In the absence of adequate records it is impossible to give a complete account, or even the exact date, of some
of the fires that have occurred in the county. The first disastrous fire in Peru was that when the west side of
Broadway from Third street to the alley south was entirely wiped out by the flames. This was about 1870. The buildings
in that section were all of frame construction and the only fire fighting apparatus at that time was the old hand
engine, which was inadequate to the demand. After trying for a time to extinguish the flames the department turned
its attention to saving the adjoining buildings and preventing the spread of the fire. The loss was heavy and the
origin of the fire cannot at this late day be ascertained Within a short time the entire block was rebuilt, the
old frame structures being replaced by new ones of a more substantial character.
About midnight on January 2, 1884, fire was discovered in Warner's store on South Broadway, opposite the Bearss
hotel. The first floor was occupied by Warner's clothing store; Reasoner & Loveland's law office occupied the
front part of the second floor, in the rear of which was about $4,000 worth of goods belonging to J. F. Whittenberg;
and on the third floor was the hall of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Warner's loss was about $5,000;
Reasoner & Loveland lost about $500, most of the damage being caused by water; Whittenberg's stock was also
seriously damaged by water; the Engineers lost about $150; Bouslog & Myers stationery store adjoining was likewise
damaged and the J. M. Statesman building was injured to the extent of about $2,000. Other business houses in the
vicinity were slightly damaged, so that the total loss was about $15,000.
On Sunday, November 23, 1884, the store of Jacob S. Rannells at Perryburg, with the greater portion of the stock
of goods, was consumed by fire, causing a loss of $12,000, partly covered by insurance. The loss preyed upon Mr.
Rannells' mind until it is supposed his reason became unbalanced. Shortly after midnight, or about 1:30 a. m.,
on Wednesday, December 3d, ten days after the fire, Mrs. Rannells heard her husband call and entered his sleeping
apartment to find him lying across the bed with a deep gash in his throat, inflicted by his own hand. On the table
near by was a note which read:
"Dear Jennie:- I am troubled so I would rather die than live. I leave you and the children with God."
Dr. Ager was summoned and arrived a few minutes before the unfortunate man breathed his last. Mr. Rannells had
been in business at Perrysburg for some time prior to the fire and was considered one of the substantial business
men of Miami county. He was a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity and had a high standing as a citizen.
One of the most spectacular fires ever witnessed occurred on November 17, 1897, when three oil derricks and nine
tanks of oil on the Dukes lots in the northwestern part, of Peru were burned. The fire department responded promptly,
but when the water was turned upon the fire it only scattered the flames, the burning oil refusing to yield to
the efforts of the men. This made the fire all the more dangerous and the men then undertook the work of saving
the adjacent buildings, leaving the tanks and derricks to their fate. The flames rose to a height of one hundred
feet or more and lighted up the country for a considerable distance, the light being seen for miles. About one
thousand barrels of oil were consumed and the tanks and derricks reduced to ashes before the fire burnt itself
out, the loss reaching about $3,000.
About 2 o'clock a. m. on Sunday, January 27, 1901, fire broke out in the Emerick Opera House on East Fifth street,
between Broadway and Wabash, and in a short time the building was a mass of flames. The damage to the building
was about $20,000 Among the tenants who suffered severe losses were the Daily Chronicle, Griswold's confectionery
store and Miller & Wallick's job printing establishment. For a time it looked as though the entire block was
doomed, but by heroic efforts the fire department, assisted by a number of the citizens, succeeded in saving the
adjoining buildings, though some of them were slightly damaged.
People living in the vicinity of Eighth and Wabash streets, in Peru, were suddenly aroused from their slumbers
about four o'clock on the morning of March 12, 1902, by the noise of two explosions, one occurring soon after the
other, and the fire department was quickly summoned to the scene. The explosions were in a brick building, the
lower floor of which was occupied by Newton Sarver's meat market and the upper story by a family named Hays. It
appears that Mrs. Hays awoke and smelling gas went into the kitchen and struck a match to investigate. An explosion
immediately resulted, but no great damage was done. Mrs. Hays fled down the stairway, forgetting her child, but
upon reaching the ground suddenly remembered and turned back for her baby. She had barely reached the ground the
second time when the flames reached the leak in the gas pipes and caused the second explosion, which blew out the
walls on three sides of the building. Next to this house was the residence of John ff. Jamison and just beyond
it was the house of Frank Kiley. The Jamison family hurriedly vacated the premises, expecting to see the house
go the same way, but it was not injured. The Kiley house was less fortunate. Within a short time after the second
explosion in the Sarver building the sides of the Kiley dwelling were blown out by a third explosion, the cause
of which remains a mystery. Mr Kiley was found unconscious and his son, Frank. Jr., was injured. The fire was easily
subdued, but the loss by the explosions amounted to about $4,000.
On March 14, 1905, a fire started in George Moore's bakery at Amboy and for a time it looked as though the town
was going to be wiped off the map. From the bakery it was communicated to John Little's meat market and from that
to Edgerton's grocery. Herbert Cox's residence was the next in line of the flames and George Lewis & Sons'
grocery was almost completely destroyed. The Amboy Mercantile Company was threatened, but the citizens managed
to save it, as well as other buildings. and after a strenuous fight of several hours the fire was under control.
Three days after the Amboy fire the fine farm house of Frederick Roberts. about a mile south of the village of
Peoria, with nearly all of its contents, was destroyed by fire.
Several destructive fires occurred in the county in the year 1910. About 8 o'clock a. m. on Saturday. January 8th,
fire was discovered in the basement of the Endicott & Nesbit furniture store in the Louis Little building,
on the north side of West Third street, immediately west of the first alley west of Broadway. Two business rooms
were on the first floor, the east one being occupied by the furniture store and the west one, in which had been
a motion picture theater, was vacant. The second floor was occupied by Company L, Third regiment, Indiana National
Guard. as an armory. Just north of the alley at the rear of the building is the Wallace theater, which was in imminent
danger of destruction, but it was saved by the systematic work of the fire department. Endicott & Nesbit's
stock was practically ruined and the armory was so badly damaged that the military company was soon afterward disbanded.
Some of the adjoining buildings were slightly scorched.
On the night of May 4, 1910, Charles Haskett's barn, near North Grove was destroyed by fire, together with four
horses, two mules, four milch cows, a large quantity of feed and some valuable farm implements, the total loss
amounting to over $3,000.
The saw mill of Eisaman & Richer, at Denver, was completely consumed by fire on Monday, July 4, 1910, causing
a loss of about $2.000. Several houses in the immediate neighborhood were set on fire by falling embers, but the
citizens succeeded in saving them from destruction by good team work. The owners of the mill lived in Peru.
On Monday night, September 12, 1910, a severe electrical storm swept over the southern part of the county. Cyrus
Crider's barn in Washington township was struck by lightning and set on fire. A heavy rainfall saved the adjacent
buildings, but the barn was completely destroyed.
In the chapter of Finance and Industry mention is made of several fires in which factory buildings were damaged
or destroyed, particularly the fire at the Howe factory on February 10, 1871, in which E. P. Loveland and John
Cummings lost their lives.