Highlights from the

Leadville Weekly Democrat

141 Years Ago


The Most Disastrous Fire in Leadville’s History.

Three Buildings Burned, with a Loss of Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars.

Saturday, April 2, 1881


The fiery element seemed to have selected yesterday to make its consuming visit, and it certainly held the sceptre. The most disastrous blaze that ever visited the city was that which commenced in the Pioneer saloon about eleven o’clock last night, and which lasted for about an hour, having things its own way until two buildings are now consigned to ashes. About eleven o’clock a Black man, who was a tenant in the upstairs portion of the Pioneer, came tumbling downstairs in his night clothes, screaming fire, and, attracting the attention of pedestrians, they commenced to give the alarm with a succession of shots. The box, number four, was appealed to for its brazen alarm, and soon the hose carts came running down the streets as


from the burning buildings illuminated the city for blocks around. The boys took in the whole matter at a glance, and if ever the energies and daring of a fire department was exerted, it was last night. The flames had taken possession of the entire building before they were discovered, and it looked as if the entire block would be consumed. The Tabor hose made an attachment on the corner of Second and Harrison, and in a very few seconds had two streams contending with the hungry flames that seemed to break out anew every instance. The Harrison hooks were right in the storm of the element and were busily engaged in bracing in the front when the Humphrey hose came tearing down the street, while the crowd fell back and made a passage way. Almost in an instant they made a connection and two more streams were


By this time McDaniels’ theatre was ablaze it looked as if everything was to be swept from the block. People were running to and fro, and the occupants of adjoining buildings for several doors up the street began to vacate them and to remove their contents to some other place. The fire raged on until it finally seized the Capital restaurant, which, too, fast being emptied of furniture and bed clothing, was piled up in the middle of the street. Instructions from Chief Fonda started two streams to work from Tiger alley, and at this juncture the boys were holding tight to four nozzles that were throwing forth volumes of water. The flames began to descend after an hour’s work, and the


sent up a shout and cheers to the boys who had fought so nobly. At one o’clock the streams were still playing on the gaunt and charred relics of mirth from above that looked threateningly on the remnants of the abodes of Bacchus. The fire originated in the upper story of the building known as the Pioneer saloon, and had been burning for some minutes before it was discovered. Mr. Schlessinger, of the theatre, says that he was coming up the street from his residence when his attention was attracted by the volumes of smoke that arose from the building. He rushed upstairs into his theatre, and, looking out of the window, saw the flames leaping through the cracks of the house and gave the alarm at once. When Mr. Vogus announced the danger in the theatre, there was a


from it into the streets. The Pioneer building is a total loss, and the amount is estimated at ten thousand dollars. The place has recently been insured in the sum of four thousand dollars. Seven billiard tables, valued at four hundred dollars each, were burned, together with a large quantity of liquors and valuable fixtures. There is nothing left of the place save the burned rafters. The upstairs portion was occupied as a poker room, and the rear portion as sleeping apartments. There was a report that someone had been burned while attempting to escape, but the rumor was traced to a contradiction. The theatre is entirely destroyed, and the loss of Mr. Schlessinger alone, who owns two-thirds of the building, is at least $7,000, without any insurance. The remaining third of the place was owned by a Mr. Isendraft, who had his portion covered by an insurance of $5,000. The loss at the Capitol is approximated at about $2,500, which is fully covered by $5,000 insurance. The aggregate loss is thought to be fully


The affair is generally considered to be the work of an incendiary, and an impression prevails that the town is being besieged by this class of criminals at the present time. The brave firemen secured a victory that surpasses any in the history of Leadville, and there is not a person in the city to-day that will not accord them the greatest praise. They went at the flames unflinchingly, and got them under control when everybody thought that the block would surely go down in ashes. No place can boast of a better fire department, and one that can do better or more effectual work. They deserve the greatest praise.


A fellow was arrested at the fire last night for his persistent efforts to pass the rope and interfere.

A drunken man ascended one of the ladders last night and attempted to give instructions, when the nozzle was turned on him, and the result was a good drenching.

When the boys got eight streams to work, the flames began to fall.

Dave Howard, of the Harrison hooks, fell from a ladder without serious results.

Insurance agents were visible in the vicinity of the fire last night.

The companies all did nobly at the fire.

A large number of special police were appointed for the occasion.

There is plenty of ashes for breakfast.

Hurrah for the Leadville fire department.

The police did great service last night is keeping everyone from interfering.

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