The Fire of August 12, 1909

This fire, which destroyed nearly the entire downtown business section of Milton, began in the Markel & Hartman “Big Store” sometime after midnight, of unknown cause. Reports of the fire appeared in newspapers all over the U. S., more often than not filled with inaccuracies, contradictions and gross exaggerations. The most detailed local account was by David A. Conner and appeared in his Milton News column of the Milford Chronicle in the August 20 edition. Among the many businesses burned to the ground was the store belonging to his son Charles A. Conner, and Charles’ personal residence narrowly escaped destruction. Conner’s account was reprinted in Joana S. Donovan’s book, It Began With A River, which also includes an earlier article about the fire that appeared in the Sussex Journal of August 14, 1909, correspondent unknown.

I invite you to read Conner’s compelling account of the fire in his Milton News letter of August 20.

Looking at a sampling of the newspaper coverage from around the country, it would appear that the same or nearly the same story was copied and retold over and over again. Wire services such as AP and UPI were in existence by 1909, but there is no reference to either of these as the source of the article. The sole coverage among the sample that actually did credit Associated Press – that of the Harrisburg Telegraph – was more detailed and accurate.

Wilkes-Barre Record 14 Aug

New York Times 14 Aug

Bakersfield Californian

The Daily Review (Decatur, IL) 13 Aug

Harrisburg Telegraph 13 Aug

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