(of people, buildings, etc.) appear in bold print within
The most terrible and destructive fire that ever visited Beaufort made all stand aghast Saturday by the fierceness if its fury and the demoniac like rapacity with which it caught up and destroyed valuable personal and real property.
About 1:30 p. m. the alarm was sounded, and it was found that a building connected with and in the rear of the large grocery and general merchandise house of F. W. Scheper, corner Bay and Carteret streets, was afire. The wind was blowing a gale, and it was soon found that the most heroic efforts of the firemen were unavailing to prevent the spread of the flames to the main store, three stories high, which was crowded with goods. Ready hands helped to remove some of the goods, but had to desist when the flames and smoke burst through. Soon the whole structure was ablaze, and then the hope of saving surrounding property was lessened, but the work went on. Much of the Clover Club furniture and library appurtenances on the second floor were destroyed, and everything on the third floor, occupied by Harmony Lodge, A. F. M., and Rabboni Chapter, R. A. M., and in which were the handsome furniture and regalia of the two Masonic bodies, fed the flames. Then the Peoples Bank next door became a victim, then a store West of that, then the store and building of Mrs. Ohlandt, the laundry of Ah Li, two restaurants and the dispensary building were on fire and burning with fervid heat. In the mean time the large hardware and supply store of N. Christensen & Sons, on the corner of Bay and Carteret streets, and the crockery stores of Mr. J. M. Crofut, next door, were burning from cellar to roof. Little could be saved, so rapid was the the fire, but friends worked manfully, and some goods were taken out, only to fall prey to the flames when the latter spread northward. The handsome brick residence of Mr. J. N. Wallace caught fire when the wind seemed to change, and its valuable furniture and household goods were a total loss. The residence of W. J. Thomas, next east, caught, together with two small houses in the rear, were all destroyed, little if any of their contents being saved. Only the most heroic efforts prevented the destruction of the residence of Mrs. H. L. Waterhouse, that of Mr. Shatswell and that of Mr. Damon, in the rear. In the meantime the flames had grasped the residence of Mrs. Cory, owned by Mr. George Holmes, on the Bay. This was a brick and tabby house, and it was largely to this fact that the fire did not spread further west, and was gotten under control after it had caught and partially consumed the store of Mrs. John Levin. It was at this point that some good work was done, for had the Hutching building, occupied by Chas. Chin Sang, taken fire, no power on earth could have prevented a spread of the flames westward which would have swallowed up the well appointed office of the Beaufort Gazette, and other buildings. While the fire fiend was swiftly eating its way along the Bay street (sic) ready and willing hands were removing much of the household furniture and goods of the burning buildings, and, had this not been the case, the loss would have been more deplorable than it was.
While the firemen were fighting the fire with all the power they could, the flames spread northward along the west side of Carteret street, burning the fire engine house and hall and two residences. Crossing the street, it kept on burning the office and several houses belonging to Mr. Thomas Talbird, and at last caught and consumed the Town Market. Crossing Craven street, it consumed the Town Hall, a small hook and ladder company hall and a small engine house. The State Arsenal, fortunately, is built of brick: and this fact, together with personal courage on the part of fire fighters, prevented its total destruction. A building belonging to Mrs. Odell, next (sic) the Carteret Street M. E. Church, was soon consumed, and the tin roof of the church alone saved it from destruction. On the opposite side of the street, the heat was intense, and the rosin was drawn from the side of the wooden buildings, and only the untiring work of active workers prevented a spread in that direction. Somewhat of a panic was prevalent with householders all in the neighborhood, and the streets were filled with the household goods if those who desired to save what they could from the insatiably (sic) maw of the terror-breeding fire.
Huge pieces of fire were carried northward and eastward of the town, and ignited every shingle roof they came in contact with, and innumerable fires broke out all about up town. The stately old family residence of the Talbirds caught and was consumed, as was also the well-appointed home of Supervisor W. F. Sanders, also the house of Mrs. Mount. The latter saved a few articles, but we are told the loss of the former was total. A society Hall near the residence of Collector Smalls caught fire and was consumed, and it was only by united effort of the bucket brigade that certain neighborhood was saved from the flames. It is almost impossible to tell how many places were set on fire by the flying splinters and brands of fire, but everything was so dry that even the grass in some places caught and increased the danger.
Over 40 buildings of one kind and another were destroyed. Some of them could not be replaced for $10,000 at the present value of materials.
Thus we have given a brief synopsis of the fire and its cause, but it is impossible for us to mention the individual work of the men who battled with the flames, especially where all did such noble work. It was a sight worthy of the pen of a stronger writer than we are to tell the story of the day and night. On one hand were white men aiding and assisting to save from the homes of the colored people, and on the other were colored men and women performing the same labor for their white fellow citizens.
When night came and the flames were somewhat subdued, most of the young men who were firemen donned their military clothing and went on guard to protect the ruined district from the pilferings of the noncombatants. During the afternoon a squad of men, with a fire apparatus, came up from Fort Fremont to assist in the work. They offered to aid in any way, and were placed on guard with the naval militia, and prevented looting. This careful arrangement doubtless provoked the spleen of some of the irresponsible, and they were loud in their murmurs against the use of military. The constituted authorities, at the request of Intendant Townsend, had placed the military at the latters command. Sunday it was seen that people were too much fatigued for further arduous work, and that there were many valuables in the ruins of the burnt buildings, so Intendant Townsend asked for a detail of soldiers from Fort Screven to aid in the protection of property, and Col. Patterson immediately sent a detachment of 45 men, under Capt. Joe Wheeler, on the Tug Gibbon, which arrived here Sunday, and did patrol duty until Tuesday morning when it returned to the fort. The presence of the military tended to quiet the nerves of the excitable of both races, and the tone of the people soon resumed the normal. It was to be expected that some people would not like the presence of the troops, and would be dissatisfied, but when the measure was one intended to be entirely protective, and was actuated by the best motives, complaints should only come from those who were thus estopped from making the occasion, the distresses and demoralization of many people, a period of harvest of robbery and pilfering. With all the care that has been bestowed there was some stealing, but not to any appreciable extent.
The losses must figure up something like $175,000 and the insurance cannot be more than $20,000. The cause of this is the fact that the rates of insurance are so very high.
The only persons carrying any insurance at all were Messrs. F. W. Scheper, W. J. Thomas, The County Dispensary, Mrs. Odell W. F. Sanders and Mrs. J. Levin, and the amounts they carried were small in comparison with their losses.
The most deplorable incident connected with the fire trouble was the shooting of William Bennett, Saturday night, on the Bay. Who did the shooting and why Bennett was shot are not known to us, but coming at a time that it did, when the nerves of the people were unstrung, the news caused unusual excitement among an easily excited people when it became known. An inquest was held, and the findings was (sic) death at the hands of some one unknown. Bennett was a member of the Allen Brass Band. He had worked at the fire during the day. He was advised that night by a white friend not to go down into the burnt district, but must have unheeded the advice. His funeral was largely attended by his race, and the societies of which he was a member, Monday. All our people regret the tragedy.
(NOTE: See also Savannah Morning News account of William Bennett's death.)
Fire Notes (First Section)
Some 50 or 60 representatives (sic) citizens of Beaufort, some colored, met in mass meeting at the Arsenal Monday afternoon. Mr. S. H. Rodgers was called to chair and Mr. R. R. Legare was appointed secretary.
Capt. C. C. Townsend, Intendant, addressed the meeting, and stated his reasons for requesting the presence of U. S. Troops, without arms, but with explosives, to aid in quelling the fire. Afterwards be had requested them to act as a patrol with the Naval Reserves, from which body they procured arms. He read his telegram to Lieut. Lawson on the subject. Finding the naval militia who were also fire men, tired out he had requested the presence of a squad of soldiers from Fort Screven, and they had come over Sunday, and had been acting as a guard.
Capt. Joseph Wheeler stated that he was here under orders of his commanding officer, at the request of the Intendant, to aid the citizens in maintaining order.
Dr. T. G. White, in a brief speech, saw no reason for the presence of troops, when the lives and property of citizens were not in danger. Commended the colored people for their good work at the fire. Thought citizens should deny the report in the Savannah Morning News sent in by a photographer who had only been here a few hours. Mr. W. H. Ohlandt asked the speaker "How much did you lose in the fire?" The answer was "Nothing." Mr. Ohlandt said, "I did."
At the request of Capt. Townsend, Mr. E. D. Raney stated that he sent a telegram, but did not send the one which appeared in the Morning News.
Collector Smalls, colored, looked upon this affair as a ridiculous and a malicious slander upon the people of this town, and believed there is a better feeling between the races now on account of the fire. White men came and assisted him in saving his home, and he was grateful to them. The article in the Savannah News is justly condemned by the best citizens, and he was pleased to hear the expressions of condemnation from them. I am sorry for those who lost. No word can be said against the behavior of the colored people at the fire, except through two or three drunken men. Thank God he lives in Beaufort, and that not a lady in town is afraid to walk the streets night or day, and there is not a decent negro man in town who would not defend them.
Mr. Charles E. Danner called the attention of the meeting to the fact that it had been called to condemn a report in the Savannah Morning News of 21st. He believed there is no harm in the Beaufort negro. Troops were not brought here to protect whites from colored, but for mutual protection.
Jas. Riley, colored, feels as keenly the calamity as anyone, and is surprised that, after working as hard as they had done, the colored race should be so unjustly written up. Our interests are the same. God forbid that any uprising was in the minds of the colored people.
Messrs. J. I. Washington and Geo. A. Reed, colored, citizens, made pertinent remarks.
Mr. F. H. Christensen offered the resolution condemning the piece in the Morning News, which will be found in this article. He said he felt that the Intendant was right in calling for troops to guard the ruins, as the Naval Reserves were worn out with their labor. Sheriffs (sic) posse would also have been worn out. Regular soldiers would be better able to enforce honesty. As one of the fire sufferers, thought the regulars had done good orderly work.
Capt. Geo. A. Crofut says troops were properly ordered out, and no good citizens should object. That he was ordered from the ruins of his own property, and obeyed.
Mr. Christensens resolution was seconded by Dr. N. J. Kennedy, colored, who said troops were not objectionable to good citizens.
Samuel Green, a colored orator, made a rattling good talk. He said he was helping to remove the stock of Mr. F. W. Scheper and saw parties pilfering. That he helped to remove the effects of the bank, although, if he has an enemy, it is the cashier of the bank. He said there was but one thing to condemn in the whole affair, and that was the article in the Savannah Morning News, and the killing of Bennett through overzeal in the effort to suppress the fire and its attendent confusion. If anything done was a blunder, it should not interfere with the the peace and harmony which existed between the races. South Carolina is a power within itself, and the U. S. troops have no place here.
The resolution of Mr. F. H. Christensen, as follows, was then unanimously adopted.
Resolved, That the Secretary of this meeting communicate with the Savannah Morning News, condemning in unmeasured terms the article contained in that newspaper of the 21st instant.
The following is the communication of the secretary:
Beaufort, S. C., Jan. 21 -- A mass meeting of prominent white and colored citizens of Beaufort, S. C., hereby express their unqualified condemnation of your report published in the Morning News of January 21, headed "Troops Sent in to Beaufort to Hold Negroes in Check". The implication that the two races did not work in harmony for the preservation of life and property or that there was at any time during the fire friction or ill feeling between them is a gross injustice to this community.
S. H. Rodgers,
R. R. Legare,
Intendant Townsend asked on expression from this meeting as to the further detension (sic) of the troops. That he had been requested to retain troops until tomorrow.
Collector Smalls moved that the troops be dismissed tomorrow, 8 a. m. Adopted.
On the motion of Mr. F. H. Christensen resolutions of thanks to Capt. Wheeler, Lieut. Wheatley and the soldiers under their command for their prompt and laudable attention to duty were unanimously adopted.
In Behalf of his command and himself, Capt. Wheeler thanked the citizens for courtesies.
On motion of Capt. George A. Crofut the action of Intendant Townsend was approved by a rising vote.
Fire Notes (Second Section)
We, the undersigned citizens and property holders of Beaufort, to use this means of extending our thanks to, and expressing our appreciation of the splendid efforts of Mr. Lon Brooks our fire chief, who worked hard and faithfully to save our property, and to whose executive ability belongs the credit for checking the progress of the flames and thereby preventing a spread of the fire which might have resulted in the total destruction of our city.
R. H. Legare, W. H. Ohlandt, S. H. Rodgers, Mrs. G. Levin, F. H. Christensen, H. E. Scheper, F. W. Scheper and many others.
Note. -- Owing to lack of space we were unable to publish all names signed to the above card.
To the subscribers of the Clover Club Circulating Library, the Clover Club takes pleasure in announcing to the public that the library will be open Friday morning at the usual hour. Through the kindness of one of the patrons of the library a room has been secured in the old post office building. The Clover Club also wishes to thank the gentlemen, who so kindly saw to the safety of the books. Through their forethought and energy, most of the books were saved and the Club will be able to continue its work of providing a library for the town of Beaufort. A few of the books, the sectional bookcase and library table are missing, any information concerning these will be very much appreciated.
a Fire That Caused Property Loss
FANNED BY STRONG WIND
SOON RENDERED THE DEPARTMENT
Beaufort, S. C., Jan. 19 -- Fire broke out at 1:30 oclock this morning in the barn and stables of F. W. Scheper on Bay street, and fanned by a stiff southwest breeze, it resulted in one of the most disastrous calamities that has ever visited Beaufort.
From the commencement the fire department was powerless, and soon the raging flames took possession of Schepers large grocery store and consumed the three-story building, in the lower floor of which was stored a large stock of groceries and supplies. The Peoples Bank , of which Mr. Scheper was president and which adjoined his store, was totally consumed. The banks papers and property were saved, including the large fireproof safe.
Adjoining were a row of stores, which were all consumed.
The fire crossed
the street an the large and well-stocked hardware and paint
store of Messrs.
The fire crossed the next street and consumed the law offices of Mr. Thomas Talbird and the row of small houses that he owned, extending to the city market, which was burned.
During the prevalence of the raging and furious flames the sparks were blown in a northeasterly direction, and several smaller houses, including the residence of Mr. W. F. Sanders , about an eighth of a mile off, caught, and from the Sanders residence the large and ancient mansion of the Talbirds, owned by Mr. Thomas Talbird, caught and was totally consumed.
The house on the opposite corner of the street occupied and owned by Mr. J. N. Wallace and recently handsomely renovated, was burned, and next door to it the residence of Mr. W. J. Thomas, with his two rented housed in the rear, was consumed.
At one time it looked as if the whole town would be destroyed.
The losses are estimated roughly are between $500,000 and $700,000, upon which there is not more than perhaps one-third insurance.
Mr. Schepers property was fairly well insured, it is said. Messrs. Christensen & Sons, Thomas Talbird and James N. Crofut had no insurance whatever. Mr. Thomas property, it is reported, was partially insured.
The water supply failed.
HUNDREDS OF INQUIRIES
J. N. WALLACE
There was general interest in Savannah last night after it became known that Beaufort had been visited by a disastrous conflagration.
Communication was difficult and at times very unsatisfactory. While the telephone and telegraph lines were working those for whom messages were intended were too busily engaged in looking after their personal and property interest there to pay much attention to outside matters.
It was late before the details of the disaster were received in Savannah. The interest felt here was evidenced throughout the early evening when hundreds of persons inquired by telephone of the Morning News for information. Many Savannahians have friends and relatives, as well as business interests, in Beaufort.
Shortly after the fire started and when it was seen that the local fire fighting facilities were not adequate to control the situation Intendant Anderson wired Mayor-elect Tideman of the impending calamity, and suggested that he would probably ask for assistance. The Intendant, or Mayor, stated that "the town is burning up," that four blocks were already gone, and high winds prevailed.
The telegram was delivered to both Mayor Myers and Mr. Tideman and Mayor Myers instructed Fire Chief Maguire to communicate with Beaufort and acquaint himself with the situation.
Chief Maguire talked with the Mayor of Beaufort and it was decided it would not be worth while to send any apparatus from Savannah as it would require half a (sic) hour to prepare and nearly four hours to make the trip.
Mrs. J. N. Wallace of Beaufort came to Savannah yesterday morning to be present with her father, the Rev. William Campbell, who was operated on at the Savannah Hospital. She left her three children in Beaufort and was naturally very anxious about them until she succeeded in hearing that although her new home was among those totally destroyed, the children were safe. The children are with their father and the nurse. It was understood that Mr. Wallace was a heavy loser.
Mrs. Wallace left early this morning by steamer for her home. Mr. Campbell was reported to be doing well after the operation.
of January 20, 1907 entries;
republished with permission of Savannah Morning
from Fort Screven Are Guarding Valuables
Shooting and Killing of a Negro
Near the Ruins of the Peoples Bank
By M. Ed. Wilson
Beaufort, S. C., Jan. 20 -- Murmurings of negroes to-day caused apprehension of an uprising, and the authorities at once sought to secure military protection for the city.
The intendant telegraphed Col. R. W. Patterson, in command at Fort Screven, Ga., asking for a company of regular troops to be dispatched here for the preservation of order. In response, at 8:30 oclock to-night, forty-five men, fully armed and equipped for service, arrived under command of Capt. Joseph Wheeler . The detachment came on the tug Gibbons, and immediately guards were established and patrols formed.
The discontent among the negroes, which, it was feared might be fanned into a fury, was caused by the killing of William Bennett, colored, by a guard a 1 oclock this morning. The negro was discovered hanging about the ruins of the Peoples Bank, one of the buildings destroyed by the disastrous fire of yesterday. To the challenge of the guard on duty there no satisfactory response was made, it seems, and the guard fired.
An inquest was held this morning over the body of the negro. There was doubt as to which of the guards had shot the man. The verdict returned was that he had come to his death at the hands of parties unknown to the jury.
The arrival of the United States troops relieved the apprehension of the citizens. The negroes, impressed by the presence of the regulars, have ceased their hostile demonstrations, and the military apparently have the situation well in hand. Their arrival was welcomed by the citizens who had been standing guard over valuables saved from the flames, and who had been prepared to resist as they might have been able any outbreak on the part of the negroes.
A new estimate of the loss caused by the flames shows that it was less than that of earlier reports. It is believed now that it will total not more than $150,000. The best portions of the business and residence sections of the city were not touched by the flames. Messrs. N. Christensen & Sons, George Crofut, J. N. Wallace and Thomas Talbird were the heaviest losers. Their losses were either not covered at all by insurance or the amount they carried was inconsiderable in comparison with the value of the property consumed. The other losses were about half covered by insurance.
ANSEL WAS ASKED
Columbia, S. C. , Jan. 20 -- A telegram was received early this afternoon by Gov. Ansel from the authorities at Beaufort, asking that the naval militia be ordered out to keep order at that place.
The telegram stated that race trouble was feared, although it gave no further details. It is presumed that the trouble grew out of the big fire which occurred there yesterday.
Only once before, during the great flood of 1893, has there been any friction between the races at that place. The negroes greatly outnumber the whites at Beaufort.
WHEN SENT TO BEAUFORT
COMPANY LEFT FORT
Upon request of the intendant of Beaufort and with the authority of the the War Department, the Fifth Company Artillery at Fort Screven, forty-five men, under command of Capt. Joseph Wheeler, Jr., left for Beaufort at 2:00 oclock yesterday afternoon on the government tug Gibbons.
In heavy marching order, with shelter tents and rations for several days, the men were on the vessel ready to leave the fort as soon as the sanction of the War Department was received by telegraph from Washington. At Fort Screven it is expected that the company will be on duty in the burned city for several days, protecting life and property.
for troops came at 8 oclock in the morning and Commander Patterson
The artillerymen at Fort Screven were to have continued their target practice with the guns to-day, the practice having been interfered with by weather conditions during the last few days. It is probable that the practice will be continued without the Fifth Company. The One Hundred and Seventeenth Company from Fort Fremont is is in Quarters from Fort Screven and will engage in target practice.
of January 21, 1907 entries;
republished with permission of Savannah Morning
NOTE: Links within this Savannah Morning News article are, with a few exceptions, to references within the Beaufort Gazette article, above.
LOSS IS WITHIN $150,000.
OF FIRE WAS DUE TO
All was quiet in Beaufort yesterday when Capt. Ed. Wilson and one or two other Savannahians who went over the morning following the fire returned to the city, and it was reported that the damage to the city was not even as great as thought the day following the fire.
Mr. Wilson said he believed $150,000 was a large estimate of the damage done, and doubts if the damage is really over $125,000. According to his statement about twenty-three dwellings and ten business houses were consumed, but the majority of these were small wooden structures that were not of much value.
Mr. Wilson said he made inquiry while in Beaufort and found that with but few exceptions all of the owners of the property carried insurance, in many instances to the full value of the loss. Following the arrival of the company of artillerymen from Fort Screven in command of Capt. Joseph Wheeler, perfect order prevailed in Beaufort and there was no disposition on the part of any one to cause trouble.
The origin of
the fire was traced to three small boys who were smoking in a stable
to the rear of
Mr. Wilson said the fire was confined to one district, where it first started, but that the wind carried sparks and embers some distance and set fire to other buildings, causing three fires to be in progress at once. Very few of those whose homes were burned saved any of their personal effects, as it was not believed the fire would spread to any buildings except the stable and store of Mr. Scheper. Large quantities of clothing and furniture were burned after they had been removed from the houses and piled in the yards. Many residents saved nothing except the clothing they had on their backs at the time the fire was discovered.
Mr. Wilson said he talked with the leading citizens of Beaufort, and they all believed the fire would prove a blessing, as it would result in municipal legislation that would throw many needed restrictions around the building permits, and would serve to reduce the insurance rates, which, in some instances, went as high as 6 per cent.
The work of rebuilding, Mr. Wilson said, will be commenced at once. Everything will be rebuilt with the exception of the old colonial houses, which, of course, can not be replaced. Modern houses, however, will be erected in place of these. The troops will probably be withdrawn from Beaufort to-day unless some unexpected trouble arises or some newly found necessity for their remaining on duty arises.
Mr. Wilson took a large number of pictures while in Beaufort, and said that he had splendid luck in getting good exposures.
[End of January 22, 1907 entries.]
republished with permission of Savannah Morning