Most of the Midwest was in a drought in the fall of 1871. Chicago, with its predominance of wooden buildings and inadequate fire codes, was an inferno waiting to happen, and on Sunday evening, 8 October 1871 it did. The Great Chicago Fire began on that night in or around a barn located on the property of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary at 137 DeKoven Street on the city's southwest side. Legend holds that the blaze started when the family's cow knocked over a lighted lantern; however, Catherine O'Leary denied this charge, and the true cause of the fire has never been determined. The Chicago Fire was the single most important event in the history of Chicago. It changed the structure of the city and its character forever, infusing its citizens with a zealous, can-do spirit. By Wednesday, 11 October 1871 the Great Fire had stopped and the Chicago Tribune reported: "Cheer up... looking upon the ashes of thirty years' accumulations, the people of this once beautiful city have resolved that Chicago Shall Rise Again." William Tracy, who at the time was a Sixth Ward Alderman, played an important role in the eventual re-building of America's second largest city and of his own ward. Tracy was a blacksmith by trade and had relocated his growing family from the upstate New York area to Chicago in the late 1850s. He established a growing and respected blacksmith shop in Chicago's Sixth Ward. William and his wife, Ellen, were Irish Catholics raising 14 children and were members of St. Bridget's Church for the rest of their lives. In 1869 Tracy ran for Chicago City Alderman and was in office during the Great Chicago Fire. This then is the life story of William Tracy who helped re-build the City of Chicago into one of this country's greatest cities.