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McGregor Fire Kills 8 - 1939


Posted By: Reid R. Johnson (email)
Date: 4/2/2014 at 19:01:40

Muscatine Journal and News Tribune, Monday, 23 January 1939.

McGregor, Ia. -- McGregor residents were saddened today by the states worst fire tragedy in a decade as grief-stricken relatives completed funeral arrangements for the eight victims, including four children, who died of suffocation Saturday night in a blazing apartment house.

Cause of the blaze remained unknown after a Clayton county coroner's jury completed its investigation. Damage to the two-story brick building in downtown McGregor was estimated at $10,000.

The victims were:

Harry Marlett, 21; Mrs. Ida Davis, 68; E. Leslie Spaulding, 45; Mrs. Charles Long, 36; her three children, Charles Edward, 6; Robert Wayne, 3; and William Henry, 1; and Shirley Mae Warmouth, 3.

Shirley Mae, the daughter of Mrs. Francis Warmouth of Rockford, Ill., had been visiting here with her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Long.

Spaulding was recognized as a poet of considerable talent.

None of the bodies was burned badly. Most of the victims had thrown coats over their night clothing and had put on shoes. Firemen said several were found near the windows.

The eight victims were the only ones in the apartments above the McTaggert and Flanders Furniture store at the time the fire broke out.

Two high school boys discovered flames shooting out of the rear of the building and notified firemen.

Spectators jammed the street in front of the structure. They said they saw the faces of some of the children at the windows and heard the fearful cries of the victims as they struggled to the front windows for aid.

Charles Long, 40, whose family was wiped out, and Cedric Spaulding, 12, son of one of the victims were overcome with smoke in rescue attempts. They recovered quickly, however.

Separate funeral services will be held for the victims Tuesday.

All but Mrs. Davis will be buried here. Her burial will be at Sanborn, Ia.

--- ---

Oelwein Daily Register, Tuesday, 24 January 1939.

McGregor, Ia., Jan. 24.-- Eight persons who suffocated in an apartment fire here last Saturday night were buried today.

Mass funeral services were held for Mrs. Charles Long, 36, her half-brother, Harvey Marlette, 21, her granddaughter, Shirley Mae Warmouth, 3, and her three children, Charles, 6, Robert, 3, and William, 1.

Services for E. Leslie Spaulding, 45, McGregor poet, were held from the home of his parents and burial was in Pleasant Grove cemetery.

Mrs. Ida Davis, 60, a seamstress, the eighth victim, was buried at Sanborn.

Virtually the entire population of the town turned out for the funerals.

_____ _____

Added by S. Ferrall, 04/08/2014:

Tragic-Eyed Friends Attend Two Rites On Tuesday
McGregor, Ia. - Six caskets were lowered into graves at Mt. Pleasant (sic) Cemetery here Tuesday, containing the bodies of seven of the eight victims who were suffocated in this town's worst tragedy. At the same time, the casket of the eighth victim was buried at Sanborn in Western Iowa.

Joint funeral services for six of the victims were held Tuesday morning. They included the rites for Harvey Marlett, 21, local CCC worker; Mrs. Charles Long, 36; her three children, William Henry, 1; Charles Ward, 6 and Robert Wayne, 3; and her granddaughter, Shirley Mae Warmouth, 3, of Rockford, Ill.

In the afternoon, single services for E. Leslie Spaulding, 45, noted Iowa poet, were held at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Spaulding, after which his body was buried in the family lot in the same cemetery.

At Sanborn occurred the funeral and burial services for Mrs. Ida Davis, 68-year-old widowed seamstress, the eighth victim.

Several hundred sad, tragic-eyed friends, relatives, and neighbors attended the two funeral services here. Prior to the services, steady streams of humanity poured into the Pilkington Funeral Home to view the mute evidence of the tragedy.

The tree smallest white caskets, containing the bodies of the two oldest Long children and Mrs. Long's granddaughter, had metal remembrance shields bearing the inscription: "Our Darling." Mrs. Long and her year-old baby son, were buried in the same casket.

The other two caskets were of gray and contained the bodies of Marlett and Spaulding.

All the caskets were open as none of the victims received any burns. A coroner's jury decided that all deaths were due to suffocation when the fire broke out in the rear of the first floor of the McTaggart-Flanders Furniture Store Building late Saturday night, trapping all eight occupants in the upstairs' apartments.

Meanwhile, citizens of the communityand the immediate country-side were taking up collections to help in the only way possible now. Three various groups wee seeking funds to give the surviving relatives.

Clothes were needed for the Long family as all wearing apparel was destroyed by either smoke, water, or fire. A kindly mother whose baby has grown up sent a freshly laundered layette for Mrs. Long's baby son, William Henry. Other friends donated similar gifts for the other Long children. Shirley Mae Warmouth, granddaughter of Mrs. Long, was dressed in a pink organdy dress with a turquoise blue velvet sash.

One of Spaulding's latest poems, found in the briefcase which he clutched in his right hand when his body was found on the floor beside his desk after the fire had been extinguished, follows:

"I feel that some day I shall sing again.
That past this desert of unhappy days,
Beyond these mists of doubt and tears of rain
There will be waiting for me sunlit ways.
Old dreams die hard,
The breath of April still stirs me a little,
And I see far above the ramparts of the last long hill
The pallid gleaming of one friendly star.
No matter what may come,
I'm sure of this, that all the mangling fingers of despair
Can never take me from the certain bliss of siren music on the desert air.
Somewhere beyond this present hurricane is calm and peace
And I shall sing again."

~Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Tuesday evening edition, January 24, 1939
~Cemetery is named Pleasant Grove, not Mt. Pleasant

_____ _____

The photo of the furniture store where the fire occurred was printed in the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Monday evening edition, January 23, 1939.

Photo caption:

An exterior view of the McTaggart-Flanders Furniture Store Building at McGregor is shown after the fire was extinguished and the bodies of the eight victims were removed. Thousands were attracted to McGregor Sunday to view the fire but on one, unless acting in an official capacity, was allowed entrance to the burned structure.


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