Pine County, Minnesota - History

Excerpts are from the Duluth Evening Herald evening edition, published Monday, September 3, 1894. As can be expected after such a tragedy, the vast majority of the paper was devoted to coverage of the fire and surrounding events. What is included here are parts that deal specifically with a) how the fire happened, b) Pine County involvement, or c) names of victims and/ or survivors.
Please be aware that the article may be more graphic in its descriptions of the victims of the fire than articles in modern "family friendly" newspapers to which readers may be accustomed.


Graphic Description of the Sights That Were Witnessed at Hinckley Today.
Burial of the Ninety Off Burnt and Twisted Corpses in a Trench.
A Family of Ten Perish in the Flames Leaving Only Three Survivors.

PINE CITY, Minn., Sept. 3 - (Special to the Herald)
The reaction has come at Hinckley. The excitement which buoyed up so many of the survivors even in the face of the fact that so many relatives and friends had perished in the fiery flood has passed away and dull, lethargic grief has taken its place. By morning all were in a state of comparative comfort and there was none [left] whose hurts were fatal or deemed so.
Among the good citizens of Pine City who had opened their hearts, homes and public buildings to stricken neighbors all was hustle and activity. The town hall was kept open all night and coffee and plain fare served to all comers. The court house, the school house and many private homes were thrown open. Every blanket in town was called into service. Women and children were given better quarters and the men were streched out in rows on the floor of the two public buildings named.
Before daylight the town was astir. Arrangements for the relief of destitute far up the line where hundreds of men, women and children are not only homeless but absolutely without a scrap of food, bedding or extra clothing, were taken taken up where they were dropped at midnight. A couple hundred loaves of bread and other light provisions were placed on board a car in charge of Judge J.C. Nethaway, of Stillwater, representing the relief committee. A party of laborers to inter bodies was called for and the train proceeded to the burned district.
At Hinckley provisions were loaded on a hand car manned by Judge Nethaway and a volunteer crew and a start was made across the shaky bridge to Miller 9 miles north where it was reported a dozen or more were dead and three or four times as many were homeless. From Miller they expect to work east to Sandstone about 5 miles across the country to the Eastern Minnesota railroad, where there are between fourty-five and fifty dead and a couple hundred living who were saved in Kettle river and in the great sandstone quarries. About 11 o'clock the bridge was sufficiently repaired to admit the passage of a train with a partial supply of food and a meagre store of coffins.

Scene at Hinckley.

At Hinckley the visible situation had not improved during the night. Thirty or fourty caskets and boxes with their gruesome contents still lay alongside the track where they had been placed last night. No attempt had been made to dress or embalm the bodies and they were already growing very offensive. Fortunately the day was cool and cloudy and grateful showers fell at intervals during the forenoon. The remains of the dead, however, were in such a horribly blistered condition that decomposition rapidly set in. Every attempt at identification had been exhausted. From those bodies by the track, officials of the Duluth road had removed and carefully preserved every trinket and article of jewelryand even shoes and scraps of clothing, placing those from each body in a receptacle numbered identically with a casket do that possibly when the refugees return they may recognize them and know whether they friends have been interred.
Out in the little cemetery a mile east of the town was a scene beggaring description. The little spot would be dreary, as one could well imagine, on top of a sandy knoll, where nature is seen at her worst, and absolutely no attempt towards artificial embellishments has ever been made. There were only a few little sandy unsodded mounds before. Now, with blackened fire scarred stumps and fallen trunks of trees all about, it presented an appearance of desolation hard to describe but in the centre of the open was the crowning horror

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Copyright 2008 by Melissa Warner