May 19, 1911

Another destructive conflagration visited Milton on Wednesday the 10th, commencing at About 3.30 p. m. and continuing one and a-half hours. The fire originated in an old stable at the foot of Chestnut Street, below Front. This stable was consumed, beside three other old granaries, together with a building belonging to Captain G. R. Megee, and the office of Charles Virden. The fire then took its course down the dock westward, and in the rear of Front Street. Virden’s lumber yard was burnt, with a large quantity of valuable timber, shingles, and many tons of coal. The heat from the piles of lumber, communicated to the works of the Royal Packing Company, cannery and three-storied flour mill—which buildings were of metal; but the heat was so intense that the frame of the buildings and other material inside soon caught, and a smoldering fire worked inside, ever and anon bursting but in clouds of dense black smoke, from which lurid tongues of flame would burst forth; even in the daytime it was a weird scene. Eventually the cannery went down, amidst the cracks and bangs of the bursting cans of tomatoes. This communicated to another old granary; and this to another one across the foot of Federal Street. Both of these shacks went down; and here the fire literally was stopped for the want of more fuel. In the meantime the fire was at work on the inside of the Packing Company’s flour mill, the frame of which being heavy and large, and being confined was long in bursting out. But when the air did reach it, and a part of it fell, the dense volume of blackness that went up attested the result. S. J. Wilson & Son’s undertaking establishment, being very near the mill, was considerably damaged on one end. It is of concrete blocks and metal; yet about all of the glass in that end were broken by the heat, and the walls, an entablature much blackened; and it was only by vigilance and attention that the fire was kept from catching to the wood work on the inside—the rafters and the ends of the upper joists. As has been said, the fire was in the rear of Front Street, i. e. between Front Street and the dock. By great effort the buildings on Front street, consisting of Wall’s meat market, the Times office, Crouch’s shoe shop, Jr. O. U. A. M. building, Harry Robinson’s restaurant, Harry Draper’s office, and S. J. Wilson & Son’s carriage bazaar, were saved. Although much effort was involved in doing it. The Jr. Order building was on fire several times, and men were in the attic with water all the time. Men were also on the roofs of other buildings, and that is what saved them. With the belief that these buildings must go, the inside furniture was removed as fast as possible, from the Times office, the restaurant, and the beef store; counters torn out, and a great deal of needless work done during the excitement. But we didn’t know. From the first it was impossible to do anything with the fire in its general course. The fire engine was gotten out on the first alarm, and while the men did all they could, the engine was practically useless. The fire from the lumber was so hot, that one could not get near it and the attention of all was called to the saving of the buildings on the south side of the fire; i.e., on Front Street. And this was done. Ah! God bless the women and girls of Milton! They are ladies when necessary; and when necessary they are heroines. Not Amazons, but heroines such as Joan of Arc, and others whom God made. It is believed had it not been for the women and the gills, the buildings on Front Street would have burned. Many of them including the Rev. Hurst’s wife carried water during the whole time of the fire. The bucket brigade in petticoats was the one hope, and it proved efficacious. The fire exhausted itself or burnt itself out for the want of fuel. Commencing eastward from the fire of [August] 13th, 1909, it burned westward up to where the other fire in that direction stopped. Although there was but a slight breeze blowing at the time, the roof of the three-story building of J. R. Atkins on the corner of Broad and North Union streets, caught tire but was seen on time and extinguished, also the roof of the Douglass White Shirt and Overall Factory, farther up North Union Street, caught fire from the sparks and was put without damage. During the conflagration nearly all the people in town were on the scene. The factory suspended operations, the stores were closed and pandemonium reigned. At night the scene was weird and awful. The bursting of canned tomatoes were like picket shots, and the spume went into the air like rockets, though not so high. And on Thursday morning there was another scene. Front Street represented about fourteen gipsy camps, minus the tents. All the tout ensemble of a disabled paraphernalia of carriages, in their various stages of decline were here, the gathering in trade, and otherwise of all the collections in the neighborhood hereabout. And still the detonations from the buried bursting tomato cans beneath the smoldering debris, went on. The electric light plant was burned out with the Royal Packing Company’s plant, but attachment was immediately made with like Georgetown wires, and the stores and post office which were lighted by the Milton plant, were lighted on that evening by the Georgetown company. When the fire first became serious, Lewes and Georgetown were telephoned for help, but there was no engine at Lewes to bring their fire engine over. And the Georgetown fire apparatus is of such a make that it could not be operated here. However, there were in the evening visitors from Lewes, Georgetown and Milford, who came by automobiles. As to the origin of the fire, it is the “old, old story,” supposed to have caught from a discharged pipe, or from a match after having lighted one. But this time it was not “the boys,” for the boys were at school, and some man must bear the blame for the disaster. The loss is estimated at $42,000 distributed as follows: C. A. Virden, $9,000, insurance. $4,500; C. A. Conner, $2,000, no insurance; Captain George E. Megee, $1,500, no insurance; S. J. Wilson, $800; Jr. O. U. A. M., $100; Royal Packing Company $28,000, as follows: Plant, $17,000; canned goods, on hand, sold and ready for shipment, $8,000; empty cans and case, $3,000; the other buildings destroyed, were of no value whatever, and have been practically useless for a quarter of a century, and had they been torn down long ago, this fire would not have occurred. Under the present town ordinance it is safe to say the losers of the destroyed property will not rebuild in this locality. This fire will cause the pea growers, who have contracted with the Packing Company to look elsewhere for a market; and will cause some loss to the laboring community during the canning season. There were several incidents and accidents that occurred during the raging of the conflagration, which follow: W. W. Conwell, while on a ladder in the Jr. O. U. A. M. building, near the attic fell, lacerating his face and hands, and nearly severing the lobe of his left ear; but he still survives. During the height of the excitement, an aged lady fainted; a middle-aged society lady “had a spell;” and an old man up town had to be carried home. And another woman asked the Rev. Hurst to pray saying, “I believe in praying!” Rev. Hurst replied, “prayer is all right; but there is something to do now beside pray.” After the fire was under control, Harry Robinson gave a general treat to the men, girls, and women on ginger ale, which was thankfully accepted and appreciated. O! yes; the girls did drink; drank right out of the bottles, and who blames them?

On Friday evening a Baltimore civil engineer met with Town Council and has been employed to make a diagram of the town, streets, position of houses etc., in order that an estimate may be made on the cost of water works.

On Saturday there was a woods fire in Cave Neck, two miles from Milton which did considerable to growing timber, before it was subdued.

Alexine Collins left on Thursday for a tour of the Middle States.

Edward Manship is quite ill with pneumonia, at the home of Mrs. Florence Johnson, on North Mulberry Street.

Employees of the Diamond State Telephone Company were in town last week probing and digging around the poles for telephone worms.

C. E. Bacon attended the Diocese Convention of the P. E. Church, held in Wilmington last week.

Mrs. Carrie Johnson has had screened the back porch of her residence on Federal Street.

Mrs. Elizabeth Carey has had repairs made to her property on North Mulberry Street.

J. B. Welch has made some improvements by filling up with dirt around his property.

“Mothers’ Day” was not generally celebrated with white carnations, because we could not get them, but we wore a red rose with the same sentiment.

“The greatest of battles that ever was fought,
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps pf the world you will find them not,
They were fought by the mothers of men.” [i]

An adjourn Quarterly Conference was held it the [M. P.]. Church on Saturday evening. On account of the scarcity of numbers, the question of a camp meeting was not taken up; but will be voted on at a meeting called for Saturday evening the 20th; provided a sufficient number of church members can be gotten out to form a quorum.

Prof. Fearing is doing some paper hanging at the residence of Capt. Frank Lacey on Federal Street.

Early on Monday morning the Rev. Hurst’ was out with level, rule, square etc. preparing to put down curbing at the parsonage on Coulter Avenue. The preacher is quite a carpenter, and has the tools to do the work. Later in the day we passed by again and the work was progressing finely. The preacher had taken on Mr. Starkey, as a journeyman.

Joshua Prettyman has put a new wire fence in front of his property on Broad Street.

We were informed, this morning, there is a farmer (?) near town who has, yet, 35 shocks of corn and fodder—last year’s crop—in the field, and unhusked. What do you think of him?

Samuel Fithian has bought of Oliver Hazzard the lot on the west side of South Union Street, near the bridge. Consideration private.

Notice was received on Tuesday by the Broadkiln vice-president that the 43rd annual meeting of the Sussex County Bible Society will be held at Seaford on Thursday the 18th. This notice was received too late to elect delegates from Broadkiln, and to take the annual collection. By many this is thought to be all right; considering it is unnecessary to take the money from the people to be squandered in the purchase and distribution of bibles where not needed. The School Board of the State formulates the curriculum for the public schools and the State furnishes the books when needed.

The following is a copy of a metaphorical ticket—which must be explained after the event has passed—and that has been handed us, for use, and publication:

Excursion Ticket,
Good for one first class trip
“Around The World”

May 30. 7.30 p. m. Train leaves Methodist Episcopal Church. Milton, every twenty minutes, stopping at San Francisco, Yokohoma. Bombay, Copenhagen, Paris, and Venice for rest, recreation and refreshments.
Fare, including meals, 25 cents.
Present this ticket to the conductor at every station.
Benefit Pipe Organ Fund

[i] Excerpt from a poem by Cincinnatus Heine Miller (pen name Joaquin Miller) (1837 – 1913); the first line actually begins “The bravest battle that was ever fought…”