Gazette & Courier - Monday, September 6, 1875
Great fire at South Deerfield
Great fire at South Deerfield - over $40,000 worth of property destroyed. One of the most destructive conflagrations that has ever visited Franklin County raged at South Deerfield Sat. night, sweeping out of existence the two village hotels, the finest private dwelling house in the place, a manufacturing establishment, a livery stable with several buildings, sheds and other property.
About 15 minutes before 12 o’clock, fire was discovered in the trimming room, in the second story of the ell part of John Ockington’s carriage shop, which was located on Depot Street, a little west of the Main street of the village. Before the alarm became general the flames with almost lightning rapidity spread to the main building, a large 2 story wooden structure, used for the various branches of the carriage business, and a repository for finished work.
Mr. Ockington’s books were rescued, and a portion of his stock, but a carryall, buggy, express wagon, sleigh, and a no. of carriages in different stages of construction, tools and lumber and stock of various kind were destroyed. ..The wind, which was blowing strongly from the north and north west, carried the flying cinders in the direction of Main Street.
Ten and a half ft. from the shop was the livery stable owned by W. Houston and occupied by Frank Warren. Hardly 15 minutes from the breaking out of the fire the stable had caught, and in a very short time was reduced to ashes...The next building reached by the devouring fire fiend was the Hayden Hotel, a large 2 story wooden building in the south west corner of Main Street and Depot Street, 75 ft. distant from the stable. It was owned by L. Hayden and occupied by his son Charles Hayden.
...Nearly all the furniture was removed from the building, but still considerable valuable property was destroyed. Miss Benn Hayden occupied a fancy goods store in the block, and her stock was nearly all saved.
100 ft. to the south on Main Street was Loren Hayden’s fine dwelling house, built but a short time ago, the most extensive residence in South Deerfield, and well furnished. Only a part of the furniture was saved, and the building and most of its contents were soon in ashes. In the rear, 27 ft. distance, was a large new barn which with its contents of hay and grain were destroyed....
While the conflagration was waging its war of destruction upon this corner of the street, another had broken out with equal fury on the opposite corner. The Bloody Brook House, belonging to C.P. Aldrich, was in a few moments a mass of flames. This long building, extending over 100 ft. on Main Street, with a new ell on Depot Street, its barns and numerous outbuildings melted before the flames like frost beneath the rays of the sun.
Efforts were made to clear out the contents but they were mostly unavailing, and the furniture, a piano, billiard table, provisions, bedding, etc. were lapped up by the greedy element. In the large grocery store of L.T. Harris, in the ell part of the building, but little was taken out. Scudder, a jeweler, saved most of his stock, but shot himself through the hand while handling one of his revolvers. J.T. Burnett occupied a room as a barber shop, but met no serious loss.
S.F. Fisher, who had a harness shop in the building, packed his goods and tools in trunks, and saved nearly all. P. Corkins, the shoemaker, another occupant, was alike fortunate. Several boarders in the hotel lost their clothing, but fortunately no one perished or was seriously injured.
Providentially there was a change in the wind, and the fire made no further progress in a northerly direction; though a horse belonging to Edward Jones of Greenfield, which is adjacent, was scorched and vigilant watching was required to prevent it from igniting. O.S. Arms’ house, on the east side of Main Street opposite Hayden’s, was several times on fire. All of the furniture was taken out, and by cutting through the roof and applying water as best they could when flames were discovered, he and his neighbors managed to save the building.
On the corner of Main Street opposite the Hayden hotel, is a large wooden building belonging to C.A. Pierce. This too was scorched. and the roof was frequently on fire, but it was saved without serious damage. Its occupants, M. Roch, druggist, Boyd & Houghton, dry goods, Mrs. B. Parsons Mansfield, milliner, O.S. Arms, post office and shoe store removed a portion or all of their goods, and had them more or less damaged. William B. Houston, who occupied a tenement on the 2nd floor, had his furniture taken out.
Deacon L.H. Fellow’s house, some 20 ft. from the post office, was also on fire and its contents taken out, but the fire was kept at bay by the use of small hand pumps, such as are used in gardens and in washing carriages. C. Mosher’s livery stable was saved in the same way. Numerous other houses and buildings were at different times on fire, but the assembled people were able to put them out.
South Deerfield is without a fire engine, reservoir, or any organized means for extinguishing fire. The people who assembled in obedience to the alarm could do little but assist in moving furniture and goods, and the fire in the destruction of the buildings mentioned had it all its own way. Within two hours from the breaking out of the flames in Ockington’s shop they had done their work, and nothing was left but tottering chimneys and smouldering embers.
About a quarter past 12 a dispatch was sent to Springfield for help and an hour or two after, two steamers and a hose cart arrived, making the run from Springfield in 40 minutes; but it was too late to be of service, and if the engines had come earlier there would have been little water that could have been made use of. The train soon returned.
The Deerfield Guards, under Captain B.F. Bridges, who had returned from msuter the afternoon previous, were early called to guard the property scattered about the streets. Some disturbance was created by boys who had confiscated liquors, but it was quelled without serious trouble. The fire was seen for miles, and burning brands were carried as far as Sunderland.
Mr. L. Hayden was so prostrated from the excitement incident to the fire that there were rumors yesterday that he was not likely to survive; but these rumors were probably exaggerated. John Ockington, one of the principle sufferers, is away at the seaside.
[Article goes on to discuss policies and amount of insurance, but this is all nicely listed in the NYTimes article].
Though there is some doubt about the origin of the fire, the prevailing belief is inclined to incendiarism. There had been no fire about the carriage shop after 3 o’clock the previous afternoon. The place in the building where it broke out was quite a distance from the forging shop. The calamity is a serious blow to the community.
[See the article "Losses by fire" in the Sept. 6, 1875 issue of the New York Times Online Archive].
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