A story of dedicated volunteers
In 1874 a major fire occurred in the Village of Monticello...
... and it destroyed several major structures including the Exchange Hotel, Hindley’s Saloon, Kent’s Barber Shop, The Republican Watchman newspaper office, Billing’s Flour & Feed Store, and Curley’s Hotel. This tragic event was the major impetus for the formation of a new fire department in Monticello.
For many small communities in the late 1800s, a devastating fire was often the reason community members formed a fire deparment – to protect lives and property.
The Civil War had ended nine years earlier and Ulysses S. Grant was President. On March 8, 1875, a new fire department was discussed and organized with 83 charter members. Two days later on March 10, 1875 they met at Pelton’s hall and the office of A.C. Butts and officially formed the new Monticello Fire Department. Two companies were organized that night: Monticello Engine Company #1, and Mountain Hose Company #1.
Then in February 1876, Rescue Hook and Ladder was formed with 124 members, none of whom were members of the other two companies. In 1875, the population of Monticello was 912 – so one-tenth of the total population were members of the fire department!.
Friend W. Johnson was appointed Fire Chief Engineer on June 30, 1875 and John F. Tymeson was appointed Chief Engineer on August 23, 1875. Fire equipment had been kept in local barns and businesses. Then in 1893, the fire equipment was moved to the first firehouse in the Village Hall building on Broadway.
Then on August 10, 1909, Monticello suffered another calamity when a fast-moving fire wiped out most of the business section of the Village. It was thought that the fire started from a large burned out smokestack belonging to the Murray Power Plant. The fire broke out on a Tuesday evening about 8:30 when the evening mail was arriving. The streets, stores and hotel porches were thronged with summer visitors when the alarm sounded. By the time the firemen responded and the hoses were laid, the power plant was roaring in flames. The fire quickly spread to the huge Palatine Casino, which was quickly consumed. A strong wind spread the fire from building to building and in less than an hour, both sides of the street were engulfed.
When it was over, forty buildings had been consumed along with a million dollars' worth of property. Fortunately, no lives were lost as hundreds of horrified people watched, powerless to save one hundred years of growth and industry. Monticello was quick to rebuild; replacing many of the wooden buildings with more fire resistant ones made of brick.