One hundred and forty-nine years ago this evening, the steamer The White Cloud
caught fire on the St. Louis riverfront. The all-volunteer fire department of the River City responded to the blaze, but the boat broke loose of its moorings and floated downriver to Locust Street. The heat thrown off by the blazing ship caused nearby buildings to smolder and then burst into flames. The overwhelmed firefighters fought the conflagration all night, but the flames rampaged through block after block, extending in all directions from the quays. In desperation, the firefighters threw powder kegs into a half-dozen buildings on the edge of the fire, destroying the structures and creating a firebreak. The daring plan worked but fifteen city blocks were rubble.
Barnes M. Bradshaw tells the tale of the brave men who saved our young city in a free presentation entitled Up from the Ashes at 11 a.m. this morning at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599).
Wed., May 17