Dusting Off the Old Ones was published in 1961 by W. B. Clarke, Miles City, Montana.
The Great Fire of 1883
This story will be about what was termed "the Great Fire" in Miles City. It happened in October, 1883, and burned nearly half a block of buildings, in fact buildings were burned which housed twelve different businesses. To get the right picture of the fire and the locale, we must first tell you that in 1883, one of the principal streets in Miles City was South Fifth Street from Main to the Northern Pacific right-of-way, especially the east side of the street. There was nothing on the west facing the east, with the exception of the old Macqueen House, which stood on the site of the present Macqueen Apartments. The reason there was no more buildings facing east on the street was that from the Macqueen to Main street stretched that tract of land reserved by the government for a ferry boat landing, and which is now Riverside Park. In the block between Main and Bridge streets, facing Fifth (or Park street as it was then called) from the east there were eleven occupancies--ten saloons and one other occupancy which is not too well described. We know that this building was occupied by a man by the name of Flaherty and that the newspaper account states that Flaherty had his portable fruit stand on the ground in front of his former stand before the sidewalk quit burning. And then there was one building facing Main street, occupied as a saloon, which also burned in the conflagration. Next on Main street came the only brick building in that half block, the building which was occupied by the First National Bank and is now known as 508 Main. This building did not burn, but this was its second baptism of fire in a few months, as the building located on what would now be 510 Main burned not too long before the fire which we are now describing, and was then in process of being rebuilt. All the buildings in this half block were either log or frame, with the exception or the bank building.

At the corner of Main and 5th--facing 5th--was the Cottage Saloon, operated by Jimmy Coleman, and then following south down to Bridge street, were Bishop & Hill, with a gaming hall and a saloon--then Flaherty, whom we have described--Ritter & Company with their beer saloon--Professor Bach, beer saloon, Chris Hehli with a saloon and barber shop--Turner Hall, being occupied by George Rhode who ran a saloon--then came the Tivoli Theatre and saloon, operated by Learned & Turner--the Park Hotel, with a saloon operated by Sam O'Connell and a restaurant run by Baehl & Bishop--then Louis Payette's fruit store and saloon, and finally on the corner of Fifth and Bridge, a gaming hall and saloon, known as Flick & Louie's--Louie's last name being Hainemann. The building between Coleman's Cottage saloon and the First National Bank building, facing Main, was the Criterion saloon, operated by Robert Stewart. Some of these buildings were more than one story in height, such as the Criterion building, as cashier Stower and Harry Batchelor of the First National Bank force had living quarters there. The exact cause of the fire was never learned, but it is thought that hot ashes were "dumped" in too close to one of the wooden buildings. At any rate, about a quarter to eleven that night, a fire was discovered in the rear room of the Criterion saloon--authorities differ as to the exact location of the first blaze, some placing it in the rear room on the second floor of the Criterion building, some in a room directly under it on the ground floor, and some in an outbuilding a few feet away, but all agreed in locating it within a radius of a few feet.

When first discovered the fire was within the control of a few buckets of water, but water was not on hand, and the flames in a few minutes were beyond control. In the Criterion saloon there were two games in progress and so quickly did the flames spread, and so dense was the volume of smoke that enveloped the rooms, that the players forebore the trifling ceremony of cashing their checks, hastily pocketing them, stood not upon the order of their going, but lit out at once. In less time than it takes to relate it, the building was in flames from the ground to the ridge pole, and the intense heat soon communicated fire to the piles of rubbish in the rear of' the adjoining buildings. No alarm had as yet been given, but the whole town was alive to the situation and willing hands were at work at the pumps and with buckets. Along the entire front from Main to Bridge, energetic workers lent their aid to remove everything that was movable--depositing all fixtures and personal property over in the park. Coleman's building, one of the first buildings in Miles City, and built substantially of logs, was a long time succumbing to the flames, but when it did start the fire was tremendous. A column of flames fully thirty feet high and nearly two hundred feet long swept from the front of the building straight out across Park street. Buildings across the street on Main were endangered, but good work with wet blankets and the bucket-brigade saved the day. An effort was made to tear down Turner hall, about the middle of the half block, in order to save the O'Connell building and those south of it, but to no avail. In desperation there was a keg of powder set off in the building on the corner (Fifth and Bridge), with the result that the fire was confined to that side of the street and kept from going into the next block south. Others worked within the First National Bank building to keep the fire from communicating through the woodwork and around the doors and windows. By half past twelve, the fire was over except smouldering ruins, and by morning steps were being taken toward the rebuilding of the burned area.