Mount Hope Fire
The Fayette Journal
March 24, 1910
Mt. Hope Swept by Flames
Entire Town Devastated by the Most Disastrous Fire in History of County or Section.
No Casualties so far as Known – Loss Will Reach $350,000 Partly Covered by Insurance.
The greatest fire disaster that ever occurred in this county or section of the state reduced practically the entire town of Mount Hope to a heap of ashes Thursday morning. Of the rows of pretentious stores and dwellings that composed the business and principal residential portions of this thriving little place nothing remains but the stark, begrimed chimneys and smouldering ruins. In isolated places and along Sugar Creek, a few, a very few, houses remain unscathed, their total number not exceeding six. The general store of the Sugar Creek Coal Co., stands like a sentinel at the northwest corner of the devastated area, it having by some unaccountable reason escaped destruction. The loss is approximately $350,000 and the insurance about $150,000.
The fire started at about 7:30 in the morning in the room of the Lewis & Houcks saloon located in the midst of the most thickly settled portion of the main street, and within a short time the building was enveloped in flames. Despite all efforts, the fire quickly spread to adjacent structures and within an incredibly short space of time the entire east side of the street was a fiery furnace.
Residents on the west side of the street hurriedly removed what they could from their stores and houses; unfortunately a great deal of the property was piled up in the middle of the street. The piles of furniture bedding and other inflamable stuff were quickly ignited by the licking flames and through this medium the fire spread to the west side where it gained such headway that it was beyond human power to check its advance and it was soon realized that the entire town, if not that of Macdonald, adjoining, was doomed. The water supply from the tank upon the hill in the rear of Mt. Hope, was soon exhausted, and dynamite was resorted to but without any other effect than to endanger all property within a radius of a mile from the scene. The explosions scattered fire brands to the winds, and these fell all through Macdonald and vicinity, and the residents were forced to keep their windows closed and maintain a close watch on their roofs and outbuildings. One brand fell in the yard in front of the home of Dr. H. L. Kirkpatrick, in Macdonald, a full half mile from the fire center, and ignited the dry grass. The blaze was, however, quickly noted and extinguished. Many narrow escapes were had by venturous persons bent upon entering their places to rescue goods, but aside from number being slightly scorched no one was injured.
The residence of Mr. Ben Hurvitz, a member of the firm of Hurvitz & Lopinsky was among the first to catch fire, and Mr. Hurvitz’s three little daughters, aged respectively two, six and eight years, who were in the house alone, were rescued in the nick of time by Robert Welsh and John Vires.
The people, driven from their homes, sought refuge upon the hill at the rear, from which point the scene below resembled a fiery furnace. Household effects were scattered along the roadway for miles in either direction, and it was a common thing to see pianos, beds, sewing machines and other more or less valuable effects standing in the roadway unattended. Thievery became prevalent when the fire was at its height and armed officers were kept busy protecting property. Frequently three or four persons would claim the same articles and in several instances fights were narrowly averted. A great number of arrests were made during the day.
More than three hundred persons were rendered homeless and they were cared for during the day at many homes in Macdonald. The New River Company officials were foremost in rendering aid to the stricken families and food and clothing was furnished in all emergencies. Plans were quickly made and put into effect for the care of the people at night, and application was made to the state department at Charleston for tents and other necessary supplies. These were forwarded to the scene on train No. 6 and immediately put in service on top of the hill. Capt. S. L. Walker, together with Lieut. Jones, and four men of Co. F of Fayetteville were detailed to the scene to care for the state’s property. The prompt response of the department in furnishing shelter tents for the homeless was the source of much commendation, included in which was much praise for the work of the coal company officers for bringing such a thing about, and so promptly.
About 75 buildings were consumed among them being the Mount Hope Bank which transferred its books and money safely to the New River offices, where temporary quarters have been made, the M. E. Church and all of the stores and their stocks. But six dwellings, those of J. E. Garrett, W. H. Lindamood, Capt. Hansbarger, E. L. Rippeth and Ben Vickers were spared, and that of Floyd Reimy, which was directly in the fire zone miraculously escaped with but a damaged roof. The Union church and the skating rink were also unscathed.
The buildings and dwellings of the following were a total loss:
Patteson Hardware Store, located next to the saloon in which the fire originated, and wherein a quantity of gasoline exploded and added fuel to the flames; Fisher’s Hotel, Bailey’s Drug Store; White Star Saloon; M. H. Brockman’s barber shop; Asbury’s barber shop; the bowling alleys; Opera House; Steiner & Fisher Jewelry Store; Hurvitz & Lopinsky’s great emporium; E. L. Rippeth’s bakery; Bradley’s Drug Store; Mrs. Perry’s boarding house; Moseley’s dry goods store; a restaurant, Hardman & Jones’s Livery Stable; several saloons and many smaller establishment s of various nature. The handsome high school building was also destroyed. Among the families that were burned out of their homes are: Dr. E. E. Jones, M. P. Morris, Hen Pinson, Dr. T. E. McGuire, Wm. Turner, Percy Poole, the Wrights, Ben Sugar, Chris Lilly, Rev. Shoredan, J. Patteson, J. Kennedy, Chas. Jones, Johnn Perry, E. B. Lee, A. B. Bradley, Dr. W. L. Cottle, C. M. Brown, Wm. Reinas, L. C. Patteson, P. M. Snyder, and Dr. S. T. Bailey. W. R. Grey lost five dwellings and one store building in the flames.
The fire burned itself out by noon after covering an area of more than half a mile, extending to the railroad tracks of the White Oak railway.
The Fisher Hotel, was known until recently as the Bailey Hotel, and was purchased a short time ago by Sam Fisher, of Beckley, for $14,000. The insurance on the property will amount to but $7000, including contents.
Mount Hope Fire
The Messenger (Beckley)
March 25, 1910
Mt. Hope In Ruins
Town Completely Destroyed By Fire Yesterday
But Five Dwellings Remain in What Was Yesterday a Prosperous and Populous Town
The latest report from the town of Mt. Hope, which was literally wiped out of existence yesterday, is that but five dwellings escaped the flames, and that from 2,500 to 3,000 people are homeless and at least temporarily penniless.
With the exceptions noted, nothing but charred and blackened ruins marks the site of what was yesterday morning one of the largest and most prosperous towns in Fayette county.
The property loss is estimated by a well informed insurance man of this city at half a million dollars, of which not more, and probably less than one fourth, is covered by insurance.
To Mr. S. Dixon credit is due for taking prompt measures for furnishing relief to the sufferers. As soon as the fire was seen to be beyond control, he wired to Charleston for sufficient food supplies to meet the emergency, at his own expense, as well as for shelter tents, which arrived in time for use last night.
A fire broke out in the second story of the Greek restaurant in Mount Hope early yesterday morning, practically destroying that thriving Fayette county town, all the business portion having been destroyed by noon, at which time the fire was still spreading in the residence section, while dynamite was being used to destroy buildings in the path of the flames in the effort to check their further progress.
The fire had a good start before being discovered, and in a short time was sweeping up both sides of the principal street, upon which practically all the business houses were located. The fire department was rendered helpless early in the day by the burning of the hose, leaving it without means of utilizing the water supply, though it is doubtful if the town could have been saved even had this misfortune not occurred owing to the fact the the [sic] buildings were almost all frame structures, and most of them old and consequently more than ordinarily inflammable.
Starting at the southern end of the town, the fire swept toward Macdonald, cleaning up everything in its path, including the Bank of Mt. Hope, the postoffice, high school building, Fisher hotel, and all the general merchandise stores, drug, clothing and jewelry stores, in short, every business establishment along the street, which was occupied almost exclus[i]vely for business purposes.
It will be impossible to estimate the loss with any degree of accuracy for some days to come, but it will be a heavy one, and one from which it will take the community some time to recover.
Quite a number of more or less serious cases of burning and minor accidents have been reported but so far as known no fatalities have occurred.
As the flames approached the saloons, their stock was carried out and placed at the disposal of the public, the natural result being that over indulgence in liquor added its full share to the confusion and excitement naturally engendered by the fire itself.
S. N. Fisher, of Beckley, is among the heavy losers, he having been the owner of the Fisher Hotel, which he had but recently purchased and refurnished and renovated throughout. He was also the principal owner of the jewelry establishment of Fisher & Steiner, Mr. Steiner also being a former resident of this city.
A considerable amount of insurance on the property destroyed is carried by the agencies of Beckley, but the extent of their losses cannot be determined until the extent of the fire is more definitely known.
Mount Hope Fire
March 31, 1910
Mt. Hope Destroyed By Fire
Once Prosperous Loup Creek Town Now A Mass Of Smouldering Ruins
Property Loss Estimated At $500,000
S. N. Fisher, Of Beckley, Is A Heavy Loser, Having His Hotel
And Store Destroyed – Few House Remain In The Town
Devastated by fire, the thriving town of Mt. Hope now lies in ruins visited by a dire calamity which in a few short hours burned and utterly demolished the place Thursday morning.
Starting in a saloon kept by Lewis and Hank at 7:30 in the morning, at half an hour after noon nothing remained of the thickly populated portion of the town but smoldering ruins.
A high wind was blowing at the time in a north-easterly direction and towards the main part of the town. The fire in a few minutes spread to the adjoining buildings, and the people began to move out for about the distance of a block. With great rapidity, the fire in about an hour and consumed nearly half a block, and the condition looked serious.
Two chemical fire engines from Macdonald, one from Glen Jean and one from Kilsyth, nearby mining towns, were immediately rushed to the scene, and aided in checking the fire for a short time. The flames, however, soon got beyond the control of the fire fighting apparatus on hand, and soon the entire block was ablaze.
Officials of the mining companies operating at Kilsyth, Price Hill Fuel Company, Macdonald, Turkey Knob Coal Company, Dunloop Coal Company and Derryhale Coal Company, closed down their mines, and sent their men to Mt. Hope to aid in fighting the fire.
At last it was seen that the town must go unless some radical method was adopted, and four or five large crews of men experienced in the use of dynamite were set to work.
Gray’s Feed Store, Carwile’s dwelling and Bolen’s saloon were destroyed by dynamite, and for a while it was thought half the town might be saved. The fire, however, caught by the varying wind, swung around the dynamited area, and came in back of the main business section of the town, where all efforts to stop it were without result.
It was at first thought the fire would be gotten under control, many people threw their belongings into the streets but after 9 o’clock the fire progressed with such rapidity that the goods in the streets could not be saved, the heat being so intense that no one could approach them to carry them away.
The New River Coal Company sent 25 teams and wagons to assist in carrying away the property that had been rescued from the burning buildings.
Many women were hysterical, and some people had to be kept by force from rushing into their burning homes. The Fisher Hotel and the Mt. Hope High School were the last buildings to go. Everything possible was done by several hundred men to save these two largest buildings in the town, but all efforts were without avail.
Only a few houses were left standing in the town. Two large residences and a few small buildings remain. The skating rink is also still standing, and in this building, which is about 200 X 75 feet in dimensions, a large number of families took refuge. The miners at the coal companies in the nearby towns provided everything possible for the comfort of the thousand homeless people in the pretty little town of Mt. Hope.
Where, early Thursday morning, stood a beautiful little city, the metropolis of Fayette county, with paved streets, electric light, water and cement sidewalks, and everything that goes to make up a modern and up-to-date town, lies on the plateau nothing but smoking ruins and the tall skeletons of the two or three brick buildings which were in the town.
Folliwng is a list of those who suffered losses by the fire:
D. C. Haynes, loss $6000; insurance $4000.
Charles Salletty, loss $2,500 with no insurance.
F. Credario, loss $750, with no insurance.
Ben Demetto, loss $800, with no insurance.
N. H. Spradling, $2,500, with no insurance.
Sugar Creek Coal Company, on one building.
Mt. Hope High School Building, loss $22,000, with $12,000 insurance.
A. P. & F. M. Bailey, loss $8,000, with $3,000 insurance.
F. M. Jones & Company, loss $18,000 with $10,500 insurance.
M. E. Church, loss $15,000, with no insurance.
B. Sugar, loss $3,500, with $1,500 insurance.
Mt. Hope Bakery, loss $500, with no insurance.
W. R. Gray, loss $20,000, with $12,000 insurance.
Bank of Mt. Hope, building, loss $5,000, with $2,500 insurance.
Greenbrier Produce Company, loss $3,500, with $2,000 insurance.
Bell & Jones, loss $1,000, with no insurance.
Luther Bolden, loss $3,000, with no insurance.
Ashbury & Fielder, loss $1,000, with $450 insurance.
Fisher & Steiner, loss $2,500, with $2,000 insurance.
Bradley Drug Company, loss $20,000, with $3,000 insurance.
Sturgeon & Maynor, loss $5,000, with $3,000 insurance.
J. R. Carwile, loss $4,000, with $2,000 insurance.
William Ray, loss $2,000, with no insurance.
Sandidge Brothers, loss $500, with no insurance.
Whealon & Evans, loss $500, with no insurance.
Lowis & Hawks, loss $4,000, with no insurance.
Deeb Mason, loss $3,000, with no insurance.
M. B. Brackman, loss $2,000, with no insurance.
A. P. Callaway, loss $2,500, with no insurance.
F. A. Tinson, loss $2,000, with $1,200 insurance.
F. M. Bailey, loss $1,500, with no insurance.
P. H. Callaway, loss $2,000, with no insurance.
J. W. Perry, loss $3,000, with $1,500 insurance.
Mt. Hope Coal Company, loss $2,000 with no insurance.
Hartman & Jones, loss about $22,000 with no insurance.
Ben Hurvitz, loss $5,000, with no insurance.
Knights of Pythias and Red Men’s Hall, loss $12,000, with $4,000 insurance.
Garrett & McNabb, loss $50,000 with $21,000 insurance.
Hurvitz & Lopinsky, loss $7,500.
F. M. Bailey, loss $4,000.
Mary A. Turner, loss $5,000, with $2,500 insurance.
A. P. Bailey, loss $12,500, with no insurance.
Fenwick & Holmes, loss $3,000, with $1,500 insurance.
S. N. Fisher, loss $15,000 (Fisher Hotel.)
Town of Mt. Hope (City Building) loss $3,000, with $1,500 insurance.
P. M. Snyder, loss $7,000, with $6,000 insurance.
John Shordon, loss $1,700, with no insurance.
L. C. Patteson, loss $10,000, with no $2,500 insurance.
C. M. Lilly, loss $2,250, with $2,000 insurance.
About 25 dwelling houses, the aggregate amounting to about $50,000, about one-half of which amount is covered by insurance.
Mount Hope Fire
March 31, 1910
Mount Hope Disastrous Fire
Half a Million Dollar Swept by Whirlwind Fire in Five Hours – Not Half Covered by Insurance – Hundreds Homeless But No Suffering
Special To The “Herald.”
Mt. Hope, W. Va., March 25. Devastated by fire, the thriving town of Mt. Hope now lies in ruins visited by a dire calamity which in a few short hours burned and utterly demolished the place Thursday morning.
Starting in a saloon kept by Lewis & Hawks at 7:30 in the morning, at half an hour nothing remained of the thickly populated portion of the town but smouldering ruins.
Standing on a hill above the town on the west side during the hours of the fire the scene was like unto one huge cauldron and the hundreds of onlookers – those who had fled from the raging flames – felt as though they stood on the summit of the Brocken with a harrowing spectre below.
Furniture and other effects hastily thrown into the streets from burning dwellings and business houses on the east side of the main street became ablaze and communicated the sweeping fire to the houses and stores on the west side, and leaping from store to store in less than one hour the town was doomed beyond all hope of checking the calamity that wildly claimed the town for its own.
Water was freely used at the beginning of the catastrophe but within an hour the tank situate[d] on the hill on the west side ran dry and all hope disappeared.
Impetus was given to the flames by the igniting of gasoline in Brockman’s hardware store and the frame buildings with frightful crashes were leveled to the ground.
Dynamite sticks were freely used in the hope of staying the awful spread of the fire, but with little avail.
The back streets with their closely built houses reaching down to the track of the White Oak railway were eaten up and burned like tinder boxes, the occupants having bare time to save a few of their more cherished belongings and personal effects.
When the flames reached the Mount Hope high school, it seemed but less than 120 seconds before that beautiful structure crumbled to ruins. The Fisher Hotel, known to the traveling men as the Bailey, recently purchased by Mr. Sam Fisher, of Beckley, for $14,000, was demolished in a few minutes, and it is said that the insurance on the building and its furnishings was less than half the purchase money.
A conservative estimate of the loss is placed at $350,000, and by hurried though careful computing the insurance carried will aggregate less than $200,000.
Already the bigger losers from the fire talk of emulating the phoenix, and rebuilding the town from its own ashes.
The vaults of the Mt. Hope Bank were hastily emptied by the president and cashier, Mr. P. M. Snyder and Mr. L. S. Tully, and the currency and securities lodged for safekeeping in the spacious vaults of the New River company at Macdonald.
The population of the town is nearly 600, of which nearly 500 are homeless. Mr. Samuel Dixon immediately ordered a big consignment of tents shipped in and has made arrangements to feed the destitute at his own expense.
From the hills surrounding where once the lively little town stood the scene is like unto a sepulchre and the brick chimneys which stand out from the ruins look like a field of vast cromlii. The roads on both sides of the destruction are filled with people and scores of wagons are plying hauling the salvage from the edges of the stricken town.
The good people of Macdonald and Kilsythe are sheltering the homeless as far as their ability permits and many a neighborly and humane deed may be credited to the dwellers of those two corporations.
For a time stealing was rife, but unceremonious arrests quickly resulted and the offenders taken before Squire Staton, who held temporary court in the Macdonald town hall.
The fire starting when everybody was abroad no lives were lost but some of the stores and houses entirely burned down were.
Ever since the awful calamity visitors have been constantly pouring in to witness the tented village and on Sunday March 27th there was a continuous intress of buggies, wagons, surreys and every conceivable kind of conveyance bringing strangers from every point of the compass.
As each conveyance neared the scenes of the conflagration the faces of the occupants bore traces of astonishment at the unusual and complete sight of the destruction.
Temporary wooden structures have been hastily erected and some of the merchants like W. R. Gray have already installed new stocks of goods and have resumed their business.
That the town will be at once rebuilt might be considered an accomplished fact, and contracts have been entered into for new structures and sewer work.
Enormous orders for brick, lime and cement have been given and the material is expected to arrive in the obliterated town during the ensuing days and week.
The Snyder Construction Co. are arranging for large crews of workmen and the labor of clearing the debris is progressing rapidly.
The tents brought in by the militia at the instigation of Mr. Samuel Dixon are nearly all put up and many are used in conducting business by the merchants whose losses have been so severe.
Not for one night has anyone gone without shelter and there has not been a single case of distress.
Last Saturday was pay day throughout the coal fields and comment should be made upon the excellent order maintained, everybody observing strictly the best decorum.
Several of the burned saloons were temporarily constructed, but none allowed to sell anything but beer and soft drinks, the authorities having requested that no liquor be sold until the chaotic condition quiets down and a proper organization be restored, and on Saturday night by half past nine every one of the temporary saloons closed down their business tight until Monday morning.
The militia which arrived in the stricken town were not once called upon to enforce order – in fact they were sent here especially to render what aid they could in case of being called upon and particular orders had been given that they were to come to the town entirely unarmed. Still it is certain that their presence has had a salutory effect upon the thousands of curiosity seekers strolling over the cement side walks and among the ruins.
The Fayetteville company in command of Captain S. L. Walker and Lieut. W. B. Jones retired from the town last Sunday evening, returning home on the eleven o’clock train from Macdonald.
The Bank of Mount Hope is conducting its business, which has had but one single day’s interruption, in the offices of the New River Company at Macdonald, and has commenced the erection of a new and commodious fire proof building on the site of the old bank.
The men called out from the Macdonald, Sugar Creek and Kilsythe mines did yeoman service for an hour or two when the fire raged, but the destruction was so rapid that indeed even with such an army of volunteers but very little of personal effects or merchandise was saved.
Of course there were many sorrowful episodes in the case of entire losses of household furniture, and the inevitable cases of loss of priceless trinkets, arising in such sad cases were very numerous.
Were it not for the ruins and the still smouldering heaps all around the temporary shacks of grocery stores, dry goods stores, fruit shops, jewelry and other businesses the whole town present the appearance of a raid, to a new settlement in Oklahoma.
The customary and expected “know-it-alls” are much in evidence, and it is amusing to hear them harangue little groups ranged around, telling how this building or that structure, or even the whole town could have been saved it he, ________ etc. etc.
Some of the talkative ones who hitherto had never given a thought to the imflammability of the place will now persist in buttonholing you and with a nudge in the ribs tell you in loud and unmistakable accents that “I predicted this years ago, but they wouldn’t listen to me,” or another pointing to a pile of debris with outstretched hand will say “Just what I have been looking for for the past eight years.” Others, the more sensible of the Mount Hope men give but little thought to the town that has gone, directing their whole minds and their every effort to the quick rebuilding of their burned property.
Judge and Mrs. T. J. McGinnis, Prosecuting Attorney Hugh A. Dunn and a large contingent from Beckley have have [sic] been driven to the scene and all have been appalled at the magnitude and sweep of the destruction.
That the thin blue haze of smoke which enveloped Charleston on Saturday morning March 26 came from the fire which destroyed Mount Hope, Judge M. S. Simms of Montgomery who was there on that day states that the smoke went down the Kanawha river and before dark Friday night, Montgomery was enveloped in a cloud of smoke. The smoke reached Charleston Saturday morning but not in such volume as to be oppressive.
Be that as it may, the dynamiting surely sent live embers as far as Macdonald where it set fire to the lawn in front of Dr. Kirkpatrick’s residence and nearly set fire to a house in Macdonald nearly three quarters of a mile away.
This was a very interesting story that I didn’t know about.