DARLINGTON NEWS, March 3, 1892


Darlington’s Disastrous Fire.




Over One-Hundred Thousand Dollars’ Worth of Property Swept Away in a Few Hours – A Detailed Description of the Flames’ Wild Havoc – A Diagram Showing the Burned District.

The Cry of “FIRE!” ringing out in the dark hours of night, the cry to full of dreadful meaning, striking terror to the heart and awakening in the breast, the gravest apprehension that the fearful cry  portends destruction and disaster; never fails to make the bravest man shudder. As the cry is repeated, in the otherwise continued stillness of the night, louder and fast
er, more fierce and more earnest, passing from throat to throat and2015_12_02_16_07_390001.jpg


INCRESASING IN VOLUME at every minute until the whole community is aroused, the realization of the awful danger impending is forced upon everyone. The people of Darlington have had a number of experiences of this kind. They have many times been aroused from their beds or summoned from their homes to find the flames, in their mad fury, devouring everything in reach and threatening the destruction of the whole town.


Photo taken in 1890.  Looking West across the North side of the Public Square; taken from atop of a windmill just erected near the Northeast corner of the Square and Cashua Street.  New County Jail visible in the lower right, in the center The Darlignton News building; in upper right the Methodist Church; upper left, the Zimmerman and Huggins houses; and the skyline, left, chimney of Darlington Manufacturing Co.

THE CRY OF “FIRE!” was raised on Saturday night and a mass of ruins, with its bare chimneys, crumbling walls and huge mounds of ashes, sil­ently, but impressively, tells the tale.  But seven buildings remain in an area where before the fire had done its work were thirty-one large buildings and a countless number of small out­houses.


It was shortly before nine o’clock when, the fire was dis­covered by parties on the Square. The flames were shooting up from the roof at the rear end of Mr. John H. Early’s store.  It was a large frame building on the north side of the Square and the business of J. Frank Early was conducted in it. The fire spread with such marvelous rapidity that before the bell was sounded a mass of seething, hissing flames had covered the rear end of the roof, shooting tongues of fire heavenward and, at the same time, lapping over the adjoining buildings devour­ing them and carrying destruc­tion fiercely onward.


Mr. Early’s store was quickly destroyed and Mr. Geo. E McCall’s building on the west and Miss Eva McCall’s building on the east soon followed. The former was occupied by Mr. J. C. White as a tin and stove store and the latter was occupied on the lower floor by Mr. Geo Mertz, the fruiterer, and on the upper floor by Messrs Forman  a residence. In the rear of these buildings was the frame building belonging to Miss M. J. Gandy, formerly the post office but used at the time of the fire by Mr. Williams as a blacksmith shop, and this was burned.

The fire was prevented from spreading eastward by the thick brick wall of the Hewitt block, but it- seemed at one time as if the block and everything in it, including THE NEW’S office, were doomed to be destroyed. The massive wall, however, proved too much for the flames and the heat, for they could not pene­trate it.


West side of the Public Square c. 1890.


A high wind was blowing in a southwesterly direction and the fire was carried that way. The store on the opposite side of the street, belonging to Mrs. A. D. Gibson and formerly occupied by J. Frank Early, caught, also did Miss M. J. Gandy’s building which was occupied by Mr. M. Marco.  By this time the flames had become wilder and madder in their terrible onslaught and immediately Mr. Messer McCown Brothers did business, fell a victom, and the vacant store of Mrs. A. N. Huggins just in the rear was added to the burning buildings. Across Orange Street the fire was play­ing havoc with Mr. O. R. Woods’ cotton office and Messers Woods & Woods’ store.  In a very short time all the buildings men­tioned above were in ashes.

For a short time the brick store of Dr. W. J. Garner’s, ad­joining McCown’s, arrested the progress of the fire in a south­ern direction, but the

FLYING EMBERS AND SPARKS carried the fire in a southwesterly direction to Mr. A. Weinberg’s store, on Pearl Street, and soon a scene was presented on that street as appalling as the one on the Square.  The wind was high and the flames had spread so rapidly that the fire had gotten by this time beyond all human control.  Sparks  and embers flew swiftly through the air and, falling thick and fast, they spread the fire to the places where the flames had not yet reached.  The whole southwestern section of the town was threatened.

The fiery missives, messengers of destruction, were as large as a man’s hand and the spectacle presented was fearful and awe inspiring. It seemed as if the very heavens were pouring showers of fire upon the stricken town. Someone aptly described it as a “red snow storm”, and the sparks as they fell were almost blinding.


This is the West side of the Public Square taken around 1885.  Two-story building on the right is the old Darlington Hotel, owned and oprated by Mr. and Mrs. Hyan Haymes.  This is now the site of the Coggeshall building.

THE WORK OF DESTRUCTION continued. The flames were communicated from Mr. Weinberg’s building to the other frame buildings on the north side of Pearl Street and soon the following in addition to Mr. Weinberg’s were destroyed:  The old Welsh stand (the property of Mr. H. Henning) which was occupied by Messer’s Block and Hyman, merchants, and Sanders and Brown, colored, proprietors of the market; the frame building in the rear of Mr. Hennig’s which was used as the bottling works of the Portner Bottling Company, Mr. S. Kalmus agent; the building occupied by Mr. John Bulcken, the fruiterer, which was owned by himself; the combined resi­dence and store occupied by Mr. K. Hoffman and also owned by Mr. Bulcken; the small barber shop adjoining, and the re­sidence belonging to Dr. John Lunney and occupied by Mr. Eugene James.


While all this property was being burned on Pearl Street the fire on the Square abated its fury not at all, but, in fact, it raged fiercer than ever.  The store of Dr. J. A. Boyd’s durg store was in the lower floor of t his building and Dr. A. T. Baird offices were in the upper floor.


Adjoining Dr. Garner’s was a large two story frame building, the Carolina Hotel, owned by Mr. H. Hymes. The business of the hotel was conducted by Mr. Henry Parrott. This build­ing was also burned. The fire continued its course along the western side of the Square until it reached Mr. J. M. James’ build­ing which is of brick. The following buildings between the Carolina Hotel and Mr. James’ saloon were burned: R. M. Nixon’s barber shop and Mr. W. T. Sanford’s jewelry store, both the property of Mr. Hymes; the Marco & Lewenthal build­ing occupied and owned by that firm; the store used by P. B. Allen & Co. as a grocery and saloon, which was the property of Mr. J. H. Early, and Mrs. M. J. Byrd’s store in which she conducted a millinery business.


The Hennig building, on Pearl Street, a few hours after the fire of March 1892.  Notice the barrels merchandise thrown into the street to try and save it.


The thick brick wall of Mr. James’ building held the fire in check. Had this not been the case the flames would have swept across Pearl Street to Mr. S. Lewenthal’s building and it is terrible to contemplate what might have happened in that event. The fire would have, in all probability, destroyed the, property in a large area between Pearl and Broad streets and might have extended further.

It was a narrow escape for that section of the town for Mr. James’ building was only saved by the thick wall and hard work on the part of citizens. Realizing that this building was the key to the situation the volunteer firemen put a lot of gunpowder in the adjoining store of Mrs. Byrd and an attempt was made to

but, although a heavy explosion followed, only a small portion of the store was destroyed. The remainder of it burned to the ground.

Another fortunate feature of the fire was that the southwesterly courses of the flames were stopped at Mr. J. O. Muldrow’s drug store, on the corner of Pearl and Mclver Streets. This undoubtedly saved the residence portion of the town lying towards the southwest.


Eight buildings remain in the burnt district but all of them are more or less badly damaged.  Mr. James’ brick building on the Square received great damage and Mr. M. Marco’s building on the corner of the Square and Pearl Street was also damaged. This building was occupied by Mr. H. L. Lewenthal. Immediately behind this, on Pearl Street, is the frame building of Mr. M. Marco, which was occupied by Block & Hyman, “The New York Cheap Store.” This store is so badly damaged that it is rendered useless. Adjoining are Mr. M. Marco’s brick building, occupied by Mr. S. J. Manne, and Mr. H. Hennig’s brick store, both of which were badly damaged.

Mr. J.O. Muldrow’s drug store, Mr. J. G. McCall’s and Mrs. M. A. Huggins’ residences, the latter occupied by Miss Mary Spain, were only saved by what seemed to be superhuman efforts on faithful workers.

THE VOLUNTEER FIREMAN did noble work. They fought the flames like Trojans.  The conflagration was undoubtedly the largest that has ever visited Darlington and the high wind blew the sparks so far that even those who owned property a considerable distance from the scene of the fire could not consider themselves safe. Nothing
daunted by the immensity of the conflagration or the constant danger the men of Darlington struggled bravely and earnestly, saving much of the stock in the stores and arresting the progress  of the greedy fire as it advanced eager and anxious to devour the greater part of the town.


While the fire was raging a telegram was sent to Florence asking for assistance. The alarm bell in our sister city was sounded and the good people or Florence responded with alacrity. It is said that almost
every man in Florence wanted to hasten to our assistant. In a little over an hour after the alarm was sounded, Chief Stackley and his gallant Florence firemen were in Darlington, with their engine pouring
a steady stream on the fire. As the Florence boys came up the street they were greeted with cheer after cheer from the Darlingtonians.

This is the second time quite recently that Florence has responded nobly to Darlington’s call for help, and the people of this town will ever remember with deepest gratitude the ready, willing and valuable assistance rendered by the Florentines.


It was not until about half past one o’clock Sunday morning that the fire spent itself and was gotten under control.  It will probably never be known how the fire originated.  The flames were first seen shooting up from the roof at the rear end of Mr. Early’s store directly above the office. It could not
have caught from the stove in the office because no fire had been in it for several weeks.  The day’s business was just over and the store bad not been closed five minutes when the fire was discovered.

The fire spread so rapidly that it is impossible to give the exact order in which the different buildings caught. There was so much confusion and excitement that spectators state it differently.  The order given above is correct as could be obtained.


Of course at this time it is improbable to give the exact loss incurred by the fire but the lowest estimate will place the total loss at one hundred thousand dollars.  As in almost every case some stock was saved the loss cannot be accurately stated until inventories are taken and a complete adjustment made. This will require several weeks work on the part of the representatives of the insurance companies.

The following is an estimate of the property destroyed or damaged together with the insurance thereon: Miss. Eva McCall, building destroyed, value $1,800; insurance $1,200; G. O. Mertz, stock partly burned and damaged, value $2,000, insurance will cover loss; J. H. Early, two stores destroyed combined value $2,800, combined insurance $1,350; J. F. Early stock, almost total loss, value $15,000, insurance $14,000; G. E. McCall, building destroyed, value $3,500, insurance $3,000; J. C. White, stock, total loss, value $1,500, insurance $1,250; Miss. M. J. Gandy, two buildings both destroyed, value $2,000, insurance $1,000; Mrs. A. D. Gibson, building destroyed, value $2,00, insured $1,500; C. R. Woods office destroyed, value $600, no insurance; Woods & Woods, building destroyed, val­ue $1,000, insurance $3,500 and stock almost entirely lost by fire and damage, value $14,000, in­surance $8,400; M. Marco, stock almost total loss, value $8,000; insurance $4,000, two buildings slightly damaged, loss covered by insurance and one building so badly damaged as to be rendered useless, value $500, insurance $400; Mrs. A. N. Huggins, building destroyed, value $200, no insurance and residence dam­aged loss covered by insurance; H. M. Smith, building destroyed, value $1,500, insurance $600; McCown Bros, stock slightly injured, no insurance; W. J. Garner, building burned, value $5,000, insurance $4,000, and office furniture, books etc, part­ly saved, insurance will proba­bly cover loss; E. A. Smith, photographer’s instruments to­tal loss but covered by insurance; J. A. Boyd, stock loss probably covered by insurance; H. Hymes, three buildings de­stroyed, combined value $3,500, insurance $1,000: Henry Par­rott, W. T. Sanford and R. M. Nixon light losses covered by insurance; Marco & Lewenthal, building destroyed, value S2,000, insurance $1,500 and stock badly damaged by fire and removal value $7,000, insurance $6,000; P. B. Alien & Co, stack, a por­tion saved, loss probably covered by insurance; Mrs. M. J. Byrd, building destroyed, value $1,250, insurance $1,000, and stock loss very nearly covered by insurance; J. M. James, building badly damaged, value $3,000, insurance $2,000, stock also badly damaged, value $3,000, insurance $2,000 ; H. Lewenthal, stock slightly damaged loss covered by insurance; Block & Hyman, stock in two stores burned and damaged by removal, value $5,- 500, insurance $4,500; H. Hennig, building damaged loss covered by insurance, building des­troyed, value $300, insurance $200, damage to stock covered by insurance; S. Manne, damage to stock covered by insurance;  Portner Bottling Works, stock and implements destroyed, value $500, insurance $200; Sanders & Brown, loss $200, no insurance; A. Weinberg, building destroyed, value $2,500, insurance $2,000, stock almost en­tirely lost, value $10,000, insur­ance $5,000; J. Bulcken, two stores destroyed, combined value $2,500, insurance $2,000, stock almost entirely lost, value $I,000, insurance $750; K. Hoffman, stock and furniture, but little saved, value $3,000, insurance $1,000; J. Lunney, residence destroyed, value $2,500, insur­ance $2,000, store damaged but insurance will cover loss; E. R. James, furniture total loss, val­ue $1,500, insurance $1,000; J. O. Muldrow, stock damaged by removal, loss covered by insurance; J. G. McCall, house and furniture slightly damaged, loss covered by insurance; Miss. Mary Spain, furniture damaged by removal, loss covered by in­surance.

In many cases the goods were damaged as much by removal as by fire.  The loses given above are the principal ones mid there are countless others that are too small to mention.


Twenty-one stores swept away in a few hours caused many merchants to be without places of business. There are but few vacant stores in town and conse­quently all who were burnt out have had to occupy whatever stands they could get. They are of course in an unsettled condition, but some have secur­ed temporary quarters as follows:

Woods ’& Woods, grocery department at Woods & Mill­ing’s, dry goods at Wilcox & Go’s; G. O. Mertz, in his un­finished store on Pearl Street; M. Marco in P. C. Beck & Bro’s store; McCown Bros in P. E. Norment’s building; J. A. Boyd in Haynsworth’s furniture store; Western Union Telegraph Co over Blackwell Bros; R. M. Nixon at hotel barber shop; Marco & Lewenthal in the Marco building corner Pearl Street and the Square; Sanders & Brown (proprietors of the market) in the rear of C. Alex­ander’s store; A. Weinberg in Alexander’s; J. Bulcken in J. Goldman’s store on Pearl Street; Dr. A. T. Baird in his former office over Edwards, Norment & Co’s, K. Hoffman in a building near the corner of Pearl, and Sycamore Streets;  P. Allen & Co. in Mertz new store, on Pearl Street; J. H. Early is  in C. W. Hewitt’s office.


Twenty-seven bales of cotton were burned. Seventeen of’ them belonged to Mr. C R. Woods, nine to Mr. Gainey and one to Mrs. W. E. McCall.

The sparks and embers from the fire were driven by the wind such a distance that a tree in the Presbyterian Churchyard caught fire, but the flames were extinguished. Leaves on the roof of Mr. Hewitt’s res­idence, on west Pearl Street, also caught and this incipient fire was soon extinguished.

While fighting the fire Mr. J. Haynsworth had the mis­fortune to break his arm. Mr. C. M. Ward had his hand very painfully burned. The families of Messrs E. R. James and K. Hoffman are residing temporarily in Mrs. Earle’s house on Orange Street. Their residences were burned during the fire.

When the special train was returning to Darlington from Florence to carry the firemen home, it met with an accident and it was, in consequence, about five o’clock Sunday morning before the Florentines could leave Darling­ton.


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