The Great Wenona Illinois Fire of 1870

Taken From the Henry Republican, Henry, Illinois
May 19 & May 26, 1870


May 19, 1870
Great Fire
Wenona in Ruins

Wenona was visited by an extensive conflagration yesterday morning between 1 and 2 o’clock, in which the entire centeral business block was consumed, including the passenger and freight houses belong to the I.C. R.R. We are favored the the informaiton by S. P. Henthorn, Esq., who saw the fire from his residence and gives us the following particulars:

The fire was first discovered about the centre of the block, which was made up of frame buildings, issuing from a butcher shop, and which swept everything before it consuming all the houses on the street, and the depot, freight house, and large grain elevator on the opposite side of the street, and which is a greaet and irraparable loss to that thriving town.

Among the business houses there were 2 agricultural houses, 2 hardware stores, 2 clothing stores, 2 boot and shoe stores, 2 drug stores, a book store, a large grain warehouse, and a large number of other buldings. We have not hard what the probable loss is, but it must be great, and will be felt for a long time. We will give further particulars next week.


May 26, 1870

The Great Fire in Wenona

The fire at Wenona, that took place there on the morning of the 18th inst. is still worse than was at first reported. Twenty-seven buildings were consumed and the loss is estimated at $135,000. The insurance was light and a great many have lost all they had, with no power to rebuild. The origin of the fire is unknown, but the Index gives the following particulars:

About 10 minutes after the one o’clock passenger went south, Samuel Tullar, the night watchman, discovered flames bursting up from the rear of the old Wenona House. They seemed to spring up as if smothered, or some explosive material had been used for igniting them. Before an alarm could be given, it was ont (not) of the power of mortal man to save any part of the row. The citizens rushed to the scene, and every effort was made by them to save property and prevent the spread of the flames. Owing to the dry weather, the buildings burned like tinder and fire spread both ways. By almost super-human effort the stores of Ludington & Bichard on First South street, and B. Fowler, Jr. & Co., on First North, with the stores adjoining on the south and north were saved.

It soon gained such headway - there being a strong wind from the southeast - that it was impossible to fight the fire on the opposite side of the streeet, and the big elevator, belonging to Buckingham & Bros., Chicago and Illinois Central freight and passenger houses were soon in flames - it becoming so hot that Mr. Hennessy, the station agent, was obliged to aboandon some of his books and papers, together with all his personnal effects in rooms over the depot.

Many goods were taken out at the front doors and removed to the opposite side of the street, only to be overtaken and consumed by the devouring elements. The loss is most heavy, and in a great measure, falls upon persons unable to stand the loss. Some will secure new locations and continue in business.

The progress of the flames were very rapid, and in the course of 30 minutes, the entire central business row of the place was a mass of smoking ruins. The Fire was intensely hot, and nothing could impede the progress of the fire fiend. But little was saved from the various stores. Miss Amanda Williams lost all her effects, even to dresses, shoes and stockings. She roomed in the row, and was roused by a gallant citizen who rushed into the room, and just tossed her trunk containing only a few trinkets into the street, while she made good her excape in her night clothes. The lady in the same room with her was so confused and bewildered that she had to be carried from the building by masculine arms.

The wind carried the fiery embers for miles and the farmers in range for a long distance had a shower of these missles to contend with; and many saved their hay stacks and houses from conflagration only by the most strenuous exertiouns. John O. Dent’s stables and hay yard caught fire twice, and was saved only by timely extinguishment.

The Index says further that “there is but one theory with regard to the origin of the fire, and that it was the work of an incendiary. There had been no fire in or about the buildings for some time past. It was difficult to locate it at the beginning, on account of the rapidity with which it spread. The light was first seen through the windows of Coomb’s meat markett, but it is more probable that the fire was kindled between that and the adjoining building on the north. The fire is a terible blow to Wenona, which will be felt by many for years to come, but the manner in which the sufferers take their losses, shows that they have not lost their grist and pluck for which her citizens have been so long noted.”

The following are the approximate losses at the fire:

					Loss	Ins.
Southwell & Vaughn, druggist $ 6500
T. Loyd, dry goods & groceries 8000 $ 1000
Buckingham, elevator, grain 20000 14000
Illinois Central railroad 7000
T. A. Hill, buildings 5000
Ingham & Bushnell, clothing 6000 1000
E. E. Barker, building 3000 500
Chas. Parker, farm machinery 4000
L. H. Tower, farm machinery 8500
A. Badgiey, dentist 2000
S. E. Woolverton & Co., furniture 4000
Kirby Hoover, billard saloon 2400
E. L. Monser, farm machinery 2500 2000
Sohns & Sharlesburg, building 2500
Loyd & Mulhailen, groceries 2000 1000
C. H. Helme, building 2000
Burns & Stateler, groceries 2000
Colville heirs, building 1000
J. A. Lagercrantz, jeweler 3000 1000
Freight House contents 6000
S. J. Taylor, bazar 5000 1000
E. P. Barker, hardware 6000 3000
A. B. Alford, druggist 4000 1000
J. W. Glover, groceries 2200 500
Mrs. Elmira Roberts, milliner 700
Geo. Mouser, farm machinery 1500
Jo. Warren, building 1200
W. R. Phillips, building 1000
Conrad Geiger, barber shop 1000
W. A. McFarland, tailor 1000
C. Reidt, shoemaker 1000
K. T. Hennessey, goods and flour 1000
Widow Brown, building 2500
Thomas Layton, shoemaker 500
John Cahill, builder 200
A. Cahn, groceries 800 800
Mrs. Kate Brown, milliner 2000
Vermillion coal company 700
Miss F. Loyd, milliner 600
Wenona bank 800
H. Dale, building 800
J. R. Conklin & Co., butcher 800
Wm. Coombes, butcher 400
Sam. Scott, ice cream saloon 300
C. W. Maben, building and scales 250
Mrs. Bentley, household goods 300
Parret & Son, farm machinery 200
E. E. Bartlett, jeweler 800
Tom Johnson, personal effects 150
Dr. Grey, dentist 50
M. A. Sherburn, painter 75
F. H. Bond, insurance agent 50
J. H. Jackson, lawyer 50
Losses by removal and water 3000

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