Marilyn A. Bekker

Copyright, 1979. Published by
Muscatine Area Heritage Association, Inc.

Written permission, dated May 13, 2010, from Tom Hanifin, President of the Muscatine Area Heritage Association, Inc.
was given to Lynn McCleary, County Coordinator, Muscatine County IAGenWeb to present this material.


A violent thunderstorm struck the City of Muscatine early on the morning of July 2, 1868. At about 3 o’clock, the cry of “fire” rang out when it was discovered the District No. 1 School House, in the Third Ward, had been struck by lightning, and was on fire. The flames spread slowly but only a few people reached the building to aid in fighting the conflagration and the school was destroyed. The eats, blackboard, maps and a few doors and windows were saved. One year later, on July 13, 1869, lighting again struck on Ogilvie Hill, this time killing policeman Thomas D. Moore.


Fire of unknown origin destroyed the car barn and 25 cars of the Citizen’s Railway and Light Company early in the morning of December 3, 1903. The buildings were located at 405 East Second Street. Damage was also sustained by the Huttig Manufacturing Company and the Rock Island Railroad had several cars partially burned. The Huttig, Rescue, Champion and Excelsior Hose Companies responded to the blaze. The building, constructed of yellow pine wood, was reduced to ashes and red hot cinders in less than 20 minutes. Six cars had been taken from the building before the discovery of the fire and Superintendent Flake expected to maintain the regular 20 minute schedule.


Fire! The alarm was sounded about 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 5, 1911. For a week the temperature had hovered near 100 degrees and firemen had warned that watering lawns would lower water pressure much needed in the event of fire. Spontaneous combustion was the probable cause of the blaze which started in a barn at the rear of 414 Mulberry. Seven barns within the block were destroyed. Bisesi fruit Store and Joe Zybarth’s Meat Market were seriously damaged. Homes on Fifth Street were evacuated. None were lost, but many were damaged. Only the fact that there was no wind made it possible to save them.


Fires were a serious problem in 1911 and were often the main news story of the day. On July 10, 1911, Geneva Golf and Country Club was struck by lightning and burned to the ground shortly after 10:00 p.m. The building was located o the old fairground property outside the city limits. It was allowed to burn to the ground without a fight being made against the flames. Mrs. Hattie Frazier, cateress, had just left the building a short time before, having become frightened of the storm. The building and contents were a total loss, estimated at approximately $4,500.


For more than 70 hours Muscatine Hose Companies poured water on a spectacular blaze at the Roach and Musser Sash and Door Factory. It began on December 6, 1912, and until Sunday afternoon, December 8th, 23 streams of water were in almost continuous use, pumping an estimated 6 million gallons of water. it was the city’s second great fire that week. Only 24 hours before it started firemen battled a conflagration that destroyed or badly damaged much of the south side of West Second Street between Chestnut and Pine. One a shell remained of the Chris Gremmel Cigar Factory, with serious damage to the J.S. Sterneman Clothing Store, Star Pool Hall, M.P. Goff Embalming, Carl D. Alderman Apartments and the Bijous Theater where the fire began.


The last of Muscatine’s Volunteer Fire Departments was dissolved on January 11, 1916. The possessions of the Relief Hose Company located on Bleeker Street, including the company’s checkerboard, had been sold at auction and the proceeds divided equally among the 97 members, each receiving the sum of $9.87. The Relief Hose Company had purchased their old home from the City for $300 and planned to form a social organization. Relief Hose Company had served the City from March 12, 1888 until January 11, 1916. Also disbanded were the Hershey Hose Company, the Rescue Hose Company on Mulberry Avenue and the Champion Hose Company on Sycamore Street.


Back to Heritage Vignettes Table of Contents

Return to Index of History Books

Back to Muscatine Co. IAGenWeb, Index Page

Page created by Lynn McCleary on June 17, 2010