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Bergman Opera House fire, McGregor, 1903


Posted By: Reid R. Johnson (email)
Date: 1/20/2017 at 16:05:20

Our correspondent gives the following particulars of the unfortunate fire at McGregor Sunday last.

One of the most destructive fires that ever visited our city came Sunday while our people were enjoying the quiet and rest of the day. The alarm was sounded at half past one, and soon the buildings burning were surrounded by an eager crowd of people anxious to help quell the fire demon. Bergman's Opera House was the building from which dense clouds of smoke issued. The hose carts were hastily brought out, and the hose attached to the water hydrants. But no chance was found to locate the source, to tell where the water would do any good. Nothing could be seen but dense smoke. The wall next to the Williams' building was veneered, the plaster put on a frame, with an air space, through which it is thought the fire worked from the basement, up between the floors and ceilings. Six nozzles were playing on the building at once, the water issuing with great force, but the fire kept on, though nothing was seen but smoke for two hours, when suddenly the flames broke out. The North McGregor firemen came down with the hose cart and gave valiant aid. Prairie du Chien answered the call for help, and in twenty-five minutes after getting the summons a group of workers were here. Our own firemen, and others who were not in the company, did good work. But it seemed for a long time as if it would all be of no avail. The buildings on either side were kept deluged, and about five o'clock the fire was brought under control with no loss by the fire except in the one building. But this was a double store on the first floor, and everything there and in the Opera House was a total loss. On the Opera House the loss was about $12,000, with $8,000 insurance. As the building was almost new, and is a total loss, it is correctly estimated. The Kramer Bros. Clothing store, and M. and J. Kramer's dry goods store together lost from $40,000 to $50,000, with an insurance of $25,000. Nothing was removed from either of the stores as the smoke was too dense for anyone to stand it. Almost at the risk of their lives Lon and Jack Kramer rushed in and got the books out of their safe.

W. F. Daubenberger, two doors below, became alarmed and moved his immense stock of clothing out and into safe places. His loss by reason of water, smoke and moving will aggregate $1,000.

H. J. Goddard, next to M. & J. Kramer's did not move his goods, as they were completely smoked before entrance could be made. He carried a large stock of groceries, and it is damaged to a large extent, almost impossible to estimate.

Dr. J. H. Griffin has his office upstairs over Goddard's and his office furniture is injured.

On the other side of Kramer Bros., August Kranert's shoe store is on the first floor of the Williams block. His stock is damaged, but to what extent we could not learn. He took out some of his goods when there seemed a probability of the building he was in going by fire. Upstairs lives I. Crawford and his family, who took out some household goods. Next door to this is Larson's shoe store, and he says his stock is damaged by smoke and water 50 percent, and his claim against the insurance companies is for $7,000. The walls of the Opera House still stand, a little ragged at the top, but keeping their balance pretty well. The loss to the Williams building will be $1,000 to $1,500, as the wall next to the Opera House is cracked in several places. We have had many fires in our little city, but none which so baffled the efforts to put it out as this one, and none which gave out so little heat. The fire seemed all within the walls. It was a perfect day, not a breeze blowing, and therefore the fire was not fanned any.

The firemen fought the fire until after eight. The premises were watched all night, and about midnight it was found necessary to turn on the hose again for a short time, when it was controlled.

The ruins present a horrible spectacle and as soon as the adjusters come, a clearing up will take place.

Kramer's will open in the C. I. Lewis building next to Sloane's store, on Saturday, December 12th. Will and Miss Minnie Kramer left Monday afternoon for Chicago to purchase new stocks.

When Lon and Jack went into the burning building they fished out some fur coats that were handy, and early Monday Lon had them hanging from a clothes line across the street, and they "went like hot cakes."

Ed Birdsey and Frank Huebsch showed remarkable energy and bravery in handling the nozzles, Ed worked without relief for three hours. Frank was struck in the knee by the nozzle and hurt badly.

After the worst was over a discussion between witnesses waxed so hot that blows fell, and in the mix up Will Minney was hit by an iron wrench and had to be taken to the hospital.

Several of the fire-boys were late Sunday sleepers, and complain that they didn't get their breakfast until 6:00 p.m., but they worked none the less willingly for all that, as Mayor Walter and Frank Sloane's telling strokes testify.

At a low estimate the losses will aggregate $75,000.

We understand Bergman Bros. will put up a two story building for renting, but will not put up another Opera House. This will put us in very bad shape, with no place for shows or entertainment's.

Mahara Minstrels were booked for the 12th and the Congregational Bazaar for the 15th, and several later dates were occupied.

The home talent entertainment of last Friday night left some of the costumes in the dressing rooms, and they went up in smoke.

Fireman John Allen "got busy" and kept all his men at the same rapid gait.

~Clayton County Register, Wed., 10 Dec. 1903.


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