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The one that gutted the business district of Russellville, Pope Co., AR.

The headline in the January 17, 1906 Russellville Courier Democrat sure got my attention.


Flames Gutted the Business District Last Night.
Loss $250,000
Fire Started at 10:30 Monday Night, and This Morning One-Half of the Business District Lies in Ruins.

The Following Business Houses and Stocks were Total Losses.

Craig & Henry’s butcher shop
The New Store
Stark & Rankin’s grocery
Harkey & Son’s drug store
Chronister Bros. grocery
Faulkner and Schaeffer’s jewelry store and cream parlor
Patrick Bros. tailor shop
Brown Bros. grocery
J.A. Miller, second hand store
F.F. Youngblood, second hand store
White Front Candy Store
J.D. Williams, grocery
M. Jacobson, dry goods
Rankin Bros. & Winn, furniture and hardware
H.V. Williamson, undertaker
Harkey Saddlery Co.
Frank Owens, barber shop
Owens Transfer Co.
Albright’s barber shop
Bank of Russellville
J.J. Wiggs, drug store
W.P. Dailey, grocery
Robert Ragsdale gent’s furnishings

A $250,000 fire swept through the heart of the city last night, and today one-half of the business district of Russellville lies in smouldering ruins.

The fire started in the grocery store of Chronister Bros. and the first alarm was given at 10:15. There was scarcely any wind, and it seemed at first that it would be an easy matter to save adjoining buildings but from the back of concentrated action in fighting the flames it soon spread to adjoining buildings and it was seen that the greater part of the business district was doomed. By 1:30 the flames were under control, but almost three blocks in the heart of the city was a total loss.

The flames spread south on the west side of Jefferson to Main Street and north to Mourning & Hood’s drug store on Jefferson and Russell streets. Craig butcher shop at the rear of the New Store on Main also was a total loss. A strong east wind set in and the flames soon crossed Jefferson to the Bank of Russellville, and this block to the courthouse seemed doomed. Going down the east side of Jefferson everything was swept clean from Main to Rowan Bros. on Jefferson and Russell streets, going east on Main, four buildings were burned, the flames being arrested on the west wall of Gardner Bros. furniture store.

All of the stocks of goods in this vast district were either complete losses, or were in part carried into the streets and greatly damaged. Everything in the store of Mourning & Hood, Rowan Bros., Gardner Bros. & Co., Plott, Newport & Co., and a large portion of the goods in other threatened buildings were carried to the streets and suffered great damage.

Central offices of the Russellville Telephone Co. and of the Southwestern Telephone Co. were burned, and there is no way for the outside world to receive news of the disaster except by telegraph.

It was thought for a time that the flames would cross Main Street, but the front of R.J. Wilson & Sons, the Courier-Democrat and other buildings in the block were protected by wet blankets, and as the wind was from the west, this side of the street was never in real danger.


Of the loss on this vast district, perhaps forty percent of the total on buildings and stocks was covered by insurance. So far as we have been able to learn up to the time of going to press at 11 o’clock, the losses and insurance were about as follows:

Stark & Rankin — stock $4,000, insurance $2,000.
Harkey & Sons — stock $4,000, insurance. $1,500. Building owned by Mrs. J.L. Tucker, loss $4,000, insurance $1,500.
Patrick Bros. — stock $2,000, no insurance.
Bank of Russellville — loss on building and fixtures $10,000, insurance $5,000.
W.P. Dailey — stock $2,000, insurance $500.
Bob Ragsdale — stock $4,500, insurance $1,000. Building owned by L.T. Ragsdale, loss $3,500, insurance $1,000.
Harkey Saddlery Co. — stock $7,000, insurance $2,100.
Martin & Ferguson — building occupied by W.P. Dailey, loss $3,500, insurance $2,000.
M.R. Craig — three buildings and butcher shop, total loss. Some insurance.
Faulkner & Schaeffer — stock and fixtures $5,000, insurance about $3,000.
Chronister Bros. — stock $2,500, insurance $2,000.
Gardner Bros. & Co. — stock $7,000, insurance on stock and building $6,000.
Plott-Newport & Co. — stock $12,500, insurance $8,000.
Brown Bros. — stock and building $6,000, no insurance.
J.J. Wiggs — stock $4,000, insurance $2,500.
Williams Grocer Co. — stock $5,000, insurance $2,500.
Rankin Bros. & Winn — stock $7,000, insurance $2,500.
H.V. Williamson & Co. — stock $2,000, insurance $1,000.
New Store — stock $17,000, insurance $6,500.
Jacobson’s — stock $18,000, no insurance.
M. Jacobson — three buildings, loss $12,000, insurance $8,000.

A Scene of Desolation

The town is full of sightseers this morning and the picture presented to view is indeed one of desolation. The heart of the town and the best buildings and largest stocks, lies smouldering in ashes. Mingled with the throng on the streets is seen the property holder who has lost the savings of a lifetime; the businessman who has labored to build up a trade that would enable him to support his family and last night stood by helpless and saw his stock of goods consumed by the flames, and in many instances is this morning practically as a beggar on the streets; the clerk or salesman who yesterday held a position with a lucrative salary, and is today without work; while mingled with the losers is a mass throng of sympathetic friends who feel the loss to the city and the individuals almost as keenly as the losers themselves.

It is impossible as yet to predict the immediate future of the city, but of course it will be rebuilt as rapidly as possible. A total of twenty-two buildings were destroyed, and Russellville should be a good field of laborers of all kind while the rebuilding is going on.

Streets Filled With goods

At the time of going to press the streets are filled with goods which were tumbled down in mad haste in an effort to save them from the ravages of the flames. Many buildings that were saved from the flames were gutted of their stocks and costly dry goods, dress goods, shoes and all conceivable merchandise was tumbled into the streets and on the sidewalks in profusion. The damage from this source is incalcuable.

The goods are being sorted out and stored away as rapidly as possible, but owing to a lack of sufficient storage room it will be impossible for but few of the losers to open up for business until the burnen (sic) district is rebuilt.

Notes of the Fire

The recently organized fire department was not sufficiently organized to do service as a body last night. The equipment of the company has only partially arrived, and could not be brought into service.

Robert A Ragsdale had $1,000 insurance on stock to expire yesterday.

Faulkner & Schaeder had just installed a handsome soda fountain and opened for business yesterday. The fountain was the pride of all who had seen it. Luckily they had taken out $2,000 insurance on it the day it was put in the house.

Jacobson & Son were the heaviest losers on stock. A stock of about $20,000 was a total loss, with no insurance.

Timely work by the volunteer brigade stayed the flames at Rowan's wall, but the entire stock was carried from the house and suffered great damage.

No one had hopes of arresting the flames on East Main until it reached the two-story building of the Roys, the hardware man, but the wind died down and the bucket brigade succeeded in staying the flames on Gardner & Bros. west wall. The contents of Gardner Bros. and Plott-Newport and Co. were carried from the building and greatly damaged.

Roys suffered no loss except from damage to stock and some goods carried from the building.

R. J. Wilson & Sons were the heaviest losers on the south side of Main street. Blankets were used from his stock to protect the buildings, and considerable damage was done to stock.

It was as rapid a fire as the writer ever saw, it being less than three hours from the time the alarm was given until this vast area was destroyed and the fire was under control.

All the wells in the neighborhood of the fire were taken to their utmost capacity, but the scant supply of water had little effect on the flames.

The fire should furnish a lesson against the use of frame awnings when the district is rebuilt. The ravages of the flames could have been checked in many places had it not been for awnings, which it seemed impossible to tear away.

Handsome and more pretentious buildings will likely take the place of those burned away, but this is little consolation to the losers.

Business will be resumed to as great an extent and as rapidly as possible and we feel sure that the losers in this calamity have the sympathy of the entire county, and surrounding territory. We feel equally as sure that friends and customers of the city will remain loyal to her best interests, and that town and county will work in unison for the rebuilding of a greater and better Russellville.

This extra edition of the CD is gotten up as hurriedly as possible. Telephone connections are all down, and the mail is our only recourse for reaching our readers with the news of the calamity is through the mail. Our regular edition will appear at the usual time.


Date: 2010-11-15 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hello! My Williamsons have been in Russellville since 1830's. I've collected some records for the area. Contact me through my blog ( if you'd like to compare notes.


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Dee Burris Blakley

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