Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Rocky Comfort Fires

Fires are still a big threat, especially wildfires in the West, but in general fire is not as much of a menace nowadays as it used to be. Stoves, flues, and other heating apparatuses were not as safe in the old days as they generally are today, and communities were not as equipped as they are nowadays to fight fires when they did break out. My limited research on the subject suggests to me that there are probably few towns and villages in the Ozarks that have not suffered at least one devastating fire in their history. Rocky Comfort, located in northeastern McDonald County near the Barry and Newton county lines, is a good example. Its business district has suffered at least three significant fires in its history.
On Sunday night, February 15, 1925, a fire occurred in Rocky Comfort that destroyed the building where both the Oddfellows and Masons met. All the books and records of both lodges were lost. Shelley's store and another business building were also destroyed.
On Friday night, October 7, 1938, an even more devastating fire hit Rocky Comfort. Seven business buildings and practically all their contents were destroyed. The fire started in W. G. Roberts's hardware store and spread rapidly to adjacent buildings, including Harrell Lily's general store, Virgil Ford's grocery, a combination restaurant and hardware store, Lon Milligan's general store, a building owned by E.B. Montgomery that had been used to can and store tomatoes, Bill Butram's shoe store, Fred Ridenour's store, and W.G. Roberts's dwelling. The windows of the post office cracked from the heat. The fire "almost cleaned out the business section" of Rocky Comfort, according to the Neosho Times.
A fire in the wee hours of the morning on June 9, 1954, destroyed the George Parrish grocery store in Rocky Comfort. The blaze started in the rear of the building, where Mr. Parrish, his wife, and their son were asleep in their living quarters. The family escaped without injury. Wheaton's fire department responded to the blaze and was credited with preventing it from spreading to the post office across the street and a nearby garage. Damage was estimated at $6,000 to the building and $10,000 to its contents.
Nowadays not much remains of Rocky Comfort, but not because of fire. Like a lot of small communities, it has dwindled in importance over the years, especially since it lost its high school in the mid-1960s.


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