St. Louis, MO Destructive Fire Burns Steamboats and City Blocks, May 1849 - Destructive Conflagration



The prosperous and beautiful city of St. Louis, Mo., was visited on the night of 17th May, 1849, by a most terrible conflagration, which destroyed property to the amount of $5,000,000. The fire broke out about 10 o'clock, P. M., near the river, at the corner of Locust street and the Levee, where the corner house and the three buildings above on the Levee were destroyed. From thence the flames spread across Locust street, sweeping every house, (with but one exception,) in the blocks fronting on the Levee and Main street, and extending from Locust street southward to Chestnut street, a distance of three squares. The fire then advanced up Chestnut street and crossed over to the next block south, at the junction of Commercial alley with this street, then extending from the alley to Main street, and down that to Market street, consuming everything in its route, except two buildings at the corner of Market street and Commercial alley. At the intersection of Market and Main streets, the flames crossed diagonally to the Market Street House, and followed both sides of Market street up to Second street. Then, crossing Main street, the flames again swept every building, from Locust to Market street, except a row of four-story fire-proof warehouses just below Locust street. Thence the destructive element proceeded up Pine, Chestnut and Market streets, consuming every house in the two blocks between the streets just mentioned and Main and Second streets, together with nearly half the block north of Olive street.

At this point the ravages of the fire in this part of the oily were stayed ; but in order to produce this effect, it was found necessary to blow up two or three houses at the corner of Market and Second streets. Several persons were killed by the explosion, one of whom was Mr. Targee, a well known citizen of St. Louis. The fragments of one of the dead bodies were found on the opposite side of the street; one piece near the junction of Walnut and Second streets, and a thigh-bone and foot belonging to another body, near the lower end of Walnut street, two or three squares from the spot where the houses were blown up. Those, with the body of a boy who was burned on the Levee, were supposed to constitute the remains of four persons who bad perished in the conflagration.

Although the progress of the fire was arrested at the point designated above, the flames continued to spread southward ; having made another start at the foot of Elm street, and spreading diagonally through the block, it again reached Main street, extending down to Spruce sweet, a distance, north and south, of two squares. Then erasing Main Street, It swept all before it to within a short &stenos of Third street, three squares to the west of its starting point. At Main street, the flames crossed Elm street, and consumed one fourth of the block nerds of Elm and west of Main streets. From the foot of Elm sweet up its southern side to Second street, distance of two squares, not a house was left standing. This dreadful calamity reduced many families from comfortable circumstances to perfect destitution. Hundreds of estimable people were made houseless.
"Cast abandoned on the world's wide stage, And doomed in scanty poverty to roam."

About ten o'clock, P. M., the fire, by some means, was communicated to the steamer White Cloud. There was quite a Beet of steamboats moored at the Levee at this time. The Eudora was lying above the White Cloud, sad the Edward Bates below it; the Belle Isle and Julia were moored below the Bates. A strong wind was blowing from the northwest at the time the fire commenced its devastations among the boats. The lames were soon communicated from the White Cloud to the Eudora, sad the Edward Bates caught almost at the same moment.