Welcome to Pennsylvania Genealogy Trails!
The 1884 Pennsylvania Forest Fire

The Forest Fires

The Town of Brisbin Burned

Osceola Mills, May 4 - There is nothing new here in the situation at Brisbin. A steady rain that set in this morning and prevailed near all day has put out all the fires. The place where once stood the town of Brisbin is as vacant and as bare a looking spot as one could look upon. The indicitative wind that fanned the fire also swept upon the cinders and ashes and left the place as clear as a newly swept kitchen, there being nothing but frame house and board walks there are no brick or mortar left to mar the monotony. Special trains from Clearfield, Tyrone, Currewnsville and Phillipsburg have been passing over the road all day long carrying thousands of curious sight seers to the burnt town and it is estimated that over five thousand of these people were on the spot at one time today. The sufferers are in a manner cared for, for the present, but there are so many that it will tax the ability of the committee at Houtzdale to its utmost to keep them from want until they can again be placed in a position to help themselves.

Houtzdale, Pa., May 4. - In the account of the destruction of the town of Brisbin sent from here yesterday the heroic conduct of Mr. Cryan, the engineer of the burned mill, was noticed, but the narrowness of his escape was not at that time fully known. Mr. Cryan remained at his post until completely surrounded by the flames and then burried himself in the earth, where he was found, after the flames had passed over, by Dr. P. E. Vaughen, who was searching for his remains. One lady, after having started for a place of safety, returned repeatedly to beg those who were endeavoring to save some of her effects, to let everything go, but save her cats. She escaped about half clothed and the cats have been seen since. Show cases, with other goods, had been gotten out of a store, but had to be abandoned. As soon as possible after the fiercest of the flame had passed over, the owner of the property retunred to see if anything had escaped. He found that two chickens, only a few days old, had crept into one of the show cases and came out safe. A heavy zinc trunk, which stook not two feet from the show case, was entirely consumed. The fire is supposed to have originated about half a mile west of Hoover, Hughes & Co.'s mill, where some Hungarians set fire to the bruch to clear a piece of ground for cultivation.

Goods for the sufferers will be transported free of charge by the Pennsylvania railroad. About 140 employees of Hoover, Hughes 7 Co are thrown out of employemnt, in addition to about 80 at John Maurices's Mt. Vernon colliery and 170 at R. H. Powell & Co.'s colliery. But one death has occurred thus far - that of Mr. Donovan, who has burned to death during the conflagration. The insurance are much less than the losses.

The losses, definitely stated, now amount to $380,000, and an estimate of the total losses puts the amount $1,036,000. Of this amount Hoover, Hoches & Co. lose $150,000, the opera house (unfinished), $6,000, George Pearce, $6,000; W. H. Phillips, $8,000; L. & J. Somendinger, $10,000; J.C. & J.W. Hoover, $15,000; George Gould, $5,000; George Rhoads, $3,500; Jones & Prosser, $4,000; Church of God, $3,500; Moure & Van Desen, $3,500; Henry Roach, $3,500; Odd Fellows' Hall, $25,000; M. Burns, $3,500; R. H. Powell & Co., $8,000; M. L. Cupples, $3,500. The number of families homeless and destitute is aobut 1,000, most of whom are suffering for the necessaries of life.

In The Mohanoy Valley

Ashland, May 4 - All Friday and yesterday the towns through the Mahaney valley were enveloped in clouds of smoke and lurid flames shot up from the mountain sides. All night a gang of Hungarian laborers fought the flames around the Miners' Hospital here. The house of Christopher Westhoffer, one mile from Ashland, burned down at 11 o'clock. The fences, cattle, grain and everything in the neighborhood were destroyed. Westhoffer is missing and fears entertained for his safety, as no trace of his whereabouts can be discovered. The engine house of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company at Gordon, was burned late last evening. Four farm dwellings, with furniture, stock, machinery and tools, were also destroyed. Valuable timber tracts along the Broad mountain are destroyed. The area of timber land devastated by the flames in this part covers fully thirty square miles.

Williamsport, May  4- The latest reports here show the forest fires in various places to have been extensive and very destructive. Along the Philadelphia and Erie railroad, from Driftwood west to Kane, heavy fires have been in progress for several days. Many cattle are reported surrounded by flames and a number of fishermen had great difficulty in getting out of the burning territory. The large territory in the western part of Lycoming county is burned over, but the loss is not very heavy. In Tioga county the fire is general. Large quantities of timber are destroyed along the line of the Tioga railroad, as well as many houses, barns and other buildings. The town of Thompson is wholly destroyed, including the sawmill. The loss is over $100,000. Seventeen houses were burned in Arnot, entailing additional loss of $15,000. Two million feet of lumber is also burned. The fire is most fierce about Morris and Antrim. Considerable pine timber is among the property burned in different parts of Tioga county. The sawmill of Andrew Kaul, at Spring Run, Elk county, was destroyed, with 2,000,000 feet of lumber; no insurance. The sawmill, logs and lumber of Dr. L.M. Otts, at Hemlock station, same county, are also burned. The loss is about $6,000; insurance $4,000. Later reports from Center and Clearfield counties say the loss is not as heavy as was at first reported.

Forest Fires in Kane and McKean

Philadelphia, May 1. - A dispatch to the Press from Kane, Pa., says: "The forest fires have been raging for a week along the line of the Philadelphia and Erie railroad from Kane, mcKean county to Emporium, Cameron county. Much valuable timber has been destroyed and in some instances dwellings. The Sergeant Lumber Company at Sergeant station had at one time over fifty men fighting the flames and by back firing they succeeded in saving the mill property and stock, though the woods were burned over for miles. At several points the trains were obliged to run through the fire. The flames are now believed to have spent their fury.

-- The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) May 8 1884, Transcribed by Nancy Piper


Back to Pennsylvania Trails History and Genealogy