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Sylvan Grove
Fire
of 1925


Big Fire at Sylvan Grove

Lincoln Sentinel, June 11, 1925

One man was killed another several injured and five buildings, housing eight business firms, were completely destroyed Thursday night between 9 and 3 o’clock [the night of June 4 and morning of June 5] in a fire which swept the business district of Sylvan Grove. Herman Rengstorf, a teacher in the parochial school, and Hugo Buehring were viewing the ruins about 3 o’clock that morning, when one of the brick walls of the Buehring building toppled over, pinning them beneath. Both were rushed to the Ellsworth Hospital where Mr. Rengstorf died a few hours later without regaining consciousness.

The fire, whose origin is unknown, started in the livery barn, spreading northward from there and destroying in turn the Alley Jewelry store and pool hall, the Seirer Garage, the Lawson hardware store and the Buehring building which was occupied by the Buehring barber shop and another firm. The last building to go was the Park hotel, which was on the south side of the stable and separated by perhaps half a block from the barber shop.

The total loss has been estimated variously as between $60,000 and $100,000. The loss to the Seirer Garage alone, according to reports, is between $20,00 and $30,000. The fireman succeeded in rescuing the new cars, but it was impossible to get the tractors out in time. Abe Seirer, the owner, was in Kansas City at the time of the disaster. The Lawson hardware store, we understand, suffered the greatest individual loss.

Fire companies from Lincoln, Wilson and other surrounding towns were called to fight the flames, which were fanned by a high south wind. The water supply ran low and it was necessary to resort to chemicals.

A trip to the scene of the disaster reveals the south side of east main street in ruins. Only a few brick walls are left standing.

[A separate story from the same edition:]

Funeral services for Herman Rengstorf of Sylvan Grove, who died early Friday morning at the Ellsworth Hospital, were held Monday afternoon at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sylvan Grove [actually Bethlehem Lutheran]. The German sermon was delivered by the Rev. Henry Kroening of this place and the English sermon by the Rev. Mr. Mehl of Sylvan Grove.

Mr. Rengstorf, who was a teacher in the Lutheran school, was injured about 2:30 o’clock Friday morning while viewing the damage wrought by the Sylvan fire. …

Mr. Rengstorf was reared in Bremen, Kan., and had been a teacher in the Sylvan Grove Lutheran school six years. He was very well-known in that community and surrounding territory. Friends from Lincoln, Westfall, Holyrood and Ellsworth attended the funeral.

At the time of his death he lacked but six days of attaining his 37th birthday. He is survived by his widow, four children, his parents, three sisters and two brothers.

[Herman Rengstorf is buried in Bethlehem Lutheran Cemetery. Tombstone indicates date of birth as 6.11.1888 and death as 6.5.1925.]


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