12/26/11 395 W - + 3 - 2 Researching an Early Fire in Raleigh

One of the earliest recorded fires in the city's history occurred in the spring of 1824. Here's what's included in my Raleigh Fire Department history timelines, which are based on several years of research and from a variety of sources:

Fire strikes city. Press reports note 'no sufficient supply could be obtained, the water works having been suffered to go out of repair and remain so.' (Spring? 1824)

The cited source is Wake: Capital County of North Carolina - Volume 1, Prehistory Through Centennial Elizabeth Reid Murray, Capital County Publishing, 1983. Here's the entirely of what Ms. Murray wrote about the fire:

At another fire a year later [in 1824] it was learned that "no sufficient supply of water could be obtained, the water works having been suffered to go out of repair and remain so." Some black men and boys procured tubs of water to fight the blaze and distinguished themselves by their extraordinary exertions. The city commissioners afterward appointed a committee "to designate such Negroes as particularly signalized themselves by their activity in putting a stop to the fire," and another committee to take steps toward improving the water supply.

Ms. Murray's cited source for her information is the weekly Raleigh Register of February 24 and March 7, 1824. Thus my date of spring 1824 as the possible date for the fire.

Last week, an e-mail was received from a person researching their family's history. Looking at a letter in the Joel King Papers Collection at the Duke University Library, he cited correspondence he found between his great-great-great uncle, Benjamin S. King of Raleigh [and a Clerk of Wake County for a period of time], to his brother Joel King in Louisburg on February 23, 1824. 

The words are incomplete, but it seems that he is describing a fire that started in a blacksmith "yesterday morning" and burned down three or four houses and "had it not been for a near miracle of providential interference the principal part of the Town might have been consumed by the devouring element." 
That places the date of the fire as February 22, 1824. Next step should be a visit to Olivia Raney Local History Library, to see if the aforementioned Register articles are available on microfilm. Then read said articles. Then update timeline. Thanks to Johnny King for sending. History never sleeps.

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