United States Hotel

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In the News

Terrible Conflagration at Ballarat, and Loss of Life;
The Ballarat correspondent of the Melbourne Herald gives the following account of this amentable casualty, his communication bearing date the 1st inst:-
Shortly after midnight this morning, I.was aroused by the cry of fire, and the rush of multitudes. Having hastily dressed, upon entering the street, from the extent of the flames which lit up tho whole neighbourhood, for miles, and the inflammable nature pf the buildings, the conviction forced itself upon my mind that the whole line of buildings would be swept away by the conflagration which was spreading with fearful rapidity. Upon reaching the scene of destruction, where thousands had in a few minutes assembled, I found the Little Wonder Store, United States Hotel, the American Express Store, Adelphi Theatre, and Hemingway and Jones' Drapery Store on the one side, and the whole line of stores from the junction of the Melbourne and Geelong roads to the inn belonging to Messrs Moses and Son, an immense body of flames, over which from the nature of the buildings and want of systematic action there was no control. Under these circumstances the only course to pursue was to prevent any further progress by pulling down the adjoining stores, which, from the numbers actively engaged was soon effected. From the closeness of the Charlie Napier Hotel to the store of Messrs Hemingway and Jones, for some time great fears were entertained that that house would share the fate of its neighbours, but the wind fortunately blowing directly across, instead of along the road, and timely precautions being taken by covering the projecting portions of the building with wet blankets, it sustained no injury beyond being slightly scorched. All the buildings, with the exception of Messrs Moses and Son's store, being structures of wood and canvas, were in less than half an hour a mere mass of ruins, but that being corrugated iron, lasted entire, though completely red hot, for several hours, during which time the contents which were principally wines, spirits, and oil, were steadily burning. During the progress of the fire considerable anxiety was felt for tho safety of many persons who were sleeping in the house; unhappily these fears were too well founded. About an hour after the commencement two bodies were seen at the back part of the hotel amidst the burning ashes, whence by the active exertions of Mr Seekamp and Mr M'Gill, the remains, one consisting of the body without arms, the lower part of the legs and the other a mere trunk, the head having fallen to pieces in Mr Seekamp's hands, were taken out and removed to the Charlie Napier Hotel, where an inquest was held on them during the day. From the evidence given by Mr Emery, one of the proprietors of the United States Hotel, it appears that on going to bed he was alarmed by the cry of fire, which was proceeding from the lower portion of the building, when he rushed out almost naked, and again returned for his trousers, fortunately sustaining no injury. Mr Nicholls, another proprietor, who was sleeping in the room over the bar, in making his escape through the house, got burnt from head to foot; was found in the road rolling over and over, in intense agony, the flesh falling from him in flakes as large as the hand, and taken to Mr Smith's refreshment rooms, next to the Montezuma, where after lingering for several hours he expired. Before death he was fully conscious of all that was passing, and knew that he was dying. Two young women engaged in the hotel were by the bravery of a carpenter named Macleod miraculously saved; finding the house in flumes, he rushed into the room in which they were sleeping, and threw them out of the window, when they were caught by the crowd; both of them, however, had their night clothes burnt on them, injuring the head, and upper part of the body: they were taken across to the Arcade Hotel, where they are now lying, but I believe in a state of no very great danger. The carpenter, who thus nobly conducted himself, escaped I believe unhurt. The wizard Jacobs, who had also a narrow escape of his life, saved himself by leaping from a window at the side, into the adjoining store; his brother who was sleeping in the theatre, also had a narrow escape, and for some time both were running about, each apprehensive for the other's safety. Though no fresh remains have been found, yet, from the numbers sleeping in the house, and several being missing, there is much reason to believe that several others have met their end. The amount of property destroyed cannot be much less than £50,000, Moses and Son's place being the only one on which there was any insurance, which amount(£500), will nothing near cover the loss. Messrs Moody and Smith had only last Friday week made application to one of the Melbourne companies for the insurance of the hotel, store, and Adelphi Theatre. Messrs Hemingway and Jones,-who had recently enlarged their premises, and received a very large stock up, will be amongst the heaviest losers. As yet the origin of the fire is involved in mystery. At the present time the ground in under the protection of the military. During the day large bodies of men, under the superintendence of Mr Inspector Foster, have been actively engaged in collecting the few remains, and removing them from the ruins, which are still smouldering; the stench is sickening in the extreme.
Inquests had been held by Dr Glendenning [sic], upon the bodies of four persons who met with their deaths either at the race-course or on returning.
Another inquest had been held upon tho re- mains of two bodies, supposed to be those of a male and female, discovered in the ruins of the U. S. Hotel.[1]

See also

Dr George Clendinning

James McGill

Henry Seekamp

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.

External links


  1. Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer, 08 December 1855.

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Caption, Reference.