Fire - Dec 20, 1890 - Osborne Brothers' Lumber Yard and Green & Beebe's box factory - Danbury News, Dec 21, 1890

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Danbury News Article
Dec 21, 1890

Two Awful Fires
The Destruction of Green & Beebe’s Box Shop.



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[Danbury News – Dec 21, 1890]
Two Awful Fires
The Destruction of Green & Beebe’s Box Shop.
Chas. Reid’s Machine Shop Attacked.
A.G. Ising’s Serious Accident.
The Saturday night before Christmas opened merrily enough. The business streets were thronged with people. The air was reasonably warm for winter. The stores were brilliant with light and elegant goods. Everybody was glad, or appeared to be so, and our little but exceedingly lively and ambitious city was aglow with Christmas cheer. At 10 o’clock Main street and the business streets leading thereto were quite populous with people. At a quarter past ten o’clock Meeker Brothers’ factory whistle sprung an alarm. An instant later Clark & Co.’s factory whistle joined in, and in a moment it appeared to those who got up to look, or went out there to see, as if the eastern part of the city was on fire. Then the regular fire alarm sounded, and everybody who was awake knew that a serious disaster was in progress.
We are not an alarmist, and we don’t intend to unduly agitate anybody, but we must say that this fire epidemic is an almighty serious business, and Danbury should awake at once to its importance. For a year or more there have been a number of very serious fires in Danbury. Factories, stores, and dwellings have gone down. All of them have not been incendiary, but it is evident that most of them have been.
And now the question arises, how long are the people of Danbury to stand this?
The fire on White street was certainly incendiary. It broke out at both ends of the long lumber yard at the same time.
Who knows the cause? Nobody.
But somebody should know.
It is a very serious loss to the Osborne Brothers. And it is a very serious blow to Danbury. We again ask, how long is this to continue?
It is no funny business. Every property holder is interested in finding the scoundrel who is the agent of this hellish work.
Can we find him, or must we give him up, and fold our hands and confess [column break] there is no use in trying to unearth him?
Something should be done. Not tomorrow, but to-day.
The firing of Osborne Brothers lumber yard was an extraordinary act. It was done on a Sunday evening, on a moonlight night, and while the adjacent streets were filled with people.
The question arises, was it the act of an insane person? Perhaps it was.
Now, who is the lunatic?
Let us find this out right away, whatever may be the cost.
And we ask Mayor Hopkins to call a public meeting, and to call it right away, and let the public air its views, and let us see what is known and what is believed.
At the southeast corner of White and Canal streets, this morning there stands four or five long rows of charred lumber piles, the ruins of Osborne Brothers’ business office, and the blackened timbers of some other small buildings.
On the railway track adjoining there stands what remains of four freight cars, and farther east is the big Housatonic freight house, emptied of its freight, and half gutted by the fire and water.
All this ruin was wrought in less than an hour, last night, by one of the fiercest and quickest fires ever seen in Danbury.
The Alarm Given.

It was three minutes past ten when a whistle, long and shrill, an alarm whistle, brought the people of the eastern part of the city to their doors and windows. A moment later the fire alarm warned the rest of the city.
The number was twenty-seven, and the people of whom there were hundreds upon the streets and in the stores, began to flock towards White street and Balmforth avenue. Before the first number sounded, the fire made itself visible, and long before the firemen reached the place, the blaze could be seen from every part of the city.
The fire was in Osborne Brothers’ lumber yard. It sprang up in an instant, and spread as quickly as it sprang up. In five minutes the whole lumber yard seemed a big sea of flame.
The alarm was first given by the watchman at Meeker Brothers’ hat factory, on Canal street. At almost the same time passers-by on White street discovered the light. The fire was then down at the extreme end of the long lumber shed running east from the firm’s office, one side bordering on the railway yards.
People who saw it describe what followed as being like a flash of powder. The flames seemed to run the whole length of the shed and then envelop it. It was almost an exact repetition of the commencement of Foster Brothers’ fire. The flames were evidently fed by oil, as it would have been impossible for them to run along the sheds in that way with nothing more than the damp boards to feed upon.
Another lumber shed ran parallel with this shed, separated by a narrow lane, and this was quickly enveloped in in the firey mass, and the lumber piles to the south and east took fire.
All this transpired in less than five minutes, and things were in that condition when Hose Co. No. 2 arrived.
The firemen were directed by Assistant Engineer Fitzsimmons and Spain, and the first move was to go through Canal street and cut off the flames below, and a wise move it proved.
A brisk breeze was blowing, and augmented by the heat it whirled the flames in every direction.
There was a delay in getting water at first, and before the firemen got the first stream on the flames things assumed a serious aspect.
There was a long line of freight cars on the track east of the lumber sheds and these quickly took fire. The wind was blowing from the southwest, and the flames were carried over the cars in a way which threatened the Housatonic freight house with destruction.
Chief Meyers quickly sent in a general alarm of ten strokes. The freight cars protected the house beyond them for a time, but as the fire grew fierce, the long building began to smoke and then it burst into flames.
The building was full of freight and fifty volunteers set to work to empty it.
By that time some of outside hose companies began to arrive, and hose was being laid with a view to saving as much of the freight house as possible.
The lumber yard, though it had been burning but a half hour, was half in ruins. The firemen, working nobly, were confining the fire to the lumber yard, and the southeast wind sided then in the work. The fight was to save the freight house, and to the thousands of people there gathered it seemed a hopeless task, as it was a fire on the west side, the whole length. The [column break] heat was so intense that the crowd fell back beyond the street line on the north side of White street.
The firemen worked around back of the freight house, and then made their way inside, flooding it with water as fast as the freight was moved out.
There were seven streams playing upon the freight house at one time, and the flames soon began to loosen their hold upon it. The firemen improved every opportunity and at eleven o’clock the building though badly damaged; was out of danger of total destruction and the New York and New England passenger station which was also threatened, was saved.
After that the work of the fireman was easy, and they quickly bested the flames on every side.
At half-past eleven some of the streams were withdrawn, but a large force of men remained to put out the fire in the piles of lumber. It was an all night job.
The fire was evidently the work of an incendiary that the police who for weeks have been upon guard quickly spread over the neighborhood to guard against any other attempt.
Officer Drumin arrested a German named Fritz Beal on suspicion. Beal is known as an anarchist, but there is no evidence against him.
At one o’clock this morning the firemen were still at work upon the ruins of Osborne’s lumber yard. The fire in the lumber piles was stubborn and as fast as it was downed in one spot it jumped up in another.
The Second Fire.
It was while the firemen were engaged in this work that there came a cry of fire from the opposite corner of the street.
Officer Bradley stood near the corner and some one cried, “Reid’s shop is afire.” The officer pulled box 27 again. It sounded one round and then stopped. Then a locomotive whistle took up the alarm.
Re[i]d’s machine shop is on Maple avenue, close by the New York and New England tracks. It runs parallel with the street, a long two-story building and adjoining it on the north is Green & Beebe’s factory.
These buildings are bordered on the west by the New York and New England railway. It was upon the railway side, at the rear of Green & Beebe’s factories that the fire was burning.
It was a small blaze, and it looked as if it had been started from the outside. Officer John H. Ellwood of the fire police was one of the first to reach the place. He pulled a lot of oily railroad waste from between the boards.
The fire was evidently working towards the inside of the box factory, and the wind was carrying it away from the machine shop.
It was then about twenty minutes of two. A long freight train was standing near the burning building and the engineer kept sounding long blasts on his whistle.
The alarm brought no response and for fifteen minutes the fire burned at the rear of the building while a[n] half-dozen persons stood and watched it.
By and by the flames began to work through the Maple avenue side of the building, and things took a more serious turn.
A dozen men ran up Maple avenue dragging a line of hose. The fire broke through the north end of the box shop and set fire to some small stables in the rear.
The firemen were attaching the hose to a hydrant, or trying to do so. They had no wrench and they lost ten minutes getting one. Two more lines of hose were dragged up from the Osborne fire and they all stood there waiting for the wrench to come. Meanwhile the whole upper part of the box factory was on fire, and the wind was carrying the flames in the direction of a large double house, just above the factory.
It was not until the house was on fire and the factory ablaze that a stream was ready.
A strong southerly breeze was blowing and the flames were carried against the dwelling, and as the fire in the box factory increased, the wind lifted the flames high into the air. The hear was intense, and houses across the street took fire.
For nearly half an hour two streams battled with the flames, and then help began to arrive.
The dwelling on the north, owned by George W. Barnum, was then nearly destroyed, the residence beyond it was in danger, and Reid’s big machine shop was partly afire.
But when the firemen got to work, their efforts were of the best. First the fire was checked in the stables at the north west corner of the box shop; then the half[-]consumed dwelling house was covered with streams to protect the ad-[column break]-joining house. On the other side two streams were playing upon the machine shop, and two other streams were aiding the rear.
The firemen were in this position when they gained complete control of the fire about three o’clock.
At five o’clock the fire was practically out.
The box shop was totally destroyed, the forging room and a portion of the main machine shop on the south were gutted, and Barnum’s dwelling house on the north was half consumed.
The Dwelling houses.
There was one dwelling house destroyed and many others scorched in the Maple avenue fire. House No. 40, owned by George W. Barnum of Brookfield, and occupied by two families was destroyed. Edward Burr and wife occupied the lower apartments, and used it also as a family bakery. The family of William Parker, junk dealer, occupied the upper story. The first thing the occupants of the house knew of the fire was when the flames from Green & Beebe’s factory suddenly burst out and enveloped the building twenty feet away. The flames continued to lick their house and they were thrown into the greatest confusion. Edward Parker and wife hardly dressed themselves and began to move their goods and furniture out doors. Not half of their household effects were removed, and a great deal of what was taken out of the house was broken or destroyed afterwards. Neighbors on the opposite side of the street opened their doors to them.
William Parker did not fare so well. Besides his wife there lives with him his wife’s sister and Mrs. Parker’s aunt, an old lady 83 years old. To say that the women folks were badly frightened hardly expresses it. They had only time to dress and leave their house before it caught afire. The old lady was so over come with fright that she had to be carried down stairs by Mr. Parker. Mr. Parker and his family escaped with only their clothes. Outside some chairs, their entire household effects were consumed by the flames. Mr. Parker’s loss does not end with the destruction of his home. Stored in the barn I the rear was his stock horse and wagon. Only the horse was saved from the barn. His loss is over $1,500 and he held insurance on household goods for $450.
The greatest confusion prevailed also in the house adjoining to the north, No. 42, occupied by the owner Mrs. Jane Beatty, and Harry Nichols and family. The later is a butcher on White street. When the dwelling house south of them took fire both families commenced to move out their household goods and emptied their apartments. By this time, however, the firemen had control of the fire and the [dwelling] was saved. They had to move [all of the] furniture back again.
A Sad Accid[ent.]
One of the sad things connected with the fire was the in[jury] to A.G. Ising, jeweler, and an old Kohanza volunteer man. He was working with Hose company No. 2, and was holding pipe at the Osborne Brothers’ fire. At the time of the accident he was somewhat in advance of the other firemen with the pipe and between the freight cars and the burning lumber. This was when the fire was pretty well under control. Suddenly a pile of lumber fell over on him and almost buried him. When dug out he was covered with blood. It is supposed that his jaw is broken and his face otherwise cut, and one of his legs was broken. The injured man was taken to his home on West street, and medical assistance immediately sent for. This accident cast a gloom over the entire department, as “Gus” Ising is one of the most popular of the number.
Osborne Brothers’ Loss.
One of the firm of Osborne Brothers was seen by a reporter this morning. He said he could not tell positively what amount of stock the firm carried, but thought it was between $25,000 and $26,000. The insurance is $23,000, so that Osborne Brothers’ actual loss, except that which would naturally ensue from an interrupted business, will be very light.
William F. Gregory who is employed by the Housatonic company, had one hand badly hurt while getting freight out of the freight house.
The number of hose bursts was alarmingly great, as was the number of intoxicated persons at the fire.
Some of the firemen worked steadily all night, and several held a nozzle for eight hours without any intermission.
At six o’clock this morning fire was burning briskly in several piles of lumber and at one time it looked as though the department would have to be called out again.
It was a pretty sight to see the firemen surround the different fires and [column break] conquer them. Say what one may the firemen worked nobly and deserve our corresponding credit.
There were many drenched figures about both fires last evening and this morning, a stiff hat knocked into the style of former years was a common sight.
The loss of Green & Beebe’s factory is greater than insurance. The junior member is in Brooklyn, and at this hour is probably unaware of what has happened. The firm will build immediately, probably on [a] larger scale than their old factory. It could not be learned this morning what insurance they carried on their factory.
The dwelling houses on the opposite side of the avenue from Green & Beebe’s fire were badly blistered by heat.
It was a noticeable fact that almost every man who was at the Maple avenue fire remarked as he watched the flames that he was not at all surprised as he had expected a second fire.
The stove in Osborne Bros.’ office when taken out had a fire in it. The stove was set on the ground near the entrance to the lumber yard and at six o’clock this morning it was surrounded by a crowd of men who warmed their hands by the fire that was still burning in it.




“Fire - Dec 20, 1890 - Osborne Brothers' Lumber Yard and Green & Beebe's box factory - Danbury News, Dec 21, 1890.” WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 23 Sep. 2019.


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