Early 'bucket brigades' overmatched by raging fires

Mr. and Mrs. James Hurst are pictured with their children, Russell and Lloyd, in front of their Country Store in 1895. The store burned to the ground in 1909.

The first decade of the 1900s saw two major fires in Dover, both resulting in near-total destruction to the buildings. Prior to hand-pumped fire engines, locals would fight fires by passing buckets of water man to man along a human chain in what is known as a "bucket brigade." This method was slow and often ineffective against larger blazes.

In 1906, the Phillips Hotel caught fire. The bell at the Methodist church rang out and the people of Dover ran to assist. The residents formed a bucket brigade and did what they could to save the hotel and the spirits housed in the basement. The liquor fumes fueled the flames and the building could not be saved.

A few years later, the James Hurst Country Store burned to the ground, taking with it the barbershop next door. The store, which also served as Dover’s long-distance telephone station and housed the Dover Masonic Lodge on the second floor, was located at the northwest corner of Center Ridge and Dover Center roads (presently the site of the GetGo gas station).

On a February day in 1909, several Dover men were taking part in a little sparring (boxing) nearby when the blaze began. They again came running and assembled a bucket brigade, but once again were unsuccessful in saving the structures.

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Volume 3, Issue 11, Posted 3:22 PM, 06.01.2011