GreatFire1909

The 1909 Fire of Rushville, Nebraska

A massive fire in February of 1909 destroyed 5 businesses
on the west side of Main Street.


This is one of the better photos showing what the west side of Main looked like prior to the fire.
Everything to the left of the building with the pointed top burned to the ground.
The fire started in the old Asay building (it was occupied by Ward at the time), then burned the next four buildings. 
Only the gap of Street prevented more damage.  The weather was horrid...  sub-zero temps, with a wind out of the north.
The order the buildings burned (from right to left above):
1) Fire started in H.C. Dale building (old Asay building) that was being used by Armstrong and Ward
2) As the Dale building collapse, the fire spread into the Grubb Furniture store.
3) It next spread into the empty Armstrong and Ward Building
4) Next, the fire moved into the 2-story building of M.P. Musser
5) Last, the fire took out Donald Brown's store on the corner.

Another view of the west side of Main, prior to the fire.  The "Famers Merchantile Co" (Asay building) is where the fire
started.  The Grubb furniture store burned and the fire continued down the street.

Armstrong House Museum of Rushville, Nebraska



After the fire...  Looking north from the south edge of the intersection.
I believe the view shows Second Street in the foreground. 
The hitching post to the left is in front of the Armstrong store on the SW corner.


Another view of the fire results.  Looking north.
(Click on photo for larger view)

Courtesy Armstrong House Museum of Rushville, Nebraska

Another view of the fire results.  Looking north.
(Click on photo for larger view)

Courtesy Armstrong House Museum of Rushville, Nebraska

Another view of the fire results.  Looking north, but a little to the west.
(Click on photo for larger view)

Courtesy Armstrong House Museum of Rushville, Nebraska

Another view of the fire results.  Looking north along Main Street.
I believe it was taken right on the corner, looking up the sidewalk.

(Click on photo for larger view)

Courtesy Armstrong House Museum of Rushville, Nebraska


Slightly different view with gazebo in the foreground.
(Click on photo for larger view)
Courtesy Armstrong House Museum of Rushville, Nebraska


I got to looking at the prior couple photos and realized that the photos were taken from the
same vantage point and could be merged as a panorama.  I think it turned out pretty good.
(Click on photo for larger view)
Courtesy Armstrong House Museum of Rushville, Nebraska


Ahead of the fire, the contents of the stores were brought out and
piled in the street.  They were able to save some of the merchandise.
Courtesy Armstrong House Museum of Rushville, Nebraska

       
EXTRA! EXTRA!  READ ALL ABOUT IT!
The above clippings are from the February 12th, 1909 Rushville Recorder.
(click on each clipping to read)
Courtesy Armstrong House Museum of Rushville Nebraska


A Little Forensic Photo Analysis
Over the years, I've seen photos from the fire, but the dates reported ranged from 1905 to 1910.  At one time, I thought
perhaps there had been multiple fires.  But yet, all the photos seemed to be of the same fire.  Prior to the above newspaper
clipping, I had tried to determine the date of the fire by examining when the new buildings (such as the Union Bank)
appeared.  The Booster Day 1912 photo seemed to portray the "new improved" Main Street, so the fire had to happen
prior to that.  The break came when I found a photo after the fire that had the following poster on a hitching post:

The poster was advertising an event called "Big Jim" on "Sat Feb 13".  Looking at calendars for the 1900s,
I found that the 13th of February fell on a Saturday twice... 1904 and 1909.  I felt 1904 was a little too early,
but 1909 seemed about right.  The poster could have been up as early as January 1909 and could have been
left up as late as February, leading me to believe a Jan-Feb 1909 time frame.  It's interesting to see Big Jim
referenced in the same newspaper as the fire:



Click here to go to the Miscellaneous views of Rushville.

Click here to go to School and Courthouse views of Rushville.

Click here for a short history of St Paul Lutheran Church.


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