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That Which Destroyed
the McQuesten Barn
All Evidence Points to This
Barn and contents Made a Up [sic]
Loss of $3000
Doors of the Barn Were Locked at Night But When the Fire Was Discovered
They Were Found Open.

Feb 27 1903

A fire,1 which illuminated the skies for miles around totally destroyed the barn owned by John K. McQuesten, 723 South Main street, West Manchester, last evening. Fortunately no live stock was kept in the barn, but some ten tons of hay, a hay cutter, two hay rakes and all of Mr. McQuesten's farming tools were lost. The fire was unquestionably of incendiary origin and the police are now looking into the affair. The barn was one of the old-fashioned high posted affairs and was an old landmark. It was erected in 1870. Mr. McQuesten carried an insurance of $1000.

The fire was a spectacular one and loomed up so that it could be seen for miles. Shortly after the alarm sounded, from this side of the river it looked as though the entire lower end of 'Squog" [sic] was ablaze. Hundreds of people pulled on their wraps and hurried to the scene but, though many started, but few traversed the entire distance, as the barn was but a short distance from the Bedford line, nearly three miles from the city proper.

The flames had a good start when discovered and it was several moments afterwards before the alarm was sounded. It was pulled in from box 54, corner of South Main and A streets, by James D. Bixby. The box is fully a mile from the scene of the fire. It was a long hard run for even the nearest of the apparatus, and by the time the firemen arrived the barn was pretty much consumed. The Fire King engine was the first to get to the fire, and coupled to the last hydrant on South Main street. By utilizing all of the available hose the firemen managed to stretch one line to the barn. The other apparatus could not be used and was sent back to the respective stations.

The barn was originally [dimensions scratched out and "62 x (45??) written above] feet and cost nearly $2000. It was located on the east side of South Main street and was the last building before reaching the Bedford line. The barn stood alone, fortunately Mr. McQuesten's house and stable being on the opposite side of the street. In the barn were ten tons of hay, two hay rakes, a hay cutter and farming tools belonging to Mr. McQuesten. No live stock was kept there.

The fire was discovered by Mrs. McQuesten. All had retired for the night, but she was awakened by the bright light and crackling sounds and awoke her husband. The entire top of the barn was then burning from end to end. Mr. McQuesten lost no time in getting into his clothes and hurried out of the house. The first thing that caught his notice was the fact that both of the big doors at the barn entrance were wide open. In looking around, a long line of foot tracks could be seen in the snow coming across the fields from Second street directly to the barn. These were nearly obliterated by the crowds that gathered later. Mr. McQuesten is positive that the doors were padlocked and braced when he retired for the night. People living in the house just below them also say that the first thing they noticed was the fact that both doors were standing open.

George W. Ayer, a young man who lives a short distance away, was among the first out, and he too noticed that both doors were open. He also said that the trail in the snow across the field was very noticeable. The fire lighted up the surroundings brilliantly and the footprints could be plainly seen.

The alarm was pulled in at 10.30 o'clock, and it was after 1 o'clock before the last piece of the apparatus pulled into its station. Chief Engineer Thomas W. Lane stated that the fire was unquestionably set by some one. Mr. McQuesten said that he knew of no one that held a grudge against him, but thoroughly believes that some one set fire to the place.

1 The date assigned to this document is that of the fire.

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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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