Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Zwicker Fire January 26, 1920 Danvers, Massachusetts

For the past five Mondays I have been posting pages from my Grandmother’s 1920 diary.  She was only fifteen years old during the year of this diary, and I’ve enjoyed transcribing and scanning the pages.  Her entries are of her school days, sports, family illnesses, weather reports, and local news in her hometown of Beverly, Massachusetts.  One of the events she recorded was the January 24th fire which destroyed a local farm. 

You can read the January 24th entry HERE.  When I posted this entry I was having trouble reading the name of the property owner.  I didn’t know if it was SWICHE or some other name.  During a trip to the Beverly Historical Society the staff had a hard time helping me find information on this conflagration because we didn’t have the correct name.  Fortunately, after I posted the story, a reader named Betty Fredericks commented that there was a ZWICKER family living nearby in Danvers, Massachusetts.

Betty’s clue helped me to find an online insurance report on the Zwicker fire in Danvers.  Unfortunately for me, the Beverly Newspaper from this time period is not online.  Several other readers wrote to me from Beverly, and offered to help find more information.  One of these blog readers was Laurel Stevens of Beverly.  She found the newspaper article in the Beverly Evening Times dated January 26, 1920 at the Beverly public library.  Laurel wrote to me “The fire made the front page top right corner and was continued to page 8.  It's interesting. Sorry one section of what house it spread to isn't clear.  I am assuming it was their house but could have been the smoke house as the smoke house is commented on as the possible cause.  There's an interesting story about who responded to the fire and what happened.

Thank you very much, to both of you, Betty and Laurel!

Page 1
Disastrous Fire on the Zwicker Estate Just Across
 the Danvers Line.  Loss Will be About $20,000
Partially Covered by Insurance.  Apparatus
Delayed by Snow
Fire destroyed a big cow barn, an-
other barn, both more than a hundred
feet long, a carriage shed, sixty feet
long, gutted the dwelling house, caus-
ed the loss of life of twenty-five cows
and four horses, and destroyed twenty-
five tons of hay and many farming im-
plements, a total loss of close to $20,-
000, partially covered by insurance, at
The Zwicker estate, the former A.J.
Bradstreet place, off Bridge Street,
Danvers, late Saturday night.  While
the bulidlings are located in Danvers a
call for the Beverly department was
rung in and two pieces of Beverly kit
responded.  The local firemen did
dffective work, the Danvers motor kit
being delayed in arriving on account
of the heavy fall of snow.
     The fire was discovered by Mrs.
Alvah J. Bradstreet and her mother,
Mrs. Eben Lovett, who live nearby.
Mrs. Bradstreet pulled in the box in
Danvers, located near the place, while
Mrs. Lovett telephoned to the Beverly
department and later Box 9 was rung.
The fire started in the carriage shed
adjoining the barn and spread rapidly.
The Danvers combination had trouble
with the transmission soon after leav-
Ing the house and the Danvers pump-
Ing engine became stuck in a big drift
and had to be worked out, delaying the
arrival.  Combination Threet at Ryal
Side was the first of fire fighting
kit to reach the blaze and two-lines
of hose were laid.  When the Dan-
vers kit arrived two other lines were
laid to fight the flames.
     The fire spread so rapidly that the
cows and horses could not be saved.
The cows were owned by Richard
Fielding, who had recently leased the
place from J. Zwicker, who, with
his son, occupied the house on the es-
tate.  Two of the horses were owned

(Continued on Page Eight)

by Mr. Fielding, one by Former Rep-
presentative Alvah J. Bradstreet and
the other was a pony owned by Major
William B. Morgan, which he sent up
from Texas while he was in command
of Battery F, 101st Field Artillery
during its tour of duty on the Mexican
    The fire worked through the carriage
shed, the cow barn, the other barn, in-
cluding the house.  There was time enough
to save most of the furniture in the
Zwicker house.  It was a stinging
cold night, with the mercury at 12
above zero and it made hard fighting
for the firemen but they stuck to their
posts bravely.  The Combination
Three men worked until early in the
morning, while the Combination One
went back to the station after the fire
was under c ontrol.  The Danvers
firemen stayed on the job until late
yesterday morning.
     The Zwickers were planning to go
West and had leased the barns to
Mr. Fielding, who is engaged in the
milk business.  Some of the cows
were valuable and the loss falls heavily
on him.  Neighbors did what they
could to help the firemen and saw to it
that they were served with hot coffee
and lunches.
     The ??? was a real test of the motor
fire apparatus and the Beverly kits
came through with a splendid per-
formance.  Chief R. H. Grant, and all
of the firemen were pretty well pleas-
ed over the showing made by the local
apparatus in the face of the hardest storm
of the season.
     An investigation is being made to-
day as to the cause of the fire.  It is
said that the smoke house on the
place was being used for the curing
of hams and it is thought that the fire

might have started from that source.

Click on this link for my original blog post which included my grandmother's diary entry for this fire:

UPDATE 9:30am January 9, 2017

This screen shot of an old map was sent to me via Facebook by reader Bobbie Brooks.  She wrote " I looked up old maps of Danvers. There were two Bradsteet Farms next to one another just off Bridge St where Bridge and Elliot come together.  I would guess that the one with the attached barns and buildings near the road would be the Zwicker Farm (once called Bradstreet Farm).  Seems this would be near or where Bradstreet Ave is now.  Map from Danvers 1897 plate 023."    The solid line on this map designates the Danvers/Beverly townline.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Zwicker Fire January 26, 1920 Danvers, Massachusetts", Nutfield Genealogy, posted January 4, 2017, ( accessed [access date]). 

1 comment:

  1. I wundah if the name misspelling was derived from your grandmother having a nice Massachusetts accent when she was a girl and then spelling the subject name phonetically?

    I recall my 5th grade teacher in Concord, NH -- Miss Degnan -- and I having a "discussion" about the correct answer on a test about homonyms. She had a lovely New England accent nurtured over her 50+ years and she insisted that "farther" and "father" were homonyms. I had acquaintances from outside New England who recognized "r" as a pronounceable consonant and I tried to explain why I thought they had the proper pronunciation (as the dictionary showed too) . . . and so the two words were not really homonyms. It was no use. Neither of us would budge and I got that one wrong on every test and quiz on that topic. ;-) Pronunciation can confuse spelling and it can also lead to linguistic errors BY TEACHERS! ;-)