By Harold Fuller
Hawthorne’s First Major Fire
During the early morning hours of June 20, 1911 the citizens of Hawthorne were awakened by the shouts of fire; gun shots and the clanging of the fire bell. The east side of the 400 block in the business district was ablaze.
Due to the fact that none of the business houses were open and the populace was still asleep, it was about twenty minutes before a stream of water could be put into play. Several buildings were already a mass of flames.
The fire was discovered by Mrs. Joe Marshall who was up with a fretful baby. She sounded the alarm and as far as she could tell the fire appeared to have started in the back yard between Summerfield’s store and Cole’s saloon.
Summerfield’s store and all its contents were destroyed except those goods stored in the basement. This store was considered the town’s bread basket and it was a severe loss for the whole community.
Mr. Summerfield estimated his loss at $10,000 and he carried only $4000 insurance. Walter Cole’s saloon was a total loss of $2,000 with no insurance. The barber shop that George Paslow had just set up in Cole’s Saloon was destroyed and he lost $800 with no insurance.
The Clem Ogg building, where the WE Boeling Drug Store and the Fred Wallace Saloon were located was completely destroyed; however, Wallace did manage to save some of his liquor and glasses.
Clem Ogg had the building insured for $1,250 which would cover most of his loss. The dry goods on the main floor of Abe Esber’s store were totally lost, along with Abe’s little pet dog, but the items in the basement just suffered smoke and water damage. He estimated his loss at $1,000 but was covered with insurance.
The shoe shop of E.G. Howard, with living quarters in the rear; tools, leather and supplies and years of savings were all lost. One thing he lost and seemed to value the most, was a fine gold watch and chain from the Grand Army.
The fire was checked at the Northern Saloon on the north and the Japanese Restaurant on the south end of the block and how that happened was a wonder. All the buildings were dry as tinder and very close together and the water supply was far from plentiful but the volunteer firefighters were determined. The Northern Saloon (currently the Old Nevada Pizza) operated by George Kemp was saved by covering the south side of the building and roof with blankets and keeping them wet. John Miller provided all the blankets and sheets they had in the Adams & Miller store. Miller was working on the north end of the block along with Ollie Haker, Billie Monahan, Charlie Leavitt and several others.
Fighting on the south end of the block was Sheriff Eugene Gruitt, Oscar Gerbig, the five Box boys and a whole lot more. The fire started about 2:30 a.m. and by 3:30 a.m. was under control.
Summerfield and Cole began to immediately get back in business; Fred Wallace was set up in a new location by daybreak.
Abe Esber rebuilt soon after the insurance adjusters were finished. During this fire most of the food in town was destroyed, except for a little in the basement of Summerfield’s store and what people had in their homes. Thankfully, the good people of Mina came to the rescue and sent over loads of food and materials to help out.
If not for these critical supplies our town’s people would have been in dire straits.