Where’s the Fire?

I sat down to write today’s post with the intention of telling the story of the 1890 fire at Windsor, which someone mentioned in the comment’s to yesterday’s post. But my newspapers.com addiction got the better of me after I came instead across an article about Jackson’s fire alarm system in 1893. “I’ve never thought about the history of fire alarm systems,” I mused, so I searched for that term and spent the rest of the evening reading articles from towns large and small around the state from the 1880s through the 1890s, telling of the vagaries of pre-electrical fire alarm systems and the need for fire departments, which were developing into professional city-paid organizations, to know where the fire was.

Here are the best of the articles–best because they mention landmarks in the city that alarms were attached to, or get into the logistics of how the system operated (or failed to operate).

Wild goose chases in Vicksburg, which appears to have had the first city-wide telephone-based fire alarm system in the state, at least if newspapers.com is to be believed. Vicksburg Herald, Jan 17, 1885

More false alarms–grrr! Clarion-Ledger, May 22, 1890

Clarion-Ledger, August 3, 1892.

Alarms on the Catholic church steeple. Hmm, maybe that would have saved Notre Dame? Sea Coast Echo, Feb 20, 1892.

Categories: Bay St. Louis, Jackson, Vicksburg


12 replies

  1. I know what you mean–my desktop screen is cluttered with tons of articles on Mississippi’s gymnasiums right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Funny, I spent part of last night googling fire escapes with counterweights and wondering if the fire escape on the Magnolia State Bank building in Laurel is as rare (at least for Mississippi) as I think it is. My newspaper research last night was confined to a different topic, but I’m fascinated with that building so I’m sure I’ll get to the newspapers eventually.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. And the Old Hattiesburg High School…

    … is back in the news this week with good news. The final phase of restoration is underway!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. These articles are hilarious, but the seriousness of the situations wasn’t! Look forward to more in escapes and counter-weights!


  5. Recently I happened to be reading about the 1909 fire at Jackson’s Smith-Robertson School. A Clarion-Ledger article about the fire gives a little bit of in sight as to the use of the boxes how they worked, and their placement throughout the city.

    “It is worthy of note that the alarm was turned in from box No. 28, and that fact was rather suspicious till it became known that one of the policemen who happened to be down on the lower part of his beat discovered the flames first and turned in the alarm so as to get the firemen aroused and out. He then ran north to Capitol Street and turned the wagons up Farish Street instead of down that thoroughfare.”
    -The City is Loser by Twenty Thousand Clarion Ledger Jan 7 1909 page 8.


    • Interesting, so different box numbers maybe at street intersections? Would give the firemen a general idea of the location but not exact address.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think so. I haven’t been able to determine the location of box 28 at that time. An article about the Gamewell Alarm system installed in ‘92 listed the numbers of the boxes and locations. The numbers weren’t chronological so it makes me think they were based on a block numbering system. Someone would pull the alarm and the Fire Department would race to that location once they arrived they relied on someone to tell them where the fire was.

        There was a box at the intersection of Griffin and Farish. He wouldn’t have pulled that alarm and have been able to run “north to Capitol St.” The papers account seems to infer that he saw the fire from a distance and pulled the nearest alarm. Wouldn’t the fire crew have been coming from the old Central Fire Station?

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: