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Tragic fire near Guttenberg, 1892


Posted By: S. Ferrall
Date: 6/21/2011 at 02:58:08

A terrible affair occurred at Guttenberg last Saturday afternoon. Two little boys named Luther and Goodrich, three and six years of age, in some unknown manner, set fire to a barn on the Luther premises. It was discovered by Mrs. Luther, who rushed to the building to liberate the horses. The structure was wll ablaze before it was known the children were in it, they having ascended to the hay loft after starting the fire on the first floor. The brave mother went to the rescue of the boys through the flames and smoke, and brought them from the burning building. Her dress had become ignited as well as the clothes of the boys, and before the flames could be subdued, Mrs. Luther and her boy were so badly burned that death resulted a few hours thereafter. The Goodrich boy will recover. The awful event has cast the deepest gloom over that community.
~Postville Review, May 26, 1892


Mrs. John Luther and her 4 year-old boy and Frank Goodrich, age 4 years, lost their lives by the buring of a barn at Guttenburg, Ia.
~Monticello Express, May 26, 1892


The details of a distressing accident near Guttenburg, in Clayton county, reached here today. The 7-year-old son of John Luther and the 4-year-old son of Frank Goodrich were playing with matches in Luther's barn on Saturday afternoon. They had been away from the house about an hour, and the mother thought they were playing in the yard. About 5 o'clock Mrs. Luther in going to the door saw flames leaping from the barn and heard the piercing shrieks of a child, seemingly crazed. She rushed to the barn, and seeing through the flames the outlines of the children, she made a terrible attempt to rescue them. She grabbed them both and brought them out of the reach of the flames, but in doing so her clothing caught fire and parts of her body were burned so that the flesh sloughed off. She lingered along until 6 o'clock last night, when death came as a welcome messenger. Her little son lived only four hours after his rescue, and the Goodrich child is reported as dead tonight.
~Ackley Enterprise, May 27, 1892


Guttenberg, the thriving metropolis of Clayton county, was Saturday afternoon the scene of a tragedy which horrified the community. The victims were Mrs. John Luther, her little son, three years a d a half old, and her brother's little boy, four years old, named Goodrich. The little boys were playing along the river bank during the afternoon and got wet. About 3:30 o'clock they entered the barn on the Luther premises. It is presumed they made a fire on the first floor to dry their clothes and then ascended to the hay loft and started a fire there. At least Mrs. Luther saw flames and smoke arising from the barn and rushed out to save the horses. s she reached the barn a man entered at the other end and escaped with the horses. She then heard cries from the hay loft and recognizing the voices of the children, she hurriedly ascended to the loft. She could not see the children through the dense smoke, but following the direction of the sound she managed to reach them. Taking them one under each arm she started back through the flames and reaching the open air, fell to the ground, her clothing and that of the children a mass of flames. By this time the barn was surrounded by men who hastened to the assistance of the woman and children. When their clothing was removed the flesh peeled off with it. Mrs. Luther's little boy died at 6:30 Saturday evening. Mrs. Luther survived until 6:00 o'clock Sunday morning. Though her sufferings were terrible she was conscious to the last and it was supposed she would recover until suddenly she turned over, breathed a sigh of relief, and was dead. The little Goodrich boy at 2 o'clock this afternoon was reported as doing well and having chances of recovery.
~Postville Review, May 28, 1892


Note: Julia Goodrich Luther is buried in the Guttenberg city cemetery, lot 22. Also in lot 22 is John Luther, b. 09/14/1887-01/07/1921 (dates are from WPA records). This John Luther can not be the husband of Julia if the birth date is correct, and cannot be the son of Julia who died in the fire if the death date is correct.


Clayton Documents maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
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