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The Fire of 1910

At 7:30 on the morning of March 24, 1910, a fire started in one of the buildings located near the heart of Mt. Hope. The fire quickly raged out of control and within four hours, practically every structure in town between the (present-day) Christian Church to the banks of Sugar Creek was destroyed.

The account published in the March 31, 1910 edition of the Raleigh Register reported that the fire started in a saloon owned by two persons named Lewis and Hank. Various other accounts of the fire written during the 1960's have named various other buildings as the starting point of the fire. Several historic sources claim that a gasoline stove being used in an apartment was the source that started the fire. Most likely, the reference is meant to be to a kerosene stove. But while the actual origin of the fire may be now in question, all accounts agree that the flames quickly spread to adjourning buildings. Within one hour the fire had consumed nearly half a block of the closely-spaced wood-frame buildings in that section of town.

Some contemporary accounts of the fire have claimed that the no fire-fighting equipment existed during the era, but the newspaper account states that two chemical fire engines from Macdonald, one from Glen Jean and another from Kilsyth were rushed to the scene of the fire. But despite their best efforts, with the flames of the fire being fanned by a high wind blowing in a north-easterly direction, the fire fighters and their equipment proved to be no match for the blaze. Soon an entire block of the downtown section was engulfed in flames.

As word of the seriousness of the fire spread over the C&O Railway's telegraph wires and via word of mouth, officials of the six mining companies that surrounded the town closed down their mines and sent their workers to help battle the blaze. But even with a multitude of people, numbering several hundred battling the inferno, the fire continued to burn out of control and spread. In a desperate effort to contain the fiery blaze, four of five crews of miners experienced with explosives were called into action.

The fire-fighting crews dynamited a saloon, a business and a house in an effort to stop the path of the fire. However, the wind caused to fire to swing around the dynamited area, where it then caught the town's main business section on fire. Some reports have claimed that the fire was spread due to the action of blowing up these structures, as pieces of the burning buildings was blown onto the roofs of other buildings. Newspaper accounts wrote that as the fire spread some panic ensued, noting that many women were hysterical and some people had to be forcibly restrained to keep them from rushing into their burning businesses or homes in a vain attempt to rescue their belongings or merchandise. Some citizens threw their belongings into the street only to find that minutes later the intense heat of the spreading fire prevented anyone from retrieving their possessions. The mounds of items thrown into the streets quickly caught fire making matters even worse.

But some belongings and items were saved. The New River Company sent 25 teams and wagons to help rescue what belongings and merchandise could be saved from the buildings and homes in the path of the fire. The cash and records of the Bank of Mt. Hope was saved and moved to the New River Company's vault in its company store in Macdonald. Some witnesses to the fire recalled seeing saloon owners in town rolling their kegs of whisky and beer down Main Street and into Sugar Creek in an attempt to save some of their valuable merchandise. Undoubtedly, that tiny creek must have been filled to capacity, as there were reported to be eight saloons doing business in Mt. Hope at the time of the fire.

By 11:30 in the morning the fire was out, but most of the town had been destroyed. Within a short period of time practically every structure between the (present-day) Christian Church to banks of Sugar Creek had been destroyed. The two largest structures in town, the Fisher Hotel and the Mount Hope High School, were the last structures to be consumed by the fire. A total of forty business places and one hundred and fifty homes had been ravished by the flames of the fire. Only a few houses, a small number of businesses and one church (the present-day Christian Church) were saved. The Sugar Creek company store building located near the present site of the Mt. Hope library building also was saved. The burned-out shell of the three-story stone building (shown in the photo at the top of this page) located in the center of town would later be rebuilt, and within a few years, become home to the First National Bank.

The vintage photo above reveals the devastation of the town's downtown section. The present-day Christian Church, shown in the foreground, was one of the very few structures not completely consumed by the fire.


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