Saturday, April 12, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: April 12

April 12, 1914 – Two firemen were killed, one fatally hurt and two others injured as the result of fire and explosion that destroyed four buildings, forced several others out of line and shattered $4,000 worth of plate glass windows in the business part of Dawson, Minn. The total loss is expected to exceed $60,000.

The Dead: Fire Chief Elmer Thompson and Herbert Farmen.

Fatally Injured: Marvin E. Jacobson.

Injured: Arthur Kreisel, struck in the head by falling stone; and John C. Hanson, wrist nearly severed by broken glass.

The explosion occurred at 2 o’clock this morning, awakening the townspeople from their slumbers and being distinctly heard by farmers six miles away.

Flames broke out immediately following the blast and spread rapidly in spite of the best efforts of the volunteer fire department, which was early on the scene. Fire Chief Thompson was one of the first to arrive when the alarm was turned in. He was standing in front of the building occupied by the Holtan Restaurant, when the explosion occurred, lifting the entire roof from the building and burying Thompson in the debris.

Herbert Farmen, another volunteer fireman, was struck in the head by a falling brick, dying almost instantly.

The flames spread rapidly to adjoining buildings and soon the whole block was in flames.

Matt Wire, the local miller, who lived in apartments over the Holtan Restaurant, managed to get his wife, two daughters and a son out of the building with difficulty. The flames were then playing along the north wall of the building.

The fire department was powerless to stay the work of the flames, which soon reached the J. E. Lund Hardware Store, adjoining, and from there spread to the Citizens’ State Bank and the Jackson & Emerson’s Merchandise Store. The four buildings destroyed represent a loss of $22,000. The loss on the stock and fixtures will reach $34,000, all of which is partly covered by insurance.

The cause of the fire is believed to have been caused by a charge of nitro-glycerine or guncotton, caused by yeggmen (burglars). The fire marshal’s office has been notified and an investigation may be ordered.

Wilmer Tribune; “Terrific Explosion Kills Firemen; Lac qui Parle Town Sustains Heavy Loss by Fire. Believed to be Work of Yeggmen.”; April 15, 1914; p. 1

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