Dakota Datebook

Buffalo Blaze

Thursday, November 19, 2009


A terrible fire was reported from the town of Buffalo, North Dakota, on this date in 1900. The fire swept through the city’s business district, destroying every business save one. Like many early towns of the time, the majority of Buffalo’s businesses were concentrated onto a single block in the town’s center. Although this proved an efficient set-up, it also increased the risk of damage from fire.
The Buffalo fire began on the early morning of November 18th. A resident discovered flames coming from the second story of Henry Baker’s butcher shop around 3 o’clock. The flames quickly spread to buildings on both sides of the wooden meat-market, and soon the entire business block was up in smoke. Although residents quickly rushed to the scene, there was little to be done except watch the conflagration consume the town’s livelihood.
The only business spared was T. A. Quirk’s furniture store, located on the far west side of the block. The store caught fire three times, but despite the city’s lack of a fire department, the townspeople were successful in extinguishing the flames.
The Bank of Buffalo, owned by S. G. More and serving the entire community, burned to the ground at a loss of $3,500. Editor Townes of the Buffalo Express lost not only his newspaper, but also his confection shop. The Bellis barbershop, Tavlik’s shoe store, Ole Larson’s blacksmith shop, a harness shop, and several offices were also destroyed.
Although only half of the businesses were insured, the city of Buffalo was quick to rebuild. Both the bank and the newspaper set up temporary shop in the Town Hall, and were soon joined by the city’s post office. Editor Townes even delivered on his promise to produce the next weekly issue of the Buffalo Express as scheduled, and the paper hit the newsstands the following week. The cause of the fire was never determined, but townspeople generally believed it to be the result of either a defective chimney flue or “…a combination of matches and mice.”

Dakota Datebook by Jayme L. Job

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, Monday (Evening ed.), November 19, 1900: p.1.

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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