The Kinmundy Fires
Complete transcriptions of the newspaper clippings are included, in lieu
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
BAD FIRE AT KINMUNDY
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
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
FIRE AT KINMUNDY
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
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.
Fire In Kinmundy”
from: The Kinmundy Express Thursday May 30, 1940, 56th Year, No.
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
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
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
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
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
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
||“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
Newspaper excerpt and photos donated by Elwin Cheatum. Images scanned
and article transcribed by Gladys See.
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.