Cheyenne Photos

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This Page: Cheyenne, Early Fires.

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About This Site

16th Street, Cheyenne, 1869, photo by A. J. Russell

The long two-story building on the right-hand side of the street is the Rollins House hotel owned by John Qunicy Adams Rollins (1817-1890). In Colorado in 1873, Rollins constructed the first wagon road into Middle Park and was President of the Rollins Gold & Silver Mining Company. He was the founder of Rollinsville, Colorado. Possibly as a result of his observations of Cheyenne in its formative years, Rollins forbade saloons, gambling houses, and dance halls in Rollinsville.

The two-story building across the street on the left-hand side of the street is the Ford and Durkee hotel owned in part by Barney Ford who later constructed in Inter-Ocean Hotel on the corner of the corner of 16th and Hill (now Capitol Ave) and the Inter-Ocean Hotel in Denver. The sign adjacent to the two-story building at the right-hand side of photo advertises Isacc Herman's Staples & Fancy Dry Goods store. On the bottom floor of the hotel is the Pikes Peak Express stage office. Adjacent to the Ford and Durkee hotel is the Headquarters Saloon. The Ford and Durkee hotel burned in 1870.

Pioneer Fire Company, 1888

There is, of course, one difficulty of a tent and wooden city -- fire. The city had scarcely been settled when in October 1867, a prairie fire threatened the city. The residents managed to save the city by battling the fire with wet burlap bags. The editor of the Evening Leader complained, "A ruinous fire is the danger we, in this town, of tinder like tenements live under at all times."

George Raymond was appointed as fire warden and all chimneys, flues and stovepipes were subject to inspection. In 1868, another fire burned down half a city block causing more than $50,000.00 in losses. Individual fires continued unabated. The Evening Leader suspected arson, an act in some areas referred to as "selling it to the Yankees." If arson, however, was the cause of the numerous fires, it would have been a poor motive. Most structures had no insurance. The volunteer Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company was formed. The mayor and local saloonist, Luke Murrin, pledged to the new fire company shirts, belts and caps. The fires had, however, to be fought with bucket brigades. Shortly thereafter with the assistance of the Union Pacific Railroad the Thomas C. Durant Engine Company was formed and shortly thereafter a magnificent new $10,000.00 steam fire engine was ordered from the east.The engine was the first steam fire engine west of the Missouri River. Omaha did not order a steam fire engine until the following year and it was only a "second class" engine. The Omaha engine replaced an earlier $500.00 hand pumper. The assistance of the Union Pacific was not altogether beneficent. Indeed, the railroad sued the city and levied on its fire bell until the city raised the $68.00 to satisfy the judgment. In Omaha, another fire company was organized also named after Dr. Durant. The motive was protection of the Union Pacific shops.

The new steam fire engine provided a constant drain on the city's beleagured coffers and thrice the newly formed Wyoming Territorial Legislature had to authorize special taxes to pay for the mortgage on the engine and repeated repairs. The difficulty with a steam fire engine is getting up the necessary steam pressure to operate its pump. In theory, lighter is kept in the fire box so that the fire can be lit and pressure built up while the horses are hitched and the engine driven to the fire. In many instances, however, by the time the pressure was attained, the fire was over. In January 1870, another fire burned down two city blocks.

Cheyenne's Steam Pumper

In September 1870 a second fire burned down half a block on Eddy Street causing, according to the New York Times, $150,000 to $200,000 in damages. In July 1874, a fire burned McDaniel's Theatre on Eddy Street and the adjacent butcher shop. Additional volunteer fire companies were formed. In 1877 the Alert Hose Company was organized and two years later the J. T. Clark Hose Company. By the 1880's the various volunteer companies were well equipped with the one steam engine, chemical extinquishers, 1 hand pumper, 2 hook and ladder trucks, 7 hose carriages, 2,500 feet of rubber hose, 1,000 feet of cotton hose, 4 cisterns and 10 street boxes.

Hose truck in front of Fire Station No. 2., the former J. T. Clerk Hose Company.

Shortly after the turn of the century, fire services in Cheyenne were consolidated into one department and equipment modernized.

Combination Auto-Truck, approx. 1910.

Aerial Ladder Fire Truck, approx. 1910.

Hose Truck, approx. 1910.

Fire chief's car, approx. 1910.

Next page, Cheyenne Photos continued, early impressions of Cheyenne..