Emma L. Brill Van Osten

Hoff Block Badly Burned.

Stubborn Blaze Starts in Attic– Losses of Owners and Occupants Heavy.

The Clarksburg Telegram., December 05. 1902, Pg. 3

1886 Map depicting the aforementioned Hoff Block and approximate location of Mrs. Van Osten's Home

The city was thrown into a state of great excitement at 5:30 o’clock last Friday evening over the discovery of fire in the Hoff block on West Main street, and hundreds of people flocked to the scene to assist in extinguishing what promised at one tome to be a conflagration. The fire department, assisted by volunteers, worked heroically, but under great difficulty, to save the property and prevent the flames from spreading to adjacent buildings. Never, perhaps, had they found a fire more difficult to reach or harder to subdue.

The building is a large two-story brick and adjoins a building of the same height and character belonging to Willoughby Harrison. It was covered with a tin roof, with but very narrow space between the ceiling and roof. This peculiarity of the structure made it practically impossible to reach the fire in its first stages, as it was in the attic that the blaze started.

For nearly an hour it could not definitely be determined just where the fire was located, for the reason that smoke rolled out all along the edges of the roof and no blaze was to be seen.

However, the hose was turned on from the rear of the building and the stream played upon and under the roof.

Ladders were at last placed against Mrs. Van Osten’s residence and several volunteers with hose in hand climbed up on the roof and from there to the roof of the burning building.

About 7 o’clock

the first flame was seen in the ceiling of the room in the middle of the building, and in a few minutes more the flames leaped upward and swept westward toward the new building being erected for Judge Goff. The cornice work along the front of the building was soon all ablaze.

Oak Hall (1911) building assumed to be mentioned as under construction at the time of the 1902 fire

It seemed that the building was doomed but the fire laddies worked with a will and had the fire under control by 8 o’clock. But the flames were smothered only for a time and broke out again about 11 o’clock in an entirely different section of the building. This time it was in the ceiling of the Harrison section of the block. It would appear that the flames had crept stealthily along the cornice until they reached that part of the building. Then they burst forth with fury but were soon subjected.

The origin of the blaze is shrouded with mystery. It is supposed to have been caused by a live electric wire, although the theory is advanced that it caught from a stove in the second story. Spontaneous combustion is also another theory. It appears to have started in the attic over a room occupied by G. C. Southern, real estate broker, but, if that be true, it could not have started from a stove as Mr. Southern had not been in the office for four or five days. It may have started over a rear room occupied by J. W. Dodge with a sign painting establishment. The ceilings of these two rooms as well as the room over the Clifford-Osborn Undertaking Company were badly burned and the roof over these sections collapsed. The ceiling of the Harrison section of the block was also considerably burned.

Monetary Damages and Losses
Advertisement for the Clifford Osborne Undertaking Company

Dodge & Repass lose $300 by the fire. Mr. Dodge loses also besides this $200. The Clifford-Osborn Undertaking Company and R. L. Martin & Company, hardware merchants, are the greatest losers among the occupants of the building. The undertaking company had a $3,500 stock with only $1,000 insurance. The front office contained $800 worth of robes, which were practically ruined from water. The exact damage to the caskets in the storage room has not been ascertained but will be heavy, perhaps $2,500 all told. The hardware stock of R. L. Martin & Company was damaged $2,500 to the extent of about $2,500.

Southern’s loss amounts to practically nothing as only a few articles were destroyed. His desk with notes and other valuable papers was saved.

The damage to the Hoff part of the block will reach nearly $1,500. There was no insurance. The owners are Misses Ellin and Maud Hoff, John and Lewis Hoff, and Mrs. George W. Albright, the last name having a half undivided interest in the building.

Mr. Harrison’s loss is slight. He has the building insured.

The undertaking company secured oms in the Boughner building on Fourth street, and for the present will do business at that place.

Clarence Elliott, wife and baby lived in a rear room. His loss is $250.


Grave marker of Mrs. Van Osten

The Clarksburg Telegram., April 28, 1905

Mrs. E. L. Van Osten died at her home, 349 West Main street, Thursday morning at five o’clock after a short illness with nervous prostration. Her death came as a a shock to her many friends as it was not generally known that her illness was of such a critical nature.

The deceased was fifty-three years of age. She was the daughter of John Jeffers, deceased, a prominent citizen of this section. Her husband was Dr. A. B. Van Osten, a prominent resident and a leading dentist of this city, who died a number of years ago. Surviving her of immediate family is one son A. B. Van Osten, who lived with his mother. Mrs. Van Osten was held in the highest regard by all of the many friends and acquaintances who knew her and her death is deeply deplored by them.

Arrangements for the funeral have not been completed. It will take place from the late residence sometime Friday and the internment will be in the I. O. O. F. Cemetery.

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