Bowling Green Fire Department, 1898

Bowling Green in the 1800s - From Newspapers of the Era

Photo, Kentucky Museum
Misc. News

The Kentucky Standard
Bowling Green Kentucky, Saturday morning

One Cent Reward The undersigned takes this mode of warning the public against harboring or trading with Jackson Harrell, an apprentice bound to the undersigned by his father, Wm. Harrel, and has left me.  I will give the above reward for his delivery as my house. - B. Grinstead

Smith Grove  Mr. Joel Morehead, unexpectedly returned last week from Texas. He says it was too lonesome down there for him.

Mystery Solved The painful mystery of the disappearance of Mr. Edward Slevin, on the 22nd of January last, has at last been cleared up by the finding of his body in the river a the foot of Sixth street. Mr. Kunke, the watchman on the steamer Logan, while riding in a skiff, on Sunday, discovered a body and brought it ashore.  The last time Mr. Slevin was seen was about two o’clock at night, and the watch found on he persons had stopped running at forty minutes past two. Although a minute examination was very unpleasant and difficult, or energetic Coroner left nothing undone to fully satisfy everyone as to its identify. - March 9, 1833

A Reward of Ten Dollars will be given for the apprehension and confinement in the jail of Warren County, for a negro man named David or Davy.  He is about 50 years of age, of the ordinary size, inclined to be bowlegged, his teeth before are rather far apart, inclines forward when walking; is very polite when spoken to; his clothes not recollected. He was formerly owned by Mr. Jas. R. Skiles, and last by Mr. Thos. S. Crutcher of this county. Should he be apprehended out of Warren County, and delivered to the Jailer of Bowling-Green, a reward of $15 will be given. -Nicholas W. Hobs.

Love and Marriage

Wedding dress, 1893, Kentucky Museum
The Sunday Journal
Bowling Green KY, Sunday Morning,
Vol. 1 No24  

Dr. Wright and Miss Margaret Reed Married, Thursday, by Rev. J.S Grider The marriage of Dr. A.C. Wright and Miss Margaret Reed was consummated, Thursday morning, at 11 o’clock. The ceremony was performed by Rev. J.S. Grider, in his usual happy and impressive manner. 

Only the immediate familles and a very few close friends were present.  The bride had been ill for several days and the trip South had to be abandoned.  The bridal presents were numerous and of an elegant nature.  Those present say they had never seen a handsomer couple married.  We wish for them many years o happy married life. - November 17, 1895

The Green River Gazette 
Bowling Green Ky., Saturday,  
Vol. 1 No 22  

Mr. Joseph Hopper
You are hereby notified that I shall apply to the next General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky for a divorce from you; that the ground that you have abandoned me for the last eight years.  I shall also attend the Law Office of Grider & Loving in the town of Bowling-Green, county of Warren, and state of Kentucky, on the 15th day of December next, for the purpose of taking the deposition of B.W. Dempsey and others to be read as evidence on said application, when and where you are respectfully invited to attend
Mary Hopper
Nov. 10, 1841

In Memorium

Popular Ballad of a Mourning Husband, Ketnucky Musuem
The Kentucky Standard
Bowling Green Kentucky, Saturday morning

Old Printer Gon
e -- We regret to learn that Wm. B. Kilgore, an old and much esteemed citizen of Glasgow, died one day last week in that place.  Many years ago, Mr. Killgore published a paper in this place and afterward went to Glasgow and published the Gazette for a number of years.  He made a considerable fortune and retired to private life.  He leaves a highly accomplished wife and tow interesting children to mourn his loss.  
Sept 9, 1854  

The Bowling Green Democrat
Bowling Green Ky, Saturday

In Memoriam of Thos.. Ray. Thomas Ray, who was the son of Andrew Ray, a soldier of the Revolutionary war, was born in Albemarle county, Virginia, on the 29th day of March, 1785, and died at the residence of his son-in-law Henry D. Smith, in Warren county, KY, on the morning of the 20th inst., aged 90 years 10 months and 20 days.  Mr. Ray left the State of Virginia with his parents at the age of 7 years, escorted by an armed force to guard them from the savages, whilst, they with others, made their way to the State of Kentucky. The old gentleman, Andrew Ray, settling in Madison county. 

From thence he removed with his family to Clark county Ky., and from there to what is now known as Edmonson county, where he reared his family of twelve children. The deceased, being the eldest son, who removed from there, into Warren, where he died.  Thomas Ray was himself a soldier of war, know as the war of 1812, and drew a pension. 

He ever remembered deeds of kindness, and was willing to repay them back, though many years may have elapsed before he could accomplish his purpose. Whilst in the army, he fell sick -- not able to return home without assistance, which was rendered by one of his brother, who was also in the service, and many years after, when the government granted the soldier of said war land warrants, he remembered the kindness shown him by his brother, and mad him a present of his warrant. 

He make liberal distributions out of his hard earning to his children at a time when they stood in great need of assistance.  He was kind to the poor man, the widow, and the orphan, and in his death they lost a friend.  He made no pretensions, but was plain in his dress, and manners, and requested that his burial should be conducted in conformity with his life.  He died, as he had lived, in the hope of the Gospel.

Fire Flashback: Yellow Cab Fire

From The Daily News
by Burton Speakman

In the wake of a fire that destroyed its building Wednesday, the Yellow Cab Co. has temporarily relocated. President Joe Boyd said today the company is operating out of the Old Hickory Building at 2530 Scottsville Rd. Despite losing five of its 50 vehicles in the blaze, Boyd said the company will still be able to serve the community. He also thanked people for their help.

"You wouldn't believe the support we've received from the community," Boyd said, "People have been coming by to see if we're OK, bringing us Cokes and food. Preachers have come by."

Firefighters spent nearly 12 hours extinguishing the fire at the company's building at 1586 Old Louisville Road. The call for the fire was reported at 10:55 a.m., said Marlee Boenig, spokesman for the Bowling Green Fire Department. The department left the scene at 10:15 p.m. Firefighters on the department's ariel ladder engine directed water through the top of the building while others manned each side of the building with hoses.

Fire Flashback: Fire Truck Collision, July 1966

From The Daily News
July 25, 1966

"A deplorable incident" and "blessing in disguise" are terms City Manager Harold J. Hilliard used Wednesday afternoon in describing a traffic accident earlier in the day involving two city fire trucks. Hilliard made the comments during an hour long informal inquiry into the cause of the 9:30 a.m. collision between pumpers No. 1 and 3, both from Central Fire Station. He said he found no "Dereliction of duty" on the part of either truck driver, but added:

"I think the accident was caused by the inexperience of Bonds, (fireman Buddy Wayne Bonds, driver of pumper No. 1 that struck a second fire truck) and the fact that he was following the other truck too closely.

Hilliard labeled the accident a "deplorable incident" but said it was a "blessing in disguise" in that it will create a reassessment of the knowledge of a fire truck, pumps and related fire equipment. He suggested that Fire Chief Lonnie Bellamy remove Bonds as a driver until Bonds is given a test in the operation and handling of the pumpers.

Bonds and fireman James Cooksey, driver of the second fire truck were among the crews and officer in charge of the trucks that were questioned during the inquiry. Cooksey said his unit left the fire station first en route to an alarm at 420 College St. Bonds said he followed Cooksey from the fire station and maintained a distance of 50 to 75 feet behind the first pumper along 10th St. to State St. and along State to 4th St. where teh accident occurred.

Hilliard questioned why Bonds told police Capt. James Penders, who investigated the accident, he thought the lead truck was attempting a right turn from State St. rather than a left turn onto 4th to College St. toward the fire. Bonds told Hilliard he applied the truck brakes, but the pumper, which recently underwent extensive engine repairs and was repainted, skidded and plowed into the left side of pumper No. 3.

Cooksey explained that he "swung wide" as he turned onto 4th St. from State because a small foreign made car was stopped on 4th St. at a traffic sign. As Cooksey's truck made the wide turn Bond's bumper struck the side of the lead truck, according to police reports.

Hilliard, in questioning Bonds, learned he is a relief or substitute driver and has driven pumpers only three to four times in answering alarms. He suggested Fire Department drivers or engineers learn the distance in feet required to stop a loaded pumper at various speeds. Hilliard also suggested that fireman Bobby Chaney, who was thrown to the street from the rear of pumper No. 3 by the impact of the crash, be examined for possible injuries. No injuries were reported in the accident.

Hilliard recommended Bellamy meet with ranking officers and department personnel and work out a plan for the distance trucks should trail another and maximum speed limits. Bellamy said such a plan already had been worked out and is posted for officers and engineers to read. He said he has received no estimates for repair of the two trucks nor for a car driven by Kenneth Meredith, Bee Springs, that was struck a glancing blow by the fire trucks.

A Hundred Years Ago, From the Sunday Journal, 1897

Bowling Green in the 1800s
The Sunday Journal
Bowling Green Kentucky, Sunday Morning, Vol. 3, No. 14

August 8, 1897  

A Hundred Years Ago

A day laborer received two shilings a day.
Imprisonment for debt was common practice.
There was not a public library in the United States.
An old copper mine in Connecticut was used as a prison.
There was only one hat factory, and that made cocked hats.
Books were very expensive. Lives of the Poets cost $15.
Crockery plates were objected to because they dulled the knives.
Dry good were designated as “men’s stuffs” or “women’s stuffs”.
Virginia contained a fifth of the whole population of the country.
A horseman who galloped on a city street was fined four shillings.
A man who jeered at a preacher of criticised the sermon was fined.
Two stage coaches bore all the travel between New York and Boston.
Six days were required for a journey between New York and Boston.
Stove were unknown.  All cooking was done before an open fireplace.
The parquet of a theatre was called the pit, and was filled with the rabble.
Three-fourths of the books in every library came from beyond the Atlantic.
Many of the streets were not named and the houses were not numbered.
The whipping post and pillory were still standing in New York and Boston.
The Mississippi Valley was not as well known as is the heart of Africa now is.
Quinine was unknown. When a man had ague fits he took peruvian bark and whiskey.  

Civil War Burning of Bowling Green from Harper's Weekly

Bowling Green, Ky - Burned After The Confederates Marched Out
Harper's Weekly
March 15, 1862

On the evening of the 12th General Mitchell learned that the rebels were preparing to evacuate Bowling Green, and had already shipped their artillery to Nashville. He immediately determined to march upon them, and At an early hour on the morning of Friday, the 14th, he started his men in fine spirits, and eager to avail themselves of the opportunity for which they had so long waited to show their mettle. The distance to be marched was twenty-nine miles, six of which were over such a road as only Kentucky can boast.

But the march was easily made in nine hours, and At eleven o'clock in the forenoon of Friday General Mitchell Appeared before the city, and met the flag of truce which the rebels had the impertinence to send him, requesting six hours in which to evacuate the place. General Mitchell replied that he would not give them six minutes and, planting a rifled piece on the slope of Baker Hill, he threw a shell or two among the thousand rebels about embarking on the cars for Nashville.

They hastily scrambled aboard the train, which was as hastily put in motion, and disappeared, Hardee and Hindman being left behind, and afterward escaping on horseback.  Persons here assert that these generals were afraid to join their men aboard the cars, they having loudly declared their intention to have their revenge upon them for their harsh treatment. Many of Hindman's men have often before been heard to declare their intention to kill him at the first opportunity.

At the time of the shelling of the few troops remaining at the depot in Bowling Green the buildings of the railroad company were fired, and are now a mass' of ruins The depot and round house or machine-shop at this place were extensive and splendid buildings. The intention was doubtless to destroy the whole town; but the appearance of General Mitchell prevented this. The bridges across Barren River had been destroyed the day previous to the appearance of General Mitchell. He was compelled to wait until the day following, when he crossed and took possession of the city.

The flag was raised over the Courthouse of a deserted city. I use the term in its literal sense. The rebels had for months been the only inhabitants. Many still find a home within the city limits. The pits where they lie are seen on every hill-side. It is estimated by the inhabitants here that not less than five thousand rebel soldiers have died of disease during the six months of occupation.

Bowling Green is described by the gazetteers as a pleasant and beautiful city, lying in the valley of numerous hills which ride above its loftiest buildings. But the gazetteers are not of late dates. Let those of the future write it down as one whose beauty has departed. The houses look dingy and dirty, and the streets like those of a country village during the muddy season. It looks as if the shadow had settled upon it, never to be removed. From the hills around it in every direction tile fortifications are frowning and, as it were, withering with a frown.

Once splendid residences graced Mount Airy and Underwood's Hill, a vineyard lay on the side of Baker's Hill and the green wheat and yellow corn were once seen in the valley at the foot of Price's and Webb's. But Mount Airy has been despoiled of the handsome building that graced Its brow, and in its place a lunette fort frowns upon the river that glides silently by.

The vineyard has been trampled under foot, and the yellow corn has been gathered, and the wheat dares not spring up. It seems as if the rebel presence had blighted the country and the city. Inhabitants have fled and left their dwellings to be transformed into hospitals or stables. Ruin and devastation have had their full away.

Fire Flashback: The Mariah Moore House

From The Daily News
by Brian Wilkerson

Fire gutted one of Bowling Green's oldest brick buildings early today, but owner Rick Kelley said he plans to salvage what he can rebuild. The Mariah Moore House, buit either in 1819 or 1820 at 801 State Street, has been home to Mariah's restaurant since 1980.

"The objective now is to put it back together," Kelley said, adding that contractors will be contacted immediately. "We've got 100 employees we've got to put back to work."

The hardest hit portion of the restaurant was the oldest. Though the walls are still standing, the roof over the two-story structure caved in. The newer areas sustained smoke and water damage, but fire walls and doors helped protect them, said Kelley, who learned of the fire from his secretary, who was listening to a police scanner.

"It's a major loss, said Rick DuBose, Bowling Green-Warren County Chamber of Commerce's executive director.

Bowling Green fire Chief Vindell Webster said half of the structure was saved, and he praised the approximately 50 firefighters who responded.

"Normally, you don't save buildings like this because of their age and because renovations create spaces where fire can hide," Webster said.

The origin of the blaze isn't yet known, but when the department arrived about 1:40 a.m., more flames appeared to be in the basement area, he said. It took nearly two hours to control the blaze, but firefighters were at the scene today to douse hot spots and ensure the building is structurally safe. Webster, emphasizing that an investigation will take seeral days, said arson isn't currently suspected. Employees who were in the restaurant about midnight will be questioned, he said.

One firefighter hyperextended his knee fighting the fire, "but he's OK," Webster said.

Moores part of BG history
From The Daily News

The Mariah Moore House, built either in 1819 or 1820, is generally considred the oldest brick building in Bowling Green and is on the National Register of Historic Places. An old lawsuit uncovered in Barren County indicates that a carpenter who worked on the house estimated that it cost about $3,000 to build.

Although named after Moore, the structure was built by her mother, Elizabeth. Moore, who never married, lived there until her death in 1888. Elizabeth was the widow of George Moore - who, with his brother Robert donated the land for the county's first court house. The Moore brothers are Bowling Greens' founding fathers.

Before 1979 the building served as a carpet shop, said current owner Rick Kelley, who turned it into Mariahs' Restaurant in 1980.

Local Notables: Bill Miner, Bowling Green's Notorious Stagecoach Robber

Ezra Allen Miner (1847 – September 2, 1913), more popularly known as Bill Miner, was a notorious stagecoach and train robber from Bowling Green, Kentucky.  He was known for his unusual politeness while committing robberies, and was nicknamed The Gentleman Robber or The Gentleman Bandit. He is reputed to have been the originator of the phrase "Hands up!".

After his third prison term, Miner moved to the province of British Columbia in Canada, where he adopted the pseudonym George Edwards and is believed to have staged British Columbia's first-ever train robbery on September 10, 1904 at Silverdale about 35 km east of Vancouver, just west of Mission City.

It is often claimed that Miner was the robber, but neither he nor his accomplices were ever tied conclusively to the botched Silverdale heist. It is also widely reported that Silverdale's train robbery was the first in Canada, but Peter Grauer's definitive study ("Interred With Their Bones", 2005) cites a train robbery in Port Credit, Ontario 30 years prior as the first.

Miner was eventually caught after an aborted payroll train robbery near Kamloops at Monte Creek (then known as "Ducks"). He and his two accomplices, Shorty Dunn and Louis Colquhoun, were located near Douglas Lake, B.C. after an extensive manhunt. When found, Miner apparently surrendered to the arresting officers with his customary courteousness, but Dunn attempted to fire at police and was himself shot (in the foot) during the arrest.

Miner's arrest and subsequent trial in Kamloops caused a media spectacle. Upon his conviction, he, Dunn and Colquhoun were transported by train to the provincial penitentiary in New Westminster. By that time, Miner's celebrity status had risen to the point that the tracks were reputedly lined with throngs of supporters, many of whom expressed satisfaction with the fact that someone had taken the very unpopular CPR to task.

After serving time in the B.C. Penitentiary Miner escaped and was never recaptured in Canada. It is presumed that he moved back to the US, becoming once again involved in robberies in the South. There, he served more prison time, and escaped again.

Miner's time in BC propelled his celebrity there in many ways since. BC restaurant chain, The Keg Steakhouse & Bar, have named drinks and their famous Billy Miner Pie after the train robber. Their early decor also showed many photos of Miner. A mural depicting Miner's robbery near Monte Creek is being painted on the exterior south wall of Cactus Jacks Saloon & Dance Hall located in the building at the corner of 5th Avenue & Lansdowne Street in Kamloops, BC.

Maple Ridge BC. features the Billy Miner Pub which is located in historic Port Haney on the bank of the Fraser River. The Pub is located in the original Bank Of Montreal building built in the early 1900s
Some speculate that Miner left a hidden cache of loot in the forests south of Silverdale after the first robbery. Some believe he used these funds to fund his escape, while others surmise that there is still hidden loot to be found there.

Miner was the subject of the 1983 Canadian film The Grey Fox, in which he was played by Richard Farnsworth. Miner is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia.

Miner escaped in death as well. It was discovered several years ago his headstone was in the wrong location and name spelled wrong. A new headstone was put in correct spot and spelled correctly. The old one was kept where it was.

Mount Miner near Princeton, formerly Bald Mountain or Baldy, was re-named in Bill Miner's honour in response to a motion by the Princeton Board of Trade in 1952. Miner had lived on the ranch owned by Jack Budd, which was on the other side of this mountain from Princeton, while planning the robbery at Duck's.


Fire Flashback: House Fires Battled, March, 1993

From The Daily News
by Robin Minor

Bowling Green firefighters spent the early morning hours today battling two blazes and searching for the occupant of one house who was feared trapped inside but later turned up at a relative's house. Firefighters were called at 11:30 p.m. Sunday to a fire at 318 W. Main St. when neighbors saw flames shooting out of the windows. By the time firefighters arrived, the house was fully engulfed, according to Bowling Green Fire Department Capt. Edward Moss.

"The initial report we got was that hte occupant was still in the rear of the home," said Capt. Alva May, who also was on the scene, "After we got the fire in the rear under control, we spent 45 minutes searching for the occupant."

Before firefighters arrived, a neighbor was burned while entering the house in an attempt to rescue occupant Wayne Lemmons, who was thought to be home at the time. Lemmons was found later at a relatives home, he said. The neighbor was sent to the Medical Center for treatment. His name and condition were unknown to firefighters and police.

The heat from the fire was so intense that houses on both sides of the building were damaged, May said. The house, owned by Chris Blevins and Paul Mc Farland, was destroyed. Its value was estimated at $30,000.  A house at 314 Main St. sustained about $10,000 damage to its exterior and a house at 320 W. Main St. sustained about $2,000 damage according to reports.

"It is unknown where or how the fire started. We were waiting for daylight before we went back in and looked around," May said.

Eighteen firefighters and seven units were needed to control the intense blaze. A few firefighters remained on the scene until 6 a.m., but most reported back to the station about 3 a.m., just in time to get the call for a fire at 1106 Adams St., May said. Fifteen firefighters and six units were sent to the fire on Adams St.

"We had to send equipment from one fire to the other," Moss said.

The homes occupant, Denzil Ledbetter, was awakened by a smoke detector.

"He suffered from smoke inhalation but refused treatment," May said.

The fire apparantly started in the center of the basement ceiling. It is unknown what caused the fire, but the report noted that Ledbetter had been using paint in the hosue Sunday. It is estimated that about $15,000 in damage occurred to the house, which is owned by Junior Loafman. Firefighters spent two hours at the Adams St. fire.

Local Notables, Floyd Collins

In 1925, Floyd Collins, one of the world’s premier cavers, met a tragic and bizarre end in part of what is now known to be Mammoth Cave. Collins, determined to find a “show” cave as a source of family income, had signed a contract in the middle of January with a man named Doyle and another man named Ed Estes to explore a rock overhang called Sand Cave on Doyle’s farm. Doyle and Estes agreed to give Floyd half rights to anything he found there. There was a story that men who worked for Mammoth Cave had once dynamited the overhang. The day before Floyd went down, he showed Estes a skull he’d found in a cave and then gave it to Estes’ son, Jewell. He said he was afraid of not coming out alive. His fears were well founded.

cave explorer Floyd CollinsFloyd Collins examines fossil remains in Great Crystal Cave, several years prior to being trapped in Sand Cave. From commercial postcard.

On Friday, January 30, he went into the cave. He crawled down into the dark, on his belly, into a narrow passage. He slid fifteen feet straight down, then twisted through a hundred feet of loops that sloped at 30 degrees. He dropped straight for eight feet and then crawled for fifty feet more between loose rock walls until he reached a small cavern. He lay on his belly, looking down into a fifty-foot pit, twenty-five feet long and ten feet wide.

He went down into it, looking for a passage, but it was closed. He scaled the walls and headed back the way he had come. He kicked a rock that knocked some stones that started a slide that trapped him. He was caught a hundred and twenty five feet deep in the ground, in a space eight inches high and twelve feet long. The temperature was 16 degrees. He was facing up in the direction from which he’d come, but there was a seven-ton boulder on his left foot. He lay in mud and black night, with water dripping on his head.

Considering Floyd Collins’ experience and reputation as a caver, it is astonishing that he broke what are considered today cardinal rules of safe exploration:

1) Went exploring alone.
2) Had only one light source.
3) Was poorly clothed.
4) Had no helmet or hard hat.
5) Did not tell anybody where he was going or when he would be back.

Relatives eventually noticed that he was missing, and a quick check in Sand Cave confirmed the worst. The rescue effort that ensued quickly turned into a publicity carnival. It lasted for 18 days and captured the interest of the whole nation through the relatively new medium of radio.

Rescuers tried everything—digging and hacking at the passageway, sinking a new shaft, feeding Collins to keep up his energy, and sending down reporter Skeets Miller to chronicle the drama. At one point, rescuers even considered amputation. Nothing worked. Eventually, a passage just above Collins collapsed, cutting him off from aid. Fifteen days after being trapped, Floyd Collins pushed his last crawl.

The authorities decided it was too dangerous to remove the body and left it in the cave. Eventually, his body was put in a glass-topped coffin in Crystal Cave where cavers from around the world paid their respects to him for many years. Then in the most dramatic and grotesque twist to the story, his body was stolen—and later found in a nearby field missing a leg. After this incident his body was placed in a chained casket.

Eventually, the National Park Service absorbed Crystal Cave and closed it to the public. In 1989, Collins was properly buried in Mammoth Cave Baptist Church Cemetery on Flint Ridge. Today Floyd Collins’ final resting place has an extraordinary array of tokens on it — coins, sunflower seeds, stones, and other objects left by cave explorers and others for whom Floyd Collins was, and is, a legendary symbol.


Fire Flashback: Downtown Fires Have Investigators Attention

From The Daily News

Although investigators have not found any evidence to link three recent fires on West Main Avenue, the blazes share enough unusual circumstances to "give us some concern," Bowling Green Fire Chief Gerry Brown said. "We're always looking for patterns," Brown said, "That there have been three fires causing substantial damage in four months that were basically within two blocks of each other, and they all started in the middle of the day, is unusual. "We want to know what's going on."

The cause of Wednesday's blaze at 605 W. Main Ave. still is under investigation. The home, owned by Bill Miller and rented by Joyce DeWalt, was destroyed, but no one was injured.

"When people hear a fire is being investigated, they just assume it's arson, but that's not the case," Brown said. "It may or may not be; we haven't made that determination yet."

A fire at 326 W. Main Ave. on Oct. 16th and one at 329 W. Main Ave., on Jan. 5 both were ruled arson, Brown said. Shaun Alvey of Bowling Green and a juvenile were arrested in connection with the first fire, but firefighters are still seeking information about teh second. Both houses were destroyed but no one was injured. Paul McFarland and Chris Blevins own the home at 326 W. Main Ave. and Blevins owns the home at 329 W. Main Ave., Brown said.

"We don't read anything into that at all," Brown said. "That a person would own more than one property in an area is not unusual."

Fire Flashback: First Baptist Church, October, 1991

From The Daily News
by Stan Regan

Arson is being considered in a Monday afternoon fire that destroyed the 78 year old sanctuary of First Baptist Church at 12th Avenue and Chestnut Street. Damage to the building, which was gutted by the fire, is estimated at $2 million  to $3 million. Black, yellow and white smoke bellowed out of the dome and roof top outside while hundreds of church members and onlookers gathered on the streets below.

"I don't see why it had to be this church," said Kevin Bradshaw of 1425 Park St., a church neighbor.

Melted lead poured from between stained glass panes illuminated by the neon orange and yellow flames inside while members of the church, including it's pastor, watched the roof collapse into the sanctuary and send cinders, soot and debris flying into the air. One of two building annexes also was damaged by smoke and water, according to Assistant Bowling Green Fire Inspector Richard Storey.  A complete assessment of the damage, including an arson survey, will not begin until the brick and stone facade of the historic 1913 building is safe to enter, he said. That might occur today.

"As far as any arson, there is none that I know of yet," Storey said, "We don't know about the walls collapsing, and nobody's going in there till it's safe."

Little remains of the Roman Revival structure except its native limestone and brick facade. The sanctuary once provided seating for 1,475 people in a setting of wood paneling, stained glass pictorals and huge ceiling dome. What remains today are smoldering embers and memories of the fire that broke out about 3 p.m. Monday.

All three shifts and all but one unit of the Bowling Green Fire Department responded to the fire, leaving Warren County volunteer fire departments to cover possible fires elsewhere and outside the city limits, Assistant Fire Chief Harold Pearson said. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Utility companies responded to cut off natural gas and electricity to the church. Several nearby homes and businesses were effected by the power outage.

Seventy-five firefighters were aided briefly by students from Western Kentucky University, who helped extend hoses and later remove furniture from two adjoining church annexes, Pearson said. Rick Brock, building superintendant, found the fire on the second floor of the sanctuar, near the baptistry and dressing rooms. Brock tried to contain the blaze but was almost overcome by smoke, he said.

"I shot three fire extinguishers on it and couldn't do any good," Brock said.

Sherry White, a church computer operator, called the 911 emergency number after Brock ran in telling of the fire. Fire alarms were sounded throughout the building. Marilyn Williams, manager of the church run day care, evacuated 116 children ranging from infants to 6-year-olds after Ms. White made an intercom announcement.

"We have fire drills every month, sometimes even twice a month," Ms. Williams said, "I didn't know if it was real or not, but to be safe I began evacuation. We had the last child out in 4 1/2 minutes."

The children were removed to a parking lot and then taken to the church's nearby International House. Firefighters were on the scene within three minutes of receiving Ms. White's call, according to Assistant Fire Chief Randall Gann, who was the shift commander.

"When we arrived, the fire had progressed through a false ceiling below the attic area," he said. "The ceiling area was so high that we couldn't get water in it.

"The ceiling had begun to fall and we had to pull the men back," Gann said. "After 15 minutes, we had to pull all the men out."

City Building Inspector Ron Tabor said he attended the church for 26 years and remembered playing in its attic as a child.

"It was a metal frame structure with wood that was like kindling," he said.

"It's sad," said Ella Willoughby, member since 1943. "People have worked hard on that church ever since its been built," she said.

David Wiseman, also a member, reacted likewise.

"This is just a building that cannot be replaced," he said. "It's a landmark."

However, the Rev. Richard W. Bridges sadi the church has a future.

"I'm really not worried about it," Bridges said. Leveling his finger at the flaming sturcture, he said, "That is a building and that's all it is. A building is not a church; its members are the church. As far as i see it, we've lost a historic building but buildings can be rebuilt." Bridges said.

The church has an $8.8 million insurance policy on the entire church complex, he said. Arson was suspected in fires set at the church about two years ago, but the person suspected was not a parishoner, he said.

Ben Franklin, Firefighter

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. - Ben Franklin

19th Century portrait of Ben Franklin in Fire Uniform

On a visit to Boston, Benjamin Franklin noted that the inhabitants of his native city were far better prepared to fight fires than the natives of his adopted city, Philadelphia. Upon returning home, he consulted the Junto, a benevolent group dedicated to civic and self-improvement, and asked for their suggestions on better ways to combat fires.

Franklin also sought to raise public awareness about the city's dire need to improve fire-fighting techniques. In a Pennsylvania Gazette article of 1733 Franklin noted how fires were being fought in Philadelphia. "Soon after it [a fire] is seen and cry'd out, the Place is crowded by active Men of different Ages, Professions and Titles who, as of one Mind and Rank, apply themselves with all Vigilance and Resolution, according to their Abilities, to the hard Work of conquering the increasing fire."

Goodwill and amateur firefighters were not enough, though. Franklin suggested a "Club or Society of active Men belonging to each Fire Engine; whose Business is to attend all Fires with it whenever they happen."

For the February 4, 1735 issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin sent an anonymous letter to his own newspaper entitled Protection of Towns from Fire. Writing as an "old citizen" he admonished:
In the first Place, as an Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure, I would advise 'em to take care how they suffer living Coals in a full Shovel, to be carried out of one Room into another, or up or down Stairs, unless in a Warmingpan shut; for Scraps of Fire may fall into Chinks and make no Appearance until Midnight; when your Stairs being in Flames, you may be forced, (as I once was) to leap out of your Windows, and hazard your Necks to avoid being oven-roasted.
He further urged that chimney sweeps should be licensed by the city and be held responsible for their work. He noted that a neighboring city (Boston), "a club or society of active men belonging to each fie engine, whose business is to attend all fires with it whenever they happen." He noted that via practice and regular meetings, the firefighters' skills improved.

Under Franklin's goading, a group of thirty men came together to form the Union Fire Company on December 7, 1736. Their equipment included "leather buckets, with strong bags and baskets (for packing and transporting goods), which were to be brought to every fire. The blaze battlers met monthly to talk about fire prevention and fire-fighting methods. Homeowners were mandated to have leather fire-fighting buckets in their houses.

Other men were desirous of joining the Union, but were urged to form their own companies so the city would be better protected.  Within a short span of time, Philadelphians witnessed the birth of the Heart-in-Hand, the Britannia, the Fellowship, as well as several other fire companies. Thanks to the matchless leadership of Benjamin Franklin, the dire fear of fires expired in Philadelphia which became one of safest city's in the world in terms of fire damage.


A Colonial Fire Timeline

Scene at a fire, 1730, New York City Fire Department

1608 - Fire devestates the Colony at Jamestown, Va, destroying most of the colonists lodgings and provisions.

1613 - Fire destroys 'The Tiger' the remaining ship of Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, leaving them isolated for a year until they could construct a new ship.

1623 - Fire sweeps through the town of Plymoth, Massachusets three years after settlement, destroying nearly all provisions and at least seven dwellings.

1628 - First dwelling fire on the island that is to become Manhattan, Governor Peter Stuyvesant establishes the first fire prevention and building code and ultimately the first volunteer fire department.

1638 - The first law relating to arson enacted in Maryland.

1653 - First fire deaths recorded in Boston.

1676 and 1679 - Fires destroy major portions of Boston.

1700, 1740 and 1778 - Charleston, South Carolina nearly wiped out by fire.

1770 - Boston Massacre begins with the ringing of a fire bell.

1775 - Fire is used in Revoloutionary Tea Parties in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.

1775 - British set fire to 400 dwellings in Charlestown before marching on Bunker Hill.

1776 - Residents of New York enrage the British by starting and aid in a conflagration that destroyes more than 400 dwellings.

1787 - Fires sweep through a large portion of Richmond, Virginia.

1798 - General Assembly of Kentucky enacts a law allowing formation of five fire companies in Louisville.

300th Anniversary Stamp Honoring Volunteer Firemen, USPS

Fire Flashback: 70 Firefighters Battle Blaze, June 21, 1992

Bowling Green in 1912, when CDS Drug Store was opened.

From the Daily News:
by Stan Regan

Explosions and fire that erupted in downtown Bowling Green early Saturday afternoon were brought under control after up to 70 firefighters battled the conflagration for nearly three hours. The fire damaged a section of one of the city's oldest businesses, CDS No. 1 Drug Store. It had been in business since 1912.

CDS Home Care-Surgical Supply warehouse, which occupied the three-story Charles Building at 407 Park Row, was in flames after something inside the buildign exploded near it's second floor or roof just before 2 p.m. according to city police. The CDS warehouse, which adjoins CDS No. 1 Drug Store at 401 Park Row2, is the former location of Charles Department Store adn the National Store. There apparantly were no serious injuries.

The fire was under control by 4:30 p.m. according to Bowling Green Fire Chief Vindell Webster, but firefighters remained on the scene controlling residual smoke. Webster said the cause of fire is unknown. There was no immediate estimate of damages.

The law office of Jeffrey R. O'Grody at 408 E. 10th Ave., was extensively damaged. The roof of that buildign collapsed after a section of the warehouse fell on it. Firefighters sprayed water into O'Grody's office to prevent the fire from spreading. Businesses in the rest of the block, which lies between State adn College streets, were evacuated, and employees and by-standers hastened to remove records, furniture and other valuables from their businesses.

A WKRN-TV Channel 2 news crew from Nashville was working on an unrelated story and taping part of its report across the street from a warehouse in Fountain Square Park when the explosion occurred.

"There was a loud, clanging sound, like metal pipes falling," said Rodney King, a WKRN videographer, "I thought there had been some kind of construction accident nearby. I turned around and then heard the explosion. It blew out the front window of the building and glass and metal were flying everywhere."

"Everybody heard a loud boom," said Lori Boone, owner of Some Wear in Time consignment boutique at 415 Park Row. Ms. Boone's store is two doors from the warehouse.

"I got my employees and customers out of the store," she said. "We saw black smoke billowing up from there as we came out, and then we heard another explosion."

Ms. Boone said flames then could be seen coming from a window of the warehouse.

Mary Strode of Bowling Green was buying a Father's Day card in CDS No. 1 when an explosion occurred.

"I heard glass flying, and it sounded like an atomic bomb," she said. "It shot glass clear out there in the road."

Mrs. Strode also was a former employee of the National Store, a business that had occupied the destroyed warehouse buildign. People in the drug store were also evacuated when the fire erupted, according to webster.

The owner of the CDS buildings, David C. Hancock, said all the medical equipment - including that stored in the warehouse and on the second floor of the buildings - would be lost to fire or smoke.

"Life goes on. No one was hurt. I've been very lucky," Hancock said.

Hancock said the buildings and their contents - which included such medical supplies as wheelchairs and seat lift chairs - were insured.

"I was in there a few minutes to 1 (p.m.) and there were absolutely no problems. I know of no reason why it would start," Hancock said. Hancock declined to estimate damages.

Firefighters from three Warren County volunteer fire departments - Alvaton, Richardsville and Plano - were called in to fight the blaze, and a ladder truck from Scottsville raced 25 miles to the scene, according to Bowling Green police Sgt. Mari Harris.

"They've had more than 70 fire personnel on the scene," Sgt. Harris said, "They had been trying to contain the fire to that area."

Firefighters fought to contain the fire on Park Row, according to Webster.

"That's our top priority," he said.

The fire occurred on Bowling Green's Fountain Square in teh heart of the city's downtown district. City fire and police personnel blocked most of the downtown area adjacent to the fire.  No one was injured in the blast that started the fire. However, some firefighters sufferred minor injuries and were treated at the scene for cuts and heat exhaustion, according to Sgt. Harris.

Extra police were called in to assist and were expected to remain on the scene with fire personnel throughout the night, Sgt. Harris said.

Bowling Green's Civil War Evacuation and Fire


The following has been received at headquarters:



Mitchell’s division, by a forced march, reached the river at Bowling Green to-day.  The rebels were evacuating the place when he arrived.



– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Monday Morning, February 17, 1862, p. 1

From Wikkipedia:

Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner
Though the majority of it's residents sided with the Confederacy, Bowling Green declared itself neutral during the Civil War. Because of its key location, (both river and railroad) and resources, both the Union and Confederacy desired control of the city and, on September 18, 1861, the Confederacy succeeded in occupying the site under the command of General Simon Bolivar Buckner The provisional Confederate government of Kentucky chose Bowling Green as its capital in November 1861.

Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge
On February 14, 1862, after receiving reports that Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River had been captured by Union forces, the Confederates ended their occupation. They destroyed bridges across the Barren River, the railroad depot and other important buildings as they retreated. The city was subject to raids and other disruptions for the remainder of the war.

During the summer of 1864, Union General Stephen G. Burnbridge, (also known as the 'Butcher of Kentucky'), arrested 22 men in and around Bowling Green on suspicion of treason. This and subsequent ill treatment by federal authorities led to bitterness among Bowling Green residents toward the Union and sympathies with the Confederacy.

Fire Flashback: January 27, 1977 WKU Student Dies in Fire

From The Daily News by Tom Caudill

A Western Kentucky University student was killed in a fire in his apartment early this morning. David Harold Shaver, Jr., 24, of 1214 State St., Apt. 3, was found slumped over a floor-standing ashtray in the middle of the small apartment's living quarters, his body badly burned, firemen said.

Shaver's room-mate, Nick Campbell Gunn, 25, was burned on his shoulder and hands while apparently trying to put out the blaze, firemen said, and his condition this morning was listed as fair at City-County Hospital. Gunn reportedly ran to the hospital for treatment, rubbing snow on his wounds as he went. Gunn is a 1974 graduate of Western, whose home address was listed then as 208 Woodlawn Ave., Horse Cave.

Shaver, a senior general business major and sociology minor, was from Greenville. He was a graduate of Greenville High School, adn his home address was 401 Wheeler Ave., Greenville. Shaver's body was taken to Gary's Funeral Home, Greenville, where arrangements are incomplete. Warren County Coroner J.C. Kirby said teh cause of Shaver's death is likely to be listed as accidental burning.

Firemen don't know the cause of the blaze, but Fire Chief Lonnie Bellamy said this morning the fire apparantly started in the living quarters, near the entrance to a kitchenette. The apartment, which also contained a small utility room and bathroom, was gutted, but the rest of the house received little damage. Shaver and Gunn lived upstairs in one of four apartments in the house owned by Joseph Covington, 1239 State Street.

Bellamy said the occupants apparantly were asleep when the fire broke out. He said it appeared Shaver had been asleep on a mattress on the floor. Gunn, who apparantly was aroused first, began trying to put out the fire, Bellamy believes. The commotion awoke an occupant of the neighboring apartment, who summoned firemen. The firefighters said Gunn had escaped from the apartment by the time they arrived, but the flames were too intense for them to enter and save Shaver.

The fire was brought under control within five minutes of the time firemen arrived, about 3:30 a.m. They stayed on the scene until about 6 a.m., however. Fireman Larry Johnson sufferred a slight eye cut and was taken to the hospital for treatment, then released.

Bellamy speculated that Shaver eventually was awakened but the smoke and flames were too intense for him to escape. He said it is possible Shaver couldn't find his way out of the apartment in the dense smoke. Total damage to the house was listed at $5,000 with all the fire damage and most of the smoke damage confined to Shaver's apartment upstairs on the South side. Damage to the contents of the apartment was listed as $1,200. Some water damage was sustained by the apartment below.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

Local Notables: Eliza Calvert Hall, Writer

Eliza Caroline "Lida" Obenchain (née Calvert), (February 11, 1856 - December 20, 1935), author and women's rights advocate, wrote popular short stories featuring 'Aunt Jane', an outspoken spinster.  President Theodore Roosevelt recommended her book, "Aunt Jane of Kentucky", as reading for all families "Where the menfolk tend to be selfish or thourghtless or overbearing with regard to their womenfolk." 

You can read Eliza Calvert Hall's Aunt Jane of Kentucky on-line at Project Guttenberg free!

One of her Sonnet's is also on-line and you can even read a 1908 interview with Eliza.

Saratoga Fire, Feb., 1992 Article 2

From The Daily News
by Steve Chaplin
Feb. 10, 1992

As Ken Kinser stood Saturday in front of his used tire business on Old Louisville Road and watched the Saratoga Building burn, he couldn't help but remmeber the burned body he saw pulled from another fire 25 years ago.

"I've seen it happen before and I didn't want anybody to burn up over there," Kinser said of the three-story building fire. "I was just worried that somebody might have got trapped in there, so I told them about the three kids I'd seen."

He said he told police that he saw three boys walking behind the building a few minutes before the fire started. No one was believed inside the building when it burned and Bowling Green Fire Department arson investigator Richard Storey said oen of the three teenage boys has been interviewed. The building is owned by Hunter Hills Baptist Church Corp., according to the Warren County Property Valuation Administrator's Office.

The other youths might be interviewed today, along with some residents and businessmen ni a section of northeast Bowling Green that has seen two suspicious fires in the same block last week and several acts of vandalism and attempted arson during past months. Storey said he can't blame people for not wanting to talk about the incidents, which have included car tire slashings and the burning of a tire in front of Kinser's business.

"I would be concerned if I lived out there and somebody set a fire and I saw who did it. I'd be careful about what I said and who I said it to," Storey said.

Witnesses are more likely to report people involved with assults and burglaries than they are arsons, Storey said.

"People are more afraid of fires and I don't blame them," he said.

Several residents and workers at the scene of the Saratoga fire were willing to give details of what they saw, but most declined to give their name for fear of retribution.

"I'm not giving no names. We've had too much going on around here; something might happen," one man said as he watched firefighters battle the fire.

There are indications that the Saratoga fire, which reignited Sunday, and a fire Tuesday in a vacant house about 30 yards away were teh results of arson, Storey said.

"Right now there is no indication the two are connected, but it is a possibility. I think it's a coincidence right now... I hope so anyway," Storey said.

Firefighters said Saturday night that they entered the Saratoga to find numerous fires burning inside of the three-story brick building, making it impossible for them to battle all the hot spots at once. Assistant Chief Randall Gann said that as they attacked some of the fires, others got worse, eventually forcing firefighters out of the building.

Storey said Tuesday's fire at 1462 Old Louisville Road started at teh back of the empty home where a porch had been converted into a family room.

"We'll start there adn work our way back," he said of that arson investigation.

Firefighters returned Sunday to the Saratoga fire scene for about 30 minutes to extinguish some hard-to-reach hot spots. Storey said he was hoping to get to the fire scene today.

"We can't get into it right now because there's too much ice and there is some danger of the walls collapsing. We're hoping some of the ice will melt today," he said.

Fire Flashback: Possible Arson at the Saratoga Building, Feb. 9, 1992

From The Daily News
by Steve Chaplin

Arson is suspected in a blaze Saturday that destroyed the vacant Saratoga building on Old Louisville Road, according to a Bowling Green Fire Department assistant chief. More than 20 firefighters responded to the three-story fire after nearby residents reported smoke coming from windows and the roof about 5:50 p.m. Firefighters were quickly forced outside because of heavy smoke and numerous fires in the structure, Assistant Chief Randall Gann said.

"It was fully involved when we got here. We attempted an interior attack but we discovered fires throughout the building and we could only attack one or two while the others got out of control," Gann said Saturday at the fire scene. "It was too dangerous to stay inside."

There was a concern that a transient woman might have been staying in the basement of the building, but an initial search by firefighters revealed no signs of anyone inside.

"I believe it was set," Gann said while coordinating the placement of water hoses at the scene.

Heavy black smoke billowed from windows on the first and second stories and flames engulfed the roof within 20 minutes after the fire call was received by dispatchers. Witnesses next door at 1460 Old Louisville Road and those standing in front of Ken's used tires across the steet both reported seeing people go behind the building befoer the fire was reported.

Bowling Green police Officer Terry Steff said he knew at least one witness saw people leaving before the fire scene, but that person and others had yet to be interviewed. "I think we have one witness; somebody who called it in," he said.

"There's a lot of flame and a lot of smoke. We had to back everybody out. I think it has a steel structure so it could cave in at any time," Capt. Gary Hazel as he pulled off an oxygen tank after coming out of the burning building.

Firefighters pulled out of the building and set up fire hoses nearby as flames began coming out of windows and the roof. At least six units with at least 20 men were at the scene, Gann said. The building, which was known as both the Saratoga and the C.L. Cutliff Building, was vacant.

No injuries had been reported, but firefigthers remained on the scene at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.