Article taken from "A Centennial History of Morland and Community"
February 24, 1881 to February 24, 1981

Fires - Fires - Fires

     Fires were always a danger to the early towns and Morland was no exception. According to the People's Reveille of Feb. 20, 1902, four buildings burned at that time. These buildings were occupied by W. R. Cunningham's butcher shop and grocery, Olson and Shane's Hardware and a blacksmith shop. Two of the buildings owned by Issac Covalt were not insured. Mr. Cunningham had insurance of $600 and $1000 worth of property burned. Olson and Shane had $1300 insurance and loss of about $1600. It was thought the fire started from the explosion of a lamp which was left burning in one of the buildings adjoining Cunningham's butcher shop.

The Morland Advance of October 20, 1904 tells of a serious fire as follows: "On last Saturday morning at 3:45 just as the morning passenger pulled into town it was discovered that the wash room on the north side of the "K" house was burning. The alarm was sounded by long shrieks from the whistle of the railroad engine and in a few minutes the town people, accompanied by the train crew and section men, were on the scene working heroically to save the guests and what property they could.

     Very little of anything was saved from the hotel and only by quick work was the lives of those sleeping in the lower north rooms saved. The windows were kicked in and the occupants dragged through to safety. From the hotel the flames spread to the Morland Mercantile Co. Store where a large number were at work carrying out goods. After the flames got under a good headway in this building, all attention was turned to the Morland Mercantile Co. general store. The saving of this building seems a miracle as it stood west only about thirty feet. It caught fire several times, but was quickly extinguished by the throng of workers. Two barrels of salt and about one hundred blankets were used in addition with what water could be procured. While we realize that the destroying of our hotel and the Mercantile Store was a severe blow to the town, as well as to the owners, we feel fortunate that the loss was not greater."

    At 11:30 p.m. August 31, 1908, fire was discovered in a partition in the Harvey Restaurant, and before the fire was brought under control, Setchells real estate office and the Progress Print Shop were in ashes. The three buildings were all small frame buildings and in the strong south wind which prevailed, burned like tinder.

     Only the fact that the Dolton building presented a barrier in the way of a high and heavy stone wall saved that store from the flames. The buildings were all owned by Mr. Stober and were insured but the contents were practically a total loss. The losses were estimated as follows: Harvey $600; H.J. Setchell $300; and Progress Plant $1000.

     The People's Reveille of September 30, 1909 had the account of this fire. "Last Friday morning the news reached Hill City that the Morland Hotel and the general merchandise store owned by Armstrong and Son had been burned to the ground the night before. About eight o'clock the kitchen of the hotel caught fire from what was supposed to be an overturned lamp. The fire spread rapidly and although everything possible was done to save the buildings, all was consumed in the flames. Total loss was estimated to be $15,000."

     The Reveille-New Era of August 1, 1912 had the following article. "As is the custom in our western towns, Morland held her annual cleanup fire last Monday morning. The blaze started in the rear of Meyer Brothers's restaurant from a gasoline stove and inadequate fire fighting apparatus was the cause of the heavy loss that followed. Four buildings on the north side of Main Street were totally destroyed; The Issac White building, valued at $1400, insurance $1000; Meyer Brothers' restaurant fixtures and stock, valued at $2000, insurance $1500; the livery barn owned by W. R. Dillingham, Sr. valued at $800, insurance $400; office building and surgical instruments, including an X-Ray machine owned by Dr. W. R. Dillingham, valued at $1750, insurance $1000; the Sam Herrin barber shop valued at $1500, insurance $1000."

     The September 9, 1921 Morland Monitor states, "Last Saturday morning while all were asleep about 4:30 a fire started by some unknown cause in the front window of the meat market near the soda fountain. Not a great lot of damage was done except the large plate glass windows were most all broken or damaged so they will have to be replaced by new ones. The soda fountain was the greatest damage of this occasion for the large mirror in it was badly cracked and checked so it is no longer in shape to be used."

     But perhaps the most disastrous fire of all was that of January 20, 1922. It is thought either a lighted cigar stub, dropped in the theater during a skating party the previous evening, or a live electric wire caused the fire.

     The blaze was discovered at 12:15 a.m. and the entire population of Morland turned out to fight the blaze. There was no water service in Morland which made fighting the flames a strenuous task. Women, roused by the alarm, dressed hastily and carried water side by side with the men doing all they could without water pressure to save property adjacent to the burning building. Since the fire originated between the opera room floor and the ceiling below, it was impossible, with buckets, to get sufficient water on the flames to do much good. Only the one large structure, the Stober building, and a real estate office and home adjoining were destroyed by the fire, but the one large building housed so many varied business enterprises that the loss amounted into thousands of dollars within a short time.

     When it was finally seen that there was no chance to extinguish the fire, many turned their efforts toward saving the contents of the building. Much of the ground floor was carried to safety, but owing to the dense smoke above, there was very little saved from the second floor. R. A. Tobyne succeeded in getting his switch board out through the window and down to the side walk by means of a rope, but in doing so he took a big chance, for the smoke was so bad by that time, that he was unable to get through the hallway and down the stairs, so his only hope was to slide down the rope with which he let down the switch board.

     The buildings burned included the Morland State Bank; Citizen's State Bank; A. T. Strong's cleaning establishment; Telephone exchange, R. A. Tobyne, owner; Paul Furman roomer, $500 loss; W.F. Reister dentist office; H. J. Setchell; Opera House and movie, C.E. Hedge, owner; P.N. Kline, real estate; J. L. Miller, clothier; G. W. Stober; Morland Monitor print plant and the home of M. E. Mitchell, adjoining. The loss was estimated at approximately $31,000 of which $13,600 was covered by insurance.

From the Hill City Times, Sept. 8, 1949 -
Pool Hall, Truck, Cars Burned in Morland Fire

     A freak fire caused an estimated $6000 damages here Friday night. A gasoline truck exploded, burning the Morland Pool Hall and two autos. No one was hurt and the fire was prevented from spreading.

     George Richmeier, Morland truck driver, was unloading gasoline in the business district when the truck hose suddenly caught afire. Wallace Kerbaugh, city marshall, said speculation was that some kind of static electricity caused it. Richmeier made a frantic attempt to drive the burning truck from town. About a block from where the fire started, however, he was forced to leap from the truck while it was still moving. The truck veered from its path and crashed into two cars parked near the pool hall. The cars were owned by Orville Pierce and Brandy Knoll, both of Morland. Three explosions followed. The truck had a load of gasoline and the auto gas tanks also blew up.

     Morland, which has no water system, put in calls to the Hoxie and Hill City Fire Departments. Hoxie's truck was out but Hill City answered the call. They were too late to save the pool hall, owned by Bob Keith, but were able to keep flames from spreading. Fortunately there was no wind. Flames rose nearly 200 feet high and persons all over the area heard the blasts or saw the flames and came to the scene.

     Had not Richmeier made his attempt to drive the truck out of town, the fire might have been more disastrous. It was sitting right in the middle of a business block when the blaze started.

The Hill City Times, Dec 1, 1955 -

      The old grade school building at Morland was destroyed by fire early Thanksgiving morning. Fire was first discovered about 5:30 a.m. and had made such headway that it was too late to save the building or any of the contents.

     Due to a strong southeast wind the blaze caused considerable danger to nearby residents. The Avon Burns house was in a very bad location and Mr. Burns worked hard to save his new home, where hot shingles and sparks fell on the house. Many other parts of town also had to be protected from the sparks. The building was a two-story stone structure which was built in 1912 by John Searl's father, Steve Searl. It consisted of four rooms, two upstairs and two down. The larger per cent of Morland and surrounding citizens received their education in the schoolhouse. Harry Minium recently purchased the building and it was used for storage. At the time of the fire, it contained about 1000 bales of alfalfa which he had purchased. It means quite a loss to Mr. Minium and folks in Morland were sorry to see this old landmark for some many years, destroyed by fire.

© 1997 Graham County Historical Society

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