Friday, October 8, 2021

The Great Chicago Fire Day One, 150 Years -- October 8, 2021

Rock Island Argus, 08-October-1871

150 years ago today, on 08-October-1871, a fire broke out in Chicago. It burned for three days and killed at least 300 people. (spoiler alert) Mrs O'Leary's cow did not start it. 

500 Prisoners Perish !

Chicago Totally

Chicago, Monday Morning, 8 o'clock

The conflagration still rages with unabated violence. Our citizens begin to despair. The water in the plugs gave out last night, and we are now utterly helpless. A kind of whirlwind has been created by the flames, which carries masses of burning material high in the air, and scatter them broadcast over the city. A dense column of smoke rise to an immense height. The spectacle is one indeed terrible to contemplate.

The fire streamed across the river at daylight, and at this data has consumed all that part of the city contiguous to Van Buren street. The devastation is beyond calculation. A gale from the lake is still blowing, setting all human efforts at defiance. Four of the steamers have blown up, and only six are left. Assistance is expected from the fire department of Milwaukee and other points.

The best part of the city has been laid in ashes. The Sherman House, Briggs House Metropolitan Hotel, Wood's Museum, Tremont House, and Merchant's Insurance Company's Building, and other splendid structures are in ruins. It is reported that the office of the Times, Tribune, Post, and Republican are destroyed. This dispatch comes from the Union Stock Yards, and it is impossible to distinguish fact from rumour, but the probabilities are that all these offices are burned. The best of the city is irretrievably gone. All the splendid residences along Wabash and Michigan Avenues are in danger. A perfect panic prevails.

It is also reported from the city that the Brunswick Billiard Hall, Board of Trade Building, Bryan Hall, Stein's Bazaar, Bryant and Stratum's Business College, and all contiguous establishments are gone. From the location of the fire this is doubtless true.

Monday Morning, 9:30 o'clock. -- It is rumored that everything has been swept clean from Polk street north to Lincoln Park. The beautiful stone depot building of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific and the Michigan Southern roads, is gone, as well as all the property adjacent. The city telegraph office is burned, and all communication cut off with St. Louis and eastern points. In fact, Rock Island is about the only point to the westward which can be reached, and that only by way of the Union Stock yards, several miles from the scene.

LaSalle street is strewn in ashes. The finest insurance buildings in the city are destroyed. Coal yards and elevators are destroyed by the score. The fire still rages. A thousand alarming rumors prevail. The post office is gone.

The distance from Polk street to Lincoln Park is about six miles reported destroyed. May be an exaggeration.

Chicago, Monday, 10 a. m. -- All Chicago is on fire. The Western Union, Great Western, Atlantic and Pacific, and Pacific and Atlantic telegraph offices were totally destroyed. The Court House, Shermam Briggs, and Tremont House, Post Office Board of Trade Office, C, R. I. and P. Railroad Depot, Pacific Hotel. Field, Leiter and Co., J. V. Farwell, and in fact everybody is burnt out. All the city banks are burned, and in fact all the business part of the city and the fire is still raging. The burnt district reaches from about 12th street north, and from Canal street, on the west side, to the lake. The business part of the city is entirely gone, and the fire is still raging. The firemen are exhausted; water has given out; business entirely suspended.

Union Stock Yards, 11 a. m. -- When the steamer "Long John" blew up, twelve persons are said to have been killed. The "Fire Queen" was also blown up. The engine on the water works broke down, thus cutting off the supply. The origin of this vast conflagration is presumed to have been accidental.


Union Stock Yard Monday, 1,15 P. M. -- Chicago is wiped out of existence. The whole city is in ashes. Every particle of the city proper is gone. All of the west side is burnt except the suburbs. All of the south side is destroyed except below Fourteenth street. All of the north side is gone. The scene beggars description. Many persons must have been killed by falling buildings and many have no doubt perished in the flames. What our great population will do, thus rendered homeless, is a question.

Union Stock Yards, 2 30 p. m. -- The burnt district extends from Halstead Street on the south, and straight north to Lincoln Park, leaving but a narrow strip unburnt around the Great Central depot at the foot of Lake street.

Union Stock Yards, 4 p. m. -- The Post Office building is the only one left standing on the south side between Harrison street and Lincoln Park, a distance of six or seven miles. At three, o'clock the sea of fire passed entirely through the Park, and swept into the woods beyond. A low rolling wooded country stretches on from there to British America for a distance of fifteen hundred miles. The fire is still raging along Harrison street. The wind is from the south-east. Should it change to the North or north-east, what little is left of the city would soon go.

The most horrible fact connected with the catastrophe, is that of the burning to death of from three hundred and fifty to five hundred prisoners in the Bridewell Prison last night. It was found impossible to rescue them.

Mr. Guild, of Rock Island, keeping the La Clede House, was burnt out. Crosby's Opera House, the Adam House, the Illinois Central Depot and elevator, the C., B. and Q. general office, and the Union depot at the foot of Clark street, are all in ashes.

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