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The Great Fire of Chicago page 3

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An undertaker was seen heading a weird procession of boys, carrying empty coffins, their stock-in-trade, across Madison Bridge away from the fire. These coffins would soon be needed.

With the fire reaching its end, Monday was not a day of unrelieved misery. The Mayor wired to neighbouring cities for help, and they nobly responded. A couple of fire engines were two of the most welcome gifts unloaded from the first relief trains. These trains were unable to come farther into the city than Twenty-second Street. Here the passengers alighted and began a memorable walk through the derelict area. The Bucket Brigade was already at work carrying water from the Lake to the place where the fire still raged. Several houses that had escaped the flames lay ruined and prostrate, among those twenty thousand others that had been burned to cinders. The pavements had gone and the rails of the street cars were seen to be displaced and contorted into the oddest shapes. There were miles and miles of burned poles and tangled skeins of telegraph wires. The mournful search for dead relatives was proceeding everywhere. Preparations for feeding encampments of the hungry homeless were being rapidly made. The churches in the untouched parts of the city were open and the weak and the infirm were being taken inside and tended. Every doctor was in a state of exhaustion. Orders were given to all bakers remaining in the city to run their ovens to full capacity. The military came into the town and aided the police in protecting the ruins from looters. About three-quarters of a million pounds poured in from all parts of a sympathetic world.

So much property was destroyed, including the possessions of the insurance companies, that it was thought that nothing would be recoverable. But soon cheerful news came from England. Those who had insured with the British companies would be paid in full. Some American companies, with offices in other cities, gave the same assurance.

The newspapers which, during the fire had gathered the greatest stories of the city's history, were unable to publish them on the Monday for their offices had gone the way of the others. But the newspapers were not long in making a reappearance. At the time when all seemed gloomy and hopeless the Tribune came out with a report and a clarion call that stirred every man in Chicago to forget his troubles and arise to his duty. Its twelve-column account of the conflagration was headed, "Chicago Destroyed," but its leading article was an inspiration. "Chicago," it proclaimed, "shall rise again." It had spoken truly.

The new Chicago, which rose in stone, brick and steel on the ruins of the old, had in twenty years recovered the value of all its losses in the Great Fire. Chicago had indeed risen again!

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