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Throwback: The L’Anse Fire of 1896 | May 16, 1896, “Half of the town burnt down”

For this morning’s blog I figured what better way than to take a rewind back to 1896 – a very sad year for the town of L’Anse.

The following comes from umich.edu.

THE L’ANSE FIRE An account of the L’Anse Fire, as taken from the L’Anse Sentinel of May 16, 1896, reads:

“Saturday, was the most unfortunate day ever known in the history of L’Anse, and the largest portion of what was once our beautiful city, is now one mass of ruins.

“About four o’clock in the afternoon an alarm of fire was sounded, and before people had time to realize what it was the large sawmill of the L’Anse Lumber Company was one mass of raging flames. Protection Hose Company quickly responded to the call, and the boys worked like herces, but a strong wind was blowing and it was an utter impossibility for them to cope with such a conflagration.

L’Anse Fire department

It quickly took hold of the large railroad ore dock, and proceeded to eat it up with lightning rapidity. “Next in line was the large lumber piles containing several million feet of lumber.

It was then that the largest portion of L’Anse was doomed, and the fear was soon realized, for in less time than words can express it, the great mass of dry lumber and shingles was entirely enveloped in flames.

People then began hurriedly removing books, etc., from the doomed buildings but the flames advanced so rapidlly, that they were soon prevented from saving much. “J. B. Smith’s large store and warehouses were next to fall victims after the lumber piles, and were soon leveled to the ground, as was also M.. Gitzen’s saloon, the upper story of which was occupied as a residence, Charles Cullnan’s saloon and dwelling, 0. H. Sengebusch’s barber shop, W. T. Menge’s store and the Menge block being occupied by two families, Charles Smith and Peter Clyne, both families losing all their household furniture; the bank building and the building on the corner owned by August Menge, the upper story being occupied by R. R. McKernan as a law office, and P. M. Coster’s tailor shop.

“The fire jumped across Broad street, and licked up P. Ruppe’s large store building and contents, Frank Sengebusch’s building occupied by H. J. Seifert & Co., Samuel Boivin’s two-story building with saloon on the first floor and occupied as a dwelling upstairs; the old Lloyd House, S. T. Haris’s drug store, which was completed but a few days before the fire, Samuel O’Connell’s saloon, N. Wallace’s livery. “As soon as it was discovered that the business blocks were in danger, word was sent to Baraga, and her excellent hose company promptly responded, reaching here, a distance of over four miles, in a remarkably short time.

It can truthfully be said that if we had not secured this help, the opposite side of Main street and the dwelling houses for many blocks would also be laid in ruins.

Too much praise cannot be given to the brave firemen of both L’Anse and Baraga who stayed by their posts during the greater portion of the night, while the fire was still raging. “During the fire those who could, endeavored to save a few articles of clothing and other things, which were taken into vacant lots, but what little was saved from fire was ruined in other ways.

Part of the town of L’Anse after the fire.

“Saturday night the village presented a desolate appearance, being in total darkness, aside from the glare of the smoldering ruins. Yet many of the people walked the streets, or kept guard over what articles were saved. Those who were fortunate enough to have their home saved, gladly opened their doors and provided shelter and food for the unfortunates. “Sunday afternoon a meeting of the citizens of L’Anse and Pequaming was held at the court house for the purpose of appointing committees for the relief of the fire sufferers.

“It is surprising and gratifying to announce the prompt response to the call for aid from the various cities and towns. Monday a carload of dry goods and provisions arrived from Marquette, and also substantial aid from Baraga and many other towns, and arriving daily since the fire. Money had been raised in the Conner Country, and over $800.00 from the citizens of Baraga, as well as many other cities and towns.

“Each member of the various committees worked hard and faithful, and are entitled to the greatest praise. The D. S. S. & A. railway cheerfully transported people and supplies to other towns.

“The estimated loss by the fire was doubtless over $600,000, and in many cases families lost all, having no insurance. The adjusters of the various insurance companies endeavored to give the accurate loss of each, and amount of insurance. “Several temporary buildings were erected, others going up every day. Every business man owning lots rebuilt their homes. “It is not known how the fire started.”

There is also a book regarding the fire:

Image result for the l'anse fire of 1896

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