The Sag-Harbor Fires of 1817 and 1845
Excerpts from "Early Sag-Harbor," An Address delivered before the Sag-Harbor Historical Society February 4th, 1896, by H. P. Hedges

Distress In a Fire

    A most calamitous event took place in this Port on Monday last.  About 2 o'clock in the afternoon, a small barn in which there was some hay, was discovered to be on fire.  The barn was contiguous to the thickest part of the settlement.  The buildings were all wood, and very dry, and the wind blowing almost a gale.  Such was the rapid progress of the flames that notwithstanding the utmost exertion of the citizens, in three hours about twenty of the best houses and most valuable stores in the place, together with fifteen barns, and other buildings were consumed.  The scene was uncommonly distressing and distructive, as most of the buildings were stores full of various kinds of merchandize, and provisions, and such was the rapid advance of the fire, that the people had not time to remove them to places of safty.
    A large quanity of the goods, furniture and clothing was removed from the storehouses into the streets, where their owners were obliged to abandon them to save themselves from the heat, the falling timbers and burning shingles.  This awful visitation of Providence has left a number of families and poor widows houseless and dependent upon the charity of the public; has reduced others from a state of comfort and ease to poverty, and has greatly lessened the means of the rich, by consuming much of that capital they were employing for their own benefit and that of their fellow citizens.

The Fire of November 14th, 1845
Extract from the Corrector of 22nd.

    The fire in this village commenced about half-past 12 on Friday morning in a commission room for furniture and other articles, in the Suffolk buildings, and destroyed the hotel (Oakley's) and stores; Huntting's store, with the three dwellings at the west side of it, thence down the wharf as far as there were any buildings, on both sides, then the store of A. H. Gardiner, Phelps' Hotel, and everything up the street, on both sides, stopping after burning Tinker & Sons' on the east side, and A. G. Hedges' on the west, as likewise a number of dwelling houses and other buildings on the streets east of Main Street, and we are not much out of the way when we assert that there were somewhat in the neighborhood of ninty-five dwelling houses, stores, warehouses, tradesmen's shops, etc., destroyed; turning out over forty families to seek shelter in houses already fully stocked, or abide the peltings of the winter's storms; besides a good number being thrown entirely out of business, or their business much damaged.
    What the total loss may be it is almost impossible to come to any correct conclusion, as the very suffers themselves cannot speak with any degree of certainty.  Fifty-seven stores, shops and warehouses were destroyed, besides stables and barns.  If we were to state the loss at some $200,000 to $250,000, perhaps we should not be much wide of the mark;  although some have calculated it much higher.  The night was remarkably fine, and but little wind, until the air was so rarified by the excessive heat of the flames as to create a strong current.  Some saved three-fourths of their goods, some half and some less, but few lost all.

The sufferers are:

J. Hildreth H. G. Bassett & Co. C. S. Hedges Oakley
Robins & Brown T. Kiernan Dering & Fordham T. Brown
Wm. Wilcox Mott & Street G. & H. Huntting H. Crowell
C. Douglass N. & G. Howell H. Cooper Douglas & Wade
T. Foster Suffolk Co. Bank J. C. Fowler Wade & Russell
J. Smith S. & B.Huntting & Co. S. L'Hommedieu N. Comstock
Mulford & Sleight W. M. Cooper A. Overton A. G. Hedges
W. A. Simons J. Crolius E. C. Rogers P. Rogers
Wm. H. Nelson G. R. Loper C. S. Sleight S. Hallock
Howell & Havens A. H. Gardiner Phelps Hotel Lawrence & Overton
Ripley & Parker T. P. Ripley Gardiner & Sealey S. Pitcher
J. Havens G. H. Cooper W. F. Halsey Thompson
S. Havens Tiffany & Halsey G. D. Chester T. Howard
D. A. Jennings Z. Elliot Office of Corrector J. Hobert
French Mrs. Pease N. Tinker T. Vail
N. S. Lester E. Mulford & Co. Babcock J. G. Leonard
E. L. Simons J. Conkling O. Slate J. A. Cook
E. H. Smith G. V. Oakley E. Phelps A. A. Eddy
P. P. King D. Congdon D. Y. Bellows Ocean House
Cook & Green S. S. Smith & Co. Stewart & Crowell B. Babcock
G. Howell H. Stewart Mrs. Wood William Taylor
Mrs. Reeves Steam Mills & Pump Mathews, and a few others

    The fire of 1845 ran south on Main Street on the west side to the north walls of the three brick stores owned by Major John Hildreth, where for nearly fifty years I had my office, and on the east side to the dwelling and store of N. S. Lester (now torn down), north of the Union School building.  I remember that fateful night.  Doctor Abel Huntington, Collector of the Port, declared that these brick stores saved Sag-Harbor.
    The fire of 1817 was limited, I am informed, to nearly or quite the same lines.

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