The Keefer Flourmill fire of 1885 was one of the most destructive in Covington
history. The Keefer Mill was located at the corner of 5th and Craig Streets
in Covington. The mill had been extensively enlarged in about 1880. It
was one of the largest flourmills in the South in 1885. The mill was owned
by David Keefer, George M. Keefer, H. Keefer and C.C. Dobbyns. On the
evening of January 16, 1885, the mill caught fire. Within a few minutes
the large building was nearly engulfed in flames. The fire department
laid its hose and was ready to begin fighting the blaze when the north
wall collapsed burying the lines.
The flames were so large and bright that the fire woke many people from
their sleep. The residents who lived in homes on Craig Street near the
mill feared their homes would be completely destroyed. The fire became
so large that Covington called Cincinnati for assistance. The Cincinnati
Department sent several engines to assist with the blaze.
The work of the Covington and Cincinnati Departments could not save the
Keefer Mill building. Their efforts did, however, keep the fire from spreading
to nearby buildings. On the morning of January 17, 1885, only three of
the mill’s four walls remained standing. All of the equipment, which
had been purchased only a few years before, was ruined. Ironically, only
a few weeks before, the owners had reduced the insurance coverage from
$70,000 to $40,000. The loss was estimated at between $70,000 and $100,000.
Kentucky State Journal, January 17, 1885, p. 2 and 4; Charles R.
Ridder, ed., History of the Covington Fire Department. (Covington, KY)