Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

there, destroying twelve thousand houses, four hundred boats, and four hundred lives.

On the 21st of June, 1821, Paramaribo, the chief city of the Dutch colonies in South America, was almost entirely destroyed by fire-damage estimated at twenty millions of guilders. On the 26th of August, 1780, St. Petersburgh, in Russia, sustained great damage by fire; and on the 28th of November, of the same year, eleven thousand houses were destroyed by fire, communicated by lightning. On the 7th of June, 1796, another fire occurred there, destroying a large magazine of naval stores, and one hundred vessels.

Moscow, in Russia, founded, in 1147, was fired by the Tartars, in 1383, and almost entirely consumed. It was rebuilt, and, in 1571, again laid in ashes by the Tartars. It was again rebuilt, and, in 1611, destroyed by the Poles. From that time, this city enjoyed uninterrupted prosperity up to the 14th of September, 1812, when Bonaparte entered it with his victorious army. It was then fired by the Russians, and continued burning for several days, destroying more than three quarters of the city proper, then twenty miles in circumference, compelling the French army to retreat from the flames, causing the ruin of the army and the downfall of Bonaparte. Thirty thousand sick and wounded perished in the flames.

At Brest, in France, on the 4th of December, 1776, the marine hospital was consumed, with a large number of sick persons, and fifty galley slaves.

On the 14th of February, 1807, the British ship Ajax was consumed off Tenedos, an island in the Grecian Archipelago, when three hundred and fifty men perished.

On the 6th of April, 1800, the British man-of-war, Queen Charlotte, was consumed by fire off Leghorn, when seven hundred lives were lost.

Many other fires have occurred at different times, in other countries, of greater magnitude, than any that have taken place in our country.

New York has suffered by fire, at different periods, more in amount, than any city in the United States. On the 29th of December, 1773, the government house in that city was consumed. Trinity church, the Charity school house, the Lutheran church, and one thousand houses, were consumed by fire in that city, on the 21st of September, 1776. On the 7th of August, 1778, another fire occurred, which destroyed three hundred. houses. Many other fires occurred at different periods, consuming from twenty to sixty houses at a time, previous to 1835, when greater damage was done than at any former fire. The destruction was estimated at over ten millions of dollars. The fire of last

summer, in that city, is fresh in the minds of all, as also that of Quebec in Canada.

On the 21st of March, 1788, the greater portion of New Orleans was reduced to ashes. In Charleston, S. C., on the 15th of July, 1815, a fire occurred, which destroyed two hundred houses.

On the 18th of January, 1827, a destructive fire occurred in Alexandria, D. C., which, owing to the inclement season, caused great distress. Congress appropriated twenty thousand dollars towards the relief of the sufferers.

On the 17th of December, 1786, Richmond, Va., was visited by a fire, which destroyed one hundred houses. On the 26th of December, 1811, the theatre at that

[ocr errors]

place was burnt, when seventy lives were lost, among them, the governor of the state.

Raleigh, N. C., was nearly destroyed by fire, on the 2d of October, 1832. Wilmington, in the same state, suffered greatly by fire in November, 1798.

On the 26th of December, 1802, Portsmouth, N.H., had three hundred houses destroyed by fire.-August 24, 1814, Washington city was fired by order of Gen. Ross, who commanded the British troops. The capitol, containing the national library, the house of the President, and many private dwellings, were consumed, as also the dock yard and the bridge over the Potomac.

Petersburg, Va., was visited by a destructive fire on the 26th of April, 1761; since which, it has been almost totally destroyed twice, by this destructive element.

The first fire found on record, worthy of note, that occurred in Philadelphia, took place on the 24th of March, 1790, when a calico manufactory was burnt on the south west corner of Market and Ninth streets. On the 27th of January, 1797, the printing office and dwelling of Andrew Brown were consumed ; his wife and three children perished in the flames; and, on the 4th of February following, he died, from injuries received in endeavoring to rescue them. The most melancholy fire that ever occurred in this city, was the burning of the Orphan Asylum, on the 23d of January, 1822, when twenty-three of the poor orphans perished. Fire engines and hose were in use here as early as 1803.

I now proceed to speak of the destructive fire which occurred in Pittsburg, on the 10th of April 1845. I not only witnessed, but felt deeply, the disastrous consequences of that fire, in the loss of nearly all of my property.

[ocr errors]

It commenced about half-past twelve-noon. It was communicated to an ice house, from a fire built in the yard of a frame building, at the south east corner of Second and Ferry streets, for the purpose of heating wash water. The engines were on the ground promptly, and manned by as noble companies of firemen as can be found in any city ; but a deficiency of water deprived them of the mastery over the raging element, which would have been achieved in a few minutes, could a supply have been obtained. The buildings in the immediate neighborhood were mostly frame-very dry and combustible. The fire soon crossed Second street-communicated to the cotton manufactory of James Woods, which, in a few minutes, was enveloped in flames, with all the stock and machinery. A desperate effort was made by the firemen to arrest the fire at the brick house adjoining this large building; but all human effort was powerless—the flames increased with the increasing wind, which now became a hurricane, blowing from the south west, and carried the fire to the roofs of numerous buildings in a few minutes. A dense mass of human beings now thronged the streets and avenues in the neighborhood of the fire—the roofs were covered with men and women, faithfully plying water from buckets, to extinguish the falling fire; but the course of the raging element was onward. It soon reached Water street-spread furiously to Market street, widening in its course, until it reached Wood street, where it extended in width, from the Monongahela river to Diamond alley, acquiring an intensity of heat without a parallel. Fire-proof buildings, as they were supposed to be; fire-proof iron safes, as they were denominated, proved utterly inadequate to defend against the accumulating heat.

Efforts to remove goods were rendered almost powerless by the crowded state of the streets, and many who succeeded in removing their effects, placed them in the road of the fire. Some, who removed their goods three times, had them finally burnt; and many who were assisting their friends in the lower part, returned to the burning remains of their own houses in the upper part of the city, so rapidly did the fire progress after it reached Wood street. At this point, it threatened the steamboats, which were moved out into the river; the Monongahela bridge immediately took fire, on which large quantities of goods had been deposited, and in ten minutes and a half from the time it caught, every arch fell into the river, creating a smoke and steam, almost suffocating to those who were near it. The wind then changed to the west, and drove the flames, in one broad, unbroken sheet, horizontally, so as to fire almost every thing in its course up the Monongahela river, until the work of destruction ceased for want of fuel, having reached the terminus of Kensington, a suburb of the city ; covering nearly sixty acres, in its destructive course. By the force of the heat, the fire was gradually spreading side ways towards the north, when the wind suddenly changed to that point, and drove the heat towards the river, and prevented farther damage. The public buildings destroyed, were : Philo Hall, occupied by the Mayor and City Police, Board of Trade, and Philological Institute; the Bank of Pittsburg, supposed to be fire proof; Union Meeting House ; Baptist Meeting House ; Methodist Meeting House, for colored ed people ; Western University; Scotch Hill Market House, and injuring the Gas Works considerably. The

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »