An account of the Great Fire of 1879On the night of Nov. 22, 1879, the citizens of Farmington were aroused by the continued blowing of the whistle of a Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul engine, which was waiting near the depot.
By: John Emery, Publisher of the Farmngton Press, The Farmington Independent
On the night of Nov. 22, 1879, the citizens of Farmington were aroused by the continued blowing of the whistle of a Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul engine, which was waiting near the depot. Rushing to ascertain the cause of the alarm, flames were found issuing from a stable in the rear of the Niskern House [hotel]. From some unknown cause, a large pile of corn stalks left piled against the stables, had become ignited and a large three-story frame building, only a few feet from the railroad elevator and tank house, was in flames. Though the fire was discovered before it had made much headway, all efforts of the bucket brigade were unavailing, and the flames soon enveloped the barn and its contents were destroyed.
Every effort was made to remove the stock belonging to Martin Niskern, consisting of two horses and four cows, but the poor animals were soon cremated. Sweeping from the Niskern House [hotel], stables, and barn, the flames enveloped the stables of C. Stevens. Ready hands soon removed the horses, buggies, etc., to a place of safety. The wind, which had steadily increased, was now blowing a perfect gale, carrying large, fiery embers over the eastern part of the town.
The next building in the path of the fire was the large hardware establishment of Atz and Sauer. All this time the flames had been creeping behind the building, on the north side of the street, and after coming to the front through Atz and Sauer’s, they retreated toward the Niskern House [hotel], destroying a two-story frame building owned by H. B. Whittaker. The fire was now spreading in all directions, and the Niskern House [hotel], the most prominent in town, became a prey to its fury.
The bank building, B. Richardson’s barbershop, and a frame building used as a boarding house, and owned by Mrs. Egle, were next destroyed. Here an opportunity was offered for the flames to spread across to the other side of the street, but they suddenly turned from Oak street, where they had been raging, to Third street, taking in Mrs. Gilbert’s two-story frame building.
Here to the alarm of the inhabitants the wind suddenly changed and threw the flames to the other side of Oak street, where they attacked the stable of George Dilley. He was successful in removing his horses and buggies, etc., to a place of safety, but the hay and straw were consumed with the building.
The flames now spread east and west. In their western course, they enveloped the restaurant owned by G. Dilley, the millinery store of Mrs. Kate Fager, and a building of Mrs. Davitt, which was the last to suffer in that direction.
In their eastern course they attacked and destroyed, first, a small frame building, then the fine three-story building of C. R. Griebie. The Masonic lodge, which had rooms in this building, lost everything except the records.
The last material offered the destroying element was the high elevator of the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Co. The wind that had been steadily increasing, but blowing in the opposite direction, suddenly changed and blew directly on the elevator, which was speedily destroyed, with the 55,000 bushels of wheat which were stored there.
Dispatches had been sent to St. Paul for assistance, but no locomotive could be procured to take the fire department to the scene of the fire. The Minneapolis department fortunately procured means of transportation and were on their way as soon as possible, but owing to many delays were unable to reach the spot in time to render the much-needed assistance.