E. J. q (Edgar Johnson) Goodspeed.

History of the great fires in Chicago and the West : a proud career arrested by sudden and awful calamity, towns and counties laid waste by the devastating element : scenes and incidents, losses and sufferings, benevolence of the nations, etc., etc. with a history of the rise and progress of Chicago online

. (page 45 of 50)
Online LibraryE. J. q (Edgar Johnson) GoodspeedHistory of the great fires in Chicago and the West : a proud career arrested by sudden and awful calamity, towns and counties laid waste by the devastating element : scenes and incidents, losses and sufferings, benevolence of the nations, etc., etc. with a history of the rise and progress of Chicago → online text (page 45 of 50)
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day. Had they gone to work like men, this terrible conflagration
and suffering might possibly have been prevented.

The woods along the line of the Michigan Lake Shore Itail-
road, between Holland and Pigeon River, were in flames. The
miles of marsh were one sheet of flame, and it was with great
difiiculty the train came through. The heat inside the cars was

A message from Mr. A. D. Howard was received by the train,
stating that the people were in danger of starving, as all the stores
were destroyed, and asking that a supply be immediately shipped.
Mr. D. Cutler immediately called on the stores and ordered a
supply of crackers, and all the cooked provisions that could be
collected sent to the depot. The train did not get off till Tuesday
morning, when rain came and subdued the flames a%)ng the line
of the road.

"We felt profound sympathy for cliildren in these seasons of terror


an J desti'uction, for tliey could not reason, Ijut saw the peril in the
skies by day and night, and passed through the bitter struggles
for life which so often terminated fatally, and always brought
suffering and distress.

A Port Huron correspondent of the Detroit Post says : —
Tou have already been told the story of the little boat-load of
children carried from Rock Falls to Canada, and saved in spite of
storm and hunger and exposure. I saw Mrs. Mann, the mother of
these children, who arrived here yesterday morning on board the
Huron. She had given up all of them for lost. But, mother-like,
though four were saved, she mourned deeply for the lost one,
who, half -clad and shivering in the cold water in the bottom of
the boat, sailed away upon an unknown and measureless sea
almost in sight of land and deliverance. There were five children
in this boat belonging to Mrs. Mann, and four to the owner of the
boat who took them away, making nine infant voyagers, who for
three days, without food and drenched to the skin, floated across
LakeHuroninaboat which was kept from going to the bottom by
means of an old boot and a shoe, which were the only vessels for
baling that these unfortunate travellers had on l)oa.rd. The
mother's heart seemed deeply touched and troubled because no «
last offices and loving ministries could, in the nature of the case,
be paid to the little one whose voyage of life was at once so brief
and eventful. "When these four children were put on a tug at
Kincardine, Ontario, to be retm-ned to their parents, it struck a
rock just as it was getting under way and went doTvoi. The
children were rescued and sent homeward by the cars. They
have at last i-eached Port Huron, after adventures by field and
flood almost equal to Othello's, and it is hoped that they will anive
home without further accident.

The babe of Mrs. Shubert, of Paris, one of the Polish settlers,
was carried from its burning home by its grandmother, while its
mother stayed behind to fight the fire. The grandmother was


conipelled to lie down in a roadside ditch with twenty othei'S,
where tliey passed the night, it being the only refuge from the
flames. The infant was only three months old, and required
nourishment. Luckily the fire had driven a cow to seek company
and shelter with these human beings. A big tin pan was found
in a wagon, and tlie animal was milked. The baby's aunt took
the mushy compound which the flying sand, cinders, and ashes
made of the milk into her mouth, and fed the child in that
original manner.

During the recent terrible flres in Western Michigan, there were
three brothers, owners of valuable mills and buildings, which they
and their neighbors (some of whom were Christian men) were de-
fending from the fire until all were exhausted and in despair. One
of the owners, a fi-ank, rough, wicked man of huge frame and
generous impulses, said many hard words about God's permitting
the destruction of so much property for no good to any one, etc.,
etc. Finally, he gave up and said to his neighbors : "Go home,
go home ; nothing more can be done for us ; God can do as he
pleases." Just then a few drops of rain fell ; looking up, they
saw the cloud, and all redoubled their efforts. A slight rain fell,
and the fire was checked, and the mills saved. The rough man
dropped upon his knees, great tears rolled do^\nl his face, his
hands were clasped, head bowed, and he agonizing to express his
thanks. Suddenly he sprang to his feet, vigorously s\\nnging his
hat, and with the uK^st intense earnestness shouted, " Ilurrah for
God ! Hurrah for God ! "


Beginning below Port Austin, Huron County, Grindstone City,
a place of three Innulred inhabitants, is half destroyed ; then fol-
low New Eiver, three buildings burned ; Huron City, five hun-
dred inhabitants, totally destroyed ; Port Hope, six hundred inhab-
itants, half gone ; Forest Bay, two hundred inhabitants, evci-y house


gone ; Sandbeacli, four himdi-ed inhabitants, all destroyed ; Cen-
tre Harbor, one hundred and fifty inhabitants, everything gone ;
.Rock Falls, three hundred inhabitants, half of the town burnt ;
Elm Creek, one hundi'ed and fifty inhabitants, totally destroyed ;
AYliite Eock, six hundi-ed inliabitants, every house consumed ;
Verona Mills, three hundred inhabitants, every house in the place
gone, except the minister's. Thus were the little \dllages of this
region scourged. The destruction in the country was proportion-
ately great ; the fanning townships of Sheridan, Bingham, Paris,
Verona, Sherman and Sandbeach were traversed by the flames,
which lapped up everything in the shape of houses, barns, fences,
stock, farming implements, etc.

A more particular account thus locates and estimates the mis-
fortunes of this single county :

The total number of persons and families burned out, and of
losses in Huron County are as follows, in the townships named : —

"Yerona — Twenty-seven families, one hundred and fourteen
persons, loss $42,150.

"Bingham Township — Thirty-five families, comprising one
hundred and sixty-eight persons, burnt out.

" Sigel Township — Twenty-one families, one hundred and five
persons, loss $6,300.

" Grant Township — Four families, twenty-one persons, loss

"Colfax Township — Four families, twenty-two persons, loss

" Sheridan Township — Four families, nineteen persons, loss

" Sherman Township — Twenty-five families, one hundred and
sixteen persons, loss $16,150.

"Hm-on Township — Twenty-three families, ninety-seven per-
sons, loss $8,550.

" Dwight — One family, seven persons, loss $2,000.


" Mead — One family, six persons, loss $400.

" Iliiine — Three families, nineteen persons, loss $1,800.

" m. W. 11. Stafford lost $53,000 by the fire.

" In Port Hope, Rubicon and Gore townships, there are three
hundi-ed and tliirty-eight persons burned out, with a loss of

" The total number in the families that are losers in this county
alone is not xcss than 3,000.

" There have been eleven school-houses burned in this county,
as follows : all in Paris township, four in number ; one at Yer-
uon jMills, Gibson school-house in Sherman, one at Wliite Rock, one
at Centre Harbor, one at Sandbeach, one at Forest Bay, and the
Ilellem's school-house in Dwight.

" The loss by the burning of bridges across streams and cross-
ways, through swamps, coupled with the almost total destruction
of fences, will amount to thousands and tens of thousands of dol-
lars. There is hardly a farm in the county but has had a portion
of its fences burned, and this is true even in those sections where
but few or no buildings have been destroyed.

" The loss to this county by the burning of pine and other valu-
able timber is very great. It is too soon to make anything like an
accurate calculation of the total loss from this source, but from
convei-se during the week with the Supervisors and others from
different parts of the county, we kuow we are safe in saying that
it will exceed $1,000,000."

A gentleman, writing of Tuscola County, gives a forlorn pic-
ture : —

The fire through this county has destroyed nearly all the i>Ine,
and thousands of acres of hemlock timber. There are a lai-ge
number of individual cases of suffering by the fire, some losing all
they possessed in the world but theil- land, others losing nearly all
their fences, others barns, with their contents of hay, wheat, oaU,
etc. The destruction of hard timber is also enormous, that more


especially on low grounds. Here the fire has burned so fiercely
that the roots of the trees have been burned off, and hardly
a tree is left standing.

There is a strip of country east of Cass City, embracing a por-
tion of Tuscola County and nearly all of Huron and Sanilac coun-
ties, which is probably the worst burnt district in this State.
Hardly a building is left, and the pine and hemlock lands are all
destroyed. ^Yhole townships of timber are burned up by the
roots and have fallen in every conceivable shape, rendering it
next to impossible to lumber it without more expense than the
actual worth of the timber. I saw and conversed with a gentle-
man from this district, who was there during the whole fire, and
who had several very narrow escapes from being burned alive,
being twice carried by others who were with him from the fire in an
insensible condition ; and finally, after there was no further hope of
sa^nng his home, it was then too late to make his escape with his
family, and they took refuge in an out-of-door cellar, which is a
hole dug into the ground and then covered over with slabs, and
dirt thrown upon this.

They were compelled to remain there for twenty- four hours
without food, and almost suffocated by the dense smoke. This is
but one instance of many equally as narrow escapes. Every par-
ticle of anything like hay, corn-stalks, or straw was burned, and
mau}^ of those who had oxen and cows are now selling them for
ten dollars a head, because they have nothing to feed them, and
there is not a green thing in the woods or fields for miles. The
people of Watrous^'ille have been active in raising supplies and
forwarding them to the sufferers. Yesterday Rev, Mr. Goodman,
of East Saginaw, was on his way into that county as a committee
of one to prepare the way for large supplies to be sent from that
place. Business of all kinds has been entirely disarranged by the
fires, and there is a general complaint of dull times. But the prob-
ability is that the rain, which commenced falling this afternoon


at about one o'clock, and at the present writing, ten p.m., con-
tinues, will entirely extinguish the still smouldering fires, and give
a permanent relief from the anxiety and feeling of insecurity
which has pervaded the whole people of this section for the past
three weeks, and in a short time business will be resumed with
more vigor than ever.

The breadth of wheat sown in this county is very small, prob-
ably not one-fourth of the usual amount. But a small portion of
the last wheat crop has been disjjosed of, farmers generally hold-
ing it for a higher price. Hay, and all kinds of coarse fodder
and coarse grains are very high, and it will require a good deal
of economy to get their stock through the winter.

In Chicago a man took refuge in a water-pipe and was roasted;
and now we have the story of a man in Michigan, who found his
death in a hollow log.


Some three months since an Englishman, named IIal\Ty, after a
short stay at Quebec, came along to Detroit to visit his brother-in-
law here, Mr. John Gloveson, a produce buyer, li\ang on Twelfth
street. Ilalvry left England with the intention of purchasing a
farm either in Canada or the States, and when he came to Detroit
he left his family at Quebec. As Gloveson was considerably ac-
quainted in the Lake Shore counties, he induced his relative to
think of going into some of them and buying him a farm, and
agreed to go up with him on a prospective trip. They were both
ready to start — in fact, had left the house — when Gloveson was
handed a telegram, which called him to go to Jackson, or run a
risk of losing sevej-al huiulred dollars. He, therefore, reluctantly
abandoned the trip, and gave Ilalvry such instructions as indu(;ed
the man to make the voyage alone.

This was just a week previous to the news of the fires in the
woods which created such loss of life and damage to property in


Sanilac, Huron and other counties. Halvry wrote from Fon-est-
ville, two days after reaching there, that he liked the locality very
much, and had had thi-ee or fom' offers of partnership in business,
which he was considering. He also stated further that he was
going back into the country to look at some farming lands, and
should not probably come down the Lake for several days.

When the fire came, interrupting communication, Gloveson was
in llUnois, and he did not return home until several days after the
news of the destruction of Forrest\dlle and other towns. Waiting
from day to day for news or for the reappearance of his relative,
and hearmg nothing, he at length decided to go up there, having
found by telegraphing to Quebec that Hal\Ty had not joined his
family. He accordingly proceeded on the trip, and, after a hunt
of thirteen days, returned three or four days ago, bearing only
evil tidmgs. Gloveson found plenty of people at Forrestville who
remembered the Englishman, but for thi'ee days could not find any
one to tell him where the man went when leaving the town. He
at length found a farmer, whose property had been swept away,
who had shown HahTy around his farm, situated about four miles
from the to-svn. This was only two days before the advent of the
flames, and the smoke was so thick as to cause many complaints
from the new arrival, and he declined purchasmg in a locality sub-
ject to such a nuisance. Another man remembered meeting and
talking with the Englishman in the woods where men were getting
out some timber, and the last heard of Halvry was that he was
looking at some wild land on the afternoon before the fire, seven
or eight miles back of Forrestville. Day after day, until he had
travelled hundi'eds of miles, Gloveson rode and walked over the
blackened and desolate counti-y, finding no further news of his
relative. One day, when travelling across a bit of forest wdiere the
6res still smouldered and flickered in the ground, and where the
flames had done great damage, he sat down to rest. In a moment
he became aware of a horrible stench, and looking about him, he


made a tenible discovery. Fifteen or twenty feet away ivas a
large log, or the remains of one, for the fire had burned up all but
the end which had become hea\'y with water from resting in the
neck of a small marsh, dry then, but fed by a creek at other times.
Sticking out from the hollow of this log were the feet and legs of
a skeleton, nothing but the bare bones left, and beyond the skele-
ton feet was the roasted body of a man, the flesh cooked and
shrivelled do^v^l, but emitting a smell which Gloveson could stand
only for a moment at a tune without retreating. At length he
seized hold of the bones and drew the body out, when the sight
and the stench were still more horrible. At the shoulders the fire
seemed to have stopped, lea\^ng the flesh half cooked, and it was
now ready to fall from the bones. The haii* was gone from the
head, the countenance so disfigured that there was no identifsdng
it, and the bones of one hand were as clean and white as chalk.
Every particle of clothing was gone, and down in the ashes below
Gloveson found a number of boot nails.

Although not certain that the roasted body was that of his rela-
tive, Gloveson secured no other e\ddences of the man's death, and
yet fails to find that he is living. It seems that the victim, who-
ever he was, had been caught in that vicinity by the fire, and hav-
ing no other resort, crawled into the log, hoping that the flames
would sweep over it. The dry end caught fire, and he was roasted
alive, enduring the most horrible death imaginable. There was an
excavation close at hand, made" by the uprooting of a tree, and into
this place the skeleton was dragged and the bank caved in on it as
a covering. Eeturning to Forrest ville, Gloveson made such in-
quiries as led him to believe that the skeleton was not that of any
resident of that locality, and he tlien ended his search.




Hon. Wm. A. Howaed, writing to Hon. Alexander H. Rice, of
Boston, concerning the needs of Michigan, says : —

If you will now look at Port Huron, at the foot of Lake Huron,
and follow the shore northerly clear around and up Saginaw Bay,
and extending back from the shore into the country for miles, you
will find a country where the horror and suffering is almost past
belief. The loss of life is very great. Fifty dead bodies were
found in the rear of our town alone. Women and children saved
their lives by rushing into the Lake, with their hair burned off.
These people are being cared for by Detroit and all the eastern
portion of this State, nobly aided by Toledo, Cleveland, and, indeed,
all over Ohio, ISTew York, and last, but not least, glorious old New
England. Excuse the contradiction, but she seems to me not only
the best but the oldest country in the world, perhaps because I
first saw the light there.

If you would now find the field of the western branch of our
State Committee, you will please place youi-self at Grand Haven,
at the mouth of Grand River and the western terminus of the De-
troit and Milwaukee Railroad. If you go north along the coast
about ninety miles, you wall find the place where Manistee was.
If you go south from Grand Haven about twenty miles, and
turn inland and cross a little lane, you will find the ruins of Holland.
Of the villagers you will find three hundred families, in all per-
haps two thousand persons, who were utterly destitute of food and
shelter, and of clothing, except what they had on their pereons
when they fled for their lives. Instead of firiding succor from the
surrounding country, the country itself is devastated. One hun-
dred and thirty farms were stripped of buildings, fences, crops,
and their inhabitants were driven before the fire to the village.

But I need not describe the scenes at Holland or Manisleo.
They simply needed everj-thing there. But the liberality of tho

622 msTORY OF the great fires

American people, and especially of all the railroads in carrying
free, and giving preference to cars loaded with supplies, has en
abled the committee to accomplish more than could have been ex-
pected. I inclose a printed slip that has some suggestions deemed
valuable for Holland. The people of Manistee will more readily
find employment in getting out lumber. Wlien once pro^aded
with shelter, bedding, and the men set to work, we shall be reliev-
ed to a great extent. The fire extended across the whole State. I
have tried to point you to the shores. It was less severe in the interior,
although there are many cases that do and must secure attention.

At Manistee and Holland we have dejDots, and earnest, faithful
men and women working to distribute to the necessities of the
people. Our great depot is at Grand Haven, from which point
we readily replenish smaller ones. "We seek local contributions in
kind, food, second-hand clothing, cooking stoves, etc. I hope
$1,000 of your bounty has reached Peshtigo or ^^cinity. Some of
it is at Holland, in the shape of ticking for straw beds, or cheap
prints and wadding being made into warm comfortables ; hammers,
nails, putty, glass, flour, pork, etc. — a few dollars in a shanty here
and barracks there. AYhen a people finds the wolf at the door,
and is fighting him for life, it can spread a little money very thin.
Our operations must continue a long time. We feel as thougli we
had entered on a winter's camj)aign, "We are very thanlcful for
your people's liberality. We invoke your sympathy and aid in
the future. I beg leave to say that if some of your wealthy men
would loan to those Holland farmers some money to aid them in
building, they would combine business with charity. Probably
prompt payment of interest could hardly be expected the first
year, but the whole principal and interest could be made very safe.
They are the most industrious people I ever saw. They settled
twenty-five years ago on that flat land, densely covered with large
timber, and, with nothing but their hands, they converted nine
towniships into a garden.


This was written Oct. 30th, and on Nov. 15th the committee of
Boston relief reported npon Michigan as follows :

On the 16th of October, Governor Baldwin appointed two State
relief committees, one for the eastern shore, aiid another for the
western shoi-e.

(1) The committee for the eastern shore is located in Detroit
and consists of fonr gentlemen, of whom Charles M. Garrison is
chairman. This committee has charge in general of the peninsula
between Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, the burnt region of which
comprises twenty -three townships severely, and eighteen partially
Inirned, and embraces an area of more than 1,400 square miles.
In the parts severely burned the committee say that nine-tenths of
the houses were consumed. Extreme drought had prevailed
throughout the West for many weeks, and there had not been a
rainy day since the beginning of June. During this time fires
were raging in the woods in many localities. The same gale which
blew upon Chicago on Sunday night, October 8, swept over the
burning woods of Michigan and Wisconsin, and in places increas-
ing to tornadoes, fanned the scattered fires on the east side of
Michigan into a general conflagration.

Its fearful power may be illustrated by the case of White Rock,
on the coast. Here the population, tliat had fought the fire for
weeks, were aroused at one o'clock at night by the roar of the
tornado, and fled before it. They waded out into the Lake up to
their necks and remained there until seven in the morning, when,
exhausted, they returned to the beach and slept till noon. Boats
which went to relieve the sufferers were unable to go within miles
of the shore for nearly two days, on account of the dense smoke
and fiery cinders. And yet we M^ere told that not more than
twenty lives were lost in this eastern division, although from tliree
thousand to fom* thousand people Avere rendered utterly destitute.

The Detroit committee has thoroughly canvassed this whole
district. Lists of all the needy inhabitants are hi the hands of


the SupciTisoi*s of each to^vnship, through which individual wants
are ascertained. This committee has established seven stations
along the shore, at the most convenient points for distribution.
The region is almost inaccessible for suj^plies during the winter;
and tlie committee is endeavoring to accumulate, before the closing
of water communication, sufficient stores to last until spring. The
clothing which we saw was much of it poor and unassorted, but
the committee believed that there was a sufficient supply both for
present and prospective use. Tliei-e was not, however, money
enough to meet the requisitions of the agents on the ground, and
further contributions are especially desired for the purchase of
Bucli articles as can best be obtained there.

(2) The committee for the western shore, whose headquarters are
at Grand Kapids, consists of five gentlemen, with Hon. Thomas
D. Gilbert as chairman. The territory under its charge lies in
two distinct sections, and embraces the region around Holland
and the region around Manistee.

Manistee, which is situated about one hundred and fifty miles
north of Grand Haven, is a lumber settlement. About one-half of
tlie mills and one-half of the houses of this town were burned. Of
these bm'ned houses one-half were owned by the wealthier mill-
owners, and the remainder by the inhabitants of Manistee. These
latter were stripped of everything. Nevertheless, as regular fall
Buj>plies were on their way, and the mill-owiiers were giWng em-
ployment to the laboring population, Ave did not deem it necessary
to visit this place.

Holland, a fine town of about 3,000 inhabitants, was settled
twenty-five years ago by a poor Dutch colony under the lead of their
religious teacher, Rev. A. C. Van Raalte. In a quarter of a century,

Online LibraryE. J. q (Edgar Johnson) GoodspeedHistory of the great fires in Chicago and the West : a proud career arrested by sudden and awful calamity, towns and counties laid waste by the devastating element : scenes and incidents, losses and sufferings, benevolence of the nations, etc., etc. with a history of the rise and progress of Chicago → online text (page 45 of 50)