In 1900, a fire ravaged downtown Caddo and destroyed 21 of the original wood-frame buildings. It also killed Mr. George Ahrens and financially devastated many business owners who didn’t have fire insurance.
The fire started at about 9 p.m. on Nov. 19 and burned almost the entire block of buildings on the north side of East Buffalo Street, directly across the street from the Nail Hotel and W. H. Ainsworth’s dry goods store.
The fire started in or under F.S. Harvey’s grocery store, but an exact cause was never determined. Mrs. Powers, who ran a restaurant east of Harvey’s store, smelled smoke and heard a strange noise.
The alarm was sounded and citizens rallied to fight the fire. It was evident that the block in which the fire originated was doomed and that all attempts to stop the flames in that block would be useless.
Effort was therefore concentrated on saving as much stock in the surrounding businesses as possible and keeping the buildings in the block to the west from burning.
The fire was under control in just over an hour, helped by a heavy downpour of rain, but the losses still totaled over $14,000.
Ahrens was a shoemaker who lived in the back of the Harvey building. His body was discovered the day after the fire. Witnesses recalled hearing him say he needed to go back to the building to get his money, but there was a lot of confusion during the fire and no one could remember seeing him actually enter the building.
Ahrens was 76 years of age and a native of Germany. He had lived in Caddo for 22 years, was a widower and had one son, H.T. Ahrens. During his life, the elder Ahrens he had accumulated quite a sum of money - some of which he had invested in Caddo, but much was on deposit.
After the inquest, his remains were buried in the cemetery east of town.
Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historical event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.