The Beaufort Fire of January 19, 1907 was the most disastrous fire to date. When the embers cooled 40 structures were damaged or gone.
The newspaper article transcriptions below are from a web page written by Dennis Adams (Information Services Coordinator, Retired) for the old Beaufort County Library website at various points between 1998 and 2007. The articles were transcribed and republished with permission granted by the editors of the Savannah Morning News on 27 February 1998. Text appearing in teal was supplied by me. I also have chosen to supply punctuation to make the articles easier to read. – Grace Cordial
On January 22, 1907, the Savannah Morning News revised its assessment of the damage and unrest in its follow-up coverage:
Beaufort to be Rebuilt at Once. Loss is within $150.000. Origin of Fire was due to Cigarette Smoking.
All was quiet in Beaufort yesterday when Capt. Ed. Wilson and one or two other Savannahians who went over the morning following the fire returned to the city, and it was reported that the damage to the city was not even as great as thought the day following the fire.
Mr. Wilson said he believed $150,000 was a large estimate of the damage done, and doubts if the damage is really over $125,000. According to his statement about twenty-three dwellings and ten business houses were consumed, but the majority of these were small wooden structures that were not of much value.
Mr. Wilson said he made inquiry while in Beaufort and found that with but few exceptions all of the owners of the property carried insurance, in many instances to the full value of the loss. Following the arrival of the company of artillerymen from Fort Screven in command of Capt. Joseph Wheeler, perfect order prevailed in Beaufort and there was no disposition on the part of any one to cause trouble.
The origin of the fire was traced to three small boys who were smoking in a stable to the rear of F. W. Scheper’s store on Bay street. These boys were questioned and admitted that they had been smoking and had probably thrown a lighted match into some hay that was stored in the stable. Neither of the trio was over 8 years of age, and nothing was done with them.
Mr. Wilson said the fire was confined to one district, where it first started, but that the wind carried sparks and embers some distance and set fire to other buildings, causing three fires to be in progress at once. Very few of those whose homes were burned saved any of their personal effects, as it was not believed the fire would spread to any buildings except the stable and store of Mr. Scheper. Large quantities of clothing and furniture were burned after they had been removed from the houses and piled in the yards. Many residents saved nothing except the clothing they had on their backs at the time the fire was discovered.
Mr. Wilson said he talked with the leading citizens of Beaufort, and they all believed the fire would prove a blessing, as it would result in municipal legislation that would throw many needed restrictions around the building permits, and would serve to reduce the insurance rates, which, in some instances, went as high as 6 per cent.
The work of rebuilding, Mr. Wilson said, will be commenced at once. Everything will be rebuilt with the exception of the old colonial houses, which, of course, can not be replaced. Modern houses, however, will be erected in place of these. The troops will probably be withdrawn from Beaufort to-day unless some unexpected trouble arises or some newly found necessity for their remaining on duty arises.
Mr. Wilson took a large number of pictures while in Beaufort, and said that he had splendid luck in getting good exposures.