Delmar has been destroyed by two major fires. The first was in 1892 and the second was in 1901. The article below describes the 1892 fire. It is interesting most of the towns on the Eastern Shore had major fires in in the 1890s. When neighboring fire departments sent aid to those towns they would load their equipment up on the train and the train would take them to the town where they would unload and start to fight the fire. Obviously the response time left something to be desired. In the case of Delmar in 1892 it was pointed out that there was no source of water to put out the fire and water had to be taken from the tanks on the train engines sitting in the rail yard at the time. It would not be until 1911 before Delmar would have a water utility that would supply fire hydrants and sufficient water pressure to put out fires.
Salisbury Advertiser August 20, 1892
FIRE BURNS UP DELMAR
Eighty-Seven Houses burned including Every Business Place, the Hotel, Railroad Station and M. E. Church
Another Peninsula town has been reduced to ashes. Delmar was burned last Tuesday afternoon. Between noon and the hour of one, Fire was seen to burst from the roof of the building, corner Railroad avenue and Grove street, occupied by Mr. Tyre as post office. Being a frame structure, the flames fanned by a brisk wind from the north-west, soon enveloped the entire building, and before the thoroughly aroused populace could take action the fire was spreading from house to house and continued to spread until ten acres on which thickly stood eighty-seven buildings of various kinds, mostly wood, had been burned over.
The burned district extends from Grove Street on the north, down Railroad avenue on the west three squares south to Elizabeth street, east from Railroad avenue two squares to Second street. In this territory stood every business house, the hotel, Methodist Episcopal Church and the railroad station, all of which were burned. The fire did no damage west of the railroad track. The origin of the conflagration is supposed to have been the igniting of a match by a mouse in an old sugar barrel which stood in the hall on the second floor of the post office building.
The Salisbury fire service responded promptly to an appeal for help, but owing to the fact Delmar is an inland town, with no artificial water supply, and having no natural streams nearer than two miles, our boys could do little toward keeping up a stream of water. What water they did get was drawn off the tanks of a number of engines.
The losers of the fire are; Levin Hastings store and goods partly insured; M. H. German private residence and several tenement houses, loss heavy, only partially covered by insurance; Joseph W. Hastings, residence valued at $1300, insured for $800; Dr. Ellegood, drug store and bedroom set $2000, insured $1200; W. S. Marvel, residence, barn, smith shop, $3500, total loss; J. M. Elliott, two dwellings and one more, partially insured; Elliott & Ellis, stock of goods, $5000, insured $4000; Cooper & Wilson store and stock of goods, $7000, insurance $4500; W. B. Elliott, post office building and butcher shop, $4000, partially insured; Mrs. Hayman, millinery store, total loss; Delmar Union store, store and stock lose $3500, insurance $1200; Perdue & Hastings millinery store , $1,000, no insurance; W. S. Hitchens, store $1500 total loss, E. J. Melson store $300, total loss; E. J. Freeny, several houses all partially insured; B. W. Freeny, green grocer, $1,000, no insurance; Jas. Mills, leather, $300, total lose; R. S. Stevens & Bro, jewelry valued $1000, no insurance ; W. I. Sirman, residence, partially insured, stock of goods$1000, no insurance; H. B. James, residence, light insurance; Methodist Episcopal church and parsonage, loss partly covered by insurance; Smiley Parker, residence, some insurance, Mrs. Sarah Williams, residence, no insurance ; James Williams, W. I. Sirman, H. B. Sirman, W. Elliott, James Venables, John Gillis, all residences, with more or less insurance; H. B. Kerr’s barber’s fixtures, no insurance; T. A. Vesseys hotel, loss, $5000, insurance $1600; L. B. Kerr’s livery stable, P. W. Vincent’s residence; W. S. Mason’s residence; B. B. Gordy; residence, Mrs. B. B. Gordy, dwelling; Mrs. Elizabeth H. Slemons, residence, office, stables, loss $1500, insurance $1000; M. M. Hill residence partly insured; John W. Melson, residence; Isaac Watson, residence and shop, partially insured, John Neugebaum, residence partly insured; Charles Hill, residence, partly insured; Mrs. Mills, residence, no insurance; Dr. Josephus A. Wright, residence, $1800, insured $800; Harry Renninger, residence, no insurance; Philip C. Hearn, residence, insured; John I. Clarke, residence, partly insured; Charles Elliott, residence, partly insured; B. W. Parker, residence, partly insured; W. C. Truitt, residence, partly insured; Roy German, residence insured; Jos. J. Restein, residence, insured; railroad station, freight house, etc $10000, partly insured; Algy Dennis, residence, partly insured; E. P. O’Neal, residence, partly insured; A. H. Morris, candy store, loss $300, no insurance; Total loss is conservatively estimated at $150,000 and the aggregated insurance is placed at $75,000. Mr. A. G. Toadvine of this city had nearly all the property destroyed on the Maryland side in his companies.
Delmar is situated six miles north of Salisbury on Mason Dixon Line, at the juncture of the P. W. & B. railroad and the N. Y. P. & N railroad, which two systems uniting at Delmar, traverse the seaboard states from New York to Norfolk. It is a new town, owing its thrift and prosperity to the railroads. Within the last decade it has grown from a hamlet of a few scattered houses to a town of 800 inhabitants.
The fire of last Tuesday was the first considerable blaze the little town ever suffered and during its progress many land marks were destroyed.
Among the first homes to burn was one as old as the town itself and in which two poor but enterprising boys- E. E. Jackson and W. L. Sirman – set out in business in 1859. The former has since amassed a large fortune and has honorably served his native state as its governor. The latter is at present speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives and has always been identified with the best interests of Delmar, where he has succeeded in acquiring a competence.
Mr. T. A. Vessey, proprietor of the hotel, was offered $4000 cash for his property on Monday by a Cincinnati gentlemen but refused it.
Dr. Josephus A. Wright had made all arrangements to move into his handsome new home on Wednesday.
Among the more prominent buildings not destroyed are the Missionary Baptist Church, O. S. Baptitist Church, and the Methodist Protestant Church. All the mills were saved.
Undauted by the diameter the people at once turned to work and began to erect temporary structures in which to do business until more substantial buildings can be put up. In twenty four hours after the fire Mr. B. W. Freeny had a house on the site of his burned butcher shop. The railroad company have a temporary station house completed and several other rough structures are up. The unfortunates whose homes were destroyed are residing for the time with those of their neighbors who were not burned out. Mrs. Slemons and her daughters are guests of Dr. F. M. Slemons of Salisbury.
Hogs and Chickens were burned as well as provisions and it is said that when night settled over the devastated town Tuesday there was not enough food in the place to give all the people a hearty meal. This alarming condition was soon relieved however by the quick and eager response of neighboring towns Salisbury, Cape Charles City, Wilmington, Laurel, Seaford and other places send food and money, Mayor Humphreys and messgrs Randolph, Humpreys, A. A. Gillis, Charles Birkhead, and R. T. Fowler, a committee to solicit aid. A purse of $445.35 was soon made up and presented to the provisional committee at Delmar.
A dispatch from Wilmington, Del. Wednesday night to Hon. W. L. Sirmen, said; “At a public meeting held in this city hall of Wilmington this morning to respond to the call for aid from Delmar $500 in cash was raised in twenty minutes and William L. Sirman of Delmar, speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives was directed by telegraph to draw on the treasurer of the meeting for that amount at once. A car load of provions, bedding, clothing and furniture will also be sent down”. The railroad are transporting provisions free.