Antique Steam Tractors - Ohio Steam Show's


Pictures Taken By: Harrell Vaun Noble 1907-1982
Electrical Engineer
Lived in Xenia, Ohio

Eye-Witness Account Of The Russell & Company Fire

Mx – May 9th 1899 7 PM

Dear Folks,

Just read your letter Co. Why didn’t you call that dog back when you saw he was lame? Maybe he was hungry too – And lost.

I ‘spose you’ve read all about our big fire before this. The alarm was given about 8 o’clock – Just as we were about to close the office. Joe started off on the run. I cut out wondering whether to go to my rooms and right to bed, as I’d tho’t I’d do – when I saw that it was a big fire. I thot I’d better walk over that way and take a look at it, but decided to go to my rooms first and get rid of my umbrella and the box I’d bro’t from home. (I hadn’t been to my rooms at all.) So I went up there, threw down my bundles, took time to exchange my new sailor for my old gray walking-hat, and started out again. Down at the corner, I fell in with Miss Dirter (German teacher in the schools) who like me was alone. We went over to the station and there we stood for over two hours. Do you remember there’s a platform on the other side of the tracks and a fence? We crossed over to that, and from there had a fine view - could look right down on the Russell grounds. The building that was burned was that long shaped new looking building. I wish you folks could have seen it. For a long time I tho’t likely the whole shops would go. And I wondered that the firemen didn’t feel utterly hopeless about it and give it up. To stand back there, it looked as if those streams of water were doing no good whatever. But of course we couldn’t see all that was being done. How they were watching the other buildings, and working inside of them. We saw a man climb out of a window and come down a ladder from the burning building. Oh how it did blaze up. After the first portion of the wall fell, we soon heard there were two men under it. They were working under an archway that had a tin roof and when the wall fell it broke the roof down on them. But I ‘spose you have read about all that. How one of the poor fellows was dead when they got him out and the other badly hurt. It was awful to think of those men being under that smoking mass of bricks. Every little while some more of the wall would come crashing down and then the fire would blaze up higher than ever. The East End of the building was divided from the other by a fire wall and it was quite a while before the fire burned its way through but finally in spite of the work that was done the flames began to creep along the roof and then to show at the windows, and soon that part of the warehouse was burning as fiercely as the other had burned. There was a lot of oil in one part of the building and that made a great blaze. It was quite a sight. To look down at the crowd reminded me of a country fair. Wherever I looked were crowds of people and the fire made every place so light. We did not go down nearer the fire at all - that we could see it better from the platform. When the 940 train came in, everybody was looking out at the fire. The crowd laughed at the people in the sleepers – some of them had the curtains pulled back just a little piece, and were peeping out while others had the curtains clear back from the window and were comfortably lying there watching the fire, not caring how much they were guyed. As why should they. No one knew who they were. Several freights passed through and it was strange that no one was hurt, because when a train was heard coming, people standing over by the station would flock across, so they wouldn’t be shut off from the fire by the train.

I wondered if I ought to come back to the office, but tho’t Russels wouldn’t want to send messages in the midst of all that excitement. Was sorry I hadn’t come when Nick Peacock told me this morning that I missed some business by not being here. But Mr. Hilbone said most of it was sent after midnight and I couldn’t very well have stayed that late at the office. Said he sent two cable grams and about a dozen messages – would have liked to give us some of them, but couldn’t save them till morning as he had orders to rush them off. But we had good business today. Guess we sent more messages than we ever sent here in one day before. It was about 10:30 when I got back to my rooms. Nick Peacock said he stayed down there helping to hand out sandwiches & coffee to the firemen and others who were working till 3 o’clock.

Wednesday Morning

Did you look for a letter this morning I wonder? I meant to send one last night, but didn’t get it written. We were rather busy. Yes, I found your collar button. Will send it when I have a chance.

So Queen wanted to go to the woods. How funny for her to not mention it at all.

Did I say anything about a Cleveland Operator who signs V. & who has been talking with Joe some lately? He sent Joe a couple of Kodak pictures Monday. One of a Branch Office in Cleveland with three messengers standing out in front and the other showed a man and two messengers sitting among a great lot of watermelons piled in front of restaurant with the signs, “Noon Lunch” “ Beer” etc. conspicuously displayed. The boys were eating watermelon while the man was sitting with both hands on his stomach and a comical expression on his face. He wrote a note saying that perhaps next week when he would be printing some pictures he would send one of his own and Jo and I could hang it in the office to throw spit-balls at in our leisure moments. I had Jo tell him I didn’t indulge in that pastime.

I can’t make up my mind what to do about working for Bessie, I don’t want to, but I suppose might lose my chance of getting that office and while I just hate to think of giving up this office, I ‘spose if I could get that one it would be very foolish to not take it. And another thing it would give Joe a couple of months work, and if he shouldn’t get a place before that it would be a pretty nice thing for him to have this I suppose. Wish you’d tell me how it looks to you. Bess said Jessie would like to come. I don’t have much idea Bessie will stay away altogether, but I suppose she might happen to get into something else. And if Jessie were working there she would naturally have the best chance of keeping the office. I tho’t perhaps Bess might be thinking of getting married. But she says not. Says Ed is not making a good salary and she doesn’t believe in people getting married unless they have something to live on.

3:30 PM

I was over at Ryder’s after dinner. The house is all torn up. They are having papering done and Mrs. R has a girl helping her to clean house. She was nearly frantic at the fire the other night. Frank is one of the volunteer firemen and when she heard some men were under that wall she was nearly crazy. Then Mr. Ryder went off upstairs to his office in the building nest to the warehouse -the one that was joined to it by that arch – to straighten up books and papers so they could be carried out if that building should burn. As they tho’t it would. She sent a man up to tell him to come right down. Mr. Ryder would probably have been buried under that wall if it hadn’t been for a boy who works in his department. He was standing there trying to pry open the door, when some man came up and warned the men that the wall was leaning and would soon fall. Then this boy caught hold of Mr. Ryder and made him come away. It was reported that there were three men caught under there. People knew Mr. Ryder had been working there and they supposed he was buried there with the two firemen. Al Miller came & told Mrs. Ryder that Mr. R was all right and Frank was too. When he didn’t know that they were at all and had heard Mr. R was under the wall. Mr. R was soaking wet when he got home from working around where they were throwing the water.

The Canton Fire Dept. came over, but the fire was under control by that time. A whole crowd of Canton people came over - some on wheels and some on street cars. They ran some extras over.

We heard people in the crowd laughing about a man who when he heard about the fire, hurried down and went into the burning building to get his overalls. There were about 180 new threshing machines in that warehouse. I wish you folks could have been here. It certainly was a fine sight.

Co did Harry send you some supplies?

6:15 PM

Just back from supper. Don’t suppose I’ll get any better tonight, but I’ll finish this up and go down to the Post Office for a walk. It seems that I can’t do any good at taking a walk at meal-time since I board here.

Joe’s gone out in the office to – to steal a newspaper. He has a nice little scheme. He goes out to the table sits down and reads a paper awhile. Then he just naturally brings it with him when he comes in. Of course it doesn’t make any difference as the paper has been read by someone & left there.

Well must stop.

Yours Lovingly,


I’m feeling ok again. I was rather sleepy Monday & Yesterday, but went to bed in good time last night.

Written By: Effie Barnaby - Manager Postal Telegraph Office

**A BIG Thanks To: Linda C. Joesph!**