Struck By Lightning: During the severe storm on Monday last [10 Jun 1867], the residence of Mr. C. H. Payson, near the bridge on the south side of the river [ Rock Falls ], was struck by lightning. First striking the chimney, the lightning entered the roof, tearing it up considerably, and thence passed into the cellar. It apparently again took an upward coarse, coming up through the floor near the stove. The floor was torn from its matchings and badly damaged. Mrs. Payson was sitting near the stove at the time, and other persons were in the same room, but very fortunate none were seriously injured. [Sterling Gazette Rock Falls 15 June 1867; Contributed by Chuck Rodekohr)
During the storm Sunday evening Mr. J. Quinn’s barn was struck by lightning. The inside was badly damaged. [Sterling Standard - 17 October 1902; Contributed by Debbie Thormahlen]
Fatal Train Wreck
WRECK BRINGS DEATH TO TWO WELL KNOWN STERLING MEN
Joseph Curtin, Engineer and Horace Metzler Instantly Killed When Trains Come Together in Head End Collision at Limestone.
TWO OTHERS KILLED AND TWO BADLY INJURED; MANY CARS PILED IN THE DITCH
Said that Forgotten Order on Part of Conductor was Cause – Unfortunate Man Driven Insane by Mistake – Another Fatality for Hoodooed Peoria Branch.
One of the very worst wrecks that has occurred on the Galena division of the North Western railroad in years occurred last night at 7:30 at Limestone, a small station on the Peoria branch when train No. 862 and an extra train came together instantly killed four men and injured two others. The dead are:
JOSEPH CURTIN, aged 35, engineer on train 862, Sterling.
H.F. METZLER, aged 30, fireman on train 862, Sterling.
J.A. RUSSELL, aged 26, head brakeman on train 862, Chicago.
O. Houchins, head brakeman on extra train, Peoria.
E.J. WATSON, fireman on extra train, may die.
THOMAS NEVILLE, engineer on extra.
Engineer Joseph Curtin whose home is in Sterling, as well as his fireman, Horace Metzler, were instantly killed as their engine was cut in two by the engine at the head of the extra north bound train. Curtin’s body was buried beneath the debris on his side of the engine, while Metzler’s remains were found horribly crushed lying beneath the cab of the wrecked engine.
Russell, head brakeman on the train, resides in Chicago, and was evidently riding on the engine at the time of the wreck, as his body was found under the boiler.
Houchins, the head brakeman on the other train, was also riding on the engine at the time of the collision and had no chance to jump.
E.J. Watson, the fireman on the north-bound train jumped but was caught under the wreckage and had his shoulder and hands badly crushed, and was also badly scalded, and it is not thought that he can survive.
Thomas Neville, the engineer on the north-bound train, saw that there was but little chance to avert a collision and after shouting a warning to the other men in the cab with him, he jumped and escaped with a slightly sprained ankle and was also badly scalded by the escaping steam.
Ten cars, part of which were in the Peoria freight and part of which were in the extra train, were ditched, and although a wrecking crew from Clinton and one from the P.P. & W. worked during the entire night, not much headway was made in clearing up the tracks where the collision occurred. As soon as possible the dead and injured were taken to Peoria, this being with the exception of Curtin whose body was not taken from under the wreck until late this morning.
Although it has not been definitely decided who is responsible for the terrible wreck, it is stated that it was a case of mistaken orders on the part of the conductor of the north-bound freight. According to report that came from Peoria this morning, William Donichy, who had charge of the extra train, received orders to run to Radnor and then later he received orders to remain at Peoria to meet train 862. The first orders were read to the engineer but they later were forgotten until too late to check the trains and avert the catastrophe.
William Donichy, the unfortunate conductor of the north-bound train for the accident, it is reported has gone insane.
The wreck occurred 500 feet south of the south switch at Limestone. Train No. 862 was traveling down the hill at Radnor at the rate of 25 miles per hour, and as the train from the south had just come around a curve it was utterly impossible for Engineer Curtin to see the train coming towards him in time to stop. The track out of Peoria is known as a single track road and trains meeting are supposed to pass at the Limestone switch. The North Western does not maintain a dispatcher at Peoria but orders for the handling of trains on this branch come directly from Chicago. For a long time the Peoria branch has been known by men in railroad circles as the hoodooed branch, and during the past year or two a great many accidents, which have resulted disastrously, have occurred.
Joseph Curtin has been in the employ of the North Western road for 15 years and was always considered a very careful engineer. He has two brothers living, one of them, James being employed on the North Western as an engineer, and Larry, who until he met with an accident while running a train near Creston, was also an employee of the company. He had always lived in Sterling and was a prominent member of the Knights of Columbus and that order will take charge of his remains as soon as they are brought to Sterling, which it is thought will be tonight. Mr. Curtin was married a year ago to Miss Nellie McIntyre of Dixon and his wife resides at the home of his mother in this city.
Horace Metzler, the fireman, who met his death, is also well known in Sterling and has long been an employee of the North Western. He was raised on a farm north of Sterling and educated in a country school, taking up work on the North Western when his parents moved to Sterling. He was married to a daughter of Michael Rael of this city and made his home here always.
J.A. Russell, head brakeman on the train wrecked, is a Chicago man and came to Sterling a few days ago to take the place of J.H. Dillon, who was injured at Nelson on Tuesday.
O. Houchins, head brakeman on the extra freight, E.J. Watson, the fireman, and Thomas Neville, the engineer on the extra train, reside in Peoria.
Mrs. Curtin, on Thursday night, asked her husband not to resume his duties on the road on Friday, but was told by the dead man not to be superstitious.
Horace Metzler had intended to quit railroading on the first of February and had told friends of how he had secured a farm which he intended to work the rest of his life. Yesterday afternoon while in conversation with a prominent business man, Mrs. Metzler stated that her husband was going to quit railroading and that they were going to move onto a farm.
From the way the bodies lay when the engine was raised, it was evident that Curtin, Metzler and Russell had no chance to jump from the engine before it had clashed with the other. Train 862 is known as the Peoria freight and runs between Sterling and Peoria daily, leaving this city at 8 o’clock.
Engine 1341 has a very long record as being a man-killer and this is not the first time it has figured in wrecks on the Peoria line. The engine is driven regularly by Joseph Whelon and twice he has been able to escape death. About two months ago Whelon was laid off and his run was given to an extra man by the name of Harter, who came from Chicago. While making the run to Peoria, Harter was killed. Day before yesterday Whelon sent word to the station that he wished to lay off on Friday for the purpose of going hunting. His request was granted and the call boy was sent to notify William Wilkinson, but the latter did not want the run, so Curtin was called.
The year of 1909 is starting out bad for the North Western, as during the short period passed no less than nine men met their death beneath the wheels of the trains crossing the Galena division. Four were killed last night; Philip Wigum was killed Sunday; Mel Donichy was killed; one man was killed in Chicago night before last; and M.H. Ward and companion were killed at Ashton. Besides this, a number have been injured in a number of accidents that have occurred. [c. 1909; Contributed by Joan Curtin]
Fatal Train Wreck
ENGINEER JOHN ALLEN KILLED LAST EVENING - JUMPED FROM CAB OF STERLING PASSENGER ENGINE BEFORE COLLISION AT FLAGG - STRUCK HEAD UPON RAIL WHEN HE FELL
John Allen, one of the oldest and best know engineers on the Galena division of the Northwestern railway, was killed last night at Flagg by jumping from his engine, which was pulling the Sterling passenger, and striking his head on a rail. The accident which caused Mr. Allen to lose his life also placed the life of his brother William in jeopardy and smashed up the engine, a way car on the freight train ahead of the train and several box cars. A special freight train in charge of Conductor Stewart, west bound, had orders to take a siding at Flagg to allow the Sterling passenger to pass it. The freight pulled past the station and ten back onto the siding, but owing to the fact that the freight was pulling 64 cars, the side track was too short and allowed the way car and two of three box car to go out onto the main line directly in the path of the oncoming Sterling passenger, which was due in Flagg at 6:55 o'clock. As the passenger train passed the last Hall signal before the station was reached the engineer and firemen of the passenger train saw that the track was clear and for that reason the speed of the train was not checked until it reached a point just west of the Flagg station.
William Allen, who stayed in the engine and thus escaped injury, states that the train was running about 15 miles an hour and that his brother had started to slow down for the station just before the engine went into the caboose. Before jumping the engineer made an effort to stop the train and as a result of his efforts the train stopped shortly after plowing its way through the way car and a couple of box cars. It is thought that the engineer, seeing a collision inevitable, jumped and in so doing went out of the cab head first and struck the rail with his head in the fall. The cab of the engine was badly damaged, but aside from breaking a few of the sills on the passenger coaches, no other damage was done to the passenger train, The way car and several of the box cars on the rear of the train were badly splintered and it took about two hours to clean up the debris so that traffic could be resumed. The body of the dead man was taken to Rochelle where an inquest was held this morning, after which the remains were taken to Chicago where funeral services will be held.
During the past year, or since Mr. Allen took the Sterling passenger run, he has made his home part of the time with his mother, Mrs. Alice Allen, on Wallace Street in the city, the rest of the time being spent in Chicago with his family. Mr. Allen's brother, William, who was with him at the time of the accident, went to Rochelle this morning to attend the inquest, and then accompanied the body to Chicago. A sister, Mrs. Jennie McCarthy, came out from Chicago this morning and afterwards accompanied her brother to Rochelle. Among the passengers on the train were Mrs. Ebersole and Mrs. Wynn, who were returning from the Woman's club meeting at Rochelle, Mrs. Minnie Copeland of Rockford and her nephews, Burritt and Palmer Crum, on their way here to visit her parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Palmer, and Miss Mattie Burton of Rockford. None of the ladies screamed, although all were thrown forward from their seats by the collision. John Lawrie, who was a passenger on the train, states that the general impression that Engineer Allen jumped from the train is erroneous as the wound on his head was of a nature that could not have been inflicted had his head come in contact with the rail alone. [Contributed by Joan Curtin - Sterling Standard 26 March 1910, John Allen, eldest son of William & Alice]
HIS SKULL WAS CRUSHED: When He Jumped to Save Himself From the Impending Collision
John Allen, engineer on the Sterling passenger, was killed last night at Flagg station, death being instantaneous. The cab of his engine was wrecked, but not another person on the train was injured. The wreck was one of those peculiar accidents in railroading that cannot be overcome by the utmost care even though the road and men are protected by the very best of signal devices. A west bound freight train in attempting to clear the west bound track backed into the siding at Flagg, but backed the train too far and the caboose extended to the frog on the main track. Mr. Allen seeing the danger, jumped from the cab of his engine and pitched head foremost on the north bound track, his head striking the south rail of the track, and crushed his skull, killing him instantly. His brother, William Allen, of this city, was the fireman in the engine, and when he saw the danger he hurried to the right side of the cab and climbed on the engine steps, and it was this that saved his life. He escaped without an injury, but witnessed the leap of his brother as he was dashed to death.
The accident was of a peculiar nature, and occurred in spite of the excellent signal devises of the Northwestern. A freight train, westbound, in charge of Conductor Stewart, got orders to let the Sterling passenger train pass at Flagg. The train had sixty-four cards and the siding held seventy. The freight train backed into the siding. Of course, this showed the distant signal at danger east of the east switch, and when the engineer cleared the west switch, the signal cleared east of the east switch. At this time the passenger engine was at the signal, and it being cleared continued on its way. The freight train was backing in lively, due to it being time for the arrival of the passenger train. It was unable to stop, and the caboose was shoved half way across the main track. Of course this again turned the danger signal, but unfortunately the engine of the swiftly moving train had passed the signal, the train being between the danger signal and the point of danger. The train was only a few rods from the caboose when the engineer and fireman saw it. John Allen, the engineer, to save his life, jumped through the cab window, and met instant death. His brother was on the steps of the engine when the crash came. The cab of the engine was torn off, the caboose thrown over, and the combination mail and baggage car tipped half over. Strange to say the express messenger, Mr. Holdridge, and the mail clerks escaped without a scratch. All of the coaches of the ill-fated train were scratched and scarred on the south side, and engine 901 was so badly damaged that it was necessary to make up a new train here this morning and an entirely new crew took out the train. The Clinton wrecking crew cleaned up the wreck and completed the task after midnight. John Allen, the dead engineer, was born and raised in this city, and his mother, two sisters and one brother reside here. Mr. Allen was married and leaves a wife and seven (The 1900 census information notes that they only had 5) children in Chicago. His body was taken to Rochelle last evening and an inquest was held at that place this morning where the jury brought in a verdict of accidental death. Last evening it fell upon friends of the Allen family to notify Mrs. Alice Allen, the aged mother of John, of the death of her son. It was a difficult task owing to the great affection that exists in the family. The aged mother was first notified that her son was seriously injured in a wreck, and then she was told that her son William would arrive home at 11 o'clock. Tears filled the eyes of the aged mother and when she was told that "Billy" was coming home, she broke down and said, "Oh, it is worse that an injury. If he was hurt badly Billy would never leave him. I know he has been killed." Mr. Allen is survived by two sisters also, they being Mrs. Mary Knowles of this city, and Mrs. Jennie McCarthy of Chicago.
Says Allen Stuck to Post: Mr. H. E. Brown of 601 Fourth Avenue, was one of the passengers of the train which collided with the freight train and one of the first to reach the body of the dead engineer. Mr. Brown says that the body of Mr. Allen lay between thirty and forty feet west of the point where the engine collided with the caboose of the freight and close to the body and all about were the fragments of the splintered cab. He is of the opinion that the engineer did not voluntarily leave the cab, but that he was thrown from the engine when the cab was torn to pieces. He argues that if the engineer had jumped from the window it would have been at some point east of the point where the collision took place, but this was not the case. Further, he is of the opinion that the wound in Mr. Allen's head was not caused by impact on the rail, but was probably made when he was hurled from the cab. He describes the wound as partaking more of a puncture than a crushing blow as would result from contact with the broad face of a rail. Just beyond and very close to the body of the engineer lay the top of the cab of the engine.
Body to Chicago: The remains of John Allen were taken to Chicago on the eastbound passenger train this forenoon. The funeral services will be held in Chicago, but the hour of the funeral has not been decided. A sister, Mrs. Jennie McCarthy, arrived here on the morning train from Chicago. [Sterling Gazette Saturday, 26 March 1910]
Word reached relatives and friends here of a sad experience of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Miller of Freeport. Mrs. Miller was formerly Miss Orpha Fenton who made her home near Coleta for a number of years. She and Mr. Miller were married a few months ago. They were making their home with Mr. Miller's parents. Sunday [02/24/1907], while the whole family were at church a robber is supposed to have entered the house and after plundering it, in some manner set fire to it. When see [sic] the whole building was in flames. Most of the furniture belonging to the old folks was saved. The young people had stored their goods, consisting of wedding presents and a handsome new piano, just lately given Mrs. Miller by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Fenton, in a room, where the flames seemed to be worst and nothing could be removed. Mrs. Miller was almost frantic over the loss of so many valuable gifts and mementoes. They have many friends here who will also sympathize with them in their loss. [25 February 1907 - Sterling Gazette - Contributed by Larry Reynolds]
This morning in starting the fire Mrs. Walter Snavely started it with gasoline instead of kerosene by mistake. It started to roar and her apron got afire and she put it out, and carried the blazing can of gasoline out in the yard, where it exploded. She then went back to the kitchen and put out the fire on the floor. It was a very lucky escape for the lady as no damage was done.[Sterling Evening Gazette 16 June 1911; Sub. by Larry Reynolds]
Colonel Bushman keenly feels the lost of his home burning Thursday [04/08/1915] afternoon, as practically all of their clothing and much of their best furniture was destroyed. The fire started from a spark from the furnace chimney and was first seen by Geo. Slick, who was working in a field near by and gave the alarm. The telephone was pressed into service and in a few minutes several auto loads of men were on the scene, who assisted in removing furniture until the burning structure was unsafe to enter. Mr. Bushman carried $1200 insurance on the house and $300 on the furniture. This is a small amount compared with the loss, as the building was a ten room house and cannot be replace for a small amount of money. Mr. Bushman will rebuild as soon as possible. [Sterling Gazette, 12 April 1915 - Sub. by Larry Reynolds]
ROCK RIVER AT ALL TIME HIGH
Prophetstown: A heavy rain Sunday night which extended well into Wisconsin caused all the tributaries of the Rock River to rise in many cases to record heights and at all cities along the river, Janesville, South Beloit, Rockton and Rockford,hundred of homes had to be vacated Monday. At Rockford about 12 city blocks were under water and ice was dynamited at one of the bridges in the business section to protect hte downtown area. Water was higher at Sterling and Dixon than it was a year ago when the river went out of its banks. Rainfall here was 2.43 inches Sunday night. The temperature fell steadily Monday and Tuesday and by Tuesday night was down close to zero with a hard wind adding to its sharpness.
At noon Tuesday the water had reached a dept of over two feet higher than in February of last year at the Prophetstown city park. During the noon hour a rise of seven inches brought it up to the door of the pump house and a crew of a dozen men were sealing the doors and all possible openings with sandbags to keep the water from entering and interfering with pumping. At that time the water was right up to the door sill and lacked only about a foot of reaching the top of the wall enclosing one of the wells. Mayor Brydia notified all users of water Tuesday forenoon to boil water used for any cooking and drinking.
In 1937 the high water reached the peak about February 24, almost a month later than this flood. At that time the highest water was on the farm lands northeast of the city and was caused by ice gorges at the Lyndon bridge and back of the David Spotts and Richmond farms on which Sam Tate and Philip Oetzel were tenants. This caused the water to cut across the flats and cover the farms mentioned and the August Larson, Clarence Olinger, William Obendorf and other farms in that section on which the owners and tenants were marooned for about ten days. During that flood the Portland section did not suffer so much.
The present high water has reched Prophetstown without aparent interruption and is being slowed up south and west by a gorge near Erie. This has raised the water at this point much higher than last year and the farms in the lowlands of Portland are covered. At the Ralph Johnson farm the water stands over two feet deep in the barn and at noon Tuesday ran into the basement of the house. Mr. Johnson has suffered heavy loss. He had three horses, five cows, 22 fattening steers, 80 fat hogs and 28 brook sows and Mrs. Johnson informed us over the telephone Tuesday afternoon that she feared most of the fattenign hogs were lost. It was impossible for help to reach them or for the stock to be removed on account of the floating ice.
Frank Glass, one of the C.B. & O maintenance crew, said Tuesday noon that the water was 41 inches higher on the railroad bridge west of town than it was last year and stood about 20 inches from the bridge plates. Water is up to the plates at the wooden bridge where the railroad crosses the George Fisk farm across the river. The crew is making hourly reports and had to go out several tiems in the night. Rock Island trains awere routed over the Q through here Monday on account of the flood at Tiskilwa.
William Francis and his dog were rescued Tuesday noon by his nephew, Kermit Peterson. Bill lives in his cottage on Big Island ac ouple of miles north of the city. He delayed leaving his place until Tuesday forenoon, then came down the open water in his boat but couldn't reach either shore on account of the floating ice. The fire department was called shortly after noon and went to the bridge prepared to reach Francis's boat as it passed under the bridge. Kermit took a boat behind his car down around the Oxbow buildings and managed to push the boat ahead of him out on the ice to where Francis coule reach it and he was brought to town.
Traffic on Route 6, the highway across from Joliet west to Moline, was stopped Monday by water over the pavement at Annawan. Traffic was blocked on Route 78 about two miles north of Prophetstown Tuesday forenoon on account of water over the pavement north of the bridge; by Tuesday n ight it was crossing the pavement just at the edge of town near the John Hanson farm. The water was within a foot and a half of the Wirth Andrews house north of the bridge and was up to the stables on the Mosher Oxbow farm.
Elmer Maxfield who works for Will Taber at the latters's gravel pit on the riverbank west of the bridge was rescued with difficulty Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Taber and Perry Richards went after him and pulled him for a distance in a boat but became exhausted and were obliged to return to town for help. Thinking that he was being deserted, Maxfield left the boat and went into the water up to his waist. He was brought out by Edmund Veryaecke and Harry Meier, Maxfield was in an exhausted condition and Dr. Vandermyde, who had been called and was in waiting for him, treated him. [Prophetstown Echo, January 26, 1938]
Fire destroyed the good two-story farm home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cross, on the I. B. [Irvin B.] Snavely farm, about nine miles northeast of Sterling, Saturday night about 11 o'clock. All of the household goods except a few articles on the first floor also were lost in the flames. The loss of the house is estimated at $5,000 and on the goods there is no estimate. The family had been away from home for the evening and on returning found their home in flames. Neighbors came to their assistance and tried to fight the fire but the headway it had gained together with the high wind rendered their efforts futile. Only the few things on the first floor could be saved, as the house burned so rapidly. None of the outbuildings caught fire. The place belonged to I. B. Snavely of Sterling who was notified after the fire was discovered. There was some insurance but the amount was not learned. The house was the home of the Cross family for many years. [Sterling Gazette 10 Feb 1930; Contributed by Larry Reynolds]
Sparks on the wood shingled roof of the home of Ernest Swartley, 1702 East Fifth street, caused in the neighborhood of 100 damage Saturday afternoon. The fire department received the call at 2:20 p.m. The fire burned a large hole in the roof and burning embers dropping to the floor of the attic set it on fire in several places. The fire department made a good stop of the flames. [Sterling Gazette, 11 January 1932; Contributed by Georgi DiBartolo]
Three Injured In Gasoline Explosion - Fire Threatens Business Section
An explosion of gasoline at the Texaco oil station at about 10:30 Saturday morning resulted in the injury of three and the periling of the east side of Washington Street, which is made up of frame buildings from the Texaco station south to the H.H. Waite building occupied by M. DeMarco. The injured are Kenneth Sipple, 15 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. John Sipple, who live east of the city, Ralph Thede, 14, son of Mr. and Mrs. P.H. Thede, and Orris Peterson, 24, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lou Peterson and the attendant at the station. The accident occurred in a small room about 6 x 9 feet located in the southeast corner of the station in which a hot water heater, the air compressor, the greasing macine, some supplies and a drum of high test gasoline were kept. The cause of the explosion is still a mystery. Weather conditions were right for it, the gorund being water soaked and the air heavy. John Sipple and his son had driven in to the station and Peterson was preparing to grease the front wheels of the Sipple Car. Roland Clark came at that moment, bringing a gasoline pressure tank to be filled and Orris stopped his work to fill it. He had drawn one gallon and put it in the pressure tank when the explosion came. The peculiar feature of the accident is that the receptacle that exploded was a five-gallon gasoline can which is believed to have been empty. Neither the pressure tank nor the 50-gallon high test gasoline drum, which contained about eight gallons, exploded. Kenneth Sipple, who was standing in the doorway was thrown about 15 feet back to the ground south of the platform. He was evidently struck in the face and chest by the exploding gasoline can. He suffered a skull fracture which exposed the brain tissues, his face was a mass of cuts and bruises, his hair was singed and badly burned. Ralph Thede was standing outside the doorway and a few feet to the north. He was thrown from his feet and regaining his feet, wandered across the street to the Standard Oil Co. station and then started across Washington Street, when he was taken to the office of Dr. I. Vandermyde. Shortly after this Sipple was carried to the doctor's office and Peterson was able to walk to the office. The efficience of Dr. Vandermyde and his assistant is to be commended. They started to work at once to relieve the suffering and with the assistance of the two dentists, Drs. W.F. Tyler and G.W. Nelson, hurried examinations were made and everything possible done for the patients before they were taken to the Sterling hospital. Sipple's condition was the most serious, he having suffered a fracture of the skull which exposed the brain tissues, severe burns and a great many cuts on his face. He was taken to the hospital in the F.L. Dudley ambulance. Thede was burned about the face and his hair singed and a bad cut over the left eye required eight stitches. He was taken to the hospital by his father. Peterson's condition was the least serious being confined to burns from the flaming gasoline. His hair was singed and he was badly burned about the face and houlders. He was taken to the hospital by his brother Claire. The room was a solid mass of flames which sot out of the doorway and several feet into the air. Three of the windows in the McNamara garage about 100 feet east of the service station were also blown out. The explosion was a dull thud and jarred the whole city. Fire chief John Drummet, who was at the Ford garage when the explosion occurred, and Robert Roman, who was coming from the alley toward the service station, were the first on the scene. The fire department responded in a very few minutes and soon had a stream of Foamite playing on the flames through the doorway and held it in submission until the hose was in action. The 50 gallon gas drum fortunately did not explode, although a subsequent examination showed that the top of the drum bulged from the heat. The only logical explanation of the failure of the drum to explode was that the gas was being forced from it through the valve by the pressure inside which prevented the flames from getting inside the drum. Had this exploded it is very probably that the station would have been demolished and the H.H. Waite building occupied by Roland Clark's choclate shop on the ground floor with living rooms on the second floor occupied by the Perry Upton family would have caught fire. This is a frame building separated by about four feet from the Texaco station. Joining this is the Fullerton Tire Store which is also frame and the whole east side of Washington street south to the H.H. Waite building occupied by M. DeMarco, is filled in with frame buildings, Paxson Sisters Variety, Frank Lynds, Dale Wheat, the Ora Richards building and Sommers Song Shop, all would have furnished fuel for a disastrous fire. The room was a total wreck, all appliances in it being ruined. The lath was burned through to the outer room. The injured boys are all doing nicely and it is now established that the eyes of none of them were injured. No hopes were entertained for Kenneth Saturday but he rallied and when and operation was performed Monday forenoon he came through it in good shape. [unknown newspaper, August 11, 1934]
The Russell Detra family, including five small children, are residing at the Lawrence Flynn home near Malvern, as the result of being burned out Tuesday morning. Mrs. Detra was getting breakfast at the time, when fire brokeout on the second floor, evidenly through a defective chimney. She noticed the fire through a grating around a stove pipe, and although the neighbors were called in, the house could not be saved. The furniture was saved downstairs, but the bedding, children's clothing and other furniture were lost upstairs. Fortunately, none of the children were injured, but they had to be rushed out into the cold in only their night clothes. As a result, the family is in need of clothing, bedding and other similar items. The Detras resided on the Paul Galt farm two miles east of Malvern. No fire department was called as there was no waterhandy to use and the fire had too great a start. The house was insured, but the Detras carried no insurance on their property. [November 12, 1936, Contributed by Jean Portner]
TWO BOYS, TWO GIRLS DROWN SUNDAY OUTING ENDS IN TRAGIC DEATHS OF FOUR STERLING-ROCK FALLS YOUNG PEOPLE
Four Sterling And Rock Falls Young People Lose their Lives
William, Robert And Marie Regan, Brothers And Sister, France Viering Victims Of River Tragedy At East Moline -- Boat Capsizes In Current
James Regan and Elizabeth Gaylord, Moline Rescued By Fishermen-Bodies of All Recovered, Except Marie Regan
A tragic accident involving persons of this community, occurred Sunday afternoon in the Mississippi River off Campbell's Island near East Moline, taking as its toll, William Regan, 25, his brother Robert, 19 and their sister Marie, 21, sons and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Regan, residing eight miles southwest of this city, and Florence Viering, 27, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E.F. Viering of 304 Second Avenue, Rock Falls, all of whom drowned when the outboard motorboat piloted by James Regan, 29 of Moline, a brother of the three victims, capsized. The latter and his companion, Elizabeth Gaylord, 29, of Rock Falls were saved. The terrible accident occurred about 3 o'clock. The body of Miss Viering was recovered about three hours later. This morning between 8 and 9 o'clock the bodies of William and Robert were recovered. Search is continuing for the body of Miss Regan. Miss Regan, who graduated this spring at St. Anthony's hospital in Rockford, but had work to complete by Sept. 1 was on a vacation. She returned home a week ago Friday for a visit with her parents. Sunday she and her brothers decided to go to Moline for a visit with their brother, James. Miss Viering, a teacher in Merrill grade school, Rock Falls, the fiancés of William Regan accompanied them.
The six young people went out on the river in a boat early Sunday afternoon for a ride and a picnic. The boat was one which James had built of lumber cut by his uncle, Jack Regan of Galt. The latter protested at the time but realized if he did not cut the lumber James would secure it somewhere else. The boat was powered with an outboard motor. Getting out to the middle of the channel where the water is in the neighborhood of 30 feet deep, a cross current caused by the wind whipping up waves, began to waterlog the boat. They thought it would be possible to reach the shore of Campbell's Island about 300 feet away but suddenly the boat took a nose dive and sank beneath the water, throwing the six occupants of the boat to the mercy of the rough waters.
Miss Gaylord is a good swimmer and was able to make her way toward shore. James caught hold of an empty gasoline can thrown out of the boat when it capsized and by presence of mind was able to keep his head above water until fishermen rushed out from shore and rescued him. The other four persons were seen to come to the surface of the eater once or twice and then disappeared. The body of Miss Viering was the only one recovered Sunday afternoon despite the efforts of a large number of fishermen, police and firemen from the Tri-Cities who rushed out onto the river. The rough water and great depth made it difficult for those making the search for bodies. Word of the tragedy spread quickly throughout this community, being received with shock that made the tragedy seem like a hideous nightmare. People could hardly believe their ears and were stunned by the information which brings such terrible pail of sorrow over the two local homes. Members of both families, relatives and friends rushed quickly to the scene of the accident in order to do what they could to recover the bodies and to be with James and Miss Gaylord, the two who were saved. Search for the bodies was handicapped Sunday night on account of inability to secure search lights in order that the rescue work could be continued. Many crafts were out on the river at daylight this morning, including government boats. The submerged boat was discovered Sunday evening. The motor had fallen from the boat into the river.
Miss Viering was born July 10, 1910 in Rock Falls. She was a graduate of the Rock Falls grade and high schools and the Northern Illinois Teachers' College at DeKalb, during the past five years she had been an efficient teacher in Merrill Grade school. She was well liked as a teacher and was very popular in the community. She is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. E.F. Viering, two sisters, Mrs. Helen Fell of Davenport and Sue Viering at home and a brother Lawrence Viering of Rock Falls. A brother Robert met a tragic death when run over by a car while attending a Sunday school picnic. This occurred a number of years ago.
William Regan would have been 26 years of age on the 21st of this month. Marie would have been 21 on Sept. 14th, and Robert was 19 on July 22nd. They were educated in the rural schools and also at St. Mary's grade school and Community high school. Robert and William both played football for Community high. Robert was taking a post graduate business course. The Regan young folks were popular in their large circle of friends. They are survived by their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Regan, two brothers James of Moline and Charles of Regan's beach. A number of aunts uncles and cousins also survive. The grief stricken parents and relatives have the sympathy of the entire community. [Contributed by Colleen Butler; Sterling Gazette, August 9, 1937]
Flood of 1938
The Morrison fire department was called to the Frank Ariens home a half mile northeast of Morrison at about 10:30 Monday night when the chimney burned out. There was no damage done, the department being called as a precautionary measure. [Daily Gazette Sterling January 25, 1938]
Sparks on the roof are believed to have caused a fire at the home of F. F. Olmsted at 503 Second avenue this morning. The alarm was received by the fire department at 11:20. the fire had gained considerable headway when discovered and it was necessary to use considerable water in extinguishing the blaze. The damage will amount to several hundred dollars. It is covered by insurance. A large hole was burned in the north slope of the roof and the fire also got into the attic. In addition to the fire loss there will also be some water damage. Furnishing and clothing were removed from upstairs rooms and when the water began breaking through downstairs, it was necessary to remove some of the furniture in the lower part of the house. The department did a good job in stopping the fire. [15 December 1943 - from Larry Reynolds]
FIRE SWEEPS DOWNTOWN DISTRICT - ERIE FIRE LEVELS 2 BUSINESS BLDGS. ON PUBLIC SQUARE
Flames Also Damage Hotel; Loss Placed at $25,000 to $30,000
Fire of undetermined origin, but believed to have started in the basement of the R. L. McBride barber shop, destroyed the Breed Building containing four stores and an auditorium, the Mahana building occupied by a tavern, damaged the Robert Lee hotel building and caused an estimated loss between $25,000 to $30,000 in a business block facing Marguerite park at Erie late Wednesday afternoon. Fire departments from Sterling, Prophetstown, Port Byron, and Geneseo assisted the Erie departments in fighting the worst conflagration in that city since a business block near the scene of the fire was destroyed July 3, 1897. The fire broke out shortly after 4. The Breed block, which was destroyed, was erected in 1900. It was a two-story brick veneered front building. There were four store rooms. It was occupied by the William Bleitz meat market, the R.L. McBride barber shop and the Raymond Waite shoe store. The fourth room was used for storage. Dr. L.E. Nash occupied a four-room office suite on the second floor, and Robert Hill and his aged sister, Sadie, Mrs. Ethel Schreiner and Mrs. Esther Jones occupied apartments in the building. There was also a large room formerly used as a lodge hall. The Mahana building, adjoining the Breed Block, was a one-story brick veneer building occupied by Arthur Baxter as a tavern. It was owned by Mrs. Lillie Mahana of Davenport. The rear part of the Breed block served as an auditorium and was used extensively until the erection of the Erie Community high school. The high school basketball games were also played in the auditorium and it was used as a dance hall, skating rink, theater building and general meeting place. Both of these buildings soon were smoldering ruins. Very little was saved from the stores or apartments. The Breed building was not insured. Hotel Damage About $2,500 The roof of the hotel building owned by Paul Carlson caught fire and only a hard fight by the fireman saved this structure. The fact that the building was insulated kept the flames from spreading rapidly and made it possible for the fireman to check and extinguish the blaze. Damage to the roof and interior was estimated at $2,500. It was fully covered by insurance. There was considerable damage to the Orin Burns café, which is located in the hotel building. There was some damage to the apartments occupied by Miss Hazel Payne, Harold Wheelock, and George Pelletier and others in the hotel building. At one time the water supply ran low and it was necessary to cut off all streams except those playing on the hotel building.
Casein Co. Loss Is $9,000: Arden Reisenbigler, operator of the Erie Casein company, stated that he had over 500 bags of casein, each bag contained between 80 and 100 pounds, stored in a room in the Breed Building. He had just returned from Chicago Tuesday where he had sold the casein and would have had it removed in another day or two. He estimates his loss at $9,000 with no insurance. Five thousand dollars in improvements had been made in the Breed building in the past few years. The loss of this structure is estimated at around $10,000 with no insurance. The fixtures in the Bleitz market had recently been removed. Raymond Waite suffered a loss of around $2,000 to his stock and equipment, including a $500 stock of shoes. He was not insured. Some of the stock and fixtures in the Baxter tavern was removed. Baxter had a small amount of insurance. Most of the equipment of the McBride barber shop was removed. There was a loss of around $150, covered by insurance. Extensive Losses to Tenants Robert Hill and sister lost practically everything they owned, including their clothing. They were taken to the Ervin Denison home. Dr. Nash saved most of her equipment and furnishings. Her loss is around $500 and is covered by insurance. Mrs. Schreiner was out of town at the time of the fire. She lost everything in her apartment including a new bedroom suite. Mrs. Esther Jones suffered a total loss, including a room stored full of household goods. Miss Hazel Payne, an instructor in Erie high school, had been ill. She was removed to the home of Mrs. R.E. La Rue. The furnishings in the hotel apartments of Orin Burns, Harold Wheelock, George Pelletier and others were removed. It will be necessary to redecorate the hotel building. This building was new in 1897 and was threatened by the fire that destroyed a number of business houses across the street from it that year. Heat from the burning buildings broke all the windows on the east side of the building at that time. The fact that it was of brick construction saved it in the fire Wednesday. A few years ago a couple of frame buildings beyond the Baxter tavern were razed and this prevented a spread of the fire to the casein plant. Burning embers set fire to the roof of the James and Denison building on the other corner of the block which is used as a cheese factory. Embers also set fire to grass near the Fred Fenton home, two blocks from the scene. A small garage at the rear of the hotel building was badly damaged. Erie residents expressed gratitude to members of the visiting fire departments, who not only saved the hotel building, but doubtless prevented a much greater spread of the fire. [March 1943; Contributed and transcribed by Rebecca Dail]
Ewert & McKenna Children Killed In Fire
Rock Falls: Sixth Victim of Blast and Fire Has Slight Chance to Survive
Five children, members of two Rock Falls families, met their deaths at an early hour this morning when they were trapped in their bedrooms, following the explosion of an oil heater, and a sisth was in the Sterling hospital in critical condition with but slight hope being entertained for his recovery. The building, a former garage which had been converted into a two-room living quarters was located in the rear of 1200 Eighth avenue, Rock Falls and was occupied by Mrs. Lawrence McKenna, a divorcee, and her two children, and Mrs. Bernice Ewert, a widow and her three children. The dead are Beverly Ann McKenna 5, and Walter McKenna, 3, and Carol Ann Ewert, 18 months, Shaon Ewert, 4 and Jack Ewert. Arthur Ewert, 8, was the only survivor and his condition is very critical. Carol Ann and Sharon Ewert and Beverly McKenna died in their bedroom, while Jack Ewert and Walter McKenna died later after being removed to the hospital. The mothers of both families of children were away from home, MRs. McKenna being employed at the Pig & Bun service station located on US Route 30. Mrs. Ewert was reported to have left her place of employment at the Linton Nursing Home in Sterling.
Clifford Icenoble, who resided in the residence on the lot where the former garage is located, returned to his home a few minutes after 12 o'clock this morning and before entering the house, observed a bright reflection in the two-room dwelling. An explosion followed soon after and he succeeded in shattering a window and pulled Arthur Ewert from the flaming interior. The Rock Falls fire department extinguished the flame in the living room and removed the three children still alive to the Sterling hospital. Two of the smaller children apparently were suffocated as they slept and the body of the third was found on the floor between the bunks in which he slefpt, indicating that he had been aroused and died while attemptin to escape from the building. The bodies of Beverly and Walter McKenna were removed to the Wheelock funeral home in Rock Falls while those of the Ewert children were taken to the Meyer funeral home in Sterling. An inquest was scheduled at the Wheelock establishment this afternoon at 2 o'clock. [From the Dixon Telegraph, December 14, 1946]
A mother and her 12 year old son were killed and six other passengers of an automobile were injured when the car was struck by a fast freight at a Chicago and Northwestern Railroad crossing her last night. The dead were Mrs. Albert Boothe, 34, and her son Troy, 12. Troy was killed instantly, while his mother died in the Sterling Hospital at 11:15 p.m. four hours after the crash. Seriously injured were Albert Boothe, 38, Mrs. Boothe's husband and a neighbor child, Shirley McBroom, 4. Other children injured, but only slightly were the Boothe children, Robert 13, Billy 9, Barbara 5, and Roger 2. The Boothe car containing the 8 passengers was rammed broadside by the eastbound disel powered engine shortly after the driver had halted the vehicle at the crossing to await the passing of a westbound passenger train. The car reportedly stalled in the path of the eastbound train. It was demolished. [Dixon Evening Telegraph, 17 August 1949]
FARM FIRE Destroys Feed, Equipment and Livestock
When Ira Schaeffer, farmer, living three and a half miles west on the Erie-Cordova road, saw the glow of fire on snow outside his window soon after he went to bed shortly before midnight, he pulled on some clothes and a pair of galoshes over his bare feet. The overshoes were lost in deep snow as he ran to his blazing cattle adn hay barn, but he hurried on and led two milk cows to safety and drove some pigs out of the ccrackling structure. Four milk cows, two brood sows, and 15 pigs perished in the fire. Also lost when the 40 x 60 ft barn was destroyed were 1000 bales of hay and straw, a large amount of feed, a nearly new combine and other equipment. Erie firemen, who made a quick response to the alarm despite snow-covered roads, remained for three hours whiel teh bales burned to prevent spread of the flames to other buildings. The loss is partly covered by insurance. Mr. Schaeffer apparently suffered no ill effects from working in the snow barefoot. [14 MARCH 1951, Contributed by Bette Rick]
Glenn Zuidema Home Fire Destroys The Farm
FIRE RAZES FARM HOME OF GLENN ZUIDEMA FAMILY, CONTENTS ALSO DESTROYED
Fire destroyed the farm home and contents of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Zuidema and family located three and one-half miles northeast of Morrison on the slab road, Wednesday afternoon. The Morrison fire department responded to the call about 4:45 p.m. with the country pumper but the fire had a head start, apparently beginning at the stove or chimney. There was a very strong west wind but there were no other buildings close enough to catch, except a wood shed to the north. The firemen were handicapped by the lack of water. After the water in the tank was used, some of the local people filled buckets with snow to throw on the flames, but to no avail. Later water was again trained on the fire, but it had no effect. Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Zuidema were in Morrison, en route home from the Claus Norman Home south of Morrison, when they were told that their house was on fire. They had been at her parents for the day and Mr. Zuidema had attended a sale in that community. The farm on which the fire occurred, was known for many years as the Hiddleson farm and is now known as the West farm, the property of Joshua and Charles West, grandsons of the late Hiddleson owners. The amount of insurance carried on the house is probably insufficient to cover the loss. The fire was discovered by Dora and David Bush, who live on a neighboring farm. They rushed to the place, got into the house, but the smoke and flames were so dense that they could not remain. There are two boys, five and six years old, in the family and everything was lost, both clothing and furnishings. The family stayed at the James Manspeaker home in Morrison Wednesday night. Morrison people are cooperating to see that the family is getting wearing apparel to care for the immediate needs of the children and parents. [Contributed by Barbara Nugent - Sterling, Illinois Daily Gazette, Thursday, 9 March 1944, 10;1]
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