Leominster, MA Fire, May 1903


A $60,000 Fire Loss and One Death by Accident in Smoke.

Leominster, Mass., May 13 – Eight buildings on fire at one time and the town threatened with destruction, gave the townspeople such a scare, this afternoon, as they never had before. Property valued at $60,000 was destroyed, one life was lost and many firemen sustained slight injuries.

Just after 1 o’clock an alarm was sounded for a blaze in the factory of the Se??ing [illegible] comb factory in the southern part of the town. Before the bells had ceased ringing the alarm, another alarm came in from North Leominster, two miles from the center in another direction. The fire at the comb factory was handled by the shop’s crew and caused but a few dollars’ loss. The North Leominster blaze was more serious.

The North Leominster fire originated in a barn on the premises of Phelps & Harrison, tanners and curriers, being started by a boy playing with matches in a hay loft. It spread to the company’s storehouse, then jumped the road and attacked the tannery and vat house, consuming all these buildings. The firemen by hard work saved the main tannery, which was of wood, three stories in height.

The tannery is alongside the Boston & Maine Railroad, which had several freight cars damaged by fire before they could be hauled to places of safety. While a shifter was engaged in this work, MICHAEL LEONARD, a section hand, became enveloped in the dense smoke and wad run down by the engine and instantly killed.

Flying embers were carried over the village, setting fire to buildings half a mile away. A large barn owned by James A. Marshall and a barn on the place of Mrs. Peter Foley of West Acton, caught fire and were destroyed.

To the northward an eighth of a mile on another street, a barn belonging to the heirs of Humphrey Murphy, a house owned by Mrs. Margaret McCue, and a house owned by John Mulqueeney, were set on fire by sparks from the Marshall barn. These were all damaged, but not seriously.

Phelps & Harrison are the heaviest losers, placing their lass on barn, storehouse and tannery, with their contents, at between $50,000 and $60,000; fully covered by insurance.

Daily Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME 14 May 1903