Danbury News - 1889 FIRES of Incendiary Origin

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Danbury News articles announcing suspicious fires as they occur in 1889.

Jan 1, 1889
[Article title mostly missing from microfilm]
Two...Fires of an...Arrest Made.

Jan 4, 1889

Jan 21, 1889

Mar 8, 1889
A HAT FACTORY DESTROYED. -- Scotts' Hat Shop in Ruins.

Mar 27, 1889

Jun 22, 1889
THE "TWELVE APOSTLES" BURNED. -- A Serious Fire Last Night. -- Narrow Escape of Foster Brothers' Factory.

Jun 24, 1889
AN INCENDIARY FIRE. -- The Narrow Escape of David Beers' Lumber Yard. -- The Fire Marshal I[n]vestigates.

Jun 28, 1889
A BARN DESTROYED. -- A Narrow Escape From a Serious Fire.

Jul 6, 1889
THE FIRE BUG'S WORK. -- Canal Street Again at the Mercy of the Flames. -- THE INCENDIARY SEEN AT HIS WORK -- Meeker's Elevator, Theo. Clark & Co.' s Immense Box Factory and Beers' Ice House Destroyed.

Jul 8, 1889
FOUR INCENDIARY FIRES. -- THE FIRE BUG AT WORK [A]GAIN SATURDAY NIGHT. -- Fires on White, Foster and Rose Streets. Kerosene Oil and Waste Used.

Jul 16, 1889
THE FIRE BUG AT WORK. -- The Housatonic Railway Shops Fired in Broad Daylight. -- THE NEW YORK AND NEW ENGLAND FREIGHT HOUSE NARROWLY ESCAPES DESTRUCTION. -- Oily Waste Used in Each Case.

Aug 3, 1889
THREE FI[R]ES LAST NIGHT. -- The Canal Street Sewing Machine Factory, the Housatonic Railway Shops, and Bates' Lumber Yard.

Aug 13, 1889
A NIGHT OF FIRES. -- Byron Dexter's Hat Factory Totally Destroyed. -- A THRIVING INDUSTRY GONE -- Waste, Oil and Gas at the J.M. Ives Company's. -- TWO OTHER FIRES.

Aug 17, 1889
OIL AND WASTE AGIAN. -- The "Danbury House" Fired Last Evening.



Document Item Type Metadata


[Danbury News – Jan 1, 1889]
Two…Fires of an… Arrest Made.
The firemen were kept busy last night, and the whole town aroused by two alarms of fire between midnight and dawn. That an incendiary was at work cannot be doubted, and the police are actively engaged in looking for the person, and keeping under surveillance one or two suspected persons. One arrest was made but it was of no importance. The fires were by some attributed to tramps, but it is not probable that they had a hand in the work, as neither place was made a sleeping place by wanderers.
Both fires were evidently similar in their origin and the flames when discovered were leaping from all parts of the building. At neither place can be given any cause for the fire other than that it was of an incendiary origin, and as no one is known who could have any reason for such an act, it is thought that the fires were started by some one who either did it for devilry, or who possesses a mania for such business. That there is a person with the latter can hardly be doubted by the many dastardly attempts at incendiarism made during the past year…
…Who discovered the fire is not known. Mr. Fry was awakened by his daughter, who said that something was the matter in the yard…
…There was an incident connected with the fire that may lead to something. When a small door was opened a dark object dropped to the ground from somewhere. It was picked up and taken to Mr. Fry’s house, where it was found to be an overcoat, belonging evidently to a boy ten or twelve years of age. None of the family had ever seen the coat before, and no one knew to whom it belonged or how it came to the barn. It was an old coat and very much worn. Nothing was found in its pockets to give any clue to the identity of its owner. It was taken in charge by Chief Betts, of the fire police.
A bystander, after the fire was under control, told Officer Dittmar that a man had been found in the barn. A man giving his name as Eagan was pointed out as the one, and the officer arrested him and locked him up. His coat was badly scorched, but it is improbable and impossible that he remained in the flame, smoke and water in the barn, until he was found. He was intoxicated and had evidently wandered in there while the firemen were pulling over the hay. As he gave satisfactory account of his whereabouts before the fire, he was discharged from custody this morning…
The Second Fire.
The firemen had scarcely reeled up their hose from the New street fire…when the alarm was again sounded. It struck five, and as that box is situated in the neighborhood of some of the largest factories in town a quick and general response was made…
…The first fire company to reach this fire also was No. 2, and they found the large barns and outbuildings of Thomas McDermott, between Cottage and Prospect streets, a mass of flame. That it was too late to save the building was evident…
A very peculiar occurrence was the firing of a revolver just before the flames were discovered, in precisely the same manner as the other fire – five shots in rapid succession and after a pause two more. The question asked is, was the revolver fired by the incendiary after accomplishing his fiendish work…

[Danbury News – Jan 4, 1889]
Is It the Work of an Incendiary?
A fire occurred shortly after midnight last night, which is in every particular mysterious, and which, it would seem, outrivals all former efforts of the incendiary who has recently been making his atrocious attacks upon different portions of the town.
The streets were as dark and black as could be, and there were but two or three persons in the vicinity of the Wooster House, when a man rushed from that place crying “fire” at the top of his voice.
Officer Tuttle, who was near by, hastened up, thinking it was some drunken brawl, but was informed that the hotel was full of smoke, which was evidently coming from the direction of the Village store, which is in the next building.
…Until this morning no possible explanation could be made of the origin of the fire. There was no stove or lamp near where it started and no one had been there with matches…
This morning a discovery was made which may be the correct solution of the problem. From the hallway between the front portion of the Wooster House and the Village Store runs a narrow closet, and from the inside of this closet plaster had been knocked, leaving a large hole exactly over the place in the store where the fire started.
It is not known that any one entered the closet during the progress of the fire, and the hole is not where it would have been likely to have been made by the firemen from the inside. A matched dropped through the hole from the interior of the closet would have caused the damage.
Several of the residents say that they could perceive a strong smell of kerosene in the closet shortly after the fire.
This could have been accomplished, and is thought by those in the store to be the most likely theory. In fact it is the only one they have.
If such an act was perpetrated, it was cunningly designed by some one who was acquainted with the premises. If it was the work of an incendiary it was the most dastardly piece of work which has yet been attempted, for the rooms off the Wooster House were filled with sleeping guests, and if the fire had obtained any start at all it would have made its way up the light partition and throught the dry building like a flash…

[Danbury News – Jan 21, 1889]

Loss Eight Thousand Dollars.
The Alarm.
The usual Sunday morning quietude prevailed, yesterday morning, and at half-past nine hardly a person could be seen on the streets. Five minutes later the same streets were filled with a hurrying throng, and on every side windows flew up, heads appeared, and with the unanswered question, “Where is it?” disappeared.
The shrill blowing of a whistle caused the commotion…
The Fire.
A man walking up the Danbury and Norwalk railway tracks about half past nine noticed smoke issuing from the upper story of Green & Bros.’ factory, just below Beckerle & Co.s lower shop. He at once gave an alarm and Engineer McNamara, of Johnson’s factory, sounded his whistle, and Engineer Elwood joined in.
Beckerle & Co.’s hose company, were out promptly, and made an attempt to cross the stream at Chestnut street….
It was some little time before the first regular fire company appeared, but when it did, it too attached to the hydrant supplied by the pump, while the following companies took water from the regular mains.

Just how or when the fire started is unknown. The man who first saw the smoke could not be found, but those living in the immediate vicinity say the flames were first seen in the attic over the finishing room. Officer Clark, of the fire police, was one of the first to arrive, and he says that then there was no fire at all in the drying room. …
Engineer Lane had left the factory but ten minutes before the alarm was given, and he is positive that there was no fire there at that time.
Chief Engineer Elwood, of the Fire department, and others, are positive that the fire originated in the drying room, which is right above the boiler room.
It cannot be doubted that if it had not been for the steam pump, and the aid of the Beckerle Hose company, the entire factory as well as surrounding buildings would have been destroyed.
The fire police under Chief Betts rendered their usual efficient aid, and all the firemen can but be praised for containing a fire in so inflammable a building to so small a space.

Fire Notes.

The hook and ladder truck made another display of its poor construction and general uselessness. On the way to the fire the tires on the rear wheels broke. One of the shorter ladders bent over much under the weight of four men.
The Beckerle Pumps, which rendered such efficient service were supplied entirely from the river running back of the shop, and four streams were attached to them during the fire. Twelve could have been accommodated. Had it not been for this, the factory would have been destroyed. This is a first-class place for a steam fire engine.
At the time of the fire the members of the firm, H.N. Fanton, Jr., the bookkeeper, and the foreman of the finishing room, were in New York. They were informed of the destruction of the fire by telegraph.

The firm consisted of Fred F. and Frank W. Green. They were active young men who have been in business nearly four years. They opened in April, 1885 in a little shop on Ives street. December 2d they made their first shipment from the shop burned yesterday. The firm employed 200 persons.

[same column, second article down]
It Must Come.
At the fire yesterday, the steam pump in Beckerle & Co.’s factory had four streams on the fire, drawing the water from Still river.
These streams did great service, being of more force than those from the large hydrants. They were driven by the great power of steam, and the power had to be lowered to keep the streams within the limits of the flames.
This was an illustration of the value of a fire steamer.
It must come.

[Danbury News – Mar 8, 1889]
Scotts’ Hat Shop in Ruins.
At three o’clock this morning, fire was discovered in the lower floor of Scotts’ factory, at the corner of Jefferson avenue and West Wooster street. Twenty minutes later there was nothing of the building standing but a few large timbers.

Just before three o’clock, Elijah Morris, living in the vicinity of Jefferson avenue, was awakened by a crackling noise and stepping to his window he noticed a slight blaze in the lower part of Scotts’ hat factory. Hastening out he ran to a neighbor’s and awakening him, asked for “the key.”[A key was needed to open the fire alarm box in order to sound the fire alarm.]

While the fire was yet confined to the interior of the building, a member of Citizens’ hose company, which had its headquarters at the rear of Scott’s factory, burst in the door of the house and drew the jumper out. A line of hose was attached to a hydrant and a feeble stream directed against the flames. It was nearly half past three before the first hose company from another portion of the town arrived, and it was then too late to do more than assist in extinguishing what fire remained among the ruins. The hook and ladder men also arrived about that time, but found little to do.
It was a large but quick and thorough fire. How it originated is not known. Mr. Morris is corroborated by several persons that the flames were first seen in the front of the factory, near the center of the first floor. The Messrs. Scott say that there was no fire in the flues yesterday, and that the fires in the engine room were banked at 8 o’clock, but little work having been done that day. There was little or no inflammable material in the packing room, in or near which the fire started, and they are at a loss to account for it.
A.N. Mallet, living on Division street, was one of the first to discover the fire…
The factory, which was three stories in height, and had a frontage of eighty feet, had been occupied by Messrs. M.W. & John Scott as a hat factory for two years and a half. It was formerly known as “Lent’s factory.” Its capacity was about thirty dozen a day. Sixty hands were employed…
The total loss, it is thought, will reach $18,000, with an insurance of $11,000.

[Danbury News – Mar 27, 1889]
The Alarm Refuses to Operate.
The fire companies stationed in the upper part of the town were kept busy last night. They were hurriedly called from their houses three times within eight hours, and in each case the run was a long one. It is some little time since we have had an opportunity to keep up our well earned fire record, but we are safe, after last night.

At Tooley’s Factory.
At half-past 7 last evening an alarm was sounded from box 21, which is located at the corner of Balmforth avenue and North street. Charles Barnum, living just this side of the bridge, at the upper end of Main street, noticed a bright light in one of the windows in the third story of the hat factory of Tooley Brothers. An investigation showed that one end of the finishing room was on fire, and that the flames were making rapid headway. Hose Company No. 3, which is located on North street, was quickly aroused, and in a remarkably short time had a stream on fire. Five minutes work sufficed to extinguish it, and the services of the other companies were not needed.
The fire originated from a singer, a spark smouldering, no doubt, between some boards, and finally breaking out as it did. The damage to the factory was very light.

An Ice House Burned.
About half-past one this morning, the town was aroused by the striking of several rounds from box 25. The bell struck regularly a few times, and then the back tap was sounded. This misled many of the firemen, who supposed that their assistance was not required. The bell commenced striking again after a pause of perhaps five minutes, but could be made to strike no regular number.
To those who responded to the first stroke of the bell the whole western portion of the borough seemed to be on fire. From Franklin street around to West there was a broad belt of red. The first thought was that one of the large hat factories was in flames, and it seemed as if nothing else in that portion of the town could cause such a light. Then as suddenly as they sprung up the fames subsided in part, and for a moment almost died out, only to burst forth again. It was the light that guided the firemen.
Shortly after 1 o’clock fire was discovered in the ice house of W.F. Tomlinson, situated near the New York and New England railway tracks, at the rear of the fur factory of W.A. and A.M. White. An attempt was made by the watchman at the factory to sound an alarm from box 13, which is but a few feet away. The apparatus would not work properly, and no sound could be obtained from the bell.
The first intimation received by the residents in that vicinity was when they were awakened by several shots from a revolver, fired in rapid succession. At that time, however, the entire building was in flames. Officer Tuttle noticed the fire from his beat on Main street, and after waiting awhile for an alarm nearer the fire, he pulled box 25, which is at the corner of Main and White streets, a half mile away. The fire companies were a long time in responding, but had they been there at the time the alarm was first sounded, they could not have saved the building. It is probable, however, that had box 13 worked properly, the fire could have been easily extinguished. As it was the building was nearly destroyed and the contents badly damaged, although a portion of the ice may be saved.
The building was owned by W.A. and A.M. White, and the ice stored in it was the property of W.F. Tomlinson. The loss on the building is about $800. There were 900 tons of ice in the house, on which the insurance was $500. The loss is not known.

The Third Fire.
While hose companies 2 and 3 were at work on the ice house, Chief Elwood was informed that W.A. & A.M. White’s factory, a few feet away, was on fire. A cupola on the roof of the main building was found to be burning, and the fire was working down towards the walls of the factory. The hook and ladder company had returned to their quarters, and there was no way to reach the roof.
The chief attempted to sound the special call, but box 13 could not be made to work. A messenger was sent to the truck house, and Tillerman Warner was summoned from the police station by telephone. The alarm was sounded once, but as it gave a few scattered strokes no attention was paid to it.
The fire was finally extinguished, the firemen mounting the roof as soon as the ladders arrived. The loss will not amount to over $50. It was nearly four o’clock when the last company left the place.

[Danbury News – Jun 22, 1889]
A Serious Fire Last Night. – Narrow Escape of Foster Brothers’ Factory. – Loss $18,000.

The factory of Davenport & Von Gal, on Railway street, was entirely destroyed by fire last night.
The fire was in one of the worst possible places in the city, and for a time, thousands of dollars worth of property was in immanent danger, and it seemed as if nothing could be done to check the flames.
At ten o’clock, Watchman Crotty, of the Housatonic railway company, emerged from the car sheds at the rear of the round-house. He noticed a bright light in the main building of Davenport & Von Gal’s factory, which is directly across the railway yard and started for Crofutt & White’s factory to procure a fire alarm key.
Meanwhile the flames attracted the attention of the person in charge of the latter place, and when Mr. Crotty arrived at box 7, on Pahquioque avenue, the alarm had already been sounded.
Before the alarm was heard, however, the light attracted the attention of persons at some distance away. It was a dull glow, and did not appear to be in the vicinity of the railway station. Consequently no move was made until the alarm was heard, as the fire, from the deceptive appearance of the light, seemed to be several miles away, rather than within a few rods of Main street.
Almost simultaneous with the first stroke of the alarm, the flames seemed to burst upward, and in an instant the whole sky was reddened.
Not two minutes elapsed before hose company No. 2 had their carriage in the street, and within three minutes after the first stroke of the alarm, they had line of hose alongside the burning building. The rapidity with which the flames sprang up and made their way through the factory was something remarkable. The first persons at the place made an attempt to gain an entrance to the building, but found it impossible to proceed but a few feet beyond the door.
By the time the first stream of water was ready, the whole rear portion of the factory was consumed, and the heat was so intense that the firemen were driven back.
Then it seemed as if an extensive conflagration could not be averted. The location of the neighboring buildings was almost perfect for the work of the flames.
The burning factory formed the southern boundary of a large square. To the east was an open lot, and to the north Railway street. The factory fronted on this street, and adjoining it, running parallel with the street, to Delay street, was a long, high building, the part adjoining the factory filled with lumber. Farther along the main factory of Foster Brothers, carpenters, completed the northern boundary of the square. This factory fronting on Delay street to a height of three stories, formed the western boundary with the furnace factory of J.L. Darsie. From Darsie’s factory back towards the burning building was a long line of barns and lumber sheds. The interior of this square was a large courtyard, completely surrounded by buildings and filled with large piles of dry lumber. Thus it will be seen that all these really formed one large building.
The whole eastern side was on fire, and the flames were licking up the pine boards on the north and south. The first stream of water was placed in the door of the front of Davenport & Van Gal’s building, and while the hosemen held the flames in check, a quantity of shellac, several cases of hats and the movable articles in the office were removed. Another stream was planted on the east side of the burning building, the hosemen standing in the open lot.
Meanwhile the fire was raging in the interior of the square, which was entirely unprotected. To those within this enclosure it seemed as if nothing could save the entire establishment from destruction. The firemen, while fighting the flames from the outside, left the inside to itself.
The situation was soon discovered, however, and two lines of hose laid through an alley into the lumber-filled hollow. Then there was difficulty in procuring water.
One stream was playing on the lumber sheds on the north side, but the one on the south side could not procure any water. The firemen stood holding the dry pipe twenty minutes. Meanwhile the fire was making its way along a pile of lumber, and adjoining this was Foster Brothers’ stable, the upper portion of which was filled with hay.
Just as a bright flame illumined the hay mow, and the last chance to save this portion of the establishment was slipping away, a stream of water was obtained. It had not been turned on at the hydrant.
Although the fire had decidedly the advantage of the firemen, they went at their task with a will, and the hook and ladder men appearing upon the scene with ladders, the flames were cut off from the hay mow. The companies stationed on the outside had succeeded in cutting the fire off from the sheds along Railway street, and the danger was over.
Two tenement houses on the south of the burned factory were in great danger, and the occupants were removing their effects when the appearance of a line of hose quieted their fears.
All that saved the lumber yard and factory of Foster Brothers, and the adjoining tenements was the absence of a breeze.
Several passenger coaches on tracks in the vicinity of the burning building were removed to places of safety.
While the fire was at its height, Chief Meyers ordered out the steamer, but before it arrived the blaze was under control.
The shop was well known as the “Twelve Apostles” and was one of the oldest factories in this city. It was started shortly after the strike among Danbury hatters several years ago by a company of men, twelve in number, and it was from this that it derived its strange name. Davenport & Von Gal, who have more recently occupied the place, have been in business about a year, and were about to move into larger quarters. They employed about eighty hands, and manufactured a fine quality of hats. There was a large stock of completed hats in the building, and hats in process of manufacture, as well as considerable machinery.
Messrs. Davenport & Von Gal place their loss at about $11,000 on which there was an insurance of about $2,500. The building, as well as those adjoining, was the property of Foster Brothers, who estimate their loss at $6,000, which is partially covered by insurance.
The fire originated in the drying room, which is directly over the boiler, and was caused by over heating.
The fire was the first since the appointment of Chief Engineer Meyers and Assistant Fitzsimmons, and they are to be congratulated upon their success in overcoming it as they did.

[Danbury News – Jun 24, 1889]

The Narrow Escape of David Beers’ Lumber Yard. – The Fire Marshal I[n]vestigates.
One of the worst acts of incendiarism ever committed in Danbury was discovered Sunday morning. By an act of Providence, and nothing less, a large fire was prevented and the lives of several animals saved. The fire, after burning entirely across a stable, consuming several harnesses and a quantity of wood work, and even penetrating to a hay mow and setting fire to the hay, went out of its own accord. This seems not only peculiar, but impossible, but is nevertheless true. At one time the stable must have been almost a mass of flame, for five horses were singed and burned, and two of them seriously.
The fire was not discovered until it had expended its force, although the noise made by the poor animals in their sufferings was heard by many, and even the light from the flames seen by persons passing by on Main street, not a hundred feet away.
As a west-bound freight train was passing David Beers lumber and coal yard, near the Main street crossing of the New England road at a quarter of six Sunday morning. Engineer Fitch noticed smoke pouring up from one of the buildings. Calling for brakes he stopped his train, and with Night Operator Delancy, and with several of the train hands ran over to the building. They found smoke pouring from the windows of a basement in which were several horses, and on making an examination discovered that a harness and a portion of a stall were on fire. It was not until after this was extinguished that their attention was attracted to the fact that a large portion of the interior of the interior of the stables had been burned. Completing their work, the trainmen boarded their train and went on.
When Mr. Beers’ men arrived they found a peculiar state of affairs.
The stable is located in a stone basement fronting towards Main street. Above this is a large barn containing a quantity of hay and grain. The lumber yard, three stories in height, and the large coal sheds and trestles run back three hundred feet towards Maple avenue. The entrance to the stable faces the lumber sheds. A double window looks toward the railway track. Along the north side of the stable is a line of stalls, and the horses stand with their backs to the window. Beneath this window was a little straw and hay, but not enough to do any damage. It is clearly shown that there was little if any straw there, and that not much fire originated from it, from the fact that several sticks lying directly under the window were not burned, and that pieces of straw were found on the floor without a sign of having been burned.
Running up each side of this window are two grain chutes leading to the floor above. At the bottom these are but little burned, where if the fire had originated from a pile of hay on the floor, they would undoubtedly have been entirely consumed. From the floor up to a level with the window, these chutes are burned but little. They seem to have been blackened over, as would have been the case had oil been poured on. After burning up the oil, the flames communicated to the wood above. The upper part of the chutes is badly charred and in places the boards are burned entirely through. This would show that the fire did not originate at the bottom of the shaft. The ceiling is almost on a level with the top of the window, and across the stable to the opposite side, the beams and boards are thoroughly charred.
Harnesses which hung upon the wall were entirely consumed. The flames not only charred the boards above the heads of the horses, but worked their way down to the partitions between the stalls, which in places were partially consumed. A harness which hung within fifteen inches of one horse was entirely consumed, and the flames even communicated to the bedding of the horses, yet when found it was almost out.
A fact even more peculiar is that the flames ate through the floor to the hay mow, and even went up through several knot holes and burned the hay. What caused the fire to go out, as it evidently did, cannot be understood.
The five horses in the stable must have suffered terribly from the heat and smoke. They all bear marks of the flames. Two of the animals are badly burned, the hair being singed off their backs and eyes. Their tails were nearly consumed. Two of the horses are burned from the tails to the noses, the manes, ears and other portions of their bodies being scorched. They are also badly scraped and bruised from contact with their stalls, which they nearly tore to pieces in their terror.
A.M. Rundle noticed a light in the barn shortly before three o’clock, but supposed it to be some of the men working there. The neighbors were attracted by the kicking and snorting of the terrified horses, but paid little attention to the noise. They say it commenced about three o’clock.
There is but little doubt that the fire was incendiary, as the last employee left the place at six o’clock, and no light was used. The way in which the fire charred the boards, gives rise to the theory of the use of oil, although none can be found on the adjoining wood work. The two windows were left open Saturday night, but when the trainmen found the fire, they were closed tightly, as if to conceal the fire from the street until it should have become well started.
It was a heartless piece of work and nothing should be left undone towards finding the perpetrator of the deed.
Mayor Hopkins, while investigating the fire Sunday morning found a stranger asleep on a pile of lumber near the stables. As he was able to give a good account of himself he was let go.
The Fire Marshall’s Investigation.
Chief engineer Morris Meyers as fire marshal held an examination as to the cause of the fire in the City Hall this morning. Several witnesses were subpoenaed by the police. My Meyers, after reading the general statute regarding a fire marshal’s investigation, called A.M. Rundle to the witness stand.
Mr. Rundle testified to hearing a noise which, on arising, he located in Mr. Beers’ barn. He supposed that a horse was in some kind of trouble, and remarked that some one should see to it. Shortly after he saw a light in the barn, and from its appearance decided that it was one of Mr. Beers’ men with a lantern. It was then 3 o’clock.
Clark Buckley, William Tetsin, Edward Barrett, Silas Mead and William Nolan, employees of Mr. Beers, were examined. None of them were in the barn between six o’clock Saturday evening and eight o’clock Sunday morning. There had been no light or fire of any kind used about the building.
Mr. Beers stated that in his opinion the fire was of an incendiary origin. The examination was then adjourned until Engineer Fitch can be heard from.

[Danbury News – Jun 28, 1889]

A Narrow Escape From a Serious Fire.
Danbury had another narrow escape from a serious fire last night. With a poor water supply and several closely adjacent buildings the firemen were kept busy.
A[t] just half past twelve the fire alarm sounded a single stroke. After a short pause it struck again, and after two or three rounds of what appeared to be Box No. 14 it commenced a steady clang.
The majority of the firemen had just retired, many having attended the city meeting, and there was an unusually slow response to the alarm. Main street was unusually quiet, and the people who were out were unable to locate the fire until a ruddy glow appeared over the tree tops in the direction of Franklin street.
When the first fire company reached that avenue the barn of Hawley Bradley, situated at the rear of his residence, on Farview avenue, was found to be in flames. The fire had gained tremendous headway, and the entire building was ablaze.
To those first upon the spot it appeared that Mr. Bradley’s residence, but a few yards west of the barn, and the barn of E.S. Davis, close to the south were doomed to destruction.
The flames were so fierce and the heat so intense that it was impossible for the firemen to reach the burning building with the insufficient streams of water to be procured. The first stream shot out a short distance and was suddenly cut off at the nozzle. An examination showed that large stones were clogging the pipe.
The other streams were feeble and the pressure was wholly insufficient. Chief Meyers placed the pipemen where they could work to the best advantage to save the adjoining property as the barn was already too far gone to be saved, even in part.
It was fully twenty minutes after the arrival of the firemen that a respectable stream could be obtained, but with the proper facilities the men set to work with renewed energy, and in a remarkably short time the Davis building, which was already on fire, was out of danger, and the Bradley house was well protected.
The fire burned fiercely for nearly an hour, and the men were kept at work until 3 o’clock, the straw and hay, of which a large quantity was stored in the building, burning obstinately.
The fire was first discovered by Thomas McCorkle, who on looking out of his rear window, noticed a light near the northeast corner of the barn. He gave the alarm, and with the assistance of one or two men, set to work to release the horses in the building. There were nine in the basement, directly under the fire, but they were quickly removed from danger.
The barn was largely used for storage purposes, and there were thirty sleighs and carriages on the first and second floors. These were entirely destroyed. Many of them being new they were of considerable value. The handsome, white child’s hearse, owned by Cunningham & Foran, was destroyed with the others.
The loss will probably reach $5,000. The building and its contents were well insured.
Mr. Bradley is positive that the fire was of incendiary origin. He returned from the city meeting about twelve o’clock and as usual made an examination of the barn before retiring. At that time there was no sign of fire or smoke. The fire originated in a pile of straw near the north-east corner of the building, and this fact accounts for the rapidity with which the flames spread.
The Fire Alarm.
The peculiarity in the striking of the fire alarm, last night, is explained from the fact that Officer George Reed noticed the light from his post on White street. He located the fire in the vicinity of Franklin street, and running to box 27, at the corner of Balmforth avenue and White street, sounded 14 from that box by means of a push button. In order to awaken the firemen he continued striking a single one several times, after sounding 14. Had it not been for this the firemen would not have reached the fire until long after they did.

[Danbury News – Jul 6, 1889]

Canal Street Again at the Mercy of the Flames.
Meeker’s Elevator, Then, Clark & Co.’s Immense Box Factory and Beers’ Ice House Destroyed.
THE LOSS OVER $50,000.00
Nearly all of that portion of Canal street which escaped destruction in the great conflagration of last summer, was swept away at an early hour this morning.
A daring firebug nearly completed the work of clearing out the industries of that thoroughfare by a well laid plan, and escaped undiscovered. As bold and dastardly an act of incendiarism as was ever committed in Danbury was plainly the cause of the fire. By it thousands of dollars’ worth of property was converted into ashes, and human lives imperiled.
Two buildings, several hundred yards apart, but on the same street, and each in a secluded spot offered a tempting inducement to the fiend whose work resulted so disastrously.
While the firemen arriving earlier on the scene were giving their attention to one fire, the other they were powerless to fight until assistance arrived, and thus, while they were battling with the flames at one end of the street, fire was making its way towards them from the other.
This was the position in which the firemen were placed, for instead of being called to fight a fire, the alarm summoned them to two distinct fires, which threatened to become one in the destruction of the long row of buildings which intervened.
At just five minutes past one the alarm sounded. The number was twenty-seven. This box is located at the corner of Balmforth avenue and White street.
The blowing of a whistle and a cry of fire followed the first sound of the bell, and from Main street a faint glow was visible.
This Officer Tuttle had noticed from near the Danbury and Norwalk station a few minutes before, and he was on his way to make an investigation when the bell struck. From where he stood the fire seemed to be at a great distance.
As moment after moment the flames increased in brilliancy, they appeared to approach, and the faint, red tinge gave way to a ruddy, spark-dotted glow. Such was the view from Main street five minutes after the bell sounded.
The situation was puzzling, for there appeared to be two fires. One was plainly visible, the sparks rising just to the left of the Housatonic round house, while away to the right, half way towards the railway yard, bright flames were shooting upwards and sparks were flying more thickly than to the left.
The first fire company to arrive attached their hose to the hydrant near the corner of White street, and running into Canal street, found the large ice house of the Danbury Ice company, on the left hand side of the street, just below the Housatonic freight house, on fire.
At the opposite end of the street was a wall of flame. The Immense box factory of Theodore Clark & Co. was distinctly outlined against the dark background and playing about the long rows of windows and bursting in all directions, fire seemed to have full possession of the huge structure.


Canal street, running easterly from White street is composed entirely of factories and lumber yards. Beyond Osborne Brothers’ lumber yard, at the corner of White street, is an open lot, and adjoining this is, or rather was, a large ice house, a building recently erected by the Danbury Ice company. Almost adjoining was a small, one-story annex of Meeker’s grain elevator, and then the tall elevator itself. Then comes the long double row of sheds of J.T. Bates’, and his immense lumber yard with carpenter shop and small lumber yards. These run along several hundred feet, and a line of coal sheds and stable nearly connected them with the factory of Clark & Co., probably the largest the largest single structure in the city. Just beyond Clark’s, but across the river, on the line of the Danbury and Norwalk railway, is Berkle & Co.’s main factory.
The opposite side of Canal street is lined with brick and wooden factories and founderies as well as carpenter shops.


By the time the first stream was in readiness, the fire had reached the roof of the ice house, on the side nearest the elevator, and was rapidly spreading in all directions. The small annex of the latter building was burning fiercely.
As the hose companies came up the men took various positions, the greater efforts being directed towards Clark’s factory.
The people began to arrive in crowds, and the fire police had difficulty in keeping them outside the limits. The fire did more in this direction than anything else, as the heat was so intense that it was impossible to approach within a considerable distance of the ice house. Beyond this point the heat from the burning box factory was sufficient to hold on at a respectable distance.
It was evident that the firemen had their hands full, and that the fire would prove one most difficult to fight.
As the flames mounted the ice house they communicated to the tall elevator, and the single stream at this point was insufficient to form even the slightest barrier. The fire ate away its sides, and in a remarkably short space of time half of the building was in a partial state of destruction, while the remainder was, to all appearances, unharmed.
Then came a struggle. There was but one stream to protect the entire building, and that was all which stood between Bates’ lumber yard. From the New England tracks the smoke could be seen rolling out from beneath the cars. Little tongues of flame darted out from under the clapboards, but they were quickly drowned out by the vigilant men at the nozzle of the hose. The best they could do was to leave the burning end to itself, and confine themselves to saving the other. To accomplish this meant the saving of the lumber yard, worth many thousands of dollars. To fall meant the total destruction of all the property along that side of the street.
The crowd watched the operations with interest as the flames were overcome in place after place. A red glow appeared at the little gable window, and a moment or two after a long flame shot out, almost across the space which intervened between the Bates property. There was a crash as the water struck the window, and a volume of thick, black smoke succeeded the flame. Then the fire burst out from the roof, and all along under the cornice facing the lumber yard. It appeared as if all was to be lost.
The streams fed by the hydrant fell just short of where the flames were at their height, and the water rebounded to the ground, drenching the plucky firemen.
Just as it seemed as if they must give up, a gang of pipemen rushed up, and as there came a cry of “Look out!” a stream of water burst from the nozzle which they held, rising far up above the elevator and nearly twice as high as the first stream.
The steamer had arrived, and this was its first stream. A successful stream it was too, for with its aid the flames which in a few moments more would have been among the dry piles of lumber, were beaten and drowned out, and the danger in a great measure averted. In less than a half hour the fire in this portion of the street was entirely extinguished.


When the firemen first arrived at Theo. Clark & Co.’s factory there were not a dozen people in sight, and though they made such quick time the flames had already gained a headway that threatened the very worst. They seemed to entirely wrap the eastern portion of the building and the boiler room and presented a barrier of fire that only the most strenuous efforts would prevent from communicating its destruction to other near buildings.
The fire company lost no time in attaching its hose to a hydrant, and getting a stream on the burning structure. The stream, however, amounted to but little, as there was such an extent of burning surface to cover and the wooden building furnished such fuel for the flames.
They gained rapidly, and in a short time the firemen were compelled to recede several feet on account of the heat which was great.
In the meantime a reel of hose on the shed near the railway track belonging to the factory was brought out and made use of, and then two streams played on the building. If there had been six or even more it have been impossible to stay the fire as it was burning with such fury.
On the boiler room was a huge iron smoke stack fifty feet high. This fell with a crash and the crowd scattered right and left. Tillerman Warner had a narrow escape from being crushed by it as it fell. One of the lengths of the stack grazed his arm and tore the sleeve off his coat.
In fifteen minutes after the time the firemen were on the scene an immense crowd of people had gathered. The factory was now given up as lost. The heat was increasing and had already gained an intensity that endangered buildings one hundred feet away. The firemen’s efforts, it was certain, would be futile if directed towards the factory, so their attention was given to the shed which extends from the main building to the track. This shed was filled with piles of lumber and used by the company in making their boxes. The end of it was but a few feet from Bates’ lumber yard, and if the fire had worked its way through it to the lumber stored there, a much larger conflagration must have ensued.
The flames were already eating the timber in this shed. Now the firemen turned the streams into the structure simply to prevent its gaining a foot hold and communicating to the lumber yard. Here they met with success. A stream was also turned into the building north of the factory belonging to Charles Richardson, in which were stored sixty car loads of hay. It was saved.
The boiler had evidently exploded, making a loud report. It blew off three times before the report was heard, and each time the noise of the escaping steam made the crowd stand back. Today, however, after an examination, it is found that the boiler did not burst. It is probable that some chemicals near the boiler room were exploded, and thus caused the report that was so plainly heard.
All this time the heat was intense. The crowd, which at first took a position near the building, and on the freight cars but a few feet from it, gradually fell back, till when it was the hottest, they were a good distance away. The flames leaped high in the air, and threw out a shower of sparks that fell thick and fast all over that section. Each time that some part of the factory fell there would be a burst of flame and a swell of heat that almost scorched those first in the lines of the onlookers.
In an hour after the flames started the building was level with the ground. Starting at the east end they had rapidly spread to the west end of the factory, and as rapidly consumed everything in their path. What at a quarter past one o’clock was one of the largest factories in the city, at a quarter past two was obliterated, and only a mass of charred timbers and ashes. The work of the fire had been complete in every particular. It had made futile all the endeavors of the fire department on this one building by its heat, which was so great that the water from the hose was almost evaporated when it descended upon it.
A small house belonging to Mrs. Julia Connor stands just back of the burned factory. It is only about twenty feet away and it is a wonder it was not destroyed. The wall of the house next to the fire was burned through and articles in the rooms were badly scorched. A hen and a number of chickens were lying dead in the yard. Mrs. Connor estimates her loss at $1000.
Late in the morning volumes of smoke ascended from the sheds containing the lumber, and the firemen were at work with hooks and hose trying to subdue the flames and root out the cause.


That the fires were of incendiary origin cannot be doubted. There is no more favorable spot for the work of an incendiary in the city limits, and the fact that the two fires were discovered simultaneously would be sufficient to point to incendiarism.
When the firemen reached the icehouse the fire was evidently in the vicinity of the roof, and it was first thought that an engine spark might have caused the damage, but the story of J.H. Brownley the night watchman at Meeker’s factory shows that such was not the case.
Mr. Brownley in making his usual 1 o’clock round, and looking in the direction of the elevator, discovered the fire. He procured a fire alarm key and ran out into the street crying “fire”. Going to box 27, he found Officer Bradley already there, the officer having seen the light from his post on White street.
Telling the officer that he thought there were men asleep in the ice house, he ran back to the fire, which he found to be entirely in the little one-story building attached to the elevator. This building was filled with hay, and in that the fire gained a good headway before it was discovered. The little building was well screened from view and was the most favorable place for the starting of a fire, unless, possibly, the center of Bates’ lumber yard had been chosen.
As Mr. Brownley was engaged about the elevator his attention was attracted to the fire at Clark’s factory, which he had not before noticed, but which was burning well at that time.
Clark’s factory was certainly set on fire. The first persons to arrive noticed the fire as it was spreading at the front of the building. A moment after a light appeared at the rear, just on the edge of the brook, and there too, the flames sprang up. There had been no fire in or about the factory or boiler room during the two preceding days.


Watchman Brownley, after noticing the location of the fires ran to the opposite side of the ice house, where he believed that two men were sleeping. He had noticed them going in that direction late the evening before. He was joined by two of the early arrivers at the fire, and after considerable difficulty succeeded in forcing an entrance to the house through a small door. The place was filled with smoke, and was being fast destroyed by the fire which had already a good start. Lying on a pile of loose straw, their shoes and coats off, were two men, sound asleep, and in great danger of suffocation. They were aroused, and taken out, and turned over to Officers Bradley and Foley, who took them to the station house. They were William Walton, a man well known about town, and rather a hard character, and a fellow giving his name as John McEwen and his residence as Orange, N.J. They were locked up. Had not Mr. Brownley noticed them as they passed his factory on their way to the ice house, they would undoubtedly have been suffocated by the stifling smoke from the burning damp straw with which the place was filled, and their bodies would have been found in the ruins.


Shortly after the arrival of the hook and ladder truck, Chief Meyers ordered out the steam fire engine. Driver Lewis was dispatched with his horses, and although the engine was at the Boughton street house, he succeeded in arriving at the fire with it at twenty minutes of two. Engineer Stevens was in charge and when the engine reached Canal street, the gauge registered eighteen pounds of steam. Seven minutes later two streams of water were being thrown by the aid of the steamer.
The engine saved many times its value last night, and had it reached the fire at once upon sounding of the alarm, all or the greater portion of the elevator could, and undoubtedly would have been saved. The engine was enclosed with a rope in order to keep back the crowds which watched with interest its workings. The pump at the factory of Berkerle & Co. did good service, and several streams of water were thrown on Clark’s factory by its aid. As the pumps started up the factory whistle was blown several times. This brought a crowd around through the Danbury and Norwalk yard, many thinking that this factory was also on fire.


The principle loss was upon the factory occupied by Theodore Clark & Co., which was totally destroyed, hardly a board being left. The loss falls heavily upon the firm, who say it is in the neighborhood of $40,000. They had an insurance of $16,000.
The building was owned by Isaac W. Ives, who estimates his loss at $10,000 with an insurance of $7,000.
O.H. Meeker, the proprietor of the elevator, owned also the building which he occupied. This, with its contents was so damaged as to be practically valueless, only a portion of the walls standing. His loss is $15,000, with an insurance of $9,000. The loss of the building of the Danbury Ice company, which was empty, will not exceed $400, and was well insured.
The total loss is said is about $65,000, according to the most reliable estimates to be obtained.


Realizing that the fires were of an incendiary origin, the police at once set out to find a clue which would lead to the discovery of the guilty party. The crowd and the surroundings were carefully searched. This morning Daniel McCready, a character well known about town, was placed under arrest, and taken to the station house, where he is still confined. The arrest was purely on suspicion, as the man is supposed to have a mania in the direction of incendiarism, although he has never been convicted of such an act. Several stories of McCready’s whereabouts were investigated, and varied widely. It is principally on the strength of these that he is held.


Captain Keating discovered several startling facts this morning, and among them one which shows a third attempt at incendiarism.
A party of four while passing through Canal street, about the time of the breaking out of the fire, saw a man pouring something upon the old wooden building adjoining the brick machine factory, now unoccupied. He held something in his hand covered with what appeared to be a newspaper.
As the party told the story the Captain carefully noted the facts, and going to the spot indicated found the side of the building thoroughly saturated with what appeared to be and smelled like kerosene oil.
The man fled at the approach of the party, and disappeared in the darkness before they could recognize him. James Lovelace passed him shortly after, as he was running across the small foot bridge crossing the river, back of Canal street.
The fellow was running away from the fire, and was vigorously wiping and rubbing his hands. Mr. Lovelace could not recognize him as he passed.
It is said that the same man was seen to board a New England freight train, west bound, later, and enter an empty box car.


Clark & Co. will resume work Monday in a portion of the Rundle box shop, River street.

The old machine factory opposite the elevator caught fire several times.
The work of the fire police was fully appreciated by neighboring property owners, last night.
Assistant Engineer Fitzsimmons was not in town last evening, and the entire duties developed upon Chief Meyers.
Abijah Abbott this morning very kindly tendered the Clark Bros. the use of his shop to complete orders on hand.
There was a meeting of the common council this afternoon at 3 o’clock, to take some action on Incendiarism in Danbury.
There were many cars in danger on the sidings in the Housatonic freight yard and back alongside Clark’s factory, but all were gotten out in safety.
The value of the steam fire engine was illustrated last evening, and the property it was instrumental in saving is worth many times the value of the machine.
Just seven minutes after the first stroke of the alarm, the hook and ladder truck was at the fire, and the horses unhitched ready to return for the steamer.
The surprise pictured upon the face of each new-comer at the fire last night was something amusing to behold, as he would look first at one fire and then at the other.
The total loss, while no doubt somewhat exaggerated by the owners of the property, is far greater than even the figures given represent, as damage to business and income is no small matter.
Thomas Warner is receiving congratulations on all sides to-day on account of his lucky escape. A few inches nearer the falling stack and city would have been obliged to secure a new hook and ladder tillerman.
Dexter’s factory was at one time thought to be in danger, as large pieces of burning board and paper lighted on all parts of the roof. It was with difficulty that men stationed upon the roof, saved the building.
Isaac W. Ives seems to have met with hard luck with his Canal street property. The Clark factory, of which he was owner, will prove a heavy loss. But even such drawbacks do not discourage Mr. Ives’ enterprise.
A most fortunate thing was absence of wind. A slight breeze would have carried the flames through the dry piles of lumber and timber, and swept away all of the recently rebuilt portion of the street which suffered in the other fire.
From expressions which dropped from the lips of firemen and citizens, the position of the firebug will be anything but pleasant if he is caught at his work. Said an officer this morning: “If I ever see that man in the hands of a mob I will turn my back and wish him God speed.”
The suggestion that the steamer be run to all fires is a timely one, and seems to meet with general favor, especially among manufacturers. A team of horses, and other requirements will be necessary for a complete service, and arrangements will probably be made for these as soon as it is transferred to Ives street.
The Danbury fire department never did better work at a fire, and Chief Meyers is to be congratulated on his success in contesting against so great odds. A great deal of that wild flurry which so often characterizes a volunteer department was missing, and things were taken coolly and quietly. To save the lumber yards and adjoining sheds was a praiseworthy task.

[Danbury News – Jul 8, 1889]

Fires on White, Foster and Rose Streets
Kerosene Oil and Waste Used.

Three alarms of fire kept the fire department busy Saturday night and Sunday morning.
There were four actual fires, the department being called out to three, and the fourth being extinguished without the sounding of the alarm.
Two of the four are positively known to have been of incendiary origin, and the third started under very suspicious circumstances. The other was simply a breaking out of the Canal street fire of Saturday morning.
Many of the firemen having been out nearly all of the preceding night, and at work on the ruins far into the day, were thoroughly exhausted, and were hoping for a good night’s rest. What little they obtained, however, was in little naps between alarms, and the alarm was kept busy the greater part of the night.

Just before the 9 o’clock bell sounded a few members of Kohanza hose company ran around the corner of Ives street and into White, dragging their carriage. There had been no alarm, and it was supposed that they had been ordered out to watch the Canal street ruins. They had but turned the corner when the hook and ladder turned the corner, the horses on a run. The firemen turned into Canal street. The lumber in the partially destroyed shed at the left of Clark’s factory was blazing briskly, and the hose company spent an hour wetting it down.
Fully ten minutes after the hook and ladder company and hose No. 2 passed through White street, the alarm sounded twenty-seven. This brought a rush of people to White street, but the flames were already extinguished.
It seems that on the discovery of the fire, Officer Clark, of the fire police attempted to send in the alarm from box 27. He pulled the box several times, but not hearing the bell strike, ran down to box 25 at the Wooster House. Here he met with no better success. Then he went to the battery room at the City hHall, and from there the alarm was sounded.

When the Washington express arrived at Danbury last night, Brakeman George Madison, of Brewster, left the train to await the arrival of a freight on which he could proceed to Brewster, the express not stopping at that station. Shortly after 1 o’clock he started to walk down through the yard to board the train, which was nearly due. Passing the freight house he noticed a peculiar light in a small window in the large barn of George Chichester, standing up on the hill to the left of the tracks. He could see something dropping down through the tracks. He could see something dropping down through the cracks in the side of the barn. It appeared to be blazing oil.
Running back to the station he told Operator Delaney and Expressman Andrews, who were awaiting the arrival of the east bound express. Mr. Delaney ran across to fire alarm box 27 and turned in an alarm, while Madison and Andrews went back to the barn. Crawling in through an open window they found one corner of the barn in flames. A few pails of water sufficed to extinguish the fire, and when the firemen arrived a few minutes after, their services were not required.
There was but little response to the alarm, many supposing it to be a breaking out of the Canal street fire a third time.
When daylight came and an investigation of the fire was made it was found [to] have been a most deliberate piece of incendiarism. The barn is one of the largest buildings of its kind in the city, and stands in rather an unfrequented place. At the rear overlooking the railway yard is a small, square opening, used principally for the purpose of throwing out the refuse from the stalls.
Crawling through this opening one finds himself in a large space at the rear of a row of stalls. In these stalls, at the time of the fire, were three horses. Up in the right hand corner, close to the rear of the stalls, two beams form a sort of “V” shaped crevice. All around this the wood work was blackened and charred. A peculiar fact is that the fire started several feet above the floor, and just where it would, after a few minutes, reach the hay in the mow above.
A fact which seems most fiendish is that the fire was started in such a position that, had it once gained a good headway, it would have been impossible to remove the horses.

At 3 o’clock Sunday morning the residents of Foster and Boughton streets were awakened by a cry of fire, and in a few moments the cry passed up Main street and was taken up by the policemen on the street. The firemen were tired out, and it was feared that they would be slow in responding to a regular alarm. Hardly had the cry been taken up when a bright flame shot up in the direction of Wooster street.
Officer Sullivan ran to box 36, at the Turner House, and gave the alarm. The firemen were on the scene almost immediately, and found a small barn belonging to Michael Regan, at the rear of his residence on Foster street, to be in flames. The building was so far gone that the most the firemen could do was to pull down the walls and drown out the fire in the burning hay.
The fire was first discovered by a family living in Mr. Regan’s house.
Chief Boughton and Officer Berry, of the fire police, were among the first at the barn. Mr. Berry made an attempt to burst open the door in order to rescue a valuable horse, which was inside, but when he succeeded in doing so, the interior of the place was a mass of flames, and it would have been an impossibility even to have attempted to enter. No sound was heard from the horse after the door was opened, and it is probable that it had already been suffocated.
As the door fell in Mr. Berry caught a glimpse of an open window at the rear of the barn. This was the only thing about the barn that would give a clue as to the origin of the fire, and is in itself nothing, but it corresponds with facts noted at the other fires of a similar nature.

As Watchman Gray and the night engineer were leaving Tweedy’s factory about 6 o’clock Sunday morning, smoke was discovered issuing from a large barn in the lot just west of the large store houses of D.G. Penfield, on Rose street. Running across to the building the large sliding doors were opened and a dense smoke poured out. The jumper belonging to the factory was quickly brought into use and a stream directed against the fire in the building. It was extinguished without much difficulty.
An examination revealed a clean attempt at incendiarism. Saturday night several blankets were left neatly folded on a large packing box, standing just back of a row of stalls. The blankets being unfolded and spread over the box, the interior of which had evidently been saturated with oil. A large broom had been placed in the box, and from appearances first saturated with oil and then lighted and applied as a torch.
Everything seemed to be so arranged as to give the box a good start before the light should be seen from the outside. The fire had evidently smouldered several hours, and was just making headway when discovered, as the ceiling above was blackened by smoke.
In the loft above the box was a quantity of hay and inflammable stuff, and in the stalls were two horses in such a position that rescue would have been difficult after the fire once obtained headway.
No alarm was sounded for this fire.

The city was thoroughly excited yesterday morning. But few people had been aware that there had been more than two fires, and, as various rumors were started, they gained such magnitude that a stranger would have supposed that half the buildings in the place had been fired. The fires were the topic of the day’s conversation, but little else was talked about.
The police made unusual efforts Saturday night, and every suspicious character was closely watched, but no arrests were made. A number of clues were obtained, but are being kept secret. They have thus far amounted to nothing.

The Fire Steamer’s New Home.
When the special meeting of the common council adjourned Saturday afternoon, the members of the fire committee immediately set about to house the fire engine in the center of the city, as ordered by the common council. The committee instructed Driver Lewis to take it from the Humane Hose house on Boughton street to the house in the rear of the Kohanza house. At that time Chief Meyers was on Canal street and knew nothing of the transaction.
Arriving at Ives street he went to the rear of the Kohanza house and saw the engine for the first time, the driver trying to back into the house prepared for it some time ago. On the ground that the place was too small for the engine he ordered it back to its old quarters. The fire committee interfered and stated that they had assumed charge and that the driver was acting under the committee’s orders. The engine could not get into the place, it being, as Chief Meyers said, too small. The matter was definitely settled by placing it in the Kohanza hose house, and the probabilities are that it will remain there. The question that was raised against placing it there in the first place was the high grade up to the house, and the danger of taking the engine out of the house on a run. The matter was settled to everybody’s satisfaction by Driver Lewis, who took the engine out without any apparent inconvenience. The fire committee and Commissioner of Public Works Olmstead held a short consultation as regards to the cost of raising the street to its proper level, thus making it easier for the steamer to get in and out. Some of the property owners asked then and there that the street be leveled to its proper grade. That clinched the matter. A hasty calculation by Commissioner Olmstead showed that $200 would do it as far as the city property was concerned. On this showing the fire committee concluded that the placing of the engine on Ives street and raising the grade of the street was undoubtedly the best disposition they could do in the matter, and so ordered Commissioner Olmstead to raise the grade of the street and make the necessary change in the paving leading to the Kohanza hose house. With this understanding the matter was left in the hands of Mr. Olmstead, it being generally agreed that the steamer will be housed permanently there.

The Necessity of It Felt at Every Call.
Danbury is verging into a period of its history where some of its old methods must be dropped and new ones taken up. This is felt to be imperative in many things, but none more so than in the working of the fire department. The general interest that the citizens take in this matter was forcibly illustrated in the late city meeting, when nearly all the department estimates were cut down but that under the head of fire department. It will be remembered, too, that when the fire department estimates were under discussion, it was agreed and advocated, even by those most anxious for retrenchment, that this department be allowed what it asked for on the ground that it ranked first in importance in the preservation of city property and should not be curtailed.
Since the introduction and purchase of a steamer for the fire department of this city the custom has been to take it to a fire, only, when in the opinion of the chief, it is deemed necessary. When it is understood that there are only on team of horses for the department, and they are used on the truck, the reason why the steamer is not first to a fire is clear. The wisdom of leaving the steamer to the last moment may be seriously questioned. It is only a matter of time when Danbury will have a team for the engine, and when said engine will be required to lead the department at a fire. What can be gained by a delay on a matter of such importance is hard to guess at. What to do with the horses when not in use can be easily settled when the team is Danbury’s property.

[Danbury News – Jul 16, 1889]
The Housatonic Railway Shops Fired in Broad Daylight.
Oily Waste Used in Each Case.
When the factory of Theodore Clark & Co. and the Meeker elevator were fired at midnight a little over a week ago, the daring of the fire bug whose work was plainly to be seen, was thought to be something extraordinary. The other similar occurrences following so quickly, while the regular and special officers were constantly on the street, startled and astonished our citizens.
That a man would dare to fire buildings in the centre of the street even at the hour of midnight, seemed almost incredulous. That he would deliberately start a fire in broad daylight, in any portion of the city, was not to be thought of.
That he has is now a well known fact. A more complete defiance of officers and detection could hardly be imagined.
The large repair shops of the Housatonic railway station, located just below the round house, and only a short distance below the passenger station, were discovered to be on fire at just seven o’clock last evening. In the vicinity at the time, and not a hundred feet away, were several switchmen, train hands and other employees of the road. A train had passed the building within a few minutes, and others were preparing to start. In the round house adjoining were several engineers, firemen and other railway men. In addition to these people were constantly passing up and down the track, and across past Meeker’s factory.
It was by three boys coming from the latter vicinity that smoke was discovered issuing from the rear of the building, and they ran and informed Watchman Crotty, who was but a short distance away.
By the time Mr. Crotty reached the rear of the building the smoke had greatly increased in volume, and was pouring up over the roof. Several other persons arrived shortly after, and the flames, which could be seen under the edge of the outer wall of boards, were extinguished with a few pails of water.

Until now there had been so little commotion in the vicinity, that even those living close by were not aware of the nature of the trouble, but a moment later the sounding of the alarm from box 7 brought a large crowd in the direction of Railroad avenue. Several hundred people gathered in Ives street awaiting the appearance of the truck and steamer. The large black horses were soon driven up to the building, from Linster’s stables around the corner and volumes of black smoke were pouring out of the doors. The fires had been lighted in the steamer a little too quickly. A moment or two later the doors of the truck house swung open, and the handsome grays dashed down the steep incline and turned toward White street on a gallop.
Shortly after the blacks appeared at the adjoining door, drawing the steamer, from the stack of which smoke was pouring. As the horses heads were turned towards White street, a rush was made towards main street, through the passenger station by a genuine Danbury crowd.
As the engine entered Main street both sides of the street were lined with people anxious to witness the first metropolitan appearance of the Fire Department by daylight.
They were not disappointed as the steamer rushed down the street leaving a long trail of smoke and cinders. The hose companies reached the fire by a shorter route, and had there been any necessity for action, everything would have been on hand before a fire could have gained a fair headway, although, of course, there was considerable delay caused by the laborious process of harnessing, which will be shortly done away with in the case of the truck as a drop harness has already been ordered.

Car inspector Hoyt, who was one of the earlier arrivals at the fire, discovered a large bunch of burning waste, between the partitions. It had been jammed in a large rat hole leading in between the two partitions and lighted, the fire spreading up the side of the building.
Chief Meyers at once commenced an investigation, and taking charge of the waste ordered the arrest of the three young fellows who were first to discover the fire. Their names were Fred Zeiglar, Joseph Hough and Charles Moore. They were taken to the station house by Officers Clark and Betts of the fire police. The arrests were made simply to make a quick investigation, and if possible to trace the fire to its origin, and not because there was any definite suspicion against the boys. Shortly after, Assistant Chief Fitzsimmons ordered the arrest of William Flitcroft, the well-known pedestrian, who was found in the building, in an excited and half intoxicated condition.
An investigation was commenced at once at the police station, each of the prisoners being separately examined and several other witnesses heard. The three boys told the story of the discovery of the fire as they were walking up the track, and were at one released. Flitcroft was locked up on a charge of drunkenness, and discharged later, and the officials were no nearer the solution of the mystery.
Had the fire gained any headway it would have made a dangerous blaze, as there are several wooden buildings in the vicinity. Several barrels of kerosene oil were in dangerous proximity to the blaze where the fire started, and a few moments more would have sufficed to have ignited them.

At twenty minutes of nine the alarm sounded from box 27. Several officers of the fire police were the first to reach the box. There was no one there, although the key was in the lock, and no one could tell where the fire was. At the New England Hotel it was learned that a fireman had called for the key. They did not know who he was, and they did not know where the fire was.
There seemed to be considerable of a mystery to the affair, until it was learned that a slight blaze at the New York and New England railway freight house had been extinguished by a few pails of water.
This, too, was found to have been an incendiary fire, which narrowly escaped resulting in a large loss of property. A young man walking up the track had noticed a light under the freight house, and saw burning oil dropping to the ground. He gave the alarm.
A bunch of waste had been placed upon a large girder, well under the building, and lighted. The flames were just getting a hold upon the wood work and had already scorched two barrels of oil which stood on the floor above.
There was absolutely no clue as to who started the fire.

[Danbury News – Aug 3, 1889]
The Canal Street Sewing Machine Factory, the Housatonic Railway Shops, and Bates’ Lumber Yard.
With dry weather, the incendiary fires which have been so common of late have resumed, three occurring within a few hours this morning within a short distance of each other.
As on previous occasions, Canal street and its vicinity seemed to be the favorite section. There are but three or four buildings on that street, which have not, at some time, suffered from fire, and not a few of them recently.
The plan of action was exactly similar to that which has characterized other occurrences of the kind in different portions of the city, and was undoubtedly the work of the same persons.
Whoever did the work must necessarily have passed several watchmen in the various factories, and policemen were close in the vicinity but not withstanding, he or they not only escaped capture, but no one saw or heard them, or knew anything of what was going on until the flames attracted attention. The police are no nearer the solution of the question of “who is the fire bug?” than they were a month ago, and through no fault of theirs, for clue after clue has been followed up, and night after night spent in watching.
At a few minutes after two o’clock Watchman Brownlee, of Meeker Brothers’ factory, on Canal street, while making his rounds, discovered a bright light in the east windows of the shop. Looking out, he found flames issuing from the long one-story wooden addition to the rear of the big brick factory building just across the yard from the Meeker factory. He ran to box 27 and sounded the alarm. The firemen responded with promptness, and when they arrived the interior of the building was all in flames. It was a peculiar fire, for while it burned fiercely on the inside and tongues of flames leaped out of the windows, the outside caught in but few places and then would not burn. This was no doubt due to the damp condition of the wood. Just as the firemen were getting to work, the fire burst out and suddenly in all directions, and then in a moment died out altogether, leaving the vicinity in darkness. The change was so sudden as to be startling. There was little for the firemen to do after this, as the fire was as completely extinguished as if deluged with water.
The fire originated in the east side of the building, in a pile of light carriage work, stored there by Hull & Rogers. One of the first to arrive at the place said that a quantity of what appeared to be waste and paper was burning close to the window, while the outside had the appearance of burning oil. The loss on the building is but a few dollars, as it was old, and in poor condition, and only the inside burned.
While the firemen were at work at the machine shop some one ran up and informed the fire police that there was a fire on the other side of the river. It was thought to be a hoax, as no sign of smoke or fire could be seen, but several of the officers crossed over to the Danbury and Norwalk railway yard. Smoke was pouring from the door of the long, wooden repair shop, and Watchman Crotty was hard at work with two employees of the road drowning out a somewhat contrary fire in a pile of old bagging in a bin at the lower end of the shop. The smoke had been noticed, and an investigation showed the fire making rapid headway. Beyond this nothing was known. No one had been seen about the place and no noise heard.
Shortly after it was discovered that a window, on the north side of the building which had been left closed and fastened, had been broken in. Half of the sash had been broken off short, and it was evident that some one had broken it out for the purpose of gaining admittance to the building.
In order to have reached the car shops, after starting the Canal street fire one would be obliged to go out onto Canal street past Meekers’ factory through the coal yards, and close along side the railway building with several watchmen around, and a bright starlight night.
Where there are two fires there are sure to be three, is a fact peculiar to Danbury, and the saying seldom fails.
Many of the firemen were still on the street at a quarter past four when the alarm again sounded. It was difficult to tell exactly what the number was. Two boxes had evidently been pulled. Box 27 could be distinguished now and they, and the volume of the yellowish smoke which rolled up from the direction of White street left no doubt as to the location of the fire.
It was in Canal street again, and this time a portion of the lumber yard of J.T. Bates & Co. It was about the only portion of Mr. Bates’ property which had escaped the flames, and was situated at the extreme eastern end of the street. When the firemen reached the place the building, which comprised the barn and lumber sheds adjoining, was burning briskly.
Some minutes before the sounding of the alarm the continued blowing of a whistle had aroused many and gave rise to the rumor that Beckerle’s factory was on fire. The whistle was that of the engine of an east bound freight train on the New England road, the engineer of which discovered the fire.
A half hour’s hard work on the part of the firemen sufficed to extinguish the flames, but not before the building was gutted, above the stalls, on the ground floor, and a quantity of hay which it contained, consumed.
The fire started in the hay mow, which could easily be reached by a ladder running up the outside, and early arrivals say that the odor of burning kerosene was noticeable.
Mr. Bates’ loss will not exceed $200.

[Danbury News – Aug 12, 1889]
Three Fires Occur Saturday Night.
I.W. Ives Again Afflicted. – A Ghastly Find in the Ruins. – A Woman Arrested for Setting Fire to Her Own House. – Mysterious Incidents. – Splendid Work by the Firemen.
It was an odd group gathered in front of the city hall, as the sun was peeping over the summit of Shelter Rock, at daybreak, Sunday morning, and an odd time for such a group to be assembled.
Two or three uniformed policemen, one or two officers in citizens dress, one with a bulls-eye lantern, a half dozen members of the fire police, several smoke begrimed firemen, and a number of citizens formed the group.
As they were standing in conversation, a wagon rattled up, and two officers assisted a woman to alight and escorted her to the police office. A moment later a special officer came in with an intoxicated man. “Found asleep at the fire,” was the explanation given the Sergeant, as he led his prisoner away to a cell.
The next caller was a fireman. He was evidently just from a fire. He was tired and grimy, but as he spoke in a low voice to the officer in charge of the station, the latter’s face assumed a grave aspect.
“Boys,” he said to two policemen, who came in at that moment, “go up to that first fire and take charge of a corpse there.”
The group from the outside followed the fireman in, and to their glances of inquiry he replied shortly.
“A man burned to death; we just found him in the ruins.”
The man started back up Main street, and the idlers followed along slowly. There were few people on the street, but the news seemed to spread like magic.
Those who had not been aroused by the repeated sounding of the fire alarm during the night were few. There had been two alarms at different hours, one for a fire of a serious nature and which threatened to become one of the most serious conflagrations which ever visited Danbury. The other was for a slight blaze. Then, too, it was known that another building had been found on fire, and there were rumors to the effect of a half dozen more. The fires were all of evident incendiary origin, and the report of the burning to death of a man presented the matter to many minds in an entirely new light.
There have been many fires in the last two months, in fact, nine within a week, and some of them have resulted very seriously, many dollars’ worth of property having been destroyed, and horses roasted to death in their stalls, but not since the great Beckerle fire has a human life been sacrificed.
To say that Danbury was excited on Sunday would be little short of the truth. The talk of the city, breakfast, dinner and supper table talk, store and street talk, and even the conversation at the church door, was of the fires and the unfortunate man who perished so miserably.
There was no alarm sounded for the first fire. It amounted to but little, and was extinguished easily. It was at the rear of the “Danbury House” as it is called, but better known as the “Anderson place”, adjoining the fire department building on Ives street.
Some one going to the rear of the cellar discovered a stifling smoke. A hurried search showed a small but rapidly increasing blaze. The building stands just opposite the old Housatonic freight house, and is a wooden structure, old and dry. A lane runs alongside the fire department building, and through an opening in the board fence separating the two an entrance can be obtained to the backyard of the Anderson building. After making two or three turns between old out-houses and sheds, the place where the fire was started can be seen. As some one remarked, the place could be set on fire a thousand times and the person escape detection. The spot is completely surrounded by wooden buildings, and a person there would be completely sheltered from outside view.
Fireman warner, who was on police duty on Ives and white streets, was one of the first at the place. The odor of kerosene oil was so strong as to be noticeable some distance away, and by the light of a lantern it could be seen that a large quantity of the fluid had been poured over the rear of the building, and dashed about promiscuously from the ground to the roof. A lot of oily waste from the journals of car axles lay about, and some of it was burned. It had evidently been placed on the ground close beside the building, and lighted, and the oil, dripping down from above, quickly communicated the fire to that on the building. Things were progressing merrily when discovered, but a few moments more would have decidedly increased the merriment. It was but a question of time, and a short time at that before the fire would have gained some headway, and had it, the building could hardly have been saved, as the side in which the fire started is so located that the firemen could not have reached it directly on account of intervening buildings. The building is unoccupied with the exception of the saloon in the basement, and this was crowded at the time of the fire.
The proprietor had a little difficulty with some young fellows a short time before, and he directed his suspicion against them, but this is thought probable by those acquainted with the circumstances. It was just ten o’clock when the fire was discovered.
Police Captain Keating and a number of men stood at the corner of White and Ives streets at a quarter past eleven Saturday night. The streets were lively just at that hour, the saloons being about to close.
Just at that moment two men ran out from the alley leading from the Central Hotel. “Help!” they cried, “Ives Court is on fire.” They were greeted with a derisive sort of laugh by a number of by-standers, who evidently considered it a sort of joke of some kind. As they ran up White street Captain Keating ran towards the spot indicated, which was but a few rods away, but before he could reach it the street was suddenly illuminated and a mass of flames darted upward and then died away, but for a moment only. They seemed to gain new life, and with a rush spread in all directions. There were but a half dozen persons in the little alley, but they rushed into the open court beyond, and set to work to remove what property could be found.
Horses were quickly liberated from the neighboring stables and led to places of safety. Assistance began to arrive, and carriages and wagons drawn out of reach of the fire, and dozens of willing hands hastened to overhaul the contents of the surrounding buildings.
Ives Court was one of the most dangerous districts in Danbury for a fire, and the firemen have long been aware of it. Facing White street is the Central Hotel, and the large wooden block in which is located Sherman’s grocery and Meyer’s clothing store. Adjoining these is another building of a similar character recently erected, and next it is a wooden block owned by Henry B. Hawley.
At the rear of these buildings is a large tract of land covered with wooden buildings of every description and surrounded on every side by other buildings, approachable only by narrow alleys, and hemmed in all around by obstacles of every kind. The place is wholly invisible from the street.
Just back of the hotel were two one-story buildings, one occupied by R.M. Murray as a paint shop, and the other by Wildman & Close as a carpenter shop. East of these was an unoccupied space, and close to the rear was a very large building used as a stable. It ran nearly the length of the court, and at its eastern end was a smaller carriage house. Running north and south along the western end of the court was a large building, now occupied by William H. Banks as a livery stable. It was once occupied by Osborne Brothers as a lumber yard. West of this are Cole’s stables, running way through to Ives street, and the tenement house occupied by James Lovelace and other families. Along the south side of the court is another long building, a portion of it occupied by Banks. Further on was an unoccupied barn and shed, and adjoining it a barn occupied by William Canfield.
Further down was a large building occupied as a blacksmith and machine shop, and beyond this is a wood yard, Beers’ large ice house, and some tenement houses. Thus it will be seen that a perfect square was formed by the White street blocks and stables, and in the centre of the square was a large group of buildings.
This central group was on fire, and the flames were spreading in all directions. A portion of the outside row of the square was on fire when the firemen arrived, and was cutting its way along like a knife. It can be seen that the Danbury volunteer fire department had work before it which would have razzled a paid and trained body of men. But they were equal to it.
The first intimation of the fire received by the city was through the shrill and repeated blowing of a locomotive whistle in the yard of the Housatonic railway. Before the whistle stopped that portion of the city was brightly illuminated but no fire alarm was sounded. An effort was being made to pull box 25, at the Wooster house but it refused [COLUMN BREAK] to work. Officer Sullivan was in the neighborhood of the City Hall, and seeing the fire, he ran to box 32, which worked correctly. Just about this time box 25 started up, and the result is known by everybody who was in earshot of the bell. Every number on the fire alarm directory was given, including ciphers.
When the hosemen of No. 2 ran in through the alley with a line of hose, they found things as already stated, and when the water came bursting through the nozzle the heat was so intense that the men could hardly approach near enough the fire to direct the stream. The alarm quickly brought other hose companies to the scene, and line after line of hose was laid through the alleys. The steamer was stationed at the hydrant just east of the Danbury and Norwalk passenger station. Engineers Stevens and Eastwood were in charge, and in a remarkably short time were forcing water through the long lines of hose. The pressure proved too great, however, and the hose and nozzles were bursted several times. The damage was soon repaired, and work resumed. Meanwhile the hydrant streams were pouring volumes of water upon the fire.
The flames, however, increased with lightning rapidity, and were spreading not only in the court, but over into the barns and shed fronting the street along the old Housatonic freight house. The situation was becoming desperate, and it seemed as if the whole square must go.
Chief Meyers ordered a general alarm of ten strokes to be sounded, and various companies not called upon to respond to the first alarm, reinforced the workers. Although the buildings burned like so much tinder and were filled with hay and inflammable material, the firemen seemed soon to be gaining the upper hand. The steamer men, stationed along the railway lane and the vicinity, accomplished a great task in cutting off the fire completely on the south side, saving the stables and the machine shop below. The powerful streams when used at short range were effective to a surprising degree, and it was apparent that on that hand little danger was to be feared.
On the opposite side of the square the heat was so intense that a person could not pass between the fire and the Central otel, and the pitch was running from the knot holes of the latter building.
Water was fairly poured upon the fire, and in three-quarters of an hour it was fully under control, and several of the hose companies were engaged in picking up their lines. A great fight was made, and Danbury’s volunteer fire department were once more victorious. It was without a doubt, the most dangerous fire with one or two exceptions, ever seen in this vicinity.
The damage was principally to the buildings in the center of the square, the carpenter shop, the three buildings comprising the stables just south of the carpenter shop, Banks’ barn and carriage store house across the narrow lane, the two adjoining stables and William Canfield’s stable were reduced to ashes. The rear portions of the buildings in the row facing the railway lane were badly damaged. Banks’ main stable was badly scorched and Murray’s paint shop gutted.
An immense crowd of people gathered on White and Ives streets and along the railway track, but could see but little except the flames rising up over the tops of the buildings, as the fire police held them back from the interior of the square. The work of this organization, although from appearances not fully appreciated by some of the would be sight seers, cannot be over estimated, and Chief Boughton is to be congratulated upon the efficiency of his force, and the men have the thanks of the citizens for their services.
The firemen, with the exception of one hose company, were all away from the fire by two o’clock, and things resumed in part, the usual quiet.
There was a sad accident in connection with the fire, and the person responsible for its origin is also responsible for the death of a human being. While the flames were at their height some unfortunate was enveloped in their fiery folds, and there he lay, unknown to the firemen, the police, or the vast assemblage of citizens, roasting to death within a few feet of a thousand people.
At day break a number of stragglers were wandering about among the ruins. Among them was Stephen Doyle. He was near the center of the large unoccupied stable adjoining that where the fire originated. A curious object in the blackened cinders attracted his attention, and a moment later he startled those in the vicinity by crying out that he had discovered a dead man. A crowd quickly gathered, and the object was subjected to an examination. There was little appearance of a human being, but the general outline of what could be seen in the cinders, had the form of a body.
Some one suggested that the police be sent for. Tillerman Thomas Warner, of the hook and ladder company, who is also in the employ of the city as a police officer, was sent for, and took charge of the object. He sent word to the police station, and to Medical Examiner Wile. Sergeant Waggneor detailed Officers Sullivan and Brady to guard the place until the arrival of the proper authorities.
Dr. Wile hastily responded, and on viewing the find decided that it was a human body, and was of the opinion at first that the remains were those of a colored man. As the body was removed, however, it was decided that it was that of a white person.
It lay close beside a partially charred beam, on top of a pile of cinders. It was face upwards. All the flesh was burned away leaving the blackened skeleton. One arm was burned completely off, and the other was drawn up, as if the person had been asleep, with one hand under his head. The entrails also burned and blackened, protruded from the stomach, and as Officer Warner shoveled away the ashes, a portion of one of the lungs was separated from the remains. The legs were burned off just below the thighs, and evidently entirely consumed. After a little digging, small portions of the feet, encased in parts of shoes, were found. As the body was turned over, parts of suspenders and some buttons, together with a piece of the waist band of the pants, were found. Medical Examiner Wile ordered Undertaker Cosier to take charge of the remains, which he did about half past five.
The body was taken to the Cosier morgue. A number who had missed friends called to see if they could identify the remains. But there was no possibility of identifying them. It was a charred, blackened, roasted mass of flesh, with outlines of a body and a head – but nothing but the outlines to show that it was a human being. The flesh was badly shriveled on the head and body, and the legs were burned off.
There can be but little doubt that the fire was of incendiary origin. It has been the opinion of many that it resulted from the carelessness of the individual whose remains were found, but as the fire broke out in a different place, and in fact several places, this is at least improbable. There was no hay in place where the body was found.
Captain Keating and William Canfield, the occupant of one of the stables, were among the first at the place. They found flames bursting from a dozen places, and Mr. Canfield says the fire was just starting in several different places on the outside near the ground. Mrs. Lymer, who lives a short distance away, says the fire appeared in several places at once.
Mrs. Lymer tells an interesting story, which is corroborated by several facts, and it would seem that she saw the incendiary or incendiaries. She happened to have occasion to step to a window which is in sight of where the fire first started. Everything was dart at that time so far as fire was concerned, but the bright moon lit up the whole vicinity. As she stepped to the window her attention was attracted by footsteps. A moment later two men ran by at full speed, coming from Ives court. She thought it peculiar and noticed them particularly. One was tall and wore a light hat, and the other was short, wearing a stiff hat and a Prince Albert coat.
Two men in the employ of John Bartley saw the same two a moment after, run past Bartley’s barn, which is a short distance from the Lymer barn. Their description corresponds with that given by Mrs. Lymer, in every particular. Shortly after they ran by Mrs. Lymer saw the fire spring up in several places. Fireman Frank Smith of Hose Co. No. 3, was at a hydrant on White street, not far from the corner of Canal street, some time after, when the same two men, according to the description came from the direction in which they were seen running. They stopped and spoke to Smith, and their peculiar actions at once attracted his attention. He questioned them but they pretended to be strangers. Soon after a man came up and recognized one of the two pretended strangers. The police were notified and made a thorough investigation, but neither of the two men or the one who recognized them could be found.
John Buchard, Michael McCoy and Thomas Powers, three young men who partially answered the descriptions given, were arrested, but Mrs. Lymer declared that they were not the men whom she saw running away.
When the alarm sounded at four o’clock, Sunday morning, from box 45, on South street, the tired firemen and policemen again responded.
Mrs. Albert Dugan, who occupies one [COLUMN BREAK] of Mrs. Henry Harvey’s houses, on Mountainville avenue, aroused the neighbors just before daylight by her cries of fire. The neighbors who ran to her assistance found the house filled with smoke and a fire in a small pantry. It was quickly extinguished, and Chief Engineer Meyers and Mayor Hopkins commenced an investigation as to the origin of the fire.
There was a strong smell of oil about the closet. In an adjoining room a small hole had been knocked in the plastering and oil poured in between the walls in a considerable quantity. A blackened spot above it showed where an unsuccessful attempt had been made to ignite it.
Of course, under the circumstances, suspicion pointed strongly to Mrs. Dugan. She told a fairly straightforward story of being aroused by her little boy in the morning, and getting up, finding the house full of smoke. She left her children and ran out, partially dressed, to arouse the neighbors, with whose assistance she removed them. When the firemen arrived she ran up stairs and fell on the bed in a faint. At the order of Chief Meyers she was placed under arrest and taken to the station house. She denied any knowledge of the fire. All the windows in the lower part of the house were unfastened, and could easily have been opened by anybody from the outside.
Another attempt to fire the Ives Court property was discovered yesterday. At the end of the blacksmith shop, adjoining Canfield’s barn, was found a hole, in which was found a quantity of dry oat straw, which had been shoved in between the two walls. Around the hole match scratches were plainly seen, and on the ground were a number of partially burned matches, which had evidently gone out in the hurry of the person to light the fire.
The police received a call from Nichols & Hine’s shop Sunday morning, informing them of the suspicious actions of some men, but did not succeed in finding anybody.
It has been definitely decided that the unfortunate man who perished in the flames was Barney Van Wie, a well known character about town. Several men were reported missing, but all have been found by the police with the exception of Van Wie. He has been identified partially by the portions of the clothing found.
Van Wie was seen on the street during the evening, and was told to make himself scarce or go to the station house, as he was badly intoxicated. This was the last seen of him.
Medical Examiner Wile notified the coroner’s office in Bridgeport, and Acting Deputy Coroner Downs arrived in town this morning. He decided not to hold a formal inquest, as in his opinion it would not do anything towards clearing up the mystery of the fire.
Officer A.E. Treadwell of the fire police was badly cut in the leg by glass while attempting to enter the house of Humane Hose company on Boughton street, before the arrival of any member of the company, to get out the carriage.
Chief Meyers was struck in the face by a stream of water, and for several hours lost his voice from the force of the blow.
The damage to the buildings burned, will not exceed $1,500. Isaac W. Ives was the owner.
A young man by the name of Brennan was nearly exhausted while removing horses from the stables.
The losses to the occupants of the buildings in Ives Court will be small. William Camfield is probably the heaviest looser. His property destroyed amounts to $250. He was not insured.
The Housatonic round house was considered in danger at one time, and several of the engines were removed.
Numerous articles were stolen at the White street fire.

[Danbury News – Aug 13, 1889]

Byron Dexter’s Hat Factory Totally Destroyed.
Waste, Oil and Gas at the J.M. Ives Company’s.
The Loss Over $35,000.
The police and citizens were puzzled over the events of Saturday night and Sunday, and startled by the boldness of the design evidently so well carried out, and its fatal result.
Equally startling were the events of last night. But a small portion of the city found rest until well into the morning, and the constant ringing of the fire alarm bell, and the accompanying excitement, kept streets crowded all night long.
If the doings of Saturday night were puzzling, those of last night were far more so, for, with four fires – one, the largest Danbury has seen for a long time, and evident traces of incendiarism at each, with not the slightest clue as to who started the fires, affairs are in a peculiar state.
With the Ives Court fire resulting as it did, few people expected a continuance of the proceedings of the past month or two. It would seem, however, that the prospect of the scaffold, or a more speedy death, if captured in the act, has not the slightest terror for this fiend, who has thus far escaped detection so remarkably and time upon time.
When the Housatonic shops were fired in broad daylight, the act was thought to exhibit remarkable rashness on the part of the rascal, but an incident of occurrence last evening shows more fully the rascal’s utter disregard for the safety of his own neck, and his complete defiance of the police and citizens.
At half-past ten Monday evening flames were discovered in the rear of the store of the J.M. Ives company, in their tin shop, a few feet south of the end of the Danbury & Norwalk railway station platform.
The fire was then confined to a circular hole in the north side of the building, used when necessary, for the leading of a stove pipe from the shop outward. An alarm was sounded from box 25, and the firemen in the department building across the road noticed. The members of Hose company No. 2 were at work “glushing” up the hose used at the previous fires, and it was but the work of a few seconds to attach to the hydrant near the building.
The fire had gained considerable headway between the inside and outside board partitions, and considerable effort was required for its extinguishment.
When an investigation of the surroundings was made, a quantity of burned waste was found in a tin lined sort of a closet, directly below the chimney hole. How it was placed there could not be definitely ascertained, it being the opinion of some that the stuff was thrown into the hole from the outside, a very easy thing to do.
It was not until this morning that the true nature of the attempt and the daring manner in which it was performed was discovered. It was shown that the fire was started from the inside, an entrance being effected by a window at the rear. At some of the windows oily finger marks, traced in the thick railway oil, are plainly visible.
One of the most startling circumstances of the fire is that nearly every gas jet in the shop was turned o full head, and in fifteen minutes, had the fire not been discovered as it was, the gas would have been sufficient to have completed the destruction of the building and surrounding property. No force of water would have been sufficient to have extinguished the burning gas.
When George Allen, foreman of the tin shop entered his office adjoining the shop this morning, he found oil and finger marks about the wall, and on opening a drawer in his private desk, he discovered that the papers and letters in the drawer had been partially burned. The drawer had evidently been pulled out and the papers fired, and the whole thing closed up tight. This of course smothered the flames.
An exciting incident occurred soon after the arrival of the firemen. Chief Engineer Meyers, according to the story of bystanders, turned to Orra Mead, a member of Kohanza Hose company, and demanded a rubber coat which the man wore. The coat was Mead’s private property, but according to the statement, on his refusal to give it, the chief ordered his arrest. Officer Clark of the fire police stepped up to carry out the order, when, as he claims, he was pushed away by Joseph Sanford, also a member of No. 2. Clark grabbed Sanford, and hustled him out through the rapidly increasing crowd. As he did so, some one cried out: “He’s got the fire bug.” In an instant there was a rush for the officer and prisoner, both of whom were surrounded by an immense crowd. Sanford was taken up to Main street and down to the station house, followed by a pushing and shouting crowd, each anxious to see him, under the impression that he had been caught in the act of firing the building. The report spread, and a large crowd gathered in front of the City Hall, after the prisoner was taken inside, and remained there until the true facts of the case were known. For a time it appeared as if there would be serious trouble.
The steamer, which had been drawn into the street, was standing in front of the fire department building on Ives street, ten minutes after the recall from the tin shop fire was sounded. A large crowd of people surrounded it, watching the engineers. Hose Co. No. 2 had just drawn its carriage into the house, and the men were preparing the hose for the drying tower. A lane leads down along side the fire department building next the Danbury House, in which the fire occurred Saturday night. Fully one hundred persons, including firemen, policemen and citizens stood within twenty-five feet of this lane, and many partially in it, when suddenly from the darkness there came a cry of fire. The rear of the Danbury House was on fire, in the same place that the fire started Saturday night, and not ten feet from the lane. A line of hose was quickly attached to the hydrant in the cellar of the department building, and the fire extinguished.
As has been stated the place is so situated that a person could enter without discovery, and leave by several different directions with little danger of detection. It cannot be seen how any one could get in and out of the place without discovery while so many people were in the vicinity.
The first man to enter the yard where the fire was discovered found a bunch of car axle waste close under the side of the building. The police at once surrounded the place and made a search of the vicinity, but without avail. Immediately after the Ives fire Officer Foley started down past the Danbury House and out into Ives court, making a complete tour of the vicinity in order to guard against any deviltry there. He had not been out of the lane at the rear of the Danbury House four minutes when the fire was discovered, yet he neither saw nor heard any one, although the sharpest lookout.
Dexter’s Factory Burned.
As the firemen entered the house after the second fire Chief Meyers gave orders to Kohanza hose company to reel up their hose and remain in the house ready for immediate action. The steamer was prepared and the hook and ladder men were on the alert. It was after 11 o’clock when things resumed their usual tranquility, but another fire was expected at any moment. About ten minutes of twelve the alarm came. It was from box 7, at Pahquioque avenue and Nichols street. In an instant everything was bustle among the firemen, and hardly had the first stroke sounded when they were out upon the street.
A bright light shot up in the direction of Railroad avenue, and in a moment the whole eastern sky was in a glow. The alarm brought half of the city to its feet, and the lurid glare was enough to show that the fire was of no ordinary nature.
Simon Brennan, in the employ of Samuel Harris, was one of the first to give the alarm. He was walking down Nichols street when a light in front of the hat factory of Byron Dexter, on Pahquioque avenue, attracted his attention. He watched it a moment, and found that it was a fire in the factory. Running down Nichols street, he found a man with a lantern in front of the factory, and some one was crying fire. As [COLUMN BREAK] he ran up, the man with the lantern remarked excitedly.
“I saw the ___ do it.”
“Why didn’t you shoot him?” asked Brennan.
The man turned and walked away without a word. This was the watchman of the factory.
Among the first to be attracted by the alarm in the vicinity of the factory was Erwin F. Wood. He lives directly opposite the building, and what attracted his attention was the voice of a woman, crying “Fire and murder.” He dressed as hastily as possible, and ran into the street. Flames were then bursting from the side fronting on Pahquioque avenue near the center of the shop. There were double doors there, and it was between these and the office door that the fire was first seen. As Mr. Wood ran across the street, he saw the watchman standing quietly by the shop. To Mr. Wood, and a man who was with him, the fire appeared to be wholly within the factory, near the center of the first floor of the main building. The two big doors were fastened, but by the united efforts of several men one of them was forced in. The fire was by this time gaining such headway that all they could do was to pull out one or two hat cases.
There was a fire alarm key in the office of the factory, but the watchman made no effort to procure it, and did nothing to summon assistance. One of the earlier arrivals procured an alarm box key at the gas works, and pulled the box.
When the firemen reached the scene of the fire, the whole main building fronting on Pahquioque avenue, was in flames. Before a stream was directed against the building, every floor, from the first to the roof was a seething mass of flames. The windows and the sashes had succumbed to their fierce heat, already. The center of the building was half destroyed while the ends were just afire.
There was little or no fire in the long L running out towards the railway track.
The first stream was directed against the front of the building, and was quickly followed by two others, but they had no more effect than nothing at all. As other companies came up stream after stream was added, and although a volume of water was poured into every portion of the building, the flames increased with great rapidity.
There is a large open yard to the east of the factory, running along side the plank shop and other portions of the L. There was a sort of a hollow square, formed by the projection of one portion of the L, and into this a line of hose was dragged, and an effort was made to cut the fire off at that point. The heat was so intense, however, that the firemen were obliged to stand back some distance, and the stream barely reached the flames.
Some time elapsed before the steamer dashed up, there being great delay in procuring and harnessing the horses. Engineers Stevens and Eastwood had steam in readiness when the horses arrived, and an attachment was made to the hydrant at the corner of Nichols street. As soon as the hosemen took their positions two powerful streams were forced far above the burning building, with an immense pressure. The effect of the great force of the water was momentarily seen, as the fire was beaten back wherever the streams struck it.
The hose bursted shortly after the engine started up, so great was the pressure, but the damage was such that it could be quickly repaired. While the effort was being made to save the L, a small army of men under the direction of the fire police went to work to remove portions of the heavy machines, with which the building was filled. A large quantity of goods and several pieces of machinery were removed to places of safety.
Several firemen mounted the roof of one portion of the factory and where thus enabled to pour a heavy stream down upon the flames. Even this was of no avail. The fire burned with a steady roar, and the flames shot upwards many feet. At last it became evident that the large extension in the direction of the railway track must go, and although a strong fight was made it was but a few moments before it was all on fire.
As the flames swept up towards the west, the greatest excitement ensued. The large iron tank of the Danbury and Bethel Gas Light and Electric Light Company is located but a few feet from the burning building, and a little farther beyond are the gas works. A report spread among the crowd that the tank was about to explode, and to those standing west of it this seemed very probable, as it appeared surrounded by fire. There was a general rush to a safe distance. The hundreds of people who were approaching the fire from the railway track came to a stop, until some of the more daring plucked up courage to go by. At 1 o’clock the north extension was all on fire, and it continued to burn for nearly an hour before it was consumed. The coal bins at the rear, bordering on the railway track, caught fire, and were nearly consumed.
The large new structure of the gas company caught fire several times, and the exposed wood work was destroyed, including the window sashes and doors. The building was well protected by several streams, however, and the damage was slight.
The houses on the opposite side of the street were in great danger at one time and the occupants removed their household effects to the street. The steamer being stationed there, however, saved them.
The flames presented a beautiful spectacle from a distance, and thousands of people viewed them from all parts of the city. Every avenue of approach to the fire was lined with people, and the fire police were kept busy keeping intruders within the bounds.
While the firemen were yet working at the fire, the police, Mayor Hopkins, and the insurance men, were at work investigating the origin of the fire.
There is little doubt in the mind of any one, but that it was the work of an incendiary.
How and just where it started is a question yet to be satisfactorily answered. There are many peculiar circumstances in connection with it, and an air of mystery about the whole affair.
As soon as the rumor of the incendiary being seen at work by the watchman, William T. Carey, was learned by the police, a search was instituted for him. Officer Foley found a young man who was one of the first at the fire, and from him gained considerable valuable information. It was some time before the watchman could be found, and when he was he was taken to the station house, where there were already gathered a number of those who were acquainted with the earlier details of the fire.
Each person was questioned privately, and their statements taken in writing by Mayor Hopkins and Sergeant Waggneor.
This course was pursued until about four o’clock in the morning, when the statements were all secured. Suspicion seemed to rest upon Carey, the watchman, who told several different stories of the affair.
At four o’clock he was taken up stairs to the court room, and those whose statements had been taken were each asked to report6 what he had already stated.
Carey’s statement, as given last, and signed by him, was to the effect that he was eating his supper, when he heard a noise out in the adjoining room, which he thought was caused by rats. He got up and went out there, but was unable to discover anything. He returned to his supper, and was seated but a few minutes when he again heard peculiar noises in the direction of a rear window. He started towards the window, but before he could reach it, flames sprang up in a lot of tissue paper under the windows.
The fire spread in all directions, and he was so stupefied that he lost all control of himself, and made no attempt to give an alarm or do anything towards extinguishing the fire.
Several of the witnesses testified that he told them that he saw the fellow do it and saw him run. He denied this and said that he say nobody. He thought he might have said that he “wished” he had seen the fellow.
He denied standing in the front door and afterwards closing it, as one of the witnesses said he did.
After taking evidence, it was decided to hold Carey for examination.
It is the opinion of many that he happened to have left the shop or was asleep at the time the fire broke out, and did not want to own it up. The general impression does not seem to be that he set fire to the building.
Carey is a middle aged man, of neat appearance, and lives on a farm on Clapboard Ridge.
In the police court this morning, the trial of William Carey, the watchman, was postponed, the time of the trial being left to the prosecuting attorney.
Mr. Dexter was seen at his home this morning by a representative of The News. This is the third time he has been burned out but the loss has never been so large as that of last night. He is prostrated under this last blow and feels discouraged enough to forever give up the business. Mr. Dexter has been in business for himself about ten years, and has worked incessantly to build up his business. In doing this he has perhaps worked too hard and was obliged to take a rest for a couple of months the early part of the summer. His hat shop was generally considered the best built factory in Danbury, and one of the largest.
This is the busy season of the trade [COLUMN BREAK] and his shop was turning out eighty dozen per day. His goods were of the first quality and received the highest prices, selling mostly to retailers. The book of the last payroll shows that there were about 161 persons and the payroll was $4,500. This was for two weeks. The coming payroll would be nearly $6,000 as his force was increased within the past week largely.
The factory came into his possession last October. He said to The News reporter that the loss to him personally would be over $10,000. He had no definite theory as to how the shop caught fire, and did not wish to say anything about the arrest of his watchman at this time.
All this time he was surrounded by his family, and friends kept continually coming in and offering consolation.
Mr. Dexter’s insurance does not cover his loss by about $10,000. Theodore Hoyt holds policies on the building and machinery to the amount of $17,500, and Bigelo & Stevens on stock for $8,000, making a total insurance of $25,500.
No little excitement was caused dur[ing] the height of the fire, by the sounding of fire alarm box 45, on South street, fully a mile away from the fire. Chief Meyers at on[c]e dispatched the truck and a hose company to that end of the city. There was no fire. W.B. Sharp failed to hear the first alarm, and about an hour after the fire broke out he discovered it. Wondering that a fire could gain such headway without somebody seeing it he procured a fire alarm key and sounded the box, satisfied that George Foote’s house, on Town Hill, was on fire. The laugh is on Mr. Sharp, who it seems is an active member of Wooster hose company No. 5, which had already been at the fire a half hour. The firemen don’t see where the laugh comes in.
The nefarious work of incendiarism was not completed with the factory. As Clifford L. Taylor, of Kohanza Hose company, was on his way home, about half past three, from the fire, he discovered a fire in the barn of his father’s property, at the rear of his residence on White street. Mr. Taylor cut across lots from the New England railway track, and as he was approaching the barn at the rear, yet some distance away, he saw a faint glimmer, which seemed to him as if some one had struck a match and was partially shading it for draught. The next instant a light burst out under the barn. He saw or heard no one as he came up through the lot. He called for assistance and the fire was extinguished with little effort. Something, from the appearance of things, waste had been placed upon the beam under the barn, the back of which is several feet from the ground, it being on a side hill. The fire was exactly similar to that which occurred at the New York and New England freight station a short time ago.

[Danbury News – Aug 17, 1889]

The “Danbury House” Fired Last Evening.
“Jack the Fire Bug.” seems to be a favorite appellation with outside papers referring to the man in whom Danbury is at present interested to no small degree. The only thing backward about “Jack” seems to be found in his bashfulness. The whole city is clamoring for his acquaintance, but he does not appear to be willing to make himself known, although for what reason nobody can say, as he has already been assured of a most hearty reception. Our city fathers are so anxious to cultivate his acquaintance that they are willing to pay $2,000 in order to meet him.
“Jack” has made himself prominent for a night or two back, principally by his absence. He hardly left the city, however, for he stepped from cover last evening just long enough to pay his regards.
Shortly before half past seven, smoke was discovered at the rear of the “Danbury House”, corner of Ives and Railroad streets. This is the spot which has been on fire twice before this week.
A bunch of burning waste close up under the boards which form the rear of the building had already ignited the wood, and was just getting under headway when discovered. A few pails of water extinguished the flames. The fire was started just around the corner from where the two previous attempts were made. The waste found was fresh from a railway car and thickly covered with oil.
There was a slight incendiary fire in the western part of the city yesterday afternoon, but it is attributed to some boys in the neighborhood.




“Danbury News - 1889 FIRES of Incendiary Origin.” WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 22 Sep. 2019.


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