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Not-so-good old days
A period with low rainfall and a day with high winds were all it took to dash a lot of dreams in 1863. From the Oxford Democrat, May 16, 1863:
Greenwood City in Ruins!
Suffering of the People
Last Friday, at noon, occurred one of the most destructive fires ever known in this region. The whole village, known as Greenwood City, was consumed by fire. The only buildings spared are the village church and a small shoemaker's shop. Not only was the whole village destroyed, but so sudden was the start and progress of the conflagration, that no one of all the families unhoused saved scarce an article of property, dress or wearing apparel, from the flames. Even the live stock in the stables could not be rescued.
The fire commenced in the dwelling house in the north end of the village, owned by Winthrop Stevens, of Norway, and Dr. Kittredge of Paris, and occupied by Mr. Emmons. Mrs. E. had built a fire to prepare dinner. The light fire is supposed to have set the chimney on fire, when the roof caught from sparks from the chimney. The fire was next communicated to the barn, and thence to the large house, occupied by Ames Stevens, Mr. Berry, and Mr. Hilton, and thence to the store occupied by Messrs. Bennett & Kendall. All the above buildings were owned by Messrs. Stevens and Kittredge.
The old Noyes tavern stand, owned by G. W. Patch, next took fire, when the flames were blown across the street to the old Hilborn stand, also owned by Patch, and occupied by O. Edgecomb and L. Fifield. Patch's stable and store, adjoining, were in flames immediately after. The store was occupied, as a wheelwright's shop, by E. Trull. Then another dwelling, on the same side of the street, belonging to Mr. Kendall, went down, when the fire was communicated to the house with store in basement, belonging to D. D. Verrill; and the flames were satiated on the burning of the old grist mill, simply because there was nothing more to devour. The whole work of destruction occupied but an hour. The high wind would take off boards, in some cases, which were so dry as to be consumed before they reached the ground. Fire was set in the woods, from flying brands, two miles away from the village.
The property in buildings was chiefly in the hands of a few proprietors.
The following estimates have been made:
Mssers. Stevens and Kittredge, $2,000
G. W. Patch, $3,000
D. C. Verrill, $1,000
Messrs. Bennett & Kendall, stock of goods. Mr. Kendall also lost a horse.
Aaron Edgecomb, all his carpenter's tools
E. Trull, all his tools
Mr. Patch also lost a valuable horse, two hogs, with a litter of 12 pigs. His house was furnished in an expensive style. Most of the articles were taken from the house and were supposed to be safe, but the great heat set them on fire.
Mr. and Mrs. Stevens are about 80 years of age. A daughter kept house for them. When the house took, they were siting down to the dinner table. There was barely time to get out of the house, the dinner table burning in the floor. They lost all their clothing, as well as a little stock of money laid by for summer use.
Mrs. Edgecomb was in labor, her attendants already called. She was taken to the house of Mr. Emery, who provided for a shelter, and the people of West Paris having contributed some articles for her benefit.
Most of the families are now in destitute circumstances. They were tenants, and have had swept away every article they possessed except the clothing they stood in. The case calls strongly upon the sympathies of a generous people, who are invited to contribute, from their abundance, such articles as can be spared for the relief of present suffering. Packages may be forwarded to the care of Mr. E. Flint, Greenwood.
These buildings were erected while the great thoroughfare for Northern travel was through the village, which was then a thriving settlement. The railroad diverted the travel, and of course lessened the value of the property, making a large number of buildings now represent but a small cash value. At one time the business supported five stores, two taverns and one or two mills. The railroad destroyed all the business upon which the prosperity of the place depended, and the hot flames have now wiped it from existence.
A spell of no rain and a day of high winds is still the recipe for a disastrous fire.
As is our custom, we try to exactly reproduce the grammar, spelling, punctuation and style of the original. Commas might appear where least expected and remain absent where we’d expect them if the item was written nowadays. On the other hand, consistency was not considered of utmost importance, so variations of a spelling might appear within one story. In addition, some words were abbreviated differently than today. Where brief explanations of terms are considered necessary, they are presented in brackets  within the quote. Otherwise, explanations appear at the beginning or at the conclusion, without quotes. Parenthesis () used in a quoted passage appeared in the original.