Historian's Corner

Charlene Cole
Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian
Historian's Corner
November 5, 2019

Photo:Sancona Lumber Company

As our Lacona village research continues we remembered the Sancona Fire during the Oswego County Fair and set out to research it right away and here is what we found. Sandy Creek News August 1945. The Sancona Mill was gutted in a $15,000 blaze. Ten visiting companies aided Lacona, Sandy Creek Departments in fighting the fire.

Fire of unknown origin broke out in the Sancona Mill and burned undiscovered until about 8:20 p.m. Saturday night when John Hollis and the sons of Jack Weisenburger passing on the way to the fair noticed the flames and an alarm was phoned from the home of George W. Corse across the street.

A parade of twelve fire companies had just come to a halt on the Sandy Creek Fairgrounds as a part of the Fireman’s Day program, when the siren sounded. All the companies, most of them equipped with pumpers and hose, rushed to the scene. Lacona firemen, in whose village the mill is located, were the first to get a stream of water on the fire, pumping from the bridge.

Also, on the bridge were the pumpers of Mexico, Dexter, Hannibal and Parish fire companies, all of whom were directing streams of water towards the northeastern section of the mill where the fire broke out and gained such headway before discovery. The Sandy Creek fire department laid hose from the hydrant by SCCS, Pulaski and from the hydrant by the Baptist Church and Adams from the hydrant by the D. H. L. Hollis residence.

The Richland and Orwell chemical trucks were stationed on Academy Street to cover the storage sheds on the north side of the creek, the Obleman home and nearby property. Fire spread into the front part of the office and firemen directed a large stream of water into this section of the building, driving the fire back from there and from the western end of the plant.

A dam was built for water supply. The water was low in the creek, making it necessary for the firemen to build a small dam to impound enough water for pumping. It is believed that much of the water poured into the building, ran back into the creek and was used repeatedly. Some difficulty was experienced with small trout being sucked into the hose, the trout having been planted in the stream a short time ago.

Visiting firemen began to pull out about 11 o’clock when the fire was fairly well under control; Lacona and Sandy Creek firemen remained on the scene. Sandy Creek firemen left about 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning while part of the Lacona firemen stayed on duty all night and Sunday when they put out two or three small blazes which broke out in the ruins.

The northeast section of the plant was burned to the ground. Although the walls in the remaining parts of the rambling structure are still standing, the building is so badly gutted that the owners, Philip Coble and William J. Hinds consider it a complete loss which would not be replaced for less than $10,000 to $15,000. The loss is partially covered by insurance. Mr. Hinds states that although their plans are indefinite at the present moment, they contemplate rebuilding.

The origin of the fire is a mystery according to Tad W. Harding, manager, who reports that no one had been in that part of the mill since early in the afternoon and the machinery ran but a short time during the day.

This is the third structure to burn on this site. The original building, also a lumber mill was erected shortly after the Civil War by Alvin C. Skinkle and William E. Howlett. This burned the last Tuesday in February 1872. The owners rebuilt and then went out of business. William T. Tifft bought the mill but never operated it, selling to Allen M. Campbell who operated it for a time as a cider mill. It was again destroyed by fire during the 1880’s. The mill was rebuilt by Smith H. Barlow who ran a lumber mill there for many years. Connected with him was his foster son, Walter Barlow who took over the business when his father retired. About 1919 Fred Montanye bought the mill of Walter Barlow and retained his ownership until 1943 when the property was purchased by William J. Hinds and Philip Coble.

For about a quarter of a century, Tad Harding, present manager of the plant, had been connected with the business, coming there when Mr. Montanye bought the mill. During that period, Mr. Harding has served under various firms. Morin Bros. of Fulton and Neal and O’Brien of Oswego formed the Sancona Lumber Corp. and operated as such about two years. Morin Bros. sold their interest to Neal and O’Brien who operated it until 1935 as the Lacona Branch of the Mexico Lumber & Coal Co. At that time, Mr. Harding leased the building and took over the business which was known as the Sancona Builders Supply. Except for a carload of roofing which came in earlier in the week, Mr. Harding considers his loss practically covered by insurance.

Mr. Harding has lost no time in getting started in a new location having leased the freight house at Lacona, he will continue to do business, storing his stock there. Some of his stock was removed from the building, some recovered after the fire, and with this as a nucleus, together with more stock on the way, he is endeavoring to take care of all his business from his temporary location.

Charlene Cole
Sandy Creek/Lacona Historian
1992 Harwood Drive
Sandy Creek, NY 13145
315-387-5456 x7
Office hours: Friday 9am to 2pm