Destructive Fire in Oswego February 9th 1867
Published in the Kendall County Record, February 14, 1867
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson
It is not often that we are called upon to record the fact of an extensive conflagration in our county. But now it is our duty to perform, and no doubt the people of Kendall County will feel grieved at the great loss which has befallen one of their villages.
On Saturday night last, February 9th, at 10:30 p.m., fire was discovered in Hawley's grocery store, in Oswego, on the south side of Main Street. When the door of the store was first broken open, the smoke and heat in the room was so dense that it was impossible to enter and discover the cause of the fire. The supposed cause was that a very hot fire had been kept in the stove all day. The pipe of which ran very close to the wooden ceiling. On leaving the store the stove had been filled up full with coal, making the pipe hot enough to ignite the pine boards, and thence fired the building. This building was the third building from the corner west.
A watch and clock repairer occupied the first building on the southeast corner. Small one story house, loss about $500.
The next was Lockwood's harness shop with Smith & Hawley's law office upstairs. Lockwood's loss was about $1,500.
J. D. Kennedy, Esq. owned the building where the fire started. It was valued at $1,000, and was uninsured. Hawley's stock of groceries was not insured. L. Fowler, Justice of the Peace, occupied the upstairs.
Young & Snooks occupied the next building as a meat market. Mrs. Gates, a widow lady, occupied the upstairs. She lost all her furniture and clothing, and narrowly escaped in her nightdress. Her loss is indeed a heavy one. Mr. L. B. Judson owned the building which was worth about $600, it was not insured.
Mr. M. S. Richards' hardware store and tin shop was in the next building. Stock and tools nearly all lost. He owned the building, which was insured for $600 and $400 insurance on the stock. Mr. Richards' loss is serious, as he was doing a large business and a store of that kind is indispensable in a village.
The next building was owned by L. N. Hall, the druggist, and was occupied downstairs by himself and Mr. F. Sierp, a boot dealer. Upstairs was the Odd Fellows Hall. The building was insured in the Aurora Company for $1,000. Mr. Sierp was insured for $600 on his stock, but it will not begin to cover the loss, as he is thrown out of a flourishing business. The Odd Fellows saved their regalia and most of their furniture. Mr. Hall, the druggist, had his stock insured for $1,500 in the Peoria Company. He estimates his loss at $1,500 above insurance. A great deal of his stock was taken out of the store but from its nature, so much glass jars, it was greatly damaged. He has now the store opposite, formerly occupied by Mr. Whitman, where he is fixing up for business again.
Mr. David Hall had about $500 worth of goods stored in this building, which were all lost. There was no insurance.
Next was the National Hotel, owned and managed by Moses F. Richards, Esq. The burning of this was a serious loss to Oswego, as a hotel is necessary, and this was a good one. The building was worth $2,000. The furniture was mostly saved. Buildings and contents insured in the Aurora Company for $3,500.
It was by great effort that the barns belonging to the hotel were saved. One had taken fire, but by hard work the fire was extinguished by the citizens. Snow was the extinguisher principally used. Had those barns got into a blaze the flames would have crossed the street and burned several dwellings. The dwellings on the north side of Main Street were in danger several times from the great heat created by the burning block.
The once busy street now presents a sorry sight. Ragged brick walls charred and blackened ruins, battered stoves, cans, etc., are all that remains to mark the place where Oswego's business block and hotel stood.
This great accident is of course discouraging to the villagers at the present time. However, they will take courage and place handsome, substantial stores where the old and tried buildings once stood.
From what we could learn of the parties burned out, the total loss is estimated at $12,000. Insured for $7,500, of which the Aurora Company has $6,500. While estimating this loss it must be borne in mind that to build new buildings with the capacity of those burned, will cost much more.
The town and corporation records were also burned.