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As It Was: Heroes Respond to 1894 Silver Lake Christmas Eve Fire

In 1894, a terrible fire burned down the Silver Lake general store in South Central Oregon, where 200 people had gathered on the second-floor ballroom for a community dance.  An exit door that opened in, instead of out, and a collapsed stairway contributed to the death of 40 people and injuries for another 50, many severely burned.
In the confusion, someone rode after Silver Lake’s Dr. Thompson, who was on his way to see a patient in Paisley.  The rider continued another 77 miles to Lakeview to get Dr. Daly and medical supplies.

Dr. Thompson wrote a month after the fire that 36 patients were treated for burns, with five still under care. Thompson credited dedicated nurses for keeping people alive by tending their burns. Most of the so-called nurses were cowboys.

Who was the heroic rider who rode for help in the cold and snowy night?  Some witnesses thought it was Ira R. Bradley, others Ed O’Farrell. 

There were many other heroes that awful night, including those who carried others out of the burning building or nursed victims to full recovery. 

Source: Tupper, Melany. "The Rider--Silver Lake Fire." Lake County Examiner, Dec. 2010, p. 6.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.