Idaho County Free Press

Thursday, July 23, 1908

COTTONWOOD IN ASHES  - Second Largest Town on camas Prairie Wiped Out Early Monday Morning by Disastrous Fire, Heroic Work of No Avail

OVER $225,000 LOST IN TWO HOURS  -  The Entire Business Section of the Town and Some Residences Destroyed.  Will Build a Modern City on Site of Present Ruins

The second greatest fire Idaho county has so far known occurred early Monday morning when a blaze starting in the Martin Kuhn saloon reduced to ashes the second largest town in our county and entailed a loss close onto $250,000, adding another to the disasters that have befallen Idaho County within the last six months.  First, the flood of the early spring when much loss was sustained, then when recovery was progressing rapidly and the Clearwater country was becoming itself once again, the hail storm of a week ago passed through the wheat belt of the Prairie and as a result another large sum is taxable to loss.  Now comes the burning of the second largest city on the Prairie, Cottonwood.


It seems the swamper of what is known as the Club saloon, a place located in the Kurdy block and opened this spring by Martin Kuhn of Nez Perce, had built up a hot fire and was heating water with which to clean up the place and later on left for home.  Along about 12:15 in the morning  Mrs. Tom Hale saw flames shooting from the building and turned in the alarm.  In a very short time the town was aroused and a fight which was to last close onto two hours and result in defeat was opened on the spreading flames.


When the alarm was turned in the fire company was quick to respond but equipped with nothing but a chemical engine and a hook and ladder brigade, but little headway could be made.  After making desperate efforts to extinguish the fire, efforts were concentrated upon the section of the city occupied by the brewery and Overland livery.  The hardest kind of a fight was waged and finally the spread of the fire in that direction was saved.  The mill and several other properties were saved by the same tactics and while the firefighters were strengthened by every citizen in the town nothing could save the city from destruction.  As the flames leaped from building to building people could be seen scurrying hither and thither with arms filled with books, valuable papers, etc.  The town was light as day and visible from many points on the Prairie.


While the people fought with desperation huge tongues of flame leaped for one structure to another and the wooden buildings, dry as tinder, were consumed in rapid succession.  Up both sides of Main Street the business blocks were leveled to the ground;  up King street, another section of business blocks was consumed.  The burned district was confined to the buildings on both sides of Main from the Cottonwood stables on the east to the Overland stables on the west and up King street on both sides to and including the Brust store.  Practically every business house in the city was wiped out besides several residences.  There remain one mill three liveries, the brewery, a butcher shop, several blacksmith shops, the electric plant and a small store known as the Bee Hive.  Over forty of the business houses were totally destroyed.


The following is as careful an estimate of the losses and insurance as is possible to get at the present time.  In some instances the figures given represent the lose of stock and building.  Some parties who have sustained a loss we have listed and not given the amount as it was impossible to get any figures at the time of going to press.  It will be seen by comparing the total loss to the total insurance carried that close on to a third of the loss was covered by insurance.


Owner and Business                                   Value               Insurance

Roberts Bros., Confectionary               $  400

W.M. Felberth, Confectionary            $  500

S.R. Butler, Jeweler                         $4000              $2000

Foster & Blakley, Harness

J.N. Moden, Furniture                                   $4000              $2000

Mrs. Duffey, Confectionary               $  350

O.E. Van Dorn, Drugs                             $4500              $2000

A.J. Payne, Hotel                            $1500

Brown & Ehrhardt, Hotel Bldg.    $8000              $4500

John Hoene, Hardware                     $7500              $3500

L.L. Gordon, Bowling Alley               $1800

Hugh Beck, Barber Shop, Bldg     $2900              $1300

Simon Bros., Butchers                       $2500              $1300

L.L. Gordon, Saloon Bldg.                 $1500 

Joe Schober, Saloon Bldg.                 $1500              $1000

Morrison & McNamara, Saloon  $1500

German State Bank                            $3000

Cottonwood Hardware Co.              $23,000                       $8000

W.G. Brust, Gen. Mdse.               $25,000                       $8000

Severus & Fuchs, Gen. Mdes.              $9000              $3500

Sam Goldstone, Gen. Mdse                $35,000           $20,000

S.R. Libby, Furniture                                   $3000              $1500

M. Kuhn, Saloon                          $4000              $2000

Bailor & Robinson, Undertakers       $800               

Mertes & WAldmann, Saloon              $2000              $1000

A.J. Robinson, Drugs                           $1500                $500

A.J. Barth, Jewelry                         $2000             

J.M. Wolbert, Office                            

John Peterson, Saloon                          $2000              $1400

First National Bank                            $4000              $2000

Sims McKinney Co., Dry Goods     $10,000                       $2000

Post Office                                             $400

Camas Prairie Lan Co.                          $400

Nate Reed, Barber Shop

John Funke, Saloon

Chas. Steal, Office

Dr. smith, Office & Fixtures                        $1500

Dr. Turner, Office                           $2000              $1000

Dr. Shineck, Office                             $800              $  350

W.A. Peterson, Plumber                          $250

J.O. Short, Barber

Chas. Betz, Shoemaker

A.B. Rooke, Cottage                                   

Jos. Schober, Cottage



  While the blow is a serious one and will effect the city for a half dozen years, from the ashes will arise a modern little city of substantial brick business blocks and secure from fire by a modern water plant.  It must not be understood that nothing remains, the residence section is almost intact but of course all of her business institutions have been leveled to the ground.  There is a reason for Cottonwood; situated in one of the best portions of the Prairie she has grown from a hamlet to the second largest city on the Prairie.  It is a natural trade center for a large territory settled up with a prosperous set of people.

It has had a steady and healthy growth.  The citizenry is of the class known as town-builders and it will not be long until the ring of the mechanic’s hammer will announce the re-building of the New Cottonwood.



Grangeville extends a helping hand to its sister city I her time of distress. Several wagon loads of provisions were sent out at once upon the receipt of the news.  The people are already talking of the future town and while the ruins were still smoking plans were being prepared for one brick block.  Sam Goldstone, one of the heaviest losers, says; “While the loss is very heavy we are going to re-build the city.  There’s a reason for Cottonwood and the fire will hurt the town only temporarily.”

Herman N. Nuxoll, president of the German State Bank, one of the leading institutions of the town, is a firm believer in the future.

Food was mighty scarce the first two days after the fire but the merchants have made heavy purchases of supplies which are now arriving.

Mr. Brust, owner of one of the largest stores, is east at the present but we understand will re-open.  Cottonwood has realized the necessity of a good water system and some time ago voted a franchise to a company that is now busy sinking a well and putting in a reservoir.

While the post office was destroyed and Postmaster Farnsworth is in the mountains, the assistant opened up the office in the Turner residence and is handling the mail same as every.

Nez Perce telephone office is also located in the Turner residences.  In thirty days they will have a railroad then watch the building material roll in.

Many Grangeville people visited the ruins the first of the week and offered their assistances to the citizens in every way possible.  No accidents or loss of life.

Joe Paine is keeping hotel in the I.O.O. F. hall and taking care of the traveling public.






If you have any questions, suggestions or to report  a broken link contact the Idaho County Coordinator