The Otsego Herald: Pennsylvania house fire is a dreadful calamity

Paul Donnelly Village historian Hugh MacDougall, right, poseswith Katherine Lloyd and Harry Bradshaw Mathews at a recent Friends of the VIllage Library event. MacDougall will be the speaker at another library event at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The Otsego Herald for March 6, 1820, compiled, with comments:

 Typical 1820 house fire

Towanda, (Pennsylvania), Feb. 6.

On the 28th January, the house of Mr. Austin Kellogg in Southfield, was destroyed by fire, and in it his wife and only child (about 5 weeks old.) The circumstances as stated to us are briefly these.

Mrs. Kellogg, with a girl, her sister, were hatchelling flax near the hearth, when a coal from the chimney, communicated fire to the flax, a large quantity of which was in the room — they tried various methods to extinguish the flame.

Finding their efforts vain, the girl left the house and ran to the blacksmith’s shop of Mr. Kellogg the husband, from 15 to 20 rods (or 250 to 330 feet) distant, and alarmed him, and two other men then at work. At the instant the girl left the house Mrs. Kellogg is supposed to have gone to an adjoining room for the purpose of saving some furniture of value, and neglected the precaution of closing the doors after her, to keep back the fire from that room.

On the arrival of the men the whole house was completely filled with flame, and the roof in several places on fire. Their first object, of course, was to save the unfortunate woman and her child. and several times called upon her name in hopes that she would appear at one of the windows, but called to no effect.

She was discovered with her child lying near a window of the room joining the one in which the fire commenced, from which she had probably attempted to escape.

The window was immediately broken, but from the fury of the flames some time elapsed before the bodies could be taken from the house, in the mean time snow was thrown upon them to prevent them from consuming.

The bodies at length were taken from the ruins. The child was dead, but not much disfigured. The limbs and the fleshy part of the head of the woman were consumed, affording a shocking spectacle to the neighbors, who had by this time arrived to witness the dreadful scene.

What must have been the feelings of the miserable husband and father, on the instantaneous transition from happiness, in the possession of an amiable and intelligent wife and cheerful home, to the sickening prospect of his house in ruins from which were dragged the mutilated and shapeless form of his beloved partner, and the dead body of her innocent child!

Some idea can be formed of his feelings from the circumstance that it required the strength of two men to prevent him from sacrificing himself in the flames which had destroyed the hopes of his life.

Mrs. Kellogg was a young woman and highly respected by all her acquaintances.

COMMENT: Austin Kellogg was born in Goshen, Connecticut, in 1792, the son of a Revolutionary War veteran. His first wife, Artemetia Howe Kellogg, was born there in 1795, and died in the fire in 1820 at the age of 24, as did the five-week-old baby Norman Harvey Kellogg. Austin Kellogg, despite his tragedy, seems to have pulled himself together, and went on to marry three more times, including his widow’s older sister, Armenia, mentioned in the story, and to raise a family of seven more children. After living in various places, and even being photographed, Austin died in Littleton, Iowa, where he is buried, at the age of 78.

Grand Island

Feb. 28, House of Assembly in Albany:

The house went into committee of the whole on the bill granting Grand Island to Mordecai M. Noah — Mr. Mesier in the chair — A short debate took place — in which the speaker, Messrs. Fox, Ruggles, Tibbits and Williams took part, and opposed the passage of the bill. Mr. (Michael) Ulshoeffer defended it, and advocated its passage — Mr. Crolius said a few words in answer to Mr. Fox;

When a motion to strike out the first clause or in other words to reject the bill, was made and carried by a large majority.

COMMENT: Mordecai M. Noah (1785-1851) has been called “the most important Jewish lay leader in New York in the early 19th century.” His most daring proposal was to make Grand Island, an American island the size of Manhattan — which lies in the Niagara River between the United States and Canada — as a home and refuge for Jews, to be called Ararat. As can be seen from this item, the effort to carry out this proposal failed. In 1945 a similarly unsuccessful project was launched to make Grand Island the “world capital.”

Otsego County convention

The Freeholders and Inhabitants of the county of Otsego, who are friendly to the present administration of the State Government, are hereby requested to meet in their several towns to choose three delegates in each town, to meet in Convention at the Courthouse in Cooperstown, on Wednesday the 29th of this March at 1 o’clock P.M. for the purpose of nominating candidates to represent said county in Assembly. ... (signed by a committee of 12) March 6, 1820.

COMMENT: Although the Democratic-Republican Party was in control in Otsego County, it was then divided in New York State by backers of Governor De Witt Clinton and of backers of Martin van Buren. Van Buren’s supporters were called Bucktails. They were dominant in Otsego.

Demerara sickness

From a letter from Demerara, dated the 15th December.

“This poor colony is visited by a most unprecedented sickness, and nothing can be more dismal than the almost continued tolling of the bell to usher 4, 6, and even 11 white people in their graves. So rapid is the disease that a few hours only dispose of a valuable life.” — Boston Patriot.

COMMENT: Demerara, once a Dutch colony on the north coast of South America, has been part of British Guiana (now Guyana) since 1815. The “sickness” was undoubtedly yellow fever.

Recommended for you