Odebolt Fire Department

The Odebolt Fire Department

  (Source: “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977,
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle, May, 1977, page 120)

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1880's Firemen


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"Welcome Firemen" Parade Main St. looking north, early 1900's


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Man dismantling bell. Old fire station.



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click photos to enlarge

The Mattes and Motie building was destroyed by fire in Feb., 1907.  Three local men were killed while cleaning debris (see story to the right)



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On Aug. 27, 1913 a disastrous fire destroyed the Trans-Mississippi grain elevator and other buildings. The losses sustained were as follows:  Trans-Mississippi Elevator Co., $25,000; Koehler and Hanson, $10,000.  Reuber and Bruce, $7,000; J.E. Einspahr, $6,000;  Einspahr and Co., $2,000.


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Building new elevator


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Einspahr Garage Fire1913


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1914 Firemen


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1923 Fire truck


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1938 Fire Station


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Cut Rate Fire 1954


In the spring of 1880 a fire department, consisting of 40 members, equipped with a hook and ladder outfit was organized in Odebolt.  By this time the town was fully organized and it was deemed necessary that the people have fire protection.  After the water works system had been installed in the town in 1884 two hose carts were added. 

Even in those days the fire teams were well organized and at the time of a fire there was little confusion, as the chief directed each man to his place and duty of the department.   When the signal was given for a fire, each member rushed to the aid and pushed the equipment to the scene of the fire.  In some cases the hook and ladder outfit was drawn by a team.  Water was the chief agency used in fire fighting, as chemicals did not come into practical use until a good many years later.  Many of the older generation can well remember the valuable services rendered by those early firemen regardless of the fact that their equipment was limited.

Between the years of 1890 and 1900 Odebolt had a famous "Running Team" named "Kelly's Colts" which won many trophies in Northwest Iowa for their ability. (Note:  The Centennial book shows photos of Kelly's Colts as late as 1924.)

Some disastrous fires of Odebolt and surrounding communities in the early days were:  St. Paul Grain Elevator in 1897, Adams Ranch in 1905, Mattes & Motie Building in 1907, Trans-Mississippi Grain Elevator in 1913, Adams Ranch in 1919, Presbyterian Church in 1920, Peoples Store in 1921, Hedberg's Market in 1925, Einspahr Garage and William Horan Feed Barn in 1925, and Coy Building in 1936.

Mattes and Motie Fire, 1907

(1938, "Fifty Years Of Progress" edition of the Chronicle, 
Section 7, page 1 and 3)

Due to the great loss in the Mattes and Motie fire in February, 1907, and the terrible tragedy that followed, this fire will remain in the memory of those in this community for years to come.  A total loss of $31,000 was suffered as a result of the blaze.  The Mattes and Motie building, with its entire stock of goods, was consumed.  Dr. Roy McCulla, dentist, lost all of his dental equipment and the Farmers telephone exchange, along with a great deal of the Bell Telephone equipment was destroyed.

A few days following the Mattes and Motie fire a wall fell, killing three and injuring five of the workmen clearing up the debris.  Gilmer McFarland and John Salstrom were working on a scaffold dismantling the east wall of the building, when suddenly without warning the wall gave away, crashing into the basement upon those working below.  Charles Krusenstjerna and Harry Johnson were killed instantly, while Charles Hanson died a few hours later.  Lyle Titus, Matthew Meyer and Joseph Konradi were all injured seriously and painfully.  Only two of those working, Will Olney and Frank Motie, escaped without serious injury.

Famous Kelly's Colts Known for Several Years

(Source: “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, 
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle, May, 1977, page 251-252)

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Kelly's Colts, 1909

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Kelly's Colts

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the Hose Cart used in the competitions

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Odebolt is proud of the firemen's drill teams of the days gone by.  The running teams of this town made competition keen among all of the neighboring towns in northwest Iowa.  They returned from tournaments as proud possessors of many cups and various trophies.  The man who took a very active part in the training of the teams and who was greatly responsible for their success was George "Kelly" Smith, father of Howard and Charles Smith.  For a number of years he managed the teams and each year they aroused a great deal of interest on the part of the citizens and were sure to have a great following at all of the tournaments.

After working with the teams for several years, one of the groups adopted the name, "Kelly's Colts".  This team was made up of younger boys with fellows of more experience doing the coupling for them.  The speed of this team and their skillful maneuvers brought them widespread fame and resulted in one of the best known fire drill teams in this section of the state.

From the Odebolt Chronicle, June 19,1902

Our gallant firemen again covered themselves with glory at Early yesterday, winning the championship belt of the Maple Valley Firemen's association in 27 2-5.  After four years the much prized trophy returns to Odebolt, the first champions of the association. 

The tournament was one of the most successful ever held by the association and Early entertained the largest crowd ever within her borders - and she did it handsomely, too.  Thirteen departments were represented and nearly 300 firemen were in the line of march.

The grand parade was formed at 10:30 with companies representing the following towns in line:  Onawa, Battle Creek, Odebolt, Ida Grove, Wall Lake, Carroll, Audubon, Correctionville, Schaller, Holstein, Sac City, Logan, Early.  Carroll was awarded the prize for the largest department from any one town and Logan got the prize for the best appearing company.

The Reception of the Victors

Bulletins from the races were received during the afternoon, and when Foreman Mattes telephoned Assistant Chief Kistler that Odebolt had won the belt, the enthusiasm was unbounded.  Flags were unfurled and preparations made to give the heroes of the day a fitting reception on their return.  The town presented a gala day appearance.

The excursion train was about an hour late getting in, but when it did arrive about 9:15, the streets were crowded with people, a huge bonfire near the bandstand illuminated the scene, everybody yelled and everybody was happy.  The boys were met by a delegation of business men and marched between two lines of Odebolt's fairest daughters who pinned bouquets upon the breasts of the winners.  A procession was formed headed by Cloid H. Smith, chairman of the reception committee, and made up as follows:

S. B. Smith, carrying Wheeler banner
Hose Co. No. 2, headed by Chiefs Hanson, Burnquist and Kistler
Delegation of Business Men
Running Team, headed by Hon. Joseph Mattes, carrying association belt
The Fair Maidens
Delegation of Business Men
Hook and Ladder Truck

The procession finally brought up at the band stand which was circled several times amid the cheers of the crowd, after which the boys marched to the hose house and disbanded.  It was a glorious day for Odebolt.

From The Odebolt Chronicle, June 8, 1905

Seven thousand people saw Odebolt carry off the honors at the tenth annual tournament of the Maple Valley Firemen's association, the most successful race meeting every held by the association.

Odebolt has now held the belt longer than any other team in the association.  In the past 10 years Onawa has had the trophy three times, Odebolt four times, Carroll once and twice the association has not awarded it to any team.

Geo. G. Smith deserves the lion's share of the credit for the success of the Odebolt teams.  Along about the first of the year, when the snow is still on the ground, "Kelly" begins to figure out a line-up for the coming year and from then on he devotes time and energy toward rounding it into shape that would cost the fire department big money if he asked any remuneration for his service.  Kelly is never discouraged, he is always sure that his team can win and eventually it does.  There was nothing slow about Kelly's kid team.  They appeared to equal advantage in the parade and in the races.  And the line of rooting they handed out was something fierce.

(Old photos from the Keller collection, scanned by Curt Wareham, modified for the web by B. Horak.  Hose Cart photo by Charles Hanson.  Some photos scanned from 1938 "Fifty Years of Progress" Chronicle edition.)


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