What started The Great Fire of 1901?

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On July 25, 1901, Davenport was a volcano of flames.

The fire burned from here at the Government Bridge up the hillsides for 10 blocks engulfing the city’s biggest lumber mill, 75 homes and a dozen small businesses. The heat was so intense it curled trolley tracks and burned fire hose lines into pieces – cutting off fireman from hydrants.

Some blamed the blaze on hoboes – igniting a stack of wooden shingles in the drying shed of the immense Weyerhauser & Denkmann lumber yards.

It had not rained for weeks and temperatures were in the 100's during the day. The updraft of flames was so strong, fiery wood palates were sent skyward, landing on rooftops of houses on Oneida Avenue a half-mile upstream. By mid-afternoon, there was talk of evacuating everyone east of Brady Street.

Rock Island, Moline and the Arsenal fire departments helped, but steep southern winds kept pushing the flames out of control. As darkness fell on the choking city, the wind halted. Firemen regrouped and the flames, squelched by hilltop green and dynamited trenches, simply burned out. Though East Davenport would smolder for nearly a week, the city had been blessed. Many people had burns, but no lives were lost.

In the aftermath, assistance came from everywhere. One check for $100 was received from a Pittsburgh traveling man who wrote that he once had a streak of luck at Bucktown (a bawdy gambling district at the edge of the fire) and just wanted to help the unfortunate.


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