Reprint from Special Edition
Blue Mt. Eagle - Canyon City, Oregon
April 20th, 1937

Fire Fiend Wipes Out Canyon Business District

Flames Break Out in Hotel Canyon And in Less Than 30 Minutes Town Is A Raging Inferno.

Canyon City once more is a mass of ruins. For the third time in its history, the business district of the city has been swept by the fire demon. The first time in 1870, the town was partially wiped out. Again in 1898, on the night of Nov. 11, the entire business district, with the exception of the Grant County News office, was laid low by a fire which started in the old Elkhorn Hotel shortly before midnight. Last night for the third time the old historic town of Joaquin Miller and the miners of 1862 was laid low and as we go to press is a mass of smoldering ruins.

The fire started in the upper story of Hotel Canyon at 6:30 o'clock. How it started is a mystery, but in a few minutes after it was discovered the hotel was a mass of flames, and the volunteer fire department, which was mobilized in a few short minutes, was fighting the flames with five lines of hose, in frantic efforts to save the adjoining buildings, but to no avail. Slowly the flames spread to the Canyon Hall Company building, occupied by the Interior Drug store, then jumped across the street to the Canyon City Mercantile Co. store, and south to the Klink building, occupied by the Pacific States Telephone and Telegraph Co., and the residence of Deputy County Surveyor F.C. Mack.

The law office of Errett Hicks was next to go, followed by the law office of Roy Kilpatrick and Blue Mt. Stage Company, then the Eagle building, owned by Orin L. Patterson and occupied on the lower floor by the Blue Mt. Eagle and on the upper floor by Mr. Patterson and son, District Attorney Jake Blank, and George Miller, attorney. The Canyon City Garage, at the rear, owned by C.W. Brown, was destroyed, while on the opposite side of the street, the Associated Service Station, owned by Ralph Curl, the Fraternal Hall, owned jointly by the Masonic and Odd Fellows, and the residence of Prentiss Hicks, occupied by George Dustin, fell a prey to the flames.

It was a spectacular fire and had not been burning long before John Day turned out en masse, with their chemical engine and the fire fighting apparatus of the Forest Service. Prairie City responded to the call for help with its fire equipment and many of its citizens. Even Dayville, 35 miles away, brought up a line of hose. Only by the heroic work of the Canyon City fire department, assisted by the John Day boys and many others was the fire stopped before it reached the Patterson Cottage on the west side of the street and the Episcopal church on the east side, while on the north end of the street the stone buildings of Dick Clark and the post office building, belonging to the Anna Sels estate, prevented the fire from destroying the entire business section.

As the fire burned slowly, there being no wind, much of the contents were saved from several of the buildings which were destroyed. Everybody helped and office furniture, law books, household furniture and valuable records and documents were carried out and piled up in the street and moved out of danger by car and truck. The Patterson Cottage was stripped of its contents, the Summers sisters fearing that their home would be destroyed, but heroic work on the part of the fire-fighters saved the building, although it caught fire several times from the flying embers. Nearly everything was removed from the Dixon Pastime, the County Ag--- office, the George Fell Abstract Office, the county relief office and the Patterson Barber shop, but fortunately these buildings were saved. The Guernsey stone building, owned by the Ira Sproul estate, was occupied by W.C. Ford and used as a storage warehouse.

Had it not been for Canyon City's new water system, installed last year, it is highly probably that the entire town would have now been in ashes. Lee Overstreet, local manager of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co., stuck to his post and notified the outside world that Canyon City was in flames a few minutes before his office was in ruins, and all communication cut off. Shortly after the fire started, manager Bernhardt of the West Coast Power Co. took the precaution to cut off the power line running into town, thereby eliminating danger from falling wires. However, service was resumed over part of the town before the fire had ceased burning.

Louie DeLine, proprietor of the John Day Hotel, stated to an Eagle reporter that his hotel was open to the fire sufferers without cost. "Tell anyone without a home that they are welcome", said Mr. DeLine. While the Blue Mt. Eagle plant was burning, Arthur Jones, proprietor of the John Day Valley Ranger, offered the facilities of his office for the publication of this special edition. Many others offered shelter to those who had lost their homes and personal belongings.

"Loss Estimated At $75,000.00

The total loss is conservatively estimated at $75,000 and it is thought that the total insurance carried will amount to about $25,000. Most of the buildings and businesses were partially covered with insurance. The heaviest loss was the Canyon City Mercantile store, the big building and the entire stock going up in flames. Next, the Fraternal Hall, the home of the Masonic and I.O.O.F. fraternal orders, although a stone structure, could not withstand the raging flames and was totally ruined. The Canyon Hall Co. building which adjoined the hotel building on the south was burned to the ground. This building was occupied on the lower floor by the Interior Drug store, also housekeeping quarters occupied by the druggist Terry Bell and his wife. The upper story housed the W.O.W. and K.P. lodges and the law office of E.P. Truesdell. Although separated from the hotel and drugstore building by a vacant lot, the 2-story Klink building to the south was also consumed by the leaping tongues of fire as were all of the building on the west side of Main street as far south as the Patterson Cottage and as far north as the Dick Clark barber shop and Pastime building. These were the Eagle building, Kilpatrick law office building, Hicks law office, Geo. Dustin's pastime and restaurant. On the east side of the street the Ralph Curl Service Station and the old butcher shop building occupied as a residence by Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Dustin, as well as the C.C. store and Fraternal Hall were completely reduced to ashes. The old C.C. Garage building directly behind the Eagle Office was also destroyed. The Eagle building was occupied by the Blue Mt. Eagle on the lower floor, the equipment of which was entirely lost; on the upper floor were the offices of Orin Patterson, insurance and land leasing; and two law offices, that of Dist. Att. J.M. Blank, and the office of Attorney George Miller.

The next building north of the Eagle office was occupied by Roy Kilpatrick's law office and the office of L. Woldenberg, owner and manager of the Blue Mt. Stage Co. The next building was that of Errett Hicks law office which had living quarters in the rear of the building occupied by some recent newcomers to town. Next bldg north was the Joe Klink bldg, the lower floor being occupied as the central office of the Pac. Telephone & Telegraph Co., and up-stairs were living apartments occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Chas. Mack. The Macks saved the greater part of their furniture and belongings and it is understood that the most valuable contents of the Blue Mt. Stage Office and the lawyers' offices were carried out and saved. The Canyon Hall Co. bldg was owned by the K.P. and W.O.W. lodges and five other stockholders. The Hotel building had just been recently purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Ray Brisbois and they had just within the last few days installed complete new cafe and fountain equipment. Mr. and Mrs. RalphCurl lost their home as well as their business as they had their living quarters in the rear of the service station; and Mr. and Mrs. Warren Everett likewise suffered a double loss as they made their home in the back of the CC Mercantile store which they owned and operated. The store bldg was owned by P.A. Retrum. Prentiss Hicks owned the old butcher shop bldg where Geo. Dustin and wife made their home. The Fraternal Hall bldg, a large two-story stone structure, the lower part used as a dance hall and place for plays and public gatherings, and the upper story being equally divided for the lodge rooms of the Masonic and Odd Fellows orders. This bldg was owned by the two fraternal organizations.

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1998 Roxann Gess Smith
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