Richard J Harney.

History of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest online

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architectural proportions, and admirably man-
aged under the superintendence of Doctor
Walter Kempster.

For view of this institution, and history,
and statistics of same, see subsequent pages,
per index.


In 1869. Mr. J. B. Davis, constructed gas
works, and laid mains through the principal
streets, and on the 5th of December, of that
year, gas was turned on, and the city lighted.

it will be seen from the foregoing that the
city made rapid progress during the period
from 1865 to '73. the date we have now reached
in its history. During that time great changes
and many improvements were made, many
new mills and sash and door factories were
erected, and other branches of manufacture
were established. Hundreds of elegant resi-
dences and massive business blocks were built.
The High School and Normal School building,
and several fine churches added to the archi-

tectural ornaments of the city. Two splendid
bridges were built, Main street paved with the
Nicholson, and between twenty and thirty
miles of street graveled; the streets lighted
with gas, and another railroad added to its
lines of communication.

It was now in the full tide of prosperity, when
a series of fire calamities commenced, which
completely transformed the city. Probably no
other place, except Chicago, was socompletely
changed in so short a period. The two great
fires which occurred in 1874 and '75. and not
a year apart, destroyed nearly the whole bus-
iness portion ofthe city, and manj'entire streets
of private residences.


The Great Conflagrations of 1874, and of April 28, 1875 —
Destruction of the Business Portion ofthe City — Rebuild-
ing of Oshkosh — Rebuilt Oshkosh — List of Structures
Erected in 1875.

\ Ma\' 9, 1874, a fire broke out in a
itter pile of straw and manure adja-
cent to a barn belonging to Spalding
& Peck. The fire was discovered when
the blaze first started, but before it was
reached with water, it ignited the barn,
and as a furious wind was blowing, the flames
rapidl)' spread to lumber piles and adjacent
dwelling houses. It soon became uncontrolla-
ble, and the sheet of flames swept everything!
before them. The fire crossed Warren Street,
burning up the buildings on two entire blocks,
then leaped across Pearl Street, sweeping
everything comubustable in its track. Then
crossed High Street, to Algoma Street, where
its further progress was arrested. Thirty odd
structures were consumed in the conflagration,
and the loss was estimated at $45,000. Insur-
ance on the same, $32,900. It was followed
by the great fire of July 14, in the same
year, (1874). This fire broke out in a stable
in the rear of McCabe's Block, on upper Main
street, and laid waste all the compactly built
portion of Main street above the Beck\\ith
House, and all of North Division street. From
there it spread, burning nearly every building
in its course for a distance of more than a mile
from the point of its origin. Several persons
were so overcome with the intense heat and
their e.xertions to save life and property, that
they were carried nearly lifeless from the scene.
One ofthe saddest occurrences during this fire
was the death of William P. Taylor, City
Treasurer, who was internally injured by his




efforts to assist a crippled woman to save her

Oshkosh, with her usual energy, built up the
entire portion of Main street that was burned,
before the winter set in, and about half of the
residences. During this year, i Sj 4, some scvc/i
liundi-cd structures were erected in various parts
of the city, and it was demonstrated that
although fires might burn up Oshkosh, they
could not paralyze her energies or courage, nor
check her rapid growth, which continues with
undiminished vigor in the face of the greatest
discouragements. She now set herself to work
resolutely to meet her old enemy with oppos-
ing forces, and fire-proof structures took the
place of the combustible wooden buildings that
had so long menaced the safety of the city and
invited the devouring elements. All the com-
pactly-built portion of upper Main street was
rebuilt, during the same year of the fire, with
fire-proof buildings. The progress that Osh-
kosh made in building during that year sur-
passed anything of the kind that ever occurred
before in the history of cities. Over 700 struct-
ures were erected in one summer in a city of a
population of 17,000.

But she was destined to distinguish her
capacity on a still grander scale; for the next
year was to witness the complete transforma-
tion of the city by the destruction and rebuild-
ing of its chief business centre. This was the

It was a turning point in her history, and is
undoubtedly the concluding chapter of her
great fire calamities — for the new Oshkosh is
built on a foundation of safety. The old
wooden buildings have disappeared, and her
business center is now exclusively brick and
stone, with metal roofs.

The following description of the great con-
flagration of April 28, 1875, is from the Osh-
kosh Nortlnvcstcrn, written by C. W, Bowron,
city editor:


It was about one o'clock P. M., and while
the wind had reached its greatest fury, that the
startling whistles screamed out the alarm of
fire all along the line of mills and steam factor-
ies. It w as a fearful day, and ten thousand
souls started in wild excitement as they heard
those first peals of the alarm whistles, and well
they might. The deep volume of smoke, thick
and black, that rolled up from Morgan's mill,
showed too plainly what danger might be
expected. Hardly had the great crowd gath-
ered from all directions, when the spreading
flames were already coiling and winding around
the huge lumber piles that lay adjoining the

mill. The wind was too strong, and the vol-
ume of flame too sudden for effective Opera-
tion on the part of anybody. Great chunks of
burning cinders came floating over into the
lumber piles more adjacent to Main street, and
they quickly caught. A fierce fight was waged
among these piles; but the cinders became too
numerous, and the ignitions too frequent to be
baffled. The wind was blowing from the south-
west. On came the rushing tide of flame, more
furious than the descending floods of Mill
River. The steamers seemed powerless to
check such a fearless adversary. No sooner
could they get set at work than the enemy
would charge with bayonets of fire, and drive
them from their work.

It bOon became apparent that it would
sweep everything before it, and the merchants
on Main street began to more seriously con-
sider the situation. In less than twenty min-
utes the fire had swept from Morgan's mill to
the Milwaukee & St. Paul depot and freight
house, and they were swept away like leaves
in a blast furnace. The fire ripped through
the planing, sash and blind mill of Lines, Lib-
bey & Co., leaped to the sash, door and blind
factory of Geo. Williamson & Co., taking the
mill and yard of James & Stille in its course,
and swept down to the planing mills of Bell &
Rogers aud Ben Henze, on Market street. In
the meantime it had veered to the northward,
up Light street to High, taking the North-
western House and the large frame buildings
opposite. The grocery store of W. H. Ballou,
corner of High and Light streets, caught fire,
and the flames swept along eastward, demol-
ishing the handsome brick residence of J. C.
Spalding, corner of High and Bond streets.


Thompson & Sprague's livery stable finally
caughtfire, and being a large wooden structure *
filled with hay and combustible matter, served
to scattei- fires all over the buildings on the
west side of Main street. The first point of
contact on Main street was in Wright's wooden
block, ne.xt to S. M. Hay's brick building, and
directly to leeward of the livery stable. From
this building the flames traveled with terrible
swiftness in each direction, burning up ^o^-
dirds the Northwcstcrji ofiice on the north, and
spreading to the row of wooden buildings
south from Hay & Bro's. store.


When the flames swept over Main street,
the sight on that and on adjoining streets beg-
gars descprition. For a time those having
stores and business places along Main street,
had great hopes that the fire would bear to the




river, and would be kept from crossing Divis-
ion street. When at length there was no doubt
upon that point there was no time to be lost.
Everything was in the wildest confusion. There
was running to and fro in not haste. Teams
were eagerly sought for, empty vehicles were
ravenously seized, and the sacking of those
beautiful stores, and the piling of goods pro-
miscuously into wagons, carts or any available
conveyance, commenced in good earnest. The
clerks in R. L. Digger's had the omnibuses
employed in removing their goods, and every
available truck was employed by the dry goods
interests in that vicinity, to remove their goods
to a place of safety. But, in spite of their untir-
ing efforts, the dry goods men suffered large
losses. The smoke became blinding, and the
strife along Main street was terrible. Unbridled
horses let loose from the livery stables, came
dashing through the crowded streets; running
teams came tearing by, while the yelling from
man to man became perfectly terrifying. It
was a wild scene which pen cannot picture.
The part of Main street north of High street
was attacked in a different direction, and from
an entire different source than that south of
High Street. The doom of the Postoffice was
what settled the fate of that part of the street.
From the Postoffice the fire quickly crossed to
the rear of the fine brick rows between High
and Algoma, consigning them to the general
ruin. The rear end of the Beckwith House
caught from the burning of Mrs. Bailey's build-
ing, corner of Algoma and Division streets, and
this, together with the Cottrill Block next to
it, were totally destroyed, the walls falling
with a terrible crash. The upper story of Cot-
trill's block was used as a lodge room by the
Good Templar lodge of this city, and by For-
ward Grange, P. of H.


With the destruction of the Beckwith House
came the fall of the Harding Opera House.
The fire first caught in the large windows of
the Temple of Honor, and the wooden balcony
which projected in front. It was sad to see
this finest place of amusement in the city, and
one which the citizens of Oshkosh had so long
desired and so lately got, fall among the gen-
eral ruin; but there was no water or any facil-
ities to work with to save it, aud the heat from
the tall brick buildings opposite was very
intense. The Temple of Honor, which occu-
pied the large front hall, saved everything but
their billiard table.


Curiously enough, the fire went northward

just far enough to meet the line of the burnt
district of last July, as though the fates had
decreed that none should go unscathed.

Boles' block marks the south limits of the
fire on Main street on the west side. It was
hard Svork to check it here, but the building
being fire-proof, about fifty men with buckets,
succeeded in saving it. Undoubtedly thesav-
ing of this block was the means of saving the
city offices, the Revere House and all that por-
tion of Ceape street not burned.


The fire swept onward east of Main street as
far as Bowen, taking everything in its path
between Washington and Ceape streets, includ-
ing the north side of Washington street for
about two blocks, with all the beautiful and
costly residences on that fashionable thorough

The Presbyterian church on Jefferson Ave-
nue, in the rear of Harding's Opera House,
followed suit, and Dr. Barber's residence and
those of Marshal Harris, Dr. Goe, W. B. Fel-
ker, C. E. Wefton and a score of others soon
followed them.

The fire raged with tremendous fury down
Otter street, spreading from the Adams House
to the German Church, and swept through,
laying everything waste with fearful rapidity,
till it reached Court House street. The resi-
dences of Dr. Wright and J. E. Kennedy were
burned, and Wm. Hume, Henry Bailey, next
east of the Court House, were also reduced to
ashes. The fire kept on its furious raid
unchecked until it reached Bowen street, where
it turned northward, and on Waugoo street,
went a block be}-ond. -I

bird's EYE VIEW. !

A view of the great conflagration from the
top of a tall building, presented a sublime,
yet an awful picture. Standing to the north-
ward of the fire, on Main street, the scene was
grand in the extreme. The whole area of the
burnt district was burning at the same time.
The buildings west of Main street had not yet
burned down, while the flames had already
spread far to the eastward, and the whole sur-
face of the scene was one lurid glare of writh-
ing, twisting, mocking flames. To the west,
the farther buildings were mostly gone, while
the tall walls along Main stood for a moment
tottering and swaying, then fell with terrible
roar and crash. Far to the eastward, the house
tops seemed but the playground of a thousand
dancing demons reveling in the dire destruct-
ion of the hour. The steeple of the German
church on Otter street, and the dome of the
Adams House shone up amidst the blaeknesj




bf the upper smoke, glowingin columnsof solid
crimson, like the faint flickering of the setting
sun through a dark storm-cloud.

Small dwellings afar to the eastward, looked
;ike so many bon-fires in some e.xciting cele-
Dration, while men, women and children, away
lown beneath, looked like pigmies in frantic
gesture, hastening to and fro. The scene was
\ild, awful, grand. Chaos ruled monarch of
:hehour, and man was dumb with awe.


Night came on, and as darkness stole grad-
lally upon the footsteps of the retreating sun,
he scene was changed. Excitement and anx-
ous fear gave way to quiet despair and resig-
lation. Tired humanity, rela.xed and weary,
jegan to seek a rest and refuge from the toils
ind fatigues of that awful day. Woe-begone
md half discouraged, the outcast and the
lomeless began to gather their little store
ibout them and seek a shelter from the raw
light air. Where the hundreds went to, and
vhere they found a roof to shelter them, is a
nystery. Even before the fire, house room
vas scarce, but now it seemed almost an impos-
libility to find it But the unpleasantness of
he circumstances was relieved, in a measure,
)y the kindness and sympathy of those who
vere among the more fortunate. All who had
t corner of room freely offered it to the


The view of the city by night from a dis-
ance was picturesque. The night itself was
earfully dark, and the red reflection from the
•uins lit up the hazy atmosphere with a soft
adiance, making a most beautiful sight. The
;hin smoke curling up from the heated
tiass of brick and mortar, looked like incense
burning upon some mighty altar. The long
ne of light, half vivid, and half smothered
n the darkness, gave a distinct outline of the
(urnt district. The tall, black buildings still
emaining, loomed up in perfect outline upon
he light beyond, like dark and solemn spec-
res upon a moonlit sea. The ruin was over,
destruction had wrought its work, and the
reat day died like a Dolphin.


One of the saddest things connected with
11 the sad things of the great fire was the
leath of Thomas J. Davis, who yielded up his
ife in heroic efforts to avert what proved in
he end to be the greatest conflagration
ve have ever seen. At the time the fire broke
lut, Mr. Davis, with another man, was load
ng lumber near the mill of Morgan & Bro.

Thinking of the chemical fire extinguisher,
which was generally kept in the office, he has-
tened to it, strapped it on his back, and
mounted the high platform that fronted the
mill. At this time Mr. Morgan was on the
roof of the mill. The front doors of the mill
hung like great flaps, being hinged at the top.
Mr. Davis, with the help of his companion,
succeeded in raising the door sufficiently to
admit him and the extinguisher, and he disap-
peared amidst the smoke within. Nothing
was seen of him for several minutes, although
the flames and smoke began to belch out of
the doors and the gable-end of the mill above.

The door was raised and propped up with a
stick, when out rushed the unfortunate man,
the extinguisher gone from his back, panting,
choking, writhing in the agonies of his terri-
ble suffering. His clothes were almost wholly
burned off, and his body under hisarms horribly
burned. His sufferings were awful to wit-
ness. He could but barely tell those who
crowded around him, that after getting into the
mill the flames broke out in terrible volumes
behind and all around him, and he was forced
to run a horrid gauntlet of flame and fire.
Before reaching the door he was obliged to
leap through solid volumes of roaring flame.
He was removed to Dr. Russell's office, and
when it became evident that that, too, must
burn, he was carried on a mattrass to his resi-
dence. He was about unconscious when he
reached there, and lingered until about half-
past nine o'clock in the evening, when death
put an end to his misery. Mr. Davis was a
Welshman, about thirty-five years of age and
an exemplary man in every particular. He
left a wife and five children. A purse of over
$300 was made up among the friends of the
afflicted family.

Another death ^\'as that of Charles Dunn,
an old man, who was crushed to death by the
falling of the walls of the Harding Opera
House. He was squeezed into jelly, his head
being crushed into a shapeless mass of flesh
and bones. His body was carried to String-
ham's Elevator, where it was viewed by crowds
of curious people.


The burned district consists of a strip over a
mile long and something over a quarter of a
mile wide. Its boundaries may be briefly
stated as follows; Starting from Morgan's
Mill, on the river, it runs northeast to the cor-
ner of Pearl and Light streets, thence north on
Light to High Street; east on High to Bond;
north on Bond to Algoma Street, thence north-
easterly across the corner of Main and Algoma




streets, taking in the southern portion of the
block north of Washington Street, between
Main and Mount Vernon streets; east on
Washington Street, taking in several houses
on the north side of the street, till it reaches
Bowen Street; making a circle southeast, it
comes back to Bowen on Otter Street; thence
back on Otter, to Mill Street; down Mill to the
alley between Otter and Ceape streets; thence
west to the Court House; the line then contin-
ues on Ceape to Main Street; thence north to
43 Main Street and the Eagle Foundry, and
along Marion Street to place of beginning.
The loss, as near as can be estimated, will
reach nearly $2,500,000. The assessed valu-
ation of the property destroyed was about

Hotels. — Adams House, C. P.&G. Adams,
proprietors; Beckwith House, E. & F. Blood,
proprietors; Tremont House, Joseph Stauden-
raus, proprietor; Northwestern House, J.
Wagner, proprietor; Carter Boarding House,
G. T. Carter, proprietor.

Banks. — First National, Union National,

Churches. — Universalist, Salem Church,
Lutheran, German Methodist, Norwegian
and parsonage.

Schools. — Otter Street, two buildings, and
the German and English Academy.

Public Halls. — Harding Opera House, Cas-
sino Hall, Gewerbeverin Hall.

Printing Offices.— K\\<t\\ & Hicks, North-
zvestern and stationery store; Fernandez &
Co., Times; Kohlman & Bro., Telegraph and
book-bindery; Kaime & Livermore, Indepen-
dent; Sarau & Weidner, job office and book-

Dry Goods Dealers. — Clarks & Forbes, R.
L. Bigger, Jones Bros., Kuehmstead Bros.,
McKey & Folds, E. L. Hughes.

Millinery, Etc. — A. M, Weber, Mrs. John-
son, Mrs. Nash, Miss Turner, A. Rodgers,
Kittie Neis, Miss Tarrant.

Harness Shops. — A. P. Allen, Henry Bar-
low and C. F. Shroeder.

Grocers. — R. Ash & Co., J. Fowler, G. J.
Hatch, Jones Bros., Newton & Keen, Snell &
Bliss,, Koch & Nehoda, H. Sherk, K. Dich-
mann & Son, B. Gores, W. H. Ballon, Maine
& Reed, Charles Ouinlan, E. W. Viall,
Voigt & Wendorff, F. Hermann, L. Mayer.

Furniture. — Badger Bros.

Jeu'clry.—S. B. Boynton, I. G. Hatch, J.
H. Shourds, V. E. Dake.

Ciga r Dealers. — H . B a m m e s s c 1 , J . B a u m

&Co., W. G. Brauer, Neumann Bros., T. V,
Dercksen & Son, N. S. Robinson.

Boots and Shoes. — N. T. Stickney & Co.
R. F. Farrington, J. M. Rollins & Co., Geo
Henkle, J. B. Stone, Richard Lawless, C. A.
Johnson, M. C. Rock, I. Barta, Carl Rchs,
A. Baumgartner, F. Runger, C. Bowen, C.

SczL'ing Machines. — J. H. Barr & Co.
Remington; C. W. Bloss, Domestic; L. C.
Sessions, Singer; A. P. Bailey, Wheeler &
Wilson; W. Lake, Victor.

Music and Musical Instruments. — F. A.
Beckel, G. R. Lampard, W. G. Brauer.

Drugs and Medicines. — J. Bauman & Co.,
R. Guenther, J. R. Forbes, M. J. Williams,
W. L. Williams & Co.

Fur Dealers. — T. H. Bishop, Frank Percy,
F. Thrall, A. Richter.

Flour and Feed. — Blissett & Son, H. M.
Woodworth, F. LaBudde.

Real Estate.— C. D. Church, O. H. Harris,
A. Norton.

Hardz.<are.—S. M. Hay & Bro., W. H.
Crawford, P. Z. Wilson, L. Dimpsey & Co.,
Geo. Kelley.

Insurance. — Daniel & ]\IcCurdy, Gary &
Harmon, Creutzburg & Schintz, 1^ S. Tuttle,

A. Norton, Palmer & McLaren, King & Law-
son, O. E. Carrier.

Book Stores.— KWcw & Hicks, G. F. & 1.
M. Eastman, W. G. Brauer.

News Rooms.— ^. Hellard, Mrs. W. B

Lleat Markets.-]. Muller, Wakeman 8
Son, Conrad Ernst, C. Herrmann, Pitcher 8
Woodworth, John Hcerning, Lochnian Bros

Hides and Leather. — Metz & Schlcerb
Hcehne & Jasnicke.

Painters and J\iiuts and Oil Dealers. — D

B. Alverson, A. Benedict, A. E. Chase
M. Hasbrouck, James Willock, T. Frazcr, H
M. Harmon, Lord & Kelsey, L. Schwahii
Co., C. II. Maxwell, S. C. Spore.

Carriage Shops. — P. L. Smith & Co., Clein
ens& Wayland, J. Litfin, W. Griffith.

Blacksmith Shops. — A. Sanford, P. Cliai
boncau,J. F. Corrigal, James Kane, D. M

Clothiers and Tailors. — McCourt iS: Can
eron, J. T. Masse. F. Anger.

Pump Works. — VV. Clough, C. Carter

Hats and Caps. — J. B. Last, A. Richte

Boiler Works.— U. T. Battis.

Wholesale Liquor Dealers. — Masse & Be;
nah, A. Meisner, J. Nicholson.

Livery Stables. — Hobart & Holmes, Cole
Forbes, G. W. Athearn & Co. (Omnibi
Line), Thompson & Sprague, C. P. Mallelt




Stencil Works.— ^M. C. Wheeler, J. H.

Crockery Dealer. — J. F. W. Decker.

Willozv Ware. — J ohn Bismark .

Bakers. — L. Mayer, Heisinger Bros., J.

Saw Mills. — Morgan Bros., James & Stille.

Planing Mills, and Sash, Door and Blind
Factoi'ics. — Lines, Libby & Co., G. M. Wil-
liamson & Co., Kitz, Newell & Brown, Bell &
Rogers, Ben Henze.

Gnn Shops. — Frank Percy, George Schloerb.

Miscellaneous. — I. J. Hoile, seed store; H.
S. Janes, glazed sash, Jones & Frentz, abstract
office; J. R. Loper, soap and candles; Bur-
dick, Roberts &Co., rotary harrow; Alfred
Chappie, stone works; J. H. Ward, plow
shop; Daniel Pratt, cooper; Wm. Waters archi-
tect; Bell & Rogers, architects; Mrs. Billings,
patterns; Mrs. Davis, hair goods; C. R. Ham-
lin, United States Deputy Marshal; A. K.
Osborne, Collector United States Internal
Revenue; United States Postoffice; City
Library; Alf Ford, fruit and confectionery;
W. D. Curtis, match factory; Northwestern
Telegraph Office; V. E. Dake, plated ware;
Pratt & Son, spring bed factory; Milwaukee
& St. Paul Railroad depot; police station;
Germania engine house; Wolf River Boom
Company; City Surveyor's Office; S. Nash,

Between 200 and 300 residences were


A fair city smiling lies

Online LibraryRichard J HarneyHistory of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest → online text (page 32 of 71)