Thirty Thousand Dollar Fire in Plano in May 1891
Henning & Ross' Entire Implement & Warehouse Plant Reduced to Ashes
Plano Has Six Fires in Six Months and no Protection
Published in the Kendall County News, May 14, 1891
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson
The most disastrous fire that has occurred in Plano in eleven years visited our city, Saturday night. The fire demon swept the entire implement, hardware and warehouse plant of Henning & Ross to the ground. Most of the contents were lost as well as their large skating rink, which had been converted into an opera house.
Thus, the largest business concern in our city, aside from the Plano Manufacturing Company, has been destroyed, and why? Because of the lack of water works for fire protection. Will our citizens submit to this longer?
At 12:20 a.m. a passing engine and the fire whistle gave the alarm. Upon investigation it was found that the west end of the rink was ablaze. Some thought the fire was ignited by sparks from a locomotive, although this is only a theory. Everything was as dry as tinder. A high southwest wind was raging, the rink burned fiercely, and the fire spread rapidly. The sparks flew terrifically all over the northeast portion of the city. The Manufacturing Company's hose would not reach the flames. There was no other fire protection. Water was scarce and buckets could not be obtained, therefore the citizens could see thousands of dollars worth of property go up in flames, because there was no means of protection. Had water works been available, the fire could have been checked at the rink, instead of letting it consume six buildings. It was by very hard work, on the part of some, that the fire was checked at the point it was, as the flames nearly reached the residences just across the street from Henning & Ross. It was with great effort that George Amerman's livery stable was saved. Had this building gone, the larger portion of the northern part of the city would have burned, with the high wind that raged. As it was, twelve other buildings caught fire, but by close observation were extinguished before gaining headway.
T. Anderson and Nels Nelson's residences, just north of the rink, were burned, with part of the contents. Consequently these families were rendered homeless, but were kindly taken in by friends and will be assisted in their loss. Both places were insured.
E. L. Henning's new brick block occupied by Charles Tuller's music store, the post office, and E. L. Henning's bank, sustained about $200 damage. The contents were nearly all removed, thus discommoding the occupants very much. The brick block had no insurance; therefore E. L. will be on his own to make the repairs. Unfortunately, Mr. Henning was making an eastern business trip at the time of the fire.
The C. B. & Q's water tank, south of Henning & Ross' was burned to such an extent that it would have to be replaced by a new one.
The fire was a very unfortunate occurrence for Mrs. Ellsworth, as the close proximity of the blaze gave every indication that her house would have to burn. Therefore everything was taken out in short notice and greatly damaged. Her insurance had just run out.
Henning & Ross are the heavy losers. They had a very large stock of goods, such as farm implements, carriages, hardware, carloads of twine, lime, salt, and numerous other articles. The carriages, some of the hardware and a few implements were saved. All of the rest, with their extensive buildings are gone. It was a very heavy loss, as it comes at the time of year when their trade is the heaviest. The total insurance on the rink, other building and contents is only $5,000. Their actual loss, aside from the insurance, will be from $10,000 to $15,000. This is tough, to say the least. They have been faithful workers in business for thirteen years. They have treated the trade well and done the best they could for the city. We sympathize with them deeply and if we owe them a dollar we are going to pay them at once. This is what everyone should do. It is a good way to express your sympathies, and they are deserving of them. We all want them to rebuild and continue business. Let us all do something to encourage them.
We wish to say a few words about workers at the fire. We have some good ones at Plano, and they are deserving of the highest praise. We especially have six men in mind, who are regular hustlers and sound thinkers at all fires. One, a successful professional man and the others are successful businessmen. They have our thanks and appreciation, and we wish there were thousands like them. At the time of fire it is everybody's duty, if they are able, to assist to the best of their ability whether the property belongs to friend or foe. A good act is seldom turned away. The great trouble at our fires is the scarcity of pails. Saturday night, many were crying for pails and there were none to be had. There is a remedy for this. The City Council should buy 100 pails, place them in the City Hall, and instruct the city Marshall to see that these pails are handed out at the very moment a fire starts. Another convenience is for every man or boy to bring a pail with them from home whenever they go to a fire. One of our businessmen never goes to a fire without taking a pail along, and then he has one.
Plano is the only city that we know of, in the state, that is without water works and fire protection. The city is in good circumstances, financially. It has been favored with prosperity and there is no cause for this critical state of affairs. There have been six fires in this city during the past six months, destroying enough property to pay for the water works. We know of many good citizens who would rather have been taxed double the amount and have fire protection than be without protection. Will our City Council and other officials take this matter up, and protect us from the fire fiend? If not, our city will soon be in ashes. None of the buildings that have been destroyed during the past six months have been replaced. The total loss of our last fire is $30,000.
Thursday afternoon Henning & Ross' safe was opened. They were pleased to find that all their books, notes, and everything contained inside the safe were safe and in good condition.
Ross says he hopes there will be "money enough for two" left from the fire. The loss of the rink makes the indoor baseball boys feel bad.
Henning & Ross desire all those indebted to them to call and settle as they need the money. It is rumored that Henning & Ross will not rebuild. If that is true it will be a bad thing for Plano. Henning & Ross' stock of buggies, cultivators, mowers, rope, whips, tools, lime, cement, salt, coal, lumber, etc. was saved and they are still next door to the post office.
E. L. Henning was on the Fort Wayne road between Pittsburg and Chicago at the time of the fire and was unaware of it until eight o'clock Sunday morning. He did not reach home until 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Avery N. Beebe and John R. Marshall were in our city, Monday, viewing the ruins and calling on old friends. The Road Master of the C. B. & Q. was in our city, Monday, looking over the ruins. There were many from Sandwich, Somonauk and other points sympathizing with us in our loss.