Edwards In Ashes
A Sad Ending of the Fourth of July Celebration of 1894 in
a Beautiful Village - The Loss Severe - Insurance $35,000.
|The fire fiend came near writing "Finis"
to Edwards village Wednesday afternoon. As it was the
very heart of the little village was eaten out, and
where was the center of beauty and prosperity, a large
black scar remains. Although the blow is a severe one
for Edwards to bear, it is believed that its citizens
are equal to the emergency and that in a very short
time the village will be rebuilt. As a matter of fact
the work has already begun.
Shows the scene along Main St with corner of Maple Ave.
and Dr. Goodnough's house (Robert Archer's now) seen
at far right.
|A big celebration had been planned and extensive
advertising had been done. The streets were gay with
flags and bunting, rows of trees were set along the
street and everything was in order for a grand gala
day. Shortly after three o'clock in the morning strains
of lively music burst on the scene, firecrackers cracked
and cannon boomed over hill and dale. The band discoursed
its liveliest music until everyone was roused. Before
five o'clock the crowd began pouring into town from
all directions and by nine o'clock the streets were
lined with people throughout their whole length.
At 9:30 A.M. the band, with some others, met the
train and escorted the speaker and other guests to
the Union Church where the parade formed. In the
parade were forty-five young ladies, each wearing a
crown and a sash bearing the names of a state,
representing the union.
|The speakers, floats, citizens in carriages
and on bicycles paraded the principal streets after
which they went immediately to the new Town Hall on
Maple Ave. where a program was presented; to be the
last in the beautiful little opera house. The line of
march then proceeded to the church where they disbanded
Little did they know how soon their
merrymaking would be changed to sorrow. It takes but
a few minutes to raze the work of years and that was
R. Palmer of Russell had rented Eli Clark's store
for the week to sell refreshments, snacks, etc. for
the celebration. Shortly after twelve o'clock W. J.
McFerran, from his store across the street, discovered
a blaze from Clark's store chimney and notified Palmer.
The blaze seemed to die down, but not before it was
too late. A spark had done the fearful deed.
Maple Ave. with a group of people at the corner of Main
and Maple. In the background can be seen what were the
Davis Block (now Frosty's Wings & Things), Grant's
Furniture Store (later the Grange Hall), Raymond's store,
and the Union Church. These last three buildings have
The only method of fighting the fire was by bucket
brigades, which were quickly formed. The wind blew a
veritable gale however, and these feeble efforts to
check the flames were unavailing. Some wiser ones saw
that unless the fire was at once checked, the entire
village was liable to be swept away and telephoned to
Gouverneur for a steamer and assistance. These calls
were repeated from time to time for fully half an hour,
but there was no one in that telephone office at the
time, the day being a holiday, so the cry for aid went
unheard and unheeded and Edwards was left to perish.
Had the message been delivered, the steamer and hose
trucks could have been hustled onto a flat car and the
run made in a short time, probably resulting in a saving
of over half the burnt property.
Since the wind was blowing strongly, and as the Stammer
block was high, old and dry, a spark striking the roof
caused a mighty flame. In less than five minutes the
whole roof was in flames and the adjoining five wood
buildings were on fire. The flames spared the remaining
buildings on that side of Main Street from Dr. Goodnough's
house and beyond, probably because of the open area
caused by the empty lot where Dr. Murray's office building
had burned the year previous.
Almost simultaneously the flames were blown across
the street by the wind, igniting the McFerran block
and the Rushton House Hotel. From these the fire rushed
with fury across Maple Ave. and licked up the pretty
town hall, the pride of the town. It burned along Maple
stopping just before Cyrus Watson's house at the corner
of Prospect Street. At the same time the fire leaped
to the east side of Main Street burning all the business
blocks. The second stories of all these wooden buildings
were mostly occupied by the owners of the businesses.
The last house on Main Street to burn was Dr. Taylor's,
with office and barns. He had closed the door, and locked
it as he left, saying, " If it burns, it burns,
and if it doesn't, I don't want anyone disturbing anything".
Overview of area between Maple Ave. and what was then,
Factory St. (now Court St.). Shows Alvin Gardner's house,
which was spared. The fire burned Dr. Taylor's just
before Gardner's, then changed directions going to Factory
St. burning the buildings on one side of the street.
In the background can be seen one of the oldest houses
in the village, occupied at that time by Mrs. Grieve
and someone else. At that time it was a double house.
Now it is painted blue and occupied by only one family.
In the foreground is Maple Ave. showing the cellars
of the destroyed houses. Looking across the central
area to Factory St. can be seen the Grieve house, then
the square house where John Stoffel now lives and the
house where Greg Brown lives. At far right is the cheese
factory. These pictures can be seen as a panoramic view,
mounted on a cardboard backing, in the Edwards History
|In the meantime, the wind had changed slightly,
sparing the Gardner house on the corner of Main and
Factory Streets, but raising havoc with Henry Webb's
residence on Factory Street, and his four rental
houses on the same street were forced to succumb.
While fire raged in these buildings, the old
Woodcock building beyond the Clark building on Main
Street burned. There the fire spent its fury and
subsided, leaving over four acres of ruins, over
forty buildings in ashes, and twenty-two families
Had there been a system of water works, the village
would have been merely scarred instead of being drained
of its very heart's blood. $3,500 had been voted for
such a system and bids were to close next week.
In many towns the people would become discouraged,
but in this happy, prosperous little village the people
will show their perseverance and ambition by building
up at once. The future Edwards will be but typical of
resurrection for it will present a more beautiful scene
than ever before.
|The preceding article is a compilation
of articles appearing the Gouverneur newspapers following
Edwards 4th of July 1894 fire. It is written in the
style of the reporters of the time and not original
wording of 1999. The complete articles can be seen in
the Edwards History Center in the Edwards Town Hall.
LaVerne H. Freeman August 1999