New Orleans, LA Disastrous Fire, May 1844

From the New Orleans Picayune of the 19th instant.


We are called upon to record the particulars of one of the most extensive and disastrous fires which has ever occurred in our city. Between 12 and 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon the flames burst forth in the carpenter's shop of Mr. Gott, near the northwestern corner of Franklin and Jackson Streets, which, before they could be got under, spread to the adjoining tenements with frightful rapidity. Every building was of wood, and as dry as tinder itself from the long drought so that nothing could check the onward progress of the devouring element. The firemen assembled immediately but as no water could be obtained other than from the gutters, their attempts at first were rendered utterly unavailing. The wind fortunately blew in the direction towards the swamps; had it been otherwise, the flames would have swept towards the river, in which case there would have been no bounds to the destruction. As it was, they were carried with lightning rapidity down Jackson Street communicating to the houses on either side, and soon presenting a broad sheet of fire some hundred yards in width. To attempt to arrest them was soon found to be entirely out of the power of man; no water could be procured, and the engines were thus rendered useless.
To save their furniture was all that the unfortunate residents of this section could hope to achieve, and even in this they were, many of them, disappointed. No sooner did they move their effects to some house, which they hoped was out of reach of the devouring element, than the flames were upon them, and they could only save themselves by flight.
In this way the fire raged for three hours, during which time it kept down Jackson Street, burning, on to Canal on the right, and Common on the left, and crossing Treme, Marais, Villere and Robertson, to Blaiborne Streets, in all ten squares. Of all the buildings which occupied this space yesterday morning none are now standing save the Maison de Sante, or Dr. Stone's Hospital, and a few houses along Common Street. At one time there was fear for this & it was a sorrowful sight to see its numerous inmates peering from the windows at the broad, lake of destruction, raging before them; but fortunately the flames, though they leaped, roared and crackled in every direction, did not cross Common Street. The Maison de Sante was saved, but not until its inmates had been removed. At this point, which is near the corner of Canal and Clairborne Streets, the firemen directed their strongest energies, and fortunately were successful. The only water they could obtain from the first, was obtained from the gutters, the plugs at the different hydrants being permitted to run from the breaking out of the fire.
At a little past 4 o'clock the fire had subsided - spent itself for want of further food to consume. To attempt to give a list of the sufferers, or the amount of property destroyed, would be impossible. Hundreds of citizens have been left without shelter & the loss has unfortunately fell mostly upon poor but industrious families, many of whom owned the small but comfortable dwellings, in which they resided. Along Canal Street, between Treme and Robertson Streets, stood a number of large, elegant and costly brick residences, all of which are destroyed.
In our next, we shall probably be able to give some estimate of the calamitous loss which has been sustained at present it is impossible to make even a rough calculation. Not less than two hundred - many say two hundred and fifty - houses have been destroyed, besides an immense amount of other property. Some part of it was insured at the different offices in the city, but the greater portion is a dead loss.
Since writing the above, we have heard it stated that the number of houses destroyed will not fall short of two hundred and eighty; and many think that three hundred will not cover the entire number. Hundreds of families are thus left homeless and shelterless.

Lorain Republican Elyria Ohio 1844-06-05