Massive fires lead to creation of Village of Monroe

MONROE. A fire in November 1892 destroyed eight buildings and caused damage totaling more than $1.2 million in today's dollars.

Monroe /
Aug 15 2019 | 12:52 PM

In 1894, the Village of Monroe was incorporated within the Town of Monroe for a very practical reason – the residents needed a local fire department. A town could not form a fire district of its own. Only a village could do that.

As a result, Monroe residents had to rely on fire fighters from Goshen to travel 12 miles, sometimes by train, to battle their blazes.

The following is an account of one such fire, which occurred in November 1892. The much longer original story about that fire appeared in the Nov. 4, 1892, issue of Goshen’s weekly newspaper, the Independent Republican.

Monroe swept by fire

Shortly before midnight on Wednesday night, the Goshen Fire Department responded to a call for help from the people of Monroe.

The town was being swept by fire, and several buildings were in flames.

It was 1 a.m. before Goshen’s Cataract Engine and Dikeman’s hose carriage arrived on the scene, and even longer before the fire fighters arrived by train, which had been slow to start.

It would be another five hours before fire fighters got the blaze under control.

The fire had been discovered at 11 p.m. in a building on Lake Street, which was used for storage by owner Charles Webb, but a group of young men often used a room on the second floor for card games. It is believed that the fire began there as a result of their carelessness.

Monroe citizens quickly organized a bucket brigade, passing buckets of water from one to the next in hopes of dousing the flames.

However, the fire quickly spread to a nearby barn behind the storage building, then to a nearby stable, then to another barn and row of sheds.

From there, the flames traveled back to Lake Street, engulfing several more buildings.

When the Goshen fire fighters finally arrived, a line of hose was laid to the mill pond nearly 1,000 feet away. Their first effort was to save the Erie depot, which was directly in the path of the oncoming flames.

After dousing the depot with water, they turned their efforts to extinguishing the flames, which still burned fiercely in the ruined buildings.

It took five hours to successfully put out the fire. Eight buildings were destroyed and several others were badly damaged. In addition, the stock belonging to several merchants was wiped out including that of the general store, a clothing store, a tobacco shop, a hardware store and a meat market.

In all, the town suffered a loss of nearly $49,000 in buildings, household goods and merchandise ($1,218,853.17 in today's currency).

The Monroe townspeople were appreciative of the Goshen fire fighters’ efforts, and the men were served hot coffee and lunch before returning to Goshen Thursday on the second milk train.

There is no truth to a rumor that Goshen firemen demanded money from Monroe before rendering assistance.