IRISH-IN-CHICAGO-L ArchivesArchiver > IRISH-IN-CHICAGO > 2005-10 > 1129513153
From: dan hogan <>
Subject: Fwd:Catherine O'Leary and the Chicago fire
Date: Sun, 16 Oct 2005 18:39:13 -0700 (PDT)
From the Irish-American list.
> Thanks to the Irish Heritage Newsletter.
> Catherine O'Leary
> The Great Chicago Fire begins in a barn owned by
> Patrick and
> Catherine O'Leary, 8 October.
> Legend has it that on the evening , Mrs. Catherine
> O'Leary's cow kicked
> over a lantern, touching off the Great Chicago Fire.
> On the
> drought-stricken evening that the fire started, a
> 30-mile-per-hour wind
> was blowing from the southwest. Fanned to ferocity
> the blazed scorched
> its way north and east. Curiously, Mrs. O'Leary's
> house at 13 DeKoven
> Street, was almost untouched. Even the barn where
> the fire started had
> only a corner burned out. Today, the Chicago Fire
> Academy occupies their
> place.The fire raged for 30 hours. The blaze,
> leaping from house to
> house, ultimately destroyed four-and-a-half square
> miles of
> Chicago--some 17,500 buildings. By the time the fire
> burned itself out
> on October 10, the entire business district was
> destroyed. Six railroad
> depots and Marshall Field's department store had
> gone up in flames. At
> times, temperatures reached 1,500 to 1,800 degrees.
> People were
> incinerated; limestone disintegrated into powder.
> Some 250 people were
> known dead and another 200 were listed as missing
> and 100,000 people
> were left homeless.
> Throughout history, the fire has been attributed
> to Mrs. OLeary, an
> immigrant Irish milkmaid, and her cow. On one level,
> the tale of Mrs.
> OLearys cow is merely the quintessential urban
> legend. But the story
> also represents a means by which the upper classes
> of Chicago could
> blame the fires chaos on a member of the working
> poor. Although that
> fire destroyed the official county documents, some
> land tract records
> were saved. Using this and other primary source
> information, Richard F.
> Bales created a scale drawing that reconstructed the
> neighborhood. Next he turned to the transcriptsmore
> than 1,100
> handwritten pages from an investigation conducted by
> the Board of Police
> and Fire Commissioners, which interviewed 50 people
> over the course of
> 12 days. The boards final report, published in the
> Chicago newspapers on
> December 12, 1871, indicates that commissioners were
> unable to determine
> the cause of the fire.
> The O'Leary's lived out the rest of their lives
> avoiding the news media
> and sensation-seekers. Patrick died in 1894,
> Catherine in 1895. Their
> children James and Anna are buried here as well.
> James O'Leary, also
> known as "Big Jim", was one of Chicago's most
> notorious gambling house
> owners in the early part of the 20th century.
> To view some artwork and pictures on this article.
> Please go to your IH
> homepage at
> Pat Connors
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