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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 County News: Sheboygan, Wisconsin Wednesday, February 22, 1899,   pp. 33-37


Page 34

the city were rushing around wildly to rescue the contents of the buildings in greatest
danger, and household goods were carried away by wagonloads out of the burning
district. Farmers in the vicinity, who had seen the fire from a distance, came to town to
give their assistance, bringing their wagons with them, and later in the night took home
the people who had been left without homes by the fire.
The Western Malleable & Grey Iron works was soon reduced to ashes, having
caught fire from sparks issuing from the chair company's plant across the river. Several
small buildings belonging to Smith Bros., near the iron works, were also consumed.
The greatest danger, however, lay in the spreading of the fire to the north, as that
threatened to destroy the entire business portion of the city, and a desperate effort was
made to check the flames in that direction, but they made such rapid headway that there
was no hope of hindering them with the small streams that the fire department could use.
If it had been possible to employ the help which arrived later from other cities at this
juncture no doubt the fire could have been confined to the small buildings immediately
adjoining the chair company's plant.
Firemen Struck by Falling Chimney.
While the Milwaukee fire company was throwing a stream on the Neuendorf
building a large chimney fell unexpectedly and caught three of the firemen. One escaped
with only a bruise, but Michael Hackett and Patrick Linehan were seriously injured and it
is feared that Hackett's injury may be fatal.
The Postal Telegraph company's office was destroyed, and the fire spread along
on Franklin street, destroying one place of business after another. The Milwaukee
company was working on the fire at this point, while the Sheboygan company was
working on Pier street, where it succeeded in saving the property on the side of the street
opposite from which the fire had got a good start.
It was not until nearly 3 a.m. that the fire was gotten under control. In that time it
had wiped out all of the buildings on Franklin street, extending to the lake and including
the three blocks from Wisconsin to Pier streets. The large tannery of which Mayor Miller
of this village holds a controlling interest, was saved by the department, though it had a
close call; in fact most of the buildings on the west side of Wisconsin street got off with
only a severe scorching.
The contents of nearly all the buildings were saved and the losses are practically
all covered by two-thirds insurance, most of the insurance being in the West Bend Mutual
Insurance company. The loss of the Wisconsin Chair company and the Western
Malleable Iron works is complete with about four-fifths of the loss covered by insurance.
The Malleable Iron works establishment was not being used at the time. About 2,000,000
feet of hardwood and about 500 cords of cordwood belonging to the chair company were
consumed. Most of the people who lived in the burned dwelling-houses were only
tenants and, with a few exceptions, these houses were twenty or twenty-five years old and
not very expensive. They will probably not be rebuilt until it is a certainty that the chair
company will rebuild, as they were mostly occupied by employees of that company.
The losses are as follows:
Mrs. Martin, two dwellings ...... $1,600
Louis Mehrens, two dwellings ...... 3,000


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