Transcribed from the Centennial Edition of The Palatka Daily News and The Times Herald published in May, 1953.

Corrections made by Robert Tindall on June 22, 2004, by comparing transcript on file at the Putnam County Archives with a photocopy of the original Palatka Weekly News in possession of Larry Beaton (Mrs. R. C. Andrew's copy). Note that Beaton's copy is missing three sections of the full article.

Taken from the Palatka Weekly News, Saturday November 15, 1884, Benjamin J. Harrison, editor (Paper loaned by Mrs. R. C. Andrews).



At 10 p.m. of the 7th instant, the alarm of fire was given, and from the First National Bank building the writer saw a bright blaze rising from the old office of the Putnam County Journal, now used by Devereux, Rogero & Son as a store room for spirits and oils. The engines were soon at work, but fed by such inflammable materials, the fire was soon entirely beyond control and the flames were communicated to the large store of Deverux, Rogero & Son, and soon into the adjoining building. Thence, defying all efforts of the firemen, the Hotel Palatka became involved in the wide ruin--the flames caught Griffin’s brick block across Water street, and driven by a fierce wind swept also across Lemon street to Graham’s Hotel and the adjoining stores, up Lemon to Front street and down Front to Reid raged the flames. Down Water street involving the stores of Vertrees & Co., Haughton Bros., Kennerly & Co., John T. Dunn, E. T. Lane, Col. Hart’s spacious offices and the building formerly occupied by the Eastern Herald. From Reid street to Lemon across Lemon involving the whole block of buildings as far as the river including the Larkin House and the new brick Presbyterian Church swept the fierce flames. Across Front street leaped the flames, and the Putnam House with the addition not yet finished, with all the fine furniture prepared by Mr. Orvis for his guests, was consumed. Across Lemon street the new brick block of Mr. Fry was saved, but the wooden buildings adjacent were burned. Mr. Petermann, by strenuous exertions, saved his block, and the residence of Mr. William K. Lente, with its tin roof, resisted the shower of sparks. The wide grounds of the Putnam House enabled citizens to save Falk’s block across First street, and the splendid trees on Colonel Hart’s grounds offered an effectual barrier to the march of flames across Reid street. On Water street the engines of the Chattahoochee fought the flames gallantly and saved Cunneely’s block and the meat market. With the Wistaria, Marion and other large steamers at the wharf playing steady streams on the fire the range of buildings north of Cunneely’s were saved, so that the burnt district may be defined as the Putnam House block between First street and Front and the business blocks between Reid Street on the north of the J. T. & K. W. depot and down to the river.

Fifty large business houses are burned, four hotels, the residence of Joseph Price, Esq., the building of the First National Bank and that almost finished the Second National Bank of Palatka, and many offices, etc. The skeleton so long kept in the Moragne Pharmacy, created a sensation for the last time by arousing fears that some one had been caught. Mr. Lansing’s horse was burned in the stable. But no person was injured so far as we have learned.

It will be no exaggeration if we stated the loss at a million dollars. To Palatka the blow is especially severe at this season, but we have no doubt that from the ashes of the misfortune will arise a fairer town and a new prosperous business. Around the stricken city will gather her children with renewed devotion, and in the future the past will be remembered only as an era from which to date fairer prospects and new enterprise.

The Weary Waste of Ruins Left by Friday Night’s Conflagration.

Yesterday was a dreary day in Palatka. The people gathered in little knots about the burnt district and with solemn faces discussed the situation and probable future of the city. Not one expressed a doubt that the Gem City of the St. John’s would rise, Phoenix-like, from the waste of ashes that she now lies in and rear her head higher and prouder than ever. As a stranger on the Street remarked just after the fire yesterday morning: “Palatka is a live town and she will turn this misfortune into a blessing. In four months from today she will be a far more pretty and solid built town than she was before the fire. The little town is full of pluck and backbone, and no sort of misfortune will keep her down.” And the gentleman gave expression of the truth. While the loss is severe, coming just when our business men had laid in new and larger stocks of goods than ever before in anticipation of the growing trade of the city, our business men are alive, go-a-head set, not easily disheartened, but possession faith in the future of this community, and that energy they have displayed in the past is an earnest of the fact that but a short time will elapse before they will again be on their feet and conducting a prosperous business in their various branches. While individual losses in some instances have been very heavy, we believe there are none who have lost their all, and probably every man burned out will soon open business again.

The flames made such rapid headway that but comparatively few goods were saved from the store-rooms, though in a few instances the entire stock was removed to places of safety.

Amid the confusion attendant upon so a great a calamity, it is impossible to make up anything like a correct list of the losses or insurance, but as a general thing, owing to the high rates charged by the companies, but light policies were carried. We understand the insurance adjusters will arrange matters immediately and all losses will be promptly paid.

Harder work was never done by citizens of any town on such an occasion than that done by our own on Friday night, and considering the fact that there was no organization whatever, and every man had to go pretty much on his own hook, the work was well done, while the gallant firemen, with Chief Mann at the head, and Engineer George Zehnbaur at the engine, were untiring in their efforts to save property and check the march of the consuming flames.

There is considerable demand for store rooms, and temporary buildings will be erected in which to transact business. Several such buildings will probably be erected this week.

Colonel Hart, with characteristic energy, signed a contract before the fire had hardly abated for the construction of new wharves.

That Mr. B. L. Lilienthal’s furniture store was not burned is almost a miracle, and it was the only building left standing on the block. As it was it looked several times as if it would surely go.

All the mail matter and books were saved from the postoffice building, and Mr. Snow has established temporary quarters in Warren’s printing office on Reid street, which will be used as a postoffice until better quarters can be obtained.

The fire proof safes had a good test applied to them, and the condition of their contents is awaited with considerable anxiety.

Griffin's brick block, on Water street, was consumed and leveled to the ground about as quick as we ever knew a brick building to burn.

Captain Ben Deal and Mr. McLarty, while attempting to reach the safe of Devereux, Rogero & Son had a very narrow escape from serious injury from a kerosene barrel exploding. Each of them were considerably shaken up and thrown some distances over bales of goods.

Unless some provision can be made for the entertainment of winter tourists in private families the large crowds will be missed from our streets this winter. The destruction of Putnam House, Larkin House, Graham Hotel and Hotel Palatka, will give the Westmoreland and the Carleton an opportunity to show their full capacity for entertainment this winter.


Her fiery trial.
The Gem City Still Alive.
The Resurrection Already Begun.
Future Prospects.

When wild beasts were at home in all Florida save streets in St. Augustine and Pensacola, the wandering Indian crossed the St. Johns (then Welaka) at a point where a long peninsula ran into the broad river, and under the shadows of mighty oaks, festooned with Spanish moss, drove his herds of cows and ponies across for change of pasture for purpose of trade. Hence the Indian name for the point which signifies “cowford.” During the Seminole War, government buildings were erected on the bluff near the river, and General Twiggs made his camp on the heights overlooking a wide expanse of forest and river. His tent stood within the grounds of “The Folly”, now owned by Mr. Hargrove.

Then Palatka was a country village for years, ‘til the advantages of her situation attracted such men as Messrs. Orvis and Larkin, and the village became a city. But the narrow peninsula around which sweeps the broad St. Johns was filled with wooden buildings, and even her spacious hotels, with their long galleries, furniture, paint, gilding. and resinous materials, were kindling boxes for the use of the fire king. The immense stocks of goods carried by her prominent merchants, so long her glory, ensured destruction when the inevitable hour struck. Realizing these facts, the insurance rates were high, and property owners trembled in anticipation of the dreadful day which had at last downed upon us.

The Palatka of 1884, with her splendid riverfront, her two fine railroads, and the scores of palace steamers paying tribute at her throne, realized the. aphorism “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Overlooking the river and fronting on Front street stood the Larkin House; at the corner of Lemon and Front Streets, the Putnam House, occupied a whole block, and a little army of servants were at work preparing the great hotel for her winter guests. From Front street down Lemon, to the river the space was filled with great stores full of goods. From Front to Reid stood Moragne’s pharmacy, the post office, the new building, three stories high, to be occupied by the Second National Bank, the First National Bank, the residence of Mr. Joseph Price and the Putnam Pharmacy. On the corner of Water and Lemon streets stood the great stores of Devereux, Rogero & Son; opposite was Griffin’s new brick block, full of stores, including those of Vertrees & Co., Haughton Brothers and Kennerly & Co. Those down Water street next to the river were the warehouses of Griffin and Adams, Dunn’s store, with a large stock, the immense hardware establishment of E. T. Lane, and the fine offices occupied by Colonel Hart and others.

About 10 p.m. of November 7th a blaze was seen bursting through the roof of the small store room used for oils and spirits by Devereux, Rogero & Son. The firemen, both Mechanics and Hooks and Ladders were on hand, but, for some reason not yet ascertained, the engine sent no water through the hose. Meantime the flames burst in volumes through the roof, and the firemen broke open the building only to find themselves in danger from the exploding liquids. Then the engine began to act, but too late. Bravely the nozzle-men poured a full stream at short range. But a fierce wind drove the high flames across the intervening space, and the main building occupied by Devereux, Rogero & Son caught. Then the blaze leaped across Lemon street, and attacked Graham’s hotel, while explosion after explosion followed from the stores. Across Water street, Griffin’s block caught, and the conflagration marched towards Cunneely’s building, which was only saved by the engines and crew of the Chattahoochee, led by Capt. Fitzgerald. Meantime Lemon street was ablaze on both sides, and, the flames wheeling around Moragne’s corner, charged across Front street and attacked the Putnam. Then, on both sides of Front street, sweeping out of existence everything that could be burned to Reid street. Across Reid street the flames could not go, being stopped by Colonel Hart’s grounds on one side and by the gap left by the demolition of the Smith Building at corner of Reid and Front.

At the corner of Lemon and Front, Fry’s brick block offered a point of resistance, and the defense of Murray’s store saved a block south of Lemon and west of Front. But between Lemon and Front to the river a clean sweep was made, and from Ackerman’s corner only ashes are left of the whole block, which includes the Larkin House and the new brick Presbyterian Church, and extends in a triangular form between Lemon and Front streets and the river and the office of the J. T. & K. W. Railroad office.

Below will be given the losses and the insurance:

Name Loss Insurance
E. D. Earle $14,000 $ 7,000
Graham Hotel 7,000 1,500
Adams warehouse 1,000
H. L. Hart 20,000 7,000
A. Usina 4,500 500
M. Loeb 25,000 10,000
I. Jacobson 22,000 12,000
L. Falk 20,000 5,000
Devereux, Rogero & Son 40,000 18,000
Ackerman & J. 3,000 1,500
H. R. Estes 1,600 700
W. H. Rosenberg 1,000
Presbyterian Church 5,000 5,000
Vertrees & Co. 1,500 1,000
W. J. Zunwalt 4,000 1,500
M. H. Dalton 2,500 1,300
E. T. Lane 23,000 13,000
H. L. Green & Co. 8,000 3,000
L. Richmond 200
Sand’s Taxidermy 2,000
First National Bank 4,000 2,000
Moragne Pharmacy 3,000 2,000
Putnam House 100,000 50,000
Larkin House 90,000
Haughton Bros. 5,500 3,000
F. C. Cochrane 6,000 3,000

Besides these, J. H. Fry, Kennerly & Company, Putnam Pharmacy, Martin Griffin, W. 0. Woltz, A. W. Mann, T. F. Kingdon, Calvin Gillis and others are losers more or less heavy; but from these no exact figures can be ascertained.

Where the Business Men Are, and Other Notes:

The contents of the bank vault were discovered to be in good condition when it was opened yesterday morning, the papers and binding on the ledgers being only a little scorched. That institution moved into the parlor of Capt. Adams’ residence, near the J. T. & K. W. Railroad, and opened business about 12 o’clock yesterday.

Judge William Thompson has an office in room 3, over Lilienthal’s store where those having business with him can find him.

J. T. Dunn has already begun the erection of a temporary building on Water street where he will open his store in a few days.

Mr. H. J. Campbell has opened his office over Warren’s printing office.

Messrs. W. B. Cross and Chas. E. Smith have their meat markets in full blast next door to L. Meyer’s paint store on Water street.

Gus Mann has established a meat market on Lemon street, below Fry’s block, until he can erect a building on his lot.

Vertrees & Co., have established quarters at their warehouse at the Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West railroad, where they have a full stock of hay, grain, etc., received the day before the fire, and which they failed to move in their store room on last Friday.

Ackerman & Jackson and A. Usina will erect temporary stores on Water street, and will be ready for business in a few days.

Ackerman & Jackson can now be found with a small stock of drugs, etc., in the Opera House building, in front of the courthouse. They are prepared to fill all prescriptions sent them.

Devereux, Rogero & Son will open their dry goods store in the room occupied by Miss V. P. Devereux’s millinery store, and their grocery store in the building just north of THE NEWS office.

A person could stand at Fry’ s corner yesterday and count twenty-five safes lying in the ashes. All in all, they stood the fire pretty well, and the contents of the most of them were only slightly injured, and the contents of none of them were completely destroyed.

Webb & Nichols have opened their office in one of the rooms of Dr. Crill’s residence on Front Street and are ready for business.

I. Jacobson will open business again just as soon as he can get a shanty erected.

Drs. Estes have secured a new set of dental instruments, and will open an office immediately.

Haughton & Bro. will open their grocery store in the room at Cunneely’s corner, former used as a barber shop.

Dr. Rosenberg will open his dental office in a room over Lilinthall’s (sic) store, the same formerly occupied by him.

Col. H. L. Hart has tied up the steamer Osceola, and he and Mr. W. C. Hargrove have established their quarters on board, and are ready for the transaction of their usual business.

Mr. Chas. D’Autrey will open his store again as soon as he can obtain a suitable room.

G. W. Lansing & Co. will be in full blast again as soon as a building can be erected.

Kennerly & Co. will erect a temporary building, and be at work again in a short while.

Mangold, the photographer, lost everything he had in his gallery, and he had no insurance. He is busy taking views of the ruins, and will soon have them ready for sale.

Richmond, the shoemaker, has opened his shop next to Murray’s on Lemon street.

Messrs. Kennerly and Dalton have engines and machinery already on the way to Palatka, and will be ready to furnish wood in any quantities in a few days.

The Moragne Pharmacy has moved into one side of McLaury Co. ‘s store and are ready for business.

Woltz & Young will reopen the Gem Pharmacy as soon as a shanty can be erected for them.

Mr. W. O. Woltz lost all of his household furniture, which was stored in the old Journal building, amounting to about $600, on which he had no insurance.

The insurance policy on the furniture in the Hotel Palatka expired at 12 o’clock last Saturday, and it was a lucky thing for the owners that the fire did not occur one night later.

The chimneys of the Putnam House were undermined and leveled to the ground yesterday afternoon. They were lonely sentinels over the ruins of that popular resort, but their leveling has removed a source of danger to those who have to pass by there.

E. T. Earle has secured the store room at the corner of Lemon and Third streets, where he has the large stock of dry goods.

Chas. E. Smith, had just finished his fine refrigerator and put in a complete new set of butcher’s tools, all of which will have to be replaced.

Capt. Ed Lucas filled a small boat with valuables out of his boat house and anchored it a short distance out in the river, when a spark fell on the goods, setting them on fire and destroying the boat and contents.

E. T. Lane will open up in a shanty as soon as it can be erected.

F. C. Cochrane has opened out in Dr. Priddy's drug store with his news and stationery stand.

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