This is a slideshow video reading of two poems written by an unknown Fargo resident and J.H. Burke following and regarding the Fargo Fire of 1893. Please click the links below to view video presentations of these poems on YouTube.
“In our peaceful, quiet city,
(Oh what a change that day would see,)
That seventh day of June,
Eighteen hundred ninety-three;
None e’en deemed that swift destruction
Soon would come a rushing down,
Till the cry of fire! fire! Was heard ringing throughout town.
Then excitement and confusion
Reigned where peace reigned just before,
As the red-tongued, fiery monster
Madly swept the city o’er.
Bells pealed forth their notes of warning,
Mingled with the whistles’ scream,
And the fire’s roar and crackle,
Shouts of men and hiss of steam.
Onward swept the fiery tempest
Sweeping all within its track,
And it seemed no human effort
Could beat the flaming demon back.
Bravely fought the “fire ladies,”
Bravely fought man, woman, child;
But the fiery fiend was master
And on it swept in fury wild.
But relief was swiftly coming
From our noble sister Casselton,
And from other sisters near;
We soon met the monster’s frown.
Then was turned the tide of battle
And we ere the set of sun,
Had conquered the red monster;
But oh, such work as he had done.
Where once stood in seeming safety
Lovely home and business place,
Naught is left but blackened ruins
Which time alone can e’er erase
While it cost us precious treasure,
Yet it cost no precious life;
Although home’s gone, still remaining
Are the children, husband, wife.
We’ll ever hold in kind remembrance
All who helped us on that day.
And with emphasis we thank you.
It is all that we can say.
Let us offer now oblation
Until God who ruleth all,
And give heed to His commandments
Lest a worse thing us befall.
-Unknown—June 7, 1893
Fargo, Dakota’s prairie queen,
IN peaceful plenty lay
Begirt by fields of waving green
That sultry summer day.
Her lofty blocks of brick and stone
Seemed towering to the sky,
And cast their cooling shadows down
Upon the passer by.
The farmers from the country round
Did throng each busy street,
Their friends and neighbors greet;
For every road to Fargo led,
As did the roads of old
To Rome, when she by Tiber’s bed,
The restless world controlled.
And business men with eager face,
And keen observant eyes,
Were flitting by from place to place
As bee its calling plies;
And lovely women lent their grace
Unto the busy scene;
And childhood, with its guileless face,
Amidst the throng was seen.
When suddenly a shout was heard
Of agony and fear;
And through the noise the thrilling word
Of fire, struck on the ear.
Then other voices swelled the cry,
And soon the deep-voiced bell
Was pealing from the belfry high;
The doomed city’s knell.
And shooting up in whirling bands,
A smoking pillar rose,
Black as that, which on Egypt’s sands,
Screened Israel from its foes;
And spurting through the inky cloud,
The blood-red flames appear,
Like those which from Jehovah’s cloud,
Filled Pharaoh’s hosts with fear
And o’er their heads the south wind strong,
The blazing embers tossed
And soon the word was passed along,
“The water fails, all’s lost.”
But still they bravely stood their ground,
And did all men could do;
While overhead and all around
Naught but flames met their view.
The Fire Fiend rode upon the blast,
From roof to roof he sprang;
And round his fiery darts he cast,
And loud his laughter rang.
A sea of fire with human shore,
He saw beneath his feet;
Louder and louder grew his roar,
And fiercer grew the heat.
Twas o’er a hundred acres lay,
A lake of shouldering fire,
And perished in that swift decay
Had wall, and roof, and spire.
And homeless hundreds stood that night, beneath the drenching rain
Nor hoped nor cared to see the light
Of morning dawn again.
But one short year has passed away,
And now I stand once more
Just where I stood that awful day
Upon that red sea’s shore.
And what a change—that fiery flood
I see no longer there.
But stately blocks and mansions good
Have risen everywhere.
The massive blocks of brick and stone
The stranger doth amaze
As when Aladdin’s palace shone
Upon the sultan’s gaze.
I see the men, as good as gold,
Who’ve build again their town,
And lovely women, as of old,
Are passing up and down.
—J. H. Burke, June 7 1894
 Masonic Library Staff. Fargo Masonic Files. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University, 1979. Print.