September 16, 2010

The Creede fire: June 5, 1892.

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While Jeff was in Denver, on June 5, 1892, a disaster of the worst kind struck Creede: fire. It had previously broken out on April 14 in John Kinneavy’s triangle-shaped saloon before it had opened for business. Quickly discovered, it was easily extinguished. Fifty-two days later, a new blaze began in Kinneavy’s, but this time it broke free, roared into the business district, and grew into an inferno well beyond the camp’s ability to contain. It consumed the entire business district, right down to the ground, including Jeff’s Orleans Club. Amazingly no lives were lost, but the loss of property was enormous. The Denver Republican reported the ensuring trouble:

Following the fire, a wild debauch was entered into by the sots and fast women of the camp. Free liquors were had for the stealing, and many cases of wines, bottles of whiskey, boxes of cigars, and such goods were seized and hundreds were drunk before the flames had half burned down. Prompt work by the respectable element of the camp prevented this lawlessness from getting too far. Dozens of men were commissioned special officers by the mayor and these … arrested robbers, and took away the liquors…. Good order was soon restored and maintained for the rest of the day.
Jeff told the News that he lost two buildings in the fire, totaling $8,000 in value, neither being insured. He was reported to have already bought a tent one hundred feet in length and that he would return to Creede to erect it where his buildings had stood. Jeff estimated the total loss at $300,000 but was optimistic about Creede’s future:
"The business portion of the town will be moved to a safer place further down the stream. I have been in every important mining camp of the world, but have seen none equal to Creede. I verily believe that within twelve months there will be 10,000 miners at work in the district. Every man that has a prospect hole stands a fair chance of making a fortune.”

Beyond this optimistic view and Jeff’s stated intention to return to Creede, no records show that he did, although he might have. — Alias Soapy Smith.


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