Peterborough, NH Fire & Flood during New England Hurricane, Sept 1938

Four Peterborough Buildings Razed by Fire, Damage Rises.

The first definite information concerning the fire and storm damage at Peterborough, one of the hardest hit communities in the state reached the Union-Leader early this afternoon when H. M. Bryant, a civil engineer, of Milton, visited the newspaper office and announced that only four buildings had been destroyed by fire instead of 15, as previously reported.

These included, he said, a large grain mill housing the Peterborough Transcript, and three adjacent business structures. There was also heavy damage from flood waters, Mr. Bryant related, adding that the total loss had been estimated at as high as $250.000.

Homes Evacuated.

He said about 20 homes along the banks of the Contoocook river had been evacuated. There were no casualties, according to Mr. Bryant.

The town was wholly without electric service and the water supply for a large section of the community had been cut off, he said. Trees were down everywhere.

Mr. Bryant said the fire started about 5 p. m. and was not brought under control until 9 o’clock. The gale made the flames extremely difficult to subdue, and Mr. Bryant was loud in his praise of the firemen who prevented what threatened for a time to become a conflagration.

The following eye witness story was written by the Union-Leader staff man who covered the disaster there yesterday, returning to this city at 3 o’clock this morning with pictures and story, and who returned to Peterborough at 6 to cover further developments.

Started in Warehouse

The conflagration started at 4:40 p. m. yesterday in the grain warehouse of the Farmers Grain company, located in the rear of the two and one-half story wooden structure that jointly houses that firm and the Transcript Printing company, owners of the building.

The wooden building adjoined the raging Contoocook river and all day rushing waters had poured through the aged walls, flooding the press rooms in the printing plant and saturating an un estimated number of tons of stored grain.

Observers taking up safe objective points on the opposite shore had watched for an hour the start of the fire. Tiny wisps of smoke seeped out from broken windows in the grain shed. Minutes would elapse before more smoke would issue, a warning of spontaneous combustion in the water-soaked grain.