Orleans, Indiana
Fire of 1897


Orleans Progress, April 22, 1897


Lays Waste to the East Side
About $6,000 of Property Destroyed
Early Morning Fire Destroys One Half of the
East Side of Public Square

Orleans was visited by the most destructive fire on last Sunday morning that has occurred here in fifteen years.
The people were awaken from their sleep by the ringing of bells and shouts of fire! fire! at about ten minutes of three o'clock on Sunday morning, to see the entire north half of the east side of the public square ablaze.
This half block was composed of eight old wooden buildings which has served as business rooms for over fifty years. The buildings were old and of not much value, and of themselves were not a great loss to the town, but served the purpose of some who owned them because they were not able to build more imposing ones.
The fire is supposed to be of incendiary origin, and was probably started in the rear of the three buildings occupied by Kemp's stove and tin store, Ginochio's confectionery store and Littell's restaurant. These three buildings were burning pretty evenly when seen by the first persons on the scene. Many theories as to the origin of the fire are advanced, but the general opinion is that it was incendiary.
Willing hands soon set to work to remove all from the buildings that could be gotten out, and measures to confine the fire to a limited space. owing to the absence of the slightest breeze and the heroic efforts of the men the fire was kept from crossing the street to Hardman's block. This block was considerably blistered, but by the aid of H. W. Hardman's line of hose from the large 1,500 gallon tank in the rear of his residence the buildings across Coffee Street were kept well watered and safe. It also required considerable effort to keep the fire from destroying the Walker building occupied by Stinson's furniture store and Burton's ice cream parlor. Marley & Easley's frame building stood against this building was saved and the fire was confined to the space from the corner to the Walker building.
The parties who sustained loss on building are:
James L. and R. G. Hollowell, $500.
Nancy A, Cloud, $350.
M. L. Sutherlin, $250.
Charles Kauffman, $300.
John Ginochio, $300.
Letta M. Dodd, $600.
Marley & Easley, $500.
This making the total loss on buildings of about $2,800, without a penny of insurance.
On account of the buildings all being wood and dry as a powder house they burned like tinder, and few were enabled to save much of their stocks of goods. No insurance could be obtained; therefore whatever was burned was a total loss to the owner.
Nearly everything was gotten out of James Martin's saloon. Stock and fixtures were nearly all saved. His loss is not over $75.
W. C. R. Kemp's stove and tin store stock was almost a total loss. A steel range and three or four stoves were taken out, together with a small lot of tinware. His loss is about $800 on stock.
John Ginochio lost almost everything, one or two small show cases being all that was saved. His loss on stock is about $400.
Littell's restaurant stock valued at $300 was burned, except two show cases; one filled with candies and another with cigars. The fixtures belonged to E. M. Brown. They were destroyed; valued at $150.

The Orleans Progress (May 27, 1897)

What Caused It And Who Are Responsible For It

That our little city has awakened from the stupor that "hard times" cast over all this fair land and has begun to recover her lost energy and vitality is evidenced by the amount of business being done here daily. The increased demand for labor has brought out all the available home talent and men who last year scaly saw a full week's work for the laboring classes in Orleans than has been seen here for several years. Yet we had among us enough of that class to supply the demand. Orleans merchants have for years enjoyed an immense trade from the surrounding country, and it was this alone almost that kept the town alive. Shrewd business men were at the head of our mercantile establishments and they left nothing undone by which the trade from the surrounding country could be brought to this place. This had its effect and they have seen it demonstrated in their cast account. When the recent fire swept away the rickety old frame structures on the east side of the square that had done service as business rooms for almost a century, it robbed several of our business men of a location where in to conduct their avocation. Consequently a demand for new and commodious buildings was created. The demand for houses for living purposes has been apparent for several years, but it seems that no one cared to incest much money in that way, but at the proper time the men were found who could and would invest money in good substantial buildings. These men are all wide awake gentlemen and deserve unlimited praise from the people of our little city for their efforts at building up the place. Among all those who have been instrumental in instilling our town with renewed life and vigor, no one is entitled to more praise than.


His saw and planing mill in the east end runs six days in the week and furnishes employment to a score or more of men at good wages. There is not a man in the State of Indiana who more dearly loves to furnish employment to a deserving laborer than Charlie Conder, and were it possible for him to do so he would give every applicant a job. In addition to the force of men employed at and around his mill he has a course of construction a number of nice cottage houses - not little cheap affairs, but nice convenient houses, built in modern, up to date style. He has also an elegant new seven room cottage nearing completion on his farm one mole west of town. Mr. Conder is a genuine hustler and is a credit to any town, and Orleans is proud to own him as one of her citizens. His employees receive good wages and are paid promptly in the cold coin of the realm.


the projectors of the large brick building that will take the place of the old frame shanty on the southeast corner of the square are a pair of gentlemen prominent in the financial and business affairs of our town and vicinity. That the building erected by them will be an ornament to th town goes without saying, as those who are acquainted with these two gentlemen know that they do not do things by halves.


The rapidly increasing trade of this popular hardware firm made it absolutely necessary for them to have more storeroom and warehouse room, so the old building on what is known as the Gifford corner on the north side was torn away, and the preparations are now underway for a large two-story brick building.


the Cash Grocer, will superintend the erection of this building and when completed will occupy one room of it with his grocery store. Like Shirley Brothers, he is cramped for room. Mr. Cloud is having a large brick kiln made west of town and will burn all the brick for his building there, giving employment to a large number of men and boys.

Another victim of the fire was James A. Marlin, saloon keeper. His greatest loss though was his location. His brother, Henry A. Martin, of Kansas City, Mo., came to his relief and purchased the lot and will have an elegant two-story brick there before many days.


the well know contractor and builder, has this building in charge and will push it to completion in his usual get-up-and-hustle style. Mr. Littell, besides his occupation as a contractor and builder, will again this year engage in putting in concrete walks and recent developments have shown their superiority over the stone. Along the burnt district the concrete stood the fire all right while the stone cracked and crumbled with the heat. He has over 2,000 feet contracted for in Mitchell and will give employment to a large force of men. Josh is a young man, but has already established an enviable reputation as a contractor by his fair and honest dealings with others and his liberality with his employees.

To this list may be added the statement that Hollowell Brothers, who own the corner lot south of the PROGRESS office, will this fall, or early in the Spring build a large and elegant brick business block.
Hardman & Elliot, the hustling hardware dealers and tinners are also trying to buy ground on which to erect a building. If successful in securing a desirable piece of ground they will build a mammoth brick and stone structure.
These are the men who are at the head of the largest improvements now going on in Orleans. We predict for our town a steady growth and it is the duty of every citizen inside its limits to lend a hand in helping to keep it growing. Speak a good word for your town whenever the opportunity offers and you will be surprised at the effect.