Local History and Genealogy

Wednesday, November 20, 2013



Fierce Blaze Battled For Hours by Fire Department - Severe Loss To Angola

National Mill Before The Fire
Angola suffered the most disastrous fire in her history last Saturday forenoon when the National Mills was completely destroyed.  The fire was discovered about 9 o'clock in the forenoon, and was caused by spontaneous combustion in a dust collector on the third floor of the building.  The mill, including the building was owned by J.E. Page, who bought it last September from W.C. Sherburn.  The loss is estimated from $20,000 to $25,000 and the insurance was $14,000,  $8,000 of which was on building and machinery and the balance on the contents.

Taken soon after the roof and
upper  floor  fallen in.  Firemen can
be  seen  to the left on the
 roof of  the plant of the
Indiana Utilities Company
The mill was running a usual, and William Allen, the miller, had just been up on the third floor a few moments before the fire and noticed nothing out of the ordinary there at the time.  He had returned to the lower floor of the mill and within a couple minutes he noticed that the electric motor which drives the machinery was laboring under its load, and called Mr Page's son Joseph, who was loading an auto in preparatory to a trip to Orland, and they rushed to the motor and threw off the currant, and hurried up to the third floor, and by the time they arrived there found the upper floor so full of smoke and fire that they could not gain entrance. They immediately returned and turned in the fire alarm to the water and light plant which is located in the south one story addition to the mill.  The company responded promptly to the alarm, but the nature of the fire gave it such headway that it could not be controlled.  For about a half hour it looked as though the department could hold it in check and confine it to the third floor of the mill but it suddenly burst out of the roof and quickly spread to the lower floors and it was easily seen that the building could not be saved.  

Photo shows the fire
at it's height, when
the flames were mounting
100 feet in the air
The firemen labored heroically in their battle against the flames and at times were in exceedingly perilous
situations.  It soon became evident that the greatest effort must be exerted to protect the water, light and power plant of the Indiana Utilities  Company, which adjoins the mill, and with a strong wind blowing from the northwest, the heat about the power plant was intense, making the work there difficult and hazardous.  The pumps and engines in the plant were operating to the limit, and even then there were times that the water pressure was too low to reach above the second story of the building.  The heat from the fire was intense, and a number of buildings in the neighborhood caught fire, some of them repeatedly , and earnest effort of citizens was necessary to guard them.  The work of the Boy Scouts about the Sheldon hay barn was especially commendable, this building having caught fire five times, and at one time the fire went through into the baled hay, but a member of the organization stationed inside extinguished it.   number of residences in the surrounding locality were also guarded by their owners.  The Chester Crain residence, several blocks away, and on the way to the college, caught fire twice, but was quickly extinguished.

The owners of the mill were somewhat fortunate in regards to the contents.  They had a couple carloads of wheat in transit, one of them to arrive the next morning, and the stock of wheat was comparatively low.  They estimate that they had about 600 bushels of wheat in the mill, and nearly a car load of oats.  There was also about 100 bushels of flour, but Irvin Metzgar chanced to come upon the scene with his wagon and team soon after the fire started, and his wagon was hurriedly loaded with flour, and others following with wagons assisted in this work and the flour was practically all saved in good condition.

The walls of the building remain standing, but the interior was completely gutted, and everything is a total loss,  It was built in 1895 by Kinney & Croxton, and soon passed to Croxton & Pilliod, where the milling business was conducted for some time in connection with the power plant, and since its erection it has changed hands a number of times, and it has always been used for the milling business.  It was a substantially built structure of three stories and a basement, two stories being of brick, and the upper story of frame with steel siding.  It was one of the best of the industrial buildings of Angola, and the loss is keenly felt, it probably being the most disastrous fire in the history of the city.

Steuben Republican March 7, 1917