City of Chicago, Showing the Burnt District following the Second Great Chicago Fire

Harpers Weekly 1874 From time to time throughout his career, Erasmus Corwin Gilbreath was detailed to General Recruiting Service. General Recruiting Service duty often occurred in larger cities. Gilbreath spent time in Evansville, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gilbreath’s first assignment to General Recruiting Service in 1872-1873 had him stationed in Evansville and Chicago. During Gilbreath’s stay in Chicago he was promoted to Captain and was witness to the second great fire: During our stay in Chicago we saw the second great fire which, although of not so great extent as that wherein so much of Chicago was destroyed, still 75 acres of buildings were burned. Everybody supposed the fire would extend as the Great Fire had to the north side, where we lived, at 220 Indiana St., but it did not come north of Jackson due to its present width. We crossed the Rush St. Bridge and went down to Marshall Field’s establishment on State Street and watched the work of the firemen. This fire allowed the widening of State St. below Jackson to its present width. Before, that street was very narrow below that point. I attended the opening of the first cable line for street railroads in Chicago, and rode from 22nd St. to Madison on the first cable cars used in Chicago in September, I think, 1874. We visited my old home at Valparaiso, Indiana, during my service at Chicago. Mrs. G., and the children, Will and Etta, and I were very nicely received by my old friends there.

Illustration of the area of Chicago damaged by the "second great fire."