Mount Hope Fire

Raleigh Herald
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.


West Virginia Archives and History