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Wester, Kevin J. (ed.) / Consumed by fire : a collection of writings about the famous Wisconsin Chair Company fire, Port Washington, Wisconsin, February 19, 1899
([1997])

Sheboygan Telegram: Sheboygan, Wisconsin Thursday, February 23, 1899,   pp. 30-31


Page 31

Milwaukee firemen, and I am sure that much of the criticism has not been justified. I
have no doubt that the Milwaukee firemen did have occasion for complaint, but I know
that in some instances at least it was due to misunderstandings and in others to the action
of irresponsible persons.  In the excitement and confusion such as a great fire
occasionally things happen and remarks are made which are afterwards regretted. Some
of the disturbances were created by a rabble that was attracted by the fire and that was
irresponsible.
WHY THEY DID NOT HELP.
"As to the local firemen refusing to help, I think that story came from the fact that
we decided at 4 o'clock in the morning that it was useless to throw any more water on the
acres of burning coals where the lumber had been piled. We thought it better to let the
fire there burn itself out, as there was no wind and no more danger. This was probably
not understood by the Milwaukee men who remained at work after we had sent them
word we had breakfast ready for them."
"Then, too, as to the failure to be ready for unloading the engine from Milwaukee,
Chief Foley's dispatch announcing that it was coming was not received until the next
morning, and we only knew the engine was coming a few minutes before it arrived. That
was nobody's fault. The wires were down, but we have been blamed for that. The people
of Port Washington appreciate all that was done for us. We don't want any controversy,
but we do feel that we have received a good deal of abuse and criticism which was wholly
unjust and uncalled for."
MEASURES FOR RELIEF.
Mr. Bolens said also that citizens were taking prompt measures for relief of those
who would be left destitute by the fire. "We have already secured work in other chair
factories for thirty or forty men and we shall take care of all who need help and cannot get
work. Port Washington has no indebtedness. It has always been a well conducted city,
taxes are low and there is a good deal of wealth in the town."
Mr. Bolens said everyone was hopeful the factory would be rebuilt, and while the
Messrs. Dennett could reach no decision until the insurance was adjusted, he believed
that they would rebuild. Mr. Ramsay, one of the stockholders, it is said, will withdraw
from the enterprise, but there are others in Port Washington who will furnish the
additional capital that might be needed.


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