Carnegie Restoration Committee team members are busy preparing the Carnegie building for Ox Cart Days, Aug. 17, 18 and 19. We have photo and art talent to show to the public, plus artifacts from Crookston’s fire department and equipment from the Polk County Historical museum. Both Phyllis Hagen and Amy Larson are spearheading that part of our three days with showcasing old documents from the early days of fire fighting to the equipment used.

    Carnegie Restoration Committee team members are busy preparing the Carnegie building for Ox Cart Days, Aug. 17, 18 and 19. We have photo and art talent to show to the public, plus artifacts from Crookston’s fire department and equipment from the Polk County Historical museum.  Both Phyllis Hagen and Amy Larson are spearheading that part of our three days with showcasing old documents from the early days of fire fighting to the equipment used.  

    This firefighters display will be shown in the east wing of the Carnegie while the paintings will be to the north wing and photographers works in the south wing.  We will be featuring a well known artist from Thief River Falls, LaVonne Forsberg, in the lower level where the former children’s library used to be. The Carnegie team is very excited about this year’s Ox Cart Days “Fired Up” theme. We want to give tribute and well deserved recognition to our Crookston firefighters. They are trained to save lives while putting out fires in buildings in town and in the surrounding area.

    Since I like to review old newspapers from the 19 and 20th century to get the history of our Crookston fire department, I came across one from the Crookston Weekly Times in Aug. 18, 1888. The firemen wanted a hose and town bell and if you look at the scan of the running team, the hose was on a huge cart that needed to be wheeled along the streets by force of human effort. Every second counted to run to the fire quickly to hook up the hose to a water hydrant and to start dousing the flames. The fire alarm bell was very important in those early days to notify volunteer fire fighters in different parts of town to wake up at whatever hour of the night in order to get to different parts of town wherever the emergency was. Different bell tones were coded and meant for different teams to gather as quickly as possible to be ready to put out the fires.

    Many articles appear back in the old days when equipment was scarce and people lived in wood framed houses and relied on different ways to heat their homes or businesses.  One thing fire fighters never want to see are burned bodies of people.  These brave souls have seen things in the aftermath of fires we have been spared from witnessing.  Though there are plenty of photos showing the charred remains of smouldering buildings, the losses were tremendous. But that is nothing compared to seeing your loved one in flames and not being able to do anything about it.  That was the case reported in May 4, 1901 in the Crookston Weekly Times.  A little 4 year old daughter of B.O. Lindberg, by the name of Tina was engulfed in flames when her dress was set on fire, she died as a result.  

    I’ll quote the article itself to tell this sad story. “Meagre accounts of a terrible accident in which a little 4 ½ year old girl was burned to death.  It appears that the little one was playing alone upstairs in the farm house about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, yesterday when shrieks and cries attracted the attention of the girl’s mother. She hastened upstairs and found the girl enveloped in flames, with apparently every stitch of clothing on fire, and whatever of the wearing apparel could not be pulled off by the unfortunate girl’s mother, burned off and literally speaking, roasted the child alive.”

    “The frantic mother called for assistance as quickly as possible and everything was done to save the child’s life but it was all in vain. After four hours of untold agony and suffering the little one died from her burns. How the child’s clothes caught fire is not known, but it is supposed that she was playing with matches. Mrs. Lindberg was also severely burned about her hands and face in trying to extinguish the burning clothing of her baby daughter.”

    What fire fighters prefer seeing are parents embracing their children once reunited from exiting a burning home or building.  These heroes know to tell those in harm’s way to “stop, drop and roll.”  Whether professional or volunteer they know what could be lethal for those trapped in fires and are trained to save lives.

    That sad incident happened in Beltrami just a month AFTER the big fire in Fisher recorded in March 28, 1901 in the Polk County Weekly Journal where the loss was $35,000 to four businesses in downtown Fisher.  When using the monetary inflation scale according to today’s money compared to 1901, that would have meant a one million dollar loss to Fisher.  I’ll let the writer of that article explain what happened 116 years ago.

    “The town of Fisher experienced a destructive fire early Mon morning. As a result a large portion of the best business part of the town lies smoldering in ashes. Shortly after midnight flames were discovered issuing from an unoccupied room in the rear of the lower part of the Woodman Hall building, adjoining the warehouse of Larson Bros. The flames soon spread to several adjoining buildings and for a time it looked as though the whole business portion of one of the oldest towns in northern MN was doomed to destruction by the fire demon.

    Although the fire department responded promptly to the alarm, it was soon evident that nothing could be done to prevent the spreading of the flames as the heavy wind which prevailed at the time, together with the combustible frame structures which were on fire, would furnish proper food for the destructive element.

    Telephone messages for help were sent to Crookston and EGRFKS, but the local fire department knew it would be impossible to render any aid to our threatened neighbors, even though it could respond with its apparatus, as the town had no water works for fire pressure. The flames spread with fierce rapidity and H.B. Laughlin’s general merchandise store, Ole H. Olllie’s saloon, the Woodman hall and Larson Bros. store building were bound to be licked up by the fire fiend.

    A number of other buildings were set on fire a number of times, but by the heroic efforts on the part of the fire department and citizens who were ready to fight the raging elements, they were all saved, although some of them are more or less damaged, and a few of them are badly scorched.

    The entire populace for a time seemed frantic from fear of seeing the entire town wiped out, as the flames spread from building to building and no assistance could be rendered by outside fire companies.

    The buildings reduced to ashes last night may be replaced early in the spring by more substantial structures, and none of the business firms affected by the flames are expected to discontinue on account of the loss sustained.

    The origin of the fire is a mystery, as there had been no light or heating in the place where it started for several months. The opinion prevails that it was the work of an incendiary.”

    With that fire being only ten miles from Crookston, the upcoming June state convention for firefighters was fresh on everyone’s mind. It drew people to Crookston from all over the state of Minnesota from Albert Lea to Zumbrota to be a part of this event which I will give more details about next week.  The author of the April 25, 1901 Polk County Weekly Journal article explains better what was in mind for firefighters as they prepared for this much needed convention in Crookston.  Tom Morris, Crookston’s jeweler on Second Street (now Crookston Chamber of Commerce) was the top person in this firefighter’s state wide unit. Apparently, he was able to coax the newly elected governor of Minnesota, S.R. Van Sant to come to Crookston to give a talk to the firefighters.

    According to this weekly journal journalist, this convention “will be held in city June 11, 12 and 13, 1901, this will be the grandest occasion in the history of the firemen of MN.  Among the sports that are to be enacted during the 3 days session are tournament races, band contests, foot races, horse races and numerous other legitimate athletics and outdoor entertainments including prize drills, dancing and feasting galore.

    “The department has secured a one far rate for the round trip on all lines entering the Queen City, with the assurance of the same rate on other railroad lines south of St. Paul…at least 2,000 delegates and their friends and visitors, and one othe froth abroad will be overlooked for proper treatment when in Crookston in at the state firemen’s convention.

    “The Crookston fire department has been particularly fortunate in gaining a reputation as royal entertainers and in addition to their spirit in that direction the fire laddies are backed by every loyal citizen of the convention city.

    “Among the prominent characters of the state who have signified their intention of being present when President Morris drops the gavel that will call the great meeting in order, are Gov. S.R. Van Sant. State Auditor Dunn and other state officials and prominent speakers and entertainers.

    “The Crookston fire department is determined to make the annual state convention an event which will never be forgotten by the defenders of life and property in the great state of MN.”

    Next week I will explain more through the newspaper accounts I read after this June 1901 convention of what they did and what was important to them as firefighters. Come to the Carnegie on Aug. 17, 18 and 19th to see what we have from the yesteryear to honor our firefighters from the past and today.  We will be open from 10:00 to 5:00 each day but closing at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19th.