Local History and Genealogy

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Most Expensive and Dangerous Conflagration that Ever Visited Angola


Including Grain Elevator - High Wind Causes Great Peril To City --- Heroic Work of Brave Fireman

      On Friday evening of last week, about 7:40 o'clock, a spark from the engine of the south bound passenger train caught in the roof of the freight depot at the south end of the building and within an incredibly short space of of time the entire structure was a seething furnace of flames.  An unusually strong wind was blowing from the southwest, and when it became certain that there was no chance to extinguish the fire in the freight depot, men's hearts trembled with fear for the safety of the city.  It is safe to say that Angola in all the years of its history never before saw a conflagration so menacing and so horrifying  in its possibilities as this fire promised to be.  The wind, as it  blew a gale, carried in its current a perfect stream of burning shingles and pieces of boards which drifted as far north as Fairview before falling to the ground.  Near at hand to the burning depot were the coal yards of Mrs. Linder, the battery of oil tanks of the Standard Oil Company, Owens packing house, and the well stocked lumber yards of Shank & Son.  IN the face of all of these appalling circumstances the local fire company, which had responded with alacrity to the alarm, worked with a zeal, courage, and wisdom they very memory of which must make the hearts of all our citizens thrill with a just pride.  
    Hundreds of volunteers with tubs and buckets of water were stationed at different points of danger, on the roofs of houses and barns and in the lumber yard and sheds near the burning depot. It took but a few moments for the destruction of the offices and storage rooms in the burning building , but the grain elevator constructed of plank nailed one upon another, made a furnace that became heated to a white heat.The sow storm of the week before over which we offered so much complaint, was indeed the salvation of our city, but in spite of the dampness that still remained, it was estimated that as many as a dozen buildings were on fire at the same time, and some of them caught half a dozen times.
    The loss is estimated at about $15,000, And is largely covered by insurance.  The greatest loss aside from that of the Lake Shore, fell upon Campbell & Co., of Kendallville, and their agents F.W. Sheldon & Co., of Angola, who owned the machinery in the elevators and had in storage there about 3,500 bushels of grain, 1,600 bushels of which was wheat.  It is estimated that the insurance will cover this loss except about $1,500, two-thirds of which will be sustained by Sheldon & Co.  Mrs Flo VanBuskirk sustained a loss of furniture of between $600 and $700.  She was shipping here good to northern Michigan and had them nearly all in the spot only a few hours before the fire, but had not yet received a shipping bill from the company.  Mrs Frank B Jones, clerk in Patterson's Department Store, also lost her household furniture which had been shipped from Stanwood, Mich., and only unloaded about two hours before the firs started.  Mrs Jones had carried $500 insurance on the goods just before  they were shipped from Michigan.  There were very many other losses, among them being a half car load of freight intended for the stations on the Valley Line, and had been unloaded for transfer.

    Farmers drove into the city from the country for miles around.   Burning shingles fell in Mr Rowley's yard east of Fairview Church. Grant Dunlap had six pianos taken from the depot the evening before the fire.  
    Now that the Lake Shore will not rebuild the grain elevators, local parties will take the matter in hand and will probably soon arrange for the erection of the necessary buildings.
    Calls for help to fight the fire were sent to Hillsdale and Auburn, and the fire departments in those cities made strenuous efforts to respond, but were unable to secure trains to make the trip.
    Hundreds of men watched the fire out of danger to themselves, without apparently realizing the great danger in which houses of many of our citizens, were placed and the assistance they might have easily rendered
    The large barn filled with baled hay just south of the dept was undoubtedly saved solely by the heroic work of the volunteer bucket line of man and boys.  It was indeed a great task, but they performed it manfully.
    The residence nearest the fire was the home of G.W. Fox and family. When the fire started it was thought to be in great danger, and in spite of the water thrown upon it, the paint on the building was badly blistered.
    The explosion which was heard soon after the fire got under way, was caused by a box of dynamite caps stored in the building.  It had the effect to move the by-standers.  So great was the detonation of the explosion that it was heard three miles in the country, several farmers hitching up their teams and coming to town after it occurred.  The nearest approach to this fire in point of danger to the town, occurred about thirty years ago when a livery stable owned by Ell Croxton, and a saloon with billiard tables and other fixtures burned near the depot where the Daniel Shank lumber office is now located.  At that time there was a strong wind blowing from the west and burning embers were carried by it all over the city, but fortunately the roofs of the buildings were not dry and no great damage was done.
    Officials of the Lake Shore were here last Saturday making plans for erection of a new freight house, and we understand the work of construction will be commenced very soon.  The new building will stand on the east side of the tracks, and the north end will be in line with the south end of the passenger depot.  The office will be 24X30 feet in size and in the north part of the building.  The storage room  will be 30 X 100 feet and a platform the full width of the building and 80 feet long will extend south.  The structure will be one story high and there will be no grain elevator connected with the building, as the Lake Shore has quit building them.  Last Monday afternoon a passenger coach from which the seats had been removed was brought to Angola to be used as an office during construction of the new building.  Box cars will be used for story freight.

Steuben Republican Wednesday May 4, 1910