St. Louis, MO City and 23 Steamboats Burn, May 1849


Here its ravages were stayed in this part of the city. Before the progress could be arrested it was found necessary to blow up one or two houses near the corner of Market and Second streets, and in doing so at least three persons were killed. The fragments of one of their bodies were found on the opposite side of the street, one near Walnut, on Second st., and the thigh bone and a foot belonging to another, near the foot of Walnut street, some two or three squares from where the houses were blown up. These with the boy make four.
We will now go farther south to the foot of Elm street, where the fire made another lodgment, and spreading diagonally through this block, it swept up to Main, and down to Spruce street, a distance north and south of 2 squares, and crossing Main, it carried nearly every thing before it, up very nearly to Third street, three squares to the west of its starting point. At Main street, the flames crossed Elm, and consumed one-fourth of the block north of Elm and west of Main streets. From the foot of Elm, up its southern side to Second street, a distance of two squares not a house is standing. By this dire calamity, hundreds of families are made homeless, and many who were in affluence are reduced to poverty.
South Market, and the Town hall were on fire at one time, but by great exertions of a few persons present, they were saved.
Nearly every pane of glass in the windows for half a square distant from the corner of Market and Second street, were broken by the concussion at the time of the blowing up of the building at that point. The police arrested and confined in the jail and calaboose nearly fifty persons for stealing at the fire.

There are various rumors afloat relative to the loss of different persons, but many of them without foundation; and yet two or three of our old and valued citizens we believe to have lost their lives; and no doubt many are lost who will never be enquired after or thought of - strangers of whom there were many on the boats and in our city.

The extent of the conflagration, from its beginning to its termination, takes in almost the whole of two blocks, which would be about one mile in length, by two in width. The streets of our city, laid out originally very narrow, are literally choked up with fallen walls of houses and destroyed property of various kinds. We did not see either New York or Pittsburgh after the great conflagrations there, but we are informed that our city presents and aspect of greater desolation than either of those places. In regard to the loss, comparatively, we know not from any data in our possession which is the greatest. Our recollection however, is, that in neither New York nor Pittsburgh, did the loss exceed five millions of dollars. If this be true, St. Louis has suffered more than either of those cities by fire.