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Mariposa Town Fire - 1858


(Mariposa County)

from the SCHELLENS COLLECTION- submitted by Waltor Castor

Pg. 099 Coulterville 1859
Steamer Times, SF Sat 5, 1859:

"On Thursday morning last, about 2 o’clock, a fire broke out in the fruit and
cigar store of Mr. David COHEN, of Coulterville, by which Mrs. HAUFF, A
Jewish lady, and her two children - one 3 years and the other one month old - lost
their lives. Mrs. H. was on a visit to the store of Mr. BARUCH at the time,
and on the alarm of fire started to run out with her children, but unfortunately
fell into a cellar, which was closed soon after by some one who was not aware
of their being in it. After the fire their lifeless bodies were recovered.
They had not been burned, but smothered. Their remains were brought to this city
and placed in the hands of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, who interred them
yesterday. The fire was caused by rats getting among a lot of matches. Among
the sufferers by this fire, which destroyed nearly the whole town, are Mr.
BARUCH, D. COHEN, & Co., Mr. DAVIS, Mr. HARRIS and Mr. SHOENFEILD. The last named
gentleman lost about $10,000, and the others their stock of goods."
(from the files of the Mariposa Gazette)

Arson-Tuesday, 9 Apr 1861-

Stockton Daily Argus
FROM MARIPOSA -- James HENRY, convicted of arson, and sentenced to 
the State Prison for 3 years, and James THOMAS, negro, partner of
James HENRY, convicted of the same crime, but having pleaded guilty
was sentenced for 1 year, passed through this city yesterday under
charge of Deputy Sheriff Thos. R. HOWELL, on their way to San Quentin, from Mariposa.


Bear Valley Fire-
August 16, 1862
Mariposa Gazette

Tuesday, August 16, 1862: " A destructive fire occurred in Bear Valley Saturday night last, about 11:0'clock; entirely destroying the southern portion of the town.  The fire originated in the St. Charles Hotel.  It appears to have first caught fire, between the kitchen and main building adjoining.  From the hotel the fire spread to the office and store of the Fremont Estate, destroying both buildings and a large amount of goods; it also crossed the street and burned the livery stable and blacksmith shop of R. W. HAMMATT.

Stockton Daily Independent
Bear Valley Fire- August 16, 1862

TUESDAY, 19 AUG. 1862

FIRE at BEAR VALLEY -- A fire broke out at Bear Valley, Mariposa county, on Saturday night. It started in SHEPPARD's Hotel, and spread rapidly to PARK's store and assay office, to HAMMATT's stable and blacksmith shop, and to CASTAGNATTI's frame building. The Oso House was saved by the great exertions of friends of Mr. BATES, its proprietor. The losses incurred are as follows:
Mr. SHEPPARD (Hotel), $5000
PARK's (store, assay office, &c.), $45,000
HAMMATT (stable, hay, grain, &c.), $3000
Mr. T.S. BATES lost 40 tons of hay & 10,000 pounds of barley. transcribed by Dee S

September , 1862


About two-thirds of the population of Snelling was reportedly made homeless and "pennyless" as a result of a fire that broke out about 1:00 a.m. on September 16, 1862.  The fire started in the  rear of the carpenter shop and sash and blind factory owned by Frank PECK, spreading to PRINCE's Hotel and the GOLDSMITH Store and ultimately the entire principal business block in town.  The fire was believed to have been of incendiary origin.

Mariposa Gazette Centennial Edition- 1954

October 2, 1862
Stockton Daily Independent
-The house of Louis HADLICK, a mile from Hornitos, Mariposa county,
was destroyed by fire on Tuesday evening. The flames spread with such
rapidity that everything in the way of furniture within the house
except the 2 trunks of clothing, was destroyed. An infant was taken
from a burning bed only in time to save its life after receiving a
severe burn in the arm. The property was estimated to be worth $3000
and was insured by McLean & Fowler, San Francisco, for $2000. transcribed by Dee S

MONDAY, 26 OCT 1863
Stockton Daily Independent
FIRE at HORNITOS – On the morning of the 23d instant a fire broke out next door to the wooden hotel of E.G. HALL, in a stable, owned by D. GHIRADELLI. The hotel and stable were both destroyed. Mr. HALL saved none of his furniture, and his loss is severe, as none of the property was covered by insurance. Incendiaries is thought to have been the cause of the fire.

TUESDAY, 3 NOV. 1863
Stockton Daily Independent

INCENDIARYISM – No doubt, says the Mariposa 'Press,' exists in the minds of the people of Hornitos, that the recent fire there was the work of an incendiary. On the Tuesday night previous to the fire, an attempt was made to fire the building occupied by R.R. GIVENS as a meat market. Some kindling wood was placed between the building (which is of wood) and the brick wall of a store adjoining and ignited. It had burned a hole through the former when it was discovered accidentally by some person who happened to be up and about at an unusually late hour. The object of the rascals who are at this work, is probably plunder – at which they would be enabled, during the consequent excitement, to do a pretty fair business.

Mariposa 1866
includes Map

Mariposa Gazette, June 23, 1866

Lower Agua Fria Destroyed by Fire.

Yesterday morning, about 2 o'clock, the town of Lower Agua Fria was entirely consumed by fire. The town was built of the most combustible material, and when the fire commenced it spread with such rapidity that it was impossible to do anything. The fire first appeared in the Chinese Church, and was undoubtedly the work of an incendiary. About 75 buildings composed the town, all of which, excepting Mr. Leverone's house, were entirely destroyed. Mr. Egenhoff's loss was from $6,000 to
$7,000–insured for $3,000; Gossner & Co. Brewery, $9,000–insured for $3,000; Geo. Bertken, loss, $1,000 – insured for $600; Stienberger, loss, $1,000. submitted by Tom Hilk

Sacramento Daily Union Friday Morning, January 1, 1869,Page 1

Noticeable Events During the Year
August 27th
The largest part
of the town of Hornitos, Mariposa county, was destroyed by fire. Loss, over
$60,000. transcribed by Betty Loose


San Joaquin Valley Argus

May 21, 1870

FIRE AT HORNITOS. – We learn that a fire broke out in Hornitos on
Thursday night last, about ten o'clock, which was not checked until the
entire Chinese portion of the town was destroyed. We have heard no
further particulars.

  Stockton  Daily Independent-Monday, 24 July 1871
THE RESIDENCE of J. ADAIR of Bear Valley, Mariposa county, was destroyed by fire on Tuesday last.

San Joaquin Valley Argus
June 14, 1873

FIRE IN HORNITOS. – A fire broke out in the lard factory in rear of Geo.
Reeb's butcher-shop, in Hornitos, on Tuesday last at about 3 o'clock P.
M., which destroyed the butcher-shop, George Reeb's residence in rear of
the shop, and his barn in the field across the Gulch, Mrs. Adams'
restaurant, Odd Fellows' Hall, Bates office and dwelling house, and a
number of other buildings. Considerable damage was also done to a number
of fire-proof building, besides burning fences and outhouses, destroying
shrubbery, trees etc. The loss is serious one to the sufferers, some of
whom are totally unable to rebuild and resume business. Loss $14,000
insurance about $7,500.

articles here contributed by Tom Hilk

Coulterville Fire July 12, 1879 Mariposa Gazette

Destructive Conflagration- One Half of Coulterville Burned to the Ground.

On Wednesday last, about 10 o'clock a.m. occurred one of the most destructive fires in Coulterville that has ever been the misfortune of
that beautiful mining town to meet with. The fire broke out in the dwelling occupied by Mr. J.W. REED and family, situated on the southerly
end of the main street leading north through the principle business portion of the town, and adjoining on the south the old City Hotel,
formerly owned and occupied by Mr. George COUNTS and family, who at present reside in this place.
Mr. George W. COULTER, to whom we are indebted for the particulars concerning the fire given us early on Thursday morning last,
the next day succeeding the fire, says: The fire was first discovered in a bed room of the house, and everything being of an inflammable nature,
it must have got beyond control before it was discovered by the inmates.
There were quite a number of children about the house, which makes it quite possible that matches where being tampered with that caused the
destructive fire which so rapidly followed its outbreak. The alarm was scarcely given before the dwelling was wrapped in flames, which with the
assistance of a southerly breeze was rapidly carried to the Old City Hotel, a large two story wood building, and in less time than it takes
to describe it this massive wood structure was fast yielding to the fire fiend.
The hotel was untenanted, but used as a lumber depot, in which a large amount was stored and materially added strength to the venomous
fire, that raged fearfully, vomiting forth fire and black smoke which ascended to so great a height that it was plainly observed by the
inhabitants of Bear Valley, about twelve miles distant. The next building in the pathway of the merciless destroyer
was the warehouse of Francisco BRUSCHI, which was soon destroyed with all its contents. Following this was Harlow's blacksmith shop; from
thence to the PENDOLA property, comprising dwelling houses, barns and other buildings, all of which were speedily reduced to ashes. The
building known as the PENDOLA Store was not burned. Total destruction of all that portion of the town lying on the east side of Main Street was at this time inevitable. As the fire increased, so did the wind blowing from the south. The next to succumb was the restaurant of John DEBOLT; dwelling and stable of A. TISCORNIA; his store being fire-proof was saved. Next in line of attack was the butcher shop and beautiful residence, fences and out-building of John C. RIHN. At this juncture the fire seemed to increase in its rage and ferocity. Just before it were situated the beautiful and commodious dwelling, livery stable and other valuable improvements of Jonathan MENTZER, a worthy member of our Board of Supervisors, who at the moment the fiery fiend was reducing to ashes his hard earnings which he had for years been accumulating was here in Mariposa attending to his official duties, little supposing at that moment his all of the worlds wealth was being destroyed, and that his wife and children were fleeing from before the invading monster to save their lives only. The business of the Board having been concluded MENTZER, in company with others who had been serving upon Grand Jury, left for home about noon of the same day the fire occurred. On his way he met Mr. Coulter at Bear Valley, who imparted to him the sorrowful calamity that had befallen him, and it is said that he wept bitterly. The fire swept on. The store and dwelling place of Mr. Frank CUNEO and family were entirely consumed. To all appearances the fire at this point ought to have ceased its rage, but it did not. With the assistance of the wind it jumped for some distance to the old dwelling house formerly known as the GOODWIN residence. From that point the fire shaped its course easterly and crossed the street bordering up on Maxwell's creek, and consumed the residence of John R. COLLINS and family, and the carpentry shop of George EGGETT. From thence it crossed Maxwell's creek and was rapidly pursuing its way in a northerly direction up the east branch of Maxwell's creek towards the farm and ranches of James LINDSEY and Patrick DIEGNANS, which were at the time our informant left, considered to be in immanent danger. These ranches are two miles above Coulterville, and the fire was within one mile and advancing rapidly. There were seven families made sufferers by the fire, vis: Jonathan MENTZER, John C. RIHN, A. TISCORNIA, Frank CUNEO, John R. COLLINS and J.W. REED.
At this writing we have no means of knowing the amount of loses sustained or who had any insurance upon their property. It is thought
that MENTZER, RIHN and DEBOLT each were partially insured.  submitted by W Disbro

Hornitos Correspondence Aug. 16, 1884 Mariposa Gazette

Hornitos, Aug. 13th, 1884
Ed. Mariposa Gazette:- The monotony of our existence was rudely
disturbed last Sunday evening by the cry of "fire." Towards nine
o'clock, while everyone was calmly enjoying the cool evening, after a
day when the thermometer was among the hundreds, when people were
sitting quietly before their doors, chatting on various topics,
discussing the mysterious origin of the numerous fires and the burning
done on the GRIFFITHS Ranch, some one startled us with the announcement
that " George REEBS house burning." In a instant the whole town was in
commotion. Men were running with hose, tubs and buckets; some pumping,
others shouting, children crying and women, scared by the reminiscences
of early day fires, when the whole of our town was swept clean out in a
few hours, were packing their household goods, making ready to move in
case of need. For a moment the wind blew south and the whole northern
part of town was enveloped in a thick cloud of dense, black smoke that
compelled everyone to close windows and doors. Then it veered again. A
pile of fifty tons of baled hay was ablaze and one single glance
sufficed to reveal the fact that it was past redemption, and that our
efforts must be concentrated in keeping the fire from spreading. A
difficult task indeed, with old tumble down buildings, built in the
prosperous days of Hornitos, abutting right smack against the fire, roof
made as dry as tinder by the summer heat and ready to blaze up at the
least spark!
Luckily, the wind fell to a dead calm. The moon rose and we were
working in the dark no more. The tin roof gradually giving us a show to
keep down flames and sparks and thus confining the conflagration to one
building. Everyone worked with a will, even the ladies, carrying water
and pumping like good fellows and by two o'clock in the morning the town
was saved.
As I write, three days after the fire, it is still smoldering
with prospects of keeping it up a few days unless some charitable soul
turns on a stream of water, and I would suggest to our butcher, whose
property it is, to kill a few of his hogs and smoke a few hams. In hard
times let us be saving and make the best we can of a calamity.
Yesterday, we had another narrow escape. By some means, a
mosquito bar caught fire, and of course, the women were nearby, dropped
it and yelled. But a few kicks and stamps and drops of water put that
fire out.
Otherwise our town is dull. Not even a dog fight or foot race.
The infernal howling of a band of tom cats is the only thing that
disturbs the silence of the night. The solitary " drunk" I've seen for
month of Sundays sang himself to sleep in jail, and the place has
resumed its wonted calm and folks go indoors during the heat of the day,
leaving the street in full possession of a few emaciated pigs, who
solemnly perambulate the length and breath of Hornitos.
The BARCROFT mine is turning out very well and the out look for
it is very promising. As yet, no clean up has been made, and therefore
no decisive opinion can be formed, but it is the general impression of
all experienced miners that it will be fully equal to anything yet found
around this part of the county.
H.M.D. transcribed by W Disbro

Gallison Hotel 1887

San Joaquin Valley Argus
July 21, 1888

From Monday's daily

Yesterday ( Sunday) morning a fire started in the Oso House at Bear
Valley. The flames spread rapidly and in a few moments the fine hotel
the large stables, and all the saloons were on fire, and there is but
little of the thriving little mountain town left. The fire is supposed
to be purely accidental. The loss will amount to something over twenty
thousand dollars. The government store and a few private dwellings are
still standing.
submitted by Tom Hilk

Los Angeles Times, Sept. 6, 1892


Merced, Sept 5 -[By the Associated Press]  A special to the Sun today from Mariposa states that yesterday the ruins of the Mariposa county jail had cooled off sufficiently to permit of an investigation into the question whether Thomas Truett, the prisoner confined in the jail at the time of the fire, had been burned or not.  A careful search through the debris was made and the bones of the unfortunate man were found.  There is no doubt that Truett set the fire himself, but whether intentionally or by accident will never be known.

It is now reported that cetain parties in Mariposa heard some one in the jail calling "Police! police!' just before the fire was discovered, but paid no attention to it , thinking it was the ravings of a some drunken man. transcribed by c feroben

September 3, 1892 Mariposa Gazette

The Jail Burned.
One Life Probably lost.

Thursday morning about 1 o'clock, our people were awakened by the
rapid ringing of the church bells and the cry of fire. It was soon
ascertained that the fire was in the County Jail, and that it had gained
such headway, that nothing could be done, except saving the adjoining
buildings. To add to the horror, of matters, one prisoner was in the
building. No call for help, nor sounds of any kind came from the jail,
after the fire was discovered, so , if he perished, he must have been
suffocated, early in the burning. Some have suggested that he fired the
building in order to escape, but as his offense was not a serious one,
and he was merely doing time, the supposition does not seem very
feasible. The unfortunate man's name was Thomas TRUIT, and he is said to
have come from Fresno. He was thought to be a little insane, and it is
possible that he might have set the fire while laboring under a spell of
insanity. At all events our jail is in runs and it is almost certain
that the charred body of the poor fellow will be found when the fire
dies out, so that the search can be made. It will be several days before
any one can work the ruins. This is a sad loss to the county
financially, as we are not in very good condition to replace the
building. The old jail was very substantially built, and it is doubtful
if we can get an other as good.

The Louvre Hotel  1896

Merced Express, July 14, 1899

Coulterville In Ruins.

On Thursday the town of Coulterville was almost entirely destroyed by fire. The entire business part of the town was destroyed, Sixty-seven houses on both sides of Main street from and including Percy Davis’ store at the lower and of town to Wm. Canova’s place at the upper end of town were completely destroyed.

The fire occurred about noon, It commenced in the Bogliogi residence occasioned by the lighting of a fire with coal oil. A conservative estimate of the loss to the community fixes the amount at one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

One man was pretty badly burned and several others met with accidents, but no fatalities occurred.

Mrs. Jeffrey, who hotel was among the number of burned building was over come by the heat and came near dying.

Wm. Canova, who for sometime has not been in the best of health, came near dying.
The fire proof buildings in the center of the town were swept away the same as the wooden residence.
The fire was something awful and the rapidity with which it spread was alarming. It burned for two and one half hours and although there were plenty of men around they were powerless, there being no water to do anything with.
Most of the furniture of the dwellers in the burnt district were destroyed and many of them had no insurance either on house or furniture.
Telephone communication was cut off and not till Friday morning could any news of the calamity be obtained here. Some of the burned buildings were:

Jeffrey hotel and lodging house, Davis store, Thomas’s saloon, Bruschi’s store, residence and ware house. The Merced Company’s building, Gazzolo’s saloon building, Mrs. Reedy’s house, Warren’s store, Murphy’s court building, Patrick’s livery stable, LaVan’s saloon, R. Abraham’s store, Gazzolo’ barber shop, Mrs. Ryan’s restaurant, Mrs. Commissiona’s store and dwelling, Davis’ furniture store, C. Buttman, cigar and stationary store, Wilburn and Bagby’s saloon and residence, Ed Grenfell’s dry goods store, Bond’s candy store, John Vigna’s saloon, Mrs. S. B. Sample’s hotel, Old Coulter hotel, Harlow’s livery stable, three dwellings of Mrs. Commissiona, Paul Sagah’s dwelling, J. Mentzer’s dwelling house and barn, Bogliogli [sic] residence, I. O. O. F. Hall, Shimer’s blacksmith shop and dwelling, Mrs. Parker’s residence, Lanyon’s residence, Mrs. Jos. Ryan’s home, Koenig’s Hospital.
–Mariposa Gazette.

Note: I am not sure for the spelling of all the names. This paper was very faded when it was photographed- transcribed by Tom Hilk

Merced Express, May 14, 1904

Fire in Yo Semite.

The home of George Fiske, Yo Semite's veteran photographer, was totally
destroyed by fire last Friday. The residence was at the foot of the
Glacier Point trail a mile from the village and fire protection. The
blaze started in the roof by sparks from the flue. The loss consists in
the house furnishings, lenses, cameras and a life collection of Coast
negatives, most of which cannot be replaced. Mr. Fiske is 70 years old.
He came to California from New Hampshire in the fifties and at one time
was a pony express rider. For thirty years he has been a well known
figure in Yo Semite, and has made an enviable reputation here and in
Europe by his mountain pictures. submited by Tom Hilk


Merced Express, September 16, 1922

The town of Mariposa narrowly escaped possible destruction by fire Thursday when the forest fire, which had been raging for several days, burned up to the local county hospital in town, threatening it and the section of town on the west side of Mariposa creek. The schools were closed, and the high school boys aided residents in fighting the blaze, while the school girls carried water. The fire was about four miles wide and burned over 30,000 acres of dry feed. submitted by Tom Hilk

Fresno Bee July 28, 1924
Woods Fire Rages Uncontrolled in Mariposa County
Whitlock District, Near Briceburg Prison Camp, Devastated by Blaze; Big Timber is Eaten into by Conflagration To-day; Fifty Fighters Busy
MARIPOSA (Mariposa Co.) July 28- a brush and timber fire which started in the Whitlock district six miles north of here at noon yesterday, is still raging uncontrolled to-day, in spite o the efforts of fifty men, twnety-five of whom were recruited in this community.
The fire at present is sweeping south up Mt. Bullion and north toward Merced River, where Briceburg and the convict state highway labor camp are located.  These places are not yet threatened by  the blaze it is said.
An area of ten or twelve square miles has already been burned over; mostly grass, brush and white oak and white pine.  The "big timber" is being burned into to-day and the damage will probably mount much higher during the day.
Two homes in Whitlock have been destroyed.  One was known as the HELM house and occupied by William P HOSSTETTER.  The other house, occupied by an unidentified man, was also destroyed, and $100 in bills burned with it.
The fire started on the farm of A E BENJAMIN, from undetermined causes. The Whitlock district lies a few miles west of the state highway, which runs north from Mariposa  to Briceburg.

Le Grand Advocate, Friday, June 13, 1924

Monday about noon an explosion and fire at W. T. Hohenshell's place
resulted in Louis Wass being very seriously burned about the arms, body and legs and
Mr. Hohenshell being badly burned about the hands. Te almond house and
almond hulling machine were also burned.

A blow torch with which they were heating up an engine preparatory to
starting, is said to have exploded, severely burning Wass and setting his clothes
on fire.
Mr. Hohenshell received his burns in putting out the flames on Wass. The
injured men were brought to Le Grand for first treatment by Dr. Williams who
rushed them to the Mercy hospital were Dr. Lilley and Dr. Williams treated them.

Le Grand Advocate, August 1, 1924


Lewis Wass who was badly burned sometime ago and was brought home from
the Mercy hospital in Merced last week, is now able to walk about, but his right
arm and right leg are still in a very bad condition.
transcribed by T Hilk

Fresno Bee, August 11, 1925

Bagby (Merced Co) Aug 11- Fire ealy yesterday destroyed lumber valued at $700 and an old-time saloon and barn here.
C R Thompson, Merced contractor, owner of the lumber to be used in construction of the new Bagby station for the YV Railroad line,  decared the fire began in the barn in an unknown manner. Neighbors and carpetners assisted in extinguishing the flames.

Merced Express, July 30, 1926


A special press report in the Fresno Republican from Coulterville,
Mariposa county, Monday said: “Driven by a strong breeze and augmented
by low humidity and high temperatures the fire which has been burning in
this district for the past week, today swept toward this village,
destroying all the buildings at three mines of the Merced Gold Mining
Company and the Catholic Church here. Other buildings of the town, a
famous old mining town, were saved through desperate efforts on the part
of volunteer firefighters.

“Definite estimates of the losses sustained through the burning of the
buildings was impossible to obtain, although at the time of construction
the cost with the machinery ran between $300.000 and $400,000.

“At the Potosi Mine of the Merced Gold Mining Company all the machine
shops, the blacksmith shops outbuildings and a locomotive were destroyed.

“At the Mary Harris Mine the office and other buildings were razed and
at the Molvina mine of the same company the hoisting works were a
complete loss. None of these mines is active at present, but watchmen
were stationed at each.

“The Catholic Church here, which was destroyed by the fire, was a one
story building and was one of the first building erected in this town in
the early days.” submitted by Tom Hilk

Fresno Bee, August 22, 1927
Blast of Powder Rock Mine As Flames Pass Through Mt. Bullion District
Mariposa (Mariposa Co) Aug. 22- Mariposa, the historic mining town in the gold rush days, which was threatened by destruction by fire, was saved by a number of volunteer firemen after a desperate battle last night. By backfiring the residents prevented the blaze from igniting the buildings, and reports from the scene of the raging fire aid that over 10,000 acre have been burned.
The conflagration started last Wednesday on  he Thomas homestead near Hornitos, and has spread to gigantic proportions.  It is estimated that the fire is burning on a twenty-five-mile front consuming trees, brush, and range grass.
Word from the fire line at 10 o'clock this morning said that the fire was eating its way to Raymond. John J Castagnetto of Mariposa, who is in charge of the fire fighters, is centering the battle at this point.
100 Men In Battle
Over 100 men under direction of Postmaster J P Galgliardo and Constable Richard Morrisey succeeded in brining the fire under control at the north west end of Hornitos last night about 6 o'clock.  The area was covered with a low haze of smoke to-day. The wall of flames stretched from Hornitos to five miles below Mariposa in the White Rock district, a distance of about twenty-five mils. before it was controlled by Hornitos residents.
The blaze destroyed the carpenter shop on the new Princeton Mine, a mile east of Mt. Bullion, and caused a loss estimated at $2,000.  The old assay building also went up in flames and caused a $2,000 loss.
Rocks were blown high into the air when 750 pounds of giant powder and 9,000 caps exploded in the powder house near the mine.  ON one was injured here, but Dr. J. Rutland , company physician, was rescued from the powder house by Sheriff Castagnetto, Herbert Ellingham, Stanley Pearl and Bart Johnstone when the fire swept close by.  A number of men working within a half mile of the powder house escaped injury.
Mariposa has been in darkness since Saturday when _________(unreadalbe) carrying the power lines of the San Joaquin  Light and Power Corporation were destroyed.  The residents used candles and lamps.  Telephone communication was also hindered.
Wire fences were cut in the burning  area in order that the cattle might escape.  They are pouring down the moun tain sides to escape  the best they can.  Ranchers are making attempts to herd the cattle into groups.  Already a number have been killed.
The Wass and DeMoss ranches, near here, were burned over by the creeping flames, but the buildings were saved.
Homes in the Mount Bullion community were saved by women who formed bucket brigades, but cabins on the Mount Bullion gold mine property were destroyed.
Several ranches in Cathey Valley are reported to have been burned over, but no buildings were destroyed in this section.
The Long Mary quartz mill near Mariposa was also destroyed by the fire and the loss is estimated at several thousand dollars.  It is owned by the Mariposa Commercial Mining Company.
transcribed by c ferobn

Mariposa Gazette
August 26, 1927

100,000 Acres Are Burned In  Co. Fire
          After eight days of continuous burning, in which more that 150,000 acres of land were left a blackened waste, the largest and most destructive fire in the history of Mariposa county was brought under control 10 miles east of Mariposa last Monday night.  The loss will run well into six figures.

          The fire started Wednesday, August 11, near the Mt. Gaines mine in the Quartzburg district although various reports as to the cause of the fire have been given out, such as the burning of brush and smoking of ground squirrels from their dens, the real origin of the fire is unknown.

          Owing to the high grass and the favorable wind, the flames spread rapidly in several directions, making its way over the mountains toward Bear Valley and Mt. Bullion, crossing the Bear Valley road and onto the Mt. Bullion.  A large force of men were fighting the flames and practically had the fire under control by Friday.  It jumped the fire line at Green's Gulch on Saturday and for several hours threatened the town of Mt. Bullion.  A number of houses, including the Trengove and Tedrow homes and the dance hall took fire but were saved by the heroic work of the fighters.

          A half-ton of giant powder was exploded in the powder magazine at the Mt. Bullion mine, completely demolishing the house and hurling tons of stone and debris into the air, near where the men were battling the flames; the assay office, Fournier mine buildings and carpenter shop at the Mt. Bullion mine were destroyed with several thousand dollar loss.  The buildings and timbers in the shaft at the new Princeton mine took fire in several places and it looked for a time that the property must be destroyed as the fire-fighters were forced to leave the scene on account of the intense heat.

          Again the flames were almost under control but at Agua Fria creek the higher winds swept the flames on toward Mariposa and Cathay Valley.  On Sunday a thousand men were on a forty-mile fire line fighting to save dozens of ranch homes and the towns of Mariposa and Mt. Bullion which latter place was again threatened by the approach of the fire from the north.

          Near Mt. View the fire crossed the Yosemite highway and burned its way south toward White Rock destroying the Robert DeMoss and James Ward ranch buildings, also it burned east toward Bootjack and Pea Ridge over the several thousand acres of fine feed and destroyed hundreds of cords of wood that have been cut for the trade.

          The fire threatened the town of Mariposa again on Monday when it broke out again near the top of Mariposa hill, four miles north of Mariposa.  This was brought under control that evening by running the backfire line down the county road and into the old fire line about a mile for Mariposa.

          On Tuesday the fire started again near the Peterson Ranch.  This was the last out break of the fire and was under control by evening.

          Mariposa was in darkness from Saturday until Wednesday night, the electric power line having been badly damaged. 


Mariposa Gazette  September 2, 1927

Heavy losers in the recent fire were Mr. And Mrs. A.I. Burns who lost their house and other buildings.  The home was built only a few years ago, with all modern conveniences.  Although they were not living here at present, they return often to this mountain home and are most loyal to Mariposa county interests.

          Mr. S. Dunnaway was here on Monday looking after his ranch, which was entirely burned over.  He found two horses so badly burned that it was necessary to kill them, and he had been unable to locate several other horses.   transcribed by Tom Phillips

Merced,  Thursday, Sept 19,  1928 Modesto News-Herald
Monday morning a fire destroyed the barn, tool shed, store and black-smith shop on the Harry White ranch at Jerseydale. The fire was checked from spreading through dry fields and underbrush by a crew of men from Mariposa and the service fire truck from North Fork.
White discovered the fire about 8 A M . He was badly burned about the face and arms in attempting to save a pet saddle horse from a barn.  cferoben

San Mateo Times, August 20, 1931

MARIPOSA-Aug 20- A crew of fire fighters today was toiling over a rough mountain trail  above here, bearing homeward the the bodies of three companions burned to death while fighting a brush fire late yesterday.
The bodies were those of Arnold Love, 26, Mt. Bullion; Frank Smith, 22, Mormon Bar, and James Worley 18, of near Boot Jack.  All were Mariposa county men and experienced in fighting  mountain fires. Love was married and the father of two children.
Although the fire they were helping to fight was spread over a large area, it was only in brush and a small amount of timber, and was not considered dangerous.  National forest service authorities and companions of the unfortunate youths were at a loss ot explain the tragedy.
transcribed by c feroben

Fresno Bee  Republican, July 1, 1933
MARIPOSA (Mariposa Co.) July 1- Small fires were reported this week on the George Ashworth place near Mormon Bar where a few acres of brush was burned and near the Nelson place on the outskirts of Mariposa where two buildings and a tank house were destroyed.

Fresno Bee, November 23, 1934
Mariposa (Mariposa Co) Nov 23- A fire of undetermined origin destroyed a shed that housed a lighting plant o the E S Day ranch, fourteen miles south of here, Wednesday night, causing $800 damage, according to Day, who is president of the Mariposa High School Board of Trustees.
The damage was not covered by insurance.  Prompt action on the part of the family saved their home from destruction when the flames spread rapidly.  transcribed by c feroben

Fresno Conviction is Hailed By Forest Men
May 8, 1936 Fresno Bee
San Francisco, May 8, The conviction of George Nutter and Denny Jacobs in Fresno on charges of setting a forest fire in the Sierra National Forest was hailed to-day by Regional United States Forester S. B. Snow as only the beginning of a campaign to stamp out incendiary practices in the national forests.
Show commended the work of the forest service investigators who spent nearly two years gathering the evidence which led to the conviction of Nutter in Madera and Madera County ranchers Jacobs, one of his employees.
The forest  officials declared the forest service intends to make every  effort to stamp out all incediarism in the national forest, adding:
When it is possible for a person to be so heedless of the rights and priviliges of others as wantonly to destroy 31,000,000 board feet of conmmercial timber by a fire which cost $4,700 of the taxpayers' money to supress and which caused far reaching losses to the local community and the whole state, it is time for drastic action.

May 8, 1936 , Fresno Bee
Judge Assers Forest Must be Protected; Motion for New Trail Denied
Ferderal Judge Albert Lee Stephens to-day sentenced George Nutter, Mariposa County cattleman, to serve a year in jail or in a federal road camp and his alleged ____(cannot read), Denny Jacobs, Indian laborer, to sixty days in jail, on charges they set a forest fire which did extensive damage and destroyed 4,300 acres of forest lands near Yosemite National Park in August 1934.
Serious Offense Cited
"This is a serious offense," he said. "I think this Indian was under the influence of Nutter as the thing would not have been of any benefit to him exepting perhaps to curry the favor of Nutter.
"The fact that he had been drinking may have sort of lulled his idea of right or wrong."
Turning to the Indian defendant he said: "Denny, you are in trouble because you drank liquor that you can not handle."
Nutter is Assailed
To Nutter, he said: "Your case is different.  The forest must be protected. Had it not been that the fire started on private property I would have been moved to give you a longer term."
In Jacob's behalf Attorney Joseph Barcroft of Madera said:
"For centuries the Indians owned the forests and their method of clearing the lands was by burning. It was not until the administration of Theodore Roosevelt that conservation became law.  It is still a subject of study whether burning does not prove beneficial.  This is a law, but moral turpitude is not involved."
Long Injury Told
M. A. Benedict, forest supervisor, said the arrest of Nutter and Jacobs came after two years' investigation to demonstrate to the citizens that the deliberate burning of forest lands "will not be tolerated.

Forestry officials say the loss from the fire can not be estimated, if the prosective value of the timer is included.  They say control efforts resulting from the fire alone cost $115,000 and that it will be 150 years before the timber growth destroyed by the flames can be restored.
 transcribed by c feroben

OSO House Fire
Merced Express, December 9, 1937


Bear Valley, Mariposa County,
(Special to The Express)

The famed Oso House, onetime headquarters for General John C. Fremont
was destroyed by fire of unknown origin early this afternoon which
threatened other houses in the small community. Valiant efforts of
volunteer firemen, recruited from the ranks of the Pacific Mining
Company mine, located three miles away, saved other buildings, many of
which had been ignited.

One woman, Mrs. Art Dodd was cut by flying glass following a terrific
explosion in the hotel building, believed due to dynamite stored in the
hotel. The hotel was occupied by four families including several children.

The fire was discovered about 1 p.m. and the miners were summoned. When
they reached the scene, the hotel was burning briskly and the roofs on
other houses were on firs. Part of the crew set about extinguishing the
fire on the roofs, while others attacked the hotel blaze.

One woman yelled that her baby was in the hotel and a crew of five men
entered the building to search for the missing child, which later was
found some distance from the building. The crew hardly had emerged when
the explosion occurred.

The explosion broke all the windows in the adjoining houses and did
considerable damage to the Ralph Trabucco store and boarding house.

The building was constructed in 1850 from materials cut in the East and
transported around the Horn. The lumber was carried to the site and the
house fabricated after weeks of tedious toil.

The Oso House has been made famous by the writings of practically every
author whose works deal with early California history, and many famous
characters of the Gold Rush Days and years following made it their
stopping place. transcribed by T Hilk

Fresno Bee, Wed. July 26, 1939
this is is a portion of a  larger article on fires throughout the state of California.
State division of forestry officals at Mariposa revealed today a series of fires in that county outside the confines of the Sierra National forrest had balckened 70,000 acres in the last two days.
Two of the fires are still burning out of control.  One is the Guadalupe fire, ten miles wet of Mariposa, between the old and new yosemite highways, covering the territory from Guadalupe Mountain west to Cathey Valley.  The blaze was reported partly controlled this  morning after blackeing 20,000 acres of brush and scrub timber land.
The other uncontrolled fire is in the Bagby country oin the Merced River, covereing the territory north of the river to thenortheast of Coulterville.  Upwards of 6,000 acres are blackened in that area and the _____ is still uncontrolled.
The fires are being fought by a force of 275 men, including state division of forestry crews and CCC enrollees from Strawberry Camp.
The Hunters Valley fire in the Hornitos district has been controlled after covering 8,000 acres, and the Bootjack and Mount Bullion fires also are under control after burning 19,000 and 10,000 fires, respectively.- transcribed by c feroben

Mariposa Gazette, Thursday, July 20, 1939
One of the worst fires of the season in Mariposa County was brought under control Tuesday morning after raging over 500 acres and threatening the destruction of a saw mill, scattered farm homes and livestock.
The fire began about a mile west of the Bootjack store Monday evening and swept fanwise towards Mormon Bar aided by a breeze.
Flames jumped the Wawona raod near the Merrill Lumber Co's saw mill and for a time threatened to wipe out the buildings and cut lumber.  The fire raced through manzanita brush and pines along the road, making travel impossible for a time. It then spread along the Raymond road.
Crews of fire fighters from the Bootjack CCC Camp and other stations fought the blaze all night. transcribed by T Phillips

Thursday, July 27, 1939

Mariposa Gazette

Fires Blacken Mariposa County



Officials Believe Fires Of Incendiary Origin
With 30 of more fires raging in the hills the past 10 days, it is estimated that 100,000 acres of field, brush and forest land in Mariposa County has been left blackened and almost bare of vegetation.
On Thursday a fire starting on the Peg-Leg Creek in Bootjack burned until Monday morning, covering an area of 25,000 acres in Bootjack, Darrah, Usona and Indian Peak districts.  Hundreds of men were on the fireline, many them 24 hours a day, working until exhausted.   One house, that of Ralph Phelps, in the Bootjack district was destroyed.  Thousands of acres of pasture land was burned and many miles of fence was damaged.
On Friday, fire started at Cow and Calf on the Mt. Bullion-Hornitos road, burned over more than 10,000 acres between this road and the Whitlock road before being controlled.  Most of this land was pasture land rented to stockmen by the Grant.  All of the burned area was on the Grant.
Trucks from Hornitos, Cathey’s Valley, Coulterville and Mariposa were on the fireline and nearly 300 men under state officials were fighting the flames.
E.T. Barron, assistant state fire chief; Roy Grieves, state forest ranger, and Fred Darrow, all of Sacramento; Ed Minters of Sonora and Arthur Moberg, state fire warden of Mariposa County, were in charge of the men and the various fires.
All available CCC’s and volunteer fighters were forced into service with 50 CCC’s from Crane Flat, 81 from Tamarack, 25 from Strawberry and 53 from Middlefork, all of whom were used at various fires.
The same afternoon a gas tank explosion at the Campo Mine near Hornitos was placed under control after destroying one house, a car and about 160 acres of pasture on the old Carmichael ranch.  Three fire trucks were brought onto the scene.  Ed Wildt was severely burned by the explosion.
At Hunter’s Valley some 16,000 acres of pasture and brush land was burned by a fire that started Friday night and was continuing to burn up until Tuesday.  The stockmen of this district suffered much from the loss of feed.
The largest fire started on Saturday at Bridgeport and on Tuesday it was reported that the fire was under control after having burned an area of approximately 20,000 acres.  The fire burned from Bridgeport to Cathey’s Valley and from Pea Ridge schoolhouse to the Hogan ranch on Auga Fria.
Two building, the Jones’ home at Dogville, and a barn full of hay and grain at Bridgeport were consumed.  It was with difficulty that the Union Oil Station at Bridgeport were saved.
The last of the series of major fires of the season was brought under control Wednesday night by the fire fighters on Buckhorn Mountain, north of Bagby, after the fire had raged for two days burning some 8,000 acres of pasture land.
Other fires at Green Mountain on the Chowchilla, and another near Incline burned over large tracts of pasture land.  Some of these fires were burning at random because every available man was on other fires.
Many homeowners and campers along the creeks in the county were forced to flee to safety and it is fortunate that no casualties have been reported.
There appears to be no chance of conditions becoming better as the summer advances and the fire wardens are confronted with a severe situation for the next two months to come.
Additional fire trucks were sent here from Madera and Kerns counties on Tuesday to assist the local exhausted suppression crews in patrolling fire lines throughout the county. transcribed by T Phillips

Fresno Bee Rebublican,  July 1, 1942
Merced- July 1, More than 230 fire fighters today held under control a grass and scrub oak fire that burned over between 4,000 and 5,000 acres between Hornitos and Bagby.

It burned for almost ten hours on a one and one half mile front.
The blaze started around 2 0'clock yesterday afternoon when a power line to a mine in the Hornitos section fell, sparks igniting the grass.
Fire fighters from the United States Forest Servie and state division of forestry were called immediately. transcribed by cdf

see  more on the Harlow Fire------------Personal  Accounts of the Harlow Fire 1961

Mariposa Gazette July 13th, 1961 

Nip & Ahwahnee Gone - - Fire Raging Uncontrolled
Two Dead; 50 to 60 Homes Destroyed  

Nipinnawasee has gone up in flames, all but the school house and one home; Ahwahnee has only twelve structures left standing and Dead Wood has but few home left.  No report on many of the home in secluded areas has yet been made, and the forest fire, which started on Stumpfield Mountain Monday, in Mariposa County, has spread into Madera County and is still out of control.  Termed the fastest moving fire in the state, the line still has 70% of open county, with 37,000 acres blackened.

The Fire was reported nearly under control around noon Tuesday, when high winds of 25 to 35 miles per house came up, causing it to break out of the control, with flames traveling in dry grass faster than the ground crews could run.  High Temperatures, winds, and low humidity combined to make "perfect disaster" fire weather, forestry officials said.

Fifty to sixty structures are known to be burned, Nip and Ahwahnee burned within an house for the time the first building caught and Deadwood was gone within 18 minutes.  Residents fleeing this way reported they were barely ahead of and went through flames, some saving their pets and a few possessions.  They said people of the area were dazed, the fire came on so fast.

Gene Warren, local telephone manager, with Constable Ted Chase, who assisted with the road most of the domestic livestock block on this end reported that was lost and the wild life seemed largely to turn and run back into flames.  Numerous newspapermen and other publicity men flew into the Mt. Bullion airport and were transported to the scene.

Mariposa's district ranger Frank Crossfield, Robert Moran of Madera and Bob Flynn, U.S. Forestry Fire Control officer have formed a trio of fire bosses, in a untied effort to control the inferno.

On the fire are 1200 men from all parts of the state, national, state and county fire crews from as far south as San Diego, Folsom and Tehachapi prison, the Mt. Bullion Youth Authority, conversation camps at Miramonts, Mount Home and Murietts and a mobile camp.  Crews are being replaced at near the exhaustion point.

          56 fire trucks are at the scene, 20 dozers and at 5:00pm this afternoon six borate planes and one bird-dog started operations from Hammerfield in Fresno. Spraying operations were called off yesterday because of the density of the smoke.

          One Ahwahnee couple, George Kipp and his wife Edna, both about 60 years of age, were fleeing in their car when it ran off the Roundhouse road and became stuck.  Kipp was burned to death in the car and his wife was beside it and still alive, but died a few hours later after being taken to the Madera hospital.

          Several fire fighters were flown to a Merced hospital and brought into Mariposa when they collapsed on the fire line.

          Youth camps in Oakhurst, Sugar Pine, Bass Lake and Westfall areas were evacuated as a precautionary measure as was the Cedarbrook Girls Camp.

          Authorities feel that with proper conditions the fire may be brought under control by Saturday. Starting Monday at Stumpfield Mountain, it was nearly under control that evening then breaking to burn to the Miami Lookout, race across the mounting into Nipinnawasee and Ahwahnee, and destroying them, on toward Oakhurst, burning most of Deadwood.  Traveling almost to the Morgan ranch out of Ahwahnee in missed it.  Area surrounding Oakhurst has been burned; so far the town is safe.  The fire is within one-half mile of Coarsegold.

          As we go to press the Fresno Division of Forestry reports the main trouble at present lies near Yosemite Forks and the Sky Ranch, near the Bass Lake turn-off. transcribed by Tom Phillips

Mariposa GazetteJuly 27th, 1961


          Fredrick Litke, 18 of Mariposa confessed in the Madera district attorneys office last night of setting the 1½ million dollar fire on the Stumpfield Mountain road Monday, July10 which leveled two complete communities and took the lives for George and Edna Kipp of Ahwahnee.

          Litke stated in his confession that he set the brush on fire with book matches in order to make an impression on his friends in that area when he overheard them say they were having trouble finding their stock because of the density of brush.

          Lester Gendron, District Attorney for Madera County, stated that the early arrest of the arson suspect was due to the cooperation of Orville Jewell, special investigator from his office, Dick Ford, special investigator for the Division of Forestry, S. Bates special investigator for fire insurance underwriters and the personnel of both Mariposa and Madera sheriffs offices, who worked as a closely knit unit these past two weeks to determine the cause of the fire and its source.

          Litke, who spent the night in the Madera County Jail, was transported to Mariposa yesterday to view the scene of the disaster area he caused, from there he was taken to the Oakhurst Justice Court for arraignment on 1 count 605, arson and tow counts 187, murder.

          Frank Crossfield, District Ranger, State Division of Forestry, announced that the man-made fire storm consumed 20,000 acres in two hours the equivalent of 3 acres per second or 1 square mile every four minutes.  He also stated that the fire season is not yet over and with several of his crew and trucks now fighting fire in adjacent counties everyone should remain on the alert and minimize the possibility of another calamity by clearing the areas around home, out building and business establishment s as well as good housekeeping on the interior of all structures. 
transcribed by Tom Phillips

Mariposa Gazette, July 27th, 1961


          Stanley Fiske, chairman of the Red Cross Disaster Committee in Mariposa County and Mrs. May Kleiman Director of Mariposa County Department of Social Welfare advise that no further collection of clothing and articles of household furnishings will be undertaken locally as the immediate needs of the area have been met.  Many truckloads of items collected in Mariposa County have been delivered to the area and distributed to the disaster victims.

          All the clothing delivered to Building A of the Fairgounds was sorted, sized and packaged by Mrs. LaRue Wren and her committee of volunteers before being transported to the distribution centers at Nipinnawasee and Ahwahnee.

          We feel that the residents individually, church groups and other organizations in Mariposa County deserve a vote of thanks, as the response to the call was tremendous.  transcribed by Tom Phillips

Mariposa Gazette,  October 5th, 1961 

Notice of hearing On Harlow Fire

Chairman Lloyd W. Lowrey of Rumsey today announced a hearing of the Assembly Interim Committee on Natural Resources, Planning and Public Works to be held on October 30, 1961, commencing at 10:00 a.m. in the Assembly Hall State Building, Fresno California.

          This hearing was called at the urgent request of Assemblyman Gordon Winton of Merced in order to hear testimony relative to the recent "Harlow fire" in Madera county which burned in excess of 42,000 acres, costing two lives, destroyed some eighty to ninety homes and business, completely wiped out the communities of Nipinnawasee and Ahwahnee, and cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000,000.

          All interested persons and groups are invited to appear at this hearing.  Those persons wishing to present testimony should notify the Committee Office prior to October 25, 1961 in order that a complete agenda may be prepared.

          Other members of the Committee are: Jack T. Casey, Vice Chairman, Bakersfield; Lou Cusanovich, Van Neuys; Louis Francis, San Mateo; William S. Grant, Long Beach; Vernon Kilpatrick, Lynwood; and Charles W. Meyers, San Francisco. transcribed by Tom Phillips

Humnboldt Standard, Eureka, Ca  Aug 3, 1962
Death Toll Hits Four From Fire
Mariposa - Four firefighters were fatally burned and  two others critically injured when a 200-acre forest fire took a turn and swept over them Thursday.
Observers in a borate tanker bombarding the blaze said that the men were ahead of the fire lines, fighting the flames, when the fire suddenly engulfed them. The tanker dropped its borate directly on the spot without success.
The dead men were Martin F. Georgi, 39, of the U S Conservation Service; Thomas V. Foley, 39, and John V. Rasch, 46, the U S Forest rangers, all from Mariposa, and Raymond St. Pierre, 23 Merced.  St. Pierre died today in Mercy Hospital in Merced.
Taken to John C. Fremont Hospital in Mariposa with serious burns were Kent Stoci( hard to read), 24, and Ray C Chapin, 40, both of Mariposa.
The blaze, called the Timberlodge fire, broke out near Midpines , six miles northeast of Mariposa Thursday afternoon.  About 400 state and federal firefighters, five tankers,  20 tankers and six borate bombers were used.
Fire crews said the fire was contained and they hoped to have it completely controlled today.  About 250 men remained on the line battling the blaze which has burned Ponderosa pine and brush in Sierra National Forest and destroyed a Jerseydale fire tanker. Flames moved to within 12 miles of Yosemite National Park.
An investigation was underway on the cause of the fire which started near highway 140. transcribed by c feroben

Independent, Long Beach, California August 4, 1962


Mariposa, Investigators searched Friday for the cause of a wild fire which killed four men and burned 280 acres near here Thursday.

The victims , all experienced firefighters, were Thomas Foley, 39, foreman of the six-man crew; Jon Vaun Rasch, 37, of Mariposa; Martin Georgi, 39 of Mariposa, an employee of the U S Soil and Conservation Service, and Raymond S Pierre, 23 of Merced.
Two other crew members- Kent Stoel(hard to read), 24, and Roy Chapin, 41 were hospitalized in Mariposa with critical burns.
(note:per the Foley family this fire was located in Midpines) c feroben

Modesto Bee-July 7, 1963
Mariposa-Mariposa Co. Roy E. Chapin of Mariposa, a survivor in a forest fire which claimed the lives of four men, is seeking $700,000 Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
In a suit filed Thursday in a San Francisco superior court, Chapin claims a PGE utility line started the 280 acres Timber Lodge fire at Mid Pines, Mariposa County, last August 2nd. The fire trapped a crew of six, killing the crew foreman, Thomas Foley, and Jon Vaun Rasch, Raymond St. Pierre and Martin Georgi, and critically burning Chapin and Kent Stoel.
It was the worst forest fire tragedy in the Sierra National Forest's history.  A preliminary report filed by state and federal report filed by state and federal forestry investigators two days after the fire said it started near a PGE utility pole and "was spread over a wide area by falling transmission lines, which caused a rapid sweep up the brush covered slopes".
Chapin received lengthy treatment in hospitals near Mariposa and in Fresno for burns suffered in the fire and now is under a doctor's care in his home in Mariposa where he lives with his wife, Nancy, and three children.
His wife said he has suffered permanent injuries as a result of the fire.




updated Aug 2010