1814 Nashville Fire

Primary Source Document, transcribed by Larry Michael Ellis.


Under the dispensations of divine providence, we have again to record the destructive effects of of [sic] this ungovernable element. – On Friday night last, about 10 o’clock, the citizens of this town were alarmed with the cry of fire! It proceeded from the hay-loft of Wm. W. Cooke, Esq. near Mr. Woods [sic] warehouse; it had gained such an ascendency [sic] & the buildings were so combustible, that the utmost exertions of the citizens could not save the large adjoining warehouse, filled with consignments to Joseph Woods esq commission merchant, the bindery, dwelling house and bookstore of Mr. Duncan Robertson, the tavern house of Robert Renfroe, the frame house of John Anderson esq, the house occupied by Mr. Ernest Benoit, baker, the shop of Messrs. E. and G. Hewlett saddlers above; the dwelling house of Wm. W. Cooke esq, the dwelling house occupied by Mr. S. V. Stout, the warehouse of Messrs. Read and Washington, army contractors, and their office, the shop & dwelling house of Mr. D. C. Snow, tin plate worker, below; the dwelling house of Joseph T. Elliston, and his silversmith shop, the dwelling house of the editor of the Clarion, & his printing office, the house lately occupied by Wm. M. Wallace, as a shoemaker’s shop and the house occupied be Joseph Sumner, the property of Mr. John Young, the office of the Nashville Whig, and the hatter’s shop of Mr. Joshua Pilcher, and the brick store-house occupied by W. Tannehill, esq. above on the east of Market street, & all the frame buildings on the same side opposite to bank alley, making in the whole the most destructive fire ever experienced in the western country. No language can paint the distress of many of the sufferers, who were left without bread, meat, dishes or plates, or a covering except the heavens. In the whole range of the fire we are however gratified that no lives were lost, and we hope that in a few years a majority of the sufferers will be able to replace the property they have thus lost.

In some few cases we are, however, sorry to learn the individuals are ruined. It is impossible at present to form any estimate of the immense loss sustained – nearly one half the buildings that were in the town are in ashes; much furniture and other valuable property was lost in the flames. Among the sufferers, the Editor of this Paper finds it necessary to repeat that he was one – his Printing Office contained many printed books and pamphlets, the most of which were lost, and he is sorry to state, in that situation is the Journal of the proceedings of the last Gener- Assembly [sic], which was nearly entirely lost. Of the Journal of the house of Representatives, it is believed a copy can be made out; but of the Senate, there is not the least hope of ever recovering one, for the printing and manuscript shared the same fate. Of the heavy editions of law books, &c. &c in the house, it is believed scarcely a copy remains; and of the printing apparatus, a considerable part was lost; but one press and nearly all the type was saved. For the satisfaction of the members of the last General Assembly, he is thus particular, that the loss of the public Journals may be rightly understood.

The fire was communicated, we have little doubt, by some incendiary – who is not yet ascertained.

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