|The Fire of 1910
At 7:30 on the morning of March 24, 1910, a fire started in one of the buildings located
near the heart of Mt. Hope. The fire quickly raged out of control and within four hours,
practically every structure in town between the (present-day) Christian Church to the
banks of Sugar Creek was destroyed.
published in the March 31, 1910 edition of the Raleigh Register reported that the fire
started in a saloon owned by two persons named Lewis and Hank. Various other accounts of
the fire written during the 1960's have named various other buildings as the starting
point of the fire. Several historic sources claim that a gasoline stove being used in an
apartment was the source that started the fire. Most likely, the reference is meant to be
to a kerosene stove. But while the actual origin of the fire may be now in
question, all accounts agree that the flames quickly spread to adjourning buildings.
Within one hour the fire had consumed nearly half a block of the closely-spaced wood-frame
buildings in that section of town.
Some contemporary accounts of the fire have claimed that
the no fire-fighting equipment existed during the era, but the newspaper account states
that two chemical fire engines from Macdonald, one from Glen Jean and another from Kilsyth
were rushed to the scene of the fire. But despite their best efforts, with the flames of
the fire being fanned by a high wind blowing in a north-easterly direction, the fire
fighters and their equipment proved to be no match for the blaze. Soon an entire block of
the downtown section was engulfed in flames.
As word of the seriousness of the fire spread over the
C&O Railway's telegraph wires and via word of mouth, officials of the six mining
companies that surrounded the town closed down their mines and sent their workers to help
battle the blaze. But even with a multitude of people, numbering several hundred battling
the inferno, the fire continued to burn out of control and spread. In a desperate effort
to contain the fiery blaze, four of five crews of miners experienced with explosives were
called into action.
The fire-fighting crews dynamited a saloon, a business and a house in an
effort to stop the path of the fire. However, the wind caused to fire to swing around the
dynamited area, where it then caught the town's main business section on fire. Some
reports have claimed that the fire was spread due to the action of blowing up these
structures, as pieces of the burning buildings was blown onto the roofs of other
buildings. Newspaper accounts wrote that as the fire spread some panic ensued, noting that
many women were hysterical and some people had to be forcibly restrained to keep them from
rushing into their burning businesses or homes in a vain attempt to rescue their
belongings or merchandise. Some citizens threw their belongings into the street only to
find that minutes later the intense heat of the spreading fire prevented anyone from
retrieving their possessions. The mounds of items thrown into the streets quickly caught
fire making matters even worse.
But some belongings
and items were saved. The New River Company sent 25 teams and wagons to help rescue what
belongings and merchandise could be saved from the buildings and homes in the path of the
fire. The cash and records of the Bank of Mt. Hope was saved and moved to the New River
Company's vault in its company store in Macdonald. Some witnesses to the fire recalled
seeing saloon owners in town rolling their kegs of whisky and beer down Main Street and
into Sugar Creek in an attempt to save some of their valuable merchandise. Undoubtedly,
that tiny creek must have been filled to capacity, as there were reported to be eight
saloons doing business in Mt. Hope at the time of the fire.
By 11:30 in the morning the fire was out, but
most of the town had been destroyed. Within a short period of time practically every
structure between the (present-day) Christian Church to banks of Sugar Creek had been
destroyed. The two largest structures in town, the Fisher Hotel and the Mount Hope High
School, were the last structures to be consumed by the fire. A total of forty business
places and one hundred and fifty homes had been ravished by the flames of the fire. Only a
few houses, a small number of businesses and one church (the present-day Christian Church)
were saved. The Sugar Creek company store building located near the present site of the
Mt. Hope library building also was saved. The burned-out shell of the
three-story stone building (shown in
the photo at the top of this page) located in the center of town would later be rebuilt, and within a few years, become home to the
First National Bank.