The early morning hours of March 31, 1875 found the Village of Ticonderoga in the grip of one of her greatest disasters.
About 3 o’clock in the morning fire was discovered in the store of Payne, Gilligan and Company, and the alarm went out. Though water mains had been laid in the area, water had not yet been connected, and despite “bucket brigades” of both men and women, within a few hours the business district had been reduced to ashes. It was reported that the only foundation left to be seen was that of the “Old Red Store” (present site of Jay’s Service Station.)
From its origin, it quickly spread to the Exchange Building (present site of a municipal parking area). The first floor of this building housed the drug stores of Pond and Cook and H. Fields, the dry goods store of M.L. Royce and F. Crain’s jewelry store, with J.C. Hollemback’s office on the second floor. The remainder of the building was used by the “Grand Army of the Republic” (G.A.R.), Masons, Field’s Hall and as storage space. Chemicals from the two drug stores added to the heat and flames, so it was only with great effort and stamina that even a small amount of their merchandise was removed from this building. The fire jumped quickly to the small building on the east, the residence of T.A. Riley which housed a millinery shop in the front. From there it spread to the Post Office building which also housed the Weed and Fleming drug store and S. Bryan’s boot and shoe shop. Mail bags, the safe and some equipment were safely removed from the Post Office as well as a great deal of the drug store’s merchandise. The next to go was the Frank Porter home and with its destruction the fire was stopped in its path east.
At the same time, the corner building on the west side of the intersection and across from the Exchange Building (present site of the Glens Falls Bank & Trust Co.) owned by Colonel William E. Calkins was being hurriedly emptied. It was occupied by the John McCormick’s clothing store, the Jonas Loeb dry goods store and R. Crammond’s law office. This was just in time, for almost immediately flames were seen coming from its roof. William Andrews, who kept a grocery store in the basement of this building, saved very little of his large stock.
The fire now spread in every direction, sweeping away small buildings to the north on both sides of the street. These included the homes and business of A. Stone, shoemaker; John McCormick, tailor; Drake & Haskell, grocers; John Shinville, harness maker; and John McCaughin, grocer.
Almost immediately the corner of the Central House caught, (present site of the Burleigh House) and the old Red Store which housed the Montreal Telegraph Co., Express Co. and the French, Treadway and Company was discovered to be on fire.
Baker’s tenement house to the south, and the block on the west of the Central House along with Baker’s storage hosue across the street were soon consumed. The fire was halted to the south with the loss of the tenement house which was home to six families, but on the west, the S.W. Clark home was lost. The carnage was halted on the west (Montcalm Street) with the destruction of the Clark home.
South from the old red store (Champlain Ave.) the flour and feed store of H. Nye, the law office of John Fenton, E. Stone’s boot and shoe shop and Nickerson’s photograph gallery were destroyed, while under the Central House, Ed Bailey’s market was lost.
Payne, Gilligan & Co., Groceries; $6,000 – insured $2,000
Pond & Cook, druggists; $4,000 – insured $3,500
A.M. Pond, store; $4,000 – insured $2.000
M.L. Royce; $8,000 – insured
H. Field, drug stock & building; $10,000 – insured $5,500
J.C. Hollemback, $300 – insured
T.A. Riley, Milinery & furnishings; $1,000 – no insurance
Weed & Fleming, druggists; $11,000 – insured $2,500
Fred Weed, store and dwelling; $4,500 – insured $1,600
Drake & Haskell, dry goods – grocery stock & building; $1,500 – insured
George Weed, building; $6,000 – insured $2,500
H. Kimpton, “Old Red Store”; $5,000 – insured
French, Treadway & Co., dry goods & groceries, $10,000 – insured $2,500
Dr. Bailey, household goods; no insurance
H.G. Burleigh, office; insured
Montreal Telegraph Co.; $250 – insured
W.S. Fleming, Central House; $20,000 – insured $10,900
A.P. Wilkie, stock, dry goods; $8,000 – insured
Jonas Loeb, dry goods, clothing; $15.000 – insured $5,000
John McCormick, tailor shop & house; $6,000 – no insurance
R.W. Crammond, law office, library; $500 – no insurance
Wm. Andrews, confectioner; $3,000 – insured $700
Wm E. Calkins, building $5,000 – insured
John Shinville, harness maker; $300 – no insurance
A. Stone, shoe maker; $300 –
John McCaughin, groceries & bulding; $6,500 – no insurance
S. W. Clark, dwelling; $5,000 – no insurance
P.M. Baker, store house & goods, block & tenement; $17,000 – no insurance
Frnak Porter, dwelling; $5,000 – no insurance
William. H. Cook’s letter to his son Joseph Cook – dated March 31st, 1875
“My Dear Son,
About 3 Oclock this Morning the Heart of our village was burned about 28 Houses.
I went down quite early to get a Letter from you. The Sight was Sickning. The Streets were full of people, everything in confusion. The Smoke was just passing away.
The four corners is entirely burned up from Hiram Wilsons house to Pinchons B(lacksmith) Shop al gon. The Brick Store and all up to C. Shattuck’s, the whole of the tavern corner and Mr. Clarks House, the Maconic corner from Ramsays to Clarks Hardware Store all burned.
This loss and the Wilkie failure is very bad for the town….
W. H. Cook “
Early volunteer firefighters drill in front of the “Hose House”
This article was re-printed from Ticonderoga Historical Society’s “Patches and Patterns Extended” (Winter/Spring 1991). The letter is from an original in THS’s Joseph Cook archival collection. It was also published in 1946 by Frederick G. Bascom in his “Letters of Ticonderoga Farmer” as one of the selected letters of correspondence between father and son. Both publications are available in our “Old Post Office Book & Gift Shop.”