The Chicago Fire- October 8, 1871

Legend holds that the Great Chicago Fire started when a cow owned by a Mrs. O'Leary kicked over a kerosene lantern setting the barn it was in ablaze. Investigations however, have exonerated the cow and the O'Leary's, and suggest that two neighbors stopping by the bar for a smoke were the more likely culprits. In any case, the fire destroyed much of the city and claimed nearly 300 lives.

 


Illustration by Mik Augustin
Contact Mik Augustin at mikaugustin@facebook.com

A number of songs were inspired by the disaster. "Lost and Saved" tells the story of a girl thought lost in the fire, but who was, apparently, miraculously spared. The song was written by George Root. Root (1820-1895) was best known for writing songs of the Civil War, the most familiar being "Tramp, tramp tramp," "Just Before the Battle Mother," and "The Battle Cry of Freedom." "The Billow of Fire!" is a hymn written by gospel singer and hymn writer Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876), who composed a number of well known hymns. Decades later, surviving passengers aboard one lifeboat from the Titanic reported singing one of Bliss's hymns, "Pull For the Shore" to keep spirits up. Five years after the Chicago Fire, Bliss was one of the 92 killed in the Ashtabula Train Disaster.

 

 

The Billow of Fire! – P.P. Bliss

Hark the alarm, the clang of the bells!
Signal of dangerit rises and swells;
Flashes like lightening illumine the sky,
See the red glare as the flames mount on high:

On like a fiend in its towering wrath,
On, and destruction alone points the path,
‘Mercy oh Heaven’, the sufferers wail,
Feeble humanity naught can avail.

Roll on, roll on, oh billow of fire;
Dash with thy fury waves higher and higher;
Ours is a mansion abiding and sure,
Ours is a kingdom eternal secure.

Thousands are homeless and quick to their cry,
Heaven born charity yields a supply,
Upward we glance in our terrible grief,
‘Give us this day,’ brings the promised relief.

Treasures have vanished and riches have flown
Hopes for the present life blessed and gone,
Courage, oh brother, yield not to despair,
“God is our refuge”, His Kingdom we’ll share.

Roll on, roll on, oh billow of fire;
Dash with thy fury waves higher and higher;
Ours is a mansion abiding and sure,
Ours is a kingdom eternal secure.

About the Recording:
Jon Waterman- vocal and guitar
Nick Zaino- bass and drums

 


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