From the Lowell Tribune Centennial Edition, August 28, 1952:
1898 Fire Destroys Nearly All of Business Buildings on North Side of Commercial Ave.
LOSS IS NEARLY $65,000
Strong Probability of the Fire Being the Work of an
Rain All That Saved South Side
Between 2 and 3 o'clock Tuesday morning, October 4, 1898, our citizens were aroused from their peaceful slumbers by the cry of fire. By the time our people got out the fire had got under good headway, several buildings being on fire. There is pretty strong evidence that the fire was work of an incendiary, as a fire was first discovered under the hardware store of Haskins & Brannon about 2 a.m. by Paul Mahler, who with the assistance of Amos Wagin, put it out. Mr. Mahler informed Hiram Haskin, who came down to his store and concluded to stay and watch his store the balance of the night, and went to inform his wife of his intention. On returning down town, and when approaching Waters' drug store he discovered fire in Dr. Bacon's barn in the rear of Waters' store. He ran to the rear and found the barn all afire. His next move was to arouse the marshal and ring the fire bell, but the bell was in such a shape that he could not ring it on account of some repairing being done on its clapper. Our people turned out in large numbers and did all they could do to subdue the flames, but still they went on; one building after another being licked up by the fiery elements until the Gregory block was reached, whose friendly walls assisted in checking the onward march of the destroyer. The rain, which at times came down in torrents, was a God send, as by its kindly assistance the south side of Commercial avenue was saved from sharing the same fate as the north side. That the fire was of incendiary origin is proven by the fact that when Hiram Haskin came down to his store he and Paul Mahler began looking around and found a piece of pine board from a dry goods box that had been shaved up, leaving the shaving on the board, after the manner of shaving kindling. This had been fired and placed on a sill in a shed in the rear of the store building and would have set the building on fire had it not been discovered by Mahler. Then again the fire being discovered in two other places thirty rods east of the first discovery is pretty positive proof that someone set the fire.
With the means at hand for fighting fire no people could have done better than ours did. With but very few exceptions all took hold with a will to render all the assistance they could in saving property; even many ladies were out and rendered valuable aid in getting goods out of buildings. It was thought at one time that the Spindler building could be saved, but it seemed to have been doomed and went with the rest. Our firemen, for what they had to work with, did good work but it was useless to expect much from men when they have nothing to work with. We are firmly of the opinion that if our water works system could have been completed that the fire would have been gotten under control before it got beyond two or three buildings. While the buildings on the south side are all standing, not one of them opposite the fire but which are damaged more or less, and as we said before, had the rain not come as it did the business houses on the south side would have been wiped out.
Including three ice houses which were torn down, there were twenty buildings destroyed as follows: Dr. Bacon, two barns, Waters' Drugs, 2nd story G.A.R. hall, John E. Caster hall, Miller heirs store building and barn, Nolan and Reiser saloon building, Lew Wood tailor shop and residence above, J.M. Castle building in which were Nichols & Wheeler barber shop, E.J. Pixley jewelry store and Record printing shop; the third story of this building was owned by the Masons, W.W. Ackerman business rooms below and living rooms above in which were Trump & Atwood, Hayward photograph gallery, H.C. Taylor barn, Allen Gragg vacant building, George M. Death hardware store building, P.D. Clark business room and living rooms above, in which was Heilig's bakery, Mort Castle building where post office was kept, John Lynch building, occupied by Haskin & Brannon as a hardware store and the Spindler & Pletcher dry goods store.
The following people have sustained losses by having their property damaged or burned by fire and water in the following amounts:
Dr. E.R. Bacon $1,000, George W. Waters $4,000, J.E. Caster $1,200, Miller heirs $1,000, Mrs. Lizzie Davis $1,500, Nolan & Reiser $2,000, Wm. Hacker $900, H. Gershman $400, Lew Wood $1,000, J.M. Castle $4,000, Nichols & Wheeler $200, E.J. Pixley $1,200, Lowell Record $2,000, Colfax Lodge A.F. & A.M. $1,300, W.W. Ackerman $800, Trump & Atwood $75, W.H. Hayward $200, H.C. Taylor $500, Allen Gragg $200, Geo. M. Death $9,000, P.D. Clark $1,000, Geo. Heilig $1,000, M. Castle $800, Dan Lynch $200, John Lynch $2,000, Haskin & Brannon $4,000, J.H. Spindler $2,000, Spindler & Pletcher $10,000, Amos Wagin $300, Gregory builidng $1,000, A.H. Maxwell $300, W. Fay Lynch $250, John Hack $700, Electric Light Company $1,000, Tel. Co. $150, Burnham Bros. $50, Mrs. Martin Schur $250, Hago Carsten $150, Mrs. J.W. Wilson $300, Harley Moy $125, Mrs. John Northrup $25, M. Everett $10, A. Goldstein $500, Wm. Grant $15, John Ault $250, G.P. Decker $10, Charles Pulver $300, Davis and Lambert $10, Sam Lowen $100, Charles Gragg $50, Town Hall $25, Lowell Tribune $50 and S. Propp $400.
The following unidentified newspaper article (ca. 1903) was found in a scrapbook owned by Betty Burton of Lowell:
While Fred Tanner and some other workmen were cleaning out a tile ditch near Amos Wagin's saloon, they found imbedded in sawdust and cinders a piece of ice about six inches square that it is claimed has remained there ever since the Wagin Ice House burned down during the big fire about five years ago. It is said the prints of the saw where the ice was cut were plainly discernable on this cake of ice. This sounds rather icy, but the boys say it is a fact that they unearthed such a cake of ice, but whether it was stored in the ice house at the time it was burned down they don't know, but indications would seem to point that way.