The ‘Great Fire of 1890’ had lasting impact

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2022

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At 12:45 p.m. on Monday, June 30, 1890 a large part of the business quarter of Troy was in ashes.  The financial loss from this fire was $125,000 in stock and businesses. A loss of $125,000 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $3,897,198 today.  This is the most destructive fire ever in Troy’s history.

    From the July 3, 1890 Troy Messenger, “the fire broke out in the hide house of L. M. Bashinsky & Co., on the west side of the square.  The MESSENGER office, a two-story brick building just south of and adjoining was soon in flames.  So rapid was the conflagration that by the time the fire department could get to work, the hide house, Jolly’s tin shop and the MESSENGER building were almost enveloped, while Jones’ saloon and liquor house adjoining on the north had caught and the fire had crossed Jones street and angry tongues of flame were seething from the windows of the opera house.  Henderson & Rainer’s stables, Troy Iron Works and the entire opera house block were quickly enveloped.  The fire crossed South Three Notch and the Brantley building occupied by the Dime Store and J. J. Ballard, general merchandise, Andrew Pinkney’s ice cream saloon, the old Parker carriage shop, J. B. Parker’s blacksmith shop were quickly swept away.  South of Love street Chaffin Bros. grocery house, E. G. Chaffin’s residents, the Chaffin and Carroll warehouse, and the county jail were carried away like dry grass upon a burning prairie.

    Water was scarce and just when it seemed the entire town would be swept away, the engine broke down and not another drop of water could be thrown.  Then it was that Mayor Henderson telegraphed to Montgomery for help.  An alarm was sounded there and in twenty minutes from the time, fifteen of the true, tried and noble members of Dexter No. 1 headed by Andy Doran, had engine and apparatus on a special furnished by the Midland, speeding Troyward.  They arrived at 6 o’clock.  Quickly their hose was laid and the smoldering fires that threatened a possible outbreak during the night were soon under complete control.”   

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This fire destroyed a total of 26 buildings leaving the owners with little to begin anew.  The pioneer spirit prevailed, however, and most of the firms were soon back on solid ground.

“Perhaps the loss that will be most keenly felt by the MESSENGER is  that of its entire  files.  Up to the past year or two they were in bound volumes and comprised not only THE TROY MESSENGER, but the Southern Messenger, The Southern Advertiser and The Messenger and Advertiser which dated back to the sixties, together with quite a number of copies on the Troy papers published  before the war.  It is a loss that can scarcely be replaced.”           

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.

Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.