Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mapping the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904


Ever wonder if an ancestor was connected to historic events? Natural disaster? Epidemic?

Growing up in Maryland everyone knew about the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. Our elders told tales of how it started and spread.

I knew all four of my grandparents resided in Baltimore during this time-frame. Depending on the path of the flames, could they have perished?

I started wondering how close family members resided to the disaster. Did they have to evacuate? Could they see the flames?

To answer these questions I created a map.

 Baltimore Street Map, 1905
click to enlarge for better viewing

With the 1900 United States Federal Census and 1904 Baltimore City Directory, I was able to locate the following ancestors.

The red circles represent the fire zones. Blue box identifies the Jones Falls. Family members resided as follows:

* Barbara Jihlan - (2nd great-grandmother) - 519 N. Maderia St - gray circle
* Charles F. Wakfield - (great-grandfather) - 605 N. Collington Ave - green circle
* August Eck (husband of 2nd great-grand aunt Catherine Judd) - 106 N. Ann St - orange circle
* Norman S. Gaphardt, Sr. (great-grandfather) - 608 Montford Ave - purple circle

As you see, most of these ancestors lived east of the disaster. Accounts detail the fire progressing in their direction. Heading towards the Jones Falls.

From local newspapers we learn the following:

"Monday, 12 noon
...The only hope of saving East Baltimore was the Jones Falls. Thus a fire department stand was established along the east side of the Falls. Starting around 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. nine engines from New York City, along with two more engines from Wilmington, were placed along the Jones Falls. A total of 37 steam fire engines took water from the Falls from Baltimore Street south and established a wall of water to halt the advancing flames. "

It worked! The fire was stopped! Prevented from heading to a heavily populated part of Baltimore. Just think, there for a few blocks, my family history could have been greatly altered.

Did your ancestor reside in Baltimore during the "Great Fire"? Any other such events in your family history? Map it!

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