Born in Buxton in 1812, Abner Warren Harmon, or A.W. Harmon, a carriage blacksmith in Scarborough, wrote a 16-stanza poem titled “Great Conflagration in Portland, July 4, 1866.”
Blacksmith Abner Harmon’s poem was published soon after the fire. Courtesy of Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. Read the full text at the Maine Memory Network.
The poem is believed to have been written and published in 1866, according to the Maine Historical Society, which has four versions with different borders, suggesting it had been published on several separate occasions.
One early stanza reads:
And what was, but yesterday,
A beautiful, prosperous place,
Is now a scene of desolation,
Its beauty all erased.
Saving only a wilderness
In this part of town,
Of chimney stacks and broken walls,
that had not tumbled down.
The poet repeatedly notes the heroic efforts of firefighters to stop the blaze:
Among the wooden buildings,
By the Irish occupied,
The fire spread most rapidly,
Nothing could it subside.
The efforts of our Firemen,
Who quickly reached the spot,
Though almost superhuman,
Were powerless it to stop.
The poems ends with a plea for help:
Behold the weeping mother,
And her sad countenance view,
And by her side her little ones,
Fatigued, and hungered, too.
Extend the hand of charity,
Assistance they require,
Their goods and all their property
They have lost in the great fire.”
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