Newspaper Page Text
T W .
MA.YSVLLLE, KY., MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 1894.
Moro Than Flvo Hundred Peo
ple Are Dead.
THE RESULT OF FOREST FIRES.
One of the Greatest Calamities That
Ever- Visited Minnesota
and the Northwest.
ITS PULL EXTENT UNKNOWN.
In Addition to tho Dead Many Ilnvo Re
ceived Injuries Which Will Provo Fatal,
and Hundreds of Others Are Missing.
Thousands of Others Have Ilad Their
Homes Swept Away and Are Now Snfler
lag With Hunger Relief Trains Cat Off
by the Fire and tho Situation Is Appall
ing Details of tho DIsastor.
St. Paul, Sept. 8. Minnesota has
never known a calamity attended with
bucIi a loss of life as that brought by
the forest fires which wiped out Hinck
ley, Mission Creek, Sandstone, Sand
stone Junction, Skunk Lake, Pokegama
and tho other settlements in that vicin
ity. A conservative estimate places the
loss of life at not less than 500, while
many others have sustained serious in
juries. In addition several hundred are
missing, while from 150 to 200 people
were scattered on farms throughout tho
district burned over.
To this horror of death in its most
horrible form must bo added the utter
desolation and destitution that has como
upon thousands of others whoso all has
been swept away In the face of impend
ing winter. The destruction was com
plete in most of the towns named, but
some of tho forest land escaped.
The los3, however, will be in the mil
lions and the loss of life will not be
definitely known for several days, if
Tho relief trains brought supplies sent
out from this city, Minneapolis, Duluth
and other Minnesota towns, and the
sufferors are being handsomely cared
for at Pine City and other points.
There is a peculiar horroi about the
fatality in the admitted impossibility of
identification in a very large proportion
of the deaths. Up to the present tho
list of identified dead contained tho fol
Henry Hanson and his wife and five
Sandy and John Henerson, aged 10
and 13 years.
Alex Hanson and wife and
dren, Charles and Emily,
A man by tho name of Chambers.
Charles Andorson, aged 20, bank
Hans Mathson, aged 20.
Mrs. William Ginder.
Dennis Riley, yard watchman.
Jim Boam, foreman Bnmnan Lumber
John Best and wife and four children.
John Anderson and wife and two
William Nesbitt, sawyer.
Lamb and son.
Mrs. Martinson and four children;
Dr. C. H. Kelsoy of Now Brighton.
James Beau, mill foreman for Bren-
nan Lumber company.
E. Blauchard, wife and two children.
Louis Nelson, employo Eastern rail
way. Peter Roboctson.
Hoffman and wifo.
Mrs. Kostigau and three children.
William Piunorr, sawyer.
Patrick Murphy, sawyer.
Thomas Dunn, wifo aud four smal1
Tho story of tho catastrophe whioli
wiped out tho material possessions that
had made Hinckley a busy, prosperous
little city, is a short one. Tho town
was built of wood. Tho sohoolhouso
was erected last year at a cost of $10,000,
and ono -half tho Duluth roundhouse
were tho only brick structures in tho
city. By one of those peculiar freaks
for which there is no accounting tho
eastern Minnesota roundhouse and
water tank on tho southwestern edge of
tho town, almost in tho woods, escaped
tho flames a circumstauco tho moro re
markable from tho fact that it stood
directly in tho path of tho flames, which
seem to have jumped it as cleanly as if
All Saturday afternoon the towns
people wero apprehensive Tho smoke
rolling up from tho south told a story
unmistakably plain to those accustomed
to a wooded country. The fire kept ad
vancing, fanned by the wind which was
blowing a (hq. About 1 1 o'clock tho
fire company got out their engine and
laid an 1,800-foot lino of hoso to tho
southern outskirts of tho town. The
hose was all too short for tho measure
of protection desired, and a telegram
was sout to Rush City for mora. Five
hundred feet was 6ont, but it nover
Tho main part of tho village lies in
the north fork mado by tho crossing of
tho Duluth aud Eastern tracks, the lat
ter to tho east and tho former on the
west. On the west side of tho Duluth
tracks wero a few small houses belong
ing to the railway employes. Tho fire
men s attention was mainly directed to
keeping tho flro away from them us the
main business part of the city was built
in solidly just across tho tracks.
About 3 o'clock in tho afternoon the
fire literally jumped into the town. Its
approach was not gradual. It did not
eat its way along, devouring everything
in its path, but came in huge leaps, as if
to overtake eveiythiug in its path, ujid
then burned back at its leisure. It is
described by those who witnessed its
onward progress at Hinckley and else
where as if it were forced along by cy
clones of its own generation. Tho in
tense heat would develop a veritable
whirlwind of flame that actually twisted
off poplar trees sovera: inches in thick
ness and carried huge blazing firebrands
high in tho air, and carrying them for
ward for from 40 to 80 rods, there to
fall and begin the work of devastation
The firo first struck Hinckley on tho
east side of the Duluth track and tho
I brave fire fighters for the first time
gave up tho unequal battle, and already
too late in many instances, turned their
attention to their porsonal safety. The
eastern Minnesota train from tho south
had just come in and the peoplo of the
stricken city flocked to it for safety. A
number of boxcars were coupled on and
filled and covered with men, women
and children. Borne were baroheaded,
some wero cootlcsa, some few clutched
a pitiful handle of the mor precious of
their portable possessions. Families
were separated. Children Jyinod the
throng and loft parents. Ta all there
was a motley crowd of about 450 or
The train pulled out just ahead of the
fire and succeeded in ultimately reach
ing Duluth. This circumstance, while
fortunate in a degree that can not be es
timated, has mado the confusion greater,
for it is not known who escaped in this
way and many people are reported dead
who may bo in safety. Had not this
number of people, mostly women and
children, left the doomed city when
they did the lose of life would have in
creased in a geometrical ratio, for their
presence would have added immeasur
ably to the subsequent confusion.
About tho same hour the accommoda
tion train on tho Hinckley and St.
Cloud branch left for tho latter place
with about 25 passengers. Its path lay
directly across tho path of tho fire and
their situation speedily became desper
ate. The ties were burning, tho' rails
were warping and tho trestles wero sag
ging under the train. The smoko had
increased so that tho engineer was help
loss. He could not eeo tho train be
hind him. Burning trees lay across tho
track and wero being tossed asido by tho
Suddenly the track gave way and tho
train toppled off to one side. No one
was injured, and they pressed on to
Pokegama station, a few rods ahead.
But a fow feet in front of the ongino
was discovered a gorgo 00 feet wide and
40 foot doop, whore tho trestlo had boon
burned away. Thoy sacooeded in reach
ing tho clearing about the station and
escaped with a fow burns and bruises.
Thero wero burned along tho track,
howover, four or five peoplo, including
Dr. D. Kolcoy of Now Brighton, who
had como up to look after his brother.
Tho people who wero loft in tho city
wore in what seemed to bo an almost
hopeless condition. Egress by tho only
means of transportation thut could hopo
to distanco tho swiftly advancing flames
was out of tho question. Tho men had
been fighting tho firo for hours and the
women and children were in a Danio-
itrickon condition. Many of them wer
of tho more ignorant of tho population,
for a very large percentage of the peoplo
who got on tho Great Northern railroad
wero of the moro intelligent class.
Horses wore harnessed to buggies and
wagons. Women and children wero
hurriedly loaded. In some cases at
tempts wero mado to carry off wme
household goods, but in most instances
tho peoplo had no thought for aught but
Probably 200 of thorn lc'ft town on
foot or in vehicles, plunging into the
woods to the north across the Grind
stone river, which skirts tho town on
the north. They wero literally fleeing
before tho pursuing demon of firo. Over
tho hill that rises beyond the Griud
stone is a swamp, and to this most of
the peoplo with teams headed, but it
proved no protection. Tho fire gave
thorn no opportunity to go further.
Some abandoned their teams and ran
into tho lower portions of tho morasa,
but tho firo sought them out. Not one
was left to tell the talo, and there Sun
day morning, in a space of little
moro than four or five acres, were
counted over 180 corpses.
Thero were many families of five, six
and seven and there thoy lay, the men
generally alittlo in advance, tho mother
surrounded by her littlo ones, cut off
by tho most horriblo of deaths. Nearly
all the bodies were nude, the firo having
burned every veatigo of their clothing
and blackened and charred many of tho
corpses beyond recognition and where
wholo families wero wiped out as thoy
were and some of the bodies completely
incinerated. Identification is absolute
ly out of tho question.
Thoso who fled to tho north on foot
followed the track, and so rapid was tho
progress of tho flames that nmuy of
them wero actually burned as they fled,
falling on the right of way for a dis
tance of three miles or more. Nearly
30 bodies were recovered along here.
Some of tho foremost of tho escaping
citizens met the Duluth train coming in
from tho north. It was duo at Hinck
ley at 4:05. Engineer James Root was
at tho throttle. He Btopped tho train
and took on board about 125 of the ref
ugees who crowded into the train, com
pletely filling it, for it had a passongei
list almost as large. By thisVtinie the
woods were blazing on each side of tho
track, and as Root' reversed his engine
and started back the cars soorohod and
crackled in tho heat Root ran the
train back about throe miles to Skunk
lake, and tho people escaped from tho
burning oars to the water, and no lives
wero lost either of passengers or ref
ugees. The people who remained in Hinck
ley fared the le3t of all. Tho eastern
Minnesota tracks mark the eastern edge
of the city proper. Just beyond the
road owned a track of land probably
embracing at least 10 acres. It was
purchased for a grovolpit to furnish ma
terial for tho fill-up approaches of the
company's bridge across the -Grindstone
and at other points on its lino. To tho
fact that it had been used for this pur
pose almost to its exhaustion, about a
hundred Hinckloyites owo their lives.
The whole area indicated had been ex
cavated to a depth in the center of 80
or 40 feet. Thero was a stagnant pool
of rainwater in tho center throe feet in
greatest dopth. Tho pit was wide and
deep and to it fled thoso of the citizens
who wero willing to trust to its friend
ly dopths. Thero was probably 100 of
them, and'in addition to the human be
ings quite a number of domestics ani
mals, horses, cows, oxen, pigs, chickonsf
etc., sought safety hore.
It was really the safest place about
Hinckley. Three hundred or 40o
trunks only half way down the sloping
bank passed through tho firo unscathed.
Tho peoplo went hero as tho eastern
train pullod out a fow minutes after 4
o'clock, and here thoy remained until
after 8, whilo the smoko and flames
from the burning city rolled over thoir
heads. Thoy dashed wuter ovor each
other and covered their heads with wot
cloths to prevent suffocation. Ono un
known man succumbed to tho smoko or
tho terrible strain and fell iu tho water
and was drowned. So far as known
this was tho only tragedy of tho gravol
Others of the citizens sought rofugo
in tho Grindstone river under tho abut
ments of tho two railway bridges and
tho foot bridgo. The exact number can
not bo known, as thoy wero 6oattered
along a considerable distauoe. That
many escaped and somo wero drowned
is well known. Mrs. Martin Martinson
and her four littlo children wero
drowned, thoir bodies being taken from
tho water shortly afterward.
In tho meautimo Hinckley was burn
ing with frightful rapidity, and in a
few hours nothing was loft but black-
As night closed in, tho people began
to come out from their hiding places
and made their wuy ovor tho hot em
bers of thoir city. They wero absolute
ly dazed by tho catastropho, and tho
night was spent in an ondeavor to find
relatives or ascertain their whereabouts.
Communication with tho outer world
was cut oil' for hours as completely as if
they wero on a desert island. The fire
had spout its force, but tho air was filled
with smoke, through which gleamed
tho dull blaze of smouldoring fire in tho
moro substantial stocks of goods.
Two huge heaps of coal which marked
tho location of the Duluth coal sheds
wore blazing, and by tho fitful light peo
plo wandered about picking out tho
places where but six hours before their
happy homes had stood. Tho fact thut
so many had escaped by train added to
tho anxiety of those whoso friends and
relatives were not to bo found, while it
furnished at tho same time a basis for
hopo that they woro in safety.
When the morning broke a fow ener
getic spirits began to organize tho work
of tho recovery of the bodies. J. W.
Sargent, a passenger conductor on tho
Duluth rood, got into Hinckley during
the night, and ho organized a volunteer
CTew, who manned two handoars,whose
capacity was increased by tho uso of
planks. Thoy wont up the Duluth
track to the north and picked up 31
bodies between the river and Skunk
Tho bodies wero wrapped up in blank
ets and Mich cloth as could be obtained
and laid out by tho side of tho track
whero the depot had stood. Here also
wero brought the two littlo sons of Tom
Henderson, Sandy and Johnny. Tho
drowned corpses of Mrs. Martinson and
her four children, Mrs. Blauchard and
her two children, who wero burned tc
death just above the Duluth round
house, and the man Lambeson, who
was found near tho Martinson party.
Volunteers harnessed up the available
vehicles saved in the gravel pit and
went out to the swamp across tho
Grindstone. They brought in 90 bodies,
which were carried out to tho desolate
burying ground, a mile east of town.
Thero was noither time or opportunity
to observe tho sacred formalities usually
surrounding death. The excitement of
tho occasion, tho horrible experience
through which tho living had passed,
and tho more horrible form in which
death hod coma to the loafc had tempor
arily blunted tho finer sensibilities and
the dead were heaped high on the
wagons and laid in piles at the ceme
tery, among the smoking embers and
stumps that surrounded God's ao re.
It was a gruesome sight. Dr. D. W.
Crown, the coroner, who was hero,
there and everywhere, in general super
vision, directed the digging of two huge
pita, 2i by 12 foot, in which the in
terment will be made
One of the saddest features of tho
calamity is the impossibility of identi
fication in such a largo proportion of the
cases. The 08 bodies brought into thi
point were examined by many of the
surviving residents of Hinckley, and
but four could be identified, Charles
Anderson, Axel Hanson, Dennis Riley
and Mrs. Willian Ginder. The balance
will have to bo buried togethsr.
In the indefinitenosa of the arrange
ments, and it seemed impossible other
wise under the cirouinstauces, due re
gard was not paid to a proper separate
preservation of artioles found on the
bodies and tho last chance of identifica
tion was lost. Thoso who brought in
tho bodies from tho swamp reported
that there vro at least 33 other bodies
out there which have not yet been
brought in. Out on tho government
road, to tho east, was found the Best
family, of six persons father, mothor
and four children. Bost was a prosper
ous farmer living just out of town.
Hero also wore recovered tho bodies
cf tho three unfortunate girls who lived
at tho stockade. Thoro were six of
these women in all. They escaped to
tho river, but threo returned to carry
out a trunk and wero overtaken by the
Near Skunk lako was found a family
consisting oi lather, mother and seven
childron. Another family, in which
thero were five children, only tho father
escaped. There was a settlement of
about 80 peoplo near this lako, aud but
two are kno .vu to bo olive.
Tho situation at Sandstono is oven
more appalliug than at Hinckloy, except
in point of numbers. Of tho 200 people
in tho town ono-fourth are dead. Otto
Stafforfoldt has reachod here from that
placo. Ho says tho people woro just
preparing to leave when tho flro closed
in on three sides and not a single parson
saved a thing except his clothing.
About 100 wont to tho river, and 50 or
CO wero burned to doath.
At 4 o'clock Saturday morninaho 6a"
over 40 bodies charred and burned lying
on every hide.
Another jieutleman found 47 dead
bodies ut Sandstone, lying uncovered in
the sun. Iho people are destitute of
everything. The peoplo who woro
saved are liv'ng on potatoes and carrots
kit in the ground.
In addition to 47 bodies at Sandstone
thero are 20 at Kettle River Junction.
All tho settlers in the vicinity uro prob
ably burned to death. O'Neill Broth
ers had 12 camps in tho woods there
and all ths.se are burned. Most of the
inmates, howsver, are believed to have
escaped with their lives. There are 11
homeless families at Mission Creek and
tho same story is true of several other
places in that vicinity.
It is feared that several other towns
have suffered a like fate. Millica called
for help Sunday afternoon and the re
lief train from St. Cloud was unable to
got beyond Bridgman. Nothing further
has yot been received from Millaca and
how much may have been the suffering
can not at this time bo known. Bridg
man was apparently safe after a hard
fight. The flames, howover, were very
threatening around that town, and it is
very dry all over that part of the state
tho worst is feared.
The party that came through the fires
around Hinckley in the handcar suf
fered severely from burns. Their in
juries, however, will not prove fatal.
They tell many sad stories of what they
saw. Ono woman had evidently tried
to save her five children and was over
taken by the fierce flames and the whe .
family peribhed close to the railroad
track. Another case was wher a mother,
seeing her house in flames, ran in to
save her child, her husband 2U0 follow
ing her, and the walls of the house
caved in before thoy could get out.
The passenger train from Duluth, on
which these men were, is in ashes, and
tho rest of the passengers took refuge in
a marsh near Skunk lako whero they
wero surrounded by flre. The engineer
was badly burned by the flames, but
btuck to his post and got ull of tho pas
sengers out of the fire safely. Sun
day morning a relief train from tho
north brought them through Hinckley
and on to this city. The relief train
carried a supply of handcars which were
usod in picking up the bodies of the
dead along tho track. One hundred
bodies wero picked up and brought into
Hinckley before tho relief train came on
to this city with the injurod passengers
Hinckley was a mass of ruins, noth
ing being loft standing except the walls
of the roundhouse.
About 4 o'clock in the afternoon ths
work train from SL Paul reached Hinck
ley with Undertaker O'Halloran and
his 32 caskets. He went quickly to
work upon the dl oorpsoa that lay beside
tho tr&ok. A close description of these
bodies was kept, and every fragment of
clothing, tho jewelry and anything else
that could load to identification was
carefully preserved. Tho work pro
gressed rapidly, and by evening the
bodies wero all wrapped up and laid
away in tho caskets ready for burial.
Assistant General Manager Miller
sent tip a carload of lumber and a force-
of carpenters, who wont to work knock
ing together rough boxes, which will be
used so far as possible at tho cemetery.
Special trains wero sont out, both
from Duluth to St. Paul, with full med
ical forco and all that is possible to bo
done will be done.
Governor Nolsou, Mayor Smith of St.
Paul and Mayor Eustis of Minneapolis
have all issued proclamation)! calling on
tho people for help. Anything in tho
lino of provisions, clothing or money
will bo very acceptablo, as the need is
very great. All tho churches in this
city and the relief societies, havo been
throwing open their places for contribu
tions St. Paul was quick to respond to tho
needs of tho stricken people. In an in
credibly short space of time 4,000
worth of provisions and supplies woro
raised. Beginning at noon, ono bakery
firm alouo turued out 2,807 loaves. The
supplies woro speedily hauled to tho
depot to bo carried out in special trains
to the stricken people. General Wesley
Merritt, in command of tho department
of Dakota, U S. A., issued orders for
hospital supplios, tents, oto., for tho uso
of tho survivors.
Tho spocial relief train loft hore at
3:30 hi oharpo of D. H. Mbon and Jule
H. Pcrwoll, romiuout merohauts. Tho
roads leading through tho burned dis
trictthe St. Paul and Duluth, tho
Omaha and tho Eastern railway of
Minnesota did not attempt to sond out
thoir rogulai trains.
Ono Omaha conductor stated that
near Baronette, Wis., ho saw 25 human
bodios, victims of tho flre. It was also
reported at Omaha headquarters that
70 houses at Sholl Lako, Wis., had been
swept away by tho flames.
The popple of Rush City, and Pino