If you are interested in Monroe history, you have probably heard of the Monroe fires of 1871 and 1889 that were supposedly set by the infamous Sidney Saunders. There was, however, a previous fire that was just as destructive as the latter two fires. This one too, may have been set by an arsonist. We find an account of it in the New Orleans Times-Picayune of December 8, 1854. Included in the account was an act of heroism by one of Monroe’s citizens.
Great Fire at Monroe, Ouachita Parish.
The Ouachita Register, of the 29th ult., has the following account of a great fire in the town of Monroe, on Sunday morning, the 26th by which, we regret to learn, the business portion of the town was consumed:
For the last six weeks it has been apparent that some designing incendiary was determined to burn up the business portion of our town. Some three or four attempts have been made, but fortunately detected before it was too late to extinguish the flames. The last attempt, however, of this devil incarnate, on Sunday morning last, proved successful. At about 4 o’clock in the morning it was discovered that H. Gerson’s dry goods store, on Grand street, was on fire, and the flames continued to spread from that building until all the stores and other buildings on both sides of Grand street, between Grammont and Wood streets were destroyed. The fire then extended to Judge J.N.T. Richardson’s office on Wood street, and from that to W.J.Q. Baker’s office, both of which were destroyed. From Baker’s office the fire was communicated to the Receiver’s office, which was also destroyed: fortunately, however, all the books and papers of the office were saved.
The next building to the Receiver’s office was the fire-proof office of Messrs. McGuire & Ray; and fortunately the fire was there arrested. There were in all twenty-three buildings burned. The loss is estimated at over a hundred thousand dollars, on which there was an insurance of about forty thousand. Several of our most enterprising business men have lost the toil of years by this fire. The sufferers are: Messrs. Atkins, Gayle & Co.; Weil & Brother; estate of C.A. Austin & E. Austin; J.C. Million; H. Gerson; E. Moran; Dr. Roane; Dr. Bres; V. Keller; E.M. Louiseau; Wm. Llewellen; Judge J.N.T. Richardson; C.H. Henderson; W.J.Q. Baker, and Peyton G. King.
The greater portion of our citizens worked so nobly at the fire that it would be quite a task to particularize; but we feel bound to notice the great presence of mind and heroism of Mrs. Llewellyn, who after the house in which she was residing was on fire went into it and removed a keg of powder, which she carried some seventy-five yards to the river. Had this powder exploded many lives would, no doubt, have been lost.