Independence, Inyo County, California

Fire June 1886

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Inyo Register July 1, 1886

Fire! Almost the whole of Independence burned to the ground.  

On Wednesday afternoon, at about four o'clock, the cry of "Fire!"   rang through the quiet streets of Independence, and almost immediately men came from all quarters to subdue the flames if possible.

The fire started first in the old building south of Omie Mairs' livery stable, and next caught the large stable, which contained considerable hay; thence its course was across the street to Chenot's store, again across the street to Broder's dwelling house, from which place the fierce flames swept everything in their way to the south as far as the house occupied by J.J. Moore, which was saved by intervening trees.   Not a business house is left in the town.   The beat of the burning buildings was so intense that people were unable to remain in the Main street, and were unable to do a thing to stop the hungry flames in their Path of destruction.   Many are suffering from the effects of the smoke, heat and excitement, but no one was seriously injured.   Over half the people have been rendered homeless and are being cared for as well as possible by their friends.   But few buildings that caught fire escaped being burned to the ground.   The following is a list of those that were totally destroyed: E. Chenot's store and two warehouses; building occupied by John Broder and owned by A.R. Conklin; the courthouse ‑ Blaney House ‑ consisting of two two‑story buildings and warerooms; a two-story building owned by A.R. Conklin, occupied on the first floor by C. Mulholland's meat market and by J.T. McMahon on the second floor; L. Wood's store and warehouse; Harris & Rhine's large store, and their warehouse; restaurant building, dwelling house, and stable, owned by H. Levy; small house formerly occupied by P.W. Bennett as an office; livery stable owned by A. Parker, building lying south of the post office, owned by C.A. Walter; post office building, belonging to Geo.   H. Hardy;  Irwin's saloon; Huffs barber shop; O.I Mairs' large two‑story building, and dwelling house; Jerry Mairs' saloon; vacant building north of Mairs' saloon; A.W. Eibeshutz's store, warehouse, and dwelling house; A. Parker's blacksmith shop and dwelling house; vacant building belonging to Conklin and Fernbach; O.I. Mairs' large livery stable; Isaac Harris's dwelling house, occupied by C.   Mulholland; barn of Harris & Rhine's; stable of Thomas Webb's.   (A private letter mentions two which Peg has overlooked ‑ Mrs. J. Brown's house, formerly John Crough's, and Eibeshutz's stable.)  All of the foregoing buildings were burned completely, and the occupants saved comparatively nothing.   Most of the business houses were insured.   Part of the country records was saved.   This is the most disastrous fire ever experienced in Inyo County.

The reported estimate of the loss places it at $160,000 of which $40,000 is covered by insurance.   Aside from this amount, the loss by the destruction of records, accounts, and libraries which cannot be replaced, is hard to even guess at.   Besides dwellings, almost the only buildings left standing are the Masonic Hall, schoolhouse, church, printing office, Conklin's law office, the brewery, and Blar's drug store, all which are more or less away from the business center.   On the blocks laying between Edwards (Main) street and the next street west but two houses stand ‑ the dwellings of Irwin and Moore, neither being near the central part of town.   East of the east line of Edwards street, Blair's drugstore and dwelling, the Masonic Hall, and A.R. Conklin's dwelling yet stand, at the extreme northern end of the street; with these exceptions every house in the side of the town proper was burned.   A part, at least, of the county records are saved; the credit of this is due, we understand, to the bravery of two ladies ‑ Mrs. J.S. McGee and Mrs. R.L. Peeler.   The books and money of the Treasurer are saved.   The essentials of the post office were saved, so mail is sent to received as usual.   Of detailed personal losses, we may speak more fully next week.

From the fact that the fire took but a fraction of the dwellings, there is probably no actual suffering that the surrounding neighborhood has not alleviated; but in behalf of Bishop Creek we wish to say that whatever being needed will be forwarded at once on its becoming known.   Communication being cut off a telegram to that effect could not be got through yesterday, or it would have been sent immediately

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