Marion Fire History
A special "Thank You" to Mr. Harry Boyd for his extensive history research for the City of Marion. His contributions below are greatly appreciated.
The following material is a compilation of articles in the local papers up through mid 1977 regarding commercial fires in Marion. There are also articles regarding the men and facilities of the fire department. Most of the articles are from the “Marion Daily Republican” but there are some identified from the “Egyptian Press” such as the very first one. There are also some identified articles from the “Marion Monitor.”
June 4, 1875:
Fires: Egyptian Press – The Court House and Post Office destroyed:
About 3 o’clock on Sunday morning, the residence of Dr. T.D. Ferguson, known as the “Yost” property on the east side of S. Main St was discovered on fire by the family and almost simultaneously by Mrs. Harriett Jennings residing nearby, who happened to be awake at the time. The alarm was immediately sounded from house to house and from the bells of the different churches and in a few minutes most of the citizens had gathered around the burning building to find it enveloped in flames and with its valuable contents beyond all possibility of rescue. The house was a two story wooden building ceiled and canvassed and papered within, filled and surrounded with all manner of combustible material and burnt like a heap of dry shavings.
All minds immediately turned to the probable extension of the flames. North of the dwelling and almost adjoining, stood Dr. Ferguson’s office and adjoining it the ware room of Westbrook & Howard, both light wooden buildings and the latter full of combustible material, light as tinder. The intense heat made it impossible to remain between the burning house and these buildings or on their roofs and as they were immediately adjoining Westbrook & Howell’s Store, it was evident the entire block on the southeast corner of the square, including the Court House was doomed and that the very least that could be done was to remove as much as possible of the contents of these buildings and take measures to prevent the flames from crossing the streets and spreading to other portions of the town.
To remove the contents of a whole block of buildings and the same time combat the angry element on three sides at once was no small task but the people went at it with a resolution and energy as nearly equal to the emergency as human power could be. In a very few minutes the whole block was enveloped in flames for the buildings were of wood and filled with inflammable goods, but those minutes were well improved. While some were removing the valuables or most accessible articles from the burning houses, others were drawing and carrying water from wells and cisterns and filling tubs and barrels, others extinguishing fires on exposed buildings and covering them with wet carpets and blankets and others tearing away sheds and nailing sheet iron over the windows on the east side of the court house where two blocks of wooden homes were separated from it by a street only fifteen feet wide.
At one time it seemed that the flames must inevitably pass this narrow space, as Dr. Ferguson’s stable burned to the ground directly opposite to the large livery stable of the Holland brothers, which was several times on fire and only saved by the most determined effort. On the west side of the burning block the street is fifty feet wide and yet the heat was so intense the opposite buildings were repeatedly ignited. The large three-story brick of S. Dunaway & Sons was on fire at every window and on the roof at one time. Unyielding pluck alone saved it. Had the fire extended in this direction or east from the courthouse, a large portion of the town must inevitably have been destroyed before it could have been checked.
THE BUILDINGS DESTROYED were the large two-story dwelling, the large smoke house and stable of Dr. Ferguson; the ware room and store house of Westbrook & Howell; the latter containing dry goods etc below and a photography gallery, barber shop and the Marion Monitor office on the second floor; the house occupied by the Post Office and the drug store of Wm. N. Mitchell & Sons on the first floor and the law office of W.W. ____, and the Egyptian Press office above and the court house. Eight buildings in all, four of them large and valuable, were lost.
INDIVIDUAL LOSSES: Dr. Ferguson lost the entire contents of his dwelling, including valuable carpets, parlor furniture, fine paintings, piano, bedding, clothing, a large cook stove and the entire kitchen and table furniture; and about $300 in money secreted in the garret – in fact everything except three beds, a lounge, three trunks and a few minor articles. He lost his smoke house with the entire contents. His loss is perhaps $3000 insured for $2100 in the Hartford.
Westbrook and Howell lost their ware room with the entire contents, their store house and much of their large stock of goods. Their loss in goods is supposed to be between one and two thousand dollars; fully covered by insurance in the Hartford Insurance Company. Their building was worth about $2500 and not insured.
The Marion Monitor office on the second floor lost two presses and most of its fixtures, estimated at about $500. This loss though, small comparatively, is quite a calamity to the proprietor, Mr. Copeland, who can ill sustain it. A comparative stranger surrounded by embarrassments, he had his indomitable energy and industry and manly deportment made the Monitor a success and himself a host of friends. He has our sincere sympathy and wish that he may soon possess a better office.
Wm N. Mitchell & Son in the next building east lost a large portion of their stock of drugs; their damage being estimated at from $1500 to $2000 on which there was no insurance.
W.W. Clemens on the second floor lost his desks, papers, office fixtures and library estimated at about $300.
Our new Egyptian Press office on the same floor lost a fine new press, large marble stone and other valuables amount to almost $500. Many thanks to “the boys” for saving the cases and type including a good lot of pts. We will bear our loss as best we can and immediately replace the missing articles with better ones and more of them. This building belonged to the minor heirs of Dr. L.M. Lewis; was worth about $3500 and uninsured.
…….comprise the bulk of individual losses but hundreds of dollars worth of property was lost or damaged …..
The Messrs. Dunaway were insured in building and furniture and carpets to the amount of over $100.
The Marion Democrat office opposite the south east corner of the square was considered in much imminent danger that much of it was removed and damaged to the amount of $75 or more. Friend Brown & Sons have our sympathy in their loss and at the same time our congratulations in their fortunate escape.
The goods in P.H. Lang’s store, Wilhelms Restaurant, Mrs. Minnie Lowe’s millinery establishment, Wm. Goodall’s dwelling and Vick & Stephens grocery store and all the offices on the second floor were tumbled around and much of them hustled to the streets in the roughest and most confused manner imaginable. No estimate of the damage can be approximated.
The court house was built in wartimes and cost the county heavily, but was always considered an inconvenient and poor affair. It answered its purpose however and would likely be considered worth six or eight thousand dollars. Few people in the county will regret that it is out of the way of building a good house on a better site.
The records and most valuable papers of the public officers were saved, except the records of the Master in Chancery.
Wm. H. Eubanks, the genial County Clerk, was absent on a visit to Carbondale, but his deputy, Mr. Jno. R. Little was on hand and made things lively in the office till it was cleared.
Charley Dennison, the indefatigable Circuit Clerk, got around as best he could handing out the records and securing the many valuable papers on file in the office of the Circuit Clerk.
Our sturdy sheriff had not heard the alarm but his aid, Jno. Edrington, secured the records of the office.
INDIVIDUAL SACRIFICES AND DEVOTION TO THE PUBLIC GOOD.
It would be unjust to close this account without a brief notice of some of these:
For instance, Wm. N. Mitchell surrendered hundreds of dollars worth of drugs, paints, oils and fine liquors to the flames and exerted even nerve to save the mail and other valuables of the Post Office, literally sacrificing his private property for the public good, though poorly able to afford the loss.
Such devotion to official duty will never be forgotten by the people of Williamson County and he may be assured of the confidence and warm sympathy of a grateful public. May we ever have such a postmaster.
Charley Dennison, handicapped and unable to walk with a great degree of effort, never stopped till the last book and paper of public value was removed from the office of the Circuit Court but many valuable books, papers were never thought of until enveloped in flames. They could have been easily saved but the mind was too fully occupied with special responsibilities to give these personal interests a single thought. Such are the men to have in office.
Mart Robinson urged men to carry sheet iron from his store and nail over the windows on the east side of the court house which being done aided very materially in confining the flames with that building and arresting them. Who doesn’t admire such a spirit?
Many men ruined their clothing and wore themselves down, who had not a cent of personal interest at stake, even men living miles away in the country. Such things try men’s souls.
The LADIES, Heaven bless them, won the lasting gratitude of all. They were everywhere in the thickest of the fight, working with their own hands and encouraging others to work. Tearing carpets from their floors and blankets from their beds with which to cover exposed buildings; coming from every part of the town with buckets of water; removing and protecting goods piled in the streets and in every way doing and daring in the most heroic manner.
We wish we could record many of their names on a role of honor but it would seem individuals, these are already recorded in the hearts and gratitude to be remembered with pride and affection forever. May their tender feet never again have to tread streets covered with broken glass and burning coals, may their paths be carpeted with flowers and lighted by the glow of loving hearts.
The origin of the fire will probably remain a mystery. Many stories are afloat through the town, but on careful inquiry we have been unable to trace any of them to a reliable source or find any satisfactory explanation as to how the fire originated.
In every calamity we are prone to attach blame to someone. But every man should be regarded as innocent till there is proof of guilt of any one we do not condemn.
That it was a careless thing to leave a kerosene lamp burning in the parlors of Dr. Ferguson’s is evident; but how many other families in this town and everywhere are guilty of the same thing, dangerous as it is. Let us not blame harshly without evidence, but each strive to be more careful in the future.
June 25, 1875:
On last Sunday morning about 3 o’clock the building used as a store room for the Bloomington Chair Factory took fire and in less than an hour was burned to the ground. It was impossible to save the burning building, and all the efforts of the fire department were turned to saving the contiguous buildings with good effect. There was no ground breeze during the fire, but a distance of two or three hundred feet up there appeared to be a strong current blowing from the northeast, which carried the burning cinders a long distance. The building was 75 ft long, 30 ft wide and two stories high containing a large number of chairs. The total loss is about $10,000 insured in different companies.
October 11, 1877:
City Prison burns – On last Thursday afternoon, Thomas Scates, a well known man of this place, became intoxicated and conducted himself in such a manner as to make it necessary for the city marshal to lock him up in the calaboose. He was imprisoned and at the hour of 9 o’clock in the night an alarm of “fire” was heard. It was soon discovered that the fire was situated in the calaboose. Quite a number of people responded to the alarm; the marshal dragged the perishing man out, and with buckets of water the fire was extinguished; not however until the structure was almost consumed. Mr. Scates died at 6 o’clock the next morning. The origin of the fire was unknown but there was straw on the floor for the inmates to lie upon, and it was therefore a very easy matter to start a fire. As Scates had previously been in the calaboose, and as he had said that if he was ever put in again he would burn it up, it is surmised that he set the fire to the straw himself. This is one of the most distressing casualties our city has ever known.
December 20, 1877:
$6,000 blaze! Our citizens were thrown into a frenzy of excitement on Sat. afternoon last at about 2 o’clock by the cry of “fire!” It was soon discovered that the large tobacco barn of the Messrs. Goodall & Campbell, situated on the north-east corner of Van Buren and Union streets was the seat of the fire. The flames had assumed such gigantic proportions when the alarm was given that efforts to save the barn were not made and the saving of the other buildings was the thing in order.
The two story dwelling on the NW corner of Van Buren and Union streets occupied by Mr. Van Cleve Hendrickson was the first structure to invite the devouring element. Strenuous efforts were made to save it, but to no purpose. It was soon wrapped in flames and succumbed to the devastating element, not however, until Mr. Hendrickson and assistants had saved most of household goods in a badly damaged condition.
The fire ended up destroying also a house occupied by Jacob Stein. A carpenter shop was torn down to save other buildings and a few others were damaged. There was no insurance on any of the buildings.
Destroyed in the Goodall & Campbell buildings were some farm implements, hay, two buggies and a quantity of tobacco.
Thursday, January 1, 1880:
On last Tuesday night between 10 and 11 o’clock the alarm of fire was sounded in our city and it was discovered that fire had broken out in the rear of J.M. Cline’s drug store on the west side of the square. The building, being a wooden one, the fire spread rapidly and it could be seen at a glance that it would be useless to attempt to save the building but our people went to work with their usual vigor under such circumstances to save the goods and adjoining buildings and right good work was done. There were three two story buildings destroyed. They were owned by Vick & Son, S.W. Dunaway, Hardin Goodall and J.B. Bainbridge all being insured except Hardin Goodall’s. The loss is estimated at $20,000. The origin of the fire is unknown.
April 7, 1881:
Marion Monitor - Fiery Fiend. Early last Tuesday morning, while the better class of our citizens were in their beds sleeping off the weariness of their labor, our city was again attacked by the fiery fiend. The night was as clear as a bell and not a breath of wind could be felt. Suddenly voices rang out on the stillness of the night the shrill alarm of “fire!” This was shortly followed by the ringing of the church bells and the sound of hurrying feet.
Hurrying from their beds and glancing out their windows, it looked to one and all, as if the whole town was on fire, the glare of the flames being so bright. The very heavens seemed on fire, so bright was the light, while all parts of the city appeared as light of day. Gaining the open air, it was seen that the fire was on the northeast side of the square, and was situated in the cigar and tobacco manufactory of Goodall and Mohler. When the first persons reached the fire, the whole building was on fire from front to rear and Askew’s block on the South and the building occupied by the restaurant of Elliott and Son’s were threatened as well as other buildings in the near neighborhood.
The citizens responded promptly and in a short time the bucket brigades were at work on the threatened buildings. The flames had made such headway on the factory that nothing could be done to save it. The restaurant next on the West was on fire before the bucket brigade got to work, but by hard and persistent labor on their part, it was saved. A stable belonging to the factory firm was also burned, while the dry house escaped almost unharmed. The windows in the Masonic Hall in Askew’s brick were scorched pretty badly, and were on fire several times, but were put out. Inside of an hour from the time the first alarm of fire was given, the factory had burned to the ground, the threatened buildings were saved and the citizens commenced to depart for their homes.
The origin of the fire is unknown. But several theories have been advanced. One theory is that it may have caught from the stove needed to dry the tobacco. Another is that it was set on fire and this theory is strongly believed. Especially from the evidence of our esteemed citizen Mr. R. T. Pulley, who was one of the first to discover the fire and give the alarm. His statement is “that when he first saw the fire, the flames were leaping out of a window in the northeast end of the second story, and that the lower sash of the window was either pushed up or had been taken out. Now as the window was closed when the factory was shut up the evening before, it shows pretty conclusively that the fire was the work of an incendiary.
The factory burned was erected last June by Messrs. Frank M. Goodall and David R. Mohler and has been run ever since and was doing a good business. The loss on the building amounts to about $800 and the value of the stock was between $5000 and $6000. The building and stock was insured for $2700. This will put their loss at about $3500. The damages to the other buildings were slight and can be easily repaired.
A large quantity of damaged chewing and smoking tobacco were raked from the ruins after the fire was somewhat abated. The factory will, we understand be rebuilt, at least not here in Marion. The fire of the evening before it shows pretty conclusively that the fire was the work of an incendiary.
The factory burned was erected last June by Messrs. Frank Goodall and David Mohler and has been run ever since and was doing a good business. The loss on the building amounts to about $800 and the value of the stock was between $5000 and $6000. The building and stock was insured for $2700. This will put their loss at about $3500. The damages to the other buildings were slight and can be easily repaired.
February 2, 1882:
Our people, and especially those on the east side of the square, were given a genuine scare on last Monday morning. At about three o’clock the family of Mr. Thomas Perrigan, who occupy rooms in W.P. Goodall’s building, were aroused from their slumbers by the presence of smoke in their apartments. They were not long to discovering that the house was ablaze in the closet under the steps in the front part of the building. The fire was making considerable headway and had it not been discovered when it was the entire block of wooden buildings on the east side must have gone up in smoke. There was considerable rubbish in the closet where the fire was discovered and that furnished first class material for a starter. The general supposition is, we believe, that the building was fired by an incendiary. A fire could not break out in a place in town where so much property would be liable to destruction as in this block, and the thought that any one would supply the torch to it is too terrible to contemplate.
January 4, 1883:
The well on the north-east corner of the square has been nicely curbed in and the water therefore made accessible for use. It there was a good well on each of the other three corners of the square the very efficient fire department would have a beneficiary and there would not be such a scarcity of water during the dry summer months. EP
January 9, 1896:
Yesterday at 12:53 pm the alarm of fire was given and soon a large crowd gathered around the burning residences of Lee Thompson and Bert Bobbet stationed near the northeast corner of the square in a cluster of other dwellings. Earnest hands worked with a will to remove the contents of the dwellings which were so far gone that attempts to save them were worse than useless. When driven from the burning buildings, the helpers turned themselves into a volunteer bucket brigade and under the cool and effective marshalling of J.W. Sanders some most gallant work was done toward saving other dwellings. That of John Heyde was in greatest danger and it was here that several of our townspeople distinguished themselves as worthy the captaincy of any fire dept.
March 1, 1894:
The alarm of fire was given on last Tuesday evening about 11 o’clock. One of J.M. Aikman’s lumber houses on N. Market St., just north of H. Spieldoch’s residence was found to be on fire and the old blacksmith shop and dry house together with a small dwelling and barn were completely destroyed. The flames spread at a rapid rate of speed and as the buildings were old frame ones, it required all possible aid to save the surrounding property. Aikman, Gallagher & Co.’s loss will probably reach $1000 while his insurance amounts to $850. J.C.B. Smith loses an elegant carriage, also his barn and its contents valued at $500, insurance $150. The men and boys worked faithfully and deserve much praise for their successful efforts to save the adjoining property. EP
November 19, 1896:
At last the “wooden block” consisting of the entire south half of the east side of the square is gone up in flames.
The most destructive fire Marion has had for years, occurred on the morning of last Tuesday. It consumed an entire block of business houses, and crossed over to the South and burned a saloon and a stable.
Though this block has long been considered dangerous quarters, and insurance rates were very high reaching annual premiums of 5 per cent, of the policies, yet it was crowded with business places and did a large per cent of the trade of the city. For more than forty years some of these buildings have been the scene of traffic and trade and more exciting events in our city’s history.
The main building was occupied by the store of G.H. Goodall, who hauled the rock for the foundation from Alum Cave, making one load a day.
The old barn known as the Tom Davis Livery Stable was another old building to go up the fiery way.
Those who suffered loss by the fire are as follows:
Will Simpson lost a saloon stock valued at $800 insured for $500.
H.N. Boles lost the building known as the old drug store of J.M. Cline valued at $1000, insured for $600 and his saloon stock in the Mrs. B.F. Lowe building valued at $1000, insured for $800. He saved a small part of his stock however.
Mrs. Mollie Goodall lost the building occupied by S.C. Dunston, valued at $600 insured for $500.
S.C. Dunston had a $900 stock of harness insured for $500. A good portion was saved, but loss will amount to probably half the stock.
Geo. II Goodall owned the corner building with its large and varied stock. The building was valued at $3000 was insured for $1800. The stock was valued at $8000 and was insured for $5000. A quantity of his merchandise was saved in a damaged condition, but the loss will be large.
Mrs. B.F. Lowe lost the saloon building in the next block south of the other burned buildings. It was valued at $800 and was insured for $400. H.N. Boles saloon occupied this building.
Frank Parks kept hotel over the Goodall Store and lost nearly all his goods amounting to $400, insured for $300.
Mrs. F. Gent owned the livery stable that was burned. It was insured for $200. The lot is probably more valuable without the barn than with it, yet it served the purpose of a livery stable very well. Mr. Gent had about $75 worth of feed in the barn which he lost without insurance.
Dr. L.B. Casey lost a stable and feed valued at $100, no insurance and was damaged considerable by heat breaking the glass front of his building where A.E. Bracy’s store is.
Tout Tippy, a laborer, living in the second story of one of the frame buildings, lost all of his household effects, no insurance.
Uncle Jake Fry lost all of his tools of his trade except the sewing machine, which Claude Barham had saved. No insurance.
Tony & Crisp’s Barber Shop was destroyed with a loss of $100, a part of the property being saved.
Frank Higgins had about $75 worth of furniture stowed in one of the doomed buildings, which was totally lost without insurance.
J.M. Keller’s restaurant in the Robertson basement suffered to the amount of about $50. No insurance.
Sam Jack & Co., who have a meat market ------ East St. from the ----in fresh meat and other-----. ----- no insurance.
The -----Electric Light & Street ---- company was damaged to the extent of probably $100.
M.W. Robertson is damaged, largely ----block across East St. – it is hard to estimate his damage. Story one of the 20 window and door homes are burned out of the South side of this building, and the wall softened and warped, and considerable damage, done by water inside. His losses will be covered by insurance.
H.M. Parks’ Hardware Store was considerably damaged by the intense heat. All the glass corner next to the fire was burned out, and the window and door frames near the fire were charred through. Also considerable damage was sustained by his stock and household goods. He probably lost $500, which is all except household goods, covered by insurance.
The fire originated in the North division of the back room of Will Simpson’s saloon. It was a small room about 8 feet by 12 feet and was used as a whiskey storage room. The room was tight and close and the fire burned and smoldered in his pent up place till when it finally burst its bounds it was beyond the control of any bucket brigade and our efficient fire department. The flames soon spread over the tender-like block and the grandeur of the destroying element as it shot up from it raging, roaring, white hot base in lurid lapping flames, high in the inky night, and destroyed in a few minutes the long years labor of puny man was sublime.
That the fire was first seen about 10 to 1 o’clock a.m., Tuesday morning is known. That it all started in that room as stated above is known.
But how it started is the question that agitates the minds of most of our citizens. Of course everyone has his opinion, and some are free to express them. Those who could be easily led to believe in the total depravity of man assert that it was the work of an incendiary. Others are mysterious and put on an I-know-something look and nod and hint and point and beck and go through multitudinous gyrations incapable of interpretation, hoping, yet fearing to cast reflections upon they know not whom. But it has ever been thus since Adam accused Eve of eating the apple that he stole while she was off trying to flirt with the serpent and pull the wool over his eyes.
Now as a matter of fact it was a simple pure case of spontaneous combustion in the ice chest, brought about by the restoration of confidence and the return of prosperity since the flood.
We did not intend to give it away but this we know; about 11:30 pm Sam Russell and T.L. Dowell came up from the depot and stopped at Sam Absher’s restaurant. While they were there, Mr. Russell says Will Simpson came out of his saloon, locked the door and left. Also Albert Broad came to the restaurant and said he had just been down to Simpsons saloon scrubbing. This was near midnight. These men saw no one skulking about around; whom they could suspicion. In a short time Mrs. Absher went out the back of the restaurant to get a bucket of water and saw smoke coming from the saloon. She also saw a heavy set man wearing a slouched hat and an overcoat burst from the rear of the saloon and run away. Some people would rashly infer that the man might have something to do with the origin of the combustion, but we hold to our theory that it was spontaneous, and that he was running away for good reasons. Mrs. Absher left the fleeing biped to pursue the even tenor of his way and called to her husband to come there quickly as she believed the saloon was on fire. He went and saw the smoke also Mr. Russell ran around the front of the saloon and down the south side but could see no smoke. Together he and Mr. Absher broke open the front door and found the front room filled with smoke which was coming from the back room. They began giving the alarm by firing off pistols and yelling “fire.” Soon people began pouring up from all parts of the city, but it was too late to stop the flames, so hundreds of willing hands began to move property from the doomed buildings. The square was soon filled with goods of all descriptions and guards were appointed to watch over them until they could be housed in other quarters. Many brave and praise-worthy acts were done that we have not space to mention now.
Sparks from the fire.
It has long been expected. Now we will have a solid brick square. Rooms for businesses are in demand in the city since the blaze.
Poor Tom Tippy! He lost everything and had no insurance.
W.F. Slater moved his office to the basement of the court house.
The boys formed a line and hunted for money the next morning.
There were lots of “sockless Jerrys” on the square Tuesday morning.
Frank Parks is to be pitied. He lost his household goods and the contents of his stomach.
Those who wear new shoes next Sunday ought to be in possession of a certificate of purchase.
May & Campbell’s furniture was all moved out but was replaced after fire with little damage.
Wayne Brock deserves honor for his untiring efforts in his search for nickels and dimes the next morning.
J.H. Davis and M.J. Brewer were in from Crab Orchard viewing the burnt district early Tuesday morning.
The fire didn’t get to Sherman May’s store but it came so near it singed his moustache off his shaving mug.
Revolvers do not make good fire alarms. Our printer says four bullets passed in unpleasant nearness to his august person.
Absher’s restaurant was to have changed hands Tuesday morning. Ere that time it had undergone a physical change.
Garments that hadn’t been out of sight for six straight weeks couldn’t be found Tuesday morning when you started to the fire.
G.H. Goodall has removed what goods he saved to the Dunaway brick and will continue his business there until he erects a new building.
If Sam Jack had hung his meat out on the walk next to East Street he would have saved it and had barbecue a la Tom Johnson for breakfast.
Will Warder lost his head while in Robertson’s basement and when he undertook to retire from that gloomy place he found that he had lost himself.
The big blaze destroyed everything on the burned block except one cistern and a few pennies. The cistern was still there but Wayne Brock got the pennies.
The girls were out in force Tuesday morning without paint or powder and the boys were given a glimpse of what the evening belles look like before breakfast.
Flem Gent saved all his horses with no trouble. A horse of W.T. Davis which was in the stable, was stubborn, but was rescued with some loss of his own hide.
Ed Bentley lost his shaving mug – the second loss of this kind in the same manner. Ed says he will not invest in shaving mugs anymore until we quit having fires.
Did you ever get up in the middle of the night?
There is no place like home,
With the town on fire and your pants
Out of sight?
There’s no place like home.
J.G. Young slept soundly and snored smoothly and smiled sweetly during all the hubbub of the great fire. We truly believe there is a time coming and a place fixed when and where lawyers will not think so lightly of the consuming element.
Many heroes were there and some heroines were on the scene, but we do not refer to those who dunned the unfortunate ones the next day for money due them for services rendered at the fire, neither do we include those who are now wearing any apparel, chewing any tobacco, smoking any cigars or drinking any spirits that were maliciously taken from amid said unfortunate ones.
John Ensminger was working like a whitehead during the fire lugging a hundred pounds of cotton batting to a cooler climate when a portly woman, wild with imaginary fears, ran into him, almost breaking his back and screaming, “Oough! Oough! Don’t let my dear darling beloved husband burn up!” John used a few common everyday expletives and promised her he didn’t know if he did or not.
March 31, 1898:
Egyptian Press - Last Friday night, about midnight, fire was discovered in the store of F.M. Westbrook & Co. by Jim and Will Davis, who had just returned from Creal Springs on the sleeper from Paducah. The boys gave the alarm and soon a crowd of willing fire-fighters was on the scene.
At one time, the entire block was conceded to the flames but good work by the untiring bucket brigade over powered the devouring element and saved the town from great loss. But for several little “happen sosos” and the valiant work of our unorganized firefighters, five firms would, very probably now be out of business and two families would be without homes, not to mention the unsightly hole that would have been left in beautiful square.
As it is the $20,000 stock of F.M. Westbrook & Co.’s is all damaged, more or less by fire, smoke or water. Dr. Casey’s office furniture is damaged to the amount of $100 and we are slightly scorched. The iron upper ceiling of the Westbrook store room is all that prevented the flames from playing the devil with our hell box.
The bucket brigade, several of whom risked their lives, to save property deserves much credit. With others whose property they saved, the Press extends to them its utmost gratitude.
Besides the loss by damage to stock, which is mostly covered by insurance, the Westbrook Co. loses many days of trade which in their case means hundreds of dollars as they are a bustling advertising firm and have a wonderful amount of patronage. They will soon be open again and will speedily recover from their misfortune for they are built just that way.
December 8, 1898:
Egyptian Press - The $10,000 Fire. About 2 o’clock, Saturday night, an alarm was turned on this slumbering city and the citizens awoke to see flames arising from the Goodall House, a $5,000 brick on the north side of the square, on the east side of North Market Street.
The fire started in Lipstadt’s clothing store and had gained such a head way when discovered that not a garment of the stock could be saved. Smoke awoke the occupants of the Goodall Hotel and many of them had no time to secure all their clothing.
The entire building was doomed and the only property in it that was saved was most of the stock of Barham’s Saloon and a part of the furniture in the hotel. The fire soon precluded all efforts to save the effects in that house and all attention was turned to saving the Spieldoch building just east of it, and only five feet away.
It called for heroic work but the safety of the city demanded it, and willing hands were numerous. Had the Spieldoch building burned it would have been impossible to save the east side of the square and all south of there to the city limits, as a stiff north wind was blowing.
The Bucket Brigade turned out in full, and 150 buckets were carrying a continual stream of water to confine the flames to the Goodall House.
Inside the Spieldoch building was a terrible place to stay, full of smoke, heat and danger, but determined men under the direction of Mayor Holland, Ex-Sheriff Parke, Shannon Holland, City Marshal Davis and J.D. Pulley fought back the flame, and saved the buildings with the water the faithful Bucket Brigade furnished.
It was a grand fight well thought. The losses are about as follows:
Frank Goodall, building $5,000, insured by T.J. Binkley $5,000, B. Lipstadt, clothing store, covered by $2,500 insurance with Dee Hartwell and $500 with T.J. Binkley, Tony Pickard & Scurlock barber shop, insurance $200, Scurlock’s tools $75 no insurance, Claudel Barham $600 saloon stock, no insurance, Barham & Broad, hotel furnishings $300, no insurance, Frank Goodall, piano and furniture, $300 no insurance.
Several guests and boarders at the hotel lost clothing not insured; Geo. Dietrich got his clothes but left his pocket book under his pillow and John Spiller lost some sleep.
February 2, 1899:
Egyptian Press - Once More! Shortly before 2 o’clock Tuesday morning, fire was discovered between the clothing store of F.M. Westbrook and the grocery store of E Hocks. It was under considerable headway when discovered and was gaining rapidly, so very rapidly that its headway could not be checked by the means at hand.
The night was intensely cold, the thermometer standing below zero, and many who heard the alarm looked out to see that it was not over their own heads and laid back in the embrace of Morpheus. And those who came were so chilled by the bitter cold that they could do but little fighting the fire with only a bucket brigade.
The flames soon enveloped the stairway and cut off that means of escape of the families of Dr. Casey and Chas. Gent, who lived in the second stories of the doomed buildings. These families were almost suffocated when they awoke and as they could not escape by way of the stairway, they were forced to let themselves down from the window. They all escaped without injury, but saved nothing except what they had on as clothing.
Soon the Westbrook and Casey building was falling in, carrying to destruction the Egyptian Press office and the residences of Dr. Casey and Chas. Gent.
The flames had communicated to Ed Gallagher’s store and residence and were lapping at the woodwork of H.M. Parks building or the Gallagher building and equally as hopeless was the salvation of Judge Young’s steel building the IOOF hall.
Attention was now turned to save W.G. Cochran & Co.’s lumber yard on the south and Goodall livery barn on the west. Gallant work, with a zero breeze on one side and a blistering blaze on the other, saved these buildings and confined the blaze to the one block.
The origin of the fire is a mystery to everyone, as there was no fire kept, where this one originated, not even a match for a cold and benighted rodent to accidentally gnaw, and get even with a cold and heartless insurance company.
It is claimed that the stairway was saturated by coal oil but we are sure that even if a coal barrel had busted by freezing it would not have thrown the oil in that manner and place but it might there is no telling even, you know, but where did the match come from! But it is spilled milk now, what’s the use to theorize.
This was by far the most destructive fire this city ever experienced, and the losses are heavy for both the citizens and the insurance companies.
Among the losses are the following estimates with insurance where it could be ascertained:
F.M. Westbrook & Co.’s building was worth at least $4,500 and they carried a
large stock estimated at $10,000. They carried $3,000 insurance on the building and $10,000 on the stock making a net loss to this firm of $5,000 besides the loss of the business.
Dr. Casey’s loss on the building was $3,000, on furniture $750. His insurance was $2,500 on the building and $500 on household goods.
Gallagher & Co., lost on building $3,500, stock $3,000 and held insurance on building to amount to $2,500 and on stock $1,800.
E.T. Gallagher’s building was valued at $3,000 and his stock at $1,400. Insurance on building $1,800 and on stock $800.
The Egyptian Press plant, owned by Casey Washburn was a loss of $1,000 covered by insurance.
H.M. Parks loss on building $4,500, stock $4,000, insurance on building $3,000 and stock $3,000.
D.A. Davis lost his bakery, insurance unknown.
Ingersoll & Sheppard’s stock of school books and jewelry was only partly saved; extent of loss not yet ascertained.
Col. Geo. W. Young’s steel business block burned at a loss, including fixtures of $1,800, insurance $1,400.
Dr. J.L. McIntosh lost his office furniture valued at $100, no insurance.
There were no fatal accidents, but Mr. Will Gallagher, in trying to save some uninsured property in the shed at the back of his store came near being caught in a death trap. An explosion blew the wall above the shed down upon it while Gallagher was in there. The top of the shed crashed in but Will happened to be standing just under the sky light and the heavy roof and wall came tumbling all about him. He was rescued slightly hurt and badly frightened.
Our square now presents a sad appearance with eight of its best business rooms in ruin; but already Mr. Frank Goodall has begun to rebuild, and it is hoped all the others will follow his example.
It took good work to save the Goodall livery stables but willing workers were ready to respond to duty’s call.
Ingersoll & Sheppard saved only a few books and a little jewelry.
The popping of cartridges in the hardware stock of H.M. Parks made it interesting for those standing on the square nearby and one might be excused for thinking of San Juan Hill as he looked into that well of flames and heard the constant popping of exploding cartridges.
Chas. Gent’s family was cut off from escape by way of the stairway and had to let down by means of a rope. They lost a large lot of fine furniture upon which there was no insurance.
It was rather cold to come up on the square at 2 o’clock, but there was a warm reception awaiting everyone who came.
We have experienced another need of water works and fire engines. The taxes for one on the property that has been burned in Marion in the last 60 days would pay for a good fire fighting apparatus for Marion.
September 28, 1899:
Egyptian Press - A NOONDAY BLAZE. A careless boy cook in Gill’s Restaurant played the part of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow while cooking dinner, Tuesday. He let the grease in the skillet catch afire and then threw water on it, which action only served to enlarge the blaze. The ceiling of the restaurant, which was located in the basement of CH. Denison’s building on the north side of the square, was very low and the blaze soon got a start on it. Much hard work was done by men with buckets of water to extinguish the flames in their embryo but the smoke was so dense they could not locate the fire in to check it.
When it became a certainty that the building was doomed the work of carrying out the goods of the different firms commenced. Trevor and Payne saved most of their dry goods but lost their entire grocery department and their shoes.
Dudley Aikman saved most of the fixtures of his butcher shop. All of the mail in the post office was saved and a small part of the fixtures. Pillow’s stock of books, papers and stationery was saved.
After all goods, that could be, were removed from the attention of the fire, fighters turned to the adjoining buildings. Jim Goodall’s new brick on the west side and Frank Goodall’s on the east were in the greatest danger and their rescue from the flames seems miraculous. All the expose wood work of these buildings burned, yet the flames were held at bay, even during the hottest period of the big fire. The bucket brigade fought nobly.
The fiery tongues shot out viciously and almost lapped the north side of the court house. They roared over North Market Street and set fire to the window and door frames of F.M. Goodall’s fine, new, brick building. Spectators declared that this building was beyond rescue and it did seem as but a force of determined men faced the scorching heat and held the demon back. It was a noble fight and a great victory for had the new Goodall building burned – we shudder at the thought of how far the destruction would have gone.
The firms and individuals suffering are as follows:
Trevor & Payne carried a $15,000 stock which was insured for $12,000. The value of the part destroyed is not yet known.
The building belonged to Chas. H. Denison and was valued at $15,000 and was insured for $8,000.
The new fixtures of the post office cost Postmaster Hartwell $275 and were insured for their full value. There was also a safe, stove and other fixtures which were also fully insured.
Will Pillow saved all of his stock, but lost about $20 worth of fixtures not insured.
The Knights of Pythias had about $600 worth of stuff destroyed which was a total loss.
The Masons lost their paraphernalia which was insured for $150 but this will not near cover the loss.
The Odd Fellows carried $232.70 in insurance but lost paraphernalia and fixtures to a much greater value.
The Eastern Star, the Rebeccas, the Modern Woodmen, the Golden Cross and the Miners lost their all and we are informed that none of them carried any insurance.
Sam H. Goodall lost his office furniture, books and papers and switch board of the telephone system, a $2000 loss. He carried $1000 insurance on the destroyed property.
Dudley Aikman suffered a small loss but saved most of his property. His loss is covered by insurance.
Dick Toney lost all his barber shop fixtures but his chairs but was insured for almost full value.
John Gill, owner of the restaurant in which the fire started, lost his entire stock of groceries and restaurant fixtures and had not a cent of insurance. He is a poor man and the loss with him is the greatest of all.
Jas. A. Goodall’s building suffered the loss of a plate glass window and other damages but his loss is fully covered by insurance.
A.L. Clines’ front is all glassless and will have to be repainted but the insurance company will pay for the repairs.
Some insurance company will be obliged to put about $125 worth of repairs on Abney’s drug store front.
F.M. Goodall estimates the damage to his building to amount to $700, fully insured.
Denison & Spieldoch’s store stock of clothing received much hurt from the fire, smoke and water to an extent not yet known but the loss will be borne by the insurance company.
Smith & Henshaw, lawyers, had their sign ruined. Not insured.
A.F.White & Co. Real Estate agents had their office over the postoffice. We could not learn their loss.
The Electric Light Company lost some poles and wire which were not insured.
February 20, 1912:
Egyptian Press - Fire destroys big fire trap. North Market Street has lost one of her sorest eye-sores. It wasn’t the will of the city or it wasn’t the will of the owner of the property, but the city has lost the historic old landmark just the same.
Flames Monday night about 12 o’clock, did what the city has put off doing – fire burned almost to the ground, the old row of frame shacks located just south of the old Gent hotel building on the west side of North Market St. Thus did the building through sheer kind heartedness on the part of the city daddlings finally and at last, fill the ignoble grave that the building inspector and the fire committee tried to save it from.
The fire broke out at 11:50 Monday night. There is a slight difference as to the place of origin – some claiming that the first glare was seen through the windows of Walter Stone’s small “one minute” quick meal or lunch stand and others claiming that the first sign was to be found at the rear and over the rear of the Italian fruit stand. It matters not where it originated. It did its work well in spite of the fire department’s seven hours work and the three big powerful streams of water that they played on it continually. The wall of the lower story on the south side was left standing. All the wall of the two stories on the north side was left standing. The livery stable building at the rear is there to be seen in parts. The loss is as complete as it the whole thing had been eaten up by the flames. The firemen worked in an effort to save the adjoining buildings and they were successful. It was the best fire fighting that the city of Marion has ever seen.
The building was owned by George C. Heyde and the total valuation was about $3,500 and he carried $1,500 insurance. C.L. Mosely’s store is practically a total loss. His stock was worth $1000 to $1500 and his insurance was for $1000. J.M. Jones carried stock worth about $1000 and had $700 insurance. Walter Stone’s stock was worth about $200 and he had $150 insurance. Dominick Faraci, who operated the fruit stand, is in St. Louis and the valuation of his belongings is not now known. His father stated the following morning that he had no I and worked insurance and he cried while he talked about it. A search was made among the insurance agents of the city led to no discovery of Faraci having insurance. His stock was all burned up. John Schaffer, who yet had control of the empty livery barn, had less than $100 in buggy tops stored there. They all burned.
John L. Jones, the furniture man has been keeping his delivery horse in one of the stalls of the empty stable. The animal frightened and would not come out when kind hearted ones at the risk of their own lives tried to save him. Assistant Fire Marshal Furlong was overcome while trying to rescue the animal. Ray Ashby and Clyde Gallagher tied a horse blanket over his head and managed to get him out after he had received some burns on his back which might have caused his death. The horse, a fine one was suffering great agony the following day.
Fire Marshal Curt Stilley and Assistant Wayne Furlong and two regular firemen, Mr. Van Meer and Ralph Jones worked for seven long wet and tiresome hours fighting the flames. They were assisted by a bunch of fellows who displayed remarkable nerve and bravery and all of whom deserve special praise. They were: William Lough, Doak Veach, Frank Veach, Mike Schaffle and Tom Berry. These fellows remained right by the side of the regular men and worked hard for hours. It was not until seven o’clock that morning that the water was turned off and the danger declared over. The water and power people did themselves brown by furnishing the best power ever furnished at a fire. The pressure was so great that at four different times hose burst. The firemen kept three streams playing into the fire from the first.
The hard fight undertaken by Assistant Marshal Furlong to rescue the horse was the most thrilling feature of the fire. The fire originated near the animal’s stall and as soon as the department arrived the horse was found to be in immediate danger. Furlong, while others were hard at work making other hose connections attempted to fight back the flames and get the horse out. He fought the flames all right but the horse balked. He worked with him until he felt himself falling and then crawled out of the building. Others then turned their attention to the horse and by hard work he was at last saved. The moans of the horse as he was being burned filled hundreds with pity but for awhile it seemed that it was hopeless to rescue him.
The building destroyed has been standing there a great many years. It was one of the most familiar places in the city and with due respect to the owner, it was not much of a credit to the street or to the city, especially when compared with the several fine buildings that now stand in the neighborhood. Last season, the building inspector condemned it with a couple of other such places and later the fire committee of the council condemned it and it was ordered torn down. However when the owner approached the council on the matter the doomed building was given a respite. It was ordered to be torn down on the coming April 1st. It would have been razed at the time if the fire on Monday night hadn’t concluded to do the job. Deputy State Fire Marshal Litton, when in the city recently inspected the building and was planning to order it torn down when he learned of the action of the council and that an order was now standing for the work to be done this spring. He then deferred action in the matter feeling that the city would look after it right.
The fire whistle brought out many from their homes to witness the fire and although it proved to be the “biggest” fire that Marion has had in many long days.
March 24, 1914:
Egyptian Press - Marion on Monday night at about 11:45 suffered the most disastrous fire it has had for some time when a business building located west of the C&EI tracks at the bridge on West Main Street burned to the ground. Three store rooms were contained in the building, burned, one room being owned by W.J. Walker and the others by Will Perry.
In the building were located F. Pipie’s Saloon and Will Perry’s general merchandise store. Saloon fixtures occupied the other room. The total loss has not been figured. The heaviest loss is suffered by Mr. Perry who carried an insufficient amount of insurance both on his building and his large stock of merchandise.
The fire is of mysterious origin. It is said to have developed a short time after Pipie had locked up his saloon and left. It broke out in the saloon and the explosion of something in the saloon is about the first warning given. By the time the first persons reached the scene the building was enveloped in flames. Not a thing could be saved.
The room owned by Mr. Walker was used as a storage room by the Terre Haute Brewing Company which paid Mr. Walker a monthly rent on it and kept some saloon fixtures stored there. The next room, the middle one, was occupied by Mr. Pipie, while the east room was occupied by Mr. Perry, the owner of the two east rooms. He carried but $1,500 on his stock of goods and this will not replace the loss by one third. His stock was a very large one. Among other things to burn were $500 worth of shoes which he was preparing to ship back to the factory because of alleged failure to ship him what he had ordered. The shipment came in Monday. After seeing the mistake he replaced them and prepared to send them out that afternoon but they were not loaded up and then when closing time came they were taken back into the store and left there over night. Pipie states he carried $2,000 worth of insurance.
The building burned is located immediately over the West Marion Creek. For this reason as soon as the floor burned through the fire had a good draft and it burned furiously and rapidly. The department arrived but hard work stopping it before buildings on either side were destroyed. As it was some damage was done to them. Ward Brothers meat market suffered a loss of some $300, fully covered by insurance and the Isis Theatre suffered a small loss.
August 4, 1914:
Egyptian Press - A large livery barn located on an alley at the rear of the new Christian Church building has been demolished. The property which belonged to Mrs. Geo. C. Heyde, was deemed a more or less dangerous fire hazard and its presence insurance rates in that section to be considerably higher. Now that it has been taken away the rates will fall a number of notches not only on Mrs. Heyde’s valuable brick building nearby, but on the new church edifice and other structures as well. This makes the second fire trap that has been done away with in the city within the last ten days, the other having been located on one of North Market street’s best business lots.
September 19, 1914:
Egyptian Press - The large two story frame structure known as the Elliott Hotel on West College near the C&EI yards was practically destroyed by fire on Friday night at about 9 o’clock, together with practically all of the contents. The fire originated from the explosion of a coal oil stove in the kitchen on the ground floor. One man, Frank Jacobs, a C&EI fireman was asleep upstairs and came near being burned to death. He was carried out and down a ladder but a few minutes before the room in which he was sleeping was filled with the flames.
The building was owned by T.A. Elliott and was occupied by his son in law, Charley Cox, who has been conducting the place for several months. The house was recently improved. Mr. Elliott carried some insurance but not enough to cover his loss. The fire department responded on time and fought well, confining the fire to one building. The blackened frame of the building stands today as evidence of the good fire fighting. While fighting the blaze, the firemen came into contact with a live wire which was upon the ground and every man who had part in the work of manning the nozzle was thrown to the ground. None were hurt seriously.
July 12, 1915:
The most disastrous fire in the way of damage to visit this city for a number of years occurred about one o’clock this morning when the Holland building located in the southwest corner of the square caught on fire.
The Bainbridge Jewelry store located in the corner room together with the Hauer Millinery Store and tailor establishment were the greatest losers. As yet neither Messrs. Bainbridge or Mr. Hauer can put any definite or reliable estimate on their losses.
The Central Illinois Public Service Company with offices just east of that room occupied by Bainbridge and Hauer report that they are not hurt any in the way of loss. While their rooms were wet from the fire department work and will have to be repapered and otherwise overhauled the company reports they will not otherwise suffer from the fire.
The origin of the fire is not yet definitely known. No goods are reported missing and it is thought that burglary and larceny were the motive of the crime. The back stairway leading from the rear porch is where the fire started and it is probable that some boys or tramp might have been smoking in the apartments above which are not occupied and thereby started the fire.
The central location of the building is such that had the fire not been brought under control, the entire block might have been destroyed.
At an early hour this morning the managers of the firms damaged were busy at work with a force of extra help cleaning up the debris in their places of business and will be open by tomorrow for the accommodation of their trade.
The damage in the building is such that it will require considerable work and an outlay of quite an amount of money to repair it.
September 2, 1915:
Marion Daily Republican - The fire committee from the city council met with other city officials to decide on the proposition of removing the fire department to the building recently purchased for a city hall. It was decided to make the change as soon as convenient. The corner room of the city hall on the ground floor facing Court Square will be remodeled to accommodate the fire department. The entrance will be widened and concrete floor put down on the same grade with the paving on the square. Sleeping quarters for the firemen will be in the east end of the building and stalls for the horses near the center of the room. The quarters that will be occupied by the fire department will be 55x26 feet for the present but later on will be enlarged.
Ultimately the city will occupy the entire building. The room now occupied by the feed store will be used for the city court room. When the change is made the city officers will occupy the entire second story of the building except that portion reserved for sleeping quarters by the firemen. At the time the change is made an opening will be made through the second floor to the sleeping quarters so that the firemen can slide down a pole to the room below.
January 17, 1916:
Fire Chief Cash and his assistant were called out of their warm beds at 1 o’clock this morning to fight one of the worst fires that Marion has experienced for a long time. With the thermometer below zero and the fire already burning fiercely the chief saw that he had a tremendous task on his hands.
Morris Nudleman, the tailor in the one store building adjoining was awakened about 1 o’clock by the crackling of wood and saw smoke issuing from the adjoining building. He immediately aroused his family and they began moving out their belongings. At the same time night policeman discovered the blaze and got the fire department out. All of Mr. Nudleman’s belongings were carried out into the street and later moved into temporary quarters around the corner on W. Union St.
The fire fighters were crippled by lack of assistance. Fire Chief Cash asked some of the people standing around to come in and help fight the blaze, but only two responded. He even offered to hire help and could get no response. The chief reports that there were several hundred watching the fire and that only five volunteered. That made a total of ten men to fight one of the worst fires that Marion has experienced recently.
Had there been a brisk wind or other large buildings adjoining, there is no telling what would have been the fire damage. Marion needs some kind of law giving the fire chief authority to deputize the many hundreds that stand around and watch but do no more than get in the way.
Those that fought the blaze were Chief Harry Cash, Assistant Chief R.A. Cash, Willie Fisher, Arthur Thompson, Elbert Garrison, Jimmy King, George Fietsam, Tom Mitchell, J.C. Adams and R.W. Adams.
The chief was especially thankful for the services of the Adams brothers. They are traveling salesmen for the Fairbanks Gold Dust Company and were merely staying overnight here. One of them lives in Kansas City and the other in St. Louis. Their father is assistant chief of the department in St. Louis and they saw the immediate danger. When the chief asked for volunteers these men came out of the crowd and got right into the work. The chief said that if he had not had their help he doesn’t know what he would have done.
The fire boys were also very thankful to Mrs. W.L. Fisher. They fought steadily from one o’clock til almost four when she brought over a big pot of steaming coffee. They then worked in relays while different ones got a cup of steaming stimulant.
The shoe shining parlor which occupied the front room of the burned building was a complete loss as none of the property was saved.
The south wall partially fell in while the fire was raging and it will be necessary to tear down the north wall. The wall is bowed away out and should be torn down at once.
The building is owned by Charles Lowe who is now in New Orleans and is said to be valued at $7,000. It was insured for $4,500 but the amount of insurance on the contents is not known.
The building was formerly used by the I.O.O.M. as their meeting place but has been used lately as a lodging house. It was not known this morning for certain whether anyone was in the building at the time the fire started or not. Charles Parks has been rooming there but was not there last night.
The fire was discovered at 1 o’clock last night and was still smoldering at noon today. The fire boys threw a vast amount of water on the fire and they report excellent pressure for the first part of the fire. They had several streams of water playing on the fire.
This is the worst fire Marion has had since last July when Bainbridge’s jewelry store burned. The cold weather with the fire last night made it one of the most difficult ever experienced here.
January 20, 1916:
The north wall of the Lowe Building collapsed shortly after noon today and three men barely escaped with their lives. The walls have been in constant danger of falling since the fire last Monday morning and were condemned by the city building inspector.
While awaiting the fire insurance adjuster to arrive in Marion and make his report, the walls were permitted to stand and with a wind from the south this morning they began to shake more than ever. The walls swayed too far about noon and came down in a heap. Only a few moments previous, two men had been standing right under the wall where it fell.
A man driving a horse and buggy had just passed through the alley and got as far as the street when the crash came. Had he been in the alley by the side of the building at the time he and his horse would have been killed in all probability. Leige Norman was in his tailor shop at the time of the collapse, but the brick did not fall quite that far so missed him. They did move his cleaning house a little ways however.
Immediately after the one section of wall fell the city ordered North Market Street closed for the present until the front wall could be removed.
February 11, 1916:
Marion was visited last night by the most disastrous fire experienced in this city for many years and for a time it threatened to take out the entire block on the northwest side of city square. While that fire was at the height, fire fighters were called to a second conflagration at the home of Judge D.T. Hartwell which was burned to the ground before it could be saved.
Chief of police Clarida saw smoke issuing from Moore’s Jewelry Store about 7:30 last night and as the town clock struck the half past stroke on the bell Fire Chief Harry Cash laid the first stream of water and was then off for the second stream.
When the fire department arrived the fire already had a start and the saving of the building was practically impossible then but the fire laddies did their best. The first stream of hose was laid and played into Moore’s Jewelry store and the second stream was carried to the back and the water turned into the rear of the jewelry store. A third stream of water was then laid and carried over Hudspeth’s barber shop and played into the rear of the building. After those streams were playing another hose was laid to play water on the fire from the top of the Reid hotel and water was thrown later from the roofs of the other nearby buildings. These were the streams that secured the control of the fire. One stream was kept playing on the front to keep the fire out of the bank and the shoe store as much as possible and the other streams played constant streams of water into the burning building.
The Odd Fellows were in a session last evening when the fire broke out. They were holding an encampment session when someone yelled fire and they heard a terrific noise. A general rush for the door was made and by that time, their room and the hallway was filled with smoke and the men had to almost crawl out to get under the heavy dense smoke that was then pouring into their room.
The Odd Fellows only saved one valise full of their belongings. Practically all of their books and regalia were lost and their furnishings were also lost. The Odd Fellows rented the hall themselves and then sub-rented it to the other lodges. The other lodges that also used the room were Rebeccas, Red Men, Pocahontas, Ben Hur, Woodmen of the World, Woodmen Circle and Foresters, all of whom lost their lodge records and their regalia.
The attorneys that had their offices upstairs in these buildings suffered heavy losses through their libraries being destroyed. In the office of Neely, Gallimore, Cook & Potter they had many law volumes which are now out of print and which could not be duplicated at any cost. They also lost considerable of their personal reference books which money could not have bought. Their personal files for eight years back were among the things that went up in smoke. They were able to save their abstract books before the fire got into their rooms but this was about all they could save.
The valuable law library of Ex-Congressman R.F. Hill was a total loss from the flames. It was kept in the office of Charles Otey and Spiller Lewis.
The First National Bank was the heaviest individual loser from the fire. They owned the two buildings on the east and then their own loss was also very heavy. The vault and furniture in the bank building were the least damaged of any actually in the fire but their building was a total loss and will have to be taken down.
J.C. Mitchell, Cashier of the bank stated this morning that they would rebuild as soon as possible. Their new building will be a handsome structure for the bank and with offices in the upper floors. In the mean time the bank will establish itself in new quarters.
The Williamson County Loan and Improvement Association came out of the fire with a very slight loss. They moved their offices from the Citizens Bank to the office of Charles Otey as Mr. Otey had just been elected secretary of the association. Their safe which was near the west wall did not fall through and was opened with ease this morning and the records were found and taken to the Citizens Bank and Trust Company where they will be temporarily located.
It was a question many times whether the Duncan-Baker Hardware store could be saved. They were in the building adjoining Moore’s Jewelry Store and for a while it looked as the fire would break through the wall. Two facts tended to save the Duncan-Baker building and that was the fact that there was a double wall between them and the fire and the fact they had a metal roof.
Smoke broke through into the adjoining buildings and did some damage there as well. The Duncan-Baker company was a loser through smoke. The Union Clothing Company was also a loser through smoke. Their damage was between four and five thousand dollars, all covered by insurance. The Reid Hotel also suffered from the fire. The amount of their damage was not known this morning but will be in the neighborhood of $500.
The Re-De-He lost their club room last evening. They had about $250 worth of furnishings in the room and this was a total loss. The members of the club are Joe Lee, Ruel Youngblood, B. Glen Gulledge, Howard McCluskey, Ward Russell, Clarence Lay and Ben LaMaster. They had insurance but expect to get new quarters as soon as possible.
Charles Hay who owned the part of the building occupied by Moore’s Jewelry store is out of the city and so we were unable to ascertain his plans but it is thought that he will rebuild. It is understood that he has his building insured.
Only two bad injuries were sustained at the fire last evening. One of these was by Assistant Chief, R.A. Cash who received a bad cut from falling glass. The other injury was Clyde Gallagher. Gallagher was assisting with the hose in front of Moore’s store and the men started to change the position of the hose. It broke away from them and knocked Gallagher down breaking his wrist.
There was an immense crowd present to witness the blaze. They assembled on the square and in all of the nearby buildings. When Judge Hartwell’s home caught on fire everyone made a rush to see that fire as well. Both fires were very spectacular. Assistance was given by Herrin and Johnston City fire departments.
February 12, 1916:
About eleven o’clock last night, Fire Chief Harry Cash was again summoned to the bank building to extinguish a blaze that had started among the ruins of the burned structure. The blaze was not a serious one, but had been smoldering all day and had just broken into flames again. The fire chief kept close watch on the building all the remainder of the night to see that nothing more caught.
The various stores and offices affected by the fire are now getting into new locations and are again in shape to do business. The First National Bank is situated in the front corner room of the city hall and was doing business there this morning. They carried their furniture from the burned building over to that room and were able to polish it up a little and are using the same fixtures practically. While they are a little crowded in the new location, it gives them a very good place to do business.
Through an oversight of the Republican the tabulated list of losses last night failed to mention the loss through smoke and water experienced by the occupants of the basement buildings fronting on N. Market St. One of the heaviest losses was Mark Duke who operated a news stand and confectionary store. His goods were practically all damaged by the water and smoke. He estimates that the stock was worth about $2,000 of which over half will be covered by insurance. Duke will move what he can save of his stock to his other store on West Main St.
A.E. Brown’s meat market located in the basement of the building on N. Market St was almost a total loss in furniture and meat. His estimated loss is about $1,000 which not nearly was covered by insurance. Mr. Brown has no definite plans as to his future business or location. He may change his business entirely.
M. Francis, proprietor of the Francis Loan Office, was damaged considerably by smoke and water. Guns were melted, musical instruments came apart, ladies gloves were water soaked and other things ruined. He estimated his loss at near $2,000. His insurance will cover only half of the loss.
Mr. Francis will remain in the same business and will locate as soon as a good room can be secured. He has moved some of his goods which he thinks may be restored in the back of D.W. Abney’s Drug Store.
May 22, 1916:
Marion’s twenty horse power fire truck purchased from the International Harvester Company could hardly ascend the hill from the fire barn to the square this morning when summoned to a fire in the rear of the Nance Store on West Main Street. The truck was not overloaded as the trouble might seem but it just failed to go up. A truck of that size should be able to carry sufficient hose for reaching any fire we might have and should at least be able to carry the men for fighting same.
Except for the fact that the water pressure was heavy this morning and that there was no wind the fire might have been very disastrous and the delay in going up the small hill would have meant much in saving of property.
The destroyed property was a barn owned by Dr. Dobbs and rented by George Binkley. An automobile in the barn owned by Clem Plodeck was taken out of the barn after the fire started and thus saved from destruction. Mrs. S.E. Hudgens’ home, which almost touched the barn, was badly scorched but by quick action of the fire boys was saved from destruction.
A little time was lost in putting the water on the barn through not laying the hose when the wagon first arrived. It was thought the fire could be extinguished with only the use of the chemicals. The hose should be laid to every fire no matter how insignificant as it takes little time to do so and is then ready if the fire proves to be larger that at first indicated. When the water was turned on, the fire was soon extinguished. Chief Harry Cash said the pressure was the best that there has been since the fire which burned out Bainbridge’s about a year ago.
The loss will doubtless amount to a couple of hundred dollars but it was not learned whether this was covered by insurance. The injury to Mrs. Hudgens’ home was covered by insurance. It is not known how the fire started but the whole barn was practically ablaze when our auto truck arrived.
Added note: The fire alarm sounded after the fire was out.
August 11, 1917:
Marion Daily Republican - A fire at 4 o’clock Sat. morning destroyed the tailor shop of Frank Norman in the rear of the Ford and Graves Barber shop on N. Market. The loss is expected to be about $150 with no insurance. It was discovered by Mrs. Alice Peebles who lives in an apartment above the shop by smoke pouring up through the floors. Men from the Crescent Restaurant and other nearby places broke into the rear door and extinguished the flames. The barber shop received little damage.
December 26, 1917:
Marion Daily Republican - The grocery store of John Griffith at 307 S. Monroe, was destroyed by fire at noon Wed.
May 20, 1919:
Marion Daily Republican - The new city commission met Monday evening at the city hall with the mayor and all comm. except H.C. Jones present. The most important matter taken up by the commission was the subject of purchasing a fire truck suitable to the needs of the city of Marion. In 1916 the city purchased a 20 horse power fire truck from the International Harvester Co. but this truck now is discarded and of no use for fire purposes. The truck proved to be incapable of climbing the hills to the square on East St. and several times never reached the fire because it could not pull through mud. The truck is now incapable to being backed and Fire Chief Swain found it useless so has borrowed a Republic truck from the Motor Sales Co. and carries his hose on that. The old truck will be used by the city for hauling garbage and rubbish in the event that it cannot be sold.
August 11, 1919:
Marion Daily Republican - Marion’s new fire truck was taken to the dept. headquarters on W. Union St on Saturday evening and the equipment has been installed by Chief James Swain and his assistants. The new truck is a Nash chassis and was sold by the Motor Sales Co. The equipment from the old truck was all available for use and is now mounted on the new one and in addition to the chemical extinguishers, ladders, hose, etc, there will be a thousand additional feet of new hose carried by this truck.
March 3, 1921:
Marion Daily Republican - Description of Marion; the report of the fire inspector of the fire fighting facilities for this county reads partially as follows:
Area – 1-1/2 miles square, 2-1/4 square miles
Topography – generally level with a slight grade toward the east.
Streets – total of 35 miles of streets, 25 of which are paved, remainder unpaved. The north south streets are generally 50-66 ft in width and the east and west are in general 30 ft in width, well lighted at night by incandescent lights.
April 23, 1921:
Marion Daily Republican - A fire begun in the wash room in the basement of the Masonic and K.P. Building on W. Main was discovered and reported to the fire dept. at 6:45 am by H.O. Robertson, mgr of the Brown’s Business College. No serious damage.
August 24, 1921:
A fire call was placed early Tuesday night reporting that the Fire Dept. was on fire. It seems some sparks from electric light wires ignited some rubbish in the rear of the building.
December 1, 1922:
Two grocery stores and two dwelling houses at the edge of the city limits on E. Main St. were destroyed early Friday morning by fire which originated in the store of H.H. Davis about 1 am.
The dwellings were those of Earl Watkins and F.W. Shineman and the stores were owned by Watkins and D.H. Davis. Shineman, however also owned the building in which the Davis Store was located.
The cause of the fire is unknown but it was first discovered in the Davis store just before 1 o’clock and was well under way at that time. A high wind was blowing and the other buildings, all of which were crowded closely together, caught fire and were destroyed. Part of the household goods from the Watkins home were saved, but nothing was taken from the stores. No one was in the Shineman home at the time, the family being out of town. The exact amount of damage is not known. The Watkins home and store were practically covered by insurance and the other buildings only partially covered.
The fire department received the alarm at exactly 1:00 am and ran immediately to the fire. Although the houses were outside the city limits they were close enough to be reached from a fire plug and Fire Chief Cash had a stream of water playing on the blaze in short time.
It probably would have been possible to save at least one of the buildings had it not been for the fact that falling electric light wires handicapped the firemen. The burning wires fell across the hose and burned it in two. Frequent shifts of hose were made and 450 feet of hose were ruined by the wires.
April 11, 1923:
Fire, believed to have started from a defective flue, caused considerable damage to the St. Louis Shoe Repair Store of which B. Marcus is owner on Tuesday evening. Mr. Marcus, who was sick in bed, arose and went to the fire, but had to return home when he saw it was under control.
Quick work by the fire dept. probably saved the entire block. The shoe store was closed on Wednesday for an inventory.
Wednesday, October 10, 1923:
Just thirty minutes past midnight of Fire Prevention Day, the day observed throughout the country as the fifty-second anniversary of the great Chicago fire of 1871, in the basement of the Cline-Vick drug store was discovered a fire that caused $180,000 damage before it could be extinguished.
The sun rose Wed. morning and cast its rays through the glaring windows and the seared walls of two buildings on the east side of the public square which at midnight housed two of the biggest business houses in the city. The Benson and Cline buildings in which were located the Cline-Vick Drug Store, Hub Clothing Co. and the offices of Dr. I.C. Walker, Dr. D.H. Harris, Dr. H.L. Wohlwend and the Griggs-Sullins Realty Co. were smoldering ruins in spite of six hours of valiant fighting on the part of the fire dept.
Only the walls of the Cline building were left standing. The first floor of the Benson building remained intact though the second floor was entirely destroyed and the ground floor covered with water and debris. Early Tuesday morning the police roped off a large area surrounding the building to prevent persons getting too close to the brick wall which threatened to fall at any moment.
Few citizens knew that while they were sleeping the greatest fire in the history of the city was raging and in the cold of the early morning, water drenched fireman from three city fire depts. were fighting to keep the fire from destroying the entire business section. The fire was confined in the two buildings fronting on the square, although for hours it seemed that the entire block would go.
The alarm was turned in at the fire dept. about 12:30 and Fire Chief Swain and Assistant Chief Tom Hester immediately got the fire truck underway and reached the square in a few minutes with several volunteers. Assistant Chief Hester entered the basement wearing a gas mask but the heat was so terrific that the firemen could make no headway there. There was no chance to combat the seat of the fire in the basement according to the firemen and all efforts were directed to prevent the blaze from gaining headway in the store rooms above the ground.
From 12:45 to nearly four o’clock, local firemen with volunteers held out, keeping four streams of water playing on the flames. There was a cry for more men. From the crowds gathered on the square, as many as twenty-five volunteers were recruited at times. Fire Chief Swain sent calls to neighboring cities for assistance and in a short time the depts. in Herrin, Carterville and Carbondale had sent assistance. The Herrin firemen arrived with their big truck and equipment but their hose connections did not fit the fire plugs here and the Herrin men returned home. Although the Carterville and Carbondale men were unable to offer any assistance with equipment, they stayed until the blaze was extinguished about six o’clock Wed. morning. After the fire truck was sent back to the department to guard against the possibility of another fire, one stream of water was kept on the smoldering ruins to prevent it from breaking into flames.
As to the origin of the fire, there is much speculation. It was first discovered in the basement of the Cline-Vick Drug store when smoke was seen issuing from the grating in the side walk in front of the store. Manager Spelman of the drug store said the store was closed at ten o’clock Tues. night and that everybody was gone from the store shortly after 10:30. One of the clerks was in the basement at 10:30 o’clock but at that time there was no visible evidence of a fire, he said.
There are the possibilities of the fire having originated from the spontaneous combustion of the coal stored in the basement, from defective wiring or from the furnace in which there had been a small fire earlier in the day. Chief Swain said that it did not appear that the fire started in the coal, but seemed to have started in the rear of the basement and swept toward the street, catching the coal.
The total damage to the drug store is estimated at approximately $35,000. The drug stock is said to have amounted to nearly $20,000 and the entire stock and fixtures were destroyed by the flames.
Though the fire never broke through into the Hub Clothing Store next door, the entire stock of that store was ruined by smoke and water. The office rooms above were completely destroyed and the fire hose laid several inches of water over the ceiling of the store. The water later poured into the room below. Mr. Peffer carried about $40,000 stock which was partly insured.
The Hub was just planning its annual fall sale and at the time of the fire had the bills advertising the sale stored in the building. Mr. Pfeffer and the store clerks worked until 10:30 on Monday night trimming the windows in preparation for the sale. A new shipment of goods for the sale estimated at between $700 and $800 arrived a few days ago and was damaged with the rest of the stock. Mr. Pfeffer was unable to get into the building Wed. morning to determine the extent of his loss. About $500 worth of new fixtures had just recently been installed.
Above the Hub, the offices of Dr. D.H. Harris, Dr. Wohlwend, and the Griggs and Sullins Realty Co. were destroyed with all their contents. Dr. Harris estimated his loss at $1000 for office equipment alone. He carried $350 in insurance. Dr. Wohlwend estimated his damage at $3000 of which $1000 was covered by insurance.
The office equipment at Griggs-Sullins Co. was valued at $1000. The books of the company and papers were valued at from $5000 to $7000 were destroyed. A small amount of insurance was carried.
Dr. I.C. Walker had probably the heaviest loss on the second floor of the building. He had the entire suite of rooms above the Cline-Vick Drug store having recently taken over the rooms vacated by Dr. Fowler who moved to the Marion State and Savings Bank.
Dr. Walker had probably the most complete set of equipment of any doctor in Marion including two x-ray machines. One of these outfits had just arrived this week and had just been installed in his office.
He states that the fixtures and equipment cost him approx. $15,000 but that it would cost nearly $30,000 to replace it now with the advance in costs. Dr. Walker carried $5000 in insurance.
Dr. Walker takes the fire very good naturedly saying that he guesses he lost ten thousand dollars. He said that he was asleep when someone knocked on his door and told him the place was on fire so he dressed in his best suit and started down the stairs. He said he had to feel his way down the stairs, through the smoke and just as he got to the foot of the stairs, the hose happened to turn that way and he took a bath. Dr. Walker says that explains why he wore a clean shirt, collar and new shoes that day. He saved nothing but the clothes on his back. Some of his equipment was saved. He had about $50 in cash in a metal safe which is said to have withstood the fire.
The John Alexander Store adjacent the drug store on the south was badly damaged by smoke. Mr. Alexander estimated his damage at $18,000. He carried insurance for that amount.
Joseph’s Store on the corner also suffered heavy damage from smoke and water. The water ran through into the basement, damaging a large stock of clothing kept there. Mr. Joseph estimated his damage at around $25,000. His stock was fairly well covered by insurance.
When it was feared the entire block would be destroyed, an attempt was made to carry out part of the goods in Joseph’s store and a small part of the stock was carried out but the danger became so great that Mr. Joseph refused to permit anyone to enter the building to try to save anything more. The secured goods were stored in the B.B. Tea Room.
The Cosgrove offices and the offices of the Marion and Eastern Rail Road in the building at the south end of the block were threatened by the fire during the morning and books and records were removed. Considerable smoke got into the rooms but the fire did not reach that part of the building.
The two buildings which were practically destroyed are valued at approximately $20,000 each. The one occupied by the drug store is owned by Mrs. Alice Cline and the one occupied by the Hub Clothing Co. is owned by J.A. Benson of Des Moines, Iowa.
The fire on the east side of the square Wednesday morning is the third fire which has caused heavy damage in the same block. The first was in 1898 when the entire block of frame buildings was destroyed. In 1903 a second fire occurred and again the entire block was burned. The second time the block burned the storeroom occupied by the Cline-Vick Drug store previous to the last one was occupied by the Cline Drug Store and Mr. Canton’s store was located in the room occupied by the Hub Clothing Co.
While water was still being played on the fire, the Cline-Vick Co. leased the Kerns building at the northwest corner of the square and prepared to reopen their store in the next few days. A telephone was installed Wed. and trucks sent to other stores of the company in surrounding cities to bring in supplies to restock the store here.
Dr. I.C. Walker announced on Wed. that he had leased seven rooms in the new Hughes building on W. Main Street where he will establish his offices. It will be few days before the rooms are complete but by the first of next week he expects to be installed. He will purchase new office equipment throughout.
Wed. morning following the fire, Dr. D.H. Harris and Dr. Curtis formed a partnership and will make their offices in Dr. Brown’s rooms in the Marion State and Savings Bank.
The Stone Decorating Co. located in the basement of the Joseph building and was damaged to the extent of several hundred dollars.
Thursday, April 10, 1924:
A fire, which started shortly before 2 am Thursday, in the Radio Shoppe in the basement under the Bainbridge Jewelry Store, completely wrecked the entire establishment, estimated damage $10,000. There was slight smoke damage to the Bainbridge store. The millinery department in the rear of the jewelry store had considerable smoke damage.
In the Radio Shoppe, the complete line of radio sets and equipment was destroyed together with the soda fountain and confectionery supplies and furnishings.
The intense heat of the fire caused the marble counter of the soda fountain to still be hot Thursday morning. The fire may have started from a cigarette dropped somewhere in the room and a stock of matches kept in the confectionery may have been responsible. However the flames originated in the rear of the room where the radio batteries were kept and it was thought probable that a spark from the batteries may have caused the fire. A gasoline lamp which was previously burning may also have been responsible.
The fire was discovered shortly after the place had been closed for the night. Mgr Arthur Boatright said Thursday that the loss of nearly $10,000 was only partly covered by insurance.
Tuesday, April 15, 1924:
A fire which was discovered in the beautiful store of Silver’s Inc., 114 N. Market, early Saturday pm and had it not been for the prompt action of the fire department, it is where the store building and also the Reid Hotel block which is the adjoining building and which also used part of the rooms on the second floor above the Silver’s Inc. Store would have been destroyed. The fire started in the rear of the store and investigations show that it originated from the wiring in the fitting room. This was one which had been built of beaver board and where it appears the wires were not sufficiently insulated.
The store was closed down at 6 pm and mgr M.A. Koplowitz had just gone to supper when the fire was discovered. The store room at the rear was filled with Easter goods; many of the boxes having arrived on Saturday were still unpacked. In the rear of the store were the stocks of hosiery, underwear and millinery. These were burned as were also many of the suits and dresses. The stock in the center and front of the store was all in cases but the water and smoke damage on this is heavy.
On Feb. 1 the Silver’s Inc. store celebrated its first anniversary. The corp. bought the store from C.I. Silver who established it 9 yrs before and who is still the owner of the building.
The books and papers were all saved and arrangements have been made so that those owing accounts can same at the Marion State and Savings. The damage to the building is heavy. The Reid Hotel rooms are all damaged by smoke so that it will be necessary to redecorate them in addition to the store room itself. This will be covered by insurance.
A hose at the Bradbury corner burst during the fire which gave a number of spectators a drenching.
Gas masks were used by the firemen in order to get inside the building to fight the flames.
August 11, 1924:
Home Oil Co. Service Station at corner of W. Main & Court Street partially destroyed by fire Saturday evening. All the glass windows were destroyed. Approximate damage $450.
Tuesday, September 16, 1924:
A small store owned by Arthur Stanley, 511 S. Court St. was visited by a small blaze about 10 o’clock Sunday evening that caused a heavy loss due to smoke and water.
The origin of the fire is not known but it is thought that to have caught from a box of matches in a cigar case that may have been ignited by mice. Mr. Stanley was in the store on Sunday and passed by the front of the building about an hour before the blaze was discovered. The fire burned a hole in the side wall and ceiling and had burst out of a window when the fire dept. arrived.
The fire was jumping out of the window toward Mr. Stanley’s house when the dept. arrived and by quick work they not only saved the house but the store building water and smoke, however caused damage which Mr. Stanley thinks will run up to $2,500 or $3,000. He had recently purchased a stock of goods and fixtures from another store and had these in the store at the time of the fire, making his loss heavier than normal and also accounted for his not being fully covered by insurance. Mr. Stanley estimated his actual loss above insurance at $1,000. Besides the store, Mr. Stanley operated a shoe repair shop on S. Market St.
September 22, 1924:
A warehouse between the Illinois Central and Iron Mountain tracks on N. Van Buren St. was burned to the ground in a very spectacular fire on Sat. night. The building and contents, which are a total loss, belonged to the Bracy Supply Co.
The origin of the fire is unknown. The fire dept. was called at 10 pm and fought the fire until nearly 2 am Sunday before it was sufficiently under control for them to leave. Charles Bracy, owner of the building, states that they had had a great deal of trouble with robbers breaking into the building and loafing there and it is his belief that the fire probably originated in that manner.
Fire Chief Swain said that when he arrived on the scene, he found the fire burning in the old office room, used as a storage room for coal buckets. The fire had burned up into the ceiling then. He laid a stream of hose from N. Market St. and entered the building but the hose brought poor pressure and he was not able to throw the water on the ceiling twenty feet or more above his head. The fire rapidly spread and was soon beyond control.
Mr. Bracy estimates the building and contents at $15,000 with almost $8,000 insurance. The building was originally built forty years ago as a tobacco warehouse and later was changed into a poultry warehouse. In recent years it was used for all kinds of storage. The main contents were coal buckets, carbide, hay and straw with many other things not as bulky. The carbide made it very difficult to fight the fire, as more water thrown on it, the hotter the blaze.
October 1, 1924:
A fire which started from causes which as yet have not been determined wrecked the second floor of the Silver Building at the corner of N. Market and W. Union at 11 o’clock Tuesday evening. The beautiful new Sternberg’s store which occupies the corner room on the main floor and which was to be formally opened at 9 o’clock Wed. morning was damaged by water and the grand opening has been delayed for a week or ten days.
The fire originated in or near the bath room of the vacant apartment on the second floor. The building is owned by C.I. Silver of University City, Missouri and had recently been remodeled. The keys had been left with two of his friends so they might show the rooms to any prospective tenants but neither had been in the apartment for several days and do not know whether it had been broken into or not.
Mr. Sternberg had finished arranging his big new stock of ladies ready to wear and millinery and had his show window illuminated early in the evening to show some of the features of the Wed. opening. This opening will probably be held in a week or ten days.
Wednesday, November 11, 1925:
The Swinney Store and Cleveland Store burns at 400 N. Market. The entire Burnett building was destroyed by fire. The building housed Cleveland Auto Sales and Swinney Market and eight families lived above.
Two railroad employees going to lunch at four o’clock Wednesday morning discovered a fire in the rear of the Swinney Grocery store at 400 N. Market St. which destroyed the entire Burnett building with an estimated damage of $117,250 before it could be extinguished with the assistance of the West Frankfort and Harrisburg fire departments. The combined force and equipment of local and visiting fire departments were necessary to prevent the fire spreading throughout the business section with an inestimable damage.
Fire Chief James Swain was at the scene of the fire shortly after the alarm and he sent harried calls to all surrounding cities asking for help. Johnston City and Herrin were unable to assist because of non-standard hydrant connections.
The Aikman Building adjacent to the Burnett building was threatened by the flames and was badly damaged by water and smoke. The stock of Sanders Shoe Store was carried out when the flames threatened to reach that business house. The fire spread from the Swinney market to the Cleveland Auto Sales Company and upward into the residence flats on the second floor where eight families lived.
It was necessary for rescuers to carry some of the frightened women and children out of the building. They escaped only with night clothing before the building fell in. The east wall of the Burnett Building fell into North Market Street covering the pavement with brick and stone. The south wall was left standing threatening the street and the Christian Church on the south. Both North Market and West Jefferson streets were closed to traffic by Fire Chief Swain.
The fire was checked before it could destroy the Aikman building but the total damage ran approximately $117,250 according to the estimate of its owners.
J.H. Burnett, President of the Marion State and Savings Bank owned the building occupied by the Swinney Grocery and the Cleveland Auto Sales Company, estimated at $50,000 loss. Mr. Burnett said at the time of the fire he carried only $16,000 insurance. The building is an old landmark of the city, formerly being occupied by the Marion Opera House, the first theatre in Marion.
C.A. Swinney of Swinney’s Grocery stated that he estimated his damage at $15,000. The stock of this building was estimated at $8,500 and Mr. Swinney stated he had $7,000 in old accounts on his books. He was unable to get into his store but stated he believed his account books were destroyed by the fire. He carried $6,500 insurance on his stock.
The Cleveland Auto Sales Company suffered a heavy loss losing $25,000 or more in the fire. They recently purchased a car load of new Cleveland Automobiles and had them partly unloaded in their show rooms when the fire came. At the time of the fire they had 17 automobiles in the building and seven of these cars were new. The Cleveland Auto Sales Company is owned by Wm. T. Courtney, T.E. Simpson, and H.H. Hudgens. Their stock was partially covered by insurance but the loss was heavy.
The auto machine shop at the rear of the room occupied by the Cleveland Auto Sales Company was operated by Elliott and Winters. And Elliott of this firm stated that their loss amounted to $1,000 and that they carried no insurance. $500 worth of new tools and machinery had just been installed.
The Illinois Southern Telephone Company lost their cable which ran through the alley in the rear of the building. This cut off service for a section of the city on Wednesday morning until a new cable could be installed.
On the second story of the Burnett building eight families resided in flats. Their household goods and personal belongings were a total loss as they were unable to save anything from the fire. Those who resided in flats in the Burnett building were: David Anderson, I. Brayden, Mrs. Tennie Reid, Ed Adams, Sam Sanders, Mrs. Florence Dougherty, Troy England and Mrs. Ledbetter. The loss of property in the flats was estimated at $6,000.
The damage to the Aikman building was estimated at $7,500. This building is located adjoining the Burnett building and the roof and side wall were greatly damaged. John F. Lee resided in the second story of the Aikman building and his household furniture was completely destroyed by the fire. The plaster walls of the building became wet and fell in making the damage by fire and water considerable.
The Lee Confectionary located in the first floor of the Aikman building was practically destroyed by water and smoke. Mr. Lee stated he estimated his damages to be in the neighborhood of $5,000.
The Fluck building adjoining the Aikman building on the north was slightly damaged by water. The roof of the building was damaged and the interior was slightly hurt by water. Mr. Fluck stated his store, located in the first floor of the building was not damaged but that his household goods were practically ruined.
The cause of the fire is thought to have been a defect in the flue in the basement near the furnace. When first discovered the flames were running up the south-west corner of the building but were enclosed in the brick to such an extent that it was practically impossible to put them out.
The assistance rendered by the visiting Fire Departments saved Marion many thousands of dollars as the entire block would have been destroyed. The work of the Harrisburg fire department, one of the first on the scene of action was particularly commendable. Fire Chief Wm Skaggs arrived from Harrisburg with his machine truck about 25 minutes after the fire department issued the call for help and started his hose on the Aikman building. They remained until 7 am.
A move is now under advisement by the Egyptian Fire Fighters Assoc. to standardize the fire equipment of Southern Illinois.
A crowd of people were standing on the sidewalk in front of the filling station on the opposite side of the street when the front of the building was seen to totter and collapse. The crowd pushed over one another in their haste to escape the flying bricks and some were caught, although several persons were struck on the legs by the hot bricks. Workmen began early Wednesday to wreck the rear and side walls of the building which were a menace to life and property.
The Christian Church, immediately south across the street was saved by streams of water played on the brick walls. The wind was fortunately in the other direction. None of the costly stained glass windows were damaged although one of the glass windows was cracked.
BURNETT BUILDING WAS SECOND THEATRE HERE
The burning of the Burnett building Tuesday night wiped out a structure known to the older residents of the city as the “Old Opera House” for until as late as 1916 it was remodeled on the second floor and made into residence flats.
E.E. Clark of the Silver King Café operated the old Opera House from 1907 to 1916 and was the first man to establish a regular performance of vaudeville and pictures in Marion. The house at that time was being operated by C.W. Hay and performances were given by road shows and stock companies. Mr. Clark put in a projection machine and moved to that building from the Roland Theatre which he had operated during the summer of 1907 when was a new house.
In 1915 Herman Whiteside and his brother-in-law named Kelley visited Mr. Clark at the theatre and asked his price for his lease and equipment. Mr. Clark, not expecting to sell, named his price and the men bought it. They operated it a short time and disposed of it to Harry Bracy who was at that time operating the Family Theatre. After running the Opera House a few months Mr. Bracy closed it and the house passed out of business as a theatre.
The Opera House was not the first theatre in the city as previous to its operation under the management of Mr. Hay there was a show house on the public square where the Ed Jeter Dry Goods Company is now located.
Wednesday, July 14, 1926:
Fire which swept the Hayton Garage on N. Market St. early Wednesday morning completely destroyed the garage building and nearly 50 automobiles stored there with an estimated damage of $100,000. Thirty of the cars burned were owned by patrons of the garage.
The fire was the second during the night in the same block. An unoccupied dwelling house owned by A.B. McLaren adjacent to the rear of the south wall of the garage on Madison Street burned about 10:30 Tuesday night.
The second fire which destroyed the garage may have been caused by the first fire, although both the Fire Chief James Swain and Maurice Hayton of the garage said Wed. morning they could not account for the second fire originating from the first.
Chief Swain said he was positive that the garage fire was not ignited by sparks from the burning dwelling. The roof of the garage was hit with electrical fire extinguisher used by the firemen after the first fire as a precaution against it catching.
The fire department got the alarm at 3:30 o’clock Wed. morning when Clayton Stewart, night watchman at the garage ran to the fire station on Union Street and called the firemen. Stewart said that he had been unable to get a phone connection in order to give the alarm. This was explained by the theory that the telephone wires which enter the building from the rear where the fire was first discovered may have been burned through by the time Stewart got to the phone after discovering the blaze. A call was immediately sent to the fire departments at Carbondale and Herrin. Thirty minutes after the call the Carbondale engine was at the scene of the fire. The Herrin fire department arrived a little later but did not connect with the plugs. Four streams of water were thrown on the fire but there was no chance to save the building or the contents.
Fire Chief Swain said that 35 minutes after he arrived at the fire the building was demolished. The heat from the building was terrific and the fire spread so rapidly from the rear of the building to the front, that efforts to move some of the cars from the glass fronted display rooms had to be abandoned. Explosions were frequent during the fire as the flames reached the gas tanks of the automobiles. The roof of the storage room fell in and the brick walls were partly crumbled by the heat.
Maurice Hayton, proprietor of the garage, estimated the total loss at $100,000. The building had been appraised at $26,000. Mr. Hayton had been working on the books at the garage late Tuesday night and had left the ledger with approximately $5,000 in open accounts lying on a desk. The ledger was recovered after the fire and although partly burned, it is believed most of the accounts are intact. Considerable checks and automobile collateral in the office safe were saved.
In contending that the fire did not start directly from the burning dwelling house adjacent, Fire Chief Swain said that it was possible that the heat from the first fire had so heated gasoline and oil and other contents of the Hayton Garage until a fire was started by spontaneous combustion. That the flames swept the entire building almost immediately was apparent when one of the proprietors of the creamery on Madison St. near the rear of the Hayton garage said that he had passed the garage about twenty minutes before the alarm was given and that he saw no sign of fire.
The Hayton Garage was the largest garage building in Marion and one of the largest in the state. It was 300 ft long and 100 ft wide covering the width of the block between N. Market and Madison Streets. The building was erected by Hosea Cagle in 1915 and was operated by him for several yrs as a garage. It was later leased by John Whiteside who ran a garage there until after Cagle’s death when the garage building was sold through court to the Wesley Hayton of Carterville and Maurice Hayton of Marion operating as the Hayton Motor Sales Co. The firm which came here with the Studebaker agency and first located in the old Goodall building had just recently taken over the Chrysler agency.
How the first fire in the unoccupied house which may have been the indirect cause of the second fire is a mystery. Chief Swain said that he had learned that tramps stopping in the rail yards had been sleeping in the house and may have been responsible for the burning of the building.
That other fires were not started by the sparks being carried by the wind to other parts of the city was a surprise. Pieces of wood several inches wide from the roof of the burning garage were found in the south part of town Wed. morning.
The work of the fire departments was responsible for the curbing of the flames in the one garage. The gasoline and oil filling station operated by Will Wohlwend just south of the garage was threatened by the flames as was the garage of the Automotive Sales Co. adjacent to the north.
November 16, 1926:
Two fires in the city Monday night caused considerable loss, one of them damaging a residence and second burning the office at the Family Theatre.
The theatre fire evidently caused by defective wiring originated in the office of the theatre just north of the entrance. The blaze was kept in front of the building where windows were broken out and the office gutted by the flames. The theatre is dark except on Friday and Saturday night and there has been no show there since the previous Sat. night.
The Family Theatre is located in the Harry Bracy building and the second floor was until a few months ago occupied by a rooming house. At the time of the fire, however, the second floor was vacant. The fire reached that floor at only one point and there the firemen stopped it before any considerable damage was done.
The building in which the fire was extinguished is separated by the building adjacent on the north housing the Bryan Store and a rooming house upstairs only by a nine inch wall, and a spreading of the flames from the theatre would have meant a big loss in that block.
January 21, 1927:
A fire which had caught in rubbish and boxes in the basement of the C.W. Hay building on the north side of the square was discovered by the police at 11:40 pm who at once called the fire dept. The fire was extinguished with little damage except to the furnace and by smoke which seeped through the floor to the store room. However smoke damage will be heavy as the store is the one occupied by Young’s Style Shoppe with its big stock of ladies ready-to-wear and Hay’s Shoe Store.
A.D. Young was not able to estimate the damage on his stock Friday morning nor could C.W. Hay. The building belongs to Mr. Hay. On Friday morning the fire dept. pumped out the basement which a foot deep with water, the sewer outlet having become stuck up with debris.
Saturday, March 19, 1927:
An exploding stove in the office at Thurmond-Hay Oldsmobile sales room at 7:30 Saturday morning caused a fire that threatened the destruction of the entire garage before it was brought under control with damage to only four cars.
The stove exploded shortly after R.H. Sizemore, garage workman had opened the garage and had built a fire in the stove. Sizemore had put some coal in the stove and was in the rear workroom of the garage when he discovered that the sales room was filled with smoke. He was unable, because of the smoke and fumes to get into the sales room but he reached a telephone and called the fire dept.
When the firemen arrived, the heavy black smoke from the fire in the rear of the room was belching forth from the front of the building. The intense heat had broken the glass front of the building, firemen had to crawl on the floor to advance the hose and avoid the thick blankets of smoke that barred their entrance.
The blaze was brought under control in a few minutes but the smoke continued to emerge from the building for some time.
The paint of two new cars and two others nearby were ruined by the smoke and the glass tops of all four cars will have to be replaced. Some of the tires were ruined. A number of used cars stored in the building were slightly damaged. The fire caught the overhead timbers supporting the roof of the sales room and these timbers as well as the roof boards were charred somewhat, although the fire did not break through the roof.
Saturday, April 2, 1927:
What will probably be the worst automobile garage fire in the history of these disasters which have fell upon the automobile industry in this city during the past few years left the two adjacent two-story buildings of the Davis Bros. Ford Motor Sales Co. on N. Market St. in ruins Sat. morning. Originating about 6:30 o’clock the blaze was finally extinguished shortly before noon after practically the entire structure had been destroyed and the work of two complete fire depts. had barely prevented the destruction of the buildings in at least two other blocks to the east and south.
A high wind was blowing when the fire was first discovered and that the smoke from the burning building spread like a heavy cloud over the east part of the city for many blocks while the gale carried the sparks of fire across the street and caught at least one of the frame structures on the east side of the street.
With Marion and Murphysboro fire departments fighting the blaze, garden hose and bucket brigades fought for the preservation of the frame dwellings, store and garage buildings in the surrounding blocks while residents in the houses surrounding loaded their household goods on trucks and moved them out of danger.
Only one dwelling house was destroyed. That was the frame bungalow west of the garage on White St, the former home of the late Fred Davis, founder of the Davis Bros. Sales Co. This building located adjacent to the garage building was burned to the ground. A family by the name of McArthur occupied the house and saved all of their household goods except a cook stove.
An estimate of the loss is impossible and officials of the company refused Saturday to make any attempt at a declaration of the damage.
The two garage buildings were valued at $150,000 and that composed the greatest amount of the loss. While both floors of the two buildings were well filled with automobiles, most of the machines were saved. Practically everything on the first floor was moved out although the cars upstairs burned. The loss consisted mainly of used cars and cars which had been stored for the winter. Included among them were several stolen cars recovered by Police and county authorities and stored in the garage for safe keeping.
The company lost few new cars. All of the Lincoln cars in stock were moved out. Two new Ford sedans and three trucks which had not been assembled made up most of the loss on new cars according to Milan Motsinger, manager. All of the loss and the loss of used cars held by the company was covered by insurance. Seventy-five thousand dollars insurance was carried on the building.
It was impossible Saturday for the sales company officials to learn just who of their patrons lost cars, due to the confusion that prevailed while the machines were being moved out of the building but it was believed that few privately owned cars were lost.
The fire originated on the second floor of the north building in the northwest corner of the large storage room. It was first located by Vick Willard, employee of the garage. The smoke of the fire was first seen coming down the elevator shaft by Neilson, a night mechanic and Willard who was just coming into the garage to begin work for the day sprang on the elevator and went to the second floor. When he reached the upstairs storeroom he could see through the smoke to discern that a truck near the rear of the room was on fire. Attempting to fight the blaze with a hand fire extinguisher, he called to Neilson who sent in an alarm to the fire department.
The location of the fire and the fact that a dairy truck was the first car seen burning offered grounds for the theory that the fire originated from a grounded storage battery on the truck. That is the only theory advanced as to the origin of the fire. Ed Ashby, the other of the two night men on duty, had been on the second floor about 6:20 o’clock placing the dairy company’s truck in storage, and he reported at that time that everything was all right in the storage room.
When the Marion fire dept. under the direction of Fire Chief James Swain arrived the fire engine was connected to a plug near the Presbyterian Church and two streams of water were thrown on the building. As the firemen got into action it appeared certain that the south building could be saved. The two buildings were separated only by a fire wall equipped with steel fire doors, but the firemen were in action early enough that it at first appeared that the blaze could be stopped at the firewall and confined to the first building.
While the water was being played on the roof and on the north wall of the building the employees of the Davis Co. and literally hundreds of volunteers moved the machines and automobile equipment out of the building. Some of the cars were driven out under their own power while many were pushed out by eager hands of the volunteers. One car whose owner had left it locked was literally lifted out of the building by the strength of the workers who saved it in spite of the owner’s mistake in leaving it locked.
While the local firemen were attempting to hold the fire in check until help could arrive from outside the Carbondale fire chief John Cooney arrived with the news that the fire engine could not come as a bearing had been burned out and it was laid up for repairs. He had however phoned the Murphysboro fire department and they were on the way.
At the height of the fire, sparks ignited the roof of the Wanless lunch room and the roof of the Automotive Sales Co. across N. Market St. and the frame dwelling on the west side of the Davis building and a coal shed were burned.
As the south wall of the garage fell, and it became apparent that all of the garage was doomed, the Burkitt Overland Co. occupying the building across West White Street on the south began moving out. All of the autos and the office equipment were hurried away to places of safety and household goods owned by the families of Mr. & Mrs. Bert Grace and Mrs. Daisy Bundren upstairs were loaded on truck and moved away. On the east side of the street the homes were vacated also and the house hold goods were carried away as it appeared inevitable that some of those buildings would be destroyed.
By persistent use of buckets of water and the use of a chemical extinguisher on the Marion fire truck the roof of the Wanless and Automotive Sales Co. were saved.
The south building of the Davis garage was built in 1920 and the north building was added later after the first building was completed. It was said to be the finest garage building in Southern Illinois.
One of the first cars rescued from the burning garage was the Ford originally purchased by the late Capt. Brice Holland nearly 20 years ago. The car had been traded back to the Ford agency by Capt. Holland before his death and was on display at the Davis building.
Lachlan McArthur planned to leave Marion on Sunday morning and to sail on Tuesday morning for Scotland for a two months vacation there. He also expected to visit his mother, who is now in poor health, but the fire on Sat. morning spoiled his plans. The house where he lived and which his family was to occupy while he was away, located back of the Davis Bros. garage at 104 W. White was burned. Mr. McArthur now plans to go to Chicago for the summer. Willing hands saved all of his furniture except the cook stove.
Tuesday, April 12, 1927:
Fire starting, it is believed in the motor of the pipe organ, left the Christian church a mass of ruins on Monday night. The building estimated at $75,000 is a total loss although the walls are still standing and are believed by contractors to be of sufficient strength to be re-used without danger.
Mrs. William Abney, who lives in the apartment over the Bryan Store, adjoining the church heard a roaring sound and saw the fire in the church about 10 pm. Having no phone she called to Mrs. J.J. Grady who lived across the hall and Mrs. Grady’s mother, who was spending the night with her, called the fire dept. Mrs. Carter, in her excitement reported the fire to be in the Methodist Church.
The fire department went to the Methodist church on W. Main St and finding no fire there went to the Methodist Church south on S. Market and then had to return to the Christian Church on N. Market.
According to Fire Chief Swain the stairway between the basement and the church auditorium was entirely burned away when they arrived and the fire was spreading with great rapidity at that time. The building was a mass of dense smoke. The fire was discovered about 10 pm and although late in arriving on the scene, the Marion fire department attempted to hold the blaze inside the building. About 11:30 the blaze broke through the roof and just about midnight the Benton fire department arrived on the scene with siren blowing and bell ringing.
The Marion department had its engine attached to the fire plug at the Otis Williams Furniture store corner and the Benton dept attached to the plug in the middle of the block south of there. Marion had its hose inside the building and a stream of working from the roof of the adjoining building when Benton arrived and soon there were two streams of water being thrown into the fire from the roof of the adjoining building.
An extension ladder was hoisted by means of a rope to the top of the Bryan building and then spanned across to the roof of the church. Two fire fighters crawled across to the church building with a lead of hose but the roof became so hot that they were forced to abandon the effort and returned over the narrow ladder.
The movement of the heavy hoses across the cornice of the Bryan store building loosened a great many bricks which tumbled to the sidewalk but without injury to anyone.
For nearly two hours the fire burned fiercely on the south side of the building and finally the occupants of the apartments on that side moved out into the street. About 12:30 the fire seemingly took a fresh start on the north side and then men on the inside of the building were called out and efforts made to throw water through the art windows on that side. Men and boys with bricks attempted to break the windows and finally broke them sufficiently to give the water a chance to reach the blaze.
The fire was fought in darkness a goodly portion of the evening the street lights being off and movement of the hose and ladders was made possible with pocket flashlights and the powerful search lights of the Marion and Benton fire trucks. When Otis Williams arrived however, he turned on his large electric sign on the front of the building and that aided very materially in combating the blaze.
The Herrin fire dept was called but owing to a big fire there could not respond and the Benton dept made the courtesy visit, made possible by the co-operation of the fire departments of Egypt. Harry Crisp of the Marion Produce and Hatchery Co. was in his automobile at Benton ready to start home when the Benton dept. passed him and he heard them say they were going to Marion so he followed them home. The 19 mile trip on the state highway was made in 27 minutes and a few minutes later the Benton dept. was throwing water on the fire.
Rev. H.O. Wilson, pastor of the First Christian Church, when he arrived at the fire, tried to enter his study but found the smoke so heavy that that was impossible. Mr. Gent, the church janitor, was in the basement of the church and inspected the furnace after the fire started and said that the fire did not start there which gives credence to the opinion that a short circuit in the organ motor must have been the cause of the blaze.
The Camp Fire Girls cottage, in the rear of the church was emptied of its contents for fear the building might catch on fire from falling sparks. The damage to their building was a broken window which according to Mrs. Will Burkhart was broken by Mr. Burkhart in the excitement of the fire. Burkhart had the key in his pocket, his wife says, but the broken window was the quicker entry.
It appeared when the fire was burning the strongest at midnight on the south side, that the entire church study was a blaze but an inspection of the ruins on Tuesday morning revealed the fact that the study was not burned at all. The study was seriously damaged by water and smoke as was the large library of Rev. Wilson accumulated during his years in the ministry but none of the property in that room was lost.
Members of the West Frankfort fire dept accompanied the Benton fire engine and assisted in fighting the fire.
Scarred and seared by the ravages of the fire demon, N. Market Street was but a pitiful wreck of its former self Tuesday morning as it exhibited the added wreckage of the beautiful Christian Church gaping and gutted by fire and ruined by the water that dripped from the sagging remains.
With the ruins of the Barnett flats only partly concealed by a circus poster across the street to the north and the Davis garage building leveled almost to the ground two blocks away, that street presented every evidence that the fire demon had maimed the beauty of the street. The Hayton garage building recently rebuilt and the Family theatre recently repaired represented two more of the five fires that have got in their work on this principal street recently.
Saturday, May 14, 1927:
Fire which threatened the destruction of the Norman building in the rear of the Family Theatre Friday night was blocked by firemen who braved the intense smoke and climbed through a sky light to fight the blaze in the attic of the building.
The building owned by J.M. and A.T. Norman of the Heyde Hardware Co. housed the W.T. Courtney Transfer Co. and a store room and candy shop of the Marion Candy Kitchen. The lodge hall was not damaged by the fire, smoke or water, and the damage done to the contents of the other rooms was negligible. Damage done to the building itself is expected to run between $200 and $300.
October 6, 1927:
Fire, which broke out in the tire and battery department of the S.J. Chapman auto accessory stores in the Holland building on North Street about 5:30 o’clock Wed. afternoon was brought under control after a few minutes of strenuous fighting under difficulties by the fire department and employees of the company. S.J. Chapman said Thursday that he had made no estimate of the damage and that it will be impossible to estimate the loss until the work of cleaning and repairing is completed. The loss to the building amounted to practically nothing.
The fire originated from a tire vulcanizer and was caused by some rubber cement getting into the hot molds and becoming ignited. Nine employees of the company went to work immediately fighting the blaze with fire extinguishers while an alarm was sent to the fire dept. Smoke originating from the blaze among the tires and storage batteries in the rear of the store with gaseous smoke that made fighting the fire very difficult. Mr. Chapman was painfully burned about the face and arms while working with the fire extinguishers at the seat of the blaze. His employees suffered considerably from the intense heat and from the smoke.
The fire dept. arrived promptly after a short run and put a line inside the building where the blaze was smothered with water from the engine pumper. Firemen, Chapman employees and a few volunteers fought inside the building until the last sign of fires was extinguished and the dense smoke began to clear away. At one time a line of hose burst inside the building and the fighting was halted until another line could be laid.
The dense smoke pouring out of the building was carried to other parts of the Holland building and to buildings adjacent. There was some damage to decorations and furnishings in the second floor rooms but the fire did not get through there. The concrete floor of the lower building and the metal ceiling probably assisted in curbing the loss.
While the loss could not be estimated hurriedly because of the character of much of the stock that must be examined carefully to determine if it is damaged, the company did not suspend business pending an adjustment of the loss. An adjuster for the three insurance companies carrying the insurance witnessed the fire and the splendid work of combating it and after a conference with the agents for the companies, Mr. Chapman was authorized to remain open for business and submit the account of his loss as soon as possible. This was one of the quickest adjustments of a fire loss ever made here.
While electric wire and fixtures were somewhat damaged, new wiring was being installed early Thursday and the company was able to care for all departments of its regular business in spite of the fire on Wednesday.
January 2, 1928:
Fire originating in the vicinity of the large furnace used to heat the big tabernacle, damaged the Marion Presbyterian Church Sunday night and will prevent usage of their building for some time to come.
While the outside walls are standing, the inside is badly damaged and a portion of the roof is yet standing, the inside is badly damaged by fire, smoke and water and it was estimated that the damage would probably exceed $7,000 with approximately $5,000 insurance on the building and part of the contents.
The church has been using the former gymnasium building as a tabernacle since the demolition of their former church building, pending clearance of church indebtedness and contemplated the erection of a new building as soon as funds would permit.
The building was heated by an immense furnace in the southwest corner of the building and a large stove in the northwest corner. At the time Rev. H. O. Stevens left the building Sunday night after evening Endeavor and church services, the fire in the stove was out and the furnace fire, while still burning was sufficiently burned out that it seemed safe.
About eleven o’clock neighbors were aroused with the sound of burning wood and looking out saw the flames burst out the rear corner near the furnace and falling sparks set fire to grass in the vicinity of the building.
The Marion fire department was called and the Johnston City department was also notified. The Marion with Ray Robinson acting as chief made a quick run and despite the near zero weather soon had a stream of water on the blaze and made quick work extinguishing the blaze. The Johnston City department arrived after the fire was out and had the ill luck of freezing on their way down.
At the time the call was made to the Johnston City department it looked as though not only that the entire tabernacle would be destroyed, but that adjacent property would also be in danger. The cold night made fire fighting much more difficult than normal and the church officers were loud in their praise of the work done by the Marion department and the loyalty of the Johnston City department in coming to their aid.
The flames inside the building were so intense at one time that the walls and fixtures at the east end of the building are charred and damaged, although the majority of the fire was at the opposite end.
Two pianos were lost in the fire and orchestra music was also destroyed as well as church song books. Mrs. H.O. Stevens, wife of the pastor attempted to rescue the orchestra music but was virtually overcome by the smoke but was alright Monday.
Church pews were partially destroyed and the fine hardwood floor built for basketball purposes was damaged seriously by the water thrown on the blaze.
Friday, February 1, 1929:
The grocery store of Hester Davis at 1005 East Main Street was totally destroyed by fire at 4 am Friday. Firemen who arrived at the scene of the fire during the cold of an eight above zero temperature were handicapped in fighting the blaze by a delay of nearly ten minutes in opening a frozen and rusted fire plug. In the meantime the fire which was rapidly enveloping the building when the fire department arrived reached a point at which the firemen could not get it under control before it had almost completed its work of destruction. Because of the early hour and severe temperature only a few persons were attracted by the fire and the firemen had no assistance.
The fire according to a report given the firemen, started in the attic of the store. The first fire it was reported was early in the night, and that blaze was extinguished by boys in the employ of Mr. Davis who remained in the store the remainder of the night to guard against a recurrence of the blaze. Early Friday morning, it was said, the boys discovered the fire had broken out again, when they discovered they could not cope with the flames, they said, they called Mr. Davis who lives next door, and when he determined the fire was too serious for them to fight alone the fire department was summoned.
The fire destroyed the frame building, leaving only the hull of the walls standing, and burned or ruined the stock of groceries and meats and the store and meat market equipment including meat cutter, coffee grinder and refrigerator.
Returning to the fire station at 7:30 the firemen were called immediately to the home of A. Ozment, 1407 N. Garfield. A small blaze on the roof caused by a flying spark was extinguished before the firemen arrived but the ride through the cold in their wet clothing added to the discomfiture suffered in the early fire.
May 14, 1929:
The Marion City Commission Monday night voted unanimously to purchase two smoke helmets and a powerful searchlight for the use of firemen in entering buildings to locate the source of fire. Mayor Thurmond instructed Comm. Garrison to investigate the cost and types of smoke helmets and secure to proper kind of for fighting fires similar to the one in the Jeter Store a week ago.
Comm. Garrison reported that the city electrician had informed him the fire dept. needed re-wiring with heavier wire to carry the electricity used at the station house. Mr. Garrison was also instructed to investigate his own report that the roof at the fire station was leaking and determine what repairs were necessary.
June 5, 1929:
At the city council meeting, Fire Chief Harry Cash recommended the type of flood light he needs for fire work in smoke filled buildings. He said it would cost about $110. He also said he had decided that a cheap mask with goggles was as good a fire mask as was practical.
June 10, 1929:
Fire which broke out in the basement of the Geo. K. Pride building on West Main shortly after 1 am Monday, left the Pride Studio and Gift Shop practically ruined, put the cables of the Western Union next door out of commission and filled the upstairs apartments with smoke driving the occupants from their beds.
Damage to the photo studio and gift shop was estimated by Mr. Pride at $3000 to $4000 and although no estimate of the damage to the building could be made off hand it will probably amount to as the damage to the stock and fixtures. Both building and contents were protected by insurance.
Firemen arriving on the scene found a rear window raised and the screen torn away while inside the building two cash registers had been rifled of $15 change. This circumstance gave rise to the theory held by Mr. Pride that the building was set afire by a burglar.
The fire originated in the basement under the north part. Discovered by Sheriff Oren Coleman and he fired a gun into the air. The shots aroused the occupants of the apartments who hurried down the front stairway. The hall outside their rooms was so filled with smoke swelling up from the stairway that they could not see the stairs were forced down a back stairway. Mr. and Mrs. Pride, Mr. and Mrs. Ruel Bracy and Miss Lois Motsinger occupied the rooms upstairs.
To prevent the smoke which was inside the rooms on the ground floor from breaking the plate glass window of the gift shop, a window in the rear of the studio was broken. The cutting strength of the smoke and gas was intensified by the burning of photo film in the film storage room. Gas caused by the burning of the film made the smoke in that part of the building unbearable. When the dark room of the photo studio and the film began to blaze the fire threatened for the first time to get beyond the control of the firemen. A call was sent for the Johnston City Dept.
With the fire burning up from the basement and the photo dark room in the center of the building, the firemen fought the blaze from above as well as from the ground by taking the hose up the front stairway through the smoke. There in the hallway the fire was stopped. At a single place in the middle of the hallway did the fire break through. Water got into several of the rooms but several of them escaped damage from water or smoke. One hole was burned through into the Western Union office but nothing was damaged by fire inside the office itself.
Mr. Pride announced he would be looking for a temporary location at once. He was loud in his praise Monday of the work done by the firemen and volunteers. Inhaling the smoke and gas from the studio was like swallowing knife blades, Mr. Pride said.
June 26, 1929:
The city commissioners on Tuesday ordered a new portable asphalt cooker and spray for use in patching pavement.
The street department has recently been using a borrowed apparatus for melting pavement patching material.
In addition to the portable cooking tank and firebox, the new apparatus will be equipped with a hose and spray for applying the tar asphalt wherever needed to repair sunken or broken pavement.
The complete apparatus will cost about $250.
July 9, 1929:
At the city council meeting on Monday evening, Comm. Garrison reported from his department that the bedroom and bathroom at the fire dept. had been papered. Comm. Frick presented a letter for the records of the council from Leroy A. Goddard of Chicago in which he notified Comm. Frick of the establishment of a trust fund for the maintenance of the Goddard Chapel which was given the city by Mr. and Mrs. Goddard several yrs ago.
October 9, 1929:
The Marion Merchants Association unanimously endorsed a thorough fire inspection as a means to maintain the low fire loss record in this city.
The cost of an inspection will be small to the city and it will not only result in cleaning out rubbish which is piled in basements and store rooms but will be the means of making Fire Chief Cash familiar with the arrangement of buildings so that the fire department will know how to work in them in case of a fire call.
October 29, 1929:
At the city council meeting, the mayor asked Comm. Garrison of the fire and police departments if he thought it necessary to have an extra man at the fire dept. while the chief was away on inspection duty. Mr. Garrison said he thought it was dangerous to leave the department with only one man on the job. Comm. Blackburn said he did not think the Chief would get any farther away from the department on his inspection rounds than he would attending the firemen’s association meetings.
Blackburn said he thought the fire chief ought to familiarize himself with the interior of all the business buildings Comm. Frick suggested that inspection include grocery stores in the residential districts as well as downtown. The Fire Chief asked the council to purchase some small hose to be used in residence fires where a line of hose can be divided effectively with a savings in time and water. No action was taken.
March 17, 1930:
Fire discovered at 6:20 am Monday morning did damage estimated at over $5000 to the Masonic building at the corner of S. Market and Public Square.
The fire originated in the paraphernalia room on the third floor and is believed to have been caused by defective wiring. The blaze was reported almost simultaneously to fire dept. by two different persons and the firemen with a short time had it under control. The blaze was confined to the third floor but the rest of the building was damaged considerably by smoke and water.
Water which soaked through the floor damaged the plastering on the second and first floors. On the ground floor the Marion Electric Bakery was a heavy loss, due mostly to water which rendered the use of the baking ovens impossible and damaged the stock of flour and sugar stored there. The bakery machinery was also damaged.
Decorators had been working three days redecorating the interior of the rooms occupied by the bakery and all of their work was wiped out by the effects of the fire.
The bakery was still supplying the customers Monday with bread baked at the Marion Bakery Co.’s new plant. Doughs which were in the ovens at the time of the fire were lost. The loss to the bakery is covered by insurance it was said Monday. Insurance of $10,000 was carried on the building by the Masons.
Smoke was the principal handicap of the firemen who answered the alarm and it was several minutes before the source of the volume of smoke was discovered. G.W. Bayless, photographer, who occupies rooms on the second floor of the building, was in the building when the firemen arrived. He escaped down a ladder placed to his window by one of the firemen. Johnston City firemen were called and assisted with the fire. The fire destroyed most of the regalia used by the different Masonic orders although that of the Eastern Star is believed to have escaped with less damage that the others. The building was used by the Royal and Selected Masters, Royal Arch Masons, Order of Eastern Star and Fellowship Lodge 89, I.O.O.F. Lodge 1036 also met in the building until recently when it moved to the I.O.O.F building on W. Main St.
The question of whether to repair the building or to wreck it and build a new one confronted the Masons after the fire. The burning of the third floor greatly weakened the building, it is known, although the exact extent of such damage has not been determined.
June 10, 1930:
A fire at ten o’clock Tuesday morning in the Masonic building at the head of S. Market St. on the public square threatened to be a re-occurrence of the fire which badly damaged the building a few months ago but was extinguished with much additional loss.
The fire originated among a pile of papers in a closet on the second floor of the building. Smoke from the closet filled the second floor and spread to the third floor and poured out of the open windows of both stories.
Firemen entered the building with a small hose from the booster pump on the fire truck and used as little water as possible in order to prevent water damage to the bakery on the first floor of the building. After several minutes fighting of the flames the fire was extinguished, but smoke continued to pour out of the building for a considerable time afterwards.
The building at the time of the fire Tuesday had not been repaired since the previous fire which wrecked the third floor interior. The latest fire burned the walls of the closet where the fire originated and burned through the lathing of the plaster to the third floor above the closet.
August 4, 1930:
Fire, believed to have started from defective wiring, started a blaze in the New European Hotel on W. Main Street Sunday evening which destroyed the hotel, Cole and Sons Garage, threatened to destroy the Hughes building and the K.P.I.O.O.F. buildings and resulted in the death of Lester Madden, 21 of Chicago.
The loss to the building and contents was only partially covered by insurance. The building was owned by Cole and Sons and I.C. Swan and was valued at $45,000. Conservative estimates Monday morning placed the total loss at approximately $90,000 with nearly $50,000 insurance.
The fire, the fourth of a series of four on Sunday, was discovered by persons passing the building and according to the Marion Fire Dept. was breaking through the roof when they arrived. From all indications the blaze started between the ceiling of the hotel and the roof of the building near Room 7. First reports said that the blaze started from the explosion of a gas water heater which they had trouble with some time ago. The heater however, was in Room 8 and was not turned on Sunday evening.
The blaze, starting in the rear of the building soon ate its way to the front and downward at the same time, and before it was brought under control had destroyed all of the contents, except office fixtures, records and new cars in the Cole and Sons part of the building.
After the roof caved in, a stream of hose was taken on top of the Hughes building to throw the water down into the building. As the wind was from the south, it made the handling of hose difficult and volunteer firemen were holding their hands in front of the stream to keep their clothing wet and prevent the blaze from blistering them.
One of these volunteers, Lester Madden of Chicago, evidently not realizing the force of the stream of water, stepped in front of the full stream and was knocked from the building, falling to the sidewalk. His neck and both arms were broken in the fall and he was rushed immediately to Herrin Hosp. where he died ten minutes after arrival.
The New European Hotel was owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. I.C. Swan and had 35 rooms including four apartments from which nothing was saved, except a bird cage belonging to Mrs. Grace Holland and five paintings belonging to Mr. Swan.
Mr. Swan had been interested in fine paintings and had expended $1,800 for some valuable pieces. He had been visiting in the country and was returning home when he saw the building on fire. Despite warnings of the fire department that he should not enter the building, he dashed up the stairway when the blaze was lapping up a desk six feet from the head of the stairway. He kicked in the door of their apartment and rescued five of the most valuable paintings.
Monday morning Cole and Sons were open for business at the Texaco filling station but later in the day opened for business in their own building, just south of the destroyed building that was previously used for garage work and storage.
During the fire, with superhuman effort, three men moved the large steel safe from the burning building leaving it on the street but Monday morning six men were unable to move it to their new location. Big metal desks were handled by two men during the fire but it required four men to handle them on Monday.
Officers and members of the Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellow lodges kept on duty throughout the night and helped save their building not only from the fire but from water damage. The electric lights were turned off during the fire and they had to work in the dark except for light furnished by the burning building. Some of the men mopped up surplus water as other extinguished blazing window frames.
Pulley Bros. grocery in the lodge building suffered considerably from water damage. The ten inch brick wall on the west side of their storeroom, was so hot at times it would almost burn your hand. Their damage, which will amount to several hundred dollars was covered by insurance.
The Marion Recreation Club suffered some loss from water and from smoke but was not seriously damaged. None of their pool or billiard tables were damaged. They carried no insurance.
E.W. Nix who operates a two chair barber shop in the basement of the building moved his chairs when the fire became threatening but he suffered no loss until the east wall of the Cole building was pulled down and threw brick into his shop.
The Hughes building for E.B. Jackson is the receiver will probably have to be re-roofed and will require nearly a thousand dollars worth of plate glass in the front of the building. The window frames will have to be replaced and some shades and screens will have to be replaced. Mrs. Mae Hogan has the upper floor leased.
A large tree in front of the Joab Gray property, just west of the Hughes building helped save that frame structure where Mr. and Mrs. Howard Moake as well as the Grays live. Their building was on fire in six different places at one time and it was with considerable difficulty that the building was saved at all. Howard Moake gives credit for saving their building to Arthur Kays, a Herrin mail carrier.
The Garrison Tire Co. in the Hughes building was in constant danger, throughout the entire fire but suffered a very slight loss except to the front and window display. There was no damage to stock as all of the tires had been moved to the rear of the building out of all danger from fire and heat.
The Shell, Texaco and Standard Oil stations, which were in close proximity to the blaze caused undue fear in the minds of many. All of these companies have their gasoline tanks buried deep in the ground with valves that seal from heat and it is claimed that you could burn a building over the top of such a tank without the gasoline becoming ignited. The stations were closed when the fire started.
Luther Horsley, who was fighting the fire on top of the Cole building had a narrow escape from death. When it became evident that the roof was going to fall in, everyone ran for the ladder but Horsley was the last one to the wall and he jumped into the tree at the Standard Old Filling station just as the roof went down into the seething cauldron.
Rev. Clyde Bailey of the Assembly of God, who was conducting a revival on West College Street gave up the evening service as soon as the fire started and lowered the tent to the ground to prevent sparks damaging the canvas should the wind change.
August 11, 1930:
Fire discovered in the Shaw Furniture store, just off the northwest corner of the public square at 12:40 am Sunday morning destroyed half of the $12,000 stock and damaged the rest of it to the extent of almost a total loss.
The fire was discovered by Clarence Thompson as smoke was pouring from the windows on the second floor. The fire dept. with a few minutes had arrived and had two streams of water pouring into the second story windows. The blaze apparently started near the ceiling and burned upward through the roof in three places. All of the furniture displayed on the second floor was charred from the fire. It included bedroom suites, cedar chests, tables and other heavy pieces of wood furniture which almost completely filled the show room which occupied the entire second floor.
The fire dept. kept the flames confined within the one building without calling for assistance. Although the fire did not reach the second floor of the furniture store all of the furniture in the main show room was water soaked and damaged by smoke. On that floor were displayed the stock of living room suites and overstuffed furniture, floor lamps, desks, chairs, silk pillows and many upholstered pieces which were ruined by the water that poured from the floor above.
Raymond Shaw, proprietor of the store, was out of town at the time of the fire having gone to Chicago Saturday evening to visit over Sunday. He was advised Sunday of the fire by telegraph by his brother-in-law Dr. Miles Baker and returned to Marion Monday morning. He said he was unable to estimate the loss, which he said was covered mostly by insurance. The store will remain closed pending adjustment of the loss by insurance adjusters.
The fire is believed to have originated from defective wiring. It appears to have started where electric wiring of the light circuit was run across the ceiling.
December 16, 1930:
The old question of Sunday shows arose again in the council chambers of the city commissioners Monday evening when W.B. Roberts, secretary of the Marion Trades Council asked the councilmen to legalize Sunday shows as charity benefits during the present period of unemployment.
It was represented to the councilmen that between $100 and $150 could be raised each week through charity benefit shows on Sunday. Roberts specified that no Sunday shows would conflict with church services.
Issue was taken with Roberts by Rev. Arthur Doerr, pastor of the Third Baptist church who pleaded with the commissioners not to entertain any motion which might result in official sanction for shows on Sunday.
The commissioners laid over the proposition until next Monday when it is expected that it will be threshed out at considerable length.
In the meantime tickets are being sold at fifty cents each for the firemen’s benefit show to be given at the Fox-Orpheum theatre Sunday afternoon. The picture “Fourth Alarm” is to be shown under the auspices of the Marion Fire Dept. which is to receive half the proceeds. Firemen as well as other city employees have been working without months without pay.
The benefit show is not original here as it is being used in numerous other Illinois towns as a means of raising money for relief. “The Fourth Alarm” is to be shown on a Sunday at Herrin as a benefit for Herrin firemen.
March 3, 1931:
Fire discovered at 9:45 pm in the basement of the Chapman-Bruce Auto Supply Co. building on N. Market Street gutted the basement and ground floors of the building and broke through into the residence apartments on the second floor before it was finally brought under control about midnight. S.J. Chapman said Tuesday morning it would be impossible to estimate the loss which was but partially covered by insurance.
Some of the occupants of the apartments upstairs escaped from the building by running down a smoke filled stairway to the street. Led by Arthur Foran, Misses Pauline and Lola Parkhill and Violet Trovillion joined hands and ran down the steps through the smoke when the only other means of escape was blocked by flames.
Occupants of the apartments upstairs included Mr. and Mrs. S.J. Chapman, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Clayton and Miss Helen Downing who were away from home.
Arlie Ing, assistant fire chief discovered the blaze from a window of the fire station a hundred yards from the rear of the Chapman building. At that time, Ing said the building looked as if the whole interior was in flames. As soon as the fire pumper was hooked up it was seen that outside help would be needed and the Herrin fire department was called. Shortly afterwards a call was sent out for the department at Carbondale. Both departments sent pumpers here to help fight the blaze.
Considerable difficulty was experienced in fighting the blaze because of the intensity of the smoke which belched from the basement. The difficulty was increased when the floor of the first story began burning. Firemen were repeatedly forced back from the flames by the intensity of the heat and the dense smoke.
A fire appeared to burn more in the center of the building and it was there that the blaze first broke through the floor from the basement. Most of the floor fell into the basement as the supporting timbers were burned away.
Entering the second story the firemen fought the flames from above through holes cut in the floor and finally quelled the flames but not before they had burned through in two places from the blazing interior of the auto accessory store room below. The walls of the apartments were damaged by smoke and water.
Firemen watched the ruins during the remainder of the night and were forced to fight the fire again when it broke out anew about four o’clock Tuesday morning.
No one was at home in the Chapman apartments when the fire was discovered. Mr. and Mrs. Chapman were at the Fox-Orpheum Theatre when they were told of the fire.
The large stock of automobile accessories carried on the first floor appeared to be almost totally lost after the fire. Much of the stock which escaped damage in the fire was of such nature that it was badly damaged by water. It was said however that some of it can be salvaged.
An automobile service car parked in the rear of the sales and store room was badly damaged by the blaze as were fans, motors and other things stored in the work shop.
“Nig” pet dog of the Chapman family who slept downstairs died in the fire from suffocation. The dog was a favorite of the Chapmans in whose family he had been kept for nearly fourteen years.
March 28, 1931:
The shop of the Marion Glass Co. located between the Pride building and the First M.E. Church was damaged by fire at 10 o’clock Friday night. The origin of the fire could not be determined by firemen who found the interior completely in flames when they reached the scene. R.O. Thomas, who with C.A. Hilt operates the glass and repair shop passed in front of the building with another business man on their way home from a Chamber of Commerce a few minutes before but did not see any sign of the fire.
September 15, 1931:
Damage estimated at about $4500 was done by fire, smoke and water at 5:30 pm Monday when a blaze resulted from an explosion in the rear of the Provart Confectionery and lunch room on N. Market St.
The explosion is believed to have been caused by a gasoline stove. No one was in the room at the time. Mr. Provart was in the front of the confectionery when he saw a flash of flame reflected in the glass front of the store and heard the sound of a slight explosion. When he reached the rear room where he had been cleaning some frying pans a short time before the room was in flames.
The fire department reached the confectionery within a few minutes and after a stubborn battle with fire and smoke extinguished blaze. The firemen were handicapped in discovering the seat of the fire because of the smoke and fumes which arose from fire within a small room used as a kitchen. The damage from water was considerable in the ground floor room and smoke filled the rooms of the apartments of Mr. and Mrs. E.E. Clark as well as the store rooms of the Heyde Hardware Co., Sam Miller Shoe store and Heyde Music Co. on the south.
The threat of the fire was made more serious by the fact that there is no fire wall between the confectionery and any of the rooms north of the Duty building on the south corner of the block, and but for early discovery, the blaze might have been disastrous.
As a result of the fire the confectionery was closed Tuesday, but is to be repaired and re-opened. The loss was covered by insurance.
November 21, 1931:
Joe LoBurgio, owner of the West Side Shoe Repair Shop on W. Main St. is just completing the remodeling and repairing of his shop and is ready to give better service this winter. He not only fixed up the interior, but paid part of the cost of repairing the outside of the building.
The interior has been entirely changed, placing the big machines he uses against the west wall with a fine railing and counter around them. The room has been repapered and repainted and new linoleum placed on the floor.
February 10, 1932:
Fire discovered at 4:30 am Wed. in an apartment on the second floor of the W.T. Holland building on N. Market St. was extinguished by the quick work of firemen who confined it to two second floor rooms.
Firemen were summoned to the apartment by a telephone call and when they arrived found windows in two rooms had been broken by the heat and flames were leaping through the open spaces giving the appearance that the whole building was afire. A few minutes stiff battle with dense smoke flames with the fire hose quelled the flames without damage to the roof or to the store rooms below. Inside the two rooms where the fire raged, however furniture and wood work was charred by the flames.
No one was home at the time of the blaze, the origin of which was not determined by the firemen. Mr. and Mrs. Holland were said to be in Hot Springs, Ark. and in their absence the apartment had been occupied by Mrs. Holland’s son, Pat Kelley, who was also away at the time of the fire.
Early arrival of the firemen and their prompt work in putting out the fire prevented what in all probability would have been a disastrous fire since the entire block would have been menaced had the fire continued.
March 21, 1932:
Three fires over the weekend included a blaze which resulted in several hundred dollars damage to the new furniture store opened last week by Harold Moake in the Holland building on W. Main St.
The fire was discovered about 9:30 pm by Harry Holland, started in a pile of wood in the basement and burned up through the floor on which the display room of furniture store is located. Some of the furniture was damaged by the fire where the flames broke through the floor, but most of the damage amounting to several hundred dollars was due to smoke.
Firemen were handicapped in reaching the blaze because of the dense smoke which filled the building. When they were able to investigate the basement they discovered that the fire had apparently started in a pile of crating lumber, although the cause of the blaze could not be determined. The theory that the wood could have caught from the furnace was discarded by firemen who said the wood had been piled on the opposite side of the basement from the furnace and was not close enough to have been set afire from the heating plant.
The fact that the fire was discovered early and the firemen were able to confine the blaze entirely to the basement doubtless prevented destruction of a block of business property. The damage was covered by insurance.
March 11, 1933:
The Goodall Hotel building and adjacent downtown business buildings were threatened by fire at 3 am on Saturday when a blaze broke out in a vault in the offices of Roberts Insurance Agency on the first floor.
The alarm was turned in from the hotel when smoke from the room below penetrated to the hotel lobby above. Firemen entered through the front doors and extinguished the blaze but not before considerable damage had been done to the plaster of the building and to the furnishings of offices in the rooms by smoke. The blaze was confined almost entirely to the vault in which it originated. The vault is a concrete compartment constructed against the south wall of the section of the first floor occupied by the insurance agency. Although the origin could not be definitely determined, evidence pointed to electric light wiring which entered the vault. The compartment was not equipped with a door and was used principally as a storage room for old files of the insurance company which were to a large extent destroyed.
The flames extended through the doorway of the vault to damage the floor and office furniture within a radius of several feet of the vault.
Current records of the insurance company as well as books of Miss Mabel Todd, city school treasurer, were kept in a separate vault and were undamaged. The vault used for that purpose was closed with a huge steel door.
The office of the Marion Water Co. and Howard’s news stand are located on the same floor with the insurance agency but sustained little permanent damage.
November 16, 1933:
The Castilla, an elaborate dance hall and dinner establishment constructed on Rt. 37 north of Marion by the Moake Bros. was completely destroyed by fire believed to have begun in the heating plant. The building was insured.
The fire halted a Walkathon contest which was in its fifth day and sent contestants, musicians and spectators scurrying from the building. The fact that all of the 15 contestants in the contest were on the floor at the time of the fire probably prevented casualties which might have resulted had the fire occurred during the rest periods when the contestants would have been reclining in the rest rooms, perhaps asleep. As it was, however, the vast amusement hall became filled with smoke and those inside barely managed to save themselves, many of them leaving their personal property including musicians’ instruments, costumes and clothing inside to be burned in the fire.
When the fire was discovered the contestants in the walkathon were eating supper while continuing their endurance walking contest on the floor. The blaze was first discovered when wood above the furnace which was located on the ground floor caught fire. The blaze spread rapidly, and soon most of the building was in flames. Howard Moake was summoned from downtown by the walkathon contest management and when he reached the wooden superstructure above the brick walled dance hall was falling in. His brother Harold was among the fifty persons in the building when the fire started.
The fire department was called out and attempted to combat the flames without success. An intake hose was run from the fire pumper to the old C. & E.I. Lake in an effort to secure water with which to fight the flames. The lake had been drained several weeks ago however and there was not sufficient water to make any appreciable fight against the roaring flames which within a few minutes were leaping skyward showering sparks down upon the sleepy and shivering contestants and others attracted to the scene of the fire by the light the flames made in the sky.
Two hours after the fire was discovered, the beautiful dance place to which dance lovers from throughout Southern Illinois have gathered to dance to the music of Ben Bernie and others of the biggest names in the dance music world was a mass of smoldering embers of wood and crumbling brick.
The fire was the latest of a series of misfortunes which have dogged the Moake Bros. since they first announced plans for the erection of the amusement hall. The curse of ill luck even dated farther back than their ownership of the building materials which went into its construction. Some fifteen yrs ago, the brick of which the Castilla was constructed was first used in the construction of a three story factory building just west of Marion which was to have become a piano factory. For years the building stood on the city’s western skyline as a monument to an unsuccessful industrial promotion. At different times it was occupied by various businesses which sooner or later found another location or died completely. Perennial rumors were circulated as to ambitious plans for its conversion into this or that industrial enterprise but they never materialized until last summer the Moake Bros. bought the building, wrecked it and moved the materials to the site of the Castilla which they fashioned in a style of Spanish architecture.
Contents of the building which were lost included the booths, tables, chairs and benches that had been borrowed from E.T. Hudgens, Eliza Cash, the Elks club and the air association, baby grand piano, radio broadcasting equipment, heating equipment and the wardrobe of the entertainers and the furniture and clothing of Harold Moake who lived on the second floor.
May 8, 1934:
Fire Chief Harry Cash discovered a blaze on the roof of the Commercial Hotel on N. Market St. Discovering the wooden shingles ablaze, the fire chief drove hurriedly to the fire station and called out Assistant Chief Clint Boles who followed him in the fire truck to the fire. The fire was extinguished with slight damage. A new spark proof roof was being place Tuesday on the hotel. The fire was caused by sparks from a nearby factory building.
July 10, 1934:
The city’s dire need of a new fire truck was disclosed at the meeting of the city council on Monday night when Fire Chief Harry Cash reported that the present equipment of the fire department has become practically worn out.
The truck now used as the sole fire fighting apparatus of the fire department was purchased in 1919. It was overhauled and equipped with a pumper in 1925. In use since that time the pumper has been called upon for service in some big fires and under the strain of frequent hard work it has become worn until it is no longer effective in boosting water from the city mains.
The ineffectiveness of the fire pumper was demonstrated on the fourth of July when the fire department was called upon to pump water out of a well. It was discovered at that time that the pumper was no longer capable of pumping water except when supplied to it from hydrants, under pressure and even then under that condition, it is said the value of the pump in increasing the pressure of the hose is negligible.
No action toward the purchase of a new fire truck was taken. The council will try to find a plan of financing such a purchase.
Monday, December 10, 1934:
Fire which broke out at the close of the morning service gutted the Presbyterian Church on N. Market St and left the commodious building a mass of wreckage, smoke and water damaging what was left undone by the flames.
The congregation had been dismissed only a short time and the pastor, Rev. A.E. Powell was still in his study in the rear of the church. He heard a crackling noise and opening the door saw flames and smoke issuing from the roof of the furnace room at the southwest corner of the building. The alarm was turned in and the fire department made a quick run and soon had three leads of hose playing on the fire, which was a difficult one to fight as it was held between the asbestos roof and the metal ceiling. Finally it broke through the roof and then a portion of the ceiling fell in and set fire to the floor in the auditorium.
With the aid of volunteers the firemen played water on the fire until it was finally conquered. The walls were left standing although the entire roof was burned or damaged. A large section of the ceiling and a partition wall and the floor burned.
The church had recently made numerous improvements in the building. A year ago the kitchen was improved and a few months ago a room had been remodeled for a recreation room and lastly a new front with bell tower was nearly completed. The church building was well equipped and well arranged for its purposes. The fire did not reach these improvements or the pastor’s study or class rooms above but all were ruined by the smoke and water.
How the fire started is undetermined. When the building was rebuilt following a previous fire a new furnace was built with a tile lining and the electric wiring was all re-laid at that time. Insurance was carried on both building and contents.
December 27, 1934:
Lt. Lawrence C. Breitrick, who assumed command of the Marion CCC camp with the transfer of Lt. Toft to the army school at Ft. Sheridan, saw the need for help during the fire Monday morning and rushed a truck load of men from the camp to the city which the blaze was at its high point.
City Comm. Harry Crisp was especially appreciative of this volunteer aid and thanked not only Breitrick but C.P. Kelley, Acting Forest Supt. for their cooperating in sending some of the boys downtown in the afternoon to act as traffic officers during the Christmas Eve congestion. The boys did a fine job of handling the large number of cars in the rain without any accidents.
Lt. R. J. Kiely has reported to the Marion camp as second in command.
May 23, 1935:
Fire broke out in the city hall building Wednesday at 8:30 pm. Damage was slight. The blaze which originated in the furnace room was due to defective electrical wiring. It was discovered when a prisoner in the city jail on the ground floor of the building smelled smoke and yelled the alarm.
The fire dept. was called and immediately extinguished the blaze before it could break through the floor to the ground floor rooms occupied by the city jail, police headquarters, the council chamber and the Marion Water Co.
May 25, 1935:
Fire which originated in a stationary cabinet Friday night in the division office of the Peabody Coal Co. in the Alexander building on the south side of the square did damage estimated at $3000 to the offices on the second floor and resulted in heavy damage due to smoke and water in the Alexander Bargain store on the first floor.
As a result of the fire the bargain store dept. of the Alexander stores which occupy the entire first floor of the building was closed Sat. while an estimate of the damage was prepared.
The blaze was discovered at 9:30 pm by Mrs. Warner Miller who was passing by the building and saw the fire and turned in an alarm.
The fire dept. answered the call immediately and discovered the seriousness of the threat of damage to the entire business block and called Herrin. The Herrin fire department sent one of its trucks at once but it was not used.
The cabinet in which the fire apparently started was located near the rear of the long corridor into which the various Peabody office rooms open. Destroying the stationery and records stored in the cabinet the fire swept upward eating into the wall and ceiling above.
Smoke and heat from the blazing wood became concentrated in the corridor and was so intense that Peabody officials who reached the building soon after the fire was discovered were unable to make their way up the stairway to their offices. They were loud in their praise Saturday morning for Fire Chief Harry Cash and his assistants who finally succeeded in reaching the blaze. Assisted by volunteers Cagle and Dungey, Assistant Fire Chief Clint Boles crawled with a hose up the stairway and along the floor of the second floor corridor through the stifling smoke and the heat that was peeling paint from the walls and bursting glass panels of office doors. In that way the firemen got within range of the blaze and checked it.
The fire itself was extinguished before it reached the front office rooms but the intense heat damaged office furniture, typewriters, engineer’s equipment, files, and other furnishings of those rooms in addition to burning doors, tables and wooden cabinets in the rear of the office suite.
The heaviest damage to the building was upstairs although the building and merchandise were damaged in the room below. The ladies ready-to-wear store in the Alexander building was not damaged and was open for business Sat.
June 24, 1935:
Fire discovered at noon in a stock room of the F.W. Woolworth in the Walker building on the West side of the Public Square caused damage which is estimated will run into the thousands of dollars and threatened an entire business block before it was finally brought under control after a four hour battle by an army of regular and volunteer fire departments and a detachment from the Marion CCC camp joined the Marion firemen in fighting the blaze.
As a result of this blaze which gutted the west section of the second floor of the Walker building, burning through the roof, damaged the walls and caused smoke and water damage to the Woolworth store stock estimated at a total loss, two other stores were closed Monday. They were Campbell Drug Store adjacent on the south and Burkhart’s Shoe store on the north. Neither sustained any fire damage but had some damage from smoke and water. The drug store sustained further damage when a new flare up of the fire in the midst of the battle between the flames and the firefighters resulted in a decision to carry the drug store stock out of the building. The goods were stored in the lobby of the Orpheum Theatre.
State’s Attorney Charles C. Murrah who occupied offices on the second floor of the Walker building was forced to seek new office rooms Monday as a result of the fire. Although the blaze did no actual damage in the state’s attorney’s suite of offices, the rooms and office equipment including shelves of law books were damaged by smoke and water. The office furnishings were stored temporarily in the court house Sunday night. Office files in steel filing cabinets were not damaged but other files in wooden cabinets were soiled by smoke and water.
The fire, the second disastrous fire to strike Marion’s business district in seven months was discovered a few minutes past 12 o’clock noon Sunday by Harold Marshall, assistant mgr of the Woolworth store and Lee Williams, store stock man. They were working on the first floor when they heard noises upstairs in the stock room which sounded as if someone were walking there. They went upstairs to investigate. As they opened a door leading to the paint and household supplies store room on the northwest corner of the second floor of the building they were greeted by a rush of flames and smoke.
Fire Chief Harry Cash was just sitting down to a dinner of fried chicken at his apartment at the fire station at 12:30 when the fire alarm was received. He hurried from the dinner table to the wheel of the fire truck and arrived at the scene of the blaze when the downtown was practically deserted. The fire chief was alone in his first efforts to fight the blaze because he was the only man on duty at the time the call came in, and volunteers who answer fire calls were not yet on hand.
Entering the building where Marshall and Williams were waiting on him, Cash went to the second floor and found the blaze raging in a room partially filled with canned paint. While the two Woolworth employees handed fire extinguishers up to him he attempted to battle the blaze with extinguishers until he saw that the blaze was gaining. He returned to the truck and hooked up the pumps to a plug at the head of S. Market St. A few minutes later he was joined by Assistant Fire Chief Clint Boles and several volunteer men.
In response to a call for assistance, fire pumpers from Johnston City, Herrin and West Frankfort arrived in the order named and joined their equipment and personnel in the force already engaged in battling the blaze.
Although the Frankfort pumper went out of commission soon after it hooked up, as many as six streams of water were brought into play on the blaze. The Johnston City pumper was stationed at the Marion Trust and Savings Bank corner and the Herrin pumper went into action from the plug at the intersection of N. Van Buren and W. Main Streets.
Hose lines were carried to the roofs of the buildings housing the Burkhart Shoe Store and the Campbell Drug Store and to the room of the one story buildings in the rear of the Burkhart store. Other streams of water were directed on the burning building from the square.
The fire centered in the rear rooms of the second floor where it was first discovered. By 2 o’clock the firemen appeared to have the fire beaten out in the second floor rooms but shortly the blaze flared up with a new intensity from the attic of the building. The big task of the firemen then became to direct enough water into the attic to keep down the blaze. Firemen with hose inside the building were unable to reach the source of the blaze in the closely constructed attic and the smoke and heat and uncertainty of the roof made it impossible to direct water directly from the roof of the burning building, the firemen chopped holes in the fire walls from the roofs of the adjoining buildings to make an opening for their hose lines. Shooting water through these holes brought the blaze under control about 4 pm. It was another hour before they had completely wet down the smoldering embers against another flare up.
Carried by an east wind, smoke seeping from the building was blown upon the square where it forced back the crowds representing almost the entire city which gathered to the fire scene. Arriving on the scene soon after the firefighting equipment went into play, a truck load of CCC camp workers gave the fire fighters valuable assistance. Not only did they stretch and patrol the fire line to keep back the crowds but many of them went to work on hose lines and remained on duty until the fires had been whipped.
Despite the many hundreds of people who jammed the fire scene there were no casualties. A man named Harris attached to the Walkathon at the Hangar received burns about the face when the fire rushed through a rat hole in the wall for a hose line on top of the Burkhart building where he was working as a volunteer. CIPS company linemen stood throughout the fire to remove threatening wires leading to the west wall of the building which at times appeared about to fall. Power was cut off from the building soon after the fire was reported.
Miss Ida Mae Simmons, cashier at the Woolworth store, fainted or was overcome by smoke fumes when she entered the building to make sure of the safety of her records. She was revived within a short time.
Mgr. V.A. Jones of the Woolworth store was attending a meeting of Woolworth Store managers at Olney at the time of the fire. Notified by phone he arrived at the store to see a mass of entwined fire hose on the street while smoke and flames were coming from the second floor windows and water was pouring down the steps to the second floor rooms several inches deep. I.B. Richardson, district supervisor for the Woolworth Co. who was also at Olney arrived at the fire scene while the fire was still burning. Other Woolworth officials at St. Louis were notified immediately and were to arrive in Marion Monday to begin a survey of the loss.
The building was owned by the T.A. Walker estate and the Woolworth Company. Stock was protected by insurance.
Dr. M.W. Balance and Dr. A.N. Baker, whose offices are located over the Campbell Drug Store, were at the fire scene soon after the blaze was discovered looking after equipment in their offices when it was feared they too might be swept by fire.
Buildings on each side of the Walker building were protected by firewalls although the smoke got into both adjacent buildings and the office of Ruel Youngblood, Abstractor over the Burkhart’s shoe store was somewhat damaged by water also.
June 25, 1935:
Provision for $4400 for the purchase of a new fire truck was made by the city council in the annual appropriation ordinance passed at the weekly meeting of the commissioners Monday night.
July 9, 1935:
For the first time in Marion’s history, two fire trucks will occupy the station house. The city council Monday night contracted to buy a new truck equipped with a pumper with a capacity of 500 gal per minute. This new piece of apparatus will become Marion’s Number One firefighting equipment and the present truck with its 350 gal per minute capacity will also be kept in service.
The truck is to be built by the General Fire Truck Co. at St. Louis upon a two ton Dodge truck chassis purchased from Swan Motor Co. The total cost is to be $4132.50.
September 20, 1935:
Mayor Harry L. Crisp announced that Marion’s new fire truck would be in service by the end of the day.
November 26, 1935:
Fire Chief Harry Cash reported to the city council that he and the state fire marshal’s office had condemned two frame store buildings on E. Main St. The buildings are located in the 600 block, house five families in addition to stores on the ground floor.
December 17, 1935:
Fire discovered in the West Side Shoe Repair Shop shortly after six o’clock Monday night was extinguished without serious damage after it had given threat of spreading to other rooms in the block.
The blaze originated near a chimney which has openings both into the shoe shop and into a store room of the B.F.J. Furniture store adjacent on the east. It appeared to have started in the partition between the two rooms or in the attic just above it. The actual fire damage was confined to a hole in the partition and in the ceiling near the chimney.
Harry Cooper, newspaper agent discovered the blaze and ran the two blocks to the fire station to report it. When firemen arrived the building was full of smoke. The source of the blaze was discovered in a short time, however and the fire extinguished.
As some of the smoke began pouring into the store room of the furniture store, C.E. Monroe who operates the tailor shop next door began carrying his stock of suit materials and customers suits. The precaution was unnecessary however.
The main store of the B.F.J. Furniture Co. was not entered by smoke as that section of the store is in a building separated from the store room by the tailor shop and a fire wall.
Monday, December 24, 1934:
Fire which broke out in the Simonton store in the Cox building at 7:50 am Monday did damage to the Simonton Store and other stores and offices in the same block before valiant work by three fire departments brought it under control and hour later.
Mrs. Mildred Guill was slightly burned by a sudden puff of flames which struck her without warning as the fire broke out while she was opening the safe in the rear of the Simonton Store where she was employed. Alone in the store at the time she had the presence of mind to shut the safe door as she turned and fled from the building. Her action saved $1000 in cash from the flames. A rush of heat and smoke which followed her exit broke one of the plate glass windows in the front of the store. Mrs. Guill’s hands were slightly burned and her hair was singed in the burst of flames that was the first indication that the building was on fire. She was unable to explain the origin of the fire.
It is believed that fire which probably started from wiring or some other undetermined source in the rear of the store early in the morning was given impetus by a draft afforded when Mrs. Guill opened a door in a partition dividing the store from a room in the rear.
There is no furnace in that part of the building which is heated from a furnace in the east half of the same building occupied by Cox Hardware and Furniture Store.
The Simonton Variety Store appeared to be a complete loss due to the fire, smoke and water. The offices of the Williamson Co. Farm Bureau which occupied the second floor of that section of the building were also damaged by fire, smoke and water, while the Alexander Dept. store in a building adjacent on the west was damaged by smoke and water and the Cox Hardware and furniture store and offices in the second floor of that building were also damaged by smoke. Occupants of the rooms over the hardware store were the Polly Ann Beauty Shop, County Supt. of Schools, Dee C. Moss, Roy Rodd Insurance and Justice of the Peace W.H. McCluskey.
No fire broke into either the hardware store, the offices above it or the Alexander Store or apartments above it. Flames which burst a window in the rear of the Alexander Store could be seen from the square and at one time it appeared to firemen and watchers that the rear part of the department store was on fire. A window in the rear of the tavern which opened on a small door in the rear of the Alexander and Cox Building was also broken by the heat.
The building occupied by the Simonton Store and farm bureau office as well as that occupied by the hardware store is owned by Harry and Clarence C. Cox.
The families of Mrs. Goldie Patterson and A.L. Boyd who occupied apartments in the Alexander building were driven from their homes by smoke which they discovered about the same time the fire department arrived.
Arriving at the scene of the fire at 7:30 o’clock the fire dept. under the direction of Chief Harry Cash had a twin hose line on the fire five minutes later. Volunteers responded readily but it was soon evident that the fire had a good start inside the building and with smoke pouring from windows of the first and second floors it was decided to send for assistance immediately.
Fifteen minutes later the Johnston City fire truck with Fire Chief H.I. Little pulled up to the fire plug on the square at S. Market street. A few minutes later Herrin’s pumper, with Assistant Fire Chief Dave Pisoni and Fireman E.H. May in charge hooked up in front of the Marion Trust and Savings Bank building. At 8:25 a fire truck from Carbondale pulled up on the square but by that time the fire was under control and it was not necessary for the Carbondale fire truck to hook up.
Firemen fought the fire aggressively from the beginning and conquered the flames at a time when it appeared the entire block was in danger. Officials of the Peabody Coal Co. began carrying records from the Peabody division office on the second floor of the west section of the Alexander building. Volunteers with a line from the Johnston City fire truck went on top of the building housing the Peabody offices and fought the flames from there while Herrin and Marion firemen poured water through front windows of the Farm Bureau office. Marion volunteers with assistant Fire Chief Clint Boles in charge carried a hose line through the smoke filled Alexander Store and fought the flames that were leaping through a rear window.
At 8:20 firemen on a ladder carried a hose line through a window of the Farm Bureau office and fought the fire from that vantage point on the second floor. An hour after the first hose line was put into action the fire was virtually extinguished, although firemen remained at work in the building for two hours longer before the last evidence of the blaze had been investigated and danger of a recurrence from smoldering ruins eliminated.
When the fire had been extinguished it was possible for occupants to inspect their stores and offices and take stock of the damage. Farm Adviser Dee Small, George Clore mgr of the Twin Co. Service Co. and T.E. Benton, farm bureau insurance mgr found the Farm Bureau offices ruined and many of their records partially or completely destroyed. They began at once to move the damaged furniture and office files from the building.
The loss to the Simonton store and Alexander stores was increased by the fact that the two stores were deprived of the Christmas Eve business which doubtless would have meant the largest single day’s business of the year. Smoke filled the Alexander store, damaging stocks of ladies apparel to an extent which could not be immediately determined. The variety stock owned by Mrs. Elbert Simonton was all damaged in fire and smoke.
Seeing the smoke and blaze from the fire at its height, Lt. Breitrick of the CCC camp at the Fair Grounds arrived at the scene of the fire with a motor truck load of CCC workers who took over police work about the damaged building, keeping the crowd back from the fire and handling motor traffic.
January 3, 1936:
Smoke which drifted across the areaway separating two businesses and into the kitchen of the Gem Café at 12:50 am gave the alarm which took firemen to the scene in time to prevent a fire in the Turnage Feed and Grocery Store from spreading with disastrous results. The fire burned through the wall of the store and damaged several shelves of groceries, mostly canned goods, in the northwest corner of the grocery where the blaze of undetermined cause originated.
Flames from the grocery fire shot upwards towards the windows of residence apartments on the second floor of buildings adjacent on the west and north but the fire was not permitted to spread. Early discovery of the blaze enabled firemen to cope with the fire which menaced the heart of an important section of business properties.
February 18, 1936:
The Marion City Council put off action to purchase two gas masks for the fire department due to a disagreement as to the type of mask to purchase.
August 31, 1936:
Fire at midnight destroyed the stock of the Clyde Hankins grocery and feed store on N. Madison adjacent to the hitch yard and badly damaged the building.
The blaze discovered at 11:50 pm had already spread throughout the building when it was found. It was believed to have started in the rear of the building in the feed department. Flames had burned upwards through the second story and were leaping through the roof when the firemen arrived. Using every precaution to prevent the blaze from spreading to the adjacent buildings, firemen put both of their fire trucks into action as soon as possible. Streams of water from the two pumpers finally brought the blaze under control and the fire was extinguished about 5 am Sunday.
The seriousness of the fire was increased by the fact that other buildings covering almost a block were adjacent to the damaged building on the south and danger of the fire spreading was cause for alarm.
The loss is believed to be covered by insurance although the estimate of the damage was not available Monday. The building is owned by the Knobeloch heirs. The stock by Mr. Hankins was a complete loss.
October 5, 1936:
Early Monday morning workmen for the Concord Construction Co. of E. St. Louis began taking up the brick of the pavement on the public square to make way for the new concrete pavement which is to be laid on the four corners of the square and about the court house. The new pavement is to conform with the concrete pavement of the state highway which circles the square.
Work of removing the brick on N. Market St. which is also part of the paving project financed by city motor fuel tax funds being expended under the supervision of the state division of highways was begun last week.
Brick being removed from the public square are being hauled to the hitch yard in the rear of the fire department. Plans entertained by the city councilmen for the past year contemplate that the brick will be used in the enlargement of the brick building which houses the fire station.
April 3, 1937:
The new fire department built of brick salvaged from the old Public Square paving was occupied today by two fire trucks instead of one and the firemen were singing the praises of WPA commissioner Walter Williams for his prompt approval of the project.
August 11, 1937:
Fire of unknown origin at 7:30 am Wed. damaged the ware room of the B.F.J. Furniture Store on W. Main St. Firemen reached the scene as the fire spread to other rooms adjacent on east and west. The blaze was extinguished before it had gained much headway, early discovery being credited with preventing of a disastrous fire.
August 28, 1937:
What might have been a disastrous fire was quickly extinguished early Friday evening due to an early discovery and prompt action by the fire department at the Smart shop on the South side of the Public Square.
The fire started in a dressing room in the rear of the ladies ready-to-wear store where a late afternoon customer is believed to have dropped a light cigarette. The blaze was confined to that part of the building and was quickly extinguished with the firemen’s chemical tank. Smoke, however filled the dress shop and seeped through into the rooms on the second floor.
Several boys in the recreation hall on the second floor at the time the fire was extinguished quickly made their way out of the building without confusion.
September 16, 1937:
The equipment of the Marion Fire Department was recently increased by the purchase of 500 feet of new fire hose.
October 26, 1937:
The city council hired Arlie Ing to replace Harry Cash as Marion Fire Chief.
November 2, 1937:
Assistant Fire Chief Clint Boles has resigned his position.
December 4, 1937:
If you see a red light coming toward you between two automobile headlights and the red light is swinging back and forth from left to right as if a railroad flagman was waving the danger signal – that’s the fire truck.
A brand new motor controlled electric light shining as a red light can shine has been purchased by Commissioner Willis Hendrickson and mounted on the front of the fire truck. The red light is designed to warn motorists that the fire truck is approaching on an emergency run. The light distinguishes the approaching fire apparatus from ordinary automobile head lights and is the signal for other vehicles to pull to the curb and stop until the fire truck has cleared the street.
April 5, 1938:
Marion policemen and firemen encountered another payless payday Monday night when Finance Commissioner E.R. Jones reported to the city council that the state of the city’s finances would not permit transfer of funds to make a payment on back salaries in the police and fire departments.
Commissioner Jones told the council that the policemen’s salary fund was already overdrawn and said funds could not be borrowed from special assessment funds without placing liability upon the Treasurer. The officers are from two to four months behind with their salaries.
June 8, 1938:
Fire discovered at 1:25 a.m. Wednesday by a filling station attendant across the street damaged the Martin Jones grocery and meat market and the adjacent West Side Shoe Repair Shop operated by Joe LoBurgio on West Main Street.
Firemen said the blaze apparently originated from a refrigerator motor in the meat market. Given impetus by a draft through a sky light, the blaze burned upward rapidly, and spread into the store room of shoe shop next door. For awhile the fire appeared to menace other buildings in the same block, and stock was removed from the nearby Monroe Tailor Shop as a precaution. Firemen who fought the blaze until after 4 a.m., however, confined the fire to the Jones store and the shoe shop. Damage there did not prevent both houses being open for business Wednesday.
The damage at the shoe shop was mostly in the stock room where the blaze broke through the partition from the grocery store and necessitated use of water to extinguish it. Fire in the stock room broke out two times after the original blaze was put out. In the grocery store the meat department suffered the worst damage although some flour and other grocery items were damaged. The blaze burned through the ceiling and up into the attic.
Thursday, October 26, 1939:
Early discovery of a fire in the basement of the Sam Sanders Shoe store on the northwest corner of the Public Square Wednesday enabled firemen to stop a fire which might have done heavy damage to Marion business section Wednesday night. The blaze believed to have been caused by the piling of hot ashes against a coal bin in the basement of the store burned upwards through the floor of the shoe store in two places before it was extinguished.
Damage was estimated at between $400 and $500 including some of the shoe stock of the Sanders Store.
Fire Chief Ing said the fire department was notified by an unidentified youth who saw smoke coming from the basement as the youth was walking through the adjacent alley.
Tuesday, February 27, 1940:
A fire which broke out in the prescription room of the Campbell Drug Store at 11:35 pm Monday did damage estimated at upwards of $500.
Early discovery of the fire which was reported to fireman by Night Watchman Bert Ellis averted what might have been a disastrous fire. The store had closed and no one was in the building when the fire was discovered.
The blaze was believed by Fire Chief Orlie Ing to have originated from a furnace in the back room of the building. It was thought that hot coals from the door of the banked furnace had set fire to boxes stored in the room. The damage was principally to merchandise in the back room although the blaze in one place broke through a partition separating the prescription room from the front room of the drug store. The store was open for business as usual Tuesday.
Wednesday, Mar. 13, 1940:
Fire discovered at 9 am Wednesday in the basement of the Cline-Vick Drug Store on the Public Square burned briskly for several minutes before firemen brought it under control. The fire was confined to a storage room in the basement where the blaze broke out among boxes of merchandise.
Firemen for first time wore smoke masks recently purchased by the fire department.
Cause of the blaze was not determined. Early discovery of the fire curtailed the loss which was estimated at several hundred dollars.
Mar. 13, 1940:
Fire discovered at 9 am Wednesday in the basement of the Cline-Vick Drug Store on the Public Square burned briskly for several minutes before firemen brought it under control. The fire was confined to a storage room in the basement where the blaze broke out among boxes of merchandise.
Firemen for first time wore smoke masks recently purchased by the fire department.
Cause of the blaze was not determined. Early discovery of the fire curtailed the loss which was estimated at several hundred dollars.
Monday, May 6, 1940:
Damage estimated at $2300 was caused to a restaurant and garage building at the Roscoe Wring service station at the junction of West Main Street and Court Street at 11 p.m. Sunday.
The fire originated either in the battery charger room of the garage building or in the rear of the restaurant in the same building. It burned rapidly in the tin-sheeted frame building, and although the building was left standing when the fire was extinguished the contents were almost completely destroyed.
The loss in the garage building included two used automobiles belonging to Wring, as well as tools and equipment. The restaurant next door was operated by Mrs. Fern Lauder.
The building was owned by the Home Oil Company. F.E. Morrison of the Home Oil Company said Monday that the frame building will not be replaced, although a smaller brick structure may be erected on the site later. Only the Home Oil Company was covered by insurance, Fire Chief Orlie Ing learned Monday.
A large crowd gathered while firemen were fighting the fire and police said firemen had difficulty with motorists who ran over the hose. Several eluded arrest but Kenneth Cavitt who allegedly disregarded Chief of Police Ben Culbreth’s signal to stop before running over the hose was overtaken and spent the night in jail. He was fined $9.40 by Police Magistrate L.B. Long upon his plea of guilty Monday morning.
Night policeman Herman May was summoned from the fire by a report from spectators they had seen a dead man lying in the street on West Union street. The officer found the man was only “dead drunk,” and placed him in city jail.
Tuesday, March 4, 1941:
Fire which did damage estimated at $200,000 swept an entire block of the Marion public square Tuesday morning destroying the three-story Goodall Hotel Building and two other two story structures. This was the most disastrous blaze in Marion’s history. Buildings destroyed were owned by Louis Gudder and W.T. Huspeth. Destruction was complete. Tuesday dawn found only the skeleton and fragments of brick walls standing where one of the city’s most valuable blocks just stood the day before. Destroyed in the fire was the Goodall Hotel, Cox Pharmacy, Economy Variety Store, Virgil Center’s Variety Store, a barber shop, Odum’s Jewelry Store, George Goodall’s office, Anderson’s Shoe Shop. In the Hudspeth building were the Aubuchon Variety Store, Williamson Co. Soil Conservation Office, C.A. Moore Ins. Adjustors, Wearever Aluminum Dist. Office. Damaged were the Marion Baking Co., Frank Sims office, Kozy Café, and Western United Gas and Electric Office. Notables that had stayed in the Goodall Hotel: Jess Willard, Ronald Amundsen, Willliam Jennings Bryan, Gov. Richard Yates and Bob Fitzsimmons.
March 4, 1941:
Fire which did damage estimated at $200,000 swept an entire block of the Marion Public Square early Tuesday morning, destroying the three-story Goodall Hotel building and two other two-story structures in the most disastrous blazes in Marion’s history.
Origin of the blaze, which was discovered at 12:30 A.M. and drove 32 persons from their beds in the hotel, was unknown.
Although the fire appeared at first to be located in the basement of the Economy Variety Store, Fire Chief Orlie Ing expressed the opinion it started in the hotel furnace room.
The $200,000 estimate of the fire loss was made by insurance men. The amount of insurance carried on the buildings and contents was estimated at $100,000.
Fire departments of Marion, Herrin, West Frankfort and Carbondale fought the fire for six hours. At 11 A.M. Tuesday smoldering ruins broke into flames again, and firemen had to resume the fight.
The buildings destroyed were owned by Louie Gudder and W.T. Hudspeth. Destruction was complete. Tuesday’s dawn found only the skeleton fragments of brick walls standing where one of the city’s most valuable blocks had stood the day before.
The fire was discovered at 12:30 A.M. by Ralph N. Adams, former Circuit Clerk, who managed the hotel. He smelled smoke in the hotel lobby, and called the fire department. He then notified the guests, and all left the building without panic.
At that time the fire all seemed to be in the basement of the Economy Variety Store. Fire Chief Orlie Ing spotted a Marion fire truck on Madison Street near the post office, and ran a line of hose to the Economy store basement from the rear. He sent out a call for assistance to Herrin and West Frankfort. Twenty-two minutes after receiving the call a West Frankfort pumper went into action from a position at the southeast corner of the square. A Herrin truck hooked up directly in front of the hotel building.
With three lines of hose pouring water into the front and rear of the Economy Store, firemen appeared to make headway against the fire which they could not see through the black smoke which poured from the building. Firemen carried one line of hose into the basement of the Economy store, far inside the building without finding the source of the fire, and were finally forced back out of the building by the stifling smoke.
At 2 A.M. the fire had not yet broken out where it could be seen, and a momentary lessening of the billowing smoke gave rise to a belief among owners of the business houses involved that the fire was under control. But by this time, the fire which was eating away far within the interior of the basement of the hotel building had burned its way upward beyond the reach of the fire hose, and attacked the ground floor rooms.
Almost at the same time that flames were seen licking the steps of the hotel stairs, the fire broke through windows of the ground floor level on the east side of the building and through a wooden partition separating the furnace room from the store rooms on the East Main Street side.
Rapidly devouring the ancient wooden floors and stairways which gave way to make a chimney for the raging inferno, the blaze showed itself through the roof of the three-story section of the building. As the first glare of light was reflected in the huge smoke clouds above the building, Chief Ing sent out a call for the Carbondale fire department. A truck which arrived from Carbondale went into action from a hydrant at the head of South Market Street. By then all three stories of the hotel were a mass of flames. The dense smoke inside the Economy store had given way to blazing heat. The Virgil Center store to the south was afire, and firemen who had placed a ladder against the Hudspeth building to carry the Carbondale hose to the roof, retreated to the roof of the gas company building across an alley to the south. From there they played streams of water upon the Hudspeth building, with no hope of doing more than keep the blaze from leaping across the alley.
At that time firemen had been forced to retreat from the East Main Street side of the hotel building and shortly afterwards the north wall of the building fell into the street. Then the east wall of the third story structure toppled on the roof of the Marion Baking Co., building owned by A.B. McLaren. A portion of the south wall of the Hudspeth building fell into the alley adjacent.
Windows in the Warder building on the north side of East Main Street and in the gas company building south of the Hudspeth building were broken by the tumbling walls.
The west walls all remained standing, but the front of the hotel building was pulled down early Tuesday to eliminate danger of its falling on persons in the square. A wide area was roped off by police as a precaution against injury to sight seers.
Throughout the night the regular firemen from Marion and out of town departments were assisted by volunteers who manned the hose lines in the cold wind that fanned the flames. All members of the police force remained on duty throughout the night, assisting firemen and handling the traffic. With hose lines from five pumpers strewn across the east side of the square, automobile traffic was halted and scores of cars which had arrived at the fire scene early could not be moved until the hose lines were taken up after daylight Tuesday.
Throughout the battle with the flames, hundreds of men and women stood and watched. Women wearing cloaks thrown over house coats or house pajamas were in evidence everywhere. As the blazing interior of the building illuminated the sky, and caused the gaping windows to stand out in relief against the brick walls of the doomed structure, the red mass of flames was punctuated by the white flash of amateur cameramen’s bulbs recording the worst fire in many years.
The fire which lighted the sky could be seen for many miles. A motorist driving to Marion from Harrisburg saw the light, and thought Crab Orchard was being swept by fire.
As the various property owners took stock of their losses there was much speculation as to future plans, and store operators were already looking for new locations. As for the hotel building itself, said to be insured for $35,000, no definite statement was forthcoming. Louie Gudder, the owner, had been out of town since Sunday. Members of his family said they had no idea what future plans for the building site would be made.
F.E. Parks of the Parks Pharmacy estimated his loss at $15,000. Virgil Center said his stock inventory was $10,000 on Jan. 1, and that considerable stock had been added since. The Economy Variety Store stock was appraised at a similar figure.
March 4, 1941:
The city council on Monday night allowed bills for the month of February totaling $2,288.77.
The commissioners spent some time discussing the purchase of a new fire truck to replace the older of the two trucks now in service, and made plans to add a new truck as soon as financial arrangements can be made.
March 5, 1941:
Praise for firemen of Marion and adjacent communities who joined in fighting the Goodall Hotel fire early Tuesday was voiced by John B. Tetlow of Peoria, field representative of the Merchants Fire Insurance Company.
Mr. Tetlow was among the guests in the hotel who fled from the fire, and lost part of his clothing when the building was destroyed.
Discussing the fire afterwards with insurance men and other local citizens, he declared the fire department should be congratulated for the fight it made against the fire. He expressed the opinion that the battle against the fire would not have been handled more efficiently by the fire department in Peoria.
Fire Chief Orley Ing and Assistant Jake Perry remained on duty throughout Tuesday after their night battle with flames and smoke. Ing was forced to bed during the afternoon, and received medical treatment for his eyes, which suffered from the intense heat during the fire. One eye was burned, and he suffered much pain, but was up and out again within a short time.
A heavy part of the fire fighting was also borne by volunteers who braved danger and underwent hardships. Chief Ing recalled the names of Carl Sorgen, Paul Smothers and Delmar Fluck among those who went to the assistance of firemen at various times while Volunteer Firemen James Anderson, Clarence Goddard, Ed Dearing and Vernon Wheeler were among those in the thick of the fight.
March 5, 1941:
Although a falling wall from the east end of the Goodall Hotel building crushed a side wall of the Marion Baking Corporation plant on Tuesday morning, that company is able to give “Service as Usual” to their patrons as they have arranged for three neighboring bakeries to care for their manufacturing work. When the fire was threatening the building, Manager Harry T. Martin and his crew of men finished their night shift work and then at once removed all the loose equipment and stock. This included the bread wrappers, the racks and supplies.
The falling brick damaged the building but not the machinery and equipment, but had they fallen five feet further they would have crushed the big new electric oven and other machinery. As it stands now it is believed that the plant will be closed but a short time as work has already been started on the repairs. The office and sales work will not be interfered with and both their store and consumer patrons will be supplied regularly, as is announced in their adv. today.
March 5, 1941:
As the ruins of Tuesday’s fire which destroyed a business block on the east side of the Marion Public Square continued to smolder Wednesday afternoon, neither owner of the destroyed properties would venture a statement on plans to rebuild.
Louie Gudder, who owned the three-story Goodall Hotel building and the adjacent two story structure housing the Economy Variety Store and the Virgil Center Store, said he couldn’t say yet whether he will erect a new building on the site of the old.
W.T. Hudspeth, owner of the two-story building at the southeast corner of the square which housed the Aubuchon Variety Store and offices above, expressed doubt that he will build another building. He said, however, that he could not make any definite plans, pending an estimate of the cost.
Meanwhile arrangements were being made to tear down portions of the Hudspeth building which still appeared to menace the public safety.
Surplus stock of the Economy
Variety store which was stored in the basement of the Hudspeth building offered
a possibility of salvage Wednesday while it appeared also that a part of the
Aubuchon stock may be salvaged from the ruins. Aside from what may be reclaimed
from the ruins of the Hudspeth building, the stock of the Odum Jewelry
Store which was carried out during the fire constituted all that was saved from the flames.
While most of the Odum stock was saved, much of it was lost, including some watches and clocks which had been left in the store for repair.
As the ruins of the fire still smoldered, firemen and police had difficulty in keeping spectators out of the danger zone. School children particularly presented a problem when they sought to scramble over the debris at the site of the fire Tuesday afternoon. One boy suffered a crushed foot when he clambered over the ruins. A heavy steel beam slipped from a pile of bricks, and fell on his foot. The boy was identified as the son of Frank Robinson, 810 Park Ave. Police rushed the boy to a doctor for treatment, and then took him to his home.
The boy, Charles Robinson, is a student at the Jefferson School.
March 6, 1941:
(Neat picture taken just at the precise moment that the walls started to fall, while being removed with cables attached to large high powered C.I.P.S. trucks.
Also a note stating the walls of the Hudspeth building, shown in picture as “H.N. Boles” building are still standing, the same as shown in the above picture, although the rear and side walls have almost all fallen.) Two small boys found what is evidently an heirloom in the remains of the fire Wednesday afternoon. It was a Past Grand Commander badge for “The Grand Commandery K.T. of Oklahoma.” The boys, who were Howard Laverne Lannom and Bobby Jean Gower, left the badge at the Daily Republican office, so it could be returned to its owner. (In the following paper it was mentioned that W.R. Lence was the owner of the Knights Templar badge.)
March 6, 1941:
Back files of the Daily Republican reveal many other historic fires in the city, most of which were rebuilt better than before.
On February 10, 1916 about 7:30 P.M. police saw smoke coming from the Moore Jewelry Store window on the North Side of the Square. Before that fire was extinguished, Marion had suffered a loss of more than $125,000 that night. Among those listed as suffering losses in that fire were First National Bank, Charles Otey, Spiller D. Lewis, R.P. Hill Law Library, Ford’s shoe store, Moore Jewelry, Neely, Gallimore, Cook and Potter law office, Williamson County Loan and Improvement association, Charles Hay, I.O.O.F Hall, Rebeccas, Red Men, Pocahontas, Ben Hur, Woodmen of the World, Woodmen Circle, Foresters, Hudspeth Barber Shop, Miss Lydia Howell Millinery Shop, M. Frances, A.E. Brown, Mark Duke, Re-De-He Club (composed of Joe Lee, Ruel Youngblood, B. Glenn Gulledge, Howard McCluskey, Ward Russell, Clarence Lay and Ben LeMaster), plus smoke and water damages to Duncan-Baker Hardware Store, Union Clothing Store and Reid Hotel.
While the First National Bank was burning that night, the home of Circuit Judge D.T. Hartwell, valued at $10,000 caught fire and burned to the ground. Because of a lack of hard road in those days, it was impossible to get additional fire hose from neighboring cities, although Johnston City had offered to send some down on the late night train, if it was still needed then.
OCTOBER 10, 1923—Shortly after midnight, on the morning of October 10, 1923, a fire was discovered in the basement of the Cline-Vick Drug Store, which caused damage, estimated at 4185,350 at that time.
Among those listed as suffering losses were J.A. Benson building; Mrs. Alice Cline building; Hub Clothing Company; Cline-Vice Drug Store; Griggs-Sullins office; Dr. I.C. Walker; Dr. D.H. Harris; Dr. Wohlwend; plus smoke damage to A.H. Joseph, John Alexander, Marion and Eastern R.R. office and Cosgrove Coal Company offices.
Herrin, Carterville and Carbondale fire departments sent trucks, but the Herrin hose connections would not fit our fire plugs and they returned home.
Dr. Walker was asleep in his office, when the fire was discovered and took time to dress, and as he ran down the stairway through the smoke he was given a bath as they had just turned the hose on the stairs at that minute.
NOVEMBER 11, 1925—Railroad men going to work at four o’clock in the morning, discovered the Swinney Grocery store on fire at 400 North Market, and before extinguished, that blaze had destroyed $117,250 worth of property according to estimates at that time.
Johnston City, Herrin, West Frankfort and Harrisburg responded with equipment, although Herrin and Johnston City hose could not be used because of non-standard hydrant connections, a situation that has since been corrected for all fire departments in southern Illinois.
Those suffering losses were Burnett Building, Swinney Grocery, Cleveland Auto Sales Company, Elliott and Winters, Aikman Building, Lee Confectionery, Fluck Building, Sanders Shoe Stock, and telephone cables. The Cleveland Auto Sales was owned by W.T. Courtney, T.E. Simpson and H.H. Hudgens. Those living in the Burnett Building at that time were David Adamson, I. Brayden, Mrs. Tennie Reid, Ed Adams, Sam Sanders, Mrs. Florence Dougherty, Troy England and Mrs. Ledbetter.
DECEMBER 28, 1925—A gas torch used to thaw out frozen water pipes in the Ed Alexander Store caused fire damage, estimated at over $50,000 the afternoon and night of December 28, 1925. Losses were sustained by Ed Alexander, John Fower, E.A. Hearn, B.B. Tea Room, A.O. Boswell and Henry Bantz.
DECEMBER 24, 1934—Just as they were ready to open for a big Christmas business, fire broke out in the Simonton Variety Store on the South Side of the square the morning of December 24, 1934 and did damage estimated at about $25,000.
The heaviest loss was sustained by the Simonton Variety Store and the Farm Bureau office and by smoke to Alexander and Cox Hardware.
JUNE 24, 1935—Fire, discovered Sunday noon, June 24, 1935 gutted the F.W. Woolworth store in the Walker Building on the West side of the public square and drove States Attorney Charles C. Murrah from his offices on the second floor.
The Marion CCC Camp and fire department from Herrin, Johnston City and West Frankfort aided Marion in fighting the fire.
The Campbell Drug Store was damaged, not only from water and smoke, but from having its stock carried out and stored in the lobby of the Orpheum Theatre. Jean Burkhart’s shoe store also suffered a heavy smoke and water damage.
OTHER BIG FIRES - This is only a partial list of some of the big fires. Among the others was the total destruction of the Christian Church in November 1925; the destruction of the Cole Garage in August 1930; Hayton Motor Sales in 1926.
March 19, 1941:
The city council in a meeting Tuesday afternoon voted to authorize Mayor Crisp to sign a contract with the Central Fire Equipment Company of St. Louis for a new fire truck.
The price of the equipment, exclusive of the chassis which is to be purchased by the council was $3,272. The truck, to be built along lines designed by the Marion fire department at the time the new hospital addition was annexed to city, will carry a 350 tank of water to combat small fires and fires which occur out of the reach of present fire hydrants. The truck will be equipped with a 500 gallon pump.
The Central Company built the present fire truck used by Marion, and built the trucks now in use at Murphysboro and Carbondale.
The new truck will replace the 25 year old truck which the city now calls into service only for emergency use. The old truck was accepted by the Central Company as part payment on the new truck. The allowance on the old truck was $350. It was valued at $150 by the Howe Company.
The present No. 1 truck will remain in service. It is five years old.
Purchase of the new equipment is to be financed over a three years period.
With a slight rearrangement of interior construction at the fire department, Fire Chief Ing said both trucks can be kept in the fire station. At present the older of the two fire trucks is stored in a commercial garage.
The new truck is expected to be delivered about July 1.
May 21, 1941:
Priority granted defense industries in the purchase of aluminum has delayed delivery of Marion’s new fire truck, Fire Chief Orlie Ing revealed Wednesday.
Specifications for the new truck call for certain equipment made of aluminum, including ladders and step plates on the fenders. The truck has been completed, according to information received by Chief Ing, except for installations of this equipment.
The truck was expected to be delivered this week by the Central Fire Equipment Co, in St. Louis, but inability of manufacturers to supply the accessory equipment has postponed delivery. Ing was assured the truck will be delivered as soon as the equipment is received in the St. Louis factory.
May 22, 1941:
The old fire truck recently traded in by the City of Marion on the purchase of a new fire truck was sold Wednesday afternoon by the Central Fire Truck Corporation of St. Louis to the village of Cowden, near Shelbyville.
The Central Corporation promised Wednesday that the new truck will be delivered during the next few days. In the meantime the interior of the fire station has been remodeled to make room for the new apparatus. The old truck has been stored in a local garage, and was available at night only when the garage was open. Storage cost the city $5 a month.
Recently the main section of the fire station has been enlarged by the removal of the walls which divided the main room from another room formerly occupied by the controls for the abandoned white way lighting system. Throwing the two rooms together will enable the two trucks to be kept in the station.
May 27, 1941:
Fire Chief Orlie Ing arrived in Marion Monday night from St. Louis with the new fire truck recently purchased by Marion from the Central Fire Truck Corporation of St. Louis.
The fire chief went to St. Louis for the truck after the manufacturer had notified that delivery was being delayed by priority granted defense industries on materials needed for some of the firefighting equipment. The truck was delivered without hose and ladders which will be shipped to Marion as soon as it can be secured from the manufacturers Chief Ing was assured in St. Louis. In the meantime the truck will be available for use with hose and ladders which the fire department already has in its equipment.
Addition of the new fire truck gives Marion the best equipped fire department in the city’s history, and places Marion’s firefighting equipment on a parity with other cities of its size throughout the country. In addition to the new truck, the city will keep in service the Dodge pumper which has carried the brunt of the fire department’s work since it was purchased from the Central Corporation in 1935. It is still good for many years service.
The new truck is built upon a Ford chassis purchased from Davis Brothers of Marion. It is equipped with a 500 gallon pump and the standard equipment of fire apparatus of its size. Additional features of its construction include a 350 gallon booster tank which carries enough water on the truck itself to extinguish most fires which the firemen are called upon to combat. Connected with this tank are two reels of 200 feet of hose each, enabling the pumper to throw two streams of water simultaneously from the body of the truck without taking time to hook up the large hose. The booster tank which is larger than is installed on most trucks was designed to cope with fires which occur far from a fire hydrant.
For fires which necessitate the use of the large hose, the pumper is equipped with a Siamese intake connection which enables the pumper to draw two-and-one-half-inch stream of water from each of two openings of a fire hydrant into the pump at the same time. This equipment is designed to speed hook-up of the fire apparatus at the scene of a fire and to give the pumper a maximum of water from the hydrant.
In addition to the pumper equipment the new truck carries two portable Indian hand pumps which firemen may carry strapped to their backs for use in small blazes such as roof fires where use of larger hose equipment is not necessary. A test Tuesday morning showed these hand pumps powerful enough to throw a stream of water over the roof of the fire department.
The truck is equipped with miscellaneous apparatus to facilitate coping with fires. This includes axes, crowbar, two movable spotlights on the front, two lights on the rear, a siren and red flasher light mounted on the left front fender, chemical fire extinguisher, and high-powered portable searchlight, and nozzles for the various size of hose.
The truck when completely equipped will have 1000 feet of hose and two aluminum ladders also.
June 7, 1941:
Marion’s new fire truck was equipped with new aluminum ladders Saturday following arrival of the ladders which had been delayed because of the national defense priority on aluminum.
Ladder equipment on the truck includes one 14-foot roof ladder for use on top of buildings and a two-section 28-foot ladder for regular wall use. The aluminum ladders are much lighter in weight than the wooden ladders carried on the older of the two trucks now in service. The fire department was advised by the Central fire Truck Corp. that it has ceased equipping fire trucks with aluminum ladders due to diversion of aluminum to defense industries.
June 12, 1941:
Arrival of 1000 feet of fire hose at the Marion fire department Wednesday completed the equipment of the new Marion fire truck recently purchased by the city council.
The hose includes 600 feet of two and one-half inch hose and 400 feet of one and one-half inch hose. In addition to this hose which will be carried on the truck for fighting fires with water drawn from the water mains by the 500 gallon pumper with which the truck is equipped, the new truck carries 400 feet of one inch hose permanently attached to the 350 gallon tank of water carried on the truck itself.
Exclusive of the truck-tank hose, the fire department now has more than 3000 feet of serviceable fire hose, but much of it is several years old. The new hose purchased with the truck is the first fire hose bought by the present city administration which took office over two years ago. Fire equipment funds expended during that time have been used to retire debts which had accumulated against the fire department, including more than $500 for some of the old hose which is still in use.
Fire Chief Orlie Ing said that he had been advised by fire hose companies the prices of fire hose have advanced since the Marion purchase was made. Delivery of the hose was delayed by the demand for fire hose for the army, cities of the Atlantic seaboard, and for shipment to Great Britain which has also been responsible for the price
Advance, it is said.
A number of features on the new Marion truck, such as steel running boards, and certain aluminum accessories, are being discontinued on future fire trucks, according to the manufacturers, because of the shortage of the materials of which they are made.
June 20, 1941:
City Commissioner Homer Butler on Friday outlined plans for improvement of the Marion Fire Department co-incident with the purchase of the new fire truck which will undergo its official test at the Marion Water Company’s North Madison Street plant Monday at 10 a.m.
In addition to the purchase of the new truck, a number of other changes are being made at the Fire Department, Commissioner Butler said.
The first improvement was the alteration of the interior of the fire department building to make room for two trucks. Although Marion has had two trucks since 1935, the older of the two trucks in service since that time has been stored in a commercial garage outside the fire department. The fact that the garage was closed at night made the truck stored there unavailable at night without delay.
The present fire department building is not large enough for two trucks to be placed in it side by side, but by lengthening the main room of the fire station, the two trucks can be accommodated, one behind the other.
A further improvement in the operation of the fire department, according to the commissioner, will be effected when accommodations are arranged in the fire station for volunteer firemen to stay at the station at night. As an economy measure, several years ago, living quarters were established in the crowded fire department for the fire chief and his wife. Since Fire Chief Orlie Ing took over the department the custom of having the fire chief at the station has been followed. As a matter of economy, this practice enabled the fire chief to be on duty 24 hours a day.
After July 1, however, the fire chief will live outside the fire department, and the living quarters there will be used for the accommodation of firemen on duty.
June 24, 1941:
Successfully meeting the tests of the Illinois Inspection Bureau, fire insurance underwriters’ agency, the new Marion fire truck was ready for service Tuesday.
Tests were made Monday afternoon at the Marion Water Company reservoir on North Madison Street. The pump was run continuously for three hours, drawing water from the lake and sending it through a fire hose at the rate of 500 gallons a minute.
After the test the pumper was serviced in the Davis Brothers garage where the Ford motor and chassis underwent an inspection and some adjustments.
Meanwhile, the city looked forward to the first payment on the new truck in 1942. Exclusive of the truck which was traded in on the new apparatus, the new truck cost the city $4092. A thousand dollars worth of new fire hose raised the total price to $5092. Deduction of the price for the chassis which the city bought from Davis Brothers in Marion left a balance of $4272 for hose and truck to be paid in three annual payments.
June 28, 1941:
Fire razed the workshop of E.W. Toler’s upholstery business near the city limit on South Court Street Friday afternoon after the building caught fire when a stove pipe fell.
The building contained a supply of upholstery materials and wood which burned rapidly.
The alarm was the first run for the new fire truck.
Action of the 500-gallon pumper was delayed when the four-inch water main failed to supply water promptly and it was necessary for the Marion Bottling Company nearby to shut down to order for the water supply to reach the fire engine. The fire occurred 1300 feet from the nearest water plug.
Firemen were able, however, to prevent the blaze from spreading to nearby buildings which for a few minutes were menaced by the flames.
July 1, 1941:
The City Council on Monday night added another man to the fire department. The new fireman is James Anderson, who has been an active member of the volunteer list at the fire department. He was placed on the regular force at a salary of $90 a month. Employment of an additional fireman was made possible through agreement of the council to use money collected by the parking meters for that purpose.
Employment of a third fireman enabled Fire Chief Orlie Ing to move out of the fire department to an apartment nearby. A working schedule arranged by the fire chief will leave two firemen on duty at all times, while each man will be subject to call during his time off. For several years there have been only two paid men on the fire department and this system required the fire chief to live at the fire station, and any time-off allowed either of the firemen left only one regular fireman on duty.
Monday, December 15, 1941:
A rooming house at 300 W. Union St. owned by Leonard Rodd was damaged by fire shortly after noon Saturday. The blaze started when the floor of the first story of the two story building caught fire from the furnace. The floor and framing was badly charred before firemen extinguished the blaze.
An alarm early Saturday called firemen to the Martin Service Station on East Main where an auto owned by Ralph Burns caught fire. The blaze which started when the gasoline tank was filled to overflowing and the motor fuel was ignited from the engine manifold was quickly extinguished.
January 2, 1942:
The Illinois Ordnance Plant on Thursday returned to the city of Marion the fire truck which it rented nine weeks ago to provide fire protection for the plant under construction.
The Marion truck was returned after arrival at the plant of three new trucks purchased by the government for fire stations in the Ordnance plant area.
Monday, May 18, 1942:
Fire which was discovered in a storage room of the Cline-Vick Drug Store at 8 o’clock Sunday night was extinguished by firemen with damage.
The fire started in some waste paper in a section o f the basement under the sidewalk which is separated from the drug store by a brick firewall. Entering the basement room through a door in the sidewalk, firemen soon extinguished the blaze despite the handicap of battling intense smoke which billowed from the basement door for an hour after the fire was out. A large crowd gathered in that section of the Public Square, attracted by the smoke and the fire engine. Customers continued to sip drinks at the soda fountain in the drug store and business was carried on as usual while firemen fought the fire.
June 4, 1942:
Equipment of the Marion fire department was further increased Thursday by the purchase of two smoke masks for use of firemen inside burning buildings. The new masks fit over the filters, replace smaller sponge-masks previously used by the firemen.
The new masks were purchased from the Mines Safety Appliance Co. at a cost of $35 each. They were ordered for the department several months ago but have been difficult to procure because of priorities on such equipment.
Fire Chief Ing expressed the opinion that the masks, which are of a type recently tried out at Mt. Vernon, will be of great assistance in fighting attic fires in dwelling houses, as well as fires in business buildings where smoke is always a factor with which firemen have to contend. By enabling firemen to get into buildings to the source of the fire before it breaks outside, the new masks are expected to help reduce fire loss as well as reduce the punishment which the firemen ordinarily have to take while “eating smoke.”
Firemen heretofore have had difficulty in finding on the market a practical smoke mask for use in fighting fires in dense smoke inside buildings.
Saturday, November 14, 1942:
The fire department was called Friday evening to the Marion Bowling Alley on North Market Street when paper around the flue caught fire. The blaze was extinguished without serious damage.
Monday, December 28, 1942:
The Farmer’s Produce Co., operated by Lloyd McMichael, was open for business in temporary quarters Monday morning after fire which broke out at 3 pm Saturday destroyed the entire retail stock of flour, feed and of the store located in the Dunston Building in the rear of the city hall.
Estimates of damage totaling $9,950 were obtained by Fire Chief Ing as follows: Farmers Produce $5,000, Eaton and Ash $750, Hill Printing Co. $500, B.D. Ream $1,000, Kroger Co. $200, and Dunston Building $2,500.
The blaze apparently originated in the toilet in the rear of the feed store where it is suspected someone may have dropped a cigarette.
McMichael was out of the store at the time the fire was discovered, but he donned a fireman’s mask to enter the store room and rescue $1000 in cash which had placed in a sack on his desk preparatory to making his regular bank deposit before the fire broke out.
Only a cloud of smoke was emerging from the feed store when firemen arrived and started inside the building with hose lines from a 400-gallon booster tank of water carried by the fire truck. They were met with a sudden gust of black smoke and flames, however, and abandoned the small hose to move the truck to a fire hydrant on East Main Street where the pumper was then connected. Two lines of hose were run, one into the feed store from the entrance back of the city hall and the other to the rear of the feed store through the Hill Printing Co. on East Main Street.
The fire swept rapidly through the store of feed and flour, and looked as if it was going to destroy the building. But as Fire Chief Orlie Ing called the second fire truck out of the station and it took up its position at a hydrant on the Public Square, the firemen brought the blaze under control less than 30 minutes after it started.
Aided by volunteers, including Randall Holcomb, former Mt. Vernon fireman who now lives in Marion and was visiting at the fire station, the firemen rapidly beat out the flames which were confined to the feed store. Holcomb manned the second truck with which he had remained at the station awaiting Chief Ing’s orders.
One volunteer fireman, “Pee Wee” Norman, suffered a cut on one leg which required medical attention. The other firemen suffered minor cuts and blisters in the battle against the flames.
The fire attracted hundreds of spectators at the height of Saturday’s shopping in the downtown section, and the crowd hampered the firemen in hooking up the hose. The fact that the fire occurred in the daytime, rather than at night, however, doubtless enabled the firemen to reach it in time to prevent a much greater loss.
At the height of the fire, Lawrence Odum, owner of the Jewelry store in the adjacent Warder building carried his stock out of the building as a precaution. Odum’s store was burned out in the disastrous Goodall Hotel fire across the street last March. The Illinois Brokerage Store in the Warder building closed during the fire, but did not remove merchandise.
The Farmer’s Produce Co. will temporarily handle its retail business from its wholesale warehouse at the corner of East Union and North Mechanic Streets.
Tuesday, March 9, 1943:
Fire almost completely ruined the “Uneeda Café” a small eating place between the Orpheum Theatre and the county jail about three o’clock yesterday afternoon with damage amounting to several hundreds of dollars.
The café was operated by Mrs. Ida Clarida and had a wide patronage.
No cause has been ascertained for the blaze which originated in the kitchen, with resulting damage to both equipment and food stocks. One story related that the blaze followed shortly after an employee had hung a garment in one corner, and that the blaze broke out almost immediately.
The local fire department found it necessary to use plenty of water due to the fact that the building was covered with corrugated steel and lined with beaver board. The building was owned by G.J. Frick.
At one time the blaze gave considerable concern to the sheriff and occupants of the county jail, who were for the most part, housed directly next to it.
Both building and contents were said to have been covered with insurance.
May 15, 1943:
Herman May, former Marion policeman, went to work Saturday at the Marion Fire Department. May for the past two years has been employed at the Illinois Ordnance Plant, most of that time as captain of firemen. It is reported that he is to be appointed assistant fire chief by the City Council Monday night.
May 24, 1943:
Mayor Crisp reported to the Council Monday night that the Dodge fire truck, the older of the city’s two fire trucks, has been taken to St. Louis for repairs. The pump on the truck had gone out of commission, it was said, after it was used to pump at the sewage disposal plant.
June 11, 1943:
Zoral Buckner, residing on N. McLaren Street, has been appointed as a member of the City Fire Department: Fire Chief Jake Perry announced today.
Buckner assumed his duties Thursday morning. For the past year and one half he was employed at the Illinois Ordnance Plant as a fireman.
June 11, 1943:
The Dodge pumper, belonging to the Marion City Fire Department was to be returned to service Saturday morning.
It was found necessary to take the big pumper into the Central Fire Equipment co., St. Louis, for repairs to the pump believed made necessary by the pumping of sand and gravel through the pump.
The repairs had been estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $400 and the pumper was in St. Louis for nearly two weeks.
Fire Chief Jake Perry made the trip to St. Louis for the apparatus.
Tuesday, June 15, 1943:
Mayor Harry L. Crisp reported to the City Council Monday night that oily rags which had been used for wiping tools and machinery at the municipal water pumping station had been found in the pipes from which water is pumped from the clear well at the plant into the city mains.
Without fixing responsibility for the occurrence, Mayor Crisp said the rags were discovered during an investigation which began when pump operators discovered the pumps had difficulty to maintain a normal supply of water in the mains.
The mayor said that normal pumping was resumed when the rags were removed from the pipes and a guard has been placed over the water plant to prevent repetition of the occurrence.
The council, by unanimous votes confirmed appointment by the Mayor of Herman May, former city policeman, as assistant fire chief, and Orel Bearden as fireman.
June 16, 1943:
In Tuesday issue of the Daily Republican, it was said that the City Council had confirmed the appointment of Oral Bearden as a member of the City Fire Department. This was in error, and should have been Zoral Buckner, who has been a member of the Department for several days.
Aug. 10, 1943:
The War Department has selected the Marion Fire Department as one of several departments located at strategic points near war plants scattered throughout the nation to have custody of auxiliary firefighting equipment for use in emergency.
The first shipment of equipment has arrived, and is being set up by the Marion firemen. Although city officials have been asked to regard details of the equipment as military information, it was learned that the equipment which is already on hand, together with other equipment scheduled to be shipped to the local firemen, will be sufficient to equip a Marion fire fighting force of several hundred men if necessary.
The fact that the Illinois Ordnance Plant is located near Marion is believed to have been responsible for Marion’s selection as custodian of the auxiliary firefighting equipment. The plant maintains its own fire fighting force for protection of the plant, but the equipment sent to Marion and to some other cities in war plant areas is designed for use of auxiliary firemen in case of an emergency, including emergency outside the plant area itself.
Thursday, October 21, 1943:
Fire at 9:30 pm Wed. destroyed the frame building across the highway from the U.S. Veterans Hospital known as Dixie Barbecue.The blaze was reported to the Marion Fire Dept. by persons living in the vicinity. The rear of the building was in flames when the firemen arrived. Unable to save the building because of the lack of water supply and because of the headway the flames had gained before they arrived, the firemen bent their efforts to the saving of houses and outbuildings nearby. Although the flames from the burning building menaced the nearby structures, the damage was confined to the one building. So far as firemen could determine, no one was in the building when it caught fire and the origin of the blaze was not learned.
Thursday, January 25, 1945:
The combination of a match and an open box of excelsior resulted at 8:20 pm Thursday, in a fire which could have menaced a North Market Street business block except for early arrival of firemen. The excelsior had been placed in the rear of 307 N. Market St. where it had been carried out during the cleaning of trash from the basement.
Fire Chief Herman May expressed the belief someone passing in the alley had tossed a match into the excelsior, starting a fire which burned the wood frame of a window in the L.B. Price Mercantile Co. before it could be extinguished.
Chief May pointed to the fire as an example for the need of extreme caution to prevent disastrous fires. He urged care in the handling of waste paper and other waste materials which might be the cause of a bad blaze.
August 5, 1947:
Marion firemen looked forward Tuesday to being equipped with smoke masks which will enable them to enter smoke filled buildings to fight fires at their source.
The Marion Lions club has agreed to purchase the equipment for the firemen. It is planned to purchase two of the masks at an approximate cost of $300.
Wednesday, September 10, 1947:
Fire which broke out in a warehouse of the Farmer’s Produce Co. on East Union Street early Wednesday morning caused damage estimated at several thousand dollars principally to a stock of feed and seed on the second floor.
Scores of chickens in pens on the first floor suffocated from the smoke.
Firemen attributed the blaze to electric wiring on the second floor of the warehouse where the fire broke out. Water damage to the stock of feed and seed was heavy.
Lloyd McMichael, owner, praised the prompt work of the firemen for preventing destruction of the entire building and its contents.
The blaze was discovered at 3 am by Dr. F.O. Wilson who saw it from the Methodist parsonage a block west of the fire department. Dr. Wilson, retiring First Methodist Church pastor had arisen early in preparation for the moving of his household effects to his new home at Brighton, Ill. He saw the smoke and flames of the fire four blocks away and notified the firemen.
Saturday, October 25, 1947:
Fire believed to have started from defective electric wiring, caused several thousand dollars damage to the Marion Presbyterian Church Friday evening.
The fire had started between the ceiling of the basement and the floor of the church auditorium and was blazing brightly when discovered about 9 pm.
The fire department made a quick run to the church and extinguished the blaze, before the fire had broken through the flooring, but not until after the entire building had been damaged by smoke and heat.
Rev. Samuel Johnson, pastor of the church and some young people had been in the church earlier in the evening but left about 8 o’clock, an hour before the blaze was discovered by neighbors, all of whom reported the call simultaneously.
It was believed Saturday morning that the damage would be probably less than $10,000 covered by insurance.
In 1928 the church was using a tabernacle building in the rear of the present building for their church services and following Sunday night services on January 1st, 1928, the building caught on fire due to an overheated furnace. It was a complete wreck and services were held in the Family Theatre for many months.
In May 1928, a remodeled church was rededicated which was used until December 9, 1934 when it was gutted by fire again. The Sunday morning services had just closed and Rev. A.E. Powell, the pastor was leaving his study when he discovered the furnace room was a mass of flames.
On Sunday, October 27, 1935 the present church building was dedicated and has been in constant use since that time.
Monday, November 10, 1947:
Fire at 4:30 am Sunday did damage estimated at $1200 to the Feurer Equipment Company’s new building and its contents on Route 13 near the Marion Airport. Firemen said early discovery of the blaze prevented a much heavier loss. The fire was discovered by J.D. Bearden who was driving past the building, and reported it to firemen.
Believed to have originated from an electric motor on an air compressor, the blaze damaged wooden framing of the concrete building, as well as a quantity of binder twine and other merchandise, and the heat broke out several window panes.
Wednesday, December 17, 1947:
Fire which was discovered in the basement of the two story brick building at 304 W. Main Street destroyed a photographer’s studio and resulted in smoke damage to the City Cleaner in the same building.
The fire was confined to the studio room on the first floor. A youth asleep in a bedroom behind the studio and members of three families in apartments upstairs fled from the building and escaped injury.
The blaze originated in the basement over the furnace. Several joists supporting the first floor were burned and the flames burned through the floor into the studio where photographic equipment, supplies and fixtures were destroyed.
Firemen wearing smoke masks presented to the department by the Lions Club entered the burning building and were able to fight the flames at close range, preventing the fire from spreading.
Donald E. Holt who was asleep in the studio was aroused in time to escape the flames. Occupants of the second floor apartments made their way down the stairs to safety. The apartments were occupied by Mrs. Lydia Vick, Mrs. Elsie Smith and the family of M.R. Groves.
The building is owned by Mr. and Mrs. V.G. Buckner who were unable to give an immediate estimate of the damage which will run into hundreds of dollars.
The photographic studio, the Artcraft Studio, is owned by D.R. Lawrence of Mt. Vernon who also operates studios in Mt. Vernon and Paducah, Ky.
Monday, January 12, 1948:
Fire caused by an over-heated furnace early Monday morning destroyed the two-story frame building owned by Roy L. Cox in the 600 block on East Main Street, one of the community’s landmarks.
The blaze entirely consumed the fish market and grocery store by Cox, a restaurant owned by Mrs. Mae Stephenson and the apartments upstairs from which four families escaped with only the clothes they wore. No one was injured.
The total loss was estimated at approximately $15,000. Cox said neither the building nor contents was insured.
An adjacent two-story frame building owned by A.M. Thompson was saved, despite the fact that heat from the burning building was so intense that it broke windows in the Hamlett Garage across the street and scorched the front of the Travelstead barbershop adjacent to the garage.
Firemen who soaked the wall of the Thompson building with water were aided by a three-foot passageway which separated the two buildings. Composition siding on the west wall of the Cox building helped protect the Thompson building which was also favored by the wind.
The Add Sanders grocery store in the Thompson building escaped fire damage but was damaged by water. Fire broke through into an upstairs apartment occupied by Kenneth Edwards and his family, and ignited some clothing which was carried out of the building before it could set fire to the apartment.
Families routed from second floor apartments in the Cox building were as follows:
Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Murphy and five children, Mrs. Opal Hundley and two children, Mr. and Mrs. William Murphy and two children and Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Simmons and three children. William Murphy is a soldier home on furlough.
The fire was discovered about 6 am in a rear room of the Cox store where the hot water furnace was located. No one was in the store at the time the fire started, apparently from the furnace which had been fired a short time before by the janitor.
Firemen who reached the scene while the flames were still confined to the first floor made such rapid progress in getting the flames under control, that Cox who hurried to the scene from his home a block away decided not to attempt to remove the stock and fixtures. Then the fire hose burst and before it could be replaced the flames were out of control.
The building which burned was constructed in 1902 by William Manese. It was purchased by Cox in 1933 who has been in business in that neighborhood for 20 years. Although he had made improvements toward modernization since he acquired the property. Cox said the high insurance rate set on the building because of the nature of its construction had prevented his carrying insurance.
The Thompson building was built the same time by Nall & Williams, who were Marion contractors around the turn of the century.
Electric lines on the east side of the street were broken as a result of the fire, interrupting electric service to the southeast section of the city which the lines served.
Friday, May 21, 1948:
Fire at 3:15 am Friday damaged the Marion Bowl on Rt. 13 west of Marion. Fireman who fought the blaze for nearly two hours and prevented total loss of the elaborate bowling establishment expressed the opinion that the fire started from electric wiring in the attic.
Although an estimate of the damage was not available it was expected to run close to $20,000. The bowling alleys themselves were not damaged, but manager Hank Wines said the establishment would be closed indefinitely because of the damage to the building. The Bowl dining room will also be closed indefinitely.
The fire apparently started in the attic over the kitchen of the Bowl café, and spread through the attic over the bowling alleys.
It was discovered by Ralph Horsley, bread salesman for the Marion Baking Co. He saw the smoke from the building as he was preparing to go to work and gave the alarm.
Firemen battled dense smoke to get at the seat of the fire. Within minutes after the fire truck reached the scene, all members of the regular fire fighting force were on the job including those not on duty at the time. Smoke masks enabled them to fight the fire at close range and they confined it to the upper portion of the building. The worst damage was over the café where the fire broke through the ceiling.
Tuesday, July 6, 1948:
Damage was estimated at $25,000 Tuesday in a fire at 8:30 pm Tuesday in a fire Saturday which destroyed a garage at the Frick Funeral Home. A Packard ambulance, a hearse, a combination Chrysler ambulance and a seven passenger sedan and 30 caskets stored in the garage were destroyed.
The funeral home itself was not damaged although the wall of a rear storage room was scorched by the heat. The homes of Howard Frick south of the garage and Mrs. Margie Edwards west of the burning building caught fire but were saved from any serious damage.
The frame garage was located west of the funeral home and stood so close to the other buildings in the vicinity that it appeared for a time that their destruction was inevitable.
The blaze had gained considerable headway before it was discovered and the building was enveloped in flames when firemen reached the scene. The heat was so intense that the funeral home staff could not enter the building to rescue the vehicles stored there.
The staff and more than a score of persons in the funeral home were unaware of the fire until a passerby summoned G.J. Frick and told him the garage was burning.
Persons in the funeral home at the time included friends and relatives of two deceased persons whose bodies lay in state in the chapel.
Frick and his staff quietly advised the crowd of the fire and asked them to leave the building as a precaution. The crowd filed out without panic. Preparations were made to remove the two caskets from the chapel if necessary but as firemen got the blaze under control, the caskets were permitted to remain.
The funeral home staff was enthusiastic in praise of the work done by firemen in preventing spread of the flames. The fire in no way disrupted the service of the funeral home. Other motor equipment was placed in readiness at once to take care of any emergency.
Friday, August 1, 1948:
Fire Chief Zoral Buckner moved Friday to eliminate fire hazards at the West Side Hotel listed by a state deputy fire marshal in Jan. 1945.
Buckner said he and Deputy Marshal H.W. Miley had made an inspection Thursday and found that conditions had not been corrected to comply with an order issued by Miley at the time of the inspection in 1945.
The fire chief said he would serve a formal notice on Phillip Rick, owner of the building, and Mrs. Myrtle Otterson, operator of the hotel, to eliminate what her termed hazardous conditions. He said failure to comply with the order would be followed by prosecution.
The state deputy fire marshal called for adequate fire escapes, removal of a padlock from a rear exit, removal of kerosene stoves from hotel rooms, inspection of electrical wiring and various repairs.
Monday, December 13, 1948:
Police and firemen extinguished a gasoline blaze at the Jack Tanner Service station at the corner of West Main and South Court Street which threatened to develop into a destructive fire late Sunday night.
At 11:30 pm Night Policeman Herman May and John Kelley discovered two of the gasoline pumps at the service station on fire. The blaze spread rapidly to three other pumps nearby. The policemen summoned the fire department, and fought the blaze with hand extinguishers until firemen arrived.
The blaze believed to have originated from a short circuit in electric wiring, spread to the base of the pumps and firemen risked the danger of the underground gasoline tanks exploding as they fought the fire. They were eventually able to smother the flames with a foam solution with which the department is equipped to fight gasoline and oil fires.
Thursday, January 13, 1949:
Fire early Thursday morning completely destroyed the Jefferson School building on East Boulevard. The loss of the building left nearly 250 pupils of grades from one to six without a school building. Superintendent H.O. Belford said arrangements will be made for pupils to attend classes elsewhere beginning Monday. The school board will meet tonight to consider plans for rebuilding and for housing the pupils during the interim.
Marion firemen were aided by firemen from Johnston City in fighting the blaze which was discovered in the furnace room about 1 am. A fire truck from Herrin stood by at the Marion station while Marion’s two pumpers were at the fire.
The blaze appeared to be confined to the basement when the firemen reached the building. Firemen who entered the building were forced out as the fire spread. Five lines of hose were used in fighting the blaze until nearly 6 am. By that time the two-story, 10-room brick structure had been reduced to a pile of rubble.
Only fragments of the brick walls were left standing and they were pulled down by firemen as a safety precaution. At one time it appeared that firemen were making headway against the fire in the basement but it burned upwards into a room over the furnace room where it was spurred by a draft, and spread into the upper portion of the building. The open stairway acted as a chimney for the flames as they raged through the ground floor rooms to the second floor.
Streams of water were ineffective against the fury of the fire which rapidly ate its way through the class rooms and corridors, destroying desks, book cases, floors and interior walls before it brought the roof crashing down with an impact that sent sparks high into the early morning sky.
Sections of the wall tumbled down. Concrete fire escapes which had been added to the sides of the building after it was built remained standing, each supporting a section of brick wall.
Eugene Morrison, president of the school board said no estimate of replacement value of the building was available. Replacement cost at present prices is estimated at $200,000. The building and contents were insured for $37,500.
The building was constructed in 1908 at a cost of $16,000. Since that time, however, many improvements had been added from time to time. A $20,000 repair and improvement program was underway this year. Electricians and plumbers were working in the building Wednesday.
School board members said that an architect was under contract to appraise the school buildings, but had not made his reports at the time of the fire. An effort was being made Thursday to determine the fire’s origin.
The fire was discovered by Mrs. Carlene Staudacher, 605 E. Carter Street. Mrs. Staudacher saw the blaze in the basement when her husband returned home at 1:05 am from his work on the night shift at Peabody Mine #43. After admitting her husband she was attracted by a light at the school which she first thought was the glare from an automobile headlight.
“Within a matter of seconds,” Mrs. Staudacher said, “the fire seemed to break out of the basement.” Staudacher and a group of other miners had driven by the school only minutes before without seeing the blaze. After the fire was sighted from his home and the alarm turned in, he ran to the school building and was there when the firemen arrived.
The disaster was the first serious school fire in Marion since 1928 when the Douglas school was badly damaged. George Wise, school janitor, did not learn of the fire until he arrived early Thursday to begin his day’s work and found the building destroyed.
Monday, November 5, 1949:
The G.J. Frick plumbing shop on West College Street was damaged by fire at 12:30 pm Monday. The wood framing of the sheet metal structure was badly damaged and a large part of the stock of plumbing equipment destroyed or damaged.
The fire was believed to have spread to the building from grass burning outside the building. Firemen theorized the grass had been ignited by a cigarette tossed by someone passing on the nearby street.
Monday, November 5, 1949:
Those who went early to Sunday School at the Warder Street Baptist Church yesterday morning found an unusually warm welcome for just about Sunday School time the house of worship was filled with blinding smoke that drove old and young into the streets.
The prompt arrival of the fire department boys and their efficient work confined the blaze to the newly decorated kitchen. New cabinets that had been made and installed during the summer months to care for the new dishes and silverware were ruined as well as the ceiling installed the past summer was all that saved the building from what might have been a very destructive fire. Damage is estimated at from $200 to $300 as no harm was done the main auditorium outside of smoke. The children’s division gathered in the auditorium and a brief session of Sunday School was held and a service of Thanksgiving followed with a brief message by the pastor.
In speaking of the fire, pastor Pearce voiced his high appreciation of the firemen who arrived so promptly and extinguished the blaze without doing damage to the main auditorium and withholding use of water or ax upstairs when it was thought necessary in locating the blaze.
Tuesday, January 31, 1950:
Fire discovered at 9:30 pm Monday damaged the West Side Shoe Shop owned by Joe LoBurgio at 111 W. Main Street. Firemen confined the blaze to the rear room where it originated near the ceiling presumably from a chimney or wiring.
Smoke and water damage also extended to Monroe’s Cleaners next door. Customer’s apparel in the cleaning establishment was saved from damage however. Garments hanging from racks were carried to the county jail in the rear of the fire scene and were kept there overnight.
Both the shoe repair shop and the cleaning establishment were open for business Tuesday despite the fire. Deputy Sheriffs Virgil Yewell and Charles Edwards who were on duty in the sheriff’s office in the county jail were among the first to arrive on the scene and assisted in carrying clothing from the cleaners. Among the articles rescued was a hat belonging to Yewell and a suit and trousers owned by Edwards.
Tuesday, March 7, 1950:
Fire at 3:30 am Tuesday damaged the two story frame building at 215 W. Main St. owned by Harry W. Bracy. Damage to the building was estimated at between $4000 and $5000. Arthur Melvin estimated $2000 damage to books and furnishings in his law office which is located in the building.
Firemen extinguished the blaze after they were called by a Kroger truck driver who discovered the fire as he was passing the building on his early morning run.
The fire originated around a flue which is connected to the east. Smoke filled the sales room of the Marion Auto Supply Co. in the brick building but the fire did not reach the adjacent structure.
Fire Chief Orlie Ing said smoke was billowing from the frame structure when the fire truck arrived. Firemen entered the building and confined the blaze to the rear part of the structure. Ing said that only the early discovery of the blaze enabled firemen to prevent the building’s complete destruction.
Monday, July 3, 1950:
Damage was estimated at $90,000 Monday in a fire early Sunday which destroyed the two-story brick warehouse of the Fredman Furniture Co. and a frame dwelling nearby. Other buildings in the vicinity of the ware house on South Monroe Street, a half block from West Main Street were also damaged.
Herrin and Carbondale firemen assisted the Marion fire department in fighting the blaze which for several hours menaced a wide area of the city’s business section.
The fire started in the vacant frame dwelling owned by Frank Turnage and spread to the warehouse a few feet to the north. Firemen who were called at 12:15 am found the frame structure already enveloped by flames which were leaping through the windows of the warehouse filled with new furniture and household appliances.
The warehouse contained more than 100 electric refrigerators in addition to other merchandise for the company’s Marion and Herrin retail stores.
The entire stock was destroyed and the building was a complete loss. The east wall of the building fell into the street while firemen were still fighting the blaze, and the other walls were being pulled down Monday as a safety precaution.
The fire that was rapidly eating away the frame dwelling kept firemen back from the south wall of the Fredman building until the blaze could be beaten down to enable them to approach near enough to direct hose lines through windows of the brick structure.
Firemen were further handicapped by the bursting of three sections of hose. They were gaining headway against the blaze when delay caused by the bursting hose enabled the blaze to get out of control. One of two Marion fire trucks also went out of commission, but this incident caused only a slight delay as hose lines were switched to an out of town fire truck which had just arrived.
In all, six 50 foot sections of hose were lost by the Marion department. Three were caught under a falling wall which showered brick and mortar over South Monroe Street.
Firemen prevented the fire spreading to other buildings which were damaged by the heat. Window panes were cracked and paint scorched on doors and windows in the tree story Masonic building across the street which houses the Fredman retail store. Damage there was estimated at $200. Loss of the warehouse and stock both owned by the Fredman Company alone was estimated at $90,000.
The roof of the Van Motor Company’s building was damaged by the heat. The motor company building was being renovated in preparation for opening as a Mercury sales agency.
Twenty-five window panes in the Marion bus company building at the corner of West Main and South Holland Streets were broken by the heat and tar on the roof melted ran off the building.
Destruction of the warehouse did not halt the Fredman Company’s operations. The retail store was open for business as usual Monday and a temporary warehouse was rented on North Market Street for the storing of new merchandise.
Origin of the blaze was not determined. The Turnage dwelling contained an accumulation of wall paper and felt which had been pulled from the walls and there was some speculation that someone had carelessly tossed a match, cigarette or fireworks into the vacant house which was located near the street.
A spokesman for the Fredman Company said the warehouse would be rebuilt. The home of Orville Strobel south of the Turnage house was scorched by the heat.
During the fire the Marion City busses were removed from the company’s garage when it was feared the blaze might spread.
Friday, November 17, 1950:
A fire of undetermined origin destroyed the Rollie Crain building on the corner of Granite and White streets at 1:15 am Friday morning. The building was occupied by the Stapleton Garage.
Firemen fought the fire four and a half hours. Flames had enveloped the entire roof of the one-story structure when the firemen received the call. Fire department officials said Friday that the building was a total loss. Damage was estimated at $16,000.
Monday, June 25, 1951:
A spectacular early morning fire Monday left the Morrison Brothers Oil Company main building just off the square a gutted ruin and caused an estimated $350,000 damage.
Flames roared uncontrolled through the building and for a time seriously threatened to engulf the buildings immediately east of the Morrison Brothers building.
After the alarm was given at about 5:30 am, firemen from eleven stations roared into Marion to aid the shorthanded Marion department to check the spread of the blaze.
At the height of the blaze, the 50-foot high flames and smoke could be seen in Herrin. Clouds of smoke rose from the building which served partly as a storehouse for trucks and equipment.
Destroyed by the fire were eight tank trucks, many tires, several stored autos, Morrison Brothers company records and the auto accessory shop. Gale Morrison, a vice-president of the company, said the blaze started near the southwest side of the building. Most firemen and other eyewitnesses agreed with Morrison.
Though Gale, F.E. Morrison company president or E.W. Gene Morrison, secretary-treasurer could give no definite estimate of the amount of damage the fire caused, conservative estimates set the loss of the building and contents at $300,000.
The Marion fire department was caught short handed since Chief Zoral Buckner took one truck to St. Louis for repairs at about 3:30 am Monday barely two hours before the blaze broke out. The rear of the Morrison Brothers building is about 30 yards from the Marion fire station.
Representatives of eleven southern Illinois Fire Departments were on hand to fight the fire within a short time after it was discovered. They were from Harrisburg, West Frankfort, Johnston City, Benton, Murphysboro, Southern Acres, the Veteran’s Hospital, Carbondale, Mt. Vernon, Carterville and Herrin.
Two members of the Benton Fire Department headed by Assistant Chief Frank Bauer, Jr. followed a Mt. Vernon truck to the scene of the fire despite the fact they were not notified personally by radio.
Chief worry of the firemen fighting the blaze was that it would spread to the office building directly to the east of the Morrison Brothers building. The roof of that building caught and blazed briefly, but firemen extinguished it and poured water onto the doomed Morrison building from its roof.
Severely damaged by water and smoke were the Williamson county relief office, the Marion I.O.O.F. hall and rooms in the second floor of the building at the east of the Morrison building.
Had the fire spread out of control east, the entire block would have been in grave danger. Office records of the Superintendent of Schools, the State’s Attorney and the Highway Office were evacuated by workers and placed on the sidewalk.
Intense heat scorched the Illinois Commercial Telephone Company building across Union Street from the Morrison Brothers building. Heat seriously damaged he office switchboard and a cable was destroyed. Much of Marion was left without telephone service because of the phone damage. Plans were being made by manager Harry Sewell for emergency phone service.
The Methodist church parsonage west of the Morrison building suffered roof damage. Heat blistered paint on the Fire Station walls. The Morrison Brothers announced their home office would move into a temporary location on West Main Street in the old Bowman and Tanner building across the street from the Harry Lee Sinclair Station.
The owners were hoping a vault on the west wall would be undamaged when workmen could clear the rubble away and investigate. The vault contains valuable papers, Gale Morrison said.
One item destroyed in the fire hit particularly hard at E.W. “Gene” Morrison. He had stored in the building an unused motor boat. The West Frankfort field kitchen of the Salvation Army was in operation at the scene of the blaze serving workers and firemen with coffee and refreshments. Workmen started the huge job of clearing the rubble shortly after the fire was brought under control. The first job was to prop up precarious slanting walls with telephone poles.
The weakened walls were in a position to damage nearby buildings and telephone wires and cable if they fell outward. About 8:30 am a huge crane from the R.W. Ford Construction Company arrived on the scene to begin the job of smashing down the walls of the building.
The crane started on the northeast side and by noon had moved almost completely around the building. The Morrison Brothers Home Oil Company building is one of Marion’s oldest landmarks. It was erected in 1858 by Joab Goodall and served as a mule barn until 1922 when it was converted into a garage.
The building was swept by a fire in 1910 leaving only the walls standing. That fire was fed by a large amount of hay left in the building. It is built on two floors and measures 100 feet by 180 feet. The freight elevator was capable of hauling 6,000 pounds of material.
The building has been rebuilt and remodeled many times in the almost 100-year existence. The Home Oil Company moved to the Goodall site in 1932 and has been there since that time. The company at first dealt only in the distribution of Sinclair gasoline, kerosene, distillates and fuel oil, but in 1927 installed a section for auto accessories.
County Board Chairman George Williams announced at noon Monday that the badly damaged Williamson County relief office would move to offices above the Sherman Department store, 200 Public Square.
No plans were made public of the moving of other offices in the damaged building. The offices of Superintendent of schools, state’s attorney, highway department and laundry were all reoccupied by workers shortly after the fire was brought under control.
Friday, February 27, 1953:
Marion firemen averted what could have been a major fire Thursday evening in a hallway between the North Market Kroger Store and the TVW Men’s Clothing Store.
Fireman Jack Whiting said the fire would have been almost impossible to handle if the alarm had not been given five minutes earlier. Whiting and fireman Lonnie Dungey said the fire was discovered by Clarence Franklin, an employee of Bill’s Liquor Store across North Market Street from the hallway. Franklin noticed flames shooting out the doorway and called firemen at 7:30 pm.
The firemen said the blaze started in a small storage room beneath the stairs from a short circuit in wiring. They said it probably smoldered for some time before it was discovered.
The fire had spread up the hallway and into a storage room upstairs. Firemen were able to use the stairway despite the fire beneath it and put out the rapidly spreading blaze. They needed about an hour to completely extinguish it.
Whiting said in another five minutes the stairs would have been burned away. It was the only entrance, he said. Smoke did slight damage to both the Kroger Store and the TVW store. Merchandise owned by Campbell’s Drug Store was stored in the back room in the upstairs, but it was not damaged, firemen said. No estimate was available on the damage to the hallway. The building is owned by Miss Georgia Heyde and her brother Phil Heyde.
Thurs. Dec. 3, 1953:
Marion’s newest fire truck, which arrived Wed. evening, was the object of attention Thursday morning as Marion firemen prepared it for duty.
The enclosed-cab 202 horsepower vehicle will be fully equipped to handle almost any fire in Marion. The new truck will carry 1,500 feet of two and half inch hose and 100 feet of one and a half inch hose. This will reach from a fire hydrant to any spot in Marion, according to Zoral Buckner, fire chief. The 1941 Ford truck which remains in use will carry 1,000 feet of hose.
The new truck cost about $14,000 without full equipment. The total cost with equipment is about $17,500 according to E.E. Weber, city commissioner. Weber pointed out the new truck will not be an extra burden to Marion taxpayers. Weber said about half the initial cost of the truck is paid for from federal Civil Defense funds.
Wednesday, March 9, 1955:
Fire which broke out at 11 am Friday almost completely destroyed the Pepsi Cola bottling plant on South Court Street. Harry L. Crisp, the owner, estimated the loss would be at least $500,000.
Firemen from five cities brought the fire under control about 1 pm. Crisp said the cause of the fire was unknown. He said the blaze which started in the southeast corner of one of the two buildings housing the plant was first discovered by J.W. Blue an employee. The entire south east corner of the plant’s south building was ablaze at that time. Twenty employees at work escaped without injury.
One $50,000 bottling line in the southeast section of the plant was destroyed early in the fire. The south building also housed another $100,000 bottling line but the extent of the damage in that part of the plant could not be determined. A third bottling machine, also valued at $100,000 was located in the north building which was still blazing at 2 o’clock.
A six-ton carbon dioxide tank exploded in the south building an hour after the fire was discovered, sending flames 75 feet into the air. Ten thousand dollars worth of sugar also burned in the south building. The front section of the south building which was two stories high remained standing but the roof of the one story-rear section fell in.
Firemen fought the fire from the ground and the roof of the north building which housed the firm’s offices as well as bottling equipment. A brisk south wind swept billowing clouds of smoke from the burning building beneath them, over the north wall and prevented firemen from approaching the blaze from the north.
Firemen from West Frankfort, Marion, Johnston City and Carbondale joined Fire Chief Herman May and Marion firemen in fighting the flames. Police Chief Charles Edwards and Officer Jack Stephens, aided by volunteers, went into the smoke-filled offices and carried out filing cases of records when it appeared the office building would be burned.
Water which was poured through the roof by firemen ran in a deep stream out of the office door. State Route 37 in front of the buildings was a labyrinth of fire hose. State police turned traffic around the fire scene as hundreds of spectators gathered.
The Pepsi Cola plant was founded by Crisp in 1936 in the south building to which was added the north building as the plant expanded to serve a 23-county territory. In 1938 Crisp established a second bottling plant at Centralia which still serves the north section of the territory.
“The only thing I can say to our customers,” Crisp said after the fire, “is that we’ll be back in operation bigger and better as soon as possible.”
Barney Russell, a Marion fireman, was overcome by smoke but was reported in good shape, except for a “terrific headache” at about 2 pm Friday. Russell said they had fought the fire about two hours before he became unconscious. He was taken to his quarters at the fire station after reviving.
Friday, January 27, 1956:
An explosion caused by a spark from a welding torch touched off a fire Friday morning at E. Blankenship & Co. which destroyed a machine shop and damaged a ware- house. Earl Blankenship, head of the firm estimated damage to the machine shop and its contents would be at least $70,000. He said the loss in the warehouse could not be estimated until an inventory is taken.
Explosion of a tank of cleaning fluid spread flames throughout the machine shop located on West Union Street near the C & E I railroad. The flames spread across the street south to the warehouse located between the machine shop and the two-story brick building on West Main Street which houses the firm’s offices and auto accessory store. The main building was not affected by the fire.
The blast set off a smaller fire caused when a spark from a welding torch ignited gasoline leaking from a truck.
Bob Lackey, shop foreman, said the blaze spread beyond control when the exploding tank sprayed gasoline about the shop. George Suchoki and Walter Fozzard were working on a truck at the rear of the shop when a spark from Suchoki’s welding torch set off the fire, Lackey said. Eleven men were working in the shop at the time, Lackey said. No one was injured.
The blaze collapsed two-thirds of the roof of the machine shop, burning out the partitions, rafters and supports, leaving the damaged concrete walls standing. It spread, however to the contents off the warehouse just east of the shop and burned wooden and cardboard cartons of auto accessories but did not collapse the sheet metal roof.
Small containers of gas and oil were stored in the buildings, some of which caused small explosions. The company stores most of its volatile supplies outside of town, Lackey said.
The shop building was 165 by 32 feet and the warehouse 90 by 30 feet.
Marion firemen, assisted by police, fought the blaze through knocked out windows and climbing on the roofs to spray water down on the fire which had spread throughout the building. Herrin, West Frankfort and Colp departments also reached the scene in time to help control the flames.
Monday, July 16, 1956:
Fire which broke out about 11 am Sunday resulted in extensive damage to the kitchen and dining room of Motel Marion Coffee shop, and threatened to spread to the adjoining rooms of the motel.
Firemen, who battled the flames for two hours, succeeded in stopping the blaze in the attic of the Coffee Shop before it could not spread to the motel rooms under the same roof. Actual fire damage was confined to the kitchen and the attic, but the main dining room and the Pine room suffered severe water damage. There was some smoke damage to the rooms in the west wing of the motel.
Water poured into the blazing attic from two pumper trucks poured into the dining room and stood several inches deep on the floor.
No estimate of the damage was available Monday.
The fire started over a stove in the kitchen located between the main dining room and the Pine room. It burned rapidly through the ceiling into the attic where it was spread by the draft from a large exhaust vent from the kitchen. When firemen arrived the attic was a roaring inferno and flames and smoke poured from vents in the attic walls. Water was poured into the attic through holes cut in the roof.
The Coffee Shop connected with the motel owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Thurmond was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Gene Schnierle of Harrisburg who took over the management June 16.
Firemen who fought the flames remained as guests of the management to share the Sunday dinner which was being prepared when the fire broke out. They were Fire Chief Herman May and Fireman Lonnie Dungey, Harvey Russell, Jack Whiting and John McIntosh.
Tuesday, September 18, 1956:
Fire and explosion early Tuesday destroyed three North Market Street stores, damaged a half dozen others and injured one fireman.
The stores wiped out in the complete destruction of the 50-year old two-story George B. Heyde building were the TVW Clothing Store, and the Dan Odum and Frank Hepler food markets.
Fire and debris hurled by the explosion broke windows in the Dunston, Harrison and Kimmel building across the street. Windows were also broken in the rear of the building on North Van Buren Street west of the destroyed buildings, and heat scorched the rear of the fire department.
No estimate of the total damage could be obtained from firemen or the various property owners but real estate and insurance men estimated it would be at least $200,000.
Volunteer fireman Clint Boles was temporarily trapped under a brick wall blown out by the explosion but was not seriously hurt and continued to fight the fire.
The destroyed building was owned by Phil Heyde of Olney and Miss Georgia Heyde of Marion. The TVW clothing store was owned by Virgil Vaughn, Virgil Wilson and Ralph Thaxton. A Chinese laundryman, Lee Leong who lived over the Hepler store was the object of concern during the height of the fire when he could not be located, but reappeared later in the morning to report he had spent the night in Benton. All his personal effects except the clothes he wore were destroyed.
The three stores occupying the burned building were a complete loss. Accounts and other records in the Hepler store were either burned or covered by smoldering debris. The TVW accounts were retrieved after the fire was brought under control.
An automobile registered in the name of I. Henderson, 206 S. 17th Street, Herrin, which was parked on the lot behind the Hepler store, was destroyed. Fireman attempted to push the car out of reach of the flames but it was locked, and they were unable to move it.
Telephone and power lines in the vicinity were wrecked, and service to a part of the business section was interrupted temporarily. Lines carrying power for operation of the telephone switchboards were broken, and the telephone company’s emergency generating equipment was thrown into service. Several power and telephone line poles caught fire. Several parking meters were destroyed.
Dan Odum said that he had left $500 in cash in the grocery store safe which was buried in smoking rubble. The grocery store stocks and fixtures in both food markets were consumed by the flames.
Also lost in the flames was several thousand dollars worth of Christmas merchandise for the Roy Campbell drug store which had been stored on the second floor of the Heyde building.
Stores where heat or debris broke windows were the Weber Hardware Co., the vacant room formerly occupied by the Sears Order Store, Bill’s Liquor Store, Carl Sorgen Studio, Lee Crouse Jewelry Store and Kimmel Auto Supply.
Second floor windows in the block of buildings on the east side of North Market Street were also broken and window frames in the buildings owned by Miss Virginia Dunston and Mrs. Isom Harrison were scorched by the flames.
The blaze was discovered at 3:45 am. Zuni Bradley, 104 W. Jackson St. said he saw flames from his bedroom window. He said flames were shooting from the rear of the Odum store at that time. He ran two blocks to the fire department.
Policeman Herman Burnett saw the smoke pouring from the building as he drove up North Market St. He radioed police headquarters, and ran up the stairway over Campbell’s drug store to warn persons living in apartments there. Unaware which rooms were occupied, he ran down the hall, knocking on the doors and shouting the alarm. He ran to the fire department and beat on the door.
Firemen said they were awakened by persons pounding on both the front and rear doors of the fire station and the telephone ringing, all at the same time. Fire Chief Herman May and Fireman Jack Whiting, accompanied by Clint Boles who had spent the night at the station as a volunteer fireman, rolled out a pumper and began laying hose.
Whiting and Boles were manning a hose line at the rear of the building when an explosion blew out the rear wall. Both men were knocked down. Whiting was blown clear of the wall, but Boles was covered from the chest down by falling brick. One brick cut a small gash in his scalp. Whiting pulled the pile of bricks off Boles and the two laid another line of hose to replace the one which had been covered by the falling wall.
A few minutes later a second explosion blew the front wall out into North Market Street. Fire trucks from Herrin and West Frankfort joined the Marion trucks at the fire scene, and Johnston City firemen rushed to help. West Frankfort’s vertical ladder was used to throw water on top of the J.B. Heyde building south of the building where the fire was raging. The two buildings were separated by a firewall which prevented the blaze from spreading while firemen kept the flames from the adjoining roof.
Origin of the blaze was not determined. Dan Odum said he had closed his store about 6 pm and returned to get a letter to mail from the office about 8:30 pm. He said he had noticed nothing wrong at that time in the office, which is at the rear of the building.
Odum said all his equipment was electric but the fire could have started from the wiring. He ruled out heating equipment and cigarettes as possible causes.
He said an inventory taken two weeks ago showed he had $7,200 in merchandise. He said his fixtures were worth $6,000. He said there was $500 in the safe, but he didn’t know if the money had been destroyed or not as yet. Odum said his merchandise and fixtures were insured but that he had no insurance on the money in the safe.
Frank Hepler Tuesday morning estimated his loss in the fire would be between $15,000 and $20,000. He said he had “some insurance, but not near enough.” Hepler said current records kept in a cooler which he had thought would stand any fire had been destroyed. He said some records had been kept at his home in Johnston City.
Hepler said his shelves had been filled Monday afternoon to make way for new merchandise which had been delivered that day. Police and firemen formed a “bucket brigade” to get some of several hundred cans of coffee out of the debris at the front of the wrecked building.
Walter Smith, the former partner of Hepler, now works out of Indianapolis. He maintains his home at Johnston City, and had an interest in the store fixtures. Members of the police force joined firemen in fighting the blaze, and remained on the job throughout the morning, rescuing valuable papers from the ruins and clearing the debris. A street department “high lift” power shovel was called into action clearing North Market which had been blocked by the fallen wall.
Sections of walls left standing by the flames were pulled down as a safety precaution. A group of Sea Scouts, accompanied by their skipper, Herb Ashley, joined in helping take up hose lines and removing the rubble. Fire Chief May attributed the explosions to accumulated gas in the building. He said the blast sounded like 10 cases dynamite going off all at once.
Wednesday, September 19, 1956:
Firemen who watched throughout the night and poured water at times on fires which broke out in the ruins of the George B. Heyde building had only smoke to contend with Wednesday morning as work went forward to re-open streets and restore damage caused in the blaze which leveled the half-block structure early Tuesday.
Claude Turner, caretaker of the building which housed three businesses, said he had talked with owners Phil Heyde of Olney and Miss Georgia Heyde of Marion, but that nothing could be decided definitely until damage had been appraised. He said he was not able to estimate the extent of loss. A rough estimate of about $200,000 had been given by insurance and real estate men Tuesday following the fire. Turner said it was possible the building would not be rebuilt and the lot would be sold.
Plans for the burned-out businesses also were indefinite. However, it was reported the owners of the TVW men’s store were negotiating for space in which to re-open. The store was owned by Ralph Thaxton, Virgil Vaughn and Virgil Wilson.
When contacted following the fire, Dan Odum and Frank Hepler, owners of the grocery markets in the destroyed building, said they had no plans to re-establish their businesses. Odum had not learned by Wednesday morning if $500 in uninsured money in a safe had been destroyed. Fire Chief Herman May said no attempt had been made as yet to get to the safe in the still-smoking rubble.
After broken bricks and debris had been cleared away and the surface hosed down by firemen, North Market Street was reopened about 10:30 am Wednesday. City workmen using a “high lift” then set to work to re-open West Jefferson which had been closed by the north wall of the building which had toppled across the street and onto the Plaza Theater.
CIPS workmen had replaced a pole and transformers behind the ruined building by early Wednesday to restore service to the Marion telephone exchange which had been operating on power supplied by a portable generating unit used in emergencies.
Fireman Clint “Nub” Boles remained on duty Wednesday morning. He said he was stiff and sore but apparently unhurt from being almost buried by bricks thrown at him by an explosion which knocked out the rear wall of the destroyed building.
Fire Chief May reported four 50 foot sections of hose had been destroyed in the fire and some other sections damaged. Police said four entire parking meters and four meter mechanisms had been wrecked beyond repair. May said the cause of the fire had not been determined.
The taped and boarded up windows opposite the scene of the fire had extended to the Bob Brown Goodyear Store at 301 North Market St. by Wednesday where cracked windows appeared. The store is opposite the Plaza Theater Building. The store front farthest from the blaze on the south to receive damage was the Kimmel Auto Supply.
On the west side of the street and adjacent to the fire workmen on Wednesday were repairing the roof of the J.B. Heyde building. Firemen credited a firewall and use of the West Frankfort fire truck and the store received several thousand dollars damage from water it was reported.
The Roy Campbell Rexall drug store lost about $3500 in Christmas merchandise in the blaze. The goods had been stored on the floor above the TVW store, a spokesman for the drug store said Wednesday.
No estimate of damage was available from other owners and operators of businesses which included the Montgomery Ward order store, the former Sears Roebuck store, Bill’s Liquor store, Carl Sorgen Studio and Lee Crouse Jewelry Store.
September 27, 1956:
Owners of the TVW Men’s Clothing Store which was destroyed in the Heyde building fire Sept. 18 announced Thursday that the store will re-open immediately in a new location.
The new home of the TVW store is at 114 East Main Street in the remodeled building recently occupied by the Sears store and Ted’s Sport Store. The TVW owners, Ralph Thaxton, Virgil Vinson and Virgil Wilson, purchased the sports store from Carl Absher and took possession Thursday. They have disposed of the sports goods stock and will begin installing their men’s wear stock at once.
At the time of the fire, TVW was receiving daily shipments of new fall goods which have been stored in local warehouses awaiting the re-opening. These stocks can be placed in the new location at once, and additional shipments from clothing manufacturers are expected in time to have the new, modern store completely stocked by about the middle of October.
Wednesday, February 6, 1957:
Fed by exploding gasoline tanks, a fire swept through the H & H Garage and Body Shop at 1001 S. Court Street after 5 pm yesterday, leaving behind a mass of ruins with damage estimated at more than $50,000.
Nearly 20 cars and trucks in and near the garage were destroyed or damaged by the blaze, which brought fire departments from Johnston City, Carbondale, West Frankfort and Herrin.
Kenneth Blackman of Creal Springs, who had been leasing the front half of the building, had bought the structure only Monday from Jack Parks.
The building and contents were a complete loss. Blackman, who said the building was only partially covered by insurance, did not decide immediately whether or not he would rebuild. The building alone was valued at $15,000-$20,000. Many expensive tools were destroyed in the blaze.
About eight persons were in the building when the fire broke out shortly after 5. Blackman said the fire started when a spark from a cutting torch touched off gasoline leaking from a truck.
A half dozen fire extinguishers were used in trying to confine the blaze. Efforts were also made to pull the blazing truck outside, but the attempt failed as flames ignited a saddle tank on the truck.
Marion firemen Lonnie Dungey and Bob Cash answered the alarm and summoned the other Marion firemen and volunteers and fire departments from nearby towns. Two lines of hose were laid, but the fire spread quickly from vehicle to vehicle, igniting gasoline tanks as it went. In less than an hour the building and contents were complete losses. Big steel beams were twisted by the intense heat.
The fire spread so rapidly that few of the cars parked nearby could be saved. Most of them had been locked for the night. One man, Wavell Burton, West Frankfort was injured in the blaze. Burton, who was in a used car business with Blackman, was cut on the leg by glass as he kicked out windows of some of the cars in an effort to save them.
“I was sitting in the front office,” said Burton. “When the fire broke out the cars were already locked. The only way I could move them was to break out the glass. We were able to move away some of the cars parked in front, but couldn’t save a pickup truck parked in the front office.
“I didn’t know I was hurt,” said Burton, “until I felt blood in my boots.” He was taken to the Marion Memorial Hospital where several stitches were taken in his right leg. He was then released. Robert Parks, Marion, who along with Harry Keasler, Marion, operated a body shop in the rear half of the building, said he was working in the back when the fire started.
“We were getting ready to close,” said Parks. “We had about seven cars inside and some others parked next to the building.” He said he had a total loss, which would be partially covered by insurance.
Parks, whose brother was a former owner of the building, is a nephew of Jack Parks, who sold the building this week. Nearly 20 school buses parked on a lot just north of the blaze, were moved to safety and for some time firemen thought flames might thought flames might destroy the Unit 2 School Bus garage. Two workers at the school bus garage, Guy Chamness and Hartwell Onstott, both of Marion, said spectators aided in removing tools and other equipment from their garage.
“I’ve never seen so much stuff moved so fast,” commented Chamness who added, “and they helped us put it back inside after the fire was over. The only thing left in the building was the furnace.” Fire broke out all the windows of the bus-garage and ignited the roof. “A shift in the wind saved us,” said Chamness. The Almond Cox home just south of the H and H Garage caught fire but firemen confined damage to one corner.
The school buses had been threatened a few months ago by a fire at the Pepsi-Cola Botteling Company to the south. Marion Fire Chief Herman May said that an official estimate was not immediately available. He said spectators did not interfere with the fire fighting and some volunteered their help.
May had special praise for the Marion Sea Scout Ship members who aided in traffic directing and the picking up of the hose. More than a dozen men were employed in the combination garage which was constructed about 20 years ago.
Monday, February 18, 1957:
Quick action by firemen extinguished a blaze that damaged the Wallace Shop, a children’s clothing store operated by Mr. and Mrs. Argyle Wallace at 109 W. Main St. early Sunday evening. Wallace said Monday that he could not yet estimate the damage but that all of $15,000 to $16,000 stock of merchandise was damaged by smoke.
The frame building housing the store was badly damaged. It is owned by Virginia Dunston. Delbert “Red” Emery, employee of a service station across West Main Street, saw the fire about 7 pm and called firemen. He saw flames and smoke pouring from the rear of the building, he said.
Marion firemen took two trucks to the scene and had the fire under control 30 minutes later. Fire Chief Herman May said the blaze apparently started in the attic, probably from electric wiring.
Most of the fire damage occurred in the attic at the rear of the building, although smoke spread throughout the structure. Robert L. Kent, operator of Kent’s Pastry Shop adjacent to the east of the Wallace Shop said there was some water damage in his shop. A firewall helped prevent the fire spreading to the two story Winters building to the west.
Fire Chief May said that assistance which the local firemen received from others helped put a quick end to the fire. A fire truck from Herrin stood by in the Marion fire station while both Marion trucks were used in fighting the fire. Marion police and sheriff’s deputies joined the fire fighters at the scene while their officers kept in touch by radio with firemen in neighboring towns to call them if they were needed.
Two Morris, Ill. firemen, Leroy Delockery and Ray Kendelspeal, who were passing through Marion on their way to take instruction at a fire college at Memphis, stopped and gave local firemen a hand. Marion Sea Scouts turned out to help. Early discovery of the fire and prompt action in controlling it brought a quick end to a threat to the heart of the business section.
Friday, May 3, 1957:
A California motorist who stopped at the C.V. Ridgley service station, 501 East Main Street for gas at 6:30 pm Thursday crashed his car into a gasoline pump, causing a $500 fire.
Firemen said the automobile driven by Lloyd Heflin of Los Angeles apparently broke an electric wire when it bumped the pump and a spark set fire to the gasoline. Ridgley immediately closed a valve which shut off the gasoline line to the pump from an underground tank, and the fire was contained to the gasoline in the pump and the hose. The pump was described as a total loss.
Tuesday, June 18, 1957:
Two story business buildings on N. Market St. in the first block north of the Public Square were gutted by a $225,000 fire Monday. The buildings housed the American Brokerage, the Sally Shop and six upstairs apartments.
Firemen from Marion, West Frankfort, Herrin, Johnston City, Carbondale, Carterville and Murphysboro battled the blaze that was discovered about 4:50 pm. Firemen fought the blaze for an hour before bringing in under control. Water was poured on the ruins late into the night. An aerial ladder from the West Frankfort fire department was used to aid firemen in extinguishing the flames.
Contents of the Sally Shoppe, valued at $75,000 were burned and then crushed when the upper floor of the building collapsed. The Ashman building which houses the Sally Shoppe and the apartments was said to have $60,000 damage.
Approximately $80,000 loss was estimated from the blaze at the American Brokerage. The second floor of the Brokerage building was vacant. Smoke and water damage resulted in nearby Pete’s Snack Bar, the Bargain Center and the Shee Kee Laundry.
A Johnston City fireman, Marion H. Lawrence, 48, was treated at Marion Memorial Hospital for a leg injury he received from broken glass. No serious injuries resulted from the fire. The cause of the fire was undetermined but it was said to have originated in the apartments above the Sally Shoppe.
George Kerr, a barber who is employed across the street from the scene of the fire, said he noticed blue flames bursting out of an electrical fuse box near a window in the second floor hall of the Ashman building. He said the fire seemed to catch rapidly. Kerr ran to the fire station that was located a block west of the Ashman building, and reported the fire. Kerr said he returned to the Ashman building and attempted to go up a stairway to the apartments but that heat and smoke forced him back to the street.
Charles Blockley, manager of the American Brokerage store said he ran out to the sidewalk when he saw the fire truck stop in front of the Sally Shoppe. Blockley ran back into his store after seeing the upstairs blaze and ordered two women employees to leave by the rear entrance. Blockley carried American Brokerage record books out of the store and volunteers carried out the cash register.
All of the merchandise in the American Brokerage building was damaged by fire or smoke or crushed by the falling debris, Blockley said.
Emanuel Fuhrer, St. Louis, owner of the American Brokerage building said the loss to the building and contents amounted to $80,000. Mack Ashman, Murphysboro, owner of the building where the Sally Shoppe and apartments were located, said the damage to the building amounted to $60,000. Mrs. Sally Johnson, owner of the Sally Shoppe, said the contents of her store were valued at $75,000. Four persons lived in three apartments on the second floor of the Ashman building.Miss Hazel Roberts, an occupant of one of the three-room apartments believed an explosion occurred on the second floor when flames reached a gas heater in a bath room.
Occupants of the other two apartments were Miss Nellie Smothers, her brother, Roy Smothers and Mrs. Delma Gambill. Miss Smothers’ brother was sleeping in the apartment but was aroused by his sister in time to escape. Miss Smothers, who was working at the telephone exchange rushed to the apartment to warn her brother. She rescued an umbrella and a picture of her deceased mother. Their other possessions were lost in the flames. Other residents of the building were away at the time of the fire.
A two-room apartment near the front of the building, two or three room apartments and two single sleeping rooms were vacant Monday.
Linoleum floor coverings and wall mirrors in Pete’s Snack Bar located south of the Sally Shoppe were damaged by water. The building is owned by W.T. Hudspeth, Marion and the café is operated by Pete Poulous.
Buildings on the east side of Market Street were not damaged. Rear windows in the Bank of Marion were cracked by the blaze and a large plate glass window was broken in the front of the American Brokerage warehouse, located on the west side of the American Brokerage store.
The Bargain Center, on Public Square, was closed Monday due to smoke damage. Smoke damage was reported at the Shee Kee Laundry, 110 N. Jackson Ave. west of the burned buildings. Telephone service to the northeast and southeast sections of Marion and from Marion to Harrisburg, Metropolis, Goreville, Vienna, and Stonefort would have been stopped if a north wall of the American Brokerage building had fallen on a nearby cable. Date McNeill, a telephone lineman, said Tuesday. Telephone service to several places of business on the north side of the square was temporarily halted but special cables were connected to allow service Tuesday.
Brick and debris piled on a west wall of the American Brokerage building were pulled down by firemen Tuesday. Although the buildings were still smoking Tuesday, a cleanup of the area had begun. The 100 block of north Market was barricaded Tuesday. Ropes had been stretched around the scene of the fire to keep persons away from the buildings.
Forty-one Boy Scouts helped the firemen and police Monday evening in directing traffic in the fire zone. A mobilization plan was used whereby Explorer Scouts were notified of local emergencies. Explorer Scouts from Post 25 led by Rex Presson; Sea Scouts of Ship 2 led by Herb Ashley; and Boy Scouts of Troop 65, led by Bob Lackey and Troop 140, led by Harold Blank, assisted in re-routing traffic around the fire zone. The scouts also helped move cars from the fire area and assisted firemen in rolling and loading hoses after the blaze.
Arrival of West Frankfort firemen and their aerial ladder made the turning point in the battle with the flames. Until help arrived, Marion’s two pumpers were supplying hose lines on the west side of the building
Wednesday, June 19, 1957:
The American Brokerage will not rebuild in Marion, owner Emanuel Fuhrer, St. Louis, said Wednesday. The American Brokerage, the Sally Shoppe and six apartments were destroyed by fire Monday.
Fuhrer said the American Brokerage stock was fully covered by insurance. Refunds will be given on all deposits on items that were sold and being held in the store. A large quantity of “Will call” merchandise had been stored in the Brokerage warehouse, located west of the burned building. Those items may be claimed by calling at the warehouse, Fuhrer said.
The American Brokerage company has other southern Illinois stores at Coulterville and Marissa. Fuhrer said the company suffered extensive loss last Friday when a flash flood ruined merchandise in the basement of a Valley Park, Mo. store.
Fuhrer estimated the damage to the local American Brokerage building and contents at $80,000.
The $225,000 blaze started in apartments above the Sally Shoppe but firemen said Wednesday that they could not determine the actual cause of the fire since it was so far along by the time they were notified.
Tuesday, June 25, 1957:
Mindful of last week’s second downtown building fire within less than a year, the City Council Monday night voted to buy a 65-foot aerial ladder for the fire department.
Upon the recommendation of Commissioner Lawrence Corder, head of the Public Health and Safety, the Council voted to spend $5,450 for the electrically-powered ladder to be mounted on a ton and a half truck. The total cost was estimated at $7,600. The purchase will be financed from the special fund derived from a two percent tax on fire insurance premiums collected in the city. The special insurance tax is earmarked by state law for purchase of firefighting equipment. With funds already accumulated in the insurance account, Finance Commissioner William Armstrong estimated that enough money would be available by September to finance the purchase of the ladder.
Clyde Zethner, representative of the Central Fire Truck Co. from whom the purchase was made, explained that the ladder will be the same length as the one used by the West Frankfort fireman at the recent North Market Street fire, and 15 feet longer than similar equipment owned by the City of Herrin. The Marion ladder will differ from the West Frankfort equipment, however in that it will be hoisted electrically instead of manually.
Commissioner Corder took occasion to praise the Coal Belt Fireman’s Association for their cooperation in fighting the recent business district blaze.
“The best thing that could have been done was the organization of the Coal Belt Association,” Corder said. “We had the best cooperation I ever saw anywhere. Not only did the fireman come from other towns, but the Carbondale auxiliary police force also came to help out.”
Corder said he wanted the Council to go on record commending all who helped in fighting the fire. He said the West Frankfort and Herrin ladder trucks were a big factor in saving other buildings. He lauded local volunteer firemen and Boy Scouts for their cooperation.
November 2, 1957:
Fire Chief Herman May called attention Saturday to the fact that Marion firemen have no authority to use the city’s equipment to fight fires outside the city limits.
Only in cases where provision is made to pay the city for use of its equipment and the services of the firemen is the fire department authorized to answer calls beyond the city boundaries, the fire chief pointed out. Under a system of reciprocity, local firemen answers call for help from other towns which also send their firemen to Marion when needed.
May urged persons living outside the city to have their insurance companies include a provision for fire protection in their fire policies. Many persons who live near Marion already have such provisions in their policies, and when the services of firemen are needed, the insurance company pays the city’s charges.
The fire chief said that each run made by the department entails the cost and risk of using firefighting equipment in addition to the services of firemen. The city many years ago set up a system of charging for out-of-town calls to keep Marion taxpayers from having to foot the bills for fire protection for property not taxed in the city. The fees collected for out-of-town calls go into the city treasury and firemen receive no extra pay for out of town work.
May said that when a call is received from outside the city he is required to ask that someone guarantee the cost of the run unless the property threatened is covered by insurance which will pay the cost.
November 10, 1958:
Fire damaged the service shop and furnace room at Wohlwend Motors, 102 N. Court Street at 3:25 am Monday. L.J. Wohlwend, owner estimated the damage at $20,000. He said the fire apparently originated in a faulty bin-fed stoker. The blaze spread through a wooden coal bin partition to the wooden roof of the concrete block building.
Merchant policeman Tom Lewis spotted the blaze and radioed police headquarters. Police telephoned the fire department. Both firemen and police fought the fire. Both city trucks were taken to the scene but only one was put into use. A fire truck from Herrin stood by at the local fire station while firemen battled the blaze.
Wohlwend credited the firemen and police with saving the major portion of the motor sales building. He said the fire was confined to the rear of the structure.
Flames destroyed the roof of the furnace room. Wohlwend said that three cars in the service shop were slightly damaged. Windows in the service shop were broken by the heat.
Firemen reported smoke damage to the front sales room.
November 25, 1958:
Firemen prevented a major fire in the Marion business district Monday night when they extinguished a blaze at the Niagara reducing and therapy salon at 306 N. Market St.
The blaze which apparently started from a short circuit in an electrical wire was kept from spreading to Richey’s paint store which is located directly south of the salon, Fire Chief Herman May said.
May said that Wayne McClanahan, whose family lives in an apartment above the salon, noticed the smoke about 8:15 pm and reported the blaze. The Moody Cross family and the Earl Edwards family also live above the salon and paint store.
Authorities said that the occupants of the apartments threw various belongings out the front window after smelling the smoke.
The blaze burned a hole in the tile covered floor of the salon quarters and burned two walls of a booth. The blaze also scorched the ceiling of the room and the north wall.
Firemen chopped through a rear wooden door to gain access to the fire after finding the door fastened with a metal bar.
Allan Hutkins, manager of the salon, which opened in Marion last year, would not estimate the amount of the damage.
The fire chief said the building is owned by Mrs. Ed Alexander.
February 1, 1960:
Fire of unknown origin leveled Bill and Pat’s Café located four miles east of Marion about 2:20 am Monday. Mr. and Mrs. Bill Kirby, the café operators who lived above the restaurant, jumped from a 10 foot balcony after they were awakened by smoke.
Firemen said a wind from the northwest prevented the blaze from spreading to a butane tank 20-foot north of the two story building at Moeller’s crossroads. Two D-X gasoline pumps in front of the cafe burned.
The top of the building was falling in when firemen arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Kirby jumped from the front balcony of the building when a stairway was blocked by flames. They escaped injury.
Firemen pushed a 1958 Mercury automobile which had a flat tire, away from the burning building. The flames did not spread to cabins located west of the concrete block and wooden café building.
The fire call was answered by firemen Bob Cash, Bill Whiting and Jack Whiting.
The building previously housed a grocery store and “Dutch’s Tavern.”
June 18, 1960:
Fire of undetermined origin caused between $25,000 and $30,000 damage Friday night at the Williamson County Airport between Marion and Herrin.
The damage was confined to the administration building and was first seen by an Ozark airline night watchman. The Marion and Herrin fire departments responded to the fire call and extinguished the blaze.
Dee Rodd of Marion, who is chairman of the Airport Authority Board, said Saturday morning that the damage was covered by insurance. He said that the flames were first seen near the kitchen area but they were not positive that it started there.
The airport authority has been spending several thousand dollars to enlarge the administration building, which was valued at over $35,000. They had planned to move into their enlarged building in the very near future, but now will be delayed until repairs can be made. The portion that was the most seriously damaged was the old part, where the lunchroom was located.
Ozark Airlines was using the C.A.P. building while the administration building was being remodeled and will now have to continue using that space. However, waiting room facilities will be available for the air travelers at the hangar and at the small C.A.P. building.
The Marion and Herrin fire departments reported that the building was badly gutted and said “there isn’t much left to build-on.” The fire started about 10:30 pm.
June 21, 1960:
Bank of Marion is now using their new addition constructed due north of their facility on the lot formerly occupied by the Sally Shoppe and American Brokerage which were destroyed by fire.
November 17, 1960:
Firemen from Marion, Herrin, Johnston City and Carterville with Civil Defense personnel from Williamson County and Benton battled a stubborn fire in the Baker Building at Van Buren and West Main in Marion for three hours Thursday morning before bringing it under control. The cause of the fire which was believed to have started in the floor at the back of the building was not determined.
Dr. A.N. Baker, owner of the two story brick building housing the offices of Dr. Baker, dentist, J.M. McAlpin, downstairs and the offices of the McLaren Coal Company and the Gray-Hunter-Stenn Accounting firm upstairs could give no estimate of the damage caused by the fire, water and smoke until an insurance adjuster had finished his investigation.
The fire, confined to the downstairs, burned out the floor in the two back rooms of Dr. Baker’s office on the east side of the building and the floor in the back room of Dr. McAlpin’s office on the west side. There was considerable smoke damage to the offices upstairs.
Marion Fire Chief Herman May was overcome by smoke about 9:30 am and rushed to the Marion Memorial Hospital where his condition was reported “fairly good” at 10:50 am. Marion Fireman Bill Whiting was taken to the hospital about 10:45 am for treatment when pressure from a fire hose knocked mortar from a brick wall into one of his eyes.
Miss Mildred Mofield, secretary of Gray-Hunter-Stenn, smelled smoke when she came to work at 7:15 am. Miss Mofield called John W. Jones, janitor for the building.
After Jones investigated the furnace and found nothing wrong he went into Dr. McAlpin’s office where he smelled smoke. He had Miss Mofield call the fire department.
The smoke was dense in the building on McAlpin’s side making it necessary for the firemen to use masks. Marion Police Chief Charles Edwards using an oxygen tank and mask went into the building but could not find the fire.
Hoses from the two Marion fire trucks went into action flooding the downstairs floor from the top and through the basement windows. Once it seemed the fire was under control, but minutes later smoke billowed from the doors and windows. Flames were seen only when the floor fell in and they were quickly extinguished.
A large crowd watched as the firemen fought the fire. Marion City Police and state troopers directed traffic on Main Street.
The Johnston City Fire Department, a member of the Coal Belt Fire Protection Association, sent a truck to Marion to standby at the firehouse while both of Marion’s fire trucks were at the scene of the fire.
Other units at the fire were an emergency rescue truck from the Benton Civil Defense Department, Carterville Fire Department’s emergency unit, Williamson County Civil Defense emergency rescue unit, an emergency unit from the Herrin Fire Department and volunteer firemen from Johnston City.
Williamson County Civil Defense Director Hartley Grisham stated that the oxygen tanks included in Unit’s equipment made it possible for the firemen to enter the building in spite of the heavy smoke.
March 28, 1961:
James Carl “Lonnie” Dungey was appointed Marion Fire Chief at a meeting of the City Council Monday night after Herman May, former chief, announced he was taking disability leave. Dungey will take over on April 1.
May suffered a heart attack while fighting a fire at the Dr. A.N. Baker building on West Main Street last November and has not been able to perform his duties as fire chief since that time. May did handle the book work of the fire department after he was released from the hospital.
May has been a city employee for several years having been a member of both the police and fire departments. This was his second term as fire chief. May was fire chief at the Ordill area during World War II with nearly a hundred men under his command.
Dungey has been a regular member of the fire department for nine years and was a volunteer fireman for 10 years.
July 3, 1961:
In a short ceremony Friday William E. Hexford, Chief of the Veteran Administration’s supply division handed the keys of the VA’s fire truck to Marion Fire Chief Lonnie Dungey as Joe DePietro, hospital administration and Marion Fire Commissioner Bob Yearack looked on. The hospital and the city administration entered into a 20-year agreement whereby the city would furnish fire protection to the hospital in exchange for the fire truck and equipment.
December 11, 1961:
A fire which started from a short circuit in the transformer of a neon sign at Wimpey’s Café, 106 S. Court Street did slight damage to the front roof of the café about 8:45 am Monday. The fire department extinguished the blaze with a booster hose.
January 10, 1962:
The Roy L. Cox Shelter Care Home at 702 E. Main was completely destroyed by fire Wednesday morning and other buildings in the block were endangered as the fire department was hampered by subzero temperatures.
Cox said he discovered the fire in the attic about 7 am and while he was fighting it his wife guided the 10 residents to safety. The last one out was Ross Jarvis, a blind man. All of the guests were able to walk from the building.
Cox said he used the contents of two fire extinguishers on the fire which started around the flue in the attic and nearly had the fire under control when the fire department arrived. The fire plug on Main Street was frozen making it necessary for the firemen to hook onto a hydrant a block north of the fire.
Police Chief Charles Edwards said he reached the fire two minutes after the alarm sounded and that flames were coming through the roof.
Fire Chief Lonnie Dungey said his men worked as fast as possible in the five degree below weather but by the time they found a hydrant which was not frozen the fire was out of control. Dungey said if the hydrant on Union Street, a block north of the fire had not been working at least two other buildings near the Shelter Care Home would have burned.
The 10-room rest home was connected to the Cox home by an enclosed patio. A building on Main, which was formerly a service station but now houses Mac’s Radio Service, was only a few feet from the rest home.
The building on Main caught fire around the upstairs windows on the east but the fire was extinguished with slight damage.
Cox estimated the damage to the rest home at $20,000. The house and all of its contents burned.
Cox said three of his guests were taken to the Ernfelt Shelter Care Home at Johnston City, three to the Miner Care Home on E. Marion, two to a rest home in Anna and that two were staying at his home.
May 29, 1962:
A temporary fireman to replace Jack Whiting, who has re-injured his foot, will be employed in Marion. The matter was discussed at a meeting of the City Council Monday night.
Commissioner Robert Yearack said Whiting broke his foot about six weeks ago and during his absence other firemen were working his shifts for him, but now they need relief, especially since vacation time has arrived.
The replacement would be employed for three or four weeks, until Whiting is able to work again. Yearack said there are three names in the merit pool and one of these will be selected if the person would work for a short period. He said it would be a good opportunity to gain experience.
June 1, 1962:
Wendell Phillips, 30, 811 Morgan Drive, has been hired to fill in at the Marion fire department during vacations, Police and Fire Commissioner Bob Yearack said Thursday.
Phillips was in the employment pool. Yearack said Phillips would work three or four weeks until Assistant Fire Chief Jack Whiting recovers after re-injuring his left foot.
Phillips is married and has two children.
July 6, 1962:
Fire this afternoon burned out a motor operating the air conditioning unit at Uptown Motel. The blaze, which began during a thunder storm, was quickly extinguished by Marion firemen. There was speculation that the fire may have been caused by the motor’s being overheated, not to being struck by lightning.
The thunderstorm began about 1 pm and the fire occurred at about 1:30. An estimate to the damage to the motor was not immediately available. There appeared to be no damage to t he motel. Power was interrupted in some parts of the city.
August 17, 1962:
“We were terrified during the fire,” said Mrs. F.D. Shackelford today about her family’s plight and quick rescue by Marion Police Chief Charles Edward Thursday when the four-member family was trapped in the upstairs of a two-story apartment at 1001 N. Market.
“We were calm and relieved when we went through a window onto the roof and saw the police car stop,” she said in a soft southern accent.
“We were very fortunate and thankful,” said the native of Greensboro, N.C. as she survived damages to her belongings today.
Police Chief Edwards used an extension ladder from a fire truck in rescuing the 28-year-old housewife and three children, Terry Ann 6, Leon 3, and a one year-old baby.
“My husband left Wednesday for New Mexico to begin work on a construction project,” Mrs. Shackelford said. The family stayed in the apartment Thursday night but is seeking a new residence today.
“We recently purchased a home here,” she said, “but it is not finished yet.”
“I was scared when I realized the apartment was on fire,” she said. “I was watching television and the children were playing when I began to smell smoke,” she recalled.
“I opened the door to the stairs and smoke poured in,” she said. “We got onto the roof and it was all over in a matter of minutes,” she reported.
“I was drying my hair and dozing when smelled smoke,” said Mrs. Carl Deaton in whose apartment the fire apparently started.
Marion Fire Chief Lonnie Dungey said the fire apparently broke out at the gas stove in the Deaton apartment.
“This is the second fire we have been involved in recently,” she said. “My house on Court Street burned up July 1,” she said. “We might as well pitch a tent,” the housewife said.
“I called the fire department and rushed outside to move the car,” she said. “I couldn’t find the car keys. Some men from the crowd that gathered pushed my car from danger,” she said.
Mrs. Deaton had not completed a survey of damages this morning. She and her husband, who is a cab driver, are staying at her mother’s home.
The Marion fire department and Police Chief Edwards arrived at the rambling frame apartment building about 2 pm.
The Deaton apartment was gutted and charred. The Shackelford apartment suffered smoke damage. Nine persons resided in the building.
October 26, 1962:
The Marion Fire Department Thursday at 3:20 pm through quick action by firemen, averted a possible mishap at the General Telephone Company building, 204 W. Union when steam pipes covered from overheated hot water pipes covering the basement of the building.
The firemen quickly entered the steam covered basement and turned off the gas which had been supplying the furnace with fuel.
November 14, 1962:
A fire at the rear of the Marion Launderama, 1201 W. Main early today damaged the rear heavily but was quickly brought under control by Marion firemen.
Firemen were summoned to the Launderama at 12:20 am when the blaze broke out in the furnace room. Fire Chief Lonnie Dungey reported that the fire was under control in about 20 minutes.
Dungey made no estimate of damages early today. The fire chief said an estimate would be made later. “A part of the front of the Launderama was damaged,” Dungey said. “Some of the machines and dryers were damaged by smoke and heat.”
Dungey reported the cause of the fire was unknown pending further investigation. “The fire was contained in the furnace room for the main part,” Dungey said.
The building is owned by Dave Sneedon, Marion. Dungey identified the operator of the Launderama as John Barnes, Herrin.
January 4, 1963:
Marion firemen were called to the South Side Tavern, 106 S. Market at 1:10 am today when a box of waste under the bar caught fire.
About $300 damage was done to a soda dispensing machine in addition to extensive smoke damage Sam Barbaro, owner said.
Harold Bazzell who rents an apartment upstairs in the adjoining building discovered the fire and called Barbaro who in turn called the fire department.
Chief Lonnie C. Dungey said the fire was under control shortly after his men arrived on the scene.
Barbaro said the fire may have been caused by a cigarette.
January 28, 1963:
Three Marion firemen were hospitalized this morning after being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes at the fire station.
Listed in satisfactory condition at Marion Memorial Hospital were Chief, James Dungey, 43, 1104 W. Aikman; Robert Cash, 48, 805 S. Court; and John E. Tonner, 33, 417 E. Main. Fire and Police Commissioner Robert Yearack said firemen had both fire trucks running inside the station to thaw out truck booster lines.
Turner, a volunteer fireman was overcome first and was helped outside by Dungey, who also became ill. Cash made his way to the front door, where he was helped by Marion police who were called to bring the resuscitator.
A Mitchell ambulance came and brought oxygen. The incident occurred shortly after firemen had made two calls to house fires. Yearack took Dungey to the hospital and police brought the other two firemen. The firemen were admitted at 9 am. Yearack said the three firemen would be given oxygen five to eight hours.
The lines had frozen in the subzero weather. Low temperature today was 10 below and was 15 above at 11 am.
January 31, 1963:
A chemical-electric fire was put out before Marion firemen arrived at the scene at O.W. Irwin’s Typewriter Exchange at about 5:30 pm Wednesday.
Irwin said he extinguished the adding machine fire with about a half gallon of ammonia. He said the flames reached to the ceiling of the repair room before the fire was put out.
He said the adding machine was destroyed and that other damage was done to the work bench, tools, work light, and that the ceiling of the repair room was scorched.
Irwin said he was attempting to unlock a frozen up adding machine by using chemicals and running the motor of the machine at the same time. He said, “Apparently the sparks from the motor ignited the chemical.” The chemicals are a fire danger when used in too large amounts.
Irwin said the loss would be from $200 to $400.
March 28, 1963:
A fire destroyed a barbecue oven in the Uptown Kitchen at 6 am when grease from the oven caught fire.
Wayland Sims, owner and operator of the restaurant at 108 S. Madison said today. “I lighted the oven and went up front to fix breakfast for a customer then I went back to the back room and found the oven afire.
“It melted all the steel in the oven. It will have to be replaced.” The equipment in the building is owned by Sims and the building is owned by Mrs. Horace Neely.
April 25, 1963:
Fourteen units of the 45-unit Marion Court motel were heavily damaged early today when fire broke out in the attic of one of the units.
Flames shooting about 20 feet in the air from the point where the fire probably started routed all of the occupants from the motel which was filled nearly to capacity.
Water damage is reported heavy but officials said smoke or fire did not penetrate the rooms. “The occupants wouldn’t have known the place was on fire if we hadn’t told them. The place is fireproof,” said John Cuthbertson, part owner, who was operating the switchboard at the time of the fire.
“I was up getting ready to make my 5:30 calls when my switchboard went out. A man in his pajamas came in and told me there was a fire. I went to the restaurant next door to call the fire department but some men coming out of the restaurant told me they had already called,” said Cuthbertson.
“I saw the flames shooting high from the cupola (vent). I just about wore out my knuckles on the doors.”
An unofficial estimate of the damage is $50,000.
Sam Dunaway, insurance agent who has the motel account, estimated the damage to be in the “thousands of dollars.” He said there was extensive water damage to rugs and TV sets.
All the rooms affected by the fire were single rooms on the north wing and were all occupied. Twin rooms are in the south wing, authorities said.
No one was injured in the fire which Marion Fire Chief James Dungey said was apparently started by faulty wiring. He said fire and smoke was confined to the small attics above each unit.
Dungey said the Herrin Fire Department stood by at the Marion station.
Officials said customers who planned to stay over today were moved to other rooms and the others have gone. Owner Elmo Farris said business is continuing as usual in the remaining units and the carpenters and emergency crews are at work bringing the other units back to normal.
May 7, 1963:
A blaze causing damages estimated at $1.5 million destroyed seven businesses and three apartments on the Marion Public Square last night. It was the worst fire in Marion’s history.
Twenty-eight pieces of equipment were used in fighting the fire that raged out of control for five hours. At least three firemen were injured.
Thousands of spectators watched firemen fight to contain the fire to that block.
Businesses destroyed were:
Goss Home Furnishings, 900 Public Square.
Kay’s Shop, 902 Public Square
Farley’s Barber Shop, 101 S. Market St.
South Side Tavern, 105 S. Market St.
Bearings Service Co., 111 S. Market St.
Lampley Electronics, 107 S. Market St.
Cox Hardware and Furniture, 906 Public Square.
Apartments destroyed were two above the South Side Tavern and one above Goss’ Store. Sam Barbaro, owner of the tavern, also owned the two apartments. He lived in one and rented the other to Mr. and Mrs. Harold Bargel.
Mrs. Cloin Whitson, student practical nurse at Marion Memorial Hospital and her daughter lived in the apartment above Goss’ Store. An appeal has been made for Mrs. Whitson and her daughter. They both wear size 18. Clothing should be given to Mrs. Pearl Bauer, 106 N. Fifth.
C.P. Cappell, insurance adjuster estimated the total loss at $1.5 million. Barbaro suffered a heart attack last night and was admitted to Marion Memorial Hospital at 8 pm. He has had a previous heart ailment. Herrin Fire Chief Carl Mayer, 51, suffered smoke inhalation and is expected to be released today from Marion Memorial after being admitted at 6:45 pm.
First Assistant Fire Chief, Luther Henson, West Frankfort was treated at Marion Memorial at 8:45 pm for a fractured right elbow, and returned to the scene and waited out the fire. Henson said that this was his first injury he has had in his 19 years fighting fires. He was tripped by a fire hose and he landed on his elbow.
A Johnston City fireman, Doyle Ray of the emergency squad of the volunteers was given oxygen after he was slightly overcome by smoke.
Marion Fire Chief James Dungey says, “It was the biggest fire we’ve had that I know about. Dungey has been fighting Marion fires for 12 years. John Goss, owner of the Goss Store, said he was in the front of his establishment when he saw smoke coming in the back of the store from the basement.
He said he went into the basement and saw flames.
“I then ran next door to Kay’s to tell everyone to leave the building,” Goss said. He called firemen from Kay’s.
Goss was the only employee in his store when the fire broke out. He said the others were delivering merchandise. Goss received a scratch over the left eye when he ran into something while coming from the basement. Smoke roared mostly southward, and firemen and equipment on the first block of South Market could hardly be seen.
Authorities at first roped off only the area in front of the fire on the Public Square. But during the night the roped off area was extended to include the entire square and side streets.
Many owners of businesses close to the block were busy removing records, merchandise and equipment from their stores. Had water pressure been greater, the blaze might have been contained to Goss’ and Kay’s, Chief Dungey said.
There were reports from time to time that some of the building might be blasted to prevent the spread of the fire, but authorities said such action was ruled out because the blast might smash debris against other buildings.
Some officials said they feared that the fire might cause paint and ammunition in the Cox store to explode, but no blast came. Much of the firemen’s efforts were directed toward keeping the blaze from spreading to the Marion Daily Republican building. Some firemen with hoses were on top of The Republican building squirting water across the street to the Cox building.
The window in the Selective Service System office, in front of the top floor of The Republican building, received a cracked glass, but there was no other damage to the building. Dungey said the fire started at about 4:45 pm. At 6:45 pm smoke was coming from the corners of the windows in the top of the Cox store after the blaze had already spread from Goss’ to Kay’s. Businesses in the block with entrances on South Market were on fire at about 7 pm.
Dungey said the blaze was brought under control at 10 pm but firemen continued to put water onto the block until this morning. Workers were busy today scooping up brick and other debris with machines. It was the first general alarm in the history of the Coal Belt Fire Protective Association since it was formed in 1949.
Some 2,500 persons were without power in the southeastern part of Marion as electrical service was cut off during the fire. Dungey directed the fire-fighting which included 28 pieces of equipment and dozens of men.
A 75-foot boom on a snorkel fire truck from Mt. Vernon was credited with contributing greatly to the saving of the Republican-Leader building. The snorkel boom hovered over Cox’s Hardware and the Republican shooting water from two hoses on both buildings. It was the first time the new equipment had been used.
A second important factor which helped save other buildings was the wind coming out of the northeast. The wind was probably responsible for the Cox building remaining standing today although it is seriously gutted to the point of destruction.
The Marion Insurance building which houses the newly-elected Mayor Robert L. Butler’s law office and the Butler News Agency was struck by the falling wall in the back of blazing block. Butler’s building wall was knocked in by the falling wall.
Cox’s Hardware and Furniture only last weekend held its Grand Opening after a thorough remodeling of the store front and the interior. The block was one of the most modern looking blocks in the downtown section. Goss’s store and Kay’s women’s apparel had been remodeled within the past year. Gene Cox, owner of the destroyed store, plans to open another store in the old Bargain Center building at 304 Public Square. Cox was named 1962’s “Marion Man of the Year.”
John Goss of Goss Home Furnishings plans to resume business at another site. He has none located at present. The seven businesses were housed in three buildings.
The blaze spread through joists leading through a firewall to the Cox’s Hardware and Furniture Store to the east and through windows to another building to the south housing Farley’s Barber Shop, Barbaro’s Tavern, Lampley Electronics and Bearing Service Co. Apartments were located above the third building owned by Sam Barbaro, owner of the tavern.
The blaze sent flames 150 feet into the air at its peak and residents of Herrin 10 miles away reported they could smell the billowing smoke.
Goss said faulty wiring apparently started the blaze.
May 7, 1963:
Here is a breakdown of damages and plans to re-open businesses:
Goss Home Furnishing, John Goss estimates his loss at from $75,000 to $100,000 including stock.
Goss plans to re-open his business at another location but he has not found another site. He said he will announce later an office where he may take care of accounts receivable. Goss said he was able to salvage his accounts receivable from the store before it was burned. He has not been able to retrieve Monday’s receipts.
Goss’s estimate does not include the cost of the building which along with Kay’s is owned by General Shoe Co. in Nashville, Tenn.
Gene Cox estimated a loss of $200,000 which includes the building which he owned. “It’s all lost. At the present time, I don’t have the slightest idea what I’ll do concerning rebuilding except that I plan to come back in some way,” Cox said.
Cox said he plans to re-open at the old Bargain Center building next to the Bank of Marion. The building is owned by the bank.
Cox’s store appears the least hurt of the stores on the block but nothing is salvageable. He said he spent from $25,000 to $30,000 in his recent remodeling of the store. Cox was able to salvage his records.
Cox says an office to handle accounts receivable has been set up at his warehouse east across the lot from Bracy’s parking lot.
Goss also was able to salvage about $25,000 in air conditioners, washers, dryers and water heaters from a small warehouse in the south end of the block of buildings.
Bearings Service Co. retrieved all their records and is now maintaining an office at 505 N. Market St.
Farley’s Barber Shop – William Farley says his loss is about $2,500 which includes two barber chairs, five large mirrors, and several waiting chairs.
Marion Insurance Agency – The wall of the building which houses offices for three Butlers – Bill, Bob and their father, Homer, fell when the south wall of Bearings Service Co. building fell into it.
Bill Butler estimated a $5,000 damage to the building.
Other businesses which did not catch fire but were slightly damaged by heat from the fire are:
Koeneman Agency, 111 S. Market – Ed Finnegan said damage to the building was about $2,500. The heat cracked plate glass windows and blistered the surface of the building.
The buildings owned by Mrs. Virginia Runston including Dr. Don Ripley’s old office at 108 S. Market St.; Vesta Blake Fashions, 106 S. Market St.; Singer Sewing Co., 104 S. Market; LaSusa’s Shoe Shop, 102 S. Market, were blistered by the heat and the plate glass windows were cracked.
A construction official estimated that Mrs. Dunston’s loss is about $1,100. He said the aluminum casings for the windows were buckled and the aluminum element burned out of the aluminum alloy.
Workers were busy today breaking the cracked windows out to prepare them for replacement.
The Dunston Building owned by the Norman Estate was damaged to about $150 including cracked or broken window panes plus one plate-glass show window. This building is where Wilhite’s Shoes is located.
The wall of the building is blistered, Robert A. Norman said today. He believes the bulging wall may have been caused by the falling of Goss’s building across Market Street.
A Daily Republican employee’s auto was slightly damaged when volunteers broke open the vent of the window to unlock the auto to move it. Two other Republican employee’s autos were moved from the parking lot to make room for a fire truck to move in near the east wall of Cox’s store. The two autos were unlocked so there was no damage.
Farley said a “couple” of persons have offered to sell or rent him space for another barber shop but he has not decided what to do.
Sam Barbaro, owner of South Side Tavern suffered a heart attack and was taken to the hospital and therefore could not be interviewed.
It was reported that all equipment was removed from the Lampley Electronics building.
May 16, 1963:
Fear existed today that a wavering Cox’s Hardware and Furniture building will “kick back” at surrounding buildings and do damage in addition to that done in the May 6 fire which caused damages estimated at $1.5 million.
L.D. Fern Construction Co. has a wrecking crane on the job today tearing down the wall of the fire damaged building to protect Marion citizens.
City commissioners and policemen were routed briefly from their meeting Wednesday night when the front wall of Cox Hardware and Furniture building collapsed about 8:30 pm.
Bricks from the wall of the building that burned May 6 bounced into the traffic lanes of the Public Square and bricks and rubble covered the sidewalk in front of the building. No one was injured.
The collapsing wall was the one adjoining Kay’s Shop which was also burned in the fire. The ruins in the rear of the Kay’s and Goss Home Furnishings has been smoldering continually in the 10 days since the fire.
One spectator of more than 30 at the scene, said, “I heard the noise and I thought it was a motorcycle back-firing.” Motorcycles are particularly noisy when in the narrow street between Cox’s and the Republican-Leader building.
Police immediately roped off the narrow alley-like street of Franklin and the alley between Stylart Shoppe and Speed’s Confectionery.
Numerous rumors have been in the air as to Gene Cox’s intentions concerning the burned building. Wednesday night Cox made up his mind.
Only Saturday workmen were in the building salvaging fire, water and smoke damaged merchandise. Three days later the roof and wall caved in.
Fire Chief James C. Dungey said, “It’s the owner’s decision.”
“I’ll be glad when it’s down,” said Bill Butler, whose building is located about 30 feet from Cox’s building.
The Daily Republican building, American Legion and Speed’s Confectionary all are about 20 feet from the building.
May 17, 1963:
A drag line bucket being used to tear down the fire ruins of the Cox Hardware and Furniture building is making slow progress again today.
Instead of knocking the walls down as the crane, owned by the L.D. Fern Construction Co. did the first time, the operator is using the bucket to take bites of the west wall and move the charred rubbish to the ground. The procedure is more safe.
Officials say the building will be leveled to the ground.
In the mean time some businesses on narrow Franklin Ave. adjacent to the Cox building are closed. The Daily Republican is operating although one employee did not come in to work today.
Although the danger is not considered to be serious at the present time, entrance to the Republican building is restricted to the steps from College Street.
Miss Lora Bruce, operator of Speed’s Confectionary said today that she would try to re-open Monday if safety allows. The café has been closed since the wall fell Wednesday night. Because of the danger of falling brick, the entrance to Franklin Ave. has been roped off.
May 17, 1963:
A deal completed Thursday gives Mrs. Harry L. (Mabel) Cox, mother of Eugene Cox, ownership of three-quarters of the block on the public square that was burned out on Monday night May 6th. Sam Barbaro owns the other quarter of the block.
Mrs. Cox, widow of the late Harry Cox, owned the Cox Hardware and Furniture building and her son owned the fixtures and the merchandise which was destroyed in the fire.
Mrs. Cox was one of several bidders for the building formerly occupied by Goss Furnishings and Kay’s Store, located directly west of the Cox building. It was owned by Genesco, a nationally operated wholesale shoe firm in Nashville, Tenn.
Mrs. Cox said that she is not ready yet to predict what they would do with the corner, but she indicated plans would be formulated soon for the erection of a new building on the site.
Purchase of this additional real estate is the continuation of growth for this popular firm, which was started in 1912 when the late T.A. Cox and his son, Harry L. Cox purchased the W.E. Campbell Hardware Company located in the south east corner of the public square it was at that time a single store room 22-1/2 feet wide by 100 feet in depth.
In 1915 the building was extended to College Street three stories in height. This land was originally a vacant lot on which Cox’s hitched their horses and delivery wagons. In 1922, T.A. Cox and his son Harry Cox purchased the building then occupied by the B.B. Confectionary due west of the original building. It was owned by the father of Arthur Aikman. At that time T.A. Cox retired and turned the business over to his two sons, Harry and Clarence Cox. Clarence Cox died in July, 1937.
Upon graduation from college, Gene Cox joined his father, Harry L. Cox, in the business and following his father’s death in July, 1947 has managed the business himself, his mother, Mrs. Harry L. (Mabel) Cox owning the building.
On Christmas eve, 1935, fire damaged the second floor of the Cox owned building in which was the Simonton Variety store was located at that time and the Farm Bureau and Twin Oil Companies had their offices on the second floor. Dee Small was the farm adviser at that time.
In 1946 they took over the building on the west and expanded their furniture business with modern furniture and display rooms.
In April 1962 they held their fiftieth anniversary and in 1963 they increased the sales room by a complete modernization program that gave them nearly a third more space. They had a Gourmet Shop that was the only one of its kind in Southern Illinois. Gene Cox was named last year as “Man of the Year” by the Marion Chamber of Commerce.
The purchase announced today gives Mrs. Cox ownership of the largest portion of land on the public square, with its’ approximately 100 feet of frontage. She now owns three-fourths of the block which burned out.
July 3, 1963:
An overloaded steak broiler caught fire in the basement kitchen at Tony’s Steak house, 102 W. Main Tuesday causing extensive smoke damage but Tony Castelano, operator reports
August 13, 1963:
The salary of fireman George Paul Norman was increased by Marion’s City Council Monday night.
Norman, who was previously employed on a temporary basis at the rate of $300 a month, will receive regular pay of $360 a month.
He has been working for about a year for $300 a month, commissioners said.
Norman was employed during the absence of fireman Jack Whiting, who was ill.
In other action by the Council concerning the fire department:
It was agreed to purchase some hose for fire trucks. Chief Lonnie Dungey told the Council that the department could not be operated properly without new hose.
It was estimated that 700 feet to 800 feet of hose would cost $1,500 to $1,800.
The Council authorized Dungey 30 gallons of gasoline per month for his car when he uses it for business during his off-duty hours. It was noted that Dungey makes numerous trips to collect fees for out-of-town fires. Also, commissioners said fire chiefs are assigned a car, whereas Dungey is not. He uses his own auto.
It was estimated that the 30 gallons of gasoline would cost the city $4.85. Dungey said he has collected some $1,500 during the last six months for out-of-town fire calls.
Commissioner William Harris reported that in July the fire department made 7 residential, one auto, two business and two out-of-town fire calls; estimated damage at $2,200.
August 15, 1963:
False alarm calls to the Marion fire department have increased during the past two years and Chief James C. Dungey is determined to put a stop to them.
Dungey admits, however, that a few false alarms are inevitable. But false alarms turned in by pranksters will be severely dealt with when they are caught, he says.
An example of pranksterism is the call last week that sent the local department to Creal Springs. When firemen arrived they went to the Creal Springs fire department but found no fire, nor a report of one.
After firemen were back at the home station they speculated that the call had come from a Marion Public Square telephone booth where loiterers commonly maintain a base.
Illinois Criminal Code provides a penalty of not more than $500 and up to six months in a penal institution for turning in a false fire alarm.
“He won’t get off easy when I catch him,” Chief Dungey said of anyone caught turning in a false alarm. “It’s bad business. It’s a joke to them but is a serious business to me.”
“The worst thing about it is that while we’re going on a wild goose chase a real fire might break out with no one available to fight it.”
Fireman Robert Yost said, “The prankster would really be in for it if there was any injury during one of these trips.”
Dungey said, “When the bell rings we go. We don’t have time to argue with them on the telephone to find out whether or not it’s a fire or a prank.”
“Ninety-nine out of a hundred times it is a fire when a call is made but whether it is or not we have to go,” he said.
“I’d rather we would make 10 dry runs than miss one fire. But every time that truck goes out it costs the taxpayer money,” said Dungey.
Dungey valued the truck and equipment at about $9,500. In addition to the cost of the truck involved is the salaries of the driver and at least one man.
He admitted however, that pranksters are not the only cause of false alarms. Dial telephone is a problem which didn’t exist until the past two years. Until then telephone operators called the department. Now the department is reached by direct dialing.
Wrong numbers, as well as the fact that practical jokers are more likely to dial a false alarm than report it to an operator.
Yost told of an incident where firemen went on a false alarm run and “about scared a man to death when we jumped on the front porch expecting a fire. Naturally the man didn’t know what was happening.”
Dungey says there are several ways to check on the false alarm calls. “Let them have their fun now but we’ll catch one, one of these days.”
August 27, 1963:
Marion City Council Monday night agreed to purchase on competitive bidding about $1,200 to $1,500 in new fire hose. About 1,100 feet of hose is involved.
Specifications will be sent to various companies known to manufacture or deal in the hose needed. Bids will be then accepted and delivery of the hose is expected by October or November.
Also included in the bids are one wire rack container and one fireman’s pike pole 12 feet long.
Marion City clerk’s office will send out letters to the various companies. Hose needed is as follows: 500 of 2-1/2 inch double jacket hose, 400 feet of 1-1/2 inch double jacket, 100 feet of 4-1/2 inch, and 10 feet of 4-1/2 inch.
December 14, 1963:
The old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 906 W. Boulevard caught fire shortly before 11:30 am today.
Two Marion trucks were on the scene immediately and a Herrin truck was to stand by at the station.
Firemen at noon had broken out a window on the north wall of the frame structure and were pouring water on to the smoke filled church.
Firemen reported the fire had broken out in the basement of the church along the flue and had worked its way into the first floor.
Some of the church’s furnishings had been removed to the new church on North Russell Street which was dedicated last Sunday. There was still some in the burning building, which were being removed while the firemen battled the blaze.
Fire Chief Dungey stated at 12:10 that the fire had been checked although they were still pouring on water. He said flames were coming out of the basement window when the department arrived and that the fire started near the coal-fired stoker.
The church had completed the removal of the organ to the new church only yesterday, Father John Cedilot said.
An instruction class had been held at the church until about 10 o’clock.
Father Cedilot was at the VA Hospital when he was advised of the fire.
Considerable damage from heat and smoke as well as water in the church was reported.
December 17, 1963:
Fire early today in downtown Marion destroyed two buildings including three businesses and heavily damaged the roof of a fourth business with a total estimated damage of $453,000.
Firemen from more than half-a-dozen towns brought the blaze under control within about three hours.
It was the second fire in Marion’s business district within less than eight months. Damage in a May 6 fire was estimated from $1.25 million and $1.5 million.
Fire which started about 5:50 am in the southeast corner area of the basement furnace room of Kimmel Auto Supply knocked out almost a half-a-block of the north Market Street within an hour after firemen answered the initial call.
In addition to Kimmel’s store, the division office of General Telephone Co. upstairs above Kimmel’s and Crouse Jewelers were destroyed and the roof of Sorgen Studio & Camera Shop building was heavily damaged.
Damage from water and smoke resulted in other businesses north of Sorgen’s including ABC Liquor Store, Spires Shop women’s apparel and Montgomery Ward & Co. catalogue store.
Four apartments were above the businesses. Two apartments were above Sorgen’s and at least two others were damaged by the fire or water and smoke.
No records were removed from Kimmel’s, Crouse’s or from General Telephone. Division Manager Robert Reel and Division Commercial Manager Loren Carter went to the office just after the fire started. Reel called Gene Kimmel to notify him of the fire but neither of them could get into the building to recover records.
A Mt. Vernon snorkel truck which was used for the first time in fighting the May 6 downtown fire was standing by in the rear of the burned buildings but could not be used because of inadequate water supply, firemen said.
“Water and manpower is my problem. If I’d had enough water, we would have been able to contain the fire to the Kimmel building,” said Marion Fire Chief James Dungey.
General Telephone employs some 65 persons in the division office. Division Commercial Manager J.W. Travelstead said earlier today that the company was negotiating for temporary facilities. A new office building under construction in southeast Marion is scheduled for completion June 1.
No injuries were reported. Additional damage to the other businesses in the vicinity was estimated at some $50,000. Insurance adjusters made these estimates at an early stage so estimates are likely to go higher when the results are in.
General Telephone Co. after noon today was negotiating for quarters in the Ordill area, an official said.
LeRoy Almaroad, 22 and his wife and infant child were tenants in an apartment above the Sorgen store. Mrs. Almaroad’s mother, Mrs. Christine Mathis lived in an apartment above the ABC Liquor Store which is the next store to Sorgen’s.
December 17, 1963:
Today’s blaze in the business district of Marion was the second one causing extensive damages in less than seven months.
On May 6, fire destroyed seven businesses and three apartments on the Public Square. It was the worst fire in Marion’s history.
Twenty-eight pieces of equipment were used in fighting the fire that raged out of control for five hours. Three firemen were injured.
Businesses destroyed were: Goss Home Furnishings, Kays’ Shop, Farley’s Barber Shop, South Side Tavern, Bearings Service Co., Lampley Electronics and Cox Hardware and Furniture.
As in today’s fire, firemen were hampered by low water pressure. Damages have been estimated at some $1 million.
There is no complete list of big fires in Marion but these are a few taken from the Daily Republican
December 18, 1963:
North Market Street businesses today are attempting to recover from Tuesday’s $500,000 blaze which destroyed three businesses and interrupted operations of five others.
Gene Kimmel of Kimmel Auto Supply, 201 N. Market, has recovered his safe from the burned remains but has not yet opened it for fear of enclosed heat, his wife said today.
Kimmel’s today is operating from its warehouse at 119 E. Calvert.
Some 15 persons were employed at the Kimmel store. No employees formerly worked out of the warehouse on Calvert Street. About six employees will be out of work until offices and a machine shop are set up at the new location.
Kimmel estimated his loss alone at some $500,000 to $1 million.
The warehouse services about five stores throughout Southern Illinois.
Two apartments above Sorgen’s Studios, 207 N. Market, were destroyed as occupants fled. Sorgen’s store was heavily damaged by smoke and water. Carl Sorgen managed to remove his records and some merchandise.
Sorgen today has secured temporary facilities at the former Zach Hudson building one door north of the Gem Café.
Lee Crouse of Crouse Jewelers, 205 N. Market said he has no plans at present for reopening. He lost everything in the blaze including his records, he said. He hopes to recover records from a safe in the rubble today.
General Telephone Co. has leased temporary quarters in the Ordill area for its Southern Division offices.
All the businesses and apartments on the block were vacated during the fire.
Montgomery Ward & Co., 219 N. Market is open for business as usual. Officials said the store received no water or smoke damage.
ABC Liquor Store also is open as usual. Manager Don Rodgers said there was considerable water and smoke in the building but that damage to stock was mainly limited to the basement. No estimate of damage is presently available.
Spires Shop, women apparel, 215 N. Market, was closed today pending a conference with insurance adjusters. Mrs. Gene Spires said there was no water damage.
Fire Chief James Dungey today estimated the fire loss at $500,000. Some 500,000 gallons of water was used on the fire. This is almost half a day’s supply of water for entire Marion.
Volunteer firemen were: John Tonner, John Barnwell, Robert Norman, Mike Wiseman, and Bob Whiting.
While firemen were still concerned with the downtown fire, Tuesday two grass fires broke out in Marion. One was at 11:20 pm at 603 N. Johnson. It was out on arrival. The other was at 5:44 pm at John Neely apartments where grass around a barrel caught fire.
Spectators were considerably fewer in numbers than at the May 5 fire on the Public Square. Reasons given probably were the fact that it was about 17 degrees weather and it was during daylight hours when most people are either working or are in school.
Water was poured on the fire periodically throughout the night with Civil Defense and Marion police guarding against looting.
About 250 feet of fire hose was lost in the fire either by breakage or in the falling wall. Heavy equipment Tuesday afternoon and today knocked down ruined walls and cleared Market and Union Streets of fallen brick and other rubble. Union Street between Market and Franklin by noon today was blocked off. Market was open.
Fire Chief Dungey said that if he could have had adequate water he believed he could have saved Sorgen’s “but no amount of water could have saved Kimmel’s.” The shortage of manpower to make the initial call was also a hampering factor.
December 26, 1963:
A Christmas night fire destroyed Jake’s Tire & Recap in Marion. Damage was estimated at $150,000. It was the third major fire in Marion’s business district in less than eight months.
Fire apparently started in the front of the building above the coal stoker furnace. Fire Chief James C. Dungey said the blaze “may have been started by faulty wiring.” Not much fire was believed to have been in the furnace.
Once ignited, some $400,000 in contents, mostly rubber tires and recapping equipment quickly burned. Firemen from Marion, Herrin, Carterville, and West Frankfort had the fire under control in about an hour.
About three blocks of Route 37 were blocked off for more than an hour as the blaze threatened homes and a least three businesses.
Adding to the danger was the Cities Service bulk plant across the narrow Stockton Street to the south. Only a strong southwesterly wind prevented further danger there.
Families from three homes were evacuated. Flying burning embers landing over the area northeast of Jake’s led men to move autos parked on Railroad Street.
Eight trailer trucks, two loaded with grain, owned by Everett Henshaw, valued at about $102,000 were evacuated from a parking area about three lots away from Jakes on Railroad Street.
Robert Gay, whose home is at 1007 N. Court, two doors from Jake’s at 1001, was evacuated by Gay. Burning embers fell into the back of a pickup truck loaded with home furnishings, catching a mattress afire as he attempted to flee the danger area.
Joseph Parker of Paulton, a night employee of Giles Armature & Electric across the street from Jake’s, called firemen when he saw flames shooting out from the front center near the top of the building.
Officials were investigating today possible heat damage to the Giles building. The sheet metal was hot to touch of the hand during the fire.
Jake and Sarah Harrolle, owners of the tire recap and sales store, announced today that negotiations were underway for a temporary location for the business which employs some 11 persons.
A spokesman for the Harrolles said an estimate of losses is pending an inventory. Loss would be only partially covered by insurance. Important papers and records were in a fireproof safe which cannot be opened for about two days because of heat, the spokesman said.
The building was valued at about $50,000 by owner O.L. Norris. This is the second time in less than three months that Norris property has been destroyed by fire. Earlier a house south of Marion was destroyed.
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small explosions were heard. The roof fell in at 10:20, only 15 or 20 minutes after the fire started. No injuries were reported.
Families evacuated were: John Mclellan, small house in the rear of a house occupied by Ron Jackson at 1005 N. Court. The Jackson home is only a few feet from Jake’s. It is a five-room house. Both received exposure damage, an insurance adjuster said.
The Herrin fire department used an old fire truck with “Bunker Hill Fire District” written on the side. Their regular pumper truck was out of commission for repairs.
Marion’s trucks were the only ones pumping. Fire Chief Dungey said the water pressure was adequate and there were no problems. “We were lucky to save that house,” he said. He referred to the house occupied by Jackson.
Firemen were comparatively unhampered by the cold. It was 37 degrees. They fought the North Market Street fire in about 17 degree weather.
Pat Malone, manager of Jake’s estimated the loss of contents at some $100,000. Malone said inventory was taken only last Thursday.
An office was located in the front of the building at the southwest corner. The heating plant and a service area were also in the front.
Crews today were clearing streets of fallen brick and other debris.
April 1, 1964:
Editor’s note: If anything good has come out of the rash of major business fires in 1963 apparently the current water improvements program is one example. The following story was published in the Volunteer Firefighter, March issue. It was written and submitted to the “The only magazine edited exclusively for the volunteer fire service” by Ernest C. Heltsley of the Marion Daily Republican.
Marion is gaining a reputation for big fires. The city’s business section has been hit with four major fires for a total of some $2 million with eight months.
The latest downtown business section fire last December 17 destroyed four businesses and two apartments. It started in the Kimmel Auto Parts building. Damage was estimated at $453,000.
While a lack of water is considered a major factor in the May 6 fires, in which some seven businesses were destroyed. It was less a factor, Fire Chief Lonnie Dungey says in the December fire. The May fire was the heaviest loss of the year at $1,250,000.
“If anything, it (The December fire) was water, but had already gotten too much of a head start on us before we knew about it,” said the veteran firefighter about the December 17 blaze. The fire started before 6 am.
Dungey said the 1963 chain of fires was by far the worst he has seen.
It’s getting now so that at the mention of Marion, a stranger is likely to ask, “What are you trying to do, burn the town over there?”
Water was “good” during the Christmas fire, about one week after the Kimmel building fire in the downtown section. During Christmas Jake’s Tire & Recap on Illinois Route 37 burned in less than two hours. The other major fire of the year was in April when the Marion Courts Motel burned.
In summary, the two downtown fires were on May 16 and December 17; the outlying fires were on April 25 and December 25.
The 17-degree temperature on December 17 froze water almost as soon as it struck the ground of the building, creating a hazard for firemen and on lookers.
Spectators were held to a minimum compared to the May 6 fire reported in the July issue of Volunteer Firefighter also by Heltsley, probably because of the cold weather and the fact that the fire was being fought at a time when most persons were either working or in school.
Early in March a water facilities program improvement program initially prompted by the May 6 fire is scheduled to get underway.
The program includes construction of a 12 inch loop line around the Public Square, a new 500,000 gallon elevated steel water tank, a raw water line from the lake to the water plant and numerous extensions and installation of additional lines.
Firemen, fire marshals and insurance adjusters, agree that no arson was involved; however one smaller house fire after the major fires resulted in committing a mother of two children to a mental institution after she admitted setting the fire. Police said she was not connected with any other fires.
In the Dec. 17 fire, the blaze started around the furnace sometime before 6 am. By the time General Telephone Co. officials discovered the fire had progressed from the basement up the stairs and into the second floor of the two-story building. General Telephone Co. maintained its division offices in most of the upstairs portion.
The Kimmel Auto Parts store used the downstairs of the building except for the Crouse Jewelry Store. All were destroyed.
A fourth business in a second and adjoining building was damaged mainly by water and smoke. Two apartments above the business and Sorgen’s Studio and Camera Shop were destroyed when fire burned through the roof.
The blaze knocked out almost half a business block in less than one hour after firemen answered the initial call at about 5:50 am.
Flames and smoke from the fire could be seen from as far as 10 miles. The fire-destroyed site was only a little more than one block from the site of the May 6 fire.
Several businesses in adjoining buildings were threatened but firemen and departments from five towns, some as far away as Mt. Vernon 38 miles north, were able to contain the fire to the two buildings.
A Mt. Vernon snorkel truck credited with saving nearby buildings in the May 6 fire was standing by in the rear of the burning building on Dec. 17 but could not be used because of inadequate water supply.
Firemen were certain that they would not have been able to stop the fire in the upstairs portion of the second building, except for the strong fire wall between the ABC Liquor Store and Sorgen’s Studio.
A new coal stoker supplying heat for the building had been installed in the Kimmel basement just a few months before the fire, in addition to some $2,000 in wiring work about two years previously.
Heat generated from the blaze knocked out plate glass display windows of businesses across the street on both Market and Union Streets.
Fire departments and equipment at the scene were West Frankfort, one truck stood by at the station; Herrin, four firemen and one pumper truck; Carbondale, an 85-foot ladder truck and five men; Mt. Vernon with its 75-foot snorkel and three men, and three men from DuQuoin.
Cost estimates of the four major fires during 1963 are: April 25, Marion Courts Motel, $50,000; May 6 seven businesses downtown, $1,250,000; Dec. 17 Kimmel Auto Parts, $453,000 and Dec. 25, Jakes Tire & Recap, $150,000.
Insurance adjusters say the rash of costly fires will not cause Marion residents an increase in rates this year but could in years to come.
Marion, except for 1963, has not had many serious fires since 1957. By the time rate increases are considered, Marion will have completed a $1,113,000 water works improvement project to strengthen fire protection and the fire department’s equipment is expected to have been improved.
The project has been approved under the matching fund requirements of the Accelerated Public Works Program.
Marion’s present system in an antiquated water system which has had no major repairs since it was built more than 40 years ago except for additions.
The fires of 1963 probably are responsible more than any other single factor for the acceptance by the city leaders and the public need for vast water improvements in Marion.
August 10, 1964:
Six firemen were injured Sunday while fighting a fire on the Public Square in Marion that hit two buildings and resulted in damage to ten businesses.
Worst losses were in J.V. Walkers & Sons Clothing Store, 1204 Public Square and Cline-Vick Drug Co. 1203 Public Square in the two buildings the blaze damaged.
Fire also damaged the two buildings in 1923.
It was the fourth major fire in Marion in 15 months.
John Geittmann, manager of Underwriters Adjusting Co. said the total loss would be about $150,000 but it would cost twice that to replace everything.
Most seriously injured was Woodrow Dungey, 19, 701 S. Russell who was admitted to Marion Memorial Hospital at 11:30 am with lacerations of the left arm.
Dungey, brother of Fire Chief James C. Dungey, was injured after he climbed through the store front and fell through the plate glass window along the entranceway at J.V. Walkers & Sons. His condition was listed as satisfactory today.
James W. Johnson, 27, 206 E. Charles was treated at 2:30 pm and released. He suffered cuts on his left knee.
Robert Cash, 50, 806 S. Court, was admitted at 9 pm. He suffered smoke inhalation and exhaustion. His condition was listed as satisfactory today.
Marion fireman Bill Whiting and Paul Barnwell and Carbondale Chief Ulmont Crawshaw were overcome by smoke. They were given oxygen at the scene.
Both Cline-Vick and Walkers plan to re-open in other locations this week.
Five fire departments were involved. Marion and Herrin pumpers and the Carbondale aerial truck shot water into the fire. Johnston City’s department provided firemen and the Carterville truck was on standby at the Marion department.
An unidentified man reported the blaze to Marion police at 10:30 am. Authorities said the fire apparently began about an hour and a half earlier.
The blaze was brought under control at about 1 pm and extinguished at about 4 pm. Authorities said the fire apparently broke out between Cline-Vicks and Walkers in a hallway about two feet wide. Cause of the blaze was not immediately determined but there was “no evidence of foul play.”
The two buildings are connected and not separated by a fire wall. Firemen said the blaze apparently followed a “natural draft.” The fire began at the back hall way. It apparently went up the wall, along the opening between the joists and into the back of Walker’s. The fire was fought at Walker’s about two hours before it broke through the walls into Cline-Vicks.
Bill Hadfield, manager of Walker’s said he believes his merchandise is a total loss at about $70,000. The Benson Building on the east side of the Public Square burned Oct. 10, 1923 with the loss estimated at $180,000. Losses included J.A. Benson and Mrs. Alice Cline, owners of the building, Hub Clothing Co., Cline-Vick Drug; Drs. L.C. Walker, D.H. Harris, and Dr. Wohlwend, A.H. Joseph and John Alexander.
John Hendricks, pharmacist and part owner of Cline-Vick’s said he had not determined the extent of damage to the contents of the store, but the value was estimated at about $25,000. A drug salesman said he doubted if any of the merchandise was damaged.
Fire, water and smoke also damaged the offices of Attorney J.C. Mitchell, Attorney H.T. Hubler, Dr. H.C. Dibble and Household Finance Co., all above the two stores.
The hallway between the upstairs offices were burned out, and firemen and fire marshalls today could enter only Mitchell’s and Hubler’s offices.
Records in Mitchell’s filing cabinet did not appear to be damaged. Only a few records on his desks were soaked by water. The situation was about the same in Hubler’s office.
Most fire damage in Walker’s was in the brick of the store. Fire damage to Cline-Vick’s was mostly along the north wall and the ceiling. There was no fire in the basements of either store. Water was pumped from the basements Sunday.
Hendricks said that he hoped to be open for prescription business Tuesday at 108 S. Market in a building owned by Mrs. Virginia Dunston.
Hadfield said that he will reopen by the end of the week at 306 Public Square, the former Quasi-Centennial headquarters.
Hadfield’s records were in a safe and escaped damage. Hendricks also saved his records, including those for prescriptions.
Firemen were assisted by Civil Defense workers and Marion police. The Salvation Army had a “mobile kitchen” on hand. A CD ambulance and truck were at the scene.
Merchandise in P.N. Hirsch’s store, the former Illinois Brokerage, was damaged by smoke and water but Don Souther, manager did not make an estimate about the extent. The store is on the south side of Cline-Vick’s.
An investigation was conducted this morning by Deputy Fire Marshals Al Phillips of Herrin and Edward E. Grumley of Eldorado, Chief Dungey, Police Chief Charles Edwards, Public Health and Safety Commissioner William L. Harris and Geittmann.
Businesses surrounding the engulfed fire area were saved, but some received heavy smoke and water damage.
The entire inventory of the P.N. Hirsch & Co. store, 1203 Public Square must be replaced Randall Willmore, field supervisor for the firm said today.
The P.N. Hirsch & Co. which had purchased the department store from the John Green Stores May 1 plans to remodel, repaint and re-stock the lost merchandise.
Clothing was damaged by smoke and the north wall of the building was damaged by water. Willmore said a new fall inventory of women’s and children’s clothing had just been moved into the store.
He said the firm will be closed for about two weeks until remodeling has been completed and a new inventory is brought in.
One store on East Main Street was damaged by water.
Lewis Odum, owner of Odum’s Jewelry Store located around the corner from the Hirsch company, said water about six inches deep flowed into his basement.
However all merchandise was removed and saved. Lewis said he didn’t know how long the store would be closed. He said it will be repainted and remodeled. Some smoke damage to the walls and ceiling was reported.
Other businesses along East Main were not damaged. The Gebhart Stores, Inc. at 112 E. Main, an auto supply firm, the House of Fabrics, 108 E. Main; Sears Roebuck & Co. and TVW Men’s Store, 114 E. Main were not reported damaged.
Merchandise at the House of Fabrics was removed when the fire broke out. Manager Kenneth C. Sparks said the store will be closed for the rest of the week until stock has been replaced.
Part of the merchandise was damaged as it was being carried out of the store. Water from a fire hose fell on the fabric as it was being loaded into a truck, Sparks said.
Stores on the north side of the square were not damaged but the City Hall received smoke damage. Mrs. Maureen Johnston, city clerk, said walls and the ceiling in her office were blackened by smoke.
Charles R. Prater, manager of Sherman’s Department Store, 200 Public Square reported no damage to his business. Prater was in St. Louis attending a baseball game when the fire broke.
He said some water splashed onto awnings, but there was no serious damage. Smoke damage was not present inside the building.
Robert Nemeth, manager of the Dotty Shop, 204 Public Square, said he left his air conditioner on over the weekend. He said there was no damage inside the store.
Sam Hill, manager of Limerick Finance Co., 205 Public Square, also reported no damage to his office.
Mrs. H.V. Ferrell, owner of the building housing Walker’s said that no plans have been made at this time to re-build. She said she will await the arrival of her son, William H. Ferrell of Belleville, a St. Louis attorney, who is on business in California, before making a decision. Ferrell might arrive by the weekend, she said.
Mrs. Harry X. Cline of Marion and Mrs. Carlista McNeill of Herrin are among the owners of the other building. Mrs. Cline is a patient in Marion Memorial Hospital. It was reported that a decision on whether to rebuild has not been made.
Household Finance has been relocated in offices above the Stylart Shoppe on the square.
Attorneys Hubler and Mitchell plan to re-locate for the present in the building occupied by Attorney Arthur Melvin on West Main Street.
Dr. Dibble is on vacation.
Chief Dungey said the firemen did a “terrific job.” He said that although water pressure was sufficient, a “bigger volume” could have been utilized.
The square was roped off until the fire was extinguished. Hundreds of persons gathered around the square.
The fire that swept through the J.V. Walker Store and Cline-Vick drug Sunday was the fourth major disaster in the Marion business district during the last 15 months.
A $150,000 blaze in December destroyed rubber tires and recapping equipment at Jake’s Tire and Recap.
Firemen from Marion, Herrin, Carterville and West Frankfort had the blaze under control in about an hour after it broke out.
The blaze threatened homes and at least three businesses in the area, but they were not damaged.
Only a strong southwesterly wind prevented a severe threat to the Cities Service bulk plant across the narrow Stockton Street.
The Christmas Eve fire brought the total loss estimates for three major fires in 1963 to more than $2 million.
Cox Hardware Store, which has a new building under construction at 906 Public Square, was destroyed by fire on May 6, 1963. The new building is the first entirely new one to be constructed on the square since 1955. Three-quarters of a block burned in the spring disaster. Total damage in the May 6 fire was estimated at $1.5 million.
Fire also destroyed two buildings including three businesses on Dec. 17, 1963. Total damage was estimated at $543,000. Fire knocked out almost half-a-block of the North Market Street business section.
Kimmel’s Auto Supply, the division office of General Telephone Co. above Kimmel’s and Crouse Jewelers were destroyed. The roof of Sorgen Studio Camera Shop building was heavily damaged by the blaze.
All businesses since have moved to new locations in Marion. Total damage for the past 15 months has been estimated at more than $2-3/4 million.
Friday, August 28, 1964:
A blaze in the top of an elevator shaft broke out in a three-story warehouse at 600 W. Union today. The building is owned by Harry Crisp, Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co., Marion.
Firemen said an electric motor at the top of the shaft shorted and caused grease to ignite. Fire broke out near 9 am today. The blaze did not spread outside the elevator shaft. Slight damage was reported.
December 18, 1964:
Andy North’s retail and custom barbecue house, 601 W. Boyton, Marion was destroyed by fire near 9 pm Thursday.
North, who specialized in customer work, had used the building for about six years. He has been in the business for about the past 40 years.
Flames from the building’s open barbecue pit was the apparent cause of the fire. Marion firemen were called at 9 pm but could not save the 18 by 20-foot structure.
Seven pieces of meat were inside the house when it burned, including pork shoulders and ham. Two ice boxes and a table also were destroyed. A new flue and pit had recently been installed.
North’s barbecue was known throughout the area. He had service clubs and individuals. Reconstruction plans are indefinite.
April 9, 1966:
Reach and Son Battery manufacturing plant was gutted Friday at 9:30 pm by a fire that is believed to have started around a small gas burner used for heating sealing compound.
Marion Fire Chief Lonnie Dungey said the wood structure at 1007 W. Aikman was heavily damaged by fire, water and smoke. Dungey said the fire could have started from faulty wiring.
The business which was started in 1923 by the late Regent David Reach, a retired coal miner, is now being leased by Dale L. Baker, Route 7.
The original owner died in 1959 and the company was taken over by his son, Van A. Reach. Baker leased the business when Reach died in 1965.
The building is owned by the widow of Van Reach. Mrs. Alice Reach said she had no idea of the value of the building.
Baker explained today he lost more than $4,000 in equipment in the fire. Baker said he distributes Reaco batteries from Belleville to Morganfield, Ky. but did not know the exact number of business firms.
Baker said he planned to open an undamaged portion of the building Wednesday. He said he would be unable to get into full production until the building is rebuilt.
“I’m covered with insurance; therefore, I won’t have to close my doors due to the fire,” explained Baker.
Dungey said the flames shot high into the air after reaching an exhaust fan Friday.
The battery firm manufactures both six and twelve volt varieties. In 1955 the business had swelled to 300 business firms and coal mines in the Midwest.
Reach started the original firm with one battery in the south end of the present building. As business picked up, he enlarged the building and joined another building to the original one for the present site.
A phrase, “Reach for a Reaco Battery” became known throughout this area and the business continued to grow to its present state.
August 22, 1966:
Their second fire in about four months gutted the Reach & Son Battery Mfg. plant at 1007 W. Aikman St., Marion Sunday at 9:30 pm officials of the fire department said.
It was the third tragedy in the Reach family recently. The founder, Regent D. Reach died suddenly in Marion Memorial Hospital in 1959 and the plant was razed by fire April 8, 1966.
Van A. Reach, son of the founder took over the operation after his father’s death. Van died in 1965.
The blaze originally was discovered by Mrs. Ollie Mae Reach on her return from church services. She called the fire department and it responded, but flames already had gained such a headway that there was considerable smoke and water damage to the structure.
In the previous blaze, the plant in which the Reaco Battery was manufactured was declared a total loss.
The new fire was believed started in the bathroom, according to Fire Chief James C. Dungey and defective wiring again may have been the origin. The chief aided his fellow workers, residing at 1004 Aikman St.
No plans for future production at the plant were announced by Mrs. Reach.
At the time of the original fire the business was being leased by Dale L. Baker, Rt. 2, Marion who said he planned to open the undamaged portion of the building as soon as possible. It was the latter structure that was hit in the most recent fire.
December 19, 1966:
Harlan’s Upholstery Shop at 101 E. Calvert St. Marion was damaged by fire about noon Saturday.
Marion firemen said considerable damage was caused by the blaze, reported to be all over the shop when they arrived.
Gilbert Harlan, operator of the shop, said no estimate of the damage had been made and that he plans to reopen the business. The cause of the fire was unknown.
Three other calls alerted Marion firemen during the weekend.
At 2:30 pm Saturday they were called to the Kroger Store on West Main to put out a blaze in an electric motor. Damage was confined to the motor.
Another run was made Saturday afternoon to the Country Kitchen west of town to extinguish a blaze around a goose pit. No damage was reported.
On Sunday at 5:50 pm they were called to 910 N. Vicksburg St. to put out a fire in a car engine. The car was reportedly owned by Sam Rinella.
May 31, 1967:
Members of Marion City Council are in the preliminary stages of discussions which will lead to the construction of a new fire station.
Much of Monday night’s two-hour and 15-minute meeting was devoted to discussing the fire station.
Although no timetable was announced, there were indications that construction could come within two years.
One of the major points being considered is location. A desirable site would be one within the central business district and near streets that would permit quick travel to any part of town.
It was agreed that it would be best to build a new station with funds from current revenues rather than increase taxes. One method is to have a private contractor build the station, with the city obtaining it through a lease-purchase agreement.
Mayor Robert L. Butler said that experts today feel that it is better to have one well equipped fire station than two stations. Public Safety Commissioner Rex Presson said that he and Fire Chief James C. Dungey have been discussing a new fire station.
August 15, 1967:
Marion City Council agreed Monday night to construct a new fire station in the 200 block on North Court. Construction of the building is expected to begin in the spring of 1968.
The 80 by 100 feet tract was purchased for $21,000 from W. E. Kimmel. The land lies between the Farm Fresh Dairy Store and the Kimmel Auto Supply.
The Council who deliberated for months on the site of the building said Monday the selected location was the second lowest priced site studied by the members.
Rex Presson, public safety commissioner, said the present fire station located in the downtown area of Marion was too small to adequately serve the citizens of Marion.
Although a definite floor plan for the construction has not been selected, Presson said the new fire station would be about three times the size of the present fire station.
At present, Marion has two fire engines and a ladder truck but due to the size of the present station the vehicles must be parked in single file.
Plans for the new station call for three separate exits. All of the present vehicles will have access to a separate exit and will be able to leave the station in shorter time.
Presson said at present new equipment was not needed for the new station. The present “equipment is adequate” explained Presson, “but we must have more available space.”
The larger roads leading into the new station will allow the fire department to more readily serve the citizens of Marion.
“We must build the station large enough to serve Marion until we add another station,” explained Presson.
According to Presson, the present fire station will probably be given to the Marion Parking Commission and additional parking space will be provided.
At present two foundations are located on the lots and work will begin this summer on clearing the location for the construction.
At present no available prices have secured on the construction of the building. Presson said the council had laid plans to purchase the land this year and to complete construction in 1968.
September 29, 1967:
An early morning blaze destroyed the Shawnee Library System building today causing an estimated $340,000 damage to the building and its contents.
The library system was being temporarily housed in the Ambassador Place. The building is located on Route 37 about one mile north of Marion.
The building, a block structure owned by Wally Thurmond, was mostly collapsed before the Marion Fire Department could arrive at the scene at about 6:30 am today.
The library, which served area libraries with books which could not be purchased by each library, contained about 25,000 volumes at the time of the fire.
James Ubel, director of the library, said the average cost of a book was $7 making a total of $175,000 lost in books. An additional $40,000 in office equipment for the operation was lost.
Thurmond said at the scene of the fire today the building was valued at $125,000. He said the building was insured. The building was being rented to the library organization for $600 per month.
Marion fire chief Lonnie Dungey said cause of the fire had not been determined. “It could have been several things,” Dungey said. “It could have been the wiring, the heat or started by someone breaking into the building.”
Ubel said the building was heated by two large gas heaters which were located in the library portion of the 6,600 square feet building.
None of the library’s records or files was saved from the extensive heat which twisted steel beams like pieces of thin metal.
The Marion Fire Department centered its interests on saving the Ambassador House which is located about 30 feet east of the Ambassador Place.
The firemen sprayed water on the rear of the restaurant and there was no damage reported to the building.
The library, which employed 15, opened it doors at its temporary location July 5 to serve public libraries in 18 Southern Illinois counties.
The library had planned to be located in Marion for 14 months prior to locating at its permanent building near Carterville.
The permanent library will be located on a six acre site and the building is expected to cost more than $300,000.
Ubel said today he did not know where the library would move but he did mention two locations in Johnston City which were considered before coming to Marion.
A total of about 10,000 books is presently loaned to other libraries in Southern Illinois and Ubel said the books would be used to start another library.
“The fire cost us about two years of our plans for the operation of the library,” explained Ubel. “I don’t know what the board will decide to do about replacing the books, but I do know we will continue.”
The United Parcel Service used the building as a warehouse after the Thurmond Monument Co. was sold. Thurmond said he had no future plans as yet concerning reconstruction of the building.
October 9, 1967:
Construction of a new fire station for Marion can come none too soon, according to Marion Fire Chief Lonnie Dungey.
The present station is capable of serving a town of about one-fifth the size and population of Marion, Dungey said.
Oct. 8-14 is National Fire Prevention Week and Dungey, along with Mayor Robert L. Butler and Rex Presson, public health and safety commissioner, will use next week to continue to formulate plans for the construction of the new fire station.
Earlier this summer the present Council bought land on North Court Street for $22,000 for the construction of the station and Dungey said he hoped to be in the new station in time for National Fire Prevention Week in 1968.
Marion has three pieces of fire fighting equipment. The equipment is adequate for present but the trucks must be parked behind each other in the single entrance station and this is a hazard if the front truck failed to start.
The present station, hidden behind the Bank of Marion and the Campbell’s Rexall Drug Store was built in 1912 when the city had a team of horses and a wagon for fire prevention.
The horses were housed in the present kitchen in the stable. The wagon was placed in the entrance and the harness was stored overhead and was lowered to fall in place on the horses.
The entrance in 1912 was wide enough for the wagon and the team of horses, but with the modern 1,000 gallon pumper sitting in the number one slot, the driver must take extra time and precaution in coming from the station.
When the driver is able to twist his way from the station, his problems have only started. Dungey said traffic on North Market has halted the engine numerous times.
The 1,000 gallon pumper is capable of pumping 1,000 gallons of water per minute but there are only seven hydrants in Marion capable of supplying water to the truck. Four of the hydrants are located in the vicinity of the Square. The huge pumper cost about $30,000 (?).
About 1,300 feet of hose is stored on the pumper. According to Dungey 1,000 feet of the hose is two and one-half inch and the remaining 300 feet is one and one-half inch.
The truck contains a 600 gallon booster tank that is used to extinguish small fires and is also used for rural calls.
The second truck in line is a 750 gallon pumper which is capable of pumping 750 gallons of water per minute. It also contains a 500 gallon booster tank.
Marion Fire Department has a ladder truck that is capable of reaching 50 feet into the air.
There are two men on duty at all times in the station and each man works an average of 72 hours per week. There are six firemen in addition to Dungey.
The firemen are Barney Russell, assistant chief, Bill Whiting, Bob Cash, Bob Yost, Paul Barnwell and John Lewis.
Dungey said his crew had attended fire-fighting schools and were “as good as the Chicago firemen, but we do not have the equipment to work with.”
The ceilings in the station are beginning to crack and the walls give the appearance of being ready to fall in the sleeping quarters of the on-duty firemen. The men’s boots and fire-fighting rubber coats are placed neatly at the foot of the bed and a call over the red phone is answered from bedside.
Marion is ranked in the Number 8 bracket for fire insurance which is one of the highest in Southern Illinois. The high ranking is due to the location of the fire station and the amount of equipment.
Carbondale and Mt. Vernon have recently been lowered to Rate 6 after acquiring new equipment and building a new station.
“A new station and a few more added facilities will lower the fire insurance costs to the citizens of Marion,” Dungey said.
“We are planning the new station very carefully,” Dungey said. “We must not only plan the station for now but the same station will have to be modern in 1980 and will have to be built with possible expansion in the future.”
The new station will have three separate front and rear exits for all three pieces of equipment. The trucks will be backed into the stalls and will face North Court Street.
“We want to build a fire station which the people of Marion will be proud of,” Dungey explained. “If the people are proud of the fire station and its personnel, fighting fires will be easier.”
National Fire Prevention Week is held during the same week each year on the anniversary of the Chicago Fire, Oct. 8, 1871.
Each year in the United States a total of $2 billion in damages is caused by fire, 12,000 lives are lost of which one-third are children.
Each day in the United States a total of 33 lives are lost due to fire; 1,500 homes are lost; 12 schools, nine churches, 12 hospitals, 114 stores and 111 plants are destroyed by fire.
These figures were obtained from the National Fire Protection Agency. Dungey submits a full report each year to the agency.
Dungey said 95 percent of the fires in Marion are caused by carelessness. Cigarettes and matches are the leading cause.
July 18, 1968:
Fire Wednesday night gutted the New Marion Hotel Building on West Main Street west of the C &EI railroad station, destroying three businesses on the ground floor and seven apartments upstairs. Damage was estimated at upwards of $100,000.
The building was owned by Paul Childers, who for the last 18 months had been remodeling the 30-room New Marion Hotel on the second floor into apartments. Destroyed also in the fire were the Tap Room, in the corner location, operated by Alfred Layman, a barber shop owned by Larry Baysinger, and a Western Union service shop operated by Dee Reynolds.
The repair shop contained a number of communications machines valued at thousands of dollars which may revise the estimate of loss upwards.
Firemen confined the fire to the one building. Fire damage was principally to the second floor rooms although the businesses on the first floor were ruined by water and smoke.
Some furniture and appliances stored in a room adjacent to the work shop were also destroyed.
Fire Chief James C. Dungey said the fire apparently started in the back room of the west half of the ground floor on the building. That part of the building, which was formerly occupied by Wohlwend Drug Sundries Store, was no longer occupied except for storage.
The first fire truck was called out at 7:45 pm. Other units were summoned in rapid order as it became apparent the fire had spread to the second floor.
Johnston City’s fire truck came in to Marion and occupied the fire station on standby while all Marion equipment was at the fire scene. Carbondale’s “snorkel” ladder truck and a pumper from Herrin joined the Marion units in pumping water on the blaze and on other threatened buildings. A fire truck from West Frankfort was on hand. Rescue trucks from Christopher and the Williamson County Civil Defense Unit provided electric lighting for the assistance of firemen, and Civil Defense volunteers helped handle traffic at the fire scene. Additional firemen came from Murphysboro and Harrisburg. The Salvation Army from West Frankfort set up a mobile kitchen for firemen.
Carbondale Truck Helps:
The big ladder equipment from Carbondale enabled firemen to get water on the fire from above, and was a mainstay of the fire fighting force which fought the flames for four hours.
Chief Dungey said that firemen were hampered in the early stage of the fire by smoke which prevented them getting at the source of the fire. By the time firemen were called the flames had burned upwards from the vacant kitchen into the apartments upstairs.
It was smoke seeping into other parts of the building from the former Wohlwend store that first gave the alarm. Paul Childers, the building owner, was one of several persons in the Tap Room next door when someone shouted, “Let’s get out of here. The place is on fire.”
Smoke was coming into the tavern room around the edges of the wall separating it from the room next door. Those in the tap room rapidly evacuated.
Fear for other buildings:
As the fire spread upwards into the apartments on the second floor, it was feared the fire might reach other nearby buildings. Some equipment and merchandise were removed to the street from the former Lampley Electric Supply Co. in the building adjacent to the Childers building on the west, but was later returned.
A cocktail lounge next to Lampley’s had been undergoing some remodeling and had not been open for business. The Four-Way Cafeteria, operated by William Davis who recently also acquired the cocktail lounge, closed during the fire but reopened later. In anticipation of the possibility that the fire might spread, trucks and U-Haul trailers were backed up in front of the former service station now occupied by Cox Tire & Battery Co. on the corner of West Main and South Court Streets. They were loaded for removal of the store’s stock if necessary, but were not moved.
Although the fire posed a threat also to the building of E. Blankenship & Co. building across West Main Street from the hotel building, the flames did not cross the street.
As a safety precaution, workmen for the Central Illinois Public Service Co. cut off electric power in an area from Court Street to the Public Square and from the Illinois Central Railroad on the north to Boyton Street on the South from 10 pm to 12:05 am. Illumination in the darkened area was provided by civil defense units, fire trucks and a C&EI locomotive. The locomotive approached the fire scene from the north pulling a freight train, but stopped near the junction of the I.C. and C& EI railroads north of the area because fire hoses were stretched across the tracks. At the request of City Commissioner Rex Presson the train crew cut the engine from the train and moved close to West Main Street where the locomotive headlight illuminated a wide area of the fire zone.
The area darkened by the power interruption included the Marion fire station where Johnston City firemen operated an auxiliary generator.
Fireman Paul Barnwell suffered abrasions of the hand and a bruised leg when he fell about 20 feet from a roof of a building adjacent to the hotel building. He continued to assist in fighting the fire.
Plans of Paul Childers, owner of the New Marion Hotel building on West Main Street, to turn the 30-room into a modern apartment house were wiped out by Wednesday night’s fire.
During the last year and a half Childers had practically completed a remodeling project at the cost of thousands of dollars, converting the former hotel rooms into seven apartments complete with kitchen equipment which was destroyed in the fire. The ceiling had been lowered and the walls and halls paneled and aluminum storm windows installed.
A thousand square feet of paneling not yet used was stored in a lower floor room where it was ruined by water.
But there was one bright thought in Childers reflections upon the fire that wiped out 18 months of work and expense. He had purchased $1000 worth of carpet for the apartments which had not been installed. He had planned to store it in the vacant room on the first floor but the roll of carpet was too big to go through the door and he had to store it elsewhere outside the building. Had it been in the building it would have been ruined.
Childers expressed doubt that he will resume the apartment project. Looking at the burned upper floor rooms and the water drenched smoke blackened furnishings of the businesses on the ground floor Thursday morning, Childers said he doubted if he will rebuild. Pointing to a bulging second story wall, he said he believed the building would be torn down.
Childers said that at the time he insured the building it was estimated that its cost of replacing it would be $104,000. It was built in 1923.
July 19, 1968:
Insurance adjusters and business owners were engaged Friday in a study of the damage caused by Wednesday night’s fire which destroyed the remodeled New Marion Hotel and ruined businesses in the ground floor rooms of the two-story brick structure on West Main Street.
Fire Chief James C. Dungey said part of the walls of the building would have to be torn down as a safety precaution. Building owner Paul Childers was debating whether to rebuild the damaged structure that it was learned that the smoke leaving a hole through which brick fell through to the first floor, some them striking Fireman John Lewis on the arm. He was not seriously hurt.
Meanwhile, the fire chief said the fire was seen by several persons several minutes Wednesday night before an alarm was turned in about 7:30 pm. He said several witnesses had told him of seeing smoke coming from the rear of the building but thought it was trash burning outside. He said there were five empty oil drums located in the neighborhood which were regularly used for burning refuse.
One of those who saw the smoke was Mrs. Bill Davis, who with her husband operates the Four Way Café near the opposite end of the block from the hotel building. She was working in a room next to the café where she and her husband plan to open a cocktail lounge. She reported the smoke to her husband and he called the firemen.
Dungey said that it had been definitely established that the fire started in a locked room formerly used as a kitchen by the Wohlwend Drug Sundries store which once occupied a room on the ground floor. He said there was a possibility defective wiring could have been the cause. He said no one had been in the room that day, so far as could be learned. The former Wohlwend location was used only for storage during construction which had been going on for 18 months upstairs changing the hotel into an apartment house.
The fire chief said the fire burned upwards into the second floor as a one story building.
July 6, 1970:
About 500 persons visited Marion’s new $100,000 fire station during an open house reception Sunday afternoon.
Members of the fire department conducted the visitors through the new station, city council members were on hand to greet the visitors, and refreshments were served by members of the Marion Junior Woman’s Club. Defense volunteers were on hand to direct traffic.
The visitors were escorted through the buildings beginning with the office of Chief James C. Dungey where Mrs. Dungey registered the guests and through the communications room, dormitory, lounge, shower room, kitchen, work room and the large equipment room housing the city’s two pumper equipped trucks and ladder truck.
Firemen who served as guides for the tours were assistant Chief Bill Whiting, Bob Cash, Bob Yost, Paul Barnwell, John Lewis and Jack Wells.
Junior Woman’s Club members serving refreshments were Mesdames Fred Pool, Terry Brandon, Charles Thomas, Caryl Sullins and Bill Stapleton.
The refreshments were donated by Hubert Benedict and John Boswell and the Marion Pepsi Cola Bottling Co.
Display cards advised the visitors the names of donors of various articles provided for the use of firemen in addition to the equipment and furnishings purchased by the city. A color television set in the lounge was the gift of Tempo Stores and Rodd Realty Co. A barometer donated by Charles D. Winters was mounted in the center of a turned wood ornamental piece made by Herwald “Doc” Smith. Sam and Betty Kelton presented a mixer, electric can opener and clock which were part of the kitchen accessories of the modern kitchen, complete with new refrigerator and stove.
June 14, 1977:
Fire which was discovered last midnight destroyed the 63 year old Illinois Central Gulf depot on N. Market St. in Marion and 2 passenger cars of the Crab Orchard and Egyptian Railroad’s tour train. A railroad employee in the building escaped unhurt.
Bill Schreiber, vice-president and treasurer of the tour train enterprise, which jointly with the City of Marion had negotiated a purchase agreement with ICG to acquire the railroad’s property in Marion, estimated replacement of the building and cars would cost $200,000. Schreiber said his company carried fire insurance on the building as part of a lease agreement with ICG under which the tour train has operated the last three years. But he said he was not certain about the provisions of the policy with respect to dollar amount protection of all interests concerned.
“Technically,” he said, “title to the property is still in the hands of Illinois Central.” Although two steel coaches appeared damaged beyond repair, and the tour train’s store of tools was destroyed, Schreiber said the tour train could resume operation anytime with its two steam locomotives and three passenger cars which were not damaged by the fire.
Schreiber first saw the fire about midnight, he said, when his dog began barking in the private car built for railroad executives in the heyday of luxurious railroading where he lives across Van Buren Street 150 feet from the depot platform.
He said he saw smoke above the loading dock at the southwest corner of the depot. He went to the depot to telephone a fire alarm and discovered the electricity was off. While he was groping in the dark for a telephone he saw a police car’s lights outside, and when he reached the operator on the telephone he was advised the fire had already been reported. He then got out of the building.
The fire was reported to the fire department by Police Sergeant Jack West who with Dale Almaroad, a private detective, discovered the wooden loading platform on fire.
Fire Chief Charles Heyde said that when firemen arrived the blaze was enveloping the wooden loading dock. There was an explosion of an acetylene tank and flames spread over the southwest corner of the building. Three pumpers fought the flames more than two hours before bringing the fire under control. Johnston City firemen manned the Marion fire station on standby. Water was still being poured on the ruins this morning.
Heyde said the fire was reported by Sheriff’s Deputies Clyde Farthing and Jim Yates. Police Sergeant Jack West and Dale Almaroad, a private detective, arrived at the scene, and learned that a railroad employee lived in an apartment in the depot and went inside the building and began pounding on the door of the attic apartment occupied by Dave Siljeseron, 21, a locomotive firemen employed by the tour train.
Siljeseron, who said today, he was awakened by the noise and smelled smoke. He opened the door to find the policemen. Clad only in shorts, he started back into a bedroom to get some clothing, he said, when the officers grabbed him and pulled him down the stairs. All got out of the building safely. Siljeseron, a native of Elgin, was provided with a T-shirt and a pair of tennis shoes by an employee of the railroad.
Fire Chief Hyde said two acetylene tanks inside the building did not explode.
Cause of the fire was not immediately determined, but Heyde said it was learned that a fire had occurred during the afternoon on the loading platform where employees were doing some welding.
Schreiber said he was unaware of the incident until informed of it after the early morning blaze broke out, but he said he walked across the platform returning to his quarters from a Kiwanis Club meeting about 8 o’clock and saw no fire or smoke.
Siljeseron said the men at the scene of the minor blaze in the afternoon doused it with water and that he walked over that part of the dock about 9 pm and didn’t detect any sign of the fire.
Schreiber said a regular meeting of the company’s board of directors had been scheduled for tonight before the fire and he presumed the tour train’s future would be discussed at that meeting.
Hugh Crane, president of the company, was on a brief vacation at Kentucky Lake at the time of the fire and he was expected back today.
The brick railway station which occupied most of the block between North Market and North Van Buren Streets was built by the old Illinois Central Railroad Co. in 1914, and housed the company’s passenger ticket office, waiting room and freight depot. At the peak of the railroad passenger and coal freight traffic, six passenger trains a day stopped at the Marion Station, in addition to trains hauling coal and other freight.
In the early 1920s the station also housed headquarters for engineers engaged in design and construction of the Edgewood cutoff line that was constructed through eastern Williamson County as a shorter freight route to Kentucky.
After discontinuance of passenger service many years ago, the depot was rented to Railway Express Co. until that business also withdrew from Marion. For many years most of the building was leased as a supermarket.
When Crane, Schreiber and Herb Soberg came to Marion and started the tour train they restored the old station to its original appearance, making it a memento of the heyday of the steam train.