Fire at Plano in October 1890
Published in the Kendall County Record, October 22, 1890
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson
Wednesday night October 15, a fire broke out in J. W. Maher & Company's furniture store, better known as the old Herald building. The fire whistle was blown and a large crowd assembled but the fire was raging and uncontrollable. It was demonstrated immediately that the five frame store buildings would be destroyed. The workers then set out to save the surrounding buildings, which were close by. They were fortunate in many ways. There was no wind to speak of; what little there was came from the right direction to protect the brick block next to the fire. A drizzling rain continued while the fire was raging and helped prevent flying sparks from starting other blazes. Good work was done on every hand. Most of the contents of all the buildings were saved except the furniture store. He hose company, of the Plano Manufacturing Company, was promptly on hand with plenty of good men. A great deal was also accomplished by the bucket brigades but it is doubtful that the fire could be checked where it was without the hose company. The representatives of the manufacturing company and shop boys deserve great praise for their proficiency and hustling ability. Most excellent work was accomplished on the brick block, as well as many other places by the bucket brigade. We noticed even the doctors at work with their pails. The editor and all proprietors of the brick block desire to heartily thank the Plano Manufacturing Company, their representatives, the hose company, shop boys, citizens and all, for the noble work done in saving their buildings. This is the second close call the News building has had in a few months from the fire fiend. We begin to think we located in exceedingly hot quarters when we moved here over a year ago.
The losses are not as heavy as one would imagine from a glance. The heaviest losers are Hon. Lewis Steward and J. W. Maher & Company. Four of the buildings destroyed belonged to Mr. Steward. They were uninsured.
H. Obermeyer owned the building he occupied. It was insured for $750. His family was all rescued without injury, and most of his household and other goods were saved. Will VanKirk saved most of the contents of his barbershop. Henry Hillmer cleaned out his shoe shop before the flames reached his shop. The contents of Charles Best's paint shop were also removed before the building was burned. The building which had recently be purchased by Lewis Steward was not insured.
J. W. Maher & Company is the heaviest losers. Their entire inventory, valued at $2500, was burned with only $500 insurance. The loss places Mr. Maher in very poor financial condition.
The origin of the fire is unknown. It was first discovered in the basement of the old Herald building, by William Teal, the night watchman for the Plano Manufacturing Company, who gave the alarm at once. J. W. Maher said he left his store at nine o'clock, without a spark of fire in the building that he was aware of.
The total loss can be place at $5000. No one was injured, and everybody tended to his or her knitting. Some attended to H. Obermeyer's, as some of his dry goods and wet goods mysteriously disappeared after they were rescued from the wicked flames.