In the 7 January 1871 edition of the Cecil Whig the editor describes a large fire that broke out in the first week of January 1871 in Elkton on the corner of Main and Bow St. A map of Elkton from 1858, though a full decade before the fire shows the Marshbank structure near where the fire started. A tin shop, the small addition to a corner store occupied by Mr. Joseph Bradbury is discussed as the source of the multiple dwelling fire. It is intimated that the fire may have been started on purpose but quick work by the town and firefighters appear to have disrupted the fire and prevented its spread.
“A fire broke out here, on Thursday morning last, between four and five o’clock, in the stove store and tin shop of Mr. John E. Alexander, which proved to be the most disastrous fire which has occurred in Elkton in many years, and but for providential favor and the superhuman efforts of the citizens, would have spread devastation far and wide. The building in which the fire started, was an old frame, on the corner of Main and Bow streets, for many years occupied by Mr. Joseph P. Bradbury, as a store. A small frame addition had been extended back, which was used as a tin shop; and in this part the fire was first discovered. The building being of the most combustible material, was soon in flames from the ground to the roof, and the flames rapidly communicated to an equally inflammable wooden structure adjoining, owned and used by Mr. Robert Marshbank, for a number of years, as a cabinet shop and furniture-room. The latter building was but three or four feet from the brick store house, occupied by Mr. R. G. Reese, which was also soon in flames. The east wall of the store being solid, and the roof of tin, the flames were confined and prevented from spreading further immediately, and an alley of ten feet intervening between the store building and the next house—a brick, also, with tin roof, the property of Dr. Ellis, and occupied by Mrs. Johnson—a successful stand was here made against the further spread of the fire. The cornice next the fire was covered with wet blankets, and one of the old engines—the old Hydraulic, built forty years ago —was got in working trim and spouted water bravely, which assisted materially the men on the roof with buckets, in keeping the flames in check, until they had burned out the store and ceased for the want of material to feed upon. Dr. Ellis’ house was damaged considerably, to what extent it is not yet ascertained —but perhaps amounting to several hundred dollars. The brick store belonged to Gen. Robert II. Carr, of Baltimore, who purchased it, a few months since, of Mr. W. G. Hollingsworth, formerly of Elkton. The building was insured in the Cecil Company for $2,000, and is a total loss. On Mr. Reese’s store-goods, in the building, there was an insurance in the Cecil Company of $1,OOO, and in a Delaware Company of $2,500. The most of his goods were saved, with but slight damage, the greatest loss being on groceries stored in the cellar. His loss will not reach $1,OOO, which is of course entirely covered by insurance. Dr. Ellis’ loss is also fully covered by insurance in the Cecil Company.
Mr. Marshbank bad an insurance on his cabinet shop of $5OO, and on his stock and tools of $7OO, in the Cecil Company. His loss, over insurance, he considers heavy. The principal loss was in the stove store of Mr. Alexander, whose stock was valued at $2,500, on which there was no insurance. His entire stock and tools are a total loss. The building was owned by the heirs of the late Thos. Moore, and like the cabinet shop and all such tinder-boxes in a town, ought to have been torn down long ago and replaced with more safe and sightly structure. On this, there was an insurance of $450, also in the Cecil Company. The Cecil Company’s loss on real property amounts to $2,850. What amount additional on personal property, cannot yet be accurately determined; but the whole loss to the Co. by the fire, will probably reach several hundred dollars above $4,000.
The wind was blowing a stiff breeze from the southwest at the time, which carried the sparks a considerable distance, setting fire to the roofs of several houses, among which was the dwelling occupied by Mr. Jacob 15. Ash, on the corner of North and Hack streets. A vigilant watch was kept over the buildings in the line of the flying sparks, and no serious damage occurred beyond the immediate neighborhood of the burning buildings.
The escape from a far more serious disaster, is considered by every one providential, and is a serious warning to the Town Commissioners to provide better means of protection from fire, than the town now possesses.
The origin of the fire cannot be ascertained, but many persons consider it has a very incendiary appearance about it.
About a year ago, Mr. Alexander’s smith and wheelwright shops were set on fire twice in one night. In addition to his heavy loss in property, his books were all burned, containing accounts amounting to $8,OOO or upwards. The safe, which contained some of the books was burned up as effectually as anything else in the building.
Mr. Alexander was in Philadelphia at the time, and did not reach home till 6 o’clock in the evening.
His journeyman, Mr. Benjamin Elliott, lost all his clothing, except the suit die had with him, his trunk and clothing being deposited in the store.”
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