Saturday, September 15, 2012

The big fire of 1867 & John Rosa

This is how the southwest corner of the square looked in 1869, after it was rebuilt following the 1867 fire. The progression continues north toward the alley in the photo below, commencing with T.A. Matson's new brick building, also built in 1867 immediately after the fire and still standing (behind the stone facade of what now is called the Stanton Building). Matson's brick stopped an 1882 fire that again wiped out all the frame buildings south of it, which were replaced by the brick buildings we have with us today.

The current form of Chariton's square was in one sense shaped by fire, many major and some minor. Frame buildings burned and were rebuilt, sometimes in frame and sometimes in brick. Then brick buildings burned and, again, were rebuilt.

The first major recorded fire occurred early Tuesday, Feb. 12, 1867, and destroyed much if not all of the buildings, all frame, then standing south of the alley on the west side of the square. It started in the harness shop of T.A. Matson, then located where the Stanton Building now stands.

Although no issues of Chariton newspapers from that month survived, the fire was reported upon in The Burlington Daily Hawkeye of Thursday, 21 February 1867, as follows:

"The Chariton Patriot of Tuesday, gives the particulars of a disastrous fire which occurred in that place last Tuesday morning. Six business houses were burned, entailing a loss of $75,000. The fire broke out in the harness shop of T.A. Matson, and within an hour the whole street was in flames. The origin of the fire is not known. The following are the principal losses:

T.A. Matson, loss $8,000; insured for about $5,000.

D.W. Waynick, loss $7,000; insured, $3,000.

John Rosa, loss $8,000; insured, $600.

Popham & Marsh, loss $3,500; insured $2,000.

W.W. Waynick, loss $5,000; insured, $2,100.

Wm. & Fred Gasser, loss $5,000; no insurance.

T.M. Stuart & Bros., Attorneys, books and papers, $200.

C.T. Brant, dentist, fixtures, $75; no insurance.

D.D. Waynick, dry goods, loss $10,000; partly insured.

Many others occupying offices and rooms in some of the buildings lost considerable, but we have not a complete list.

The insurance companies that are the heaviest losers are as follows: State, at Des Moines; Iowa Mutual; Keokuk; Burlington; Merchants, at Chicago; Quincy, at Quincy, Ill."

I found the reference here to John Rosa especially interesting. John was an uncle some generations removed, married to Anna Margaret Redlingshafer, a sister of my great-great-grandfather. The Rosas joined my immediate family and other relations in Lucas County during 1864 or 1865, settling in Chariton. Of that entire German Redlingshafer clan, John was the only non-farmer. Depending upon whom one believes, he was a tailor or a tobacconist --- or both --- and set up shop on the square.

Family lore (and land records) identify their home, commencing in 1866, as a log house just north of what now is the Hotel Charitone, on part of the lot now occupied by Richard Atwell's smaller building. The assumption has been that John operated his business out of that building as well.

The Burlington Hawkeye story, however, identifies John as the owner of one of those buildings on the southwest corner of the square that burned during 1867, valued at $8,000, no insurance. So I'm going to have to go back to the land records one of these days to check that out.

John died later during that year of fire --- on October 23, reportedly of typhoid. According to family stories, Anna Margaret then turned her home off the northwest corner of the square into a boarding house and may even have rented a room to her second husband, Joachim Wulf, whom she married during November of 1868. He had arrived in town as an employee of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad.

During the early 1870s, they moved with her three children to a farm she had purchased just east of the original location of Otterbein Church in Benton Township and lived there for the remainder of their lives.

John and Anna Margaret were the ancestors of all the Rosas still living in Lucas County as well as a good many Schrecks --- including Roger Manser, currently our mayor.

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