A $20,000 Fire


Last Saturday morning at 4 o’clock the large rectifying house of Elias Block & Sons, which stood on the river bank in Prestonville was burned.  The building was a four-story brick 30x50 feet and was worth $5,000.  The principal loss, however, was on its contents.  The house contained a large copper spirit still, a large copper ordinary still, a great quantity of copper pipe, eighteen immense tubs or vats and some machinery, all of which together with about 20,000 gallons of whiskey in the stills and tubs, &c., worth all about $15,000, were lost entirely, making a total loss of $20,000.  It seems almost like a miracle that the ware house, the large distillery, and in fact everything were not destroyed.  Just north of the rectifying house stood a large story and a half frame crib which was burned; and only 20 feet further, in the same direction, is the warehouse filled with thousands of barrels of whiskey.  Had it burned, the burning whiskey would have converted the river into a sheet of flame and probably destroyed the several boats lying in the river.  On the south side, about fifty feet distant, is the main distillery, which was in great danger.  A hose was quickly attached to the pump, in this establishment and valuable service was done with it – but there were only 25 feet of hose on the premises!  The next risk were the cattle pens and 740 head of cattle.  The buildings and machinery of the Messrs. Block cost from $100,000 to $150,000.

 It was a damp foggy morning and this, no doubt, had much to do with the saving of the other building.  Fortunately, too, there was scarcely a breeze afloat at the time.  But the real saving power lay in the daring heroism of citizens and the Carrollton Fire Co.  All lent a helping hand, and the efficiency of the chemical engines was again fully demonstrated.  They played constantly on the buildings.  Woodwork on the warehouse as badly charred, but wherever the fluid touched the fire, it extinguished it.

 The fire started at the copper still which was in a small frame structure at the eastern end, and outside, of the brick building.   A fire had been started at half past three o’clock.  By some means the whiskey in the still caught, whether from an actual leak or some other way, no one knows.  It was only a few moments until the building was afire from bottom to top, and in an hour everything combustible had been converted into ashes, and the walls had crumbled to the earth.  Many in Carrollton had never heard of the fire until after it was over.  Mr. Frank Bates, the Superintendent, who lives in the back part of town, who was on the scene long before the alarm bells rang.  Joe Wetherell, the night watchman, discovered the fire in its incipiency, but whiskey is only a little slower to burn than powder.

 The insurance on the establishment amounts to $12,000, about half of which is in the Commercial Union, Liverpool & London & Globe and Lancashire, represented here by Fisher’s Insurance Agency.  The adjusters were here Wednesday.

 We are glad to state that Messrs. Block and Son will rebuild at once, perhaps on a larger scale and with better equipment than before.


From the Carrollton Democrat, May 30, 1885.