Catalog Number
Handwritten diary entry about the "Burning of Holland", what is written at the top of a page. 
In 1871 Holland had been subject to a drought for most of the summer, this led to a lot of dry land. On October 8, 1871, a small spark became aided by winds that spread the fire throughout the town until everything seemed to be on fire. Between 200 and 300 houses were lost with most of the town left homeless and without work places as these too burned in the fire. The only part of the town that was seemingly untouched was the Hope College area.

The fire started in the woody southwest end of Holland around the same time as the Chicago fire. Holland’s population of about 3,000, generally in church for Sunday service, was warned of the approaching blaze by the ringing out of church bells around the city.

The city’s residents joined the volunteer fire force of about 30 to combat the blaze. Strong winds — which factored into the other major fires around the Great Lakes — made fighting the fire extremely difficult.

The people of Holland scrambled to save their possessions — putting them down wells or burying them in the sand or in the public market that is now Centennial Park. They thought their things might be safe in the middle of the wide open space, but they weren’t,

In the end, the fire destroyed about $100,000 worth of property — of which less than $30,000 was insured and less than $18,000 was ever actually paid. Many of the same insurance companies covered Holland and Chicago and many went bankrupt after Oct. 9.

Nearly 200 homes were destroyed, although the fire caused only one death: A widow living at the corner of 9th Avenue and Pine. It was speculated that she either slept through the fire or ran back into her house to save some of her possessions.

Relief poured in from the surrounding communities in the days following the blaze, especially from Grand Rapids. Today, burned artifacts from the fire may be found in the Holland Museum.

Most of the community was financially devastated.