Newberry, SC fire, Mar 1907

Newberry SC Business Section Fire  Sept 1900's.jpg


Laurens, S. C., March 29. - Driven by a stiff wind, fire today swept both the business and residential sections of Newberry, and caused a loss that may reach half a million dollars. Approximately half a hundred residences were destroyed and a score of business houses in the heart of the town are in ruins.

Appeals for assistance were telegraphed to Columbia and to this city, but engines could not be sent into Newberry on account of the destruction of the railroad tracks. The Newberry fire department exerted every effort to check the flames, but without avail. Two hours after the fire started the entire city water supply was exhausted and the town was left practically at the mercy of the flames.

The Boston Journal, Boston, MA 30 Mar 1907



Twenty-two Houses, Ten Stores and Two Churches Burned.


Many Wooden Shacks Swept Away Will be Replaced by New and More Stable Buildings - No One Injured in Fire.

by A. H. Seats.

Newberry, March 29. - Newberry had a fire today that wiped out 10 stores, 22 residences and two churches. An accident to the pumps at the power house, which delayed the water for a short time, was the cause of the disastrous conflagration, the worst in the history of any town in this section, although in actual figures the loss will not appear so heavy. It is estimated that property worth between $125,000 and $150,000 was destroyed, with insurance of about $85,000.

The blaze started in the three-story frame building on Main street occupied by the furniture store of R. C. Williams, who lived in the upper stories. The alarm went in at 11:45 and the hose wagon owned by the town of Newberry responded promptly. There is a large stand pipe holding 180,000 gallons which does away with the necessity of a steamer and the firemen got ready to flood the building and save the adjoining property. The water had been turned on but a few minutes when the pressure suddenly went down and the flames enveloped the whole structure. Even then the people of Newberry were not alarmed. They had no idea the fire would be so serious and it attracted only the attention of the usual number of idlers.

Strong East Wind Fanned Flames.

A strong east wind came up, however, while the firemen waited for the water and Superintendent Boyd raced for the pumps at the waterworks. The sparks and flames were carried from house to house and from store to store and the property owners realized that they faced destruction. Pressure was turned on as soon as possible and the firemen were reinforced by hundreds of others who aided in carrying out goods and saving household effects.

There is a dispute about the time when there was no water. Assistant Chief Ehrhardt and Superintendent Boyd say it was about 15 minutes while others say it was about a half hour.

Anyhow it was valuable time and gave the flames the start they needed.

Spreading of the Flames.

It was only a minute or so after the Williams building was enveloped that the fire licked up everything from Friend to Main street and passed on up the squares between the two, taking in everything in the way for a distance of about four blocks. Then one of the curious freaks of the blaze was shown. Leaping Main street at Adams it skipped the Episcopal church and beyond burned up the parsonage and the church of the Aveleigh Presbyterian congregation and the curhc of the Associate Reformed Presbyterians. When it was finally stopped it had scarred a huge S-shaped blot in the town and left over 100 people homeless and put a dozen merchants out of business.

Tonight the hospitable people of Newbery opened their houses to those who suffered by the fire, and while it is almost impossible to give any accurate insurance figures, there are very few who are excited and downcast.

Where there were small cottages and negro cabins there will be modern residences and on the whole the blaze may be a blessing in disguise.

The firemen fought hard. On Pool row, which is a collection of negro huts, the department decided to dynamite three of the buildings. This arrested the flames temporarily but in the meantime they had crossed to the other side of Friend street toward Johnstone and the sparks from the smouldering ruins on Main street had already set fire to the residences in the rear of the Episcopal Church. The fire near Pool row burned quickly and a brick residence on Johnstone street owned by Mr. T. O. Stewart was saved. To the west of this, however, Dr. Van Smith's brick residence, his stables in the rear and Mr. G. F. Long's residence went up in smoke.

Surrounded by Fire.

Surrounded on all sides by the flames was the residence of Mrs. J. B. Humbert, widow of a former Methodist minister, which was not touched, although the heat from the flames scorched the sides several times.

It is related that Mrs. Humbert during the entire conflagration prayed that her home might be spared and the way that her prayer was answered is point out by the people of Newberry tonight.

The electric currents were cut off to prevent death from charged wires and the buildings were in most instances too low to cause danger by falling walls.

Policeman T. G. Willimas carried out two old ladies on Main street, where they had been almost overcome by the heat, and himself came near getting caught in the structure.

The Political Side.

The fire has also its political side. Tuesday there will be an election to decide whether or not the sewerage, waterworks and electric light plants shall be still under the control of the commission comprised of Dr. James McIntosh, C. E. Summer and W. F. Ewart and Superintendent F. M. Boyd or whether it shall be under the control of council. The Observer, edited by the able Mr. Wallace, this morining pointed out that there would never be any danger in a fire like that recently in the Spartanburg mill [illegible] and but for the accident to the machinery there would not have been. This may or may not have its effect on the election Tuesday.

The waterworks plant and the electric light plant are valued at about $65,000 and the sewerage system at about $25,000.

The range of the fire was from Adams street to Calhoun east and west and from Friend to Main or Pratt streets, north and south, on one side and about one block on the other side of Main street.

Another Fire Called.

The only other fire in the history of the town anything like the present one was in 1883, when the Molohon block was burned. The fire was very much smaller but the value was almost as great. Tonight the city council of Newberry appropriated $100 for immediate relief and as much more as may be necessary for the fire sufferers.

Here are the losses as compiled so far by agents of Newberry:

John Scott, agent German - American Fire Insurance company - J. L. Boozer, stock, $250; S. H. Paysinger, stock, $500; Mrs. F. T. Simpson, dwelling, $1,500; Mrs. M. C. Schumpert, household goods, $1,500.

North British and Mercantile - Sheely & Summer, stock, $1,000; A. C. Thomasson, stock, $500; steam laundry company, machinery, $950.

Pennsylvania - Mrs. E. F. Blease, buildings, $500.

Phoenix of Brooklyn - Mrs. E. F. Blease, household goods, $600; M. L. Gauntt, building, $400.

Northern - Shelley & Summer, stock, $1,000; E. H. Leslie, household goods, $500; Mrs. A. S. Eidson, household goods, $1,000.

LIverpool, London and Globe - E. H. Leslie, dwelling, $1,000; S. H. Crotwell, hotel, partial, $1,500.

Phoenix of Hartford - J. R. Elson, household goods, $100; B. B. Hiller, household goods, $300; Miss J. L. Jones, household goods, $600.

Norwood & Tyre, agents for Continental Fire Insurance company of New York - Kinard & Smith, dwelling, $1,500; O. L. Schumpert, dwelling, $4,000; J. E. Norwood, dwelling, $1,000; J. A. Burton, dwelling, $1,500.

Virginia State Fre [sic] Insurance company of Richmond - J. E. Norwood, household goods, $500.

R. L. Tarrant, agent Fire Association of Philadelphia - R. C. Williams, dwelling, $1,000; E. S. Werts, household goods, $300; S. J. Wooten, household goods, $700; J. C. Brown, A. R. P. Church, $11,000; T. O. Stewart, dwelling, $2,100.

Glens Falls Fire Insurance Company of New York - Shelley & Summer, stock, $1,000; Livingston - Lomanick company, stock, $2,000; O. & T. E. Salter, stock, $1,000.

New Hampshire Fire Insurance company - W. H. Daywelling, $2,650.

F. Z. Wilson, agent Home Insurance company of New York - Hayes & Co., stock, $500; J. F. Todd, dwelling and household goods, $1,400.

Springfield Fire and Marine of Massachusetts - H. McCullough, store and stock, $1,500; Paul Johnstone, stock, $400; Miss S. L. Holland, household goods, $300.

Holmes & McFall, agents, Insurance Company of North America - Cromer & McGraw, stock, $1,000; Boozer Brothers, store, $600; Alex Singleton, dwelling and household goods, $850.

Citizens' Insurance company of St. Louis - Hayes & Co., stock, $500.

The statement of S. P. Boozer's agency is not available tonight. It is about $15,000. Mr. Boozer's home was destroyed.

The Burned Buildings.

The buildings burned were as follows: Three-story wooden building occupied by R. C. Williams, owned by R. H. Wright, furniture and wagons. The top floor was occupied by Mr. Williams.

Two-story brick building occupied by Shelley & Sumner, owned by R. C. Williams, furniture.

Building at corner of Pratt and Coates streets, residence occupied by B. B. Miller and owned by R. C. Williams.

Residence occupied by Henry Hayes and owned by R. C. Williams.

Store room of Hayes, Cromer & McGraw, groceries.

Paul Johnson, groceries.

Copeland Bros., dry goods.

Three building stores owned by Copeland Brothers, one story brick and frame.

On Adams street there were several small shops and restaurants which were owned by Copeland brothers. These buildings are in the rear of their brick buildings.

The fire then crossed Friend street on the block between Adams and Coates streets and on this block the residence of Jas. F. Todd, owned by himself, and several small outbuildings belonging to Mr. Geo. W. Summer were destroyed, but the other main buildings on this block, being those of Mrs. Fannie Cook and the L. C. Boland property, occupied by Mrs. Eldson, were not insured.

Fire Crosses to Pratt Street.

The fire then crossed over Pratt street, which is the principal business street, to the row of wooden stores on the north side of the street and wiped out the store rooms of Dr. J. H. McCollough, drug store, owned by himself; the two-story wooden building owned by M. L. Gantt and occupied by Mrs. A. C. Thomason, in the grocery business. The next building to go down was that of Boozer Brothers, green grocers, who owned the buildings. On the second floor of this building was a barber shop occupied by W. W. Farrow. This building was owned by Boozer Brothers. Next to this was the bakery of E. C. Sonnenberg, which was destroyed. He owns this, the only bakery in Newberry.

In the rear of the bakery are his oven and outbuildings also destroyed. Further back in the block is the Newberry Steam laundry building which is temporarily closed. This was also destroyed. It is the property of Mr. Geo. S. Mower.

On the corner of Adams and Pratt streets is the brick building of Mr. Geo. S. Mower, which was considerably dmaged and the stock of goods in the three stores was seriously injured. These stores were occupied by the Ray Watts 10-cent store and Livingston-Lomanick company. Adjoining this property was the Frederick hotel, which was in imminent danger of being destroyed but escaped with but little damage. Considerable of the hotel furniture was taken out but uninjured. On the far corner of Pratt and Thompson streets was the small building owned by Mr. Geo. S. Mower and occupied by Thos. Teague, a negro. This was destroyed.

A. B. P. Church Burned.

Going on east the fire burned the Associate Reformed Presbyterian church. This building has recently been sold to Mr. J. F. Brown and until the new building was erected the congregation used this building. Next to the church is the large structure known as the Blease hotel with the stables in the rear. This property is owned by Mrs. E. F. Blease and is one of the oldest properties in Newberry. In the rear of the A. R. P. church was a stock of lumber owned by S. H. Paysinger, which was destroyed. There were also several outhouses on this block burned.

The next block to go up in smoke was that bounded by Coates, Friend, Wilson and Pratt streets. Everything on this block was consumed and included the two-story dwelling house, occupied by Mr. J. A. West and used as a boarding house and owned by Mr. J. F. Todd. On the corner of this block is a large wooden structure used as a photograph gallery and variety store occupied by Mr. Ottaway Salter, owned by H. E. Todd of Anderson. In the rear of this block there are also several outbuildings destroyed. Fronting on Friend street were the residences of Alex Singleton and J. A. Burton, frame dwellings, both of which were destroyed. Across Friend street were two dwellings owned by Capt. W. H. Day of Columbia, both of which were burned. One of these buildings was occupied by J. P. Sheeley, the Southern railway agent, and the other house was vacant. Next to this was the large dwelling house of E. H. Leslie, the contractor, which was destroyed, together with several servants' houses in the rear.

One of the largest losses was that of the boarding house owned by Mr. Henry Kinard. The house was occupied by Miss S. L. Holland, who lost considerable by the fire herself. In the rear of the boarding house were three negro cottages owned by Mr. Henry Kinard and occupied by Doc Caldwell, N. Clark and Butler Morgan, the latter white and the others negroes. Above this was where the fire made its widest sweep and destroyed a number of handsome homes, including that of Mr. O. L. Schumpert. His home fronted on Main street and was owned by himself. Next to his was another frame building owned by Mr. Schumpert and occupied by Mr. S. P. Boozer, who is one of the largest insurance agents in the city. Going up Main street was the two story frame building of Mr. B. F. Goggans and in the rear of it a small cottage, which were destroyed. These were owned by Col. Schumpert.

Across Calhoun Street.

Across Calhoun street there were three houses burned, one on the corner of Main street, owned and occupied by Mr. S. J. Wooten, another owned by B. M. Dennis and occupied by J. S. Anderson and the third vacant. Mr. Dennis also owns this one. In the rear of these buildings was the home of Mr. J. G. Brown, which was very badly scorched.

Across Main street from the Goggans house is the Episcopal church, which was practically uninjured, but in the rear of it was the parsonage of the Presbyterian church, which was completely destroyed and adjacent to it was the Aveleigh Presbyterian church building, itself also burned. Across an alley adjoining the church is the home of Mr. A. C. Jones. The home itself was uninjured, but his barns and stables were burned. Following down this alley and in the rear of Dr. J. M. Kibler's residence, which was not touched, was his barn, which was burned, and several cottages occupied by Lizzie Reed, John Morgan and Nettie Caldwell, all colored, also burned.

The residence of Mr. F. M. Martin, which was saved, was in the immediate fire district, but his barn and stables were burned. Between the Blease hotel and Calhoun street the residence of Messes. Martin and Kibler and the Episcopal church were saved, but everything else was burned. Across Calhoun street from the Presbyterian church the residence of Mr. J. A. Norwood was completely destroyed. Adjoining this is the house of Mr. S. B. All, which was in danger several times and in fact it caught twice, but was saved.

The house which was in most imminent danger from all sides was that of Mrs. J. W. Humbert, facing Main street and adjoining the large boarding house of Mr. Henry Kinard. This was uninjured. Facing on Johnstone street was a residence owned by Mr. F. P. Simpson of Prosperity and occupied by Mr. B. L. Jones, which was burned. Adjoining this the brick residence of Dr. Van Smith was also destroyed. The brick residence occupied by Mr. G. Fred Long burned and the flames leaped across the street and around the house of Mr. A. J. Gibson, which was unharmed and burned the stables of Mr. L. W. Floyd. The latter's handsome residence was also in danger, but was unharmed.

The State, Columbia, SC 30 Mar 1907