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At the time Anamosa was equipped with a system of water-works (1875), it is said to have been the smallest city in the United States thus furnished. Previous to the year mentioned, the city had no satisfactory protection against fires. Insurance rates were high in consequence, and a feeling of insecurity pervaded the ranks of the property-holders. It was the opinion of various enterprising spirits that it would be cheaper in the long run to have ample protection at once. The Anamosa Water-Works Company was accordingly incorporated February 20, 1875, by J. C. Dietz, C. H. Lull, N. S. Noble, B. F. Shaw, M Heisey, T. W Shapley, J. G. McGuire, T. R. Ercanbrack, E. B. Alderman, H. C. Metcalf, J. H. Williams, Geo. Watters, E. Blakeslee and John Watters.
The capital stock of the Company was fixed at $10,000, with the privilege of increasing to $20,000. April 26, 1875, was passed an ordinance by the City Council of Anamosa which was in substance a contract with the Water-Works Company granting to the latter the "exclusive privilege for twenty years, and an equal right with all others thereafter, of supplying the city of Anamosa with water to be taken from the Wapsipinicon River. The company was to put in three hydrants on Main street, at the corner of Garnavillo, Booth and Ford, and at any other points deemed advisable by the Company-there were to be five hydrants for the exclusive use of the city. In consideration thereof the city agreed, during the life of the franchise granted the Water-Works Company, to levy a tax of one-half of one per cent per annum upon all property located within 800 feet of the public hydrants of said company, and also to supply sufficient hose to throw water 800 feet. The contract also specifies that the minimum amount of water which shall be in the reservoir is 20,000 gallons. The paid-up capital stock of the Company is $6,500. The Company has an indebtedness of $8,500, of which $6,000 is in ten-year bonds, drawing 10 per cent interest, and due in 1885. The Company have preferred to incur this indebtedness rather than increase the capital stock, confident in their ability to pay off the indebtedness, and then have stock that is really valuable. The officers are: M. Heisey, President; E. Blakeslee, Vice President; J. C. Dietz, Secretary, and G. W. Russell, Treasurer. Directors-E. Blakeslee, H. C. Metcalf, E. C. Holt, M. Heisey, B. Huggins, J. C. Dietz and D. A. Peet.
The works are built upon the Holly system with reservoir. The pumping engine is a thirty-six horse-power engine, and has a pumping capacity of 720 gallons per minute. The engine room is located upon the Wapsipinicon. The reservoir is upon the hill between the main part of town and the river. It is built of brick, and has a capacity of 100,000 gallons. The engine is ordinarily in use about three times per week, and is not kept in motion more than three or four hours at a time. The reservoir being seventy-five feet above Main street, the pressure is sufficient in case of fire to throw a stream of water over the highest building. The most inflammable fuel is kept at the engine-house, and the engine can be put in operation in eighteen minutes after an alarm of fire occurs. The pressure is then increased, and may be carried to 210 pounds to the square inch.
The Company have laid one and three-fourth miles of street mains, and have seven fire-plugs or hydrants. In addition to those on Main street already mentioned, others are located on the corners of Ford and First streets, Garnavillo and Carroll, and at Doan's Mills. The Company supply water to the State Penitentiary, one of the railroads, and to some forty-five private consumers.
Few cities of the size can boast of a more thoroughly equipped organization for protection against the ravages of fire than can the city of Anamosa.
The great conflagration on the 14th of February, 1875, convinced the citizens of the necessity of some provision to protect themselves against a repetition of such a sad catastrophe. Accordingly, on the 21st of July of that year the City Council passed on ordinance authorizing the formation of a fire department.
A meeting of citizens on the 3d of August, 1875, resulted in the organization of three fire companies under the provisions of the ordinance.
At present, the equipments of the different companies are furnished at the expense of the city, although it required some time to convince the Council of the wisdom of such a provision.
The present officers of the Fire Department are: J. H. Williams, Chief Engineer; E. M. Harvey, First Assistant; George L. Yount, Second Assistant.
Hose Company, No. 1—John G. Cudworth, Foreman; L. G. Clark and G. S. Peet, Assistants; S. I. Williams, Secretary; Charles Carter, Treasurer; number of members, twenty-two.
Hose Company, No. 2—John I. Van Ness, Foreman; W. J. Pavey, Assistant; E. M. Stickney, Secretary and Treasurer; number of members, twenty-two.
Hook and Ladder Company—L. C. Aldrich, Foreman; Frank Fisher, Assistant; B. Dott, Secretary and Treasurer; number of members, thirty-five.
Owing to the provisions for the use of hydrants of the Water-Works Company, an engine company is unnecessary. No fire has occurred since the organization of the Fire Department, within the reach of water, but that the same has been under control in a very short time. The entire business portion of the city is in comparative safety.
With one exception, Anamosa has been fortunate in not being seriously affected as the result of the ravages of the fire fiend.
On Saturday morning, March 27, 1869, a fire broke out in the blacksmith and wagon shop of Cook & Ragan, and the building was entirely destroyed. The loss was about $1,200, partly insured.
On Friday night, April 26, 1872, the barn of Mrs. Isabella Hollenbeck, built at a cost of $4,000, was destroyed by fire. The barn was insured for $2,000. In the barn were three horses and a sewing machine wagon belonging to J. P. Craig. They were burned with the barn; no insurance.
On the 9th of June, 1872, fire did some damage to the residence of Mr. I. C. Lusk, injuring the building to the amount of about $100, and also damaging the library of Mr. L. considerably.
Again on the 13th of the same month, fire destroyed the blacksmith-shop and storeroom of D. C. Tice. A. S. Atkinson's shop adjoining was also destroyed. Some damage was done to another building of Mr. Tice and its contents. The following were the losses: D. C. Tice, loss $2,000, insured for $700; A. S. Atkinson, $3,000, insured for $1,500; Fred Simons, $150, no insurance; other parties, $200, no insurance.
Again, July 10, 1872, the barn of Samuel Brunskill was burned. There was an insurance of $200. The frame of this barn was built by G. H. Ford, in 1841, and was probably the first frame barn built in the county.
A number of small fires occurred between the above date and the 14th of February, 1875, when the "big fire of Anamosa" destroyed about $12,000 worth of property.
The 14th of February, 1875, was Sunday. In the morning, at half-past 1, wild cries of "Fire! fire!" broke upon the stillness of the night, the Congregational bell re-echoed the dreadful alarm, and in a few minutes hundreds of citizens were rushing in the direction of the lurid light of roaring and crackling flames bursting out of what was formerly known as the old "Court House building," occupied by A. N. Dennison, dealer in boots and shoes, and Emory Perfect, grocery dealer. There was only a slight breeze from the northwest, but the headway which the fire had attained and the combustible nature of the wooden buildings filling the space between the Union Block, corner of Main and Ford streets, on the west, and Frank Fisher's Block, at the foot of Booth street, on the east, rendered it almost impossible for the citizens to avail anything against the devouring flames. Not a dollar's worth of Dennison's stock of boots and shoes was saved. A few tools were snatched from the work-shop, by the way of the back door. Loss on the building, $1,000, insured for $500; loss on stock, $3,000, insured for $1,000. Mr. Dennison had added stock to the amount of $800, only the week before. A new safe, containing about $500 in greenbacks and Mr. Dennison's account-books, was badly damaged, but the money and books were found all right the next day. A fine line of samples belonging to W. E. Moss, of Balch & Co., boot and shoe dealers, Lyons, valued at $400, had been left in Mr. Dennison's store and was destroyed. W. L. Story also lost tools to the amount of $10.
Four barrels of kerosene oil and a lot of boxes were hurriedly removed from the back room of Emory Perfect's grocery, but nothing else was saved. Loss on stock, $1,400, insured for $1,000. The building was the property of Col. W. T. Shaw, was valued at $1,200 and was an entire loss.
The next building on the east belonged to C. L. Holcomb, and was occupied by A. E. Parady, boot and shoe maker. Mr. Parady lost nearly everything. Value of building, $500. Mr. Parady's loss was $300.
Mr. Holcomb was also the owner of the adjoining building, occupied by D. H. Kelly as a barber-shop. Loss on building, $300. Mr. Kelly's fixtures were nearly all saved, and his loss was but small.
Next came the post-office building, owned by B. L. Matson. Lew Kinert, the clerk, was sleeping in the office, and by reason of this fact the valuables were saved. Mr. Coe, the Postmaster, lost about $50. The building was valued at $600, and insured for $400. Messrs. G. W. Strode & Son, jewelers, in post-office building, lost $125, mostly in tools.
Still the flames swept onward, and A. H. Sherman's harness-shop went next. His stock and tools were saved with a loss of about $75. The building was owned by H. C. Metcalf, and valued at $800; no insurance.
J. Rhodes, the confectioner, was the next victim. He had recently repaired his building and placed therein a new stock of confectionery, canned goods, groceries, etc. The goods were removed, but not without damage. Mr. Rhodes' loss on building and contents reached $1,000. In the second story lived Mrs. Gause and daughter. A piano, in being carried down, fell and was badly damaged. Loss on piano and household effects estimated at $1,000. Mr. Rhodes' building was razed to the ground, in the hope of stopping the course of the scorching tongues of flame; but this seemed hopeless, and it was finally decided that the next building, belonging to Joseph Moore, must also come down, as it abutted against Frank Fisher's brick block, and there was danger anticipated from the heat and flames breaking and entering the glass front. But the fire had been raging two hours or more, and the masses of snow in the rear and in the adjacent gutter on Main street were rapidly melting and afforded considerable water. Water was dashed on by lines of men in front and rear, and finally the flames were under control. Mr. Moore's building was scorched some, and otherwise damaged to the amount of $400, before the onward march of the flames could be checked. In this building was the law office of King & Dietz, but their books, etc., were removed with but small damage. In the second story resided Mrs. S. Thomas and a little daughter, the former being confined to her room by sickness. They were safely transferred to other quarters, and their household goods saved with but little damage. Slingerland & Son, painters, occupied a room in this building, and suffered a small loss.
R. A. Markham, dealer in sewing machines, and Markham & Burgess, dealers in organs, etc., suffered a small loss by the fire. Mr. A. Heitchen also suffered a loss of about $75. The total loss by the conflagration was $12,000. Total insurance, $2,900. The origin of the fire was unknown.
The people had been discussing the propriety of organizing a Fire Department, and the fire gave an impetus to that subject which that resulted in the formation of three Fire Companies.
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