Title Insurance Records and The Great Chicago Fire
Probate and Property, January/February 2004, Volume 18, Number 1
By Richard F. Bales
Richard F. Bales is an assistant regional counsel in the Wheaton, Illinois office of the Chicago Title Insurance Company.
On Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, fire broke out in the barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, who lived in a tiny cottage at 137 DeKoven Street on Chicago’s West Side. The flames spread quickly through the shacks and shanties of this working class neighborhood. Burning brands soon jumped the Chicago River, first to the city’s South Side, then to the North Side. Before burning itself out in the early morning of Tuesday, October 10, the fire had cauterized the heart of Chicago, ravaging a swath approximately three-and-one-third square miles in size. Property valued at $192 million was destroyed, and about 300 people lost their lives.
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