Articles & Stories

Florence And North Bend, Two Boone County Communities

A Look At The Great Fire Of 1870

Editor's Note: From 1870 and 1900 we get the following interesting tidbits about two Boone County communities. Back then, the whole area was mostly rural, and the living was slow. Today, the area is being pulled into the vast metropolitan area of Cincinnati. A century surely makes a difference!

Florence Suffered
A Great Fire In 1870

Florence is a prosperous little country town of perhaps 1,200
inhabitants, situated on the Lexington Pike, nine miles south of Covington. There are some fine buildings in Florence, including the Odd Fellows Hall, which is a very handsome and substantial structure. The Southern Hotel is quite a spacious building. There are some fine private dwellings, also. Florence and vicinity support five churches and a debating society.
On Sunday, November 27, 1870, there was service at two of the churches, and the people were collected at those two places for devotional purposes. The pastor of the Christian church was delivering his usual sermon, when about 11:30, the cry came to the ears of all, like a thunder bolt. "Fire! Fire!" and this word, which has carried distress to many a home, was caught up by the congregation, and repeated time after time. In a single moment what a change came over that tranquil assembly, where, a moment before, everything was quiet and still, save the voice of the preacher. It became a scene of the wildest confusion and excitement. The church was vacated of every person almost instantly. The old and the young alike seemed to have but one object, that was to get out of there as soon as they possibly could.
The alarm proved too true. It required but a single glance down the street to substantiate the alarm. Within a square of the church there leaped up towards the sky a great devouring flame. Scarcely had it subsided a little when another, much larger, burst into the air and then it became one continuous sheet of fire.
The scene now became one of terrible confusion, especially when compared with the serene one of the morning; women running to and fro, some of them weeping, others asking everybody if there is danger of their houses catching fire. Children were crying, and strange men, using rough and profane language, and a few looking on tranquilly, as much to say, we are glad it is not our houses. The scene was all together one not soon forgotten.
Origin Of The Fire
The fire originated in a large frame stable, formerly used as a livery stable, standing in the southwestern corner of the Lexington and Burlington pikes. Contiguous to the stable on the west side was the carriage manufactory of Messrs. Coffman and Wagstaff; on the east of it was situated J. McNeal's grocery; and in the rear of these buildings were several small frame buildings.
It is ascertained beyond a doubt that the fire was caused by cigar smoking in the stable. It is generally believed that a man thoughtlessly threw his cigar in the stable, and this opinion is strengthened by the fact that the fire originated on the ground floor.
It is plainly evident from the moment of the discovery of fire that it would be useless to attempt to quench the flames. Therefore everyone turned his attention to the removing of all portable things and the preventing of the spreading of the great grasping flames. Unfortunately, the proprietors of the carriage factory were absent, but though there was no one to attend to the property but their friends and strangers, yet they made noble efforts in their behalf. I believe they saved most all of their work, both finished and un-finished. Their tools, materials, and other things were unavoidably lost. Their loss is considerable. Most of Mr. McNeal's groceries were saved, but in the hurry and excitement of the moment, they were considerably damaged. For burning, it was only by the most vigorous and determined efforts that the fire was prevented from crossing the pike. At times it would seem that all mortal endeavors would prove futile, but the unceasing labor of bold men won the day. It was of para-mount importance to prevent it from crossing, for close by was Grant's large stable and many other wooden buildings. The destruction would indeed have been great, had this terrible demon crossed the pike.
It was now that a report spread that there were horses in the burning stable. It appears that the fire had gained such headway at its discovery that the horses, with that singular instinct which characterizes them in such cases, would not leave their stalls, and thus they were necessarily left to perish. The tramping and kicking of horses in the terrible agonies of burning to death, confirmed the report. Four horses fell victims to the flames. They were the property of Mr. John Houston, who follows teaming for a living, and thus the means of acquiring a livelihood is suddenly snatched from him. He has a family, which he provided for through his source. Undoubtedly the blow falls heavier on him than anyone.
A Fine Dwelling On Fire
The stable had not been burning long before the flames leaped across to William Glassford's dwelling, situated on the north corner of the Lexington and Burlington pikes, directly across the street from the stable. From the proximity of the buildings it was impossible to extinguish the flames on Mr. Glassford's house. The next building to the north of Mr. Glassford's was fortunately some distance from it, and it was the most difficult thing imaginable to keep the flames from leaping across to it, but, here again, the men worked faithfully and unceasingly. There was a sharp southwestern wind at times, which made it extremely difficult at these critical periods to successfully contend with the fire, yet each and every man seemed to be inspired with renewed energy at these awful moments.
The roof of the Odd Fellows Hall caught fire, at one time, but the prompt service of a young gentleman soon extinguished it without being materially damaged.
The wind, at times, would be so severe as to blow pieces of burning shingles to different parts of the town. A great many roofs were consequently burned to some extent. Most of them, however, were discovered before much damage had been done.
It is generally estimated that the destruction of property by the fire will exceed $20,000. But, of course, it is impossible to ascertained the exact figures. I am reliably informed that there was no insurance, whatever, upon any of the property destroyed. It seems strange that persons will become so careless as to neglect having their buildings insured by some reliable company, especially frame buildings in town.
A Visit To North Bend
(Note: An unknown corres-pondent of the Boone County Recorder shared his visit to North Bend in February of 1900.)
To the Editor of The Recorder:
I wish to devote this com-munication to a portion of Boone County, known as North Bend, representing the most northern portion of our county, as well as our state. It fronts on the Ohio River for a distance of five miles and has for a background lofty hills with a slope sufficient for cultivation. It is, in my estimation, the most valuable, as well as the most beautiful portion of our county. In looking through the dark vista of time, I can perceive the dawning of a bright future for this part of the county. I predict that in ten years from now this beautiful and rich bottom will be converted into a profitable garden spot. Enterprising Germans will realize its many advantages, as such will pur-chase it and devote it to the production of small fruits and vegetables, to which it is peculiarly adapted and happily located. The city of Cincinnati will have extended its limits to include North Bend, the village across the river, and a con-tinuous city will extend along the opposite shore of the Ohio. A steam ferry will connect the two, and an immediate intercourse will exist between the producer and consumer of garden products. The garden and fruit products will be in possession of the consumer within an hour after it is gathered.
One morning, during the late harvest, standing upon the crest of a hill above the home of Mr. William Moore, I was wonderfully impressed with the beautiful picture in nature that lay at my feet. Fifteen hundred acres of this beautiful land lay before me, commanding a panoramic view to which no artist could do justice. Comfortable homes surrounded by orchards laden with luscious fruit, and thousands of golden sheaves collected in stacks regularly dot this beautiful land, promising a rich harvest to its possessors. I fear its present owners do not realize its present worth or appreciate the golden apple they hold in their hand, else they would cease raising so much corn and wheat and assign the best portions of it to small and large fruits; such as grapes, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and bellflower apples. Last fall Mr. Wm. Kirtley sold $300 worth of bellflower apples from about three acres of ground, the purchaser taking them on the trees.
While nature has bestowed upon this land richness and fertility, providence has placed a large portion of it in hands that affliction and misfortune prevent from developing its richest resources. Mr. William Moore owns about 200 acres of this bottom, but, on account of bodily affliction that has confined him to his bed for more than three-score years, he is compelled to trust to hired help to nurture, beautify, and adorn his possessions. Last fall it was my privilege and pleasure to spend five weeks with this grand old man, tearing down neglected and dilapidated fences and replacing them with my neat and substantial Cyclone fence. Appre-ciating his helplessness, I took special pains in rectifying and repairing the neglect of others in whom he had trusted. He is one of the most remarkable men I ever knew. He is scrupulously honor-able, a high-toned gentleman, has a cultured mind and retentive memory, is 77 years old and has never worn glasses, and is nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other; but is able at his advanced age to read the finest print.
Mr. William Henry Harrison owns a farm of 80 acres adjoining Mr. Moore's farm. He has been an invalid for several years, and for a year his health has been so bad that he has been denied the privilege of looking after his land interest. Mr. Harrison is a high-toned, cultured gentleman, and he has more distinguished blood coursing through his veins than any man in Kentucky. He is a grandson of ex-President William Henry Harrison, who carried the country by storm and defeated the Democratic party, overwhelmingly, after 40 years rule. He is also a first cousin to ex-President Benjamin Harrison. He is closely-related to other distinguished families, as the following brief outline will show: Back in the 18th century John Carter of Virginia owned such large acreage in that territory that he was known as King John Carter, the land king. He had six children, three sons and three daughters. From these children descended the Harrison, the Lee, the Goodridge, and Carter families. The two daughters married a Harrison and a Goodloe. Two of the sons died without male issue, their lineal descendants cannot be traced through the cycles of subsequent history. Ex-President William H. Harrison; the mother of Robert E. Lee; the grandfather of William Goodloe of the Swope and Goodloe tragedy; and Goodloe Carter, my grandfather, were the offspring of a union by marriage of the Carter and Goodloe branches. Your correspondent has the honor of bearing the testimony of this union in his name, since his initials stand as a memorial to perpetuate, not only the identity of the two branches, but the fact of their subsequent union by marriage. The descendants of King John Carter can boast of having produced two presidents of the United States; the greatest military genius the world has ever known, and one of the ablest jurist in the history of our government.
Mr. Columbus Kirtley owns the next farm, which contains about 70 acres. He, too, is sorely afflicted and had to abandon his farm to be treated. He is the only land owner in this rich bottom who has been permitted to look into the future and see its demands upon him as the possessor of this rich inheritance. He has assigned the richest portion of his farm to the cultivation of straw-berries, blackberries, and a choice se-lection of other fruits.
The next farm, of 70 acres, was, a few months ago, sold by Mr. William O. B. Kirtley to Mr. A. Reynolds. This is one of the most desirable farms in the bottom. Mr. Reynolds is a professional man, being at the head of a troupe of acrobats. They are known in the professional world as the DeComas family. He stands in the front ranks of his profession and is considered the best director in the art in the United States. He is a gentleman of agreeable manners and is ably assisted in his profession by his wife, who is an accomplished lady with pleasing address.
This farm with about 350 acres east of it, the property of William Riley, Tom Balsly, C. C. Balsly, and Mrs. Balsly is the central, most beautiful, and most fertile portion of the bottom. It lies between the county road and the Ohio River. It is unfortunate that the owners of this valuable property live in other neighborhoods and trust its care to tenants.
South of the county road Mrs. W. P. Cropper owns a very valuable farm of 200 acres, one-half of which comprises a portion of this rich, fertile body of land. The remainder of her farm is elevated land, well-adapted to grazing purposes. With the expenditure of a small capital in rearranging fences and adding to the dwelling, this could be made one of the most beautiful and desirable homes in the Bend. The homestead stands up on a beautiful mound, near the foot of the hill, which forms the southern boundary of this beautiful body of land, and commands the view of the country; north and south of the river, and for miles east and west.

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