THE CHICAGO FIRE

Ok, finished a couple more books.

#7 – Two Wars by Nate Self. This is the autobiography of an officer who was an Army Ranger Captain and involved in extremely dangerous missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. He talks about the war he fought on the battlefield and the war he fought coming home to real life. Lots of realistic description of the war which was interesting, but war description is not my favorite reading material. Yet this is a worthwhile book, especially as you read how he came to terms with what he experienced – through the power of Christ.  He now counsels returning soldiers.

#8 – The Great Fire by Jim Murphy. This is the story of the Chicago Fire, of course – a short two CD book. This is a 1996 Newbery award winner, which means it was written for kids. However, it kept me occupied through a couple days of commuting and I found it interesting.

Books like this always make me look up more information, so of course, I did. (And it would be fun to read a David McCullough-type book on the subject.)

Here are some Chicago Fire Facts

1. Mrs. O’Leary was not old, living alone, and penniless. She and her her husband and her children lived in a small home on DeKoven Street. Her husband didn’t make a lot of money, but enough to comfortably support his family.

2. They did have a barn and they did have cows, but they were already sleeping the night the fire started and the newspaper man who said it started when their cow kicked over a lantern admitted he made up the story.

3. The fire did start in their barn or at least near their barn – maybe by a neighbor who kept his cow at the O’Learys and might have been milking her that late. He was one of those reporting the fire and might’ve been covering up his own carelessness. Or, maybe the fire was caused by still smoldering ashes from a fire that raged the night before just a couple blocks away.

4. The fire itself could’ve been contained if it had not been for a series of mistakes – the alarm was delayed and when it was sounded, the firemen were sent to the wrong part of the city. Also, the wealthy of the city felt the fire was something that happened only in the poor area and didn’t pay much attention – until the fire jumped the river and began burning through wealthier homes.

5. The fire destroyed an area four miles long and about 3/4 miles wide. Only a few buildings were spared – the Water Tower and Pumping Station on Chicago/Michigan Avenue, Holy Family Church (actually the O’Leary’s church) and the O’Leary house itself. Old St. Patrick’s Church and St. Michael’s of Old Town also survived.

6. The O’Leary house stood until 1956 when it was torn down to make way for the Chicago Fire Academy where firefighters still train.

7. Although a third of the city was homeless after the fire, only a few hundred people lost their lives. On the very same day, fire broke out in Peshtigo, Wisconsin killing 1,200.

8. D.L. Moody lost most of what he had in the fire – including his church.

9. The story of Horatio Spafford writing the lyrics to “It Is Well with My Soul” has been told over and over. He planned to take his family to Europe, but couldn’t get away so sent his wife and four daughters on ahead. The boat was shipwrecked and all four children lost their lives. Later, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to join his wife, he wrote the song.

But something I wasn’t aware of – Mr. Spafford had been a successful Chicago lawyer and lost everything in the fire (just a short time before the fateful trip). The reason he was delayed is because he was helping the city deal with zoning issues that had arisen because so much of the city was destroyed. So, not only did he lose his daughters, but everything he owned within a few weeks.

10. The University of Chicago teams are called the Flames. The campus is close to the O’Learys.

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