Friday, November 15, 2013

Newburyport Fire 1811 Historical Accounts

On May 31, 1811 Newburyport was devastated with "The Great Fire" which broke out shortly after 9PM.    Here are some historical references and accounts.  See Article 

Another Great Source:  Jonathan Plummer "Great and Dreadful Fire at Newburyport. Fire, Fire, Fire: An Ode and a Sermon, Concerning a Tremendous Fire at Newburyport, which Commenced on the Evening of the Thirty First of May, 1811" Check out this great site with more on on Plummer and Timothy Dexter 

Independent Chronicle 
June 3, 1811

From History of Newburyport : from the earliest settlement of the country to the present time : with a biographical appendix Euphemia Vale Blake:

Nearly two hundred and fifty buildings were thus totally and suddenly consumed, including almost every dry goods store, four printing offices, the Custom House, surveyors' office, post office, two insurance offices, the "Union"  and the " Phoenix," the Baptist meeting-house, four attorneys' offices, four book stores, (the loss of one of these was $30,000,) and also the Town Library. Blunt's building, a massive structure four stories high, and the Phoenix building, for awhile seemed to present an effectual barrier to the farther progress of the flames ; but by a sudden change of the wind they were carried directly upon these immense piles, which were soon involved in the general calamity. " State street at this time presented a spectacle most terribly sublime! The wind, soon after it changed, blew with increased violence, and these buildings, which were much the highest in the street, threw the fire in awful columns high into the air, the flames extending in one continued sheet of fire across the spacious area!

From Savannah Republican (Savannah, GA)  Date: June 22, 1811 Volume: IX  Issue: 75 

From Caleb Cushing's History of Newburyport:

But in addition to the evils arising to us from the cupidity of the European belligerents, and the restrictive and retaliatory measures into which this country was consequently driven, Newburyport was doomed to suffer by a peculiar misfortune. This was the great fire of 1811, which desolated the busiest portion of the town, by its destructive ravages; and whose effects still meet the eye, in the depopulation of streets formerly filled with dwelling-houses and shops.
This conflagration commenced in a stable in Mechanic Row, near the Market Square, and of course in the center of the portion of the town devoted to trade and business. The stable was at the time unoccupied, and when the fire was discovered was found to be completely enveloped in flames. This was at half past nine o'clock in the evening of the thirty-first day of May, 1811. The fire quickly extended to Market Square on the one hand, and to State street on the other, and soon spread in various directions, with a degree of celerity and fury which baffled all exertions to stop its progress. The fire continued to rage until about two o'clock in the morning, soon after which its violence diminished; and by sunrise it had in a great measure subsided, after having swept away everything on a tract of land of sixteen and a half acres, leaving there only a mass of deplorable ruins. No part of the town was more compactly built than this; none contained so large a proportion of valuable buildings, merchandise, and other property. Indeed, the compactness of the buildings, which were chiefly constructed of wood, served constantly to feed the flames with combustible materials, so that for a time the destruction of the whole town was seriously apprehended. It was estimated that nearly 250 buildings were consumed, most of which were stores and dwelling-houses. This number included nearly all the shops in town for the sale of dry goods; four printing-offices; the custom-house; the post-office; two insurance offices;four bookstores; and one meeting-house; and the dwellings of more than ninety families.

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From An account of the great fire, which destroyed about 250 buildings in Newburyport, on the night of the 31st of May, 1811. Taken principally from the statements which have appeared in the public newspapers:

Newburyport, July 30, 1811. The Selectmen of Newburyport acknowledge the receipt of twenty four thousand three hundred and five dollars and. fifty-five cents from the citizens of Boston, to be appropriated to the relief of the sufferers by the late fire. At a time when a spirit of Charity, as large as our exigencies were imperious, seems to have pervaded our sister States ; whilst the benevolence of every part of the country has been most liberally displayed towards us, your bounty has been most liberally displayed towards us, your bounty has been eminently distinguished...from Newburyport Herald July 18, 1811

from The Panoplist, and Missionary Magazine United, Volume 4; Volume

Thanks correspondent, who furnished the list of donations to the sufferers by the fire at Newburyport, has transmitted some corrections of that list, and several additions, which we here subjoin: Becket $12 99 Blandford 31 00 Belchertown 16 00 Boylston 40 U0 Berkshire \Vash. Ben. Society 80 00 Berwick, Rev. N. Lord’s Soc. 6 69 Carried forward 186 68

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