Community History – Keefer Flourmill Fire 1885

Community History - Covington - Keefer Flourmill Fire 1885

The Keefer Flourmill fire of 1885 was one of the most destructive in Covington history. The Keefer Mill was located at the corner of 5th and Craig Streets in Covington. The mill had been extensively enlarged in about 1880. It was one of the largest flourmills in the South in 1885. The mill was owned by David Keefer, George M. Keefer, H. Keefer and C.C. Dobbyns. On the evening of January 16, 1885, the mill caught fire. Within a few minutes the large building was nearly engulfed in flames. The fire department laid its hose and was ready to begin fighting the blaze when the north wall collapsed burying the lines.

The flames were so large and bright that the fire woke many people from their sleep. The residents who lived in homes on Craig Street near the mill feared their homes would be completely destroyed. The fire became so large that Covington called Cincinnati for assistance. The Cincinnati Department sent several engines to assist with the blaze.

The work of the Covington and Cincinnati Departments could not save the Keefer Mill building. Their efforts did, however, keep the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. On the morning of January 17, 1885, only three of the mill’s four walls remained standing. All of the equipment, which had been purchased only a few years before, was ruined. Ironically, only a few weeks before, the owners had reduced the insurance coverage from $70,000 to $40,000. The loss was estimated at between $70,000 and $100,000.

Kentucky State Journal, January 17, 1885, p. 2 and 4; Charles R. Ridder, ed., History of the Covington Fire Department. (Covington, KY) 1893.

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