The Palace of Fashion - Fire

(Reprinted with the very gracious permission of the Don L. Griswold Trust and the Colorado Historical Society in cooperation with the University Press of Colorado, publishers of the History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado: From Mountain Solitude to Metropolis by Don L. Griswold and Jean Hervey Griswold, Boulder, 1996, pages 965-969.)

 

Headlines and excerpts about the May 19, 1882 fire written from notes jotted down at the scene and published in an extra morning edition (of the Leadville Herald) is to the right. Click on the article to see full size and read the article below.

THIRD EDITION!

 

IN ASHES

------

The Most Fatal Conflagration That Ever Visited Leadville

------

The Hotel Windsor, Academy of Music and a Whole Row of Buildings in Ashes

------

Five Hundred Thousand Dollars Said to Be a Low Valuation of the Loss

------

One Body Discovered at 6.25 This Morning------ Alleged Incendiarism.

 

At ten minutes to four o'clock this morning after the last edition of the HERALD had gone to press, three shots were heard on Harrison avenue, and almost simultaneously the shouts of "fire," "fire," "fire," came from twenty throats. An instant later the dread alarm of the fire bell gave the warning to the populace that a fire had been discovered and was then under way. The department came out in a jiffy and proceeded to the corner of East Chestnut and Harrison avenue, whence a dense volume of smoke was seen to emanate, while a bright tinge of blood-red flames was seen to border and come from the center of the black body. The word passed quickly from mouth to mouth, the "Palace of Fashion and Hotel Windsor's on fire." The fronts of the buildings seemed to be unharmed, save for the smoke that forced its way through windows and doors.

 

A PANIC

 

As soon as the alarm was sounded, men, women and children rushed downstairs to the office of the hotel, filled with consternation and terror. They had waited for nothing, but sped as fast as possible from the rapidly encroaching flames in their night clothes, even leaving behind their street attire. Men appeared at the front windows of the second floor and called for help. The ladders were thrown from the truck and no sooner had they reached the sashes than men literally flung themselves on the rungs and would have been dashed to the street had it not been for the timely interference of the firemen who stood at the bottom of the ladder and stopped them. So frightened were those who were thus delivered from the most horrible of all deaths that they were unable to speak rationally, and it is impossible to ascertain whether or not the back rooms were occupied. If they were, there will necessarily be a fearful mortality, as it was beyond the power of man to effect escape. The flames were started in the rear of the Palace of Fashion and they at first seemed to take a westerly direction. The hotel's first floor speedily ignited and at five minutes after four o'clock the office had to be deserted.

 At 4:15 the flames have changed their course and are spreading up Chestnut street. The Hotel Brunswick is in flames, and there is no chance to save it. The presumption is greatly in favor of the destruction of the entire block on East Chestnut street to Oak all the way from Harrison avenue. The buildings on the north side are smoking and are expected to break out at almost any moment.

 

THE LATEST

 

At 4:10 the Academy of Music is burning in the rear and there is but little chance for its preservation. The heat is becoming so intense that it is necessary for the firemen to leave the street. A few are on top of The First National bank with six streams of water, which seem to make no impression. It is likely that the bank building will be saved.

 

 

NO WATER

 

At 4:20 the streams from the several pipes began to perceptibly lose their force, and inside of a minute the headway was so poor that the streams could hardly reach the second floor. In the event of a diminution of water the whole end of the city will be destroyed, as the bank building is the only one not built of inflammable material. With the gray dawn of day the lurid flames seemed only to increase in fierceness, and they seemed to siz and rush as though they were well aware of the fact that they held full sway and did not intend to give up until the last shingle surrendered; five minutes later, however, a full force of water had returned.

 At 4:25 the building of the First National bank was enveloped, and the men who were endeavoring to subdue the fiery element had time to escape barely with their lives. A second alarm was struck and five minutes later a general alarm was sounded. The walls of the bank are so hot that they cannot be touched and a stream of water only caused a volume of steam when it struck the bricks [and stones].

AFTER DAYLIGHT

 

The water supply continued to hold good, but it is almost ineffective. The bank is now, at five o'clock, out of danger, the fire proof material of which it is constructed alone saving it. From it, however, up to 135 East Chestnut street, only charred ruins stand to represent what was once the homes of hundreds of people. The desolation and ruin will be looked on for many a day, as the great conflagration day of Leadville. Through the great exertion of the fire department the fire was not allowed to cross Chestnut Street, and in order to accomplish this there were at one time three streams of water directed on Sol Herman's store and Knights of Pythias hall. It is the largest in the block and consequently attracted the heat more than the lower ones. The department has worked nobly and more than one pair of scorched hands, eye brows and faces will bear traces and be a reminder of the big fire.

 

LOSSES AND INSURANCE

 

The losses will aggregate a half million dollars at least, and the insurance companies will be the heaviest sufferers...

 The total insurance on the Windsor Hotel is about $60,000, of which $20,000 is in English companies, $5,000 with W. D. Stevens, and the remainder with Wilson & Martin and the underwriters. The Academy of Music is insured for $1,500 with W. D. Stevens; Cafe Brunswick, $3,000; Kaskel & Co., $15,000; the Sayer building, $15,000; Frankle and Butler building, $5,000; and Judge George $500, with the same.

 Frankle & Butler state their [total] loss at $90,000, all insured.

 About one hundred cords of wood belonging to the Harrison reduction works were burned, insured.

 

 

THE RESCUE

 

When the fortunate ones were able to draw their breath the first thing was to look around for other quarters, and the following went to the Clarendon hotel: M. R. Chapin and C. H.Cooley of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Charles E. Walwood, Cherry Valley, N.Y.; Harry J. Hackett, of Denver; Ben Loeb, of Dallas, Texas; Conductor Rathborn of the Denver and Rio Grande. When the latter was going upstairs he swooned away and had to be carried. All of them had very narrow escapes, some walking out on their hands and knees, while others threw themselves from the windows. It is the opinion of all that there were a number burned to death as the halls were filled with dense smoke and flames, which darted spasmodically in every direction. Mr. G. C. Hickey, editor of the Independence Miner, was sleeping in room No. 54 at the Windsor hotel. Was awakened by Mr. Kendrick [Thomas E., night clerk, and the son of the proprietor], but supposing it to be a call for breakfast did not get up until he saw the flames from the window. Broke the window out with the intention of jumping out, and threw his clothing out, but was unable to get out himself. Went out into the hall where the smoke was suffocating. There was a crowd running up and down in the dark, not knowing what to do. Found his way to the back window and jumped out on the continuation of Frankle & Butler's roof, which was all on fire and thought he was lost, but jumped from there to the ground. Mr. Hickey was badly burned on the hands and injured his left foot in the fall.

 

ANOTHER ACCOUNT

 

G. W. Makinson, one who escaped by jumping from the back window of the Windsor and who was one of the last to get out, states that he left a number of people running frantically about the upper hall and suffocating from the smoke. It was only on the third attempt that he effected his own escape, and he is positive that a number of persons, possibly as many as fifteen, were left behind.

 

THE ALLEGED CAUSE

 

While a reporter was inquiring as to the cause of the fire at six o'clock this morning, Dr. Thomas O'Connor was found in front of the Delmonico. He stated that he is a veterinary surgeon with an office in Mr. James O'Connor's stable [113 East Second Street; whether Thomas and James were related is not known]. He has under his care several very sick horses, and was walking with one of them up and down the street. He saw a couple of dark complexioned men go into the Palace of Fashion and come out. They did this a second time and then he went for a policeman, thinking there was a burglary being perpetrated. He knows the men by sight. While he was gone for the officer he heard the shots and cry of fire, and then immediately turned in an alarm. Dr. O'Connor was firmly of the opinion that the fire is the work of an incendiary and that he knows the guilty parties.

 

A HUMAN FOUND

 

At twenty-five minutes past six o'clock Fireman J. H. Brogan started to dig up some debris in order to see if the flames had been extinguished below. He was standing in the front of where the Palace of Fashion had been and after raising one or two boards he disclosed the roasted remains of a human being. He gave notice of the same with a single cry and the crowd rushed to the spot. Captain Flood held them back, however, and shortly the charred remains were placed in a sheet and taken to the undertaker's. The unfortunate victim was actually roasted and nothing was left but the charred remains. The head was completely burned off. To identify him or her at the present writing is absolutely impossible...

 

 

 In the next day's paper these findings on insurance were given:

 

A HERALD reporter yesterday afternoon endeavored to obtain an accurate estimate of the losses, but very little inquiry was necessary to show the inquirer that anything like approximate was wholly beyond any one's reach at the present time, but the following is an idea of the destruction:

 

The Academy of Music, [by then] owned by M. E. Clark, of Leavenworth, valued at $10,000

Windsor hotel, owned by Ben Wood and Thomson & Sayer 20,000

Furniture, billiard tables, bar fixture, etc. [In the Windsor] 5,000

Stock of goods in Palace of Fashion 90,000

Two small houses owned by J. S. D. Manville 1,000

C. Elias building and furniture 14,000

E. Elias jewelry 600

Kaskel building 5,800

Personal property of L. Wolf in house 1,500

Goldsal's building 1,500

H. Rhine's personal property in house 1,000

C. I. Thomson's building 3,000

Personal effects of sundry persons 10,000

Three frame houses, owner unknown 7,040

Herman Bros.'stock 2,000

Bath house, M. J. Costello 330

Loss by heat and water 5,000

$176,000

 Outgrowths of the fire were complicated, with the first centering on the accusations it had been of incendiary origin; the second was the identification of the burned body; and the third revolved around the misconduct of the volunteer firemen. The belief the fire was purposely set caused a member of the Herald editorial staff to write:

 

When the horrible truth was heralded throughout the city that a human being had been found, beyond recognition, burned to a crisp in the ruins, there was no mistaking public opinion. Men felt outraged that the work of an incendiary should be fraught not only with the heavy loss to property but that a life had been sacrificed. That it was the work of an incendiary no one for a moment doubted, and more than one man was willing to express his opinion as to who the guilty parties really are. Then again when the body was viewed in the morgue by at least two thousand people this feeling of vengeance seemed to increase, and it must certainly have been decidedly uncomfortable for the parties whose names were mentioned, sometimes within their owner's hearing. Dr. O'Connor still adheres to his statement that he made through these columns in the morning and says he knows the men who did the work. . . . There were a number of rumors some of the parties connected with the store [Frankle & Butler's Palace of Fashion] being arrested and their having given bonds, but this was denied on inquiry at the various justices' offices. Coroner Bredin had stated that he is going to hold a scrutinizing investigation on the remains of [who was believed to have been] Mr. [Arthur] Ballou, and if it is any way possible he is going to bring the guilty party to justice. The latter might well quake in his boots if he is ever named positively for the entire populace feel outraged. "Arson is nothing," said a gentleman yesterday afternoon, "It's murder, and the criminal should never be permitted to get inside the jail." All who heard him acquiesced in the sentiment, and had any one of the party had his hand on the guilty man or men's throats at the time, he very probably would have exemplified just what was meant.

 

 At the coroner's inquest, called by W. W. Bredin on the afternoon of the 19th to determine "the cause and origin of the fire," the first witnesses to take the stand were employees of the Palace of Fashion who lived in the rear of the store------Fred Butler, George Brosius, J. A. Kamak and Reuben Weil. All four testified they had been in bed and asleep for some time prior to Butler yelling, "The store is on fire, everybody get up"; all had quickly dressed and while Kamak had picked up some of the records and the cash, the others had gathered together a few bundles of goods and carried them outside; none of them knew how the fire had started; all had said the first flames came through the floor at the rear of the building near the wall separating the store from the Windsor Hotel; and each said he knew nothing about goods having been taken from the store during the night prior to the fire. Fred Butler was questioned further in detail about the insurance carried by the company, his position in it and on how much money he might receive from any insurance money paid. He explained the company was owned by Louis Butler of New York City and Henry Frankle, who had moved from Leadville to Denver the previous year to manage the Frankle & Butler store there. He could not tell to what degree he would have an interest in the insurance money since he only had a verbal agreement with the owners for a one-third share of the profits from the sale of goods in return for his management of the Leadville store. When asked about anyone having a grudge against him and therefore could have set the fire out of revenge, he answered he knew of no one, but that a man named Wilson reportedly had ill feelings toward the proprietor of the hotel, Thomas Kendrick, who allegedly had accused Wilson of stealing. He further implied the fire could have been set to destroy the Windsor Hotel. Butler also explained most of the firm's record books were kept in New York and Denver, with the Leadville store's books showing only the merchandise received and how much was sold locally.

 Upon being notified about the fire and that several of the employees in the Leadville branch of the Frankle and Butler store, including Fred Butler, were suspected of arson, Henry Frankle took the night train out of Denver, arriving in Leadville in time to testify at the second session of the inquest. Taking the stand he confirmed all that Butler had said about the company, emphasizing that while Fred did share in the profits from sales, he was not a member of the firm and because of that would have no share of the insurance. That evening Frankle visited the Herald office, where in a conversation with one of the writers he brought out these additional points; the newsman opened the talk with:

 

"Well, Mr. Frankle, what have you found out about the fire?"

 "I have so far found that I am satisfied that it is not the fault of my employes, whom I know are honorable men. I have been favorably known in Leadville for years and I will do all in my power to remove all suspicion from them, and I think right-minded and unprejudiced people, and more especially those who know the parties, will not lay any blame at their doors. There is always some suspicion whenever there is any large loss. I am satisfied that in this case that the truth will prevail."

 "What do you know of goods being removed from your store on Thursday night?"

 "While I have not been here, I am still satisfied that there is not a shadow of truth in it. I know the men in my employ, and in them I have implicit confidence. None of the boys had any pecuniary interest in the matter."

 "At what figure do you estimate your loss?"

 "At about twenty to thirty thousand dollars. I want to say right here that if the goods have been removed they will be found somewhere, and I intend to employ a detective to find them, for they belong to me; if any of them were stolen they must have been stolen by outsiders and not employes. I feel satisfied in my own mind that no goods were taken out, except one box and a part of a sack of goods, which were saved from the fire, and of which the insurance companies have been notified."

 Very naturally Mr. Frankle feels annoyed at the rumors that have been circulated and cannot help but think that it reflects on him. They do not, however, as Mr. Frankle is an old business man here and all who know him are well aware that he would never have countenanced anything that could be construed into an act like that which was given rise to in the reports. He intends to fight all such canards by using the same weapons to bring the real guilty parties to justice.

Frankle also left at the Herald office a list of the twenty-one insurance companies that carried from $500 to $12,000 each worth of insurance for a total of $56,000 on the stock of the Leadville store. In contrast to Henry Frankle's efforts to allay the suspicions, Thomas O'Connor's testimony at the inquest (though inconsistent with what he had told the reporter earlier) served to intensify the suspicions, as shown in this excerpt:

 

. . . I was sitting in the office [after returning the sick horse he had been walking to the stable] . . . and upon arising I saw the three men cross Chestnut street toward the Palace of Fashion; I saw the door open and shut and I saw the outline of a man pass through the door into the Palace of Fashion a little after one o'clock; it could have been near two; after twenty minutes they returned past the office door; this was about two o'clock and they were carrying something; they were going through the alley and passed the telegraph office; this is the last I saw of them; my impression was that the store was robbed; I went to Wyman's and Delmonico's looking for a policeman; I did not feel like following them in the dark; at twenty minutes past three I awoke my assistant [P. P. Brown], who dressed immediately and came out and stood in the alley; there was then a dim light in the store; I called his attention to it and asked him the name of the place; while he was looking he said ‘the door is now open,' and I told him I thought it was open on and off all night and that I thought the store was robbed and that they had just found it out; while we were talking a man came out of the store and went toward Harrison avenue and closed the door after him; as the man went away I thought nothing more about it; this was about half-past three o'clock; we then went around to the Delmonico to take a drink, and came back immediately; there was a brighter light burning in the store but no conflagration; when the man walked around the store the light was a little brighter; one man was small, he was in the rear; one was about five feet six inches; they were all dressed in dark clothes; the largest man had a prominent Roman nose and rather peculiar gait, he had a moustache, and, I think, a lower chin beard; I saw three men go toward the Palace of Fashion three times and I saw three go back once and two go back once more. Two were bearing the bundle a little after two o'clock. . . . When I first saw a light high over the goods [after coming back from Delmonico's] I thought it was gaslight . . . [then] I saw it was fire and gave the alarm. Pistol shots were fired. I think the fire was burning when I went to Delmonico's. Not to exceed ten minutes from first seeing the fire until full conflagration. I could smell coal oil or benzine when I went to fire, but I could not distinguish which. The smoke was very heavy and black. It was in a pile of goods opposite the clothing department door where the flames started. I could see the outline of goods on the counter. I saw fire on and under them. I could not see under the building; I never was in the store in my life. . . .

 

 When P. P. Brown was called to the stand, he corroborated the statements made by O'Connor.

 Among the other witnesses who testified at the three-day coroner's inquest were George C. Hickey, editor of the Independence Miner, and J. H. Brogan, the volunteer fireman who had dug the charred remains of the human body out of the ruins: Hickey was quoted as having said:

 

. . . "I was in room 54 at the time of the fire on the east side of the building, over the Palace of Fashion; I was awakened by a noise in the hall and jumped out of bed when I saw the flames coming up from below; I finally reached the hall window, passing two or three whom I could not recognize, and after getting on the back roof dropped to the ground; I was on the side of the Palace of Fashion and I noticed that I did not see any fire under the building, although it was on all sides; it was black below; I was not more than three feet from the building, which was four feet from the ground and I was almost under the building; I sat there less than one minute facing the space under the building; the people who were howling to me were off but nobody was close enough to me to assist me; I got up and walked back and I think some women helped me; I walked away from the fire and the smoke smelled like benzine; and was as black as coal; when I first woke up I thought of a printing office because the smoke smelled like benzine; the parties I passed in the hall, I think were unconscious; I think they were men; they were coughing and groaning. . . . I am nearly positive that there was no fire under the building; I was conscious all the time; I did not care for my money but did not want to lose my head."

 

 Brogan testified:

 

...I work at the Board of Trade; I went to the fire; very few were there when we [the Harrison Hook & Ladder volunteers] arrived with the truck; I discovered the body; the fire was much under headway when we arrived; the body was east of the hallway of the Windsor and between fifteen and twenty feet from the sidewalk; the limbs crossed each other; I saw Jack Horner mounting the ladder at the fire and thought the smoke was very black and dense; after he came down he went in the Palace of Fashion with an ax; I did not see him come out, but saw him later; I could not see fire in the store when he went in; I noticed a little oily smoke; I am sure of it; it did not smell like oil cloth burning, but like coal oil it didn't smell like benzine; couldn't distinguish very well between coal oil smell and benzine when burning.

The reporter ended his account of the coroner's inquest with:

 

The other witnesses were unable to give any further facts and . . . the testimony was all in by three o'clock yesterday afternoon [May 22] when the jury began the consideration of their verdict. After a couple hours' deliberation they decided that the deceased had come to his death by fire caused by parties unknown to the jury.

 

 Regardless of the verdict, in the fall District Attorney William Kellogg convened a grand jury to investigate further into the matter. The jurists decided enough circumstantial evidence was presented for charges of arson to be made against Fred Butler, Isaac Kamak, Reuben Weil, Maurice Zippert, another employee of the Palace of Fashion, and Reinhold Rosendorf, a barber whose shop was at 118 1 /2 Chestnut. All five were arrested, released on bond and when tried in 1883 were dismissed or acquitted.

 Back to May 19, 1882, and the second outgrowth of the fire. After the body found by Brogan had been taken to Hallet's Mortuary by the firemen, the search for other human remains was undertaken and was described in the Herald:

 

. . . The firemen then returned to the fire ground and continued their disagreeable duties. They delved the whole morning in the debris and patiently submitted to the terrible odors arising from the burned wet materials that gave forth some of the most frightful stenches at times. At the noon hour the fire boys were called off and the city placed on duty the chain gang who worked until dark turning the debris upside down. This doleful work was witnessed by several thousand spectators who visited the scene in the course of the day. Some mercenary wretches were found who endeavored to profit by the loss by obtaining any little trinket or article of apparel which they could find in the ashes. During the afternoon while the work of searching was going on, children played games on the dumps and careless men stood leisurely around awaiting any new developments. Rumors were current through the streets that at various times two, three and five bodies had been exhumed but these were entirely without foundation.

 

 Taking up the problem of identifying the one body, the reporter continued with:

 

In the condition in which the unfortunate victim was found it is almost impossible to discover his identity but grave circumstances point directly to the sad fact that the charred and unrecognizable remains are all that are left of Mr. Arthur Ballou. The following are the facts that lead to this conclusion, and have lead the brother [Franklin] of the deceased to come to the determination. Mr. Ballou had been in the habit of taking his breakfast at his brother's home and he never came later than half-past nine o'clock. Yesterday morning he did not put in an appearance as usual, and hearing of the destruction of the Windsor and the supposed loss of several persons he instituted a thorough investigation. He found J. W. Sanders, and E. W. White, and learned from them that Arthur had been in their company all evening and had retired to his room about half-past eleven o'clock on Thursday night. Conductor Rathburne roomed in the same hall with Mr. Ballou, and he states that when the fire broke out in the morning and everybody was looking out for himself he noticed a man in the hall who wasevidently assisting a lady to escape. He waited to see nothing more but noticed that they were about the last in the hall. The gentlemen in whose company Mr. Ballou had been on Thursday night stated that he was perfectly sober when he retired and that they had not been able to induce him to take even a glass of beer for weeks. The facts, therefore, point to the one idea, that is while he was endeavoring to assist a weak woman from her perilous position that Arthur Ballou gave up his life. Surely a nobler or more self-sacrificing act could not honor the last moments of any man. The deceased was thirty-eight years of age and leaves a wife and three children, who now reside in Colorado Springs. deceased was thirty-eight years of age and leaves a wife and three children, who now reside in Colorado Springs. During the war he was a member of the Sixty-third Pennsylvania volunteers and in the battle of the Wilderness he was shot in the left thigh and the ball lodged in the bone was never extracted. To-day a post mortem examination will be made, and if the ball is found there will be no further room for doubt as to who deceased really is. Mr. Ballou has always been known among his friends for his bravery and courage, and at one time he succeeded in saving a whole boat load of human beings from shipwreck on the occasion of a steamer wreck on the Red river. His last act on earth corroborates his record, and while the mutilated and disfigured body is terrible to look upon, it represents one of God's noblest types of a man. . . .

 On Sunday morning Mr. Hallet was viewing the charred body lying stiff and cold, pondering who the unfortunate really was, when he noticed a little shining spark as the ray of sun shown down on all that was left of the head. Upon examination he found that it was a particle of gold which had evidently been a filling in one of the front teeth. Dr. Williams, the dentist, was called in and although the teeth were gone he thought that it had been placed in the left side of the head between the front and eye teeth. The filling is of a peculiar character and may finally lead to the positive identity of the deceased. Mr. Franklin Ballou was notified and stated that his brother Arthur had that tooth filled but he thought it was on the right side of the mouth. A diagram of the mouth was obtained and sent to Mrs. Arthur Ballou at Colorado Springs, on which she will mark the prominent tooth which her husband had filled with gold.

A follow-up article revealed these facts;

 

There is but little doubt now in the minds of any one interested in the Chestnut street fire but that the unrecognizable remains which for a week past have been lying in the morgue are those of Mr. Arthur Ballou. Aside from him, only two men have been missing for the past few days, all the others having been heard from, and yesterday these two were traced by a letter received by Mr. Dave Jones of the Monarch saloon. . . . This leaves almost beyond peradventure of a doubt the fact undisputed that Mr. Arthur Ballou's remains are those lying at the undertaker's. There seems to be some mystery about the bullet which was known to be in the deceased leg, but this might have been cleared up before this, had there been sufficient chromic acid in Leadville to digest the flesh which has been taken from the bone. Mr. Franklin Ballou has been compelled to send abroad for the acid, and as soon as it arrives the test will be made.

 Much more depends on the correct identification than the general public supposes. In event of its being decided positively that Mr. Ballou has been the victim of the fire, there will be large mining properties and interests to be looked after in this state, Mexico and Pennsylvania, and as he was quite a traveler, it will indeed be a difficult matter for his administrator to obtain trace of all his investments. . . .

 

 No particles of the bullet lodged in Ballou's left thigh bone were found, but a Colorado Springs dentist declared the gold filling was one he had put in Arthur Ballou's tooth, thereby making it possible for the issuance of a death certificate and the start of legal proceedings in the settlement of Ballou's estate.

 

 The third outgrowth of the fire revolved around the performance of the volunteer firemen and around two conflicting attitudes, one of appreciation and one of dissatisfaction.

 

 Frank De Walt, president of the First National Bank of Leadville, felt so grateful the bank and its contents had been saved, he sent the Humphreys Hose, the Tabor Hose and the Harrison Hook and Ladder companies each a fifty dollar check. As already pointed out the bank was built of stone, but several times during the fire the cornices and other wooden parts of the structure had ignited and in each instance an alert fireman had quickly extinguished the flames. Many other businessmen, especially those whose properties on the north side of the street had been saved, expressed their satisfaction in words of praise for the volunteer firemen.

 

 The dissatisfaction with the volunteers, which was based on incidents that had occurred during the fire, was expressed through innuendoes that some of the volunteers had set the fire themselves merely to see which of the companies could get to the scene the fastest and through accusations of incompetency and drunkenness. When the three companies had arrived at the fire almost simultaneously, it appeared the flames could be brought under control promptly. Consequently several of the firemen, in a sportive mood, laughed, joked and kidded members of the other companies, and one hoseman, sighting a friend in the crowd of spectators, turned a stream of water on the group, none of whom thought his playfulness timely or funny. Such behavior brought this critical comment in the Herald:

 

The practice of wetting spectators unnecessarily is a boyish trick that the chief should put an end to at once.

 

 As the fire grew more serious, every known fireman was called into service, including a few who were drinking after helping themselves to bottles of whiskey from William Robert's saloon and hence were incapable of doing their work effectively. C. C. Joy, newly-elected alderman, came upon one such errant volunteer, Andrew King, and upbraided him. A fight ensued and later in the day Joy denounced the entire department. In protest some of the firemen delivered a hastily prepared letter to Mayor Dougan and the council:

 

GENTLEMEN------At an indignation meeting of the fire department of the city of Leadville held this 20th day of May, 1882, it was unanimously voted to express our deep indignation at the remarks and treatment received at the hands of Alderman C. C. Joy. Your ordinances require us at all times, especially at a fire, to be under the direction of our chief engineer and his assistant. We therefore ask of you whether the expressions given utterance to by said alderman, calling the firemen "a set of drunken s------s-of------s," and his actions in knocking down and kicking one of our members, is an expression and the feeling of your honorable body. If this be the case, you cannot consistently expect us to any longer remain members of the Leadville fire department.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Harrison Hook and Ladder Co.,

by C. E. WYMAN, SAM JACOBS, Committee

 

H. A. W. Tabor Hose Co., by

M. DAWES, F. H. OFFICER, Committee

 

Humphreys Hose Co., by

MATT MEDILL, HARRY B. KANTNER, Committee

 

Temple Israel Foundation

208 West 8th Street

Leadville, Colorado 80461

303.709.7050

Temple Israel Museum

201 West 4th Street

Leadville, Colorado 80461

longled@longled.cnc.net

Hebrew Cemetery

Within Evergreen Cemetery

North end of James Street, Leadville

Contact Us