February 13, 1852


Fire engine


Feb 13th  Friday  Have been to work on Olivers shirt

that I was intending to finish last week and have not

got it done yet  have scarcely got over my

Boston jaunt.  Carried my sewing into the other

half of the house awhile  Brother Oliver returned

from Boston to night & says the large machine

shop just back of Mr Orrs was burned last night

Mrs Witherell here about two hours this evening

A serious fire happened in Boston, as Oliver Ames Jr. reported when he got home. The family probably read about it in the city newspapers, including The Boston Atlas:

“FIRE. – Firemen Injured. – About 10 o’clock last night a fire was discovered in the upper part of a five story brick building, in the rear of No. 24 Kingston street. The fire broke out upon the upper floor, used for chair painting. The flames spread rapidly, and in a few minutes the roof fell in, pressing portions of the walls over the sides, the falling bricks injuring five firemen who were upon ladders directing the streams upon the fire, two of them very badly indeed. The third story was improved by the “Boston Laundry,” and was burnt out. The second story, occupied as Fox’s machine shop, and the first by Horace Jenkins, mason, were thoroughly drenched with water. The building, a sham built concern, is owned by Willard Sears. The wind was quite high and the weather freezing cold at the time, and the firemen deserve great credit for their well directed and energetic efforts in subduing the devouring elements, – and it is with pain and regret that we have to record injury to so many of their number: – John Smith, of Hydrant No. 2, very severely in the back and shoulders; Christian Karcher, Engine C. No. 1, badly bruised; Abraham Ross and James McCullis, of Hydrant Co. No. 3, bruised. Charles Ricker, of same company, received a severe injury in the back. It was reported that Smith’s and Ricker’s injuries are of a very serious nature. They were all carried into houses nearby, and medical aid procured.”

Then as now, fire was deadly serious.  John Smith died of his injuries three days later, Boston’s first modern fireman to suffer a Line of Duty Death.**

*The Boston Atlas, February 12, 1852

**http://www.bostonfirehistory.org, accessed Feb. 11, 2015

3 thoughts on “February 13, 1852

    • Dwight, I imagine that the building was poorly built. It’s interesting to note that there was a reputable architect in Boston named Willard T. Sears (he designed Fenway Court for Isabella Stewart Gardner) but in 1852 he was a teenager, so I doubt that he was connected with this building in any particular way. The owner must have been a different Willard Sears. Because the report says the fire started on the top floor, where chairs were painted, I’d blame the chemicals like turpentine that would have been on hand for contributing to, if not starting, the blaze.

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