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The Great Winfield Fire of May, 1880

Central Hotel


Arkansas City Traveler, May 5, 1880.


About 11 o'clock on last Thursday night, as the citizens of Winfield were wending their way home from the Opera House, the alarm of fire was given, and soon thereafter our beautiful little county seat was the scene of a most destructive conflagration. The fire originated in the furniture store of Fred Leuschen, on Eighth avenue, immediately in the rear of the Central Hotel. The cause of its origin no one knows. Mr. Leuschen says there has been no fire in the lower portion of the store where the fire broke out. The supposition is that a spontaneous combustion of the material used in varnishes, stains, etc., and like stores was the cause of the fire. The flames spread rapidly, it being but a few minutes before the entire building was entirely enveloped. Mr. Leuschen's family, who resided in the second story of the building, barely had time to escape with their lives. All their personal effects were entirely consumed.

Immediately east of the furniture store stood two frame dwellings, which it was impossible to save. They were owned by Messrs. C. L. Harter and Robert Hudson. The furniture being all carried out, these gentlemen sustained no great loss except that of the buildings. On the west of the building, where the fire originated, stood the livery stable of Hackney & McDonald. The contents of this place were removed, with the exception of a few bushels of grain and some hay. After this latter building took fire, it became evident that the Central Hotel must also yield a victim to the fell destroyer. The work of removing the contents began at once. Hurrying to and fro through the hallways of the building was a score or more of half dressed women, carrying in their arms bundles of clothing, and crazed with excitement and fear, presenting a spectacle that baffles description. Carpets were torn up, and with the beds and bedding, hastily carried into the street opposite the building. By the time this work was completed, the east wing towered up a waving mountain of flames. Harter & Majors had just completed the sale of this hotel to Mr. A. H. Doane, of Danville, Illinois; but as the transfer had not yet been made, the loss falls upon the old proprietors.

The Lindell Hotel, adjoining the Central, soon gave way before the flames, though, as in the case of the Central, all the contents were carried out of reach of the fire.

The value of the buildings destroyed was between $10,000 and $11,000, with an insurance of only about $4,400.

Arkansas City Traveler, May 5, 1880.

The particulars of our account of the Winfield fire are taken from the Daily Telegram. We think we can beat Winfield in most anything, but we yield the palm in this particular. You can have another one if you want it.

Winfield Courier, May 6, 1880.

Mr. Frank Finch was severely burned while trying to get some of the furniture out of the Central during the fire last week. He was in the east wing of the building and the roof fell in on him. He is recovering rapidly and will be out again in a few days.

Winfield Courier, May 6, 1880.

The fire of last Thursday night is a warning that should be heeded by our council at once. When the property of every citizen is in danger, some action should be taken to provide adequate means for its protection. Had we possessed an effective and authoritative fire organization, with appliances and water at hand, much of the property now in ashes might have been saved. Will we act now, or wait until another and costlier warning is given, when we must stand idly by and see our fair city swallowed up by the flames without being able to raise a hand to save? It is with you, gentlemen of the council, to decide and act.


Winfield Courier, May 6, 1880.

Last Thursday night, between 11 and 3 o'clock, Winfield was visited by the most disastrous conflagration yet happening within her borders. The fire started in the old log store, one of the landmarks of the town, and for years occupied by the COURIER, but was now being used by F. Leuschen as a cabinet shop. The fire is supposed to have originated from the old rags, oil, and varnish in the shop. The alarm was given before the fire was thoroughly underway, and had those first on the ground been furnished with decent appliances, it might have been controlled, saving thousands of dollars worth of property. The old log building was like a tinder box and made a very hot fire. Next to it on the east were two buildings, one belonging to C. L. Harter and occupied by the moulder at the foundry, the other owned and occupied by Robert Hudson. These buildings were both destroyed, but the contents were saved.

Immediately west of the log building, across the alley, was an old livery barn belonging to Hackney & McDonald, which was the next to go.

From this the fire was communicated to the Central and Lindell hotels. As soon as it was evident that the hotels must go, the work of getting out the furniture began. Carpets, bedding, crockery ware, and furniture of all descriptions were tumbled promiscuously out of windows and doors into the street, much of it being broken and smashed. The hotels being dry, pine buildings, burned rapidly, sending up large cinders which fell in different parts of the city, making the utmost vigilance necessary to keep them from igniting buildings three blocks from the fire.

When the two hotels caught, everyone turned their attention toward saving the buildings on either side of the street. They were covered with men who handled buckets of water and barrels of salt, and by their exertions prevented the fire from spreading and destroying the larger part of the business portion of our city.

The old part of the Central Hotel was owned by Jas. Jenkins, of Wisconsin. The new part of the Central Hotel was owned by Majors & Harter. They had sold out to A. H. Doane, and were to have given possession Saturday morning.

The Lindell Hotel was owned by J. M. Spencer, and was leased by Jas. Allen one month ago.

Our citizens generously opened their homes to the homeless people, and accommodations were offered for more than was needed.

The following is a list of the losses and insurance.

Captain Stevens, store, loss $1,000; no insurance.

Fred Leuschen, furniture store and dwelling, loss $1,200. Insurance on stock, in Home, of New York, $300.

C. L. Harter, tenant dwelling, loss $300; no insurance. Tenant had no loss except damage.

Robert Hudson, dwelling, loss $800. Mrs. Hudson removed most of her furniture. No loss except damage. No insurance on either house or contents.

Hackney & McDonald, livery stable occupied by Buckhart, loss $800; no insurance.

Central Hotel, main building: James Jenkins, loss $3,500; insurance, $1,500 in the Atlas.

Central Hotel, Majors & Harter portion: loss to building, $2,500; insurance, $2,100, as follows: Weschester, Springfield Fire & Marine and Hartford, $700 each. [Their insurance was on building and furniture.] The loss of Majors & Harter in excess of their insurance will be upwards of $3,000.


J. M. Spencer, Lindell Hotel, loss $2,500; insurance $1,000, as follows: Fire Association, $500; Phenix, of Brooklyn, $500; James Allen, loss $1,000; insurance, $800.

Policies are in the agencies of Gilbert, Jarvis & Co.; Curns & Manser; and Pryor & Kinne. The companies are all first class, and the losses will be promptly adjusted and paid.

Winfield Courier, May 20, 1880.

The opera house at Winfield, Kansas, owned by Col. Manning, now in the Manzanares mining district, and Mr. Bear, was eaten up by the fiery element the other night. Loss, $1,800; insurance, $300. The origin of the fire is supposed to be a spontaneous combustion of paints and oils in a furniture store. Las Vegas Optic.

Col. Manning's opera house block could not be bought for $30,000. It is well insured. It is not "eaten up" by fire or by anthing else. We don't know Mr. Bear. [THINK THEY CONFUSED MT. WITH MR.] He may be "eaten up by the fiery element," but he has no interest in the opera house so far as appears. [Courier.]

Winfield Courier, May 6, 1880.

Mr. Frank Finch was severely burned while trying to get some of the furniture out of the Central during the fire last week. He was in the east wing of the building and the roof fell in on him. He is recovering rapidly and will be out again in a few days.


Cowley County Historical Society Museum