CHICAGO ANI> THE WEST. 525 

" Prominent among tlie architects of the city of Chicago stands 
the subject of this sketch — William W. Boyington — a true repre- 
sentati^e of his class, and an acknowledged leader in that great 
architcctm-al reform which, dm-ing the fourteen years of his resi- 
dence here, has been in progress in Chicago, appropriating her 
waste places to occupancy by the busy multitude, and changing 
her shanty dwellings to palaces, wherein operate and dwell the 
real kings of the Great West — her business men. He has been a 
power in shaping the destiny of Chicago in its external aspect 
From him has gone forth the fiat which has set at work and kept 
busy thousands of intelligent workmen, whose eve^ movement 
was in harmony with the one great idea of the author, and ever 
tending to its completion. Dozens of draughtsmen and clerks 
have detailed his conceptions on paper, and thousands have given 
them more enduring form in wood, brick, cement, or marble. A 
vast munber of our largest, most stately, and most useful edifices 
are the realizations of his thoughts on architecture. 

" In the spring of 1853 Mr. Boyington came out to Chicago, to 
see the chances offered in this city, which was then just beginning 
to be talked about in the East. He returned home, and after 
some months'' delay, wound up his business in Massachusetts, and 
in November removed hither. His first work here was to make out 
a plan for Charles Walker, Esq., of the ground on which the great 
Central Union Depot now stands, showing the character of the 
buildings which could be placed upon it, the Raili'oad Company 
being then about negotiating for the site for the depot- grounds. 
He has been ever since that period most prominently identified 
vsdth the history of our civic growth, as the city was just ready for 
architectural style, finding ample scope for the exercise of his 
talents, and generally meeting with the recognition which his 
ability deserved, especially after the first few months, by which 
time he was generally conceded to be a man of extraordinary 
talent in his profession. His success during the subsequent tliir- 



626 HISTOKY OF THE GEEAT FIRKS 

teen years is scarcely equalled in the history of any architect Ie 
the whole of the United States. 

" Up to the year 1853, when Mr. Boyington came to Chicago^ 
the city could boast of but very few buildings worthy of note in an 
architectural point of view. Here and there a structure was vis- 
ible possessing some claims to notice, but, with a limited range of 
exceptions, the buildings in the city were little better in appear- 
ance or comfort than the old log-house, and not one-half so sub- 
stantial. How wonderfully the scene has changed ! The revul- 
sions of commercial panics, the universal suspension of banks, the 
.almost entire stagnations of trade, the terrible excitements of war, 
none of these have stayed the successive piling of bricks, the ag- 
gregation of slabs of marble, and the rearing of massive timbers,- 
to form our city into one great system of architectural beauty." 

Mr. Bo}dngton is not past his prime, and with all his immense 
experience he can outdo his former achievements, and leave him- 
self many monuments by which his fame will be transmitted to 
posterity. Fortunate for the city is it that he lives, and men 
like him, to reconstruct the public and private buildings, which 
shall be our honor, our profit, and our joy. 

His colaborer and competitor is also in the vigor of an ener- 
getic maturity, and has plunged anew into his profession. 

" In the autumn of 1836 Mr. Van Osdel formed the acquaint- 
ance of Hon. "William B. Ogden, of this city, which resulted in 
his removal to Chicago. Mr. Ogden at first engaged his services 
simply as a master-builder ; but soon found that he was every way 
competent for the responsibilities of an architect, and engaged 
him to design as well as construct a residence for him in this city. 
The house which he built on Ontario street, the following season, 
was for several years the best in the city, and is still occupied by 
Mr. Ogden." We have read the sad story of Mr. Ogden's attempt 
to find it after the fire. 

" Mr. Yan Osdel also turned his attention to ship-joinery, and 



IN CHICAGO a:sd the west. 537 

to him belongs the honor of having done the finishing of the fii-st 
vessels that were bnilt in Chicago, being the two steamboats 
' James Allen,' and ' George W. Dole.' Om* lake commerce was 
a mere trifle at that time ; but it had begun to give promise of 
its gigantic futm-e. In 1838 he constructed several large pumps 
on the Archimedean-screw principle, for the purpose of lifting 
water out of the excavations then in process for the Illinois and 
Michigan Depot. Dming the following winter Mr. Yaii Osdel 
invented a horizontal wind- wheel, which was extensively used in 
working these canal-pumps. The first important work in which 
he engaged on his return to Chicago, which was in the spring of 
1841, was the erection of grain-elevators. Here, too, he was the 
pioneer. 

" In 1843 he entered into partnership with Elihu Granger, in 
the iron foundry and machine business. This partnership con- 
tinued until February, 1845. His wife dying at the time, and his 
own health being impaired by over-work, he was advised by the 
leading builders to devote his time to architecture, they pledging 
him their support. He therefore opened an office on Clark street, 
over Mrs. Bostwick's millinery store, precisely where is now the 
main entrance to the Sherman House. His receipts during the 
first year were only five hundred dollars, although he did all the 
business of the kind which there was to be done in the city. As 
the city grew, and his skill as an architect became more widely 
known, his business ino-eased, until his net profits for the three 
years ending in 1859 were thirty-two thousand dollars. 

" To enumerate all the public buildings, private residences, and 
extensive mercantile blocks which were designed by Mr. Yan 
Osdel, and built under his superintendence, would be to give a 
long list, including many of the best edifices, not only of Chicago, 
but of Illinois. We will only mention as specimens, the Cook 
County Com-t-House, the Chicago City Hall, the Tremont House, 
aU the five-story iron-front buildings in the city, being over eleven 



528 HISTORY OF THE GREAT F1RE8 

hundred lineal feet of such fi-ontage ; the residence of Peter 
Schuttler, corner of Adams and Aberdeen streets, Chicago ; the 
residences of ex-Governors Matteson, of Springfield, and Wood, of 
Quincy — ^the three finest residences in the State. Mi*. Van Os- 
del has accmnulated an ample fortune ; he has not suffered him- 
self, however, to be placed upon the retired list, but is to-day one 
of the most active men in the city. He is at present architect for 
the completion of the State Penitentiary. His report on the pro- 
gress of the work, with estimates of work done and to be done, 
received the unanimous approval of the last General Assembly of 
Illinois, which pointed him out as the architect best deserving a 
place among the Trustees of the Illinois Industrial College, located 
at Champaign, He was elected by the Board as a member of the 
Finance and Executive Committees, also of the Committee on 
Buildings and Grounds, three of the most important committees 
of the Board. Mr. Yan Osdel was mainly instrumental in having 
a Polytechnic School established in Chicago as a branch of the 
Industrial University, of which he is Treasurer." Since the 
above notes were made, he has built the most magnificent stores 
in Chicago, and is Potter Palmer's architect for the new hotel, 
which is designed to eclipse anything in the world. These men 
are prominent supporters of the church, and eminent for their 
liberality. 

From them we turn to the merchant princes, and select Mr. 
John V. Farwell and Mi*. C. T. Bowen as men of whom the city 
is justly proud. The name of " Farwell HaU " was a fitting recog- 
nition of his generosity towards the Young Men's Christian Asso- 
ciation, which had its headquarters in that building. And Mr. 
Bowen had begun a foundation for a Youth's Library in that Hall, 
which would have been as useful to the generations to come as it 
was honorable to his head and heart. 

"In the spring of 1845 Mr. F. left off his books and came to Chi- 
cago with exactly three dollars ;uid twenty-five cents in his pocket, 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WKST. 529 

working his passage on a load of wheat. The nmd was a canal of 
mud. Driver and passenger fi-equently had to put their shoulders 
to the wheel, or their hands to the lever. They made their ninety- 
five miles in four days, without losing their temper or calling upon 
Hercules, who, if he were a witness of the spectacle, must have 
wondered afterwards, as he saw in the afiluent merchant the youth 
who pried the load of hay out of the prairie-mud. Reaching 
Chicago, he drifted into the City Clerk's office, and got employment 
at twelve dollars per month. 

" His aptness for business was soon apparent. He had skill in 
trading, in managing and in planning, and energy adequate to the 
carrying out of his plans. Besides this, he was one of the few 
who realized the possibilities of the Northwest, and fully foresaw 
the destiny of Chicago. While others conjectured, he was con- 
vinced ; while others stood by wondering whether to invest, he 
went forward and proved his faith by his works, and a great, high 
faith he had in this city and this section when he became a part- 
ner in the firm he had served as salesman. His hand was felt 
upon the helm immediately, and his word had weight in the coun- 
cils of the concern. That was in 1851, when the house did a busi- 
ness of about $100,000 per annum. Its business now foots up 
$10,000,000. The entire dry-goods commerce of the city had a 
new impetus under the leadership of Mr. Farwell. For lead he 
did, with such boldness as to confound the wisdom of the wise in 
trade, and to make the most enterprising amoijg them shake their 
heads in an admonitory fashion. 

"In 1856, through Mr. Fai-well's irresistible persistency, the 
wholesale mart on Wabash avenue was built, now occupied by the 
firm of John Y. Farwell & Co., which, after several changes, came 
to be the name of the firm in 1865. The enterprise was stoutly 
opposed by the oldest member of what was then the firm, and was 
set down by the longest heads in the city as a project that must 
bring: its owners to ruin. But time has demonstrated the wisdom 



630 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

of the undertaking. It was to the wholesale diy-goods cause of the 
Northwest what the memorable raid of Sherman was to the cause 
of the National Government. If it was daring to look forward 
to, it was grand to look back upon. 

" The men who built a commerce are to be honored with those 
who found a commonwealth. Commerce is the corner-stone of the 
commonwealth. First ships, then schools; fii'st trade in com, 
then in books. What are dwelling-houses without warehouses? 

" But for commerce there had been no Chicago. Once a commer- 
cial capital, and Chicago became a seat of learning and of literature^ 
a market for loiowledge as well as for breadstuffs and dry-goods. 
This is the metropolis which the man of this sketch helped mightily 
to build by his enterprise, and then to adorn with his philan- 
thropy. And such men have a fame which Chicago will never let 
die. Their renown is indissolubly linked with hers. And as we 
ramble through this buzzing and busy dry-goods hive on the Av- 
enue, with its hundred of men and its piles of fabrics from every part 
of the commercial world, we cannot but feel a thrill of pride in the 
man who founded and biiilt it all. But we have a livelier and a 
nobler satisfaction when we contemplate this man as " the servant 
who was found faithful ' to his stewardship, as well as the merchant 
who was found equal to every exigency. Prosperity did not 
quench the ardor of his convictions, deaden his sensibilities, nor 
blunt his moral sense. When poverty departed it did not carry 
conscience away with it ; when riches came they did not bring 
penuriousness along, but openhandedness instead. The merchant 
had an end beyond his merchandise, the tradesman was not con- 
tent with trade. Affluence was made no excuse for self-indul- 
gence. The miserable cupidity which brings a man to his knees be- 
fore the golden calf was held in scornful detestation. The grovel- 
ling avarice which makes a business man a slave to his business was 
equally despised. The love of Chi-ist constrained the love of 
money. The love of God induced the love of man, and the love 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 531 

of man was shown by deeds and devices for his amelioration and 
elevation. Mr. Farwell increased in philanthropy as he increased 
in means for exercising it. The world which lieth in wicked- 
ness, and the church which is as a net to save it, are the objects 
of his alert solicitude and unremitting liberality." His brother, 
C. B. Farwell, is the member of Congress fi^om Cook county, and 
is a man of brains and energy. They have gone forward with 
accustomed sagacity and pluck in the restoration of the com- 
merce of Chicago. 

Mr. Bowen was born in New York State, and at the age of 
seventeen was a clerk in Little Falls. " From there our future 
merchant came to Chicago, and entered the service of Mr. Wood, 
who was the first to introduce into the village the system of trad- 
ing on strictly cash principles. I^ever was a clerk better suited 
for his position, and the duties which devolved upon him were 
admirably adapted to fit him for the part he was afterwards to 
sustain in the commercial development of this city and the North- 
west. Before he had been in Mr. "Wood's employ three months, 
he was placed at the head of the establishment. The proprietor 
was absent the greater part of the time, and the whole responsi- 
bility rested upon the shoulders of young Bowen. He gave his 
personal attention to every department of the business. He was 
at once cashier, bookkeeper, and head salesman ; the first man at 
the store in the morning, and the last to leave at night. But his 
labors were not confined to the counter and the desk. Not con- 
tent with seeing that customers were well served and books accu- 
rately kept, he added largely to the custom of the establishment 
by pursuing a system of advertising and ' drumming ' peculiarly 
adapted to these pioneer days. At that time it was the custom of 
the farmers fi'om the country to come to Chicago with their pro- 
duce, and camp out for the night in what was then the southern 
suburbs of the town, in the vicinity of Eighteenth street, and it 
was Mr. Bowen's practice, mornings, before it was time for trade, 



632 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

to go the rounds of the camp aud distribute advertising circular? 
among the campers, setting forth the superior inducements of 
' The People's Cheap Store.' Xot content with merely scattering 
these, he would, bj a few words fitly spoken, win upon their per- 
sonal favor. In that way he became widely and always favorably 
known to a large circle of customers, whose trade added materi- 
ally to the profits of his employers. The personal popularity of 
young Bowen was very great. The farmers liked to trade with 
hira better than with a kid-glove counter-jumper, who fancies the 
condition of mercantile success is good clothes and fastidious draw- 
ing-room manners. And we may add that the same good sense 
which characterized Mr. Bowen then, has ever since. Kot only 
so, but he has been careful to surrround himself with associates 
and assistants similar in character. At this day there is no one 
connected with his establishment, fi'om the senior member of the 
firm to the porters, who does not by his works show his faith in 
the dignity of labor, of whatever kind. 

"Mr. Bo wen's theorj- in regard to advertising was then, and al- 
ways has been, that no promises in regard to quality of goods or 
their price should be made that he could not fulfil. Enterprise 
may reap an ephemeral reward, even when dishonest ; but great, 
lasting success is conditioned on probity. 

" Mr. Wood was not slow to testify his appreciation of the ser- 
vices. The salary for the first year had been fixed at two hundred 
dollars, but at the end of the year Mr. Bowen found six hundred 
dollars credited to his account, without anything having been said 
by either party upon the subject. At the same time his salary 
was, without solicitation, raised to one thousand dollars. This was 
nobly generous of Mr. Wood. Yet he could richly afford to do it, 
for the young man's services, even then, were remarkably cheap, 
considering the amount and kind of sei-vice rendered. 

" In 1853, Mr. Wood retired from business. He was succeeded 
by Mills, Bowen & Dillingbeck. The members of the firm were 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 533 

D. H. Mills, George S. Bowen, Chamicy T. Bowen, and Stephen 
Dillingbeek. The business continued to be conducted on the 
same plan as before, only on a much larger scale, and even more 
profitable. This firm was in 1856 succeeded by the famous 
house of Bowen Brothers, of which George S, and Chauncy T. 
were the co-partners. - In July, 1857, their oldept brother, Jamea 
H. Bowen, came on from Albany, New York, and joined them. 

The business of this house during the last ten years has been 
immense. There is not a merchant in the West who has not 
heard of Bowen Brothers, and the majority of those who have 
been in trade any length of time have, doubtless, had more or less 
dealings vsdth them. The enviable reputation of Chicago as a 
centre for [wholesale supplies is largely due to the enterprise and 
scrupulous honesty of this house. Its sales for the last three years 
amounted to more than fifteen million dollars. Neither St. Louis 
nor Cincinnati, cities which once looked down in disdain upon 
Chicago, has a house that can make any such showing into several 
millions. About a year ago the firm of Bowen Bros, retired f ^om 
business, and erected one of the finest mercantile blocks in the 
city." Men who began at the bottom and climbed to the top, know 
well how to repeat their eiforts when reverses come. Along with 
these pioneers and founders have come up a host of young men 
of sterling stuff, whose opportunity has now arrived, and who will 
have before them a grand career, worthy of being written out for 
the admiration and encom-agement of succeeding generations 



CHAPTER XXXVn. 



" The West cannot exist without Chicago ; her natural situation and advan- 
tages give her control of the Western States, and in future times, seated in 
all the majesty of empire, on Lake Michigan, she shall look back, as to a fear- 
ful dream, upon the recent conflagration, and in all probability remember it as a 
blessing rather than a curse." — Anon. 



534 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

Faith, existing in the hearts and throbbing in the pulses of 
great or common men, could not produce grass on the top of a 
bare rock, or create a city without people and without the co- 
operation of nature. We have no king to dictate where towns 
shall be established, and compel them to be inhabited. In this 
free country, men gather into the best locations, as naturally as 
water runs down hill. And probably there is no spot more 
adapted to the wants of the commerce of the Northwest, in all its 
vast domains, than that on which Chicago stands. 

The energetic and wise master-builders have planned well and 
executed firmly, and they need profound wisdom and limitless 
energy to fulfil all the hopes of mankind ; but it would seem as 
though Providence had provided a place for the confluence of 
nations, and given every possible suggestion to guide and encour- 
age our citizens. The fire has altered no natural laws, changed 
none of the causes of growth that inhere in the geographical posi- 
tion, left materially uninjured much that has been done to pro- 
mote the transaction of business and the comfort and ease of liv- 
ing ; while it has advertised us to the world, and opened to us 
tlieir sympathies, as nothing else could have done. True, there 
is much latent selfishness- in the world, and men will go where 
they can buy for the least money what they want — in short, 
where they think they can do the best for themselves. If we 
keep tlie largest stocks, and sell for the smallest profits, and con- 
vince the world about us that this is true, our city will continue 
to command the attention of buyers and sellers, and grow into 
increased greatness. These results are possible, because of our 
magnificent harbor for the Lake shipping. Already we have 
thirty four miles of dockage, with opportunities for indefinite ex- 
pansion, by means of slips, and are at the head of the grandest 
inland navigation on the globe. 

" During eight months of the year there is an average daily ar- 
rival and departure of some fifty sailing vessels and steamers. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEsl. 535 

These bring coal, iron, wood, lumber, and heavy goods. Of these 
Lake craft, three hundred and ninety-eight are owned in Chicago. 
These are of an average capacity of 214^ tons ; the exact aggre- 
gate is 85,313 tons, Vessels bringing coal and iron from Buffalo 
and Cleveland are much larger. The entire fleet entering and 
clearing from the port of Chicago average 239f tons ; and the 
total number during the eight months of 1870, from April to 
November, both inclusive, was 12,546 ; while the arrivals and 
departures, during the same eight months at the ports- of New 
York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco, 
Mobile, and Savannah, were 12,259 — 287 less than at the single 
port of Chicago. It is true, the sailing vessels and steamers en- 
tering New York are much larger — averaging 599f tons; but 
even their aggregate tonnage is far less than the port of Chicago ! 
The fleets of deeply-laden vessels that daily arrive and depart 
from oiw youthful city would greatly surprise even a resident of 
New York or Liverpool." 

The deepening of the canal to the Illinois River, which is thus 
connected with Lake Michigan, must greatly increase the already 
enormous trade which floats on its bosom. This all remains in- 
tact ; and five of the grain-elevators stand erect and ready for 
business. So that the great expectations of Chicago cannot fail, 
unless nature fails, and the world burns up. Our system of parks 
will be needed in due season ; and the continuous drive through 
parks and boulevards of twenty miles, all round the city, will yet 
be thronged with the prosperous and happy people of our recon- 
structed metropolis. 

The railroads of the Northwest are :;11 vitally concerned in the 
new Chicago's prosperity, and each udded mile is directly or in- 
directly tributary to the markets of this city. Besides the great 
rival lines to the Pacific now in operation, the Northern Pacific 
commands an immense territory, a vast empire of fertile lands 
rich in mineral resources ; and this must become a source of 



536 HISTORY OF THB QKEAT FIJBB8 

wealth, also, to us, bringing not only that splendid region to our 
doors, but aiding us to control the Oriental trade which has en- 
riched so many cities of the world. 

Our manufactures have begun to acquire root and strength,. 
and are destined to develop indefinitely, because the labor, coal, 
and materials are all here waiting the call of capital to convert 
tkem into immense profit. The following table shows what 
nationalities are here, and suggest the various industries they 
pursue, and the ties which bind us to the Old World. The num 
bers represent families : — 

United States 28,839 

L-eland 19,145 

Canada 3,167 

Norway 2,910 

Austria 1,426 

Denmark 655 

Poland 370 

Italy 275 

Germany 28,870 

England 4,947 

Sweden 2,940 

Scotland 1,750 

France , 722 

Holland 527 

Switzerland 337 

Wales 247 

Besides these, there are families from twenty-seven other coun- 
tries. Whatever business any man may wish to follow or carry 
on, which appertains to civilized communities, he can find the 
artisans here who know how to aid him. These people are mainly 
inhabitants of Chicago still, and their presence will attract and 
employ the capital of the world. 

The actual indebtedness of Chicago is under fifteen millions, 




JOHN T. FAKWELL. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 539 

and the largest part of the improvements remain for which this 
money was expended. According to the best estimates, our total 
loss will amount to two hundred and ten millions. A portion 
of this will be recovered as a basis of operations, so that we are 
better off to-day than we were fifteen, or possibly ten, years ago. 
The instantaneous leap forward, after the first touch of the 
hand of a world's charity, and the successive strides of the Young 
Giant, towards former supremacy, assure us that the future shall 
be as the past, and increasingly glorious. 

AGE AND POPULATION OF WESTERN CITIES. 

Settled. Population, 1870. 

Detroit 1700 79,580 

St. Louis 1764 310,864 

Pittsburgh 1784 86,235 

Louisville 1785 100,764 

Cincinnati 1789 216,239 

Chicago 1830 70 

Chicago, present population 1871 334,270 

Facilities for the cattle trade have been furnished by the Union 
Stock Yards, which the fire did not harm, and are of such im- 
portance as to justify the insertion of the following description : 

Probably no enterprise in the history of Chicago has combined 
so many corporations and capitalists together into one great com- 
pany as the Great Union Stock Yards. Railroad companies that 
have heretofore been rivals for the live stock trade of the West, 
and often at war with each other upon this subject, are now a unit, 
working together as architects of this great undertaking. Their 
tracks have been extended to a common centre, and nine of the 
former competing roads now connect directly with the Great 
Union Stock Yards. The broad prairie that stretches southward 
from the city is now traversed and retraversed by their different 
branches, all tending toward the great bovine city of the world. 
31 



540 HISTORY OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

Packers and commission dealers, whose extensive establish mei its 
have heretofore demanded their entire attention, are now found 
at this nucleus, prospecting upon the results of the enterprise, 
laying plans for the future, and prognosticating the prosperity 
that is to follow the opening of this great cattle mart. Their esti- 
mates for the future might be considered chimerical by the Eip 
Yan Winkles c>f other and less go-ahead cities ; but Western men 
know the extent of the broad prairies of Illinois and neighboring 
States, which stretch away like the pampas of South America, 
yielding pasturage for innumerable herds of cattle, found nowhere 
else in the country. 

Among the first business transactions of the hamlet, now grown 
into this great city, was buying and selling cattle and swine, large 
herds of which were easily driven to market here, slaughtered, and 
shipped to other points. The packing business was only another 
branch of the trade, and beef packed in Chicago was to be found 
in the marts of Liverpool long before the growing Western town 
from whence it came had a " local habitation and a name " among 
the cities of the continent. 

At the World's Fair, held in London several years ago, the at- 
tention of Queen A^ictoria and Prince Albert was called to several 
tierces of beef from the packing establishment of the Houghs, in 
Chicago ; and they were awarded a premium. Thus the pro- 
duce of the new city began to grow in the estimation of foreign 
dealers, and an impetus was given to the trade. Steadily advan- 
cing, the exports from our harbor began to look like those of much 
older cities ; and St. Louis and Cincinnati lost their laurels — the 
latter ceasing to be the recognized "porkopolis" of the laud. 
Reaching out like a young giant, the new commercial port seized 
upon the produce of the prairies of Illinois and the West, and put 
an embargo upon the growth of older towns less centrally located. 
Dealers in live stock soon left their old landmarks in Cincinnati, 
St. Louis, Louisville, and established themselves in the Garden 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 541 

City ; the places that had known them knowing them no more, 
unless it was to hear of their prosperity and increasing wealth. 
Eailroads sprang into existence, and cut the prairies in every di- 
rection, while the lakes were whitened by the unfurled sails of 
thousands of vessels ; and the great rush of business which now 
blesses Chicago as a metropolis was established permanently, 
upon a basis having for its foundations millions of acres of pro- 
ductive lands, great natural resources, and untold commercial 
advantages. 

On the first of June, of the present year, ground was broken 
for the new yards. The first thing to be done was to drain the 
land — a work of no small importance. An immense box sewer 
was constructed along Halstead street, to serve as a main dis- 
charge for the drains and sewers. This structure is half a mile 
in length, running north and south, and four feet in the clear. 
Constructed on the most improved plans, these drains and sewers, 
underlying the yards in every direction, perform their work in 
the most admirable manner. The soil is now in good condition, 
and no inconvenience will be experienced from wet land or stand- 
ing water. In this particular, the great bovine city will be far 
ahead of the populous and crowded human city which it adjoins, 
and of which it is destined to become an important part. 

The total length of the drains and sewers is about thirty miles. 
They have caused a wonderful transformation in the level, wet 
land on the prairie, which it has heretofore been considered im- 
possible to drain. The argument deduced from this is, that all 
the low land surrounding Chicago is valuable for building pur- 
poses, and that it can be thoroughly drained, so as to afford v. 
solid foundation for structures of any size. 

The tract of land selected as the site of the yards was now 
thoroughly drained, and what a short time before was a marshy 
prairie, covered with rank grass, appeared dry and firm, admit- 
ting of the passage of loaded wagons, and the laying of railroad 



54:2 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

tracks over it. Lines of rails were soon constructed, leading from 
different railroads, which were to transport the immense amount 
of lumber required for the construction of the yards to the spot. 
Large sills of timber were placed upon the ground, across which 
were laid three-inch joists. Upon this foundation the planking 
was commenced. That portion of the yards to be used for cattle 
pens was planked with three-inch pine planks, placed firmly upon 
the joists and nailed thereto. Two-inch plank was similarly 
placed upon those portions where the hogs are to be kept. The 
planking being raised from the ground, affords the water and 
refuse from the yards an opportunity of draining off to the ground, 
where it immediately finds its way into the drains and sewers 
which underlie the whole, thence into the main sewer on Halsted 
street, and into the river. The entire planking, like the draining, 
was done in the most substantial manner, no expense or pains 
being spared to make it firm and solid, so that no accidents 
might result in the future from its sinking or breaking through, 
beneath the tread of the herds destined to pass over it. A por- 
tion of the planking was done by contract, and the remainder by 
the company. As many as 1,000 men were employed upon it at 
one time. 

The entire 345 acres comprised in the yards are laid out into 
streets and alleys, in the same manner as a large city. Through 
the centre, from north to south, runs a broad avenue, which has 
been named E street. This great central thoroughfare is one 
mile in length, and seventy-five feet broad. It is divided into 
three sections, like a bridge, to facilitate the driving of cattle 
through it. Droves passing to the south will take one section; 
those passing to the north, another, meeting on the way without 
the slightest inconvenience or stoppage. The drover's whip will 
not be called into requisition in passing through this avenue, as 
all will be " fair sailing." This street runs through the entire 
grounds, and is paved with Mcolson pavement; the blocks used 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 543 

being the refuse ends of plank, etc., which economy greatl}- re- 
duced the expense. There is not a finer or smoother drive in 
Chicago than this well-paved and finely rounded street. Kun- 
ning parallel to Avenue E are other streets, leading to the rail- 
roads that surround the yards on all sides but the south. 

These streets are crossed at right angles by others, running- 
east and west. The principal one of these passes by the Hotel, 
and has been named " Broadway " by the workmen. It is, indeed, 
a broad avenue, and will probably retain the name, as it leads 
from the Hough House to the Bank and Exchange building, 
where the life and excitement of the yards will centre. It is 
sixty-six feet wide, planked with heavy timber, and traversed on 
the south by a raised sidewalk. 

There are five hundred of these enclosures, all lying on the dif- 
ferent streets, like the buildings of a city, and all probably num- 
bered. In size these enclosures vary from 20 X 35 to 85 x 112, 
while others are precisely the size of a car, calculated to hold just 
one car-load of stock. The cattle-pens are open, but those designed 
for hogs are covered with sheds, and so arranged as to prevent the 
hogs " piling," which they are inclined to do in cold weather. 

The yards are provided with six hay-barns and six corn-cribs, 
situated on different parts of the enclosure, convenient to different 
sections of pens. 

Perhaps the greatest feature of these yards is that of the differ- 
ent railway accommodations. Nine of the principal railroads of 
the West find a common centre here. There have been con- 
structed fifteen miles of track, as branches, which connect these 
roads with the yards, besides many switch-tracks and side-runs. 
Upon the north are tracks of four railroads — the Great Eastern, 
the Michigan Central, the Michigan Southern, and the Pittsburg 
and Fort "Wayne. These roads all run in from the east, and their 
tracks are so arranged by the side of " shoots " that whole trains 
can be unloaded at once. On the north, and parallel to the 



544 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIKES 

"shoots " belonging to these roads, are others running nearly par- 
allel. They are for the accommodation of two roads, the Chicago, 
Burlington, and Quincy and the Illinois Central, which also ap- 
proach the grounds from the east. The east and west sides of the 
yards describe an inward curve, along which are platforms and 
" shoots." The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad owns those 
upon the east, and the Chicago and Northwestern and the Chicago, 
Alton and St. Louis those upon the west, where their tracks are 
constructed. By the act of incorporation all the roads have the 
privilege of running over each other's tracks, but so ample are the 
arrangements that this will seldom, if ever, be necessary. The 
yards are provided with water-tanks for the engines, wood-yards, 
turn-tables, and everything that is required at a great depot, 
which iu fact these grounds are — the greatest in the world. 

The facilities for loading and unloading cargoes of cattle at 
these yards are unsurpassed. Each road has 1,000 feet of plat- 
form, which is provided with " shoots " leading directly into the 
yards and pens of the division appropriated to the us& of such 
road. When a train of cars loaded with live-stock arrives, it 
draws up in front of the " shoots." Gates are so arranged that 
they open across the platform extending to the cars, and thus 
form an enclosure through which the stock passes directly into 
the yards. These gates enable a whole train to unload as quick 
as one car. Several of the " shoots " are made double, so that the 
upper and lower floors of a carload of hogs can be passed out at 
the same time. This arrangement is so perfect that there is little 
chance for an accident to happen to the stock as they pass down 
the avenue formed by the gates, and are thence driven into the 
pens. As many as 500 cars can be loaded or unloaded in this 
manner at the same time, the whole operation occupying only a 
few moments. This fine arrangement is considered one of the 
greatest features of the yards. Water is furnished in ample abun- 
dance by Artesian wells on the place. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 645 

Since their opening, these yards have verified the opinions ex- 
pressed above, and constitute a system as nearly perfect as human 
skill can construct. The Hough House has become the Transit 
House. A neat chapel, erected by the Second Baptist Church, 
and patronized and sustained in part by that body, opens its 
doors and affords religious privileges to the residents and visitors 
there, who take a deep interest in the exercises of the Sunday- 
school and the preaching of the gospel. Who shall deny that 
Chicago must go forward more swiftly in the future than the 
past, when these vast facilities for business which we have named, 
and these surroundings of country and population are fully con- 
sidered ? 

The testimony of our rival city, St. Louis, is a generous recog 
nition of our geographical supremacy. Said the Missouri Be- 
publican : — '• Chicago, though stricken in purse and person as no 
other city recorded in history ever has been, is not crushed out 
and destroyed, and her complete restoration to the place and 
power from which she is temporarily removed is only a question 
of time. It would be sad, indeed, if a conflagration, though swal- 
lowing up the last house and the last dollar of a great commer- 
cial metropolis, could fix the seal of perpetual annihilation upon 
it, and declare that the wealth and prosperity which ouce were 
should exist no more forever. Such might be the case, pei'haps, 
were there none other save human forces at work ; but into the 
composition of such a city as that which the demon of fire has 
conquered, enter the forces and the necessities of nature. Chi- 
cago did not become what she was, simply because shrewd capi- 
talists and energetic business men so ordained it. That mighty 
Agent, who fashions suns and stars, and swings them aloft in the 
boundless ocean of space, marks out by immutable decree the 
channels along which population and trade must flow. When 
the first settlers landed at Jamestown and Plymouth, and began 
to hew a path for civilization through the primeval forest, it was 



546 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

as certain as the law of gravitation, that if this continent were 
destined to be a new empire, fit to receive the surplus millions of 
the eastern hemisphere, and contribute to the progress and en- 
lightenment of mankind everywhere, there must and would be a 
few prominent centres, so to speak, around which the vast ma- 
chine could revolve. Those centres were determined by the 
geography and topography of the country ; and when the ad- 
vancing tide of immigration touched them they began to de- 
velop as naturally and irresistibly as the flower does beneath the 
genial influences of sunshine and showers. For practical pur- 
poses neither Jamestown nor Plymouth were of any special con- 
sequence ; therefore the one has ceased to exist altogether, and 
the other remains an insignificant town. But the inner shore of 
of Boston harbor, the Island of Manhattan, the site of Philadel- 
phia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, N^ew Orleans, St. Louis, and San 
Francisco, furnished the required facilities, and we see the result 
to-day. Nature declares where great cities shall be built, and 
man simply obeys the orders of nature. 

" The spot where Chicago river empties into Lake Michigan 
belongs to the same category as those we have mentioned. It 
was designed and intended for the location of a grand mart to 
supply the wants of the extreme north-west— that portion of the 
central plateau lying on the line and to the north of the Union 
Pacific Railway, and the Western part of the British possessions. 
The trade from these sections seeks an outlet there, and finds it 
better and more available than anywhere else. This fact was 
settled before the first brick was laid in Chicago; was settled 
when Chicagc rose to the rank of the fifth city in the republic, 
and is settled just as firmly now, when, to all human appearances, 
her destruction is wellnigh accomplished. 

"Natural advantages, then, must compel the reconstruction of 
Chicago, even though every foot of its soil passes out of the hands 
of the present proprietors. And if we examine what the fire has 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST, 547 

spared, it will be found that the nucleus of a new and rapid 
growth is not wanting. 

" If we add to these resources the railway lines converging to 
that point, which represent an aggregate capital of $300,000,000 ; 
and remember that every railway is directly interested in the 
process of reconstruction, and will aid it in all possible ways, it 
may not be difficult for even the most incredulous to see why and 
how Chicago must grow again. That she is absolutely ruined or 
permanently disabled is sheer impossibility, which no sensible 
person will for a moment credit." 



CHAPTER XXXVin. 



If it were possible to obtain a commission of true, honest, pub- 
lic-spirited citizens, to whom all general affairs were entrusted, 
with power to make laws for the city, and determine the charac- 
ter of its future, they would doubtless greatly change many 
things, and introduce reforms and establish customs of incalcula- 
ble benefit to all coming generations. In the nature of things 
this is impossible, and all Utopias exist but in the brain of en- 
thusiasts, never probably to issue into living realities, while men 
are prone to error and sin. Education should be the right and 
duty of every child of the city ; in other words, all persons 
should enjoy, either freely or compulsorily, the advantages of, 
learning. The principal temptation of city life should be put 
away by the prohibition of all sales of intoxicating liquors, and 
by such careful legislation as to prevent any drunkard from ex- 
isting among us, or any dram-seller plying his trade among our 
citizens openly or by stealth. Gambling should be made a crime 
and absolutely crushed out, and forever prevented. Harlotry 
should be trampled under foot, and kept down by every resource 



648 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FLBES 

of law. Honesty should be encouraged, and justice magnified by 
the officers and judges, whose example should be above reproach. 
The Sabbath should be regarded as a sacred institution of univer- 
sal obligation, and defended from the encroachments of power or 
the perversion of selfishness and ignorance. Religion should be 
the voluntary choice of all men ; and its ordinances and ma- 
chinery, simply protected from the rude hand of violence, should 
be given free scope in the improvement and satisfaction of the 
people. Literature, science, and art should enjoy every encour- 
agement, and be made to minister, not, as in Paris, to the worse 
portions of our nature, but to the ennobling, gratification, refine- 
ment, and culture of the whole community. 

In the material improvements there should be care exercised to 
guard against the recurrence of fires. In the French capital, the 
man in whose house the fire begins that consumes property, re- 
covers no insurance. The buildings also are constructed slowly, 
and with such regard to the destroyer's ravages that, in the last 
ten years before the Commune, the damage by fire did not 
amount, according to the testimony of an American merchant 
there, to two hundred thousand dollars. It should, therefore, be 
an ofifence to build, in the heart of the city, of anything combus- 
tible. Let a city grow to stand half or twice a thousand years. 
This would be economy, and our liberty should not be construed 
into license to prepare, under our neighbor's eaves, a tinder-box 
to burn him down or do him damage. Water arrangements 
.should be made as perfect and safe as ingenuity could devise and 
money procure. Immense engines and accessible reservoirs should 
be provided, by which whole blocks could be flooded and placed 
beyond peril, as gigantic barriers against the progress of con- 
flagrations, however furious. The Fire Department should be 
organized and drilled to an efficiency like that attained among 
soldiers of the regular army. 

How magnificent might be the future of our city under a sys- 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 54:9 

tem like this ! Our influence would extend on every railway and 
higliway, borne by the billow and the breeze to remote districts, 
and wherever it was felt, the tone of public sentiment would be 
exalted, and men would turn to us as the mariner to his compass 
or chart, for laws, sentiments, principles, and fashions, and the 
whole conduct of life. Our example would be such that the 
Kepublic, energized and purified, would pulsate with new life, 
and her glorious career would prolong itself to the end of time. 
We close with this pleasant picture drawn by another's hand : 
" Then shall our fair city rise out of her ashes, and sit beside 
this lake for ten thousand years to come, beautiful for situation, 
the joy of the whole earth. The fair Garden City, the centre 
and glory of the garden of the world, one of the fairest jewels in 
the diadem of America, the strong right hand of our noble na- 
tion, where our children will live in great peace and prosperity 
when we are dead and gone, where starvation and squalor shall 
be known no more, where the poorest home will be filled with, 
plenty, and the poorest child have an equal chance with the rich- 
est to come to the knowledge of the truth, as it touches our whole 
life here and hereafter. Where all homes will stand close to all 
temples, and all temples near all homes — a city like that John 
saw in his great vision, that standeth four square, and the height, 
and the length, and the breadth of it are equal." 



65Q HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 



THE FIRES m WISCONSIN. 



CHAPTER XXXIX 



While we were struggling in our agony, neighboring States 
and communities were also visited by the raging monster, and 
suffered a scourge as keenly felt and more destructive of life. 
The drought, whose pernicious influence had desiccated the air in 
our own vicinity, and parched everything to a state of prepara- 
tion for fire, was very general in the western country. Water, 
for ordinary purposes of family use and for cattle, had become a 
luxury in many places, and even an expensive one. The streams 
and springs were dry in large sections, and the people unprotected 
from such a foe as charged down upon them. Occasional confla- 
grations were occurring in the woods of Wisconsin and, Michigan, 
caused by the hunter's carelessness, or as a natural consequence 
of his sport. In this way, the wadding lodging in the dry grass, 
prairie fires have originated which desolated the fairest regions 
of our country, year by year. But upon the blackened soil there 
appeared again in the vernal season a fresh growth that made all 
look fair when summer came. So we may hope our desolated 
regions will bloom again when the forces of nature and the ener- 
gies of man combine in harmony to develop the seeds and roots 
of beauty and wealth that now lie dormant. The smoke from 
these stray burnings increased until the bosom of the Lake was 
veiled, and the country inundated by its volume. These things 
were of common occurrence, and did not seem to be precursors. 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 551 

as thej were, of that devastation which has befallen northern 
"Wisconsin and western Michigan. In actual loss of life we suf- 
fered less than the people of those districts ; while the protracted 
nature of their visitation and their remoteness from lines of travel 
made the individual suffering more keenly felt. Here we had 
every comfort that a sympathizing world could provide speedily 
brought to our doors ; but there aid came more slowly, as the 
tidings of their calamity lingered longer on the way to the ears 
of the world. 

WIND, FIKE, AND SMOKE. 

It is difficult to apprehend vividly enough the rush of the wind 
over our prairies, and especially at such a time when the fire 
drew the air towards itself with accelerated velocity — each devel- 
oping the force of the other. Accounts inform us with uniformity 
concerning the density of the smoke-cloud, and the intensity of 
the fire torrent. 

A friend, who was in a sailboat on Little Sturgeon Bay, de- 
scribes the fire blowing off the shore as terrific, so much so that 
trees on an island about half a mile from shore were set on fire, 
and the island burned over. He says that after the fire he could 
have picked up a yawl boatful of birds in the bay, that had got 
burned in their flight, and dropped into the water. A passenger 
on one of the Lake boats running across to Green Bay gives some 
facts of interest which serve to confirm the dreadful nature of the 
time we are describing. 

The boat was greatly detained on her upward trip on account 
of high wind and smoke, and the latter was so dense that the boat 
had to be steered entirely with the compass. The fire on the 
east side of the Bay extended in an almost unbroken line from 
the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago to the northern extremity 
of the Eastern Peninsula, fully 150 miles, burning up in its course 
fences, barns, houses, and an endless quantity of cedar telegraph 



652 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

poles and tan bark, the latter of which was piled in immense 
heaps on the docks. So deep and dismal was the darkness caused 
by the immense volume of smoke, that the sun was totally ob- 
scured for a distance of 200 miles. This midnight darkness 
continued for a week. The boat, of course, was delayed, but she 
left Escanaba for Green Bay on the fatal Sunday night at twelve 
o'clock, but only made her way twelve miles out when forced to 
return on account of the stormy sea beneath and the sea of fire 
overhead. The air was red with burning fragments, carried all 
the way from Peshtigo and other places along the shore, a dis- 
tance of nearly fifty miles. The boat laid in Escanaba harbor 
until six o'clock a.m. Monday, when she was again started, the 
storm having but slightly subsided ; but the course was pursued, 
and Menomonee was reached with great difficulty. As they 
approached Menomonee they passed vessels loaded with furniture, 
etc, all being ready to leave if the place took fire. It was here 
the passengers learned of the destruction of Peshtigo. 
A correspondent writes, twelve days after the event : — 
This letter, to give it a local habitation and a name, is dated 
where Peshtigo was. In the glory of this Indian summer after- 
noon I look out on the ghastliest clearing that ever lay before 
mortal eyes. The sandy streets glisten with a frightful smooth- 
ness, and calcined fragments are all that remain of imposing edi- 
fices and hundreds of peaceful homes. This ominous clearing is 
in the centre of a blackened, withered forest of oak, pine, and 
tamarack, with a swift river — the Peshtigo — gliding silently 
through the centre, from northeast to southwest. Situated seven 
miles from the Green Bay, on the Peshtigo River, the town com- 
manded all the lumber trade of the northern Peninsula, and grew 
rapidly into importance as a frontier mart of Chicago. Built by 
an enterprising but lately singularly unfortunate Chicago sufierer, 
William B. Ogden, the town has had but one purpose, to make 
money for its founder and keep up the lumber interests. But one 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 553 

industry breeds many, and in time a railroad running seven miles 
to the bay, connected the little city with the great chain of lakes. 
Great foundries and machine-shops rose on the banks of the river, 
and a busy mill stood in ceaseless operation in the centre of the 
town. The banks of the Peshtigo teem with a rich and various 
growth of timber, and a trade of years stood always in prospective 
to her busy people. The great Northern Pacific Railroad was to 
be tapped by a road even now building to the place where Pesh- 
tigo was, and every hamlet and town in j^orthern Wisconsin 
envied and admired the wonderful little city. 

The keen eye of trade and speculation was not deceived ; popu- 
lation flocked in amain, and fully 2,000 people had established 
permanent homes. The site was well chosen for beauty as well 
as business ; the river at this point runs through a slight bluff", 
which breaks into a low flat before the stream escapes from the 
borders of the town. The excellent water-power as well as the 
lumber interest had determined the spot, and a mill was one of 
the first establishments in operation when the walls of the village 
began to rise. Below the mill the ground on either bank sloped 
gently into low, pebbly flats, which joined the water's edge a few 
rods from the centre of the town. The business and residence 
streets were wide and well laid out, the houses prettily built and 
carefully painted, and little ornamental gardens were frequent. 

The river cut the town pretty fairly in twain, the works 
and shops of the Peshtigo Company covering most of the north- 
eastern shore, while trade and business for the main part held 
themselves on the southwestern bank. The site was, and is to 
this day, unmistakably a clearing. A solid wall of pine, oak, and 
tamarack hedge in the desolate waste, even now. As it stood, 
the pretty bustlin . village combined the orderly enterprise of 
New England and the irrepressible vigor of the typical Western 
" city." Eoads cut through the forest communicated with a long 
line of prospering lumbering hamlets and thriving farms, to the 



554 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIRES 

west and south. The surrounding woods were interspersed with 
innumerable open glades of crisp brown herbage and dried 
furze, which had for weeks glowed with the autumn fires that 
infest these regions. Little heed was paid them, for the first rain 
would inevitably quench the flames. But the rain never came, 
and finall}^ valiant battle was waged far and near against the 
slowl_y increasing fires. 'In this, as in other towns, the danger 
was thought well warded off by the general precautions. The fire 
had raged up to the very outskirts of the town weeks before that 
fatal Sunday, and the fires were set outward to fight the enemy. 
Everything infiammable had apparently been taken out of harm's 
way on that memorable Sunday. One careful citizen traversed 
the western outskirt, and -assured his people that no danger could 
come from that quarter. 

The sharp air of early October had sent the people in from the 
evening church services more promptly than usual, although 
numbers delayed to speculate on a great noise and ado which set 
in ominously from the west. The housewives looked tremblingly 
at the fires and lights within, and the men took a last look at 
the possibilities without ; for many it was truly a last glimpse. 
The noise grew in volume, and came nearer and nearer with 
terrific crackling and detonations. The forest rocked and tossed 
tumultuously ; a dire alarm fell upon the imprisoned village, for 
the swirling blasts came now from every side. In one awful 
instant, before expectation could give shape to the horror, a great 
flame shot up in the western heavens, and in countless fiery 
tongues struck downward into the village, piercing every object 
that stood in the town like a red-hot bolt. A deafening roar, 
mingled with blasts of electric flame, filled the air, and paralyzed 
every soul in the place. There was no beginning to the work of 
ruin ; the flaming whirlwind swirled in an instant through the 
Itown. There is no diversity in general experience ; all heard the 
first inexplicable roar ; some aver that the earth shook, while a 




I5SHTIGO. 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 557 

credulous few avow that the heavens opened, and the fire rained 
down from above. 

Moved by a common instinct, for all knew that the woods that 
encircled the town were impenetrable, every habitation was de- 
serted to the flames, and the grasping multitude flocked to the river. 
On the west the mad horde saw the bridge in flames in a score of 
places, and turning sharply to the left, with one accord, plunged 
into the water. Three hundred people wedged themselves in be- 
tween the rolling booms, swayed to and fi-o by the current, where 
they roasted in the hot breath of flames that hovered above them, 
and singed the hair on each head momentarily exposed above the 
water. Here despairing men and women held their children till 
the cold water came as an ally to the flames, and deprived them 
of strength. 

Meantime the eastern bank was densely crowded by the dying 
and the dead. Rushing to the river from this direction the swirl- 
ing blasts met the victims full in the face and mowed a swath 
tlirough the fleeing throng. Inhalation was anniliilation. Scores 
fell before the first blast. A few. were able to crawl to the pebbly 
flats, but so dreadfully disfigured that death must have been pref- 
erable. All could not reach the river ; even the groups that fell 
prone on the grateful damp fiats suffered excruciating agony. The 
fierce blaze, playing in tremendous counter currents above them 
on the higher ground, was sufiiciently strong to set the clothing 
afiame, and the fiying sand, heated as by a furnace, blistered the 
flesh wherever it fell. All that could break through the stifling 
simoon had come to the. river. In the red glare they could see the 
sloping bank covered with the bodies of those that fell by the way. 
Few living on the back streets succeeded in reaching the river, the 
hot breath of the flre cutting them down as they ran. But here a 
new danger befell. The cows, terrifled by smoke aud flame, 
rushed in a great lowing drove to the river brink. Women and 
children were trampled by the fi-ightened brutes and many, 



558 HISTORY OF THE GREAT FIRES 

losing their hold on the friendly logs, were swept under the 
waters. 

This was the sitnation above the bridge ; below, a no less har- 
rowing thing happened. The bnrning timbers of the mill, bnilt 
at the edge of the bridge, blew and floated down npon the multi- 
tude assembled near the flats, and inflicted the most lamentable 
sufferings. The men fought this new death bitterly ; those who 
were fortunate enough to have coats flung them over the heads of 
wives and children, and dij)ped water with their hats on the im- 
provised shelter. Scores had every shred of hair burned off in the 
battle, and many lost their lives in protecting others. The firemen 
hiad made an effort to save some of the buildings, and the hose 
was run fi-om the river to some important edifice. The heat instantly 
stopped the attempt, but not before the hose, swollen with water, 
had been burned through in a hundred places. Although the 
onslaught of fire and wind had been instantaneous, and the de- 
struction almost simultaneous, the fierce, stifling currents of heat 
careered through the air for hours. These currents were more 
fatal than the flames of the bmning village. Ignorant of the ex- 
tent of the fire, and the frightful combination of wind and flames, 
many of the company's workmen, some with wives and children, 
shut themselves up in the great brick building and perished in the 
raging heats of the next half hour. Others on the remote streets 
broke for the clearing beyond the woods, but few ever passed the 
burning barrier. "Within the boundaries of the to^ai and accessi- 
ble to the multitude the river accommodation was rather limited, 
and when the animals had crowded in the situation was full of de- 
spair. The flats were covered with prone figures with packs ablaze 
and faces pressed rigidly into the cooling moist earth. The flames 
played about and above all with an incessant, deafening roar. 

The tornado was but momentary, but was succeeded by mael- 
stroms of fire, smoke, cinders, and red-hot sand. Wherever a 
building seemed to resist the fire, the roof would be sent whirling 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST, 559 

in the air, brealdng into clouds of flame as it fell. The shower 
of sparks, cinders, and hot sand fell in continuous and prodigious 
force, and did quite as much in killing the people as the first ter- 
rific sirocco that succeeded the fire. The wretched throng, neck 
deep in the water, and the still more helpless beings stretched on 
the heated sands, were pierced and blistered by those burning par- 
ticles. They seemed like lancets of red-hot steel, penetrating the 
thickest covering. The e^ddence now remains to attest the incred- 
ible force of the slenderest pencils of darting flame. Hard iron- 
wood plow-handles still remain, perforated as though by minnie 
balls, and for the main part unburnt. When the hapless dwellers 
in the remote streets saw themselves cut off from the river, groups 
broke in all directions in a wild panic of fright and terror. A 
few took refuge in a cleared field bordering on the town. Here 
flat upon the ground, with faces pressed in the sand, the helpless 
sufferers lay and roasted. But few sundved the dreadful agony. 
The next day revealed a picture exceeding in horror any battle- 
field, — mothers with children hugged closely lay in rigid groups, 
the clothes burned off and the poor flesh seared to a crisp. One 
mother, solicitous only for her babe, embalms her unutterable 
love in the terrible picture left on these woeful sands. "With her 
bare fingers she had scraped out a pass as the soldiers did before 
Petersbm-g, and pressing the little one into this, she . put her own 
body above it as a shield, and when the daylight came, both were 
dead, — ^the little baby, face unscarred, but the mother burnt 
almost to cinders. 

The hardy lumbermen are not wont to exaggerate, and the per- 
fect accord of every story and incident confirms every episode of 
this tragedy. Faithful to the helpless, a stout woodman carried 
out on his shoulders one deadly sick of fever. He burrowed for 
the helpless body a sepulchre, and then began the struggle for 
his own life. He had lingered too long, and his scarred body 
was found near the refuge of the man his heroism had preseiwed. 



560 HISTOET OF THE GEEAT EIEES 

The tornado played through the desolated streets, and swept 
the river and the low land adjoining. The timber of the mill 
floating down among the people, made additional labor and 
danger, and daylight broke terribly on the satm-ated survivors 
before they dared drag their cramped limbs from the icy waters. 
The mingled crowd of men, women, and children, cows, and 
swine had held this watery refuge since 10 o'clock of the night 
before. Of the hundreds of human beings that entered the 
waters not all escaped ; the frightened cows trampled many under 
the waters ; the blistering heat blinded many who groped hope- 
lessly about in the current, and finally sank. To this day none 
can tell how great was the slaughter in the waters. After the 
burning heat of the night, a numbing chill followed, and the 
water-soaked group crawled over dead bodies and hot sands to the 
only blazing building in all the waste about them. Groups of 
dead bodies were found within a stone's throw of the water ; fam- 
ilies rushing down for a breathing place had been blown upon 
by the rushing blast and struck lifeless. The ghastly throng hud- 
dled shrieking and bewailing about the flaring embers, and the 
terrible roll of the missing was soon called from end to end of the 
ashen waste. No vestige of human habitation remained, and the 
steaming, freezing, wretched group, crazed by their unutterable 
terror and despair, plead with each other to restore the lost ones. 
The hot blasts of the night had blinded them, and they could but 
vaguely recognize one another in the murky light of the new day. 

Long after the flames had died out, when there was no more to 
feed on, the hot sands rendered moying about an exquisite torture, 
and long into the dismal mid-day the survivors were confined to 
the narrow circuit near the river. As the day wore on, help came 
in slowly from the northward. Several railroad gangs had es- 
caped amiihilation, and one gang, led by an ex-prize-fighter named 
Mulligan, came with promptness and efficiency to the rescue, 
through miles of burning prairie and blockaded roads. On Sun- 



EST CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 561 

day night sometliing over two thousand people were assembled 
within the confines of this industrious, prosperous city ; the dread- 
ful morning light came upon a haggard, maniacal multitude of 
less than seven hundi'ed. When the work of rescue began it was 
found that a great number had escaped by the bed of the river 
and the northern road to the port, and as the day advanced, half- 
naked stragglers, milvcmpt and blackened, began to stream into, 
the sparse settlement. As the molten sands cooled off, the woful 
work of recognition began. Peering into blackened faces, mothers, 
fathers, brothers tremblingly sought out missing ones. 

Some, in the immeasm^able anguish of the moment, had dashed 
themselves against the sands and let out the life with their own 
hands that the licking flames coveted. Men too distant fi'om the 
river to hope for rescue or safety, had cut the throats of their 
choking children, and were found in groups sometimes unscarred 
by the flames. 

In the streets, full twenty corpses were found with no apparent 
injury or abrasion. Fatuous tradesmen, in the sudden rush of 
flame, had tlirown their valuables into wells for security. Every 
well in the city was turned into a flaming pit, and the very waters 
half evaporated by the heat. Survivors attest that women and 
children, cut off from the rivers, were put into wells and covered 
with bedding. I have looked into every well in the ash-covered 
clearing, and there is no possibility that a living thing could have 
endured the flames that boiled and seethed in them. 

Eor hours the unreasoning search was continued by the famish- 
ed-dying remnants, but to little avail ; the dead, when recognizable, 
lay where they had fallen in the streets ; where the houses stood, 
the ground was whipped clean as a carpet, and all hope of identi- 
fying human ashes was idle. The next night the long-prayed-for 
rain came, gratefully to the living, and ki idly to the fleeting ashes 
of the dead. The great dread that hovered over the bay cities and 
towns was allayed, and the threatened danger nearly gone. Be 



562 HISTORY OF TIIE GREAT FIEES 

fore dark, help came to the perishing sufferers from the neighbor- 
ing villages. The wounded were taken by boat to Green Bay, 
whence some were forwarded to Milwaukee. 

From 9 o'clock Sunday night until dusk of Monday may be 
taken as the time of the main action of this terrible di-ama. By 
Tuesday the sweeping miles of fii'e had been quenched by Monday 
night's rain. A slight drizzle still fiu'ther aided the work of 
rescue. The ravages of the one night's tornado left umnistakable 
traces on every hand. Through the solid growth of timber a clean 
swath of blackened stumps and roots marked the com-se of the 
fiery tempests. The roads were cumbered with roasted cattle, and 
frequently with the carcases of bears and deer, while the ditches 
and cleared fields were strewn with smaller game and wild birds. 
Nearing the vicinity sadder relics were found, for those who pene- 
trated eastward through the wall of flame met equally fierce 
flames in the clearest places. Eemote dwellers on the highi'oads, 
warned of the great danger, with their families safely packed on 
their great farm-wagons, made northward through the highways 
for security; but the flames engulfed them in the heart of the 
woods, and the fragments of stout vehicles, bm-ned to the irons, 
now strew the road hither from Marinette, the last town on the 
Northern Wisconsin border. The hiofhroad enters Peshtio;o from 
the north, through a break in the encircling belt of woods, where 
the pretty Episcopal Church stood — the last to burn in the fatal 
place. Even before this was reached, a putrid hecatomb of dead 
cattle cumbered the wooded street. Among the pines, scores lay, 
not burnt, but smothered to death. Through this undei brush 
thirty bodies of men and childi-en were picked up, more or less in- 
jured by fire. In a great many instances the human remains were 
distinguished from animals by the teeth alone. One horror-stricken 
relative recognized the xlics of his nephew by a pen-knife im- 
bedded in an oblong mound of ashes. What does it avail to nar- 
rate circumstantially the inexpressible horrors of these succeeding 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 563 

days. What good to tell of the dead faces staring upward through 
the calm waters ; or the piteous circumstances of a hundred heart- 
wrenching tragedies during and following that treacherous Sunday 
blast ? jSTo moral underlies the terrible story ; all that frightened 
human nature w^as capable of came into play that direful night ; 
the slaughter resulted from no sin of omission or commission on 
the part of man. 'No unseemly panic aided natural causes in 
achieving, comparatively, the completest devastation in human 
annals. On the contrary, superhuman daring and energy were 
put iuto active operation to mitigate preternatural horrors. The 
immensity of visible destruction at Chicago surpasses the complete- 
ness of this devastation, but Chicago, with all its woes, has not 
two-thirds of its citizens to deplore as dead. 

With one of the men who passed through that night of destruc- 
tion, I wandered over the pretty rising plain where Peshtigo 
spread its thriving stores and handsome houses. Save where the 
houses were built with cellars, which was very rare, there is no 
trace of a former habitation. Here and there are metallic rem- 
nants of sewing-machines and cracked stoves. The hardware and 
drug stores leave almost the only reminders of things that were, — 
a blackened mortar stands idly in a wild confusion of melted glass 
and lead, with the pestle ready for a new decoction. 

Two or three men with troubled faces were moving about put- 
ting up a shed for the Belief Committee. They answered civilly and 
sadly that they had been in the fire, but saved themselves and 
nearest kin. They should have starved to death if the outside 
world had not stepped in, and now hoped to be shortly on their 
feet again. They despaired of the bright cheery little town ever 
being again as it was, but complacently " reckoned," if the scared 
ones didn't drive newcomers away by their silly stories, a new 
people would make a new Peshtigo. If you ever walked over 
the ground where a camp had been bm-ned, and there are few 
tha. served during the war that have not, 3 ou found there as mucli 



564 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT FIEES 

semblance of a substantial city as now marks the spot where 
Peshtigo's 2,000 people carried on the business of life a few days 
ago. On the bank of the river fish killed by the lusting flame are 
still to be seen, which the day after the fire were soft and white 
and unwounded. Crossing the fi-ail remnants of the bridge on 
timbers charred and fragile, my neighbor said, " It was as like the 
Judgment Day as I can imagine. Friend Hansen, with his wife 
and four children, believed firmly that it was, and while the fire 
i-ained down he began to walk composedly up and down his parlor 
with his family about him, and I have never seen him since." 

The material loss is estimated at $3,000,000, the greater part 
of which falls on William B. Ogden, who suffered simultaneously 
greater losses in Chicago. But undaunted by his accumulating 
misfortunes, that energetic man instantly sent an agent on to re- 
build the mills and shops, and gather a new people in the place 
if possible. There are 400 dead authentically accounted for there, 
besides half as many missing who cannot be accounted for, and 
probably never will be. Many of the mill hands and company's 
employes were utter strangers in the place, and the majority of 
them, something like 100, trusting to the stout walls of the com- 
pany's building, perished en masse. 

It is a significant fact, as showing the character of one of Chi- 
cago's noblest and most valued citizens, that, in the midst of his 
immense misfortunes, and his extended and complicated business 
responsibilities, lion. William B. Ogden could lay aside all these 
for the sake of writing the following letter, in the hope of assist- 
ing in the recovery of the lost child of one of his Peshtigo 
people : — 

To the Editor of The Chicago Tribune : 

Deah Sik: — Frank Jacobs, a Hungarian of Kossuth's pftrty, 
und now about eighteen years in Peshtigo, escaped, with hie Avife, 
the death that ovei*to(.>k so many on the night of the dreadful fire 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 565 

here ; but his wife's sister, Miss Charlotte Seymour, who left his 
house in advance of him, taking his only child, was drowned in 
the Peshtigo Eiver, and the child, a little boy about two and a 
half years old, has been missing since. 

The boy's name was Frank, and they called him " Frankie." 

It was reported that some one who saw Miss Seymour go down 
between the logs she was clinging to, failed to save her, but did 
seize and save the child ; and that it with a great many others 
was taken to Menomonee on the morning after the fire, and there 
took the steamer for Green Bay. 

Mrs. John De Marsh, of Peshtigo, tells Mr. Jacobs that she saw 
the child on the steamer, on its way to Green Bay, in the care of 
some kind gentleman passenger on his way to Chicago, who asked 
when she told him that she knew the child, and whose it was, if 
its parents Avere still living. She did not then know whether they 
were or not, and very likely left him with the impression, at that 
time of great distress and -confusion, that they were probably not 
living, as she had not seen them since the fire. 

The gentleman caring for the child said to her that he should 
take it to Green Bay, and to Chicago, if he did not find its pa- 
rents, and should take care of it until he did find them. Mrs. 
De Marsh does not know who this gentleman was, but if she is 
not mistaken it would seem that the cliild was saved and is still 
alive. 

The object of this letter is to ask, if admissible, that The Tri- 
hune publish these facts, in the hope that the child may be found 
thereby, and his very distressed parents relieved fi'om their pain- 
ful state of uncertainty and suspense about their boy and only child. 

The child was perhaps two and a half years old ; has light- 
brown hair and blue eyes. The only word he spoke plainly, his 
parents say, Avas " Ike," the name he gave to a favorite j.mcle ; 
and if asked " Wliere Ike is ? " he will show, his parents think, an 
interest, and that he understands the meaning. 



566 HISTOEY OF THE GKEAT FIRES 

Franlvie wore on tlie niglit of the fire a black and wliite checked 
flannel sliirt, a red flannel dress, and red, brown, and white 
checked apron, with a band of purple and white check. 

In the hope that this child may have escaped death on that 
fearful night, and that this statement of the circumstances of the 
case, as related to me, may lead to his discovery and retm-n to his 
unhappy parents, I remain, dear sir, vsdth great respect, very 
truly yom-s, 

W. B. Ogden. 

A citizen of Green Bay who passed through the fire at 
Peshtigo, who saved himself and a woman and children he hap- 
pened to meet, by getting on a low spot of ground or in a ditch, 
and covering over with wet blankets, tells this story : — They had 
got well covered up in this burrow, when a half -frantic woman 
rushed along with a great bundle in her arms. She had been 
well dressed, but her clothes were half burned off. She stopped 
and deposited her bundle, which consisted of a child and a lot 
of clothing, and then shrieked, " Great God, where is my 
baby!" 

At this the narrator sprang up, and saw, a few rods off, a baby 
in its night-clothes, lying on the road and kicking up its heels 
in great glee, while a billow of flame rolled over it, striking 
the ground beyond and leaving the baby in the centre of a 
great arch of fire. 

The baby had slid out of the bmidle, unperceived by the mother 
in her haste. He immediately sprang for the child, and with 
difiiculty rescued it. It is no wonder that the mother fainted 
when she secured the child. 

Wal. Heath was one of the proprietors of the Peshtigo House. 
When the fire occurred, his family, with the girls employed 
in the house, escaped fi'om the hotel by a team, and were saved 
on the low land below Ellis's house. Heath got into the rivei 



IN CHICAGO AUB THE WEST. 567 

on the west side of the bridge and clung to the centre pier of 
the bridge. The wind blew the fii-e from the hotel to where 
he was. The hotel was near the south end of the bridge and 
on the west side of the street. At the north end of the bridge 
and east end of the street was the Peshtigo Company's water 
mill, and the flames from that also blew directly to his po- 
sition. Thus it seems that the wind on the two sides of the 
river blew in exactly opposite directions. Heatli was saved 
from the fact that being on the west side of the pier, the 
flames fr-om the water mill divided at the pier and passed him 
on both sides. The bridge being on fii*e, he dared not swim 
through with the cm-rent, but when the fire on the bridge had got 
uncomfortably close, he took off his coat, pulled off his boots, and 
swam up stream to a place of safety. He had a very narrow 
escape from death, and has not yet recovered from breathing the 
hot air and smoke. 

He tells us that the most vivid imagination cannot picture the 
scene of the calamity as bad as it actually was. In his opinion as 
many as 1,000 people lost their lives on the Peshtigo ; that 752 
bodies have been buried, and that many were entirely burned up. 
The names of half the dead will never be known. They are 
buried all over Peshtigo, and the boards that mark their graves 
are marked " 2 unknown," " 3 unknown," etc. 

Much has been said of the intense heat of the fires which de- 
stroyed Peshtigo, Menekaunee, Williamsonville, etc., but all that 
has been said cannot give the stranger even a faint conception of 
the reality. The heat has been compared to that engendered by 
a flame concentrated on an object by a blow-pipe, but even that 
would not account for some of the phenomena. For instance, we 
have in our possession a copper cent, taken from the pocket of a 
dead man in the Peshtigo Sugar Bush, which will illustrate our 
point. This cent has been partially fused, but still retains its 
round form, and the inscription upon it is legible. Others in the 



568' msTOET OF the great fikes 

same pocket were partially melted off, and yet the clothing and 
the hody of the man was not even singed. "We do not know how 
to account for this, unless, as is asserted by some, the tornado and 
fire were accompanied by electrical phenomena. 

The house, barn, and fences of Mr. Hill, of the upper Sugar 
Bush, were burned, and Mr. Hill and his family all lost. By the 
side of the family was a narrow alley, just wide enough to di-ive 
through. In this alley stood a wagon, and while the barn and 
fence were entirely destroyed, the wagon box was not even singed. 

Alf . Phillip's house, in the upper Sugar Bush, was destroyed, 
but the family escaped. They state that two opposite currents of 
air apparently struck the house, which was 16 by 24 feet, and 
carried it bodily into the air, they think about 100 feet. In the 
air it burst into flames, and in a few minutes was entirely des- 
troyed. The house was not on fire when it left the ground. 

We do not believe that any other explanation of the great calam- 
ity can be made than that it was caused by fire, wind, and 
electricity. 

Another correspondent says : — ■ 

The story of the AYisconsin fires has never yet been told, and 
fi'om the suddenness of the calamity and the intensity of the clouds 
of fire, its fullest extent can never be known. From Mr. J. Har- 
r's, chief messenger of the House of Eep)resentatives, who was an 
eye-witness of the fury of the flames on the fatal Sunday night of 
the 8th of October, and who has just returned from Green Bay, 
Wis., we are enabled to give to the public a statement of the num- 
ber of the families who were totally swept away in that terrible 
holocaust of fire. 

In the toTvms of Brussels, Union, ISTasewaupee, and Gardner, in 
Door county, on the east shore of Green Bay, six families, num- 
bering forty persons, were burnt to death ; also, thirteen other 
families, of from two to four in each family. In these four towns 
in Door comity, the total is 117 persons burned to death, besides a 



IN CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 569 

large number severely and slightly burned, and there are 167 
families rendered homeless, with loss of all they possessed. 

In the town of Peshtigo, in Oconto county, on the west shore of 
Green Bay, twenty-five families, numbering 157 persons, were 
burnt to death ; also forty-six other families, of fi-om two to four 
in each f ainily. At Peshtigo, including the upper, middle and 
lower Sugar Bush farming settlements, the number of bodies iden- 
tified and buried was, at the last account, 530, while the number 
of bodies reduced to ashes by the intense heat can never be known, 
and the destitute persons number over 1,200 souls. 

The foregoing statements apply only to Door and Oconto coun- 
ties, and do not include the destruction of Hf e and j)roperty in 
Kewaunee and Brown counties, from which only partial lists of 
the losses have as yet been gathered up ; but the loss of life there 
is said to exceed one hundred, and there must be many hundi-eds 
of destitute persons to provide for. 

Many persons express surprise that so many human beings per- 
ished in the flames, and ask, " Wliy could they iK)t escape ? " Mr. 
Harris, who resides in that part of Wisconsin swept by the fire, 
explains this by showing on the map that the Sugar Bush settle- 
ments, where the greatest loss of life occmTcd, were located in the 
dense forests, entirely surrounded by timber of large growth, and 
are situate from three to five miles away from the Peshtigo river, 
which was the only chance for escape. The fiery tornado came 
upon these people with such fury, and so suddenly, that there was 
no escape, and this fact accounts for so many f amihes being swept 
away. The same holds good for the frightful loss of life at Wil- 
liamson's Mill, in the town of Gardner, in Door county, near Stur- 
geon bay, where the sawmill and other buildings, with about sev- 
enty men, women and children, were located in the woods, sur- 
rounded by the dense hemlock forest, thi'ough which there was but 
one road, and that choked up with debris from the shingle-mill of 
the most combustible kind, leaving no chance for escape when the 



670 HISTORY OF THE GEEAT EIEES 

tornado struck them, as is sliown by the horrible fact that, of the 
seventy persons hemmed in there by walls of fire, sixty-one, in- 
cluding the Williamson family, were burned to death. The vil- 
lage of Peshtigo being built on both sides of the Peshtigo river, 
the latter afforded means of escape to several hundred of the in- 
habitants, of whom, but for that opportunity, numbers more would 
have perished. So, too, at the village of Menekaune, the whole 
place, including the splendid new saw-mill of Jesse Spalding & 
Co., just built at a cost of $80,000, was swept clean in less than 
an hour ; but being located on the shore of Green Bay, the in- 
habitants all escaped by taking to steam-tugs, sailboats and other 
craft, and no lives were lost. Our informant, Mr. Harris, was at 
Menekaune on the night of the fire. He visited Peshtigo after 
the fire,- and subsequently the other burned towns on both sides 
of Green Bay, and says that no pen can describe what he saw on 
that fatal night, nor can tongue tell of the sufferings of the hun- 
dreds who perished in the flames, or of the thousands who escaped. 
In going tlu-ougli the burnt towns back in the woods, and witness- 
ing the wide-spread desolation, the wonder is that so many escaped 
alive, and many of those who did escape were saved by throwing 
dirt on each other to keep from burning. 

Another reason for the great destruction of life and property in 
Wisconsin, is found in the fact that no rain had fallen for three 
months before the 8th of October ; the clearings, and the woods, 
and even the swamps, were as dry as tinder, and the people had 
been fighting the fires in the woods for several weeks before ; all 
that part of Wisconsin was full of fire and smoke, and when the 
tornado came upon them it swept all before it, travelling faster 
than the people, who were struck down while running for a place 
of safety. The intensity of the fire may be gathered from the 
statement made by Mr. Harris, that when he was at Peshtigo, 
after the fire, his attention was called to a mass of ashes at the 
spot where was the kitchen of the large boarding-house. It 



m CHICAGO AND THE WEST. 571 

appears that before the flames reached that honse nnmbers of 
people fled there for safety. It is said that the kitchen was 
full of people, and that an immense sheet of flame struck the 
house so suddenly that none are known to have escaped. All that 
remains is a pile of human ashes, from wliich can be picked out 
pieces of human bones, the largest not two inches long, and these 
split and broken. The village of Peshtigo, with its saw-mills, 
factories, hotels, churches, school-houses, stores, and fine residences, 
were all in flames in half an hour, and the whole is swept clean as 
a prairie. 

As soon as daylight came on the Monday morning after the fire 
everything was done that could be done for the sufferers by the 
few surgeons living there, but to add to the anguish of the hour 
the telegraph poles were buiTit down, and they were sixty miles 
from Green Bay City, the nearest telegraph station in operation. 
The Lake Superior steamers not running a boat on Monday, it was 
Tuesday forenoon before despatches could be sent away for help. 
Mr. Harris sent despatches by that boat to Governor Fairchild and 
to the Mayors of the cities of Green Bay, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, 
and Milwaukee, calling for medical aid and supplies for the sur- 
vivors, but the despatches did not reach those gentlemen until 
Tuesday night, and it was Wednesday noon before the surgeons 
and nm-ses and supplies arrived, and it was near the end of the 
week before the outside world knew the extent of the calamity 
and the sufferings of the people of Wisconsin. 

The great calamity at Chicago was known wherever the wires 
penetrated by the Monday night, while the fires were yet bm-ning ; 
and towns, and cities, and States vied with each other in forward- 
ing instant relief of all kinds to the siifferers, while to Wisconsin's 
fearful and greater sacrifice of human life was superadded the 
loss of the telegraph : the loss of which prevented a large amount 
of relief being forwarded to Wisconsin, so much needed by her 
suffering people. Large amounts of money were instantly raised 



572 HISTOET OF THE GKEAT FIKES 

for the relief of Cliicago bj benevolent and wealthy individuals, 
by coi-porations, and by cities and legislatures, a portion of which 
would doubtless have been given to Wisconsin had her calamity 
in all its f earfulness been known earlier throughout the country. 
Chicago will need all that is being poured into her lap; but 
while this generosity is flowing in upon her, do not let the suffer- 
ings of Wisconsin be forgotten. 

Governor Fairchild has visited the burnt towns on Green Bay, 
and gathered up the facts of the condition of the sufferers, and 
says that all are now suppHed with food and clothing, but that 
fi'om 3,000 to 4,000 people will have to be housed and fed for the 
next six to nine months, until they can get back on their farms 
and raise the next year's crop. While the supply of food and 
clothing forwarded to Wisconsin has been generous and ample, 
the amount of cash funds in the hands of the Relief Committees 
will be wholly inadequate to meet the demands made upon them. 
Further contributions of money will be needed to feed these 
people, to rebuild their houses and furnish them with farming 
tools, furniture, seed, and feed f