Edwin W. Elmore could probably only stare at the ruins of his family’s mill in Oneonta when he arrived here in a hasty return from a business trip on Thursday, May 8, 1913. Fire destroyed the massive Elmore Milling Co. plant, then found in the area of today’s Carbon Street and Neahwa Place, on Tuesday night. One man was killed.
While very minor in comparison to what happened this past April 17 at West, Texas, one thing in common for Oneonta was Elmore’s vow to rebuild the mill and put his 45 to 50 employees back to work.
While some of the Elmore millworkers were idled, it did mean work for construction crews in the rebuilding process. Other building projects around the city called for additional workers during May 1913.
Shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, Norman Bleeker, a night miller, had discovered the fire in what was called the Hallstead mill, where oats were being ground. A city fire alarm box was activated and the millworkers rushed to safety.
When firefighters arrived from the station, then found at 242 Main St., they saw the mill was doomed and plans were made to save adjacent property. With the intense heat and coal pockets of the Oneonta Coal and Supply Co. very close by, this fire could have spread and caused more damage.
Harry Rowland had fled from the mill with the other men, but when a call was made for more fire hose, he went back into the mill to retrieve one, and was apparently overcome by smoke and flames. Rowland, then 29, left a wife and three small children, who resided on Boylston Street in the Sixth Ward.
Elmore praised firefighters and volunteers for work to save the area from greater harm. The mill’s damage was estimated at $250,000 and was fully covered by insurance.