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From the Archives: The Great Fire and the Bisbee Family Revisited

By Mitch Hemann, Senior Archivist

One year ago I wrote an article for the historical society’s digital newsletter detailing the harrowing experiences of the Bisbee family during the Great Fire of 1901, centered around the recent donation of the Bisbee family silver. In that article, I offered an inaccurate location for the Bisbee home based on the information we had at the time. We have now received a second donation of Bisbee material and are able to update the story, as well as set the record straight. Right, images of Charles R. Bisbee and Alma Bisbee.

The first thing we learned was the name of the jeweler who sold the monogrammed silver to the family. The additional donated pieces included a velvet bag from Greenleaf & Crosby Jewelers, located at 25 E. Bay Street. This was the silver that Alma Bisbee would leave on the corner of Forsyth and Main during the fire before heading north to Springfield.  

There were also some incredible family photographs, including one photo of the Bisbee house with a frozen fountain in the foreground, below. This was an important clue, and we consulted our Historian at Large, Dr. Wayne Wood. Examining the photograph, Dr. Wood was able to identify the location of the house. He also knew when the photo was taken. 

We can now say with confidence that the house stood on the southwest corner of Laura and Adams Streets, and the photo was taken during a rare freeze in January of 1886. The fountain is one of many found in the front yards of homes taking advantage of an artesian well system in the area. 

The Jacksonville Historical Society would like to thank Louise Geib Bisbee for the wonderful donation of Bisbee family artifacts. We’d also like to thank Wayne Wood for helping us finally solve this perplexing mystery.


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