Wednesday morning, September 12, 1900, a fire sparked at College Pond.
It moved quickly east on strong winds. The residents in the path were alerted to the danger and the men went off with shovels to help. Fire wards ran lines of back fires from Bourne Road to Rocky Pond in an effort to deter the fire from reaching the homes and cottages most endangered around the Six Ponds. Despite their efforts, by midday it was clear many would lose everything and desperate attempts were made to save what they could.
Ruth Gardner Steinway was a witness that day and she records her remembrances in Plymouth’s Ninth Great Lot and the Six Ponds 1710-1967: A Chronicle. Around the ponds, people put their possessions in boats and set them adrift on the water. One legend is that one family included an upright piano. Unfortunately, the boat capsized under the weight of it and the piano went down. Later the house was saved and most of the possessions were returned minus the piano. Another account is of a family who thought their house was in danger so moved their valuables to a screen house, which, in the end burned instead.
Ellis Brewster, in his lecture on Thrasherville to the Pilgrim Society in June 1960, retells the story of Joseph Savery and his wife who attempted to save some clothing from their cottage only to see it be lit aflame by falling embers. They took this as time to leave, mounted their horse and rode through the flames to town. As the fire burned closer to the ponds, families fled to the Hatch Farm where there was a wide-open space and presumed safety. Among those seeking refuge was the Turner family who paddled their way over Little Long Pond through the brook. Another was Ruth Woodward who had just given birth to her daughter Mabel who put the newborn in her apron and set off for the Hatch Field. Families throughout Six Ponds found safety as they worried about their friends, husbands and homes.
By six that evening the fire passed by and everyone set off again to see what had burned. Steinway recalls blindfolding the horses so they could walk back through the charred forest, as the families took stock of which homes were burned and which remained. Those who had lost everything were invited in by their more lucky neighbors. Steinway recalls her family making sandwiches for the firemen before they went out to continue fighting the blaze. The fire blazed for days in various hot spots left in its race for the ocean, traveling upwards of eight miles an hour between Sandwich Road and Ship Pond. People in town could see the glow for many nights before a deluge extinguished it by Sunday. Though there were reports of missing boarders and visitors, all were found safe having made their own way out of danger.
Property damage resulted in over a quarter of a million dollars including the $1,000 school at Indian Brook. In addition, according to the town reports of 1900 state, “probably in no time in the history of the town has it been obliged to pay out so much money for fighting fires in the woods as during the past season, the amount expended for this purpose being $9,981.43.”
Those who lived through it said there could never be another fire like it, there was nothing left to burn. In the end, the town lost the village of Thrasherville, summer properties in the six ponds that would never be rebuilt, a schoolhouse, cord-wood and resources from the forests, ancient cemeteries, and whole communities that never reformed after the fire.