Saturday, November 11, 2017

Fires in Russell County, 1855-1925

March 8, 1855 - Richmond Dispatch

FIRE IN RUSSELL. The saddlery shop of Mr. Meredith Logan, at Lebanon, Russell County, was destroyed by fire lately, involving a loss of some $600 or $800.

April 15, 1864 - Abingdon Virginian

A destructive fire occurred at Lebanon, Thursday night, the 7th inst., supposed to be the work of an incendiary. Charles Carroll's out houses, four in number, were all burned, six short horned Durhams and four fine horses, with many valuable farming utensils, in all perhaps 25,000 dollars worth, went with the flames.

November 28, 1866 - Baltimore Sun

FIRE. Mr. Charles Carroll, near Lebanon, Russell county, Va., had his barn, containing a large quantity of grain, and a threshing machine, totally destroyed by fire a few days since. Mr. Carroll's loss is estimated at $5,000.

February 23, 1872 - Bristol News


Destructive Fire in Russell County.

ABINGDON, Va., February 16 - Lebanon, Russell county, Va., was visited by a destructive fire on Wednesday last. The courthouse and jail, the Planter's hotel W. A. Stuart, owner, partly insured in the Virginia Fire and Marine Insurance Company for $3,000, Jenk's shop, the post-office, Dr. Ferguson's dwelling, A. Hendrick's dwelling and store, and other out-buildings, were destroyed. The fire was discovered in the observatory of the Planters' Hotel at 12 o'clock M. The wind was blowing a hurricane, and all was burned in about ten minutes. The records and papers of clerks office were saved. The loss is estimated at from $30,000 to 40,000.

February, 1872 - Abingdon Virginian


Court House, Jail, Planter's House

$44,300.00 LOSS.

Russell Correspondence.
LEBANON, Va., Feb. 19th, 1872.

Editors Abingdon Virginian:

You will remember that in my communication of last week, I spoke of the beauties which our town would present after having it incorporated, and maturing our plans in having our streets graded and side-walks paved: but, alas! a change has come o'er the spirit of our dreams, and we have another striking demonstration of the fact, that all human calculations and expectations are doomed to disappoint: and how it becomes my painful duty to tell you that the most beautiful part of our town is laid in ashes.

On Wednesday of last week, just as 12 o'clock, a dense smoke was seen issuing from the roof of the west end of the large Hotel, known as the Planter's House, which was erected by Alderson & Kernan, but now belonging to W. Alex. Stuart, of Saltville, and was occupied by H. Askbrook, and as there was a heavy wind blowing from the west, the roof was soon in a flame, and before water could be had, the cupalo was wrapped in a fiery sheet, and the raging flames bidding defiance to the citizens, many of whom had buckets in hand carrying water, vainly attempting their extinguishment. Very soon it communicated with the cupalo of our once magnificent Court House, and on burning the chord suspending the striking weight of the clock, it commenced striking its own funeral dirge, thus making the scene still more mournful; and simultaneously therewith, the Jail, the store and dwelling house of N. B. Gray, occupied by Aaron Hendricks and the Rev. J. H. Torbett, situated directly east of the Court House, were in flames, and by this time the large building belonging to the heirs of Col. A. F. Hendricks, dec'd, directly west but adjoining the Planter's House, was also on fire. This building was occupied by Dr. D. C. Ferguson with his family; J. C. Comann, with his tailor shop and Post office; J. P. Jenks, with his saddlers's shop, and Bruce & Thomas for a produce house.

It was a terrible sight to see those find large buildings, all at once tumbling into ruins, and the angry flames curling up heavenward, and interrupted all the time by the violent west winds blowing burning shingles and sheets of blazing fire a considerable distance towards the east. Burning shingles were thrown some three hundred yards and set Geo. Williams' house on fire, which would have been consumed, but for his son James mounting the roof and extinguishing it.

The winds were so violent, which were continually fanning the flames, that an end was put to the disaster in two and a half hours.

The large stable and corn-crib on the log of the Planter's House were saved; also the crib and stable on the lot of the heirs of Col. Hendricks; but on the lot of N. B. Gray, all the out-buildings were destroyed.

The loss, from the best data that can be obtained, and from information derived from the unfortunate ones, is as follows:

Court House.........................................................$17,000
W. Alex. Stuart.......................................................12,000
N. B. Gray................................................................2,500
Heirs of Col. Hendricks, Dec'd................................2,000
H. Ashbrook.............................................................1,000
A. Hendricks............................................................1,000
J. P. Jenks....................................................................100
Bruce & Thomas, in salt, plows, grain, &c...............400
Rev. J. H. Torbett........................................................150
J. J. Henritze.................................................................50
Lebanon Lodge, No. 215, jewels and furniture..........100
Total loss, $44,300

[...]of this property was insured, ex-[...] three thousand dollars[...]

The fire was not communicated to the southside of the street, but it would have been utterly impossible to have saved this part of the town, bur for the wind blowing directly east, and the immense quantity of water which was thrown on the houses: and much credit is due to the citizens of the town, and many from the country who were here on business, for their determined effort to stop the conflagration. The streets were lined with them carrying water to throw on the houses of Bruce & Thomas, Alderson & Kernan, Judge Burns and Capt. Gent, whilst many others were on the top of all of these houses, receiving water which they poured profusely on the roofs, to prevent their ignition from the excessive heat. The roof of Judge Burns' houses caught fire in two places, and that of Capt. Gent in three places, but was promptly put out.

Those who were thrown of of houses by this disaster, have mostly gotten other rooms, but some of them  only temporarily. Aaron Hendricks has moved his family into the house of N. B. Gray, immediately east of Capt. Gent's house, and has his goods in Capt. Gent's Store-house, and is going on with his business. The energetic and untiring H. Ashbrook, who knows no surrender and has never studied the definition of the words, give up, is again in full blast, in the east end of Capt. Gent's house, were he is prepared to satisfy the appetite of both man and beast, and where he will meet his former patrons with a smile and make them feel easy. Notwithstanding his loss, he saved his bacon, corn, wheat, oats and hay, of which he has no small quantity. Rev. Torbett has moved temporarily to the Parsonage, but in a few days will occupy the house of R. D. Powers. James J. Henritze's family have gone to his father's, he is at present absent from home. Dr. Ferguson will probably move his family to his mother-in-laws on Moccasin; the Dr. was at the time of the fire, and is now, professionally absent in Washington county. J. P. Jenks has moved his shop, temporarily, to the shoe-makers shop of R. D. Powers. J. C. Comann has taken the Post Office to his house in the extreme west end of town, but is trying to bring it back nearer the centre of the place. Capt. J. W. McBrown occupied an office in the Planter's House, and was successful in getting his library out, with the exception of some two or three old books, on which he set but little value.

I have been thus minute as to the fire, and the present locality of the sufferers, believing that it will be of interest of their absent friends, many of whom I know to be readers of your paper.

The fire is thought, by some, to have been the act of an insendiary, but generally believed to be the result of accident from the bar-room chimney.

The next morning after its occurrence, Judge Fry issued a proclamation forewarning all persons from going near the burnt walls for fear of accidents, and forbidding the taking away of anything from the public buildings, or private property, and if anything had been taken away, for the same to be returned to the owners, under the penalty of being indicted by the Grand Jury.

(February 23, 1912 - Lebanon News)

Forty Years Ago.

Forty years ago the 14th of this month the Court House, jail, Hotel, and A. Hendricks' residence was burned to the ground. It was a very windy and disagreeable day. On that day H. Ashbrook rolled four barrels of whiskey into the street, and notwithstanding most every person belonged to the temperance council many got a prescription from Dr. Kernan and the obligation to taste was not forgotten.

February 20, 1874 - Daily State Journal (Alexandria, VA)

Two stables, a cow-house and granary, with contents, valued at about $700, belonging to P. D. Humitzin, of Lebanon, Russell county, were destroyed by an incendiary fire Monday night.

March 18, 1881 - The Baltimore Sun

A fire at Lebanon, Va., last Sunday night, destroyed property valued at $26,500, insured for $11,500. The principal losers were Anderson & Lynch, W. H. Burns, J. C. Gent.

August 19, 1881

Another Fire in Lebanon.

On the night of the 3d inst., Lebanon, in Russell county, was again visited by fire. It was not so serious as the fire which occurred a few months since, but still very disastrous to a little place like Lebanon. The loss this time falls heavily upon Mr. L. H. Clapp, whose drug store and contents were entirely destroyed. His loss is reported at $2,200. He was insured in three different companies for $400 each. The dwelling in which Mr. Clapp lived was also burned, and was owned by Mr. C. D. Boyd. A house occupied by a colored man and owned by J. F. McElhenney, was also burned. The people think the fire was the work on an incendiary. Total loss $3,900. - Abingdon Standard. [As appearing in the Clinch Valley News.]

February 17, 1901 - Times (Richmond, Va.)


Good and Prompt Work Prevented a Disastrous Conflagration.
(Special Dispatch to The Times.)

LEBANON, VA., Feb. 16. - Lebanon narrowly escaped having a very disastrous fire yesterday. The smoke and flames burst from the roof of C. M. Jenks & Company's large store, but in a few minutes the fire was under control. The store is in the central part of the town, and had not the fire been discovered as soon as it was doubtless half the town would have been swept by the flames. The fire originated from a defective flue.

October 10, 1902 - Times (Richmond, Va.)


Cracksmen Were at Work in Lebanon Wednesday Night.

BRISTOL, TENN., October 9. - (Special.)

A telephone message from Lebanon, Va., states that a fire, which broke out there at 3 o'clock this morning, destroyed the store of C. M. Jenks & Co., the post-office, residences of J. C. Gent and W. E. Burns.

A loud explosion aroused the people of the community, when it was discovered that robbers were in the town and had made an effort to blow open the safe of the Bank of Russell county. The safe in Jenks & Co.'s store was blown open and robbed and the building fired. Three suspicious men were seen disappearing in the direction of Cleveland.

Sheriff Ashbrook, of Russell County, is here to-night, and states that there is a clue to the gang which has been doing safe-blowing in Southwest Virginia.

October 10, 1902 - The Tennessean


For the Second Time Lebanon, Va., is Annihilated by Fire - Incendiarism Suspected.

BRISTOL, Tenn., Oct. 9. - (Special.)

A telephone message to this city from Mendota this evening states that the town of Lebanon, Russell County., Va., was practically destroyed by fire, the entire business center being in ashes. The leading properties destroyed were the Russell County Bank, John P. Jinks' emporium, the postoffice building and its contents, Barry's dry goods store, W. E. Burns' costly residence, the Gents building and many smaller buildings. The fire is thought to be of incendiary origin. The telephone wires entering town were cut by unknown parties while the fire was raging.

Lebanon was wiped out of existence by fire during the civil war and rebuilt.

October 17, 1902 - Lebanon News

Lebanon Will Rise Above the Ashes

Lebanon is very much disfigured by the loss of three of her finest buildings in the fire which occurred here one week ago yesterday, but we are happy to say she will rise above the ashes again.

L. L. Bays, the biggest loser by the fire, will rebuild and will erect a much finer business house than the one which was burned. Mr. Bays has also secured a lot from D. K. Banner in the west end of town and will erect on it a find brick residence.

Capt. J. C. Gent and Wm . E. Burns will also rebuild. Capt. Gent has been burned out three times in the last few years but he isn't one bit discouraged. he will rebuild at the same place.

Mr. Burns will build a find business house on the lot where his residence was burned. He has purchased a lot from Capt. H. H. Dickenson on north Church street and will build a handsome residence on it.

This news will be welcomed by Lebanon people with enthusiasm. It takes just such men as Bays, Gent and Burns to make a town.

December 17, 1902 - Times (Richmond, Va.)


For Two Months Safe Blowers Have Been Operating Successfully.
(Special Dispatch to The Times.)

TAZEWELL, VA., December 15. For the past two months safe-blowers have been at work in Russell county and much valuable property has been destroyed.

Last Friday night Compton's store, four miles northeast of Lebanon, the county seat, was robbed and burned. The loss was very heavy, with no insurance, just a few days previous the robbery and burning of the store-house of S. F. Combs & Son, on the headquarters of Weaver's Creek took place.

Before the building caught fire the safe was blown open. The explosion tore out one whole side of the building. The loss was $12,000 with $6,000 insurance.

Some time in October burglars, supposed to be the same band that burned the above mentioned stores, set fire to the stores of the Jenks Mercantile Company, at Lebanon, resulting in the destruction by fire of goods and buildings to the amount of $38,000.

May 23, 1907 - Tazewell Republican


Several Business Houses and Two Residences Destroyed.

Bristol, Tenn., May 21. Fire destroyed several business houses and other property at Lebanon, the county seat of Russell county, last night, the loss being estimated at $40,000 or more.

The burning of Henritz Brothers store alone entailed a loss of $20,000. Other houses destroyed were: W. H. Alderson's store, the Lebanon Bank, and the residences of Judge Harry Burns and T. C. Alderson. The insurance but partly covers the loss.

April 22, 1910 - Lebanon News


Entire Business Section of Little Town Reduced to Ashes.

LOSS $100,000; INSURANCE ABOUT $25,000

Fire which broke out early last Friday evening in G. W. Thompson & Co's., Feed store almost wiped out the business section of Cleveland, which lies next to Clinch River.

The only fire fighting apparatus which was at hand was the old time bucket brigade, which was quickly formed, but the flames spread rapidly from one building to another until they were consumed into ashes.

Many of the buildings were old and dry and fit tinder for the sweltering blaze which swept its way through the little railroad town, which is the gateway to the capital of Russell.

The buildings burned were:

J. B. Branson's & Co's., Hardware store.
G. W. Thompson & Co's., Feed store.
M. P. Artrip's store and livery stable.
G. W. Price and Co's., General store.
Peoples Bank.
Dotson's Hotel.
Purcell Brothers & Co's., General store.
Norfolk and Western Depot.
Lumber yard.
Wm. L. Jessee's dwelling house and stock of groceries.

The loss including buildings, goods and lumber yard is estimated at $100,000 with something like $25,000 insurance.

May 13, 1910 - Lebanon News

$15,000 BLAZE.

A destructive fire occurred at Swords Creek Sunday at 3 a. m. The fire which had its origin in B. J. Wysor's store spread to the postoffice and to J. H. Jackson's dwelling, causing a loss of about $15,000.00 which was partly covered by insurance.

By hard work other buildings near the fire were save.

Origin of the fire is unknown.

March 26, 1915 - Lebanon News


Five Buildings Wiped Out.

Honaker was visited by another destructive fire Thursday night of last week. The Honaker Herald of last week furnishes the following report:

About seven o'clock the building in which J. H. Meade was located was discovered to be on fire and had gained such headway that it was impossible to do anything to save the building and all efforts were turned to save the goods. Much of the goods were saved. The building was owned by Dr. J. H. Lockhart and was a splendid two story frame building. He had only $600.00 insurance. Mr. Meade carried $3000 on the stock of goods. John Jackson and family who occupied the rooms up stairs, lost everything, even to their clothing.

The flames spread to the building owned by J. T. Wygal's Cash Store and restaurant. Quite a little of the goods were saved, but the building was soon reduced to ashes. By heroic work the flames were held in check, here, saving the feed store and Honaker Herald office which were the next buildings.

The fire spread west from Mead's store to G. B. Johnson's law office, which was also burned. He succeeded in saving his library and office equipment, though it was badly damaged. Mr. Johnson carried small insurance.

A frame building owned by Mrs. Ratcliff and occupied by the Busy Bee Restaurant was next to burn. No insurance.

A dwelling owned by a Mr. Sword and occupied by Dr. S. H. Speer was the last house to burn. Dr. Speer saved most of his dental equipment and household effects.

It is impossible to estimate the loss this morning but it is immense.

It looked at one time as if this end of the town was doomed, but willing workers conquered the flames and thereby have the thanks of a grateful people this morning.

The Herald plant was carried into the street and is so badly damaged that it is impossible to get out more than a half sheet this week.

July 15, 1921 - Lebanon News

Destructive Fire at Honaker Wed.

Wednesday morning at 2 o'clock a very destructive fire visited Honaker, starting in Paul Clark's feed store and wiping out the Hurt Saddlery and Harness Shop, Honaker Herald outfit, and John D. Miller's store and residence.

C. C. Bausell, editor of the Herald, asks us to state that he will resume publication of the Herald within a month or just as soon as material can arrive and asks his patrons to kindly send in the amounts due to him at once to enable him to resume business at the earliest possible date.

The origin of the fire is unknown.

Combs & Hurt, undertakes in the Hurt Saddlery building, is said to have lost heavily.

May 22, 1925 - Lebanon News

Honaker Suffers Heavy Fire Loss.

Last Thursday night about 12:30 Honaker had another destructive fire which broke out in the N. Yates building opposite the depot occupied by Henry Branson's restaurant, and in a short time the flames spread to the Walter Wallace building which was occupied by the department store of H. D. Wallace on the east and the Clark building on the west, all of which were totally destroyed.

The loss is partially covered by insurance, the Wallace brothers, it is said, carried four thousand dollars, one thousand on the building, and three thousand on the stock of goods. Yates carried twenty-five hundred dollars insurance on his building and fixtures, while Branson carried only nine hundred dollars, but Mr. Harris had no insurance.

The fire, it is thought, started in the Branson restaurant and it was with difficulty that Mr. and Mrs. Branson and a travelling man escaped the burning building and did so by sliding down a pole.