Archive for the ‘Disasters’ Category


Disastrous Fire at Eagle Grove

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Aug. 15, 1905

Disastrous Fire at Eagle Grove

Wells Block Opera House is Wiped Out – Fire Started From Gasoline Stove

Webster City, Aug. 15 – (Special to the Messenger) – Fire ot (sic) Eagle Grove last night totally destroyed the opera house block and Wells restaurant and the rear part of the I.O.O.F. hall. Loss about twenty-five thousand dollars ($598,737 today), mostly covered by insurance.

The fire started in the restaurant from the explosion of a gasoline stove. There were a number of men in the place at the time eating, besides the cook and night waiter of the cafe. The explosion occurred about midnight and burst forth so suddenly that all within the room were forced to beat a hasty retreat before the flames.

They were hardly able to enter the place again for the fire spread in a few minutes over nearly every part of the building. The fire company was called out and though they worked heroicly (sic) against the flames it was soon evident that they were of no avail and then confined themselves to trying to save the adjoining buildings. The opera house soon took fire but the other buildings were saved. Not until five o’clock this morning did the watchers feel safe to return from the scene of the ruins.


Duncombe House Was Bombarded by Rockets

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The Fort Dodge Daily Chronicle: July 5, 1913

Duncombe House Was Bombarded by Rockets

Fire Truck Makes Two Runs – No Damage

The Duncombe hotel received a regular old-fashioned bombardment last evening about 10:30 oclock (sic) when a party of hilarious celebrators began shooting sky rockets from the Third street viaduct. A veritable shower of rockets began to fall about the hotel and W.E. Duncombe complained to the police; but before the celebration could be stopped a rocket lit on the roof of the hotel and burned a large hole in the south roof of the building.

An alarm was turned into the Central fire station but the fire was extinguished before the truck arrived.

Earlier in the evening some celebrator touched off a rocket and sent it hurling thru two panes of window glass into a room in the hotel. The fire gained a good start but was extinguished by a bucket brigade. The damage was slight.

“Such a manner of celebrating should be stopped,” said Mr. Duncombe this morning. “The shooting of rockets onto dry shingle roofs should be made a punishable offense. It endangers life and property and is absolutely inexcusable.”

False Alarm

Some joy-riders, thinking to cause a little excitement, turned in an alarm from Third avenue south and 6th street about 10:30 Thursday night. The fire truck made the run in fast time, which probably satisfied the celebrators, as no more trouble was encountered during the night.


Lehigh Home Blown Up By Dynamite

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: June 22, 1903

Lehigh Home Blown Up By Dynamite

Residence of Henry Lewis is Wrecked By Explosion of a Dynamite Bomb.

Buiding (sic) is Badly Shattered.

Lewis, Wife and Two Children Escaped Injury as Explosion Was at Rear of House – Strike Troubles Supposed Responsible for Outrage.

Lehigh, June 22 – At 1:30 on Saturday morning, the home of Henry Lewis in this place, was partially wrecked by the explosion of a dynamite bomb under the kitchen door step. Lewis, with his wife and two children were asleep in the house at the time, but they escaped injury on account of the fact that the sleeping rooms are in the front part of the house, while the greatest force of the explosion was felt in the rear of the building.

The house, itself, was badly damaged. The back door was crushed in, the steps destroyed, plastering was knocked down all over the building and the roof was raised by the terrific force of the explosion.

Mr. Lewis has been working in the Lehigh Clay Works, being employed in place of the strikers, and it is supposed that this fact accounts for the outage. The general supposition is that the dynamite was exploded by some of the disaffected workmen at the Clay Works.

The occurrence has aroused much feeling here, as it is almost miraculous that none of the family were seriously injured.

It is supposed that a stick of dynamite with a fuse attached, was placed under the porch, the fuse was lighted, and the guilty parties had plenty of time to make their escape.


Webster City Meets Heavy Loss

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: June 16, 1903

Webster City Meets Heavy Loss

Northwestern Felt Show Company’s Plant Burned to the Ground Monday Night.

The City’s Leading Industry.

Company Was Capitalized at $100,000 and Employed 105 People – Insurance was Only $36,000, Making Loss Reach Fully $56,000.

Webster City, June 16 – The plant and stock of of the Northwestern Felt Shoe company burned here on Monday night about midnight. The fire started int eh basement and spread before effective work could be done by the fire department. This morning nothing but the smoking ruins remain of what was a prosperous industry employing one hundred thousand dollars of capital, using the labor of 105 persons in the plant, aside from several hundred who worked on the products of the factory in their homes. There was $36,000 ($862,181 in 2010 dollars) of insurance only, and the net loss will be about $56,000 ($1,341,170).

It was a most unfortunate blow to the leading industry of Webster City. The institution was getting on a splendid foundation and looked forward to a steadily growing business. It is too early yet to know what the policy of the stockholders will be in the matter of rebuilding the plant.

The company was working into a large and increasing business and had every prospect for a successful season. It had only recently raised its capital stock to $100,000 ($2,394,94) of which $75,000 ($1,796,211) was paid up. As a result of the fire, George (last name unreadable), who came from New York and invested his capital in the plant, is left practically without a dollar, and the loss is almost equally heavy upon other stock holders.

The loss is divided as follows:

On stock and leather $68,000 $1,628,564
On machinery 12,000 287,393
On building 12,000 287,393
Total $92,000 $2,203,352

The cause of the fire is a mystery. When discovered by the night watchman it had secured a good start in the basement. The building is situated across the river on the east side, and has no city water protection. The volunteer department did its best, but could not check the flames. The machinery fell thru from the third story to the basement, and the building was left an utter wreck. Only the books and a few minor articles could be saved. The company has $20,000 ($478,989) of shoes stored at other places about town, all of which are contracted to be delivered by September 1.

The loss which the fire will occasion to Webster City is evidenced by the fact that the weekly pay roll amounted to $700 ($16,764).

(Editor’s note: The inflation calculator converts the following amounts from 1903 dollars to 2010 dollars: $700 to $16,764;$12,000 to $287,393; $20,000 to $478,989; $36,000 to $862,181;$56,000 to $1,341,170; $68,000 to $1,628,564;$75,000 to $1,796,211; $92,000 to $2,203,352; $100,000 to $2,394,948. I have also put these amounts in the text in italics for easy reference.)



The Servant Girl Saves Bad Fire

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: May 31, 1905

The Servant Girl Saves Bad Fire

Sevant (sic) Girl Had Lit Gasoline to Hurry Breakfast When Tank Caught the Fire – Called for Help and Then Threw Blazing Thing Out.

Fire broke out at the A.C. Heath residence between Eighth and Ninth streets on Second avenue south at 6:30 this morning and only for the prompt and heroic action of Wendella Johnson, the serving maid, the blaze would have been a very serious one. As it was the damage will amount to $200 or $300. It is fully covered by insurance, however. It was the same old story of gasoline stove explosion.

The family had risen at about six o’clock and at the time the fire started Mr. heath was at the barn at the back of the lot. The girl, Wendella Johnson, already had a fire in the kitchen range, but in order to hurry the breakfast, concluded to light the gasoline stove.

She had no more than started it going when the tank caught fire. She rushed to the door and called on Mr. Heath, but did not wait for him. With her clothing on fire, she grasped the blazing tank and carried it to the door, where she attempted to throw it off the porch. Owing to the fact that it was enclosed with lattice work however, she was unable to do this and dropped it on the floor.

In spite of the fact that her clothing was on fire while she carried the burning tank, she escaped injury almost entirely, receiving but a few slight burns on her hands.

It was not more than five minutes after the alarm had been turned in to the department till the whole rear of the building was a blaze, and the porch was badly burned. Owing, however, to the fact that the fire was all on the outside, the department had little difficulty in checking it and aside form the porch which is a wreck, and the siding, little damage was done (to) the house itself.

The furnishings of the residence escaped the usual soaking that results from the ordinary fire and aside from the fact that they were pretty badly smoked, there was very little damage done inside the house. The repairs will be made at once.


Fire Causes Slight Loss

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: May 6, 1903

Fire Causes Slight Loss

Barn Owned by L.L. Leighton Burned on Tuesday Evening

Loss Covered by Insurance

Cause of Fire is Not Known – Horse and Carriages Saved from the Building.

The department was called out on a long run Tuesday afternoon about 8 o’clock, the fire being in the barn on the premises of L.L. Leighton on Second avenue north and Sixteenth street. It is not exactly known just how the fire started, as no one discovered it until the whole upper story was ablaze. Forgetting the telephine (sic) in the house one of the boys, who was around home ran several blocks to a fire alarm box and turned in an alarm.

Mrs. Leighton had in the mean time telephoned the department, but in her excitement, forgot to tell where the fire was. This necessitated a stop of several minutes to locate where the call had come from, and by the time the department arrived it was too late to save the barn. The carriages and horses were all gotten out safely.

The loss will be about $235 of which there is about $185 insurance. Two other barns in the vicinity were rather badly scorched, and it was thought for a time that they would go, but the department paid all its attentionto these barns, when they saw that the Leighton barn was lost, and so prevented the loss of the two others.

The fire was first discovered by Willie Leighton when he went to the barn to look after the horse. He was just in time to get the animal out, as in a few more moments it would have been impossible to enter the building.


Loss by Fire

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The Webster County Gazette: April 19, 1878

Loss by Fire

The Brick block in Rear of Fort Dodge House Burned.

Last Saturday night, about 12 o’clock, a fire was discovered in the brick block on Walnut street, in the rear of the Fort Dodge House. The fire bell was jingled – what for nobody can tell, as there isn’t a possibility of its disturbing or alarming anybody. The night had been very rainy and the adjoining buildings were wet which aided in confining the flames. The brick walls were good ones, and though a frame building stood against it the fire did not spread.

Mr. Dunning moved his livery stock, expecting nothing but that it would take his quarters. The west wall of the burning building fell upon the frame adjoining it on the west, and crushed it flat. It was vacant, however. The fire company’s ladders were upon the roof and were buried under the rubbish.

The building burned and the one ruined by the falling wall, were owned by Thomas Cahill, and there was not a cent of insurance upon either. Messrs Ferguson and Markle had rented the brick for a saloon, and had just removed their stock into it. They were insured to the amount of $500 in the Imperial & Northern Company. No one seems to know how the fire caught. The loss is severe upon Mr. Cahill.


Is There Firebug in Harcourt?

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: March 31, 1903

Is There Firebug in Harcourt?

Events of Past Few Days Cause Strong Suspicion

Three Fires in Same Place.

Harcourt Citizens Kept Busy Fighting Fire in Haggin Drug Store – A Period of Excitement.

Harcourt, March 31 – Harcourt has this week had a narrow escape from a disastrous fire which has awakened much excitement among the citizens of this town. Last Wednesday morning about 7 o’clock the fire was discovered at the drug store. With the aid of as many citizens as could be mustered and the appliances which the town possesses the fire was quickly subdued without any damage to property.

About 10 o’clock the same day the cry was again raised, “Fire at the drug store,” and by the time sufficient aid arrived the whole building, including the restaurant building now occupied by L. Haggin and family for living room was filled with a dense smoke. About fifty men arrived at the scene, some of them fighting the fire and the rest removing the furniture from the rooms. The most valuable portion of the drug stock was also removed.

though the whole building seemed on fire, yet the citizens by heroic exertions again saved it and the fire was supposed to be out but the next morning at 3 o’clock the fire alarm was again called and the fire again put out.

How the fire started in a mystery and considerable talk of incendiarism is beaing (sic) heard, altho no cause or reason can be assigned for such a supposition. The building, a double one, two stories high, is owned by W.J. Struthers and J.E. Swanburg, Mr. Haggin, the druggist leasing the building. The furniture and drug stock are badly damaged from the effect of fighting the fire.

Had the building burned down, there is no doubt that the meat market owned by A.A. Peterson and the Wilson Brothers store would have shared the same fate as they adjoin it.


Small Blaze Another Sermon

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: March 28, 1905

Small Blaze Another Sermon

This Morning Brings Out Need of New Wagon

The Loss by Water Was Heavy

Chemicals Would Have Put out All Fires in Months With Exception of Two, and Would Have Prevented a Great Deal of Loss in all of Them.

Fire was discovered in the Peter Reilly house on North Seventh street this morning at seven o’clock, and the fire department made one of the best runs that has been made in a long time. it was not more than five minutes after the alarm was turned in till the team was on the ground and the hose stretched. The damage to the house was comparatively slight, amounting to in the neighborhood of $100. On the furniture, however, on account of the water, it amounted to between $300 and $400. The house was occupied by the George Gilman family. The losses were fully covered by insurance.

The fire started from sparks that fell on the roof next to the kitchen chimney, and nothing was known of it by the family until the alarm had been turned in. The roomers, Frank Boyle and J.H. McDermott, heard the crackling on the roof as the shingles were burning, but thought it was hail and paid no further attention to it.

This fire is another argument that is in favor of the chemical wagon that is so badly needed by the local fire department. Had they been equipped with chemicals this morning, there would have been no need of turning on the water at all, and there would have been none of the loss that resulted to the furnishings.

With regard to the matter, one of the members of the fire department said to a Messenger representative this morning. “It certainly is a shame that the department has no chemical wagon. It is a fact that with the exception of just two fires, every blaze that we have had the past several months could have been controlled in less time and with not more than one tenth the damage to the furnishings by use of chemicals. The chemicals properly used on a small fire do the work quickly and completely and with absolutely no damage to other parts of the house, while it takes but a few seconds for a two and a half inch stream of water to get into all parts of a residence and damage everything.”


$15,000 Fire at Gilmore City

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: March 24, 1903

$15,000 Fire at Gilmore City

Four Business Houses are Burned to the Ground on Monday Night

Volunteers Put Out Flames

Fire Was Fanned by High Winds and Was Controlled Only After Prolonged Fight

Gilmore City, March 24 – Four business buildings were destroyed and loss aggregating $15,000 was caused by fire at his place on Monday evening. In the face of a blinding snow storm, the volunteer fire department of the city pluckily fought the flames, which at first leaped with resistless force from one building to another, and finally, after an all night’s battle, brought the fire under control.

Following are the buildings destroyed, with losses:

Cobb, general store, loss $7,000, partly covered by insurance.

C.M. Warn, hardware and general merchandise, loss between $5,000 and $6,000, insured.

George Burns, grocery store, stock saved but badly damaged, building partly burned, loss about $1,000.

Emery Ebersole, Independent Telephone Exchange, loss about $700, no insurance.

The fire started in the rear of the Warn store building at about 8:15. By the time the alarm could be given and the department summoned, the building was in a blaze and beyond saving. The flames sped quickly to the other doomed structures.

It is suspected that the fire was set by careless boys, who were seen in the rear of the Warn building a few moments before the flames started. Who the boys were, has not yet been learned.

Telephone service with Gilmore was for a time cut off this morning, on account of the burning of the excahnge but the line was repaire by 11 o’clock this morning.