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Prairie Fire
of
1879


"Terrible Calamity"


"Three persons burned to Death in a Prairie Fire"


Saline Valley Register, March 19, 1879

The prairie fire which swept the prairie on the head of Battle Creek, 8 miles north of town, on Thursday eveing last, the 13th, dealt death and desolation to every available object in its path. It burned stock, grain buildings and three persons.

Mr. M.N. Adams gave us the particulars as follows:
About 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Montgomery, one of the well-to-do farmers of that section of the county, and his son, a boy of about 12, were in the field at work when they discovered a fire coming from the west, and they stopped their work to keep the fire from the hedge, when the wind suddenly changed to the north, blowing very hard and cold, and bearing before it a second fire, which came with the fleetness of a horse. It seems there were two fields near, one on either side, and seeing their danger the boy started to one field and the father to the other. The boy was caught in the flames and fell to the ground instantly. A neighbor by the name of Isaac Pfaff, who was passing near upon a mule, galloped up to R. Montgomery and induced him to mount the mule behind him, and ride to the field. Mr. Montgomery mounted, but seeing his boy fall, lost all presence of mind and threw his arms around Mr. Pfaff, catching the bridle reins, and holding the mule still while they were enveloped in flames. Both men dropped to the ground and the fire passed over them. The mule ran a short distance and fell dead.
The two men arose to their feet and the wind and fire took their clothing from them as they walked to he nearest field, about 100 yards distant. Mr. Pfaff’s feet were so badly burned that his boots fell from his feet as he walked.
A Mr. Manning came to them from the nearest house with a couple of quilts which he wrapped about the two men and carried them to the house.
He then carried the dead boy to the house. Both men were perfectly rational and conversed freely with those around them up to within a few moments of their deaths. Mr. Montgomery lived about two hours and Mr. Pfaff lived until about 11 o’clock Thursday night. Mr. Montgomery leaves a wife and several children, most of whom are grown. Mr. Pfaff leaves a wife, and one child, having buried two children quite recently, one just the day previous to losing his own life while attempting to save that of another.
They were both well-to-do and highly respected farmers well known and esteemed in our town, and the section of the country in which they lived. Mr. Montgomery was about 45 or 50 years of age, and Pfaff about 30.
The fire burned one mule, two horses, several head of hogs, about 2,000 bushels of corn, and considerable other grain, belonging to Mr. Montgomery, and his stable and house with everything in them, the balance of the family barely escaping with their lives.
We understand that the person who set the fire has been put under arrest.

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