Chisholm, MN Disastrous Fire, Sep 1908

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Downtown Chisholm FIrst Avenue Chisholm First National Bank Ruins Hotel Ruins Chisholm

MINNESOTA TOWN ALMOST ENTIRELY SWEPT BY FIRE.

FOREST FIRES, BURNING FOR THREE DAYS, CLOSE IN ON TOWNS.

CHISHOLM, TOWN OF 4,000 PEOPLE, COMPLETELY DESTROYED.

HIBBING AND BAYFIELD SUFFER LOSS -- PEOPLE OF CHISHOLM HAVE TIME TO DEPART FROM THEIR HOMES IN SAFETY.

SEVERAL THOUSAND ARE HOMELESS.

THE LOSS IN PROPERTY IS ESTIMATED AT SEVERAL MILLION OF DOLLARS -- NO DEATHS HAVE OCCURRED.

Duluth, Minn., Sept. 5. -- The forest fires which have been burning for three days closed in on several towns this afernoon, wiping them out, rendering several thousand people homeless, destroying, property valued at several million dollars, and sweeping over lands in many counties in Northern Wisconsin and Northern Minnesota.
Chisholm, Minn., a town of 4,000 people, on the Mesaba iron range, 90 miles north of Duluth, was completely wiped out.
Hibbing, five miles from Chisholm, was surrounded by the forest fires and the city was in danger until the wind shifted. The entire northern portion of Douglas county, Wisconsin, is on fire, and several small settlements have been destroyed. Renshaw was surrounded by fires early tonight and there is no hope for the town. Hundreds of farmers have been driven from their homes by the flames and as the passage along the roadway is difficult owing to the dense smoke and the heat of the burning forests, it is believed that some lives may have been lost, although none have been reported.

Damage at Bayfield.
The fire at Bayfield, Wis., starting in a lumber yard, damaged two docks and the lumber company's property to the extent of $700,000.
The most destructive of the many forest fires was that which embraced Chisholm in its fiery grip and completely destroyed it. For three days the woods have been on fire west and north of the town, and small bush fires were reported eastward. Gradually these closed in upon the town, but not danger was felt by the citizens in the town is protected on the east by Long Year lake, and there are many mining locations to the west, where citizens believed the advancing flames could be stopped.
At noon today the three walls of fire joined, making a semi-circle of threatening flames which swept toward the town with a rush and a roar. The hot breath of the conflagration was felt as the advancing holocause rolled over the hills, licking up every tree, stump, and every vestige of plant growth, and sending up a hurricane of red-hot brands that fell upon the doomed town.
At the first advent of these flaming couriers, the citizens of Chisholm went north to fight the fire. The fire department was not able to cover the large territory and although intermittent blazes started by falling firebrands were quickly extinguished, the wall of fire rolled onward towards the town and the citizens soon realized that its destruction was inevitable.

People Have Time To Escape.
So quickly did the fire communicate to outlying buildings that the citizens did not have time to save any of their household goods or personal effects. The people had ample time to escape with their lives and soon the roads heading from town were thronged with fleeing people in wagons, on horses and on foot.
Conveyances were at a premium. A foreigner with a small wagon and one horse offered to take a woman and three small children to Hibbing for $25. A man overheard the conversation and drawing a revolver and climbing into the rig compelled the foreigner to drive the party over the fire zone.
OSCAR LA FRANCE, editor of the Chisholm Tribune, was in his office and above him the roof was in flames before he was apprised of his danger. He was compelled to break a window to escape.

Families Reunited.
Business men ran home to get their families, and many separations occurred as they in turn fled toward the business district. Consternation reigned, but on the main road leading out of the city they met and families soon were reunited.
Three Great Northern engines took fifteen box cars crowded with the homeless people to Hibbing this evening, where the citizens are throwing open their homes and tents being supplies to care for the refugees.

Residence District On Fire.
A sheet of flame from the falling and crackling forests toyed with the western outskirts of Chisholm for several minutes late in the afternoon and then, driven by a strong wind, swept across the city, buildings falling and disappearing before it like tender plants before the hot blast of a simoon.
Within a few minutes every structure upon both sides of the Main street was burning and the residence district caught fire. By this time most of the citizens had left the burning town, and they stood on small rises outside and watched their homes burn. The flames seemed to leap to the sky. Directly over the town hung a great blanket of smoke that seemed to creep down and shield the curning city from the eyes of hundreds of tearful watchers who were beating a slow retreat to Hibbing. Along one hill in the southern portion of the town stands the new high school, recently erected at a cost of $125,000. Tonight it is the solitary sentinel of ruin and desolation spread before it. No houses within several blocks of the structure are to be seen, and although the flames beat toward it fiercely, it survived.

Destroys Big Buildings.
As the fire swept through the business portion it quickly destroyed the First National bank building, valued at $25,000, the city hall, $25,000, the R. S. O'NEILL hotel, $25,000, the Chisholm filter plant, $15,000, the Lawrence Novach building, $15,000, Saperbe & Sons company building, $12,000, and many other smaller structures.
The loss on buildings at Chisholm is estimated at about $2,000,000. Last year $364,000 was expended on new business structures and all these improvements as well as other portions of the city, were in ruins.
Nashwauk, Minnesota, is surrounded by flames and the outskirts of the town are burning.
Buhl, Minnesota, is cut off from the world by fires that are bearing down on the town. Wreshall faces a wall of flames that is sweeping toward the village. Several small settlements in Douglas county, Wisconsin, have been burned and forest fires are sweeping the norther part of the county.

Waterloo Times-Tribune Iowa 1908-09-06