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Historical Association of South Jefferson


Disastrous Fire in Mannsville -
Jefferson County Journal, Thursday 1/16/1872 -
     During the terrible blow of last thursday (1/9) night the inhabitants of Mannsville were startled from their beds about half past eleven o'clock by the cry of fire. the stoutest heart trembled when the source of the alarm was discovered. The large Tannery of Baldwin & Douglas, one of the finest built tannery buildings in this part of the state, was on fire and the gale from the south threatened destruction to the entire business part of the village, carrying cinders and burning brands in every direction. Almost every able bodied man in the village was soon on the spot and from several miles around farmers hurried in to help fight the flames.
   The fire originated in the southern end of the building and but a few minutes sufficed to spread it over the entire structure. With difficulty the books and valuable papers in the office in the north end of the building were saved. A few courageous men ventured into the burning building and secured the most valuable things in the office, not, however, without running serious risk. Two were so nearly suffocated by the smoke and flames that they had to be carried to a neighboring house and resuscitated, one of them bleeding at the lungs for some time. Had those who ventured into the smoke, taken the precaution of tying a wet handkerchief over their face, the smoke would not have troubled them in the least. One man was also badly burned about the face.
   The men formed two double lines on opposite sodes of the burning building and passed up pails of water to the leaders, who stood close up to the burning building and with clothes scorched and faces and hands fairly blistered by the intense heat, and eyes nearly blinded by the smoke, dashed the contents of their pails on the blazing mass. Though the proximity of the creek afforded an inexhaustable supply of water, it was found impossible to keep the flames from the piles of tan bark adjoining the mill.
   And now the rage of the flames was terrific. They leaped high into the air, lighting up the clouds with a glare that could be seen for miles around, the inhabitants of Sandy Creek, five miles distant, siupposing from the light that a building in their own vicinity was burning, and giving the alarm accordingly. The wind carried the burning brands onto the buildings near by. The grist mill, the carriage and blacksmith shops and Mr. Finster's house were repeatedly on fire and as often the flames were extinguished by the men, who, stationed on the roofs, drenched them with water or tore off the burning shingles with their hands. Carpets were wet and hung yo to keep off the heat and every effort made to prevent the further spread of the conflagration.
   The flames aided by the fearful wind seemed almost resistless, while above their roar was heard the shrill whiz of steam as it escaped from the heated broiler in the burning building. the safety valve fortunately gave vent to the steam as fast as it was generated and though the singing of the escaping steam was an unpleasant and uninviting sound, it resulted in no explosion.
    Men fought the fires with the energy of despair. their homes and their village depended on their stopping the flames just where they were. Standing on the burning bark iled they faced the flames and emptied their pails even when the fire was under their feet. Water had to be dashed on them every now and then to keep their clothes from burning. Sometimes the flames would eat under the feet of the men on the bark piles and they would sink into the embers to their knees. Clothes were almost burned off some; others had narrow escapes from terrible deaths. A gust of wind swept a mass of flames against one and hurled him backward between the piles of blazing bark. For a moment he was given up for lost, burt gaining his feet he ran, fortunately in the right direction, escaping as by a miracle, with hair crisped and singed y the furnace heat through which he passed.
    there were numerous similar narrow escapes. Every man was a hero, and for hours fought the flames without relief. The ladies also were not idle, but made coffee and tea and brought it to the men, and aided in various ways in extinguishing the fire. the furniture was torn out of the neighboring houses and carried into the streets, only, in many instances, to be ruined by the burning cinders that fell upon it. Had not the wind fortunately changed the adjoining buildings must have been burned. When the fire broke out the wind was nearly in the south, blowing directly towards the houses of Messrs. finster and Hinman and the business blocks of the village. But the wind gradually veered around to the west, so that when the bark piles, in close proximity to Mr. Finster's house, were sending up their fierce heat the flames and cinders were carried across the road and way from the remaining pile of bark. A pile of green wood was just to the windward of the burning bark, separating it from the remaining piles of bark which, if set on fire, would inevitably ignite several houses and buildings adjoining. Behind this pile of wood a stand was made against the fire. though the blazing pile not ten feet off sent forth a furnace heat, men stood behind that pile of wood dashing water over it, keeping wet carpets on the bark and successfully keeping the flames at bay, though not without severe burns. Had the wind been in the west at first the grist mill would have been burned, and had it remained in the south, where it was at the breaking out of the flames, the business part of the village would probably have been destroyed.
     Morning came, and the fire was still burning so fiercely in the piles of bark that help was sent for, and the morning train south brought the fire company from Adams with their engine and hose. The aid was timely, though the force of the fire was spent, and the steam force pump in finster & Woodard's mill now rendered good service, throwing water through the hose successfully and rapidly. It is to be regretted that the village had not, previous to the fire, purchased a hose to attach to the steam pump, as from that water could be thrown to any part of the village.
     The fire company were provided with dinner at the hotel, and returned to Adams on the three o'clock train, leaving the fire about subdued. At evening the flames broke out anew in the bark piles and the wind being in the south, fears were entertained for the safety of the village. The hose was again sent for and several of the company returned, but not until 8 o'clock Saturday morning were the flames entirely extinguished. the people of Mannsville feel themselves under very great obligations to the adams boys for their noble work. Much sympathy is expressed for Messrs Baldwin and Douglas upon whom the loss falls heavily. The inhabitants of Mannsville and vicinity deserve unbounded praise for their bravery and success in fighting the fire and probably no village in this vicinity could have fought the fire more successfully and resolutely. The loss on the property is estimated at about $20,000., the Insurance was about $10,000.
     As yet it is not known how the building got on fire, but it is the mind of the people that it ws the work of an incendiary. Mr. Douglas the partner of Mr. Baldwin was telegraphed to at New York City and was on the spot as soon as possible. We are glad to know that the building is to be rebuilt immediately. the work is already commenced. A temporary building has been put up for the purpose of tanning the hides that were in the vats.

    Mannsville is an incorporated village in the southeast part of the town of Ellisburg, two miles south of Pierrepont Manor and four miles southeast of Ellisburg. Located on Skinner Creek, Mannsville was orginally called Little Sandy. The present name was adopted in 1825 in honor of H. Barzillian Mann.
    The first settler was David I. Andrus, who came here in 1811 where he built a sawmill on the banks of Skinner Creek. In 1823 Mannsville had a tavern, a school, a sawmill and three homes. In community grew slow until the Railroad came through in 1851. In 1855 Mannsville had five stores, one hotel, two harness shops, four blacksmiths, two carriage shops, two tinsmiths, one tannery, three churches, a school and about 50 homes.

Revolutionary War Veterans buried at
Maplewood Cemetery, Mannsville
John Marsh (1758 - 12/25/1839)
Abizer Phillips, Jr. (3/10/1750 - 3/13/1846)
Ephraim Potter (12/3/1764 - 3/19/1843)
Nicholas Powers (1756 - 3/30/1840)
Brewster Settlement Cemetery
Timothy Brewster (4/12/1759 - 6/28/1849)
Jonathan Fish (9/12/1757 - 6/29/1841)
Jeremiah Mason (2/7/1757 - 4/9/1848)

Businesses of Mannsville 1866-67
(from the Jefferson County Business Directory for 1866-67)
Billard Room - Cyrus Gardner
Blacksmiths - William H. Cook, Levi Johnson, Zara VanWormer
Book Store - David Wheeler
Boot & Shoe Shops - William Baldwin, Jonathan Jackson, David D. Kromer
Brass Band - Mannsville Saxhorn Band, Willbur Williams, leader
Butchers - Theodore D. Jacobs, Gardner Millard
Butter & Produce - Melvin J. Earl, Allen M. Wardwell
Cartman - Thomas R. Wells
Carpenters - Jonathan D. Finster, Francis L. Williams, James Wheeler
Carriagemakers - Lucas & Dumon (George R. Lucas & Benjamin A. Dumon), Willard Vernum
Cheese Factory - Shepard & Grenell (Thomas A. Shepard & Ezra O. Grenell)
Clergymen - Rev. E.G. Blunt (Baptist), Rev. Ward W. Hunt (Meth.), Rev. Charles Jones (Cong.)
Clothing Store - Jonathan W. Merrill
Constable - Luke Wells
Cooper - Edwin A. Kirkland
Dentist - Fayette Maynard
Dressmakers - Cordelia Church, Elizabeth Williams
Druggist - Asher M. Gurley
Express Agent - Allen M. Wardwell
Furniture Dealer - Edwin Lester
General Merchants - Melvin J. Earl, P.P. Martin & (Philip & Leonard Martin), Henry W. Shepard
Gristmill - Howe & Brown (Elias B. Howe & Joseph E. Brown)
Hardware Store - John Hughs Jr.
Harnessmaker - Kincade A. Huson
Hotel - Jefferson Hotel, Eli C. James
Insurance Agents - Fayette Maynard, Reuben R. Tousley
Jewelry & Watches - Henry Taylor, Jonathan E. Wheeler
Justice of the Peace - Augustus L. Baker
Lawyers - Reuben R. Tousley, Andrew A. Wheeler
Livery Stable - Eli C. James
Masons - Henry Eely, Edwin Hull
Millinery - Martha Earl, Elizabeth Williams, Mrs. Henry Woodward
Millwright - Samuel Nichols
Odd Fellows - Mannsville Lodge No. 469
Photographer - A.E. Baron
Physicians - Oliver H. Blandin, Roswell Kinney, Jonathan N. Lyman
Postmaster - Leonard A. Martin
Railroad Agent - Allen M. Wardwell
Sawmills - Jonathan D Finster
Select School - L.B. Woodward
Sewing Machines - Samuel C. Stearns
Surveyor - Augustus L. Baker
Tannery - William Baldwin
Telegraph Operator - Jonathan J. Hinman
Tinsmith - Jonathan Hughs, Jr.
Undertaker - Edwin Lester
Variety Store - Sabin Baker
Copyright 2003 by the Historical Association of South Jefferson. All rights reserved.