Monday, February 15, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: February 15

February 15, 1914 – Glen Johnson, 16 years old, awoke choking from smoke this morning and saved five lives from flames that enveloped the Minneapolis bakery of his father, Axel Johnson, on Riverside Avenue and the living rooms above it. Glen roused his younger brother, Arthur, and the two woke their father and John Larson, baker. Ellen Peterson and Olga Hanson, employees of the bakery who room with Johnson, were unconscious and were carried to safety by Hans Hanson, a butcher who had noticed the blaze.

Glen dragged his brother through a sheet of flames into a hall when the fire was at its height. Both boys were burned. Flames were creeping around the door of the room occupied by the girls. The boys were unable to awaken them. Terror stricken, they tried to arouse their father; however, he was in a stupor from smoke. After a struggle, he was aroused, as was Larson and the two girls were carried through the flames to a neighbor’s house, where they were revived.

When they realized that Glen had saved five lives at the risk of his own, neighbors declared the boy a hero and will ask the Carnegie Hero Commission1 to recognize him as such.

It is believed that the fire started in the wall of the bakery, near the ovens. It swept through the building with the speed of a prairie fire and was burning in the Jenson Dry Goods Company, an adjoining building, when the firemen arrived. A second alarm brought additional apparatus. A report that Mrs. Johnson was still in the bakery sent firemen to her rescue and it was not until later that it was found all had escaped.  Mrs. Johnson was visiting in Europe. Damage to the bakery is estimated at $3,000 and to the dry goods store at $7,000.

Firemen said that had it not been for the boy’s warning, very likely all would have perished. Their escape from the building was none too soon.

All of the rescued were forced to leave the building in their night clothes and suffered in the cold. They lost their street clothes and were supplied with emergency garments by neighbors, who also gave them shelter.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Boy’s Fire Warning Saves Lives of Five. Glen Johnson Rouses Occupants of Burning Building Just in Time. Neighbors Say they’ll Ask Carnegie medal for Bakery Blaze Hero.”; Feb. 16, 1914; p. 1.

1“The Carnegie Hero Fund awards the Carnegie Medal to individuals in the United States and Canada who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others.”

Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain Feb. 15, 2016,
as long as acknowledgement included.


If you are interested in finding out more about your family history in Minnesota, I specialize in researching  genealogical and historical records in Minn. and western Wis., including:
census records,  birth records,  death certificates, obits, grave site photos, ship passenger lists, marriage records and declarations of intent/naturalization records.  I will visit locations to research local history and county records, as well as take photos. Quick turnaround on MHS records.  Both short searches and family history reports.

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