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Prairie Fire
of
1890


"Two Prairie Fires In One Day
Surrounded Lincoln 50 Years Ago"

Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, March 28, 1940

Saturday, March 23, marked the 50th anniversary of one of Lincoln countyís most disastrous prairie fires when flames both north and south of the county-seat town took a large tool in livestock, machinery, grain and other valuables. There may be those still living in this community who will recall the day.

The Lincoln Republican, published four days after the fires and dates Thursday, March 27, 1890, tells of the losses suffered by persons in the paths of the flames:
A Bad Prairie Fire
Sunday forenoon a prairie fire swept north to the city from the Toliver pasture, cleaning up about all the property in the line of it. It was not wide but not more than six or eight miles long, but it was a scorcher for all who got in its way.
The posts around the Toliver pasture are about all burned off.
Tim Ryanís house and all in it, barn, granary and farm machinery all burned up. It scorched his cows some but they will recover.
Joe Lopshire lost his barn, granary, threshing machine and farm machinery, a horse and colt, some calves, his hay and everything about the place but his house.
Fred Erhardt lost all his out buildings, barn machinery, ten calves, two horses, a lot of hogs, corrals, hay, grain, etc.
J. Bosch lost all his out houses, grain, hay, etc. His house was saved by a hard fight.
George Stites lost about $100 worth of corn, hay, etc., and saved his buildings by a small burned place he happened to have south of his house by accident.
Otto Steve lost all his hay, stables, some machinery, poultry, fencing, etc.
Jake Millerís fences were all burned, and by sheer luck, with hard work, he saved his house and barn.
This fire was corralled by a back fire out near the Happy Hollow school house and no further damage was done in the direction of town.
A second fire came down Bull Foot from toward Ellsworth county and cleaned out a lot of farms over in that section.
It kept on until it jumped the Saline river just south of the depot and would have caught the town and all the country as far north as Beloit had not a great effort been made by our people to stop it at the railraod. Back fires, wet blankets and hard work kept it south of the track and stopped its further progress toward town.
By this fire:
Wm. Roberts lost corn, harness, wagon boxes, hay and new barn.
C. Komer lost corn, stables and hay.
Henry Houston, corn, barn, hay.
Reinert new barn, corn, hay, etc.
Chas. Nelson lost his hay.
The Voss barn and granary with 2,000 bushels of grain were saved by a scratch.
The young timber of the creek was totally destroyed.
Many narrow escapes of persons and live stock is reported from the fire.
No loss of life is reported from either fire, but great damage was done to menís farms who cannot well stand the losses just now.
The town people gave their mite to help out the people who had lost their all.

"Many Recall Prairie Fire Of 1890
Which Took Huge Toll In County"

Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, April 11, 1940

Two weeks ago this paper reprinted an article originally published 50 years ago, telling of a serious prairie fire which swept over the county, destroying much property. The article recalled the fire to the minds of many who have been gracious in thanking the publishers for reprinting the story. Demand for extra copies was surprising. Men and women, small children or youngsters at the time, have added details of the fire not appearing in the original article.

The day, these people recall, was Sunday and began as a lovely calm spring morning. But by the time church services were dismissed, the wind had arisen, blowing a hard gale from the south. Coming from the St Johnís church, people noticed clouds of smoke toward the south and hurried home, realizing the danger which faced them. Those who had no fire guards around their houses set to work making such a protection and these guards alone were responsible for the saving of practically all the homes in the path of the flames.
The fire started, it is recalled, on land owned by a Scottish farmer, McDonna, the land farmed by Charles Davis, the present Alfred Olsen farm. Davis was burning a straw stack when the wind came up and scattered sparks to surrounding grass. The flames, carried by the high wind, leaped northward at a rapid rate, going nine miles in two hours. So great was the wind which carried the sparks that grass was burned only on the hilltops, flames leaping from hill to hill, as much as 30 acres in the hollows being left untouched. In corn fields, where shocks were left standing, some 20 feet apart with no grass between, the fire jumped from shock to shock, taking entire fields.
Attempts to start backfires were in some instances unsuccessful as the wind was too strong to light a match. Bullfoot creek proved no barrier to the blaze and all trees along the creek were destroyed. In addition to those listed losing property, Joe Bahls lost his granary, cornfield and considerable machinery. However, his livestock and house were saved.
A week after the fire, Messrs. Roberts and Rinehardt began suit in district court against John Parli to recover some three or four hundred dollars damages done by the fire but withdrew the suit.

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