The Otsego Herald for Nov. 22, 1819, compiled, with comments:

Wilmington, NC

Wilmington has experienced more awful calamities by fire, than almost any other place in the Union. Thrice within twenty years, has this devouring element laid in ashes the abodes of her inhabitants. ... On Thursday morning last, about 3 o’clock, the cry of fire was given, and the delusion vanished. Her bright hopes were destroyed.

The frightful picture is before us, and it is our duty to present it to our distant readers. ... It would be impossible for us to follow the fire in its progress, for such was its rapidity, extending in every direction, that the melancholy result was at once perceived; and the general object was to remove such articles from the buildings as time would permit. ...

From the best calculation we can make, the whole number of houses destroyed are about three hundred, of every description, including the Presbyterian church lately erected; and the total loss of property between six and seven hundred thousand dollars.

Only one life was lost. Captain Farquhar M’Rea ...who ventured within a building for the purpose of saving property not his own. The walls fell, and he was crushed to atoms. ...

And all this the work of an incendiary. Suspicion has been afloat, but we suspect it has not been directed towards the right person. Higher views than those of plunder must have been the object, for we have heard of not much success and of very few attempts. ... We will not attempt to portray the character of the wretch. ...

COMMENT: According to one account, the fire burned four blocks. In 1820 Wilmington had a population of 2,600 — today it is about 120,000.

And in Schenectady

It is with painful sensations we communicate to our readers the following melancholy detail. ... We can only add that, on the authority of a gentleman who came from Schenectady yesterday, and who had surveyed the ruins in order to ascertain their extent, that seventy five dwelling houses and stores, and about an equal number of barns and other buildings, were destroyed.

We understand that only a comparatively small number of the property was insured.

COMMENT: Schenectady had a population of 4,000 in 1820; in 2019 it was about 65,000.

Western wild horses

The horse of Columbian river will rank, with the finest of his species in the whole world. His size is fifteen or sixteen hands, even in a state of nature, unprovided with food or shelter by the hands of man. His form exhibits much bone and muscles. ... His limbs are clean and slender; the neck arched and rising; the hoofs round and hard; and the nostrils wide.

He is equally distinguished for speed and bottom. He runs rapidly, and for a long time. ... In the docility of his nature, in his capacity to sustain hunger and hardship, in his powers to provide for himself and his (Indian) master, he is wholly unrivalled. He is readily trained in the business of his master’s business, and pursues the game with all the keenness of the dog, and with equal sagacity, and more success. ...

This fine animal is found on the bank of the Columbia, in latitude 46, in the great plain which lies on the border of this river, between the upper and lower range of mountains. His origin is traced to Mexico, thence to Spain, thence to the north of Africa. ... — From the St. Louis Enquirer.

Singular Rain

Buffalo, Nov. 10. The rain which fell on this village and vicinity during the storm on Saturday night last, was deeply tinged with some black substance, somewhat resembling soot, so as to discolour the windows, fences, &c. almost as much as if sprinkled with ink — We have heard no reason assigned for this phenomenon.

The weather

We have experienced several very dark days during the past week, particularly Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The atmosphere uncommonly dense and oppressive; and the fog or smoke, so thick that we could generally see but a few rods in circumference. The sun, on Wednesday, wore a very singular aspect — being of a light pink, faintly tinged with a lilac hue.

COMMENT: These suggest the result of a volcanic explosion. Similar dark days and smoky atmospheres were noted in America around Nov. 9. There was an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 1819, or conceivably the very major eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1813, the largest in known history, which left effects in the atmosphere around the world for years. The summer of 1816 is known in the American east as the “summer when there was no summer.”


Early on Saturday morning the 6th November, the extensive powder manufactory, belonging to Jared Mills, Jr. in Canton, took fire ... from the friction of the machinery. Before the fire was discovered, it communicated to the powder, which, in the mill, and in an adjoining warehouse, amounted to about 400 barrels.

The explosion was of course tremendous, and was distinctly heard and felt in this city (Hartford, Connecticut). One of the workmen had just entered the threshold of the door, at the moment of the explosion, and was so severely wounded that he has since died. A similar explosion took place at the same manufactory, a little more than a year hence. — From the Hartford Mirror, Nov. 15.

COMMENT: Capt. Jared Mills, Jr., Esq. (1772-1821) is buried in Canton. “The first powder- mills were built by Jared Mills and Edmund Fowler, on the Nepaug stream, near its junction with the Farmington. Here the manufacture was carried on for sixty years, and not less than thirty people were killed in its successive explosions.”

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