The Kinmundy Fires

1903 1940

1903 fire

Complete transcriptions of the newspaper clippings are included, in lieu of captions.

This is a photograph made from the first page of the Kinmundy Express for Dec. 24, 1903.
The fire of 1903 which destroyed the buildings from the alley on Madison street to the bank corner, and west on 3rs street including the opera house.
Photo was taken at Third and Madison Streets.

News article from the Centralia Sentinel, Dec. 3, 1903


An Entire Block Burned and Many Places of Business Destroyed; Loss, $120,000

Centralia, Ill., Dec. 3.- A disastrous fire at Kinmundy, a few miles from this city, supposed to have originated in the Masonic temple, Wednesday, destroyed the entire block and a portion of the block west.
The temple was built about a year ago and was a three-story building, and it, with the Odd Fellows' building, Miss Sanders' millenery store, Gun and Kelley groceries; Whitson's harness shop, Whitmore's grocery store, Egan's grocery store, telephone office, two banks, Middleton's grocery store, Gramley's grocery store and Drs. Camera's, Smith's, and Songer's offices and many smaller establishementsare a total loss, conservatively estimated at $120,000. The Effigham fire department was sent for and went to Kinmundy, but was powerless to do more than check the flames.


News article from the Effingham Republican Dec 4 1903


The Effingham fire department was called to Kinmundy at an early hour Wednesday morning to assist in fighting a big fire that destroyed two blocks of teh business section of that place. The department went down on a special train, taking with them one hose cart and the old deluge engine. The hook and ladder wagon, Babcocks and one hose cart were not taken.
The fire started in a Jew clothing store which is said to have been heavily insured. The entire loss is estimated at $100,000, with possibly $25,000 insurance. It is said that if the Effingham department could have arrived an hour sooner, it oculd have saved many buildings. The Journal office was an entire loss, which will fall heavily on its proprietor.

Letter from the Effingham Republican, Dec. 4 1903


Kinmundy, Ill, Dec. 2, 1903.

Hon. R.P. Lawson, Effingham, Ill.

Dear Sir and Brother - I cannot find words to express our heartfelt thanks to the "Effingham Fire Laddies" for their kindness this morning in alleviating our distress caused by that monster fire. Boys, I can only say, 'God bless you.' We hope we will never be called upon by you under similar circumstances, but if such a cry comes from our sister city we will "tear up the earth" to get there.

Again we thank you.
Sincerely yours in ashes,

W.W. Neil, Mayor

Story from the Vandalia Union December 3 1903:

Big Fire at Kinmundy

Kinmundy was fire swep yesterday afternoon. Four stores, three restaurants, four business houses, one dwelling, and the new block in which the First National Bank, the Masonic and Odd Fellow halls and stores were situated, were all burned to the ground.


“$10,000 Fire In Kinmundy”

Taken from: The Kinmundy Express Thursday May 30, 1940, 56th Year, No. 30

Another one of Kinmundy’s old landmarks passed into history Sunday morning when the old frame building owned by C.B. ROHRBOUGH, H.L. WARREN, the ROHRBOUGH estate and George H. BARGH, was destroyed by fire. This building was occupied by John CURRY Barber Shop, R.J. FULFER Cafe, Dr. G.P. DOUGHERTY office, 2 vacant store rooms, and 3 sleeping apartments occupied by the FULFER family, Mr. Frank WILSON and Mr. Sam BANGS.

Len LEWIN, who was at work at his cheese factory, noticed a blaze as if an oil stove had exploded, in a back window of one of the upstairs apartments. The blaze soon disappeared and he thought no more about it until about a half hour later when he noticed smoke coming from the eaves of the building. Then he turned in the alarm.

It was not long before several were on the scene. But the blaze could not be located. Soon there was an explosion and then the whole building appeared to be in flames. Then help from Salem, Farina and St. Peter was summoned and it was not long before they were on the scene.

The four engines pumped water from the well on the square into which a pipeline was laid only last year, from the Illinois Central water tank. The firemen battled the flames from 8 a.m. until noon before the they were safely under control.

The contents of the CURRY Barber Shop, FULFER’s Cafe, and Dr. DOUGHERTY’s office were mostly saved. Practically nothing was saved from the three sleeping apartments.

During the course of the fire, there were 2 explosions. The first came when the blaze started as we explained before. At that time there were several men on the roof and some just ready to burst in an upstairs window. But this blast sent all hurrying to the ground. Some thought this blast was caused by a gasoline or kerosene can exploding while others are of the opinion it was spontaneous combustion.

The second came when the fire was at its best. Just what this was, no one knows, but at the time there were small fragments of cast iron flying thru the air. Some were of the opinion that an old cannonball had exploded. Mr. ROHRBOUGH had some old Civil War relics stored in his building and there was one of the old cannonballs cast hollow and filled with powder, and the heat exploded it.

Taking everything into consideration, there is no question but what the fire really started in the apartment occupied by Mr. Sam BANGS, supposedly from an oil or gasoline stove. The brick building owned by J.R. TELFORD just across the alley east was damaged considerably. The building north, owned by W.S. PRUETT and occupied by COLE & ROLLINSON was damaged considerably by water. A light rain aided considerably in keeping the flames from spreading.

The fire was estimated at a $10,000 loss.

Our new engine did some mighty fine work but much credit is due the departments from the neighboring town. And we are certainly thankful we had plenty of water for the occasion.

The building occupied by COLE & ROLLINSON was emptied and the stock carried across the street where it will remain until the room has been repaired and redecorated. The E.C. BARGH building was damaged a little and some of the more valuable stock was carried out. Postmaster GRISSOM took the more important mail from the postoffice [sic] and important papers were taken from the MAHAN & MOTCH store.

This building was one of the very first buildings built in the business district. As near as we can trace its history, it was built in the early 60's. And for the past 50 years, it has been considered a fire hazard, but it has seen some mighty fine brick buildings destroyed by fire across the street. Under present conditions, it will not be rebuilt.

Both the Bell Telephone Co. and the Central Illinois Public Service Co. sustained considerable loss to some of their equipment. The heat burned the insulation from a cable for the telephone company, which put several phones out of service. But employees worked diligently into the night to restore service.

The electric company had two poles which were burned considerably and will have to be replaced, as well as considerable wiring. The service drops to the electric fire siren were burned and at present, the siren is without service, Mr. J. E. WHITE local service man for the company, worked hard all day to restore service.

As soon as the fire was out, the N.Y.A. boys were put to work cleaning up the debris from the streets and they all worked hard all afternoon.

Guin VALLOW had presence of mind enough to run home after his camera and during the scene, made forty-four shots. And to him we are indebted for the different scenes appearing in this issue.

Practically everyone in the city witnessed the fire and during the afternoon, it was estimated that a thousand visitors came from other towns nearby to witness the ruins.

In closing, in behalf of the business men and citizens of Kinmundy, we want to thank the fire departments of Farina, St. Peter, and Salem for answering our call. They all did splendid work and cannot be praised too highly.

The building was only partially covered by insurance.”

Pictures with article (Click thumbnails for larger images):

“A view of the ruins after the fire was under control, taken from the top of the Rohrbough building across the street west. The wet wall of the Curry Barber shop still standing, was pushed in for safety.”
“How the building looked after the first explosion and before help arrived. The picture was taken from the Square and shows the two east rooms of the building.”
“The firemen in action. Note the network of hose and the spectators. The fireman on the ladder is Captain McMACKIN, of Salem, viewing the situation over the top of the CURRY Barber shop, or better known as the old Building & Loan office.”
“A view after the fire, taken while there was still danger. This picture was taken from the southeast corner. In the background can be seen the Masonic Temple.”
“St. Peter boys in action. Note the many hose lines and the spectators. In the background can be seen the Rohrbohgh, Masonic Temple, Lowe, Neil, West and Telephone Exchange buildings.”

Newspaper excerpt and photos donated by Elwin Cheatum. Images scanned and article transcribed by Gladys See.

Click thumbnails for larger images and info pages

Images donated by Elwyn Cheatum, Dolores Ford Mobley and Irene Gammon. Scanned by Dolores Ford Mobley and Gladys See.


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