Early Manning was no exception to the hazards of fire. Many of the first buildings were constructed entirely of wood, and heated with coal and wood burning stoves. There had not yet been time enough or funds available to organize a well-equipped and completely trained volunteer fire department, nor was there available an adequate water system with sufficient water pressure. In those days whenever a fire broke out every citizen available was a fireman.
Early reports of the first fires include references in several instances to a suspicion of incendiarism to add to the new town's problems.
The first fire occurred December 28, 1881, in the original Callison building, later referred to as the City Hotel. Only minor damage was done when shavings from carpenter work on the second floor got too close to the heating stove.
A second fire occurred April 16, 1882, at 9 a.m. at the Callimore Hall. Church services on the second floor had just concluded and people had to rush down a stairway to safety. The fire evidently started above the Heinzmann Bros. and Moody Hardware store (located three doors south of the corner of Main and 3rd streets) and burned out of control, resulting in the total loss or damage to 11 business firms in that block.
Another fire occurred July 13, 1882, when two buildings near the corner of Main and 3rd streets burned. The Joseph Loch Saloon and the W.F. Howard Meat Market were heavily damaged, in addition to Mr. Woolman's residence above the meat market. Incendiarism was suspected because evidence of the use of kerosene was found.
A second attempt at arson was made Monday, July 31, at the same location with the use of kerosene but the fire was contained with little damage.
A third attempt by a "firebug" was made Sunday morning, July 5, 1883. At one a.m. a fire was discovered at the rear of the Farmers & Traders Bank building, occupied by the Manning Monitor. Again kerosene and wood shavings were found. The fire was quickly extinguished with little damage except for a scorched wall of the building.
Other fires were the American House fire in October, 1894, cause unknown; the E.C. Perry Store fire on March 4, 1884, when the entire building and contents were destroyed. In November, 1888, the Smith-Grinnell Co., sustained heavy f ire losses.
On May 8, 1891, Manning experienced another disastrous fire. It started in the Brunnier building next to the corner on the south end of block five, which is the east side of Main street between 3rd and 4th Streets. The entire block of business houses, including several living quarters, was wiped out. The G.M. Daily family barely reached safety. Some of the business owners were John Albert, J. Brunnier, the post office, Engleman law office, L.L. Lightfoot, Dr. G.M. Barber, Karstens & Dethlefs, W.F. Eckles, J.T. Jay, U.S. Heffelfinger, Ives Bros., Dr. Eckmann, F.A. Bennett and others. The fire was discovered by the Milwaukee train engineer as his train was leaving the station south of town and he kept blowing the train whistle until people were aroused.
The big fire of 1895 for a time threatened the destruction of the entire business portion of the town. On Wednesday, September 11, eight business houses were totally destroyed. Fire started in the Free Press building on lot 6, block 7. (Block 7 is the west side of Main between 4th and 5th streets. The 25-ft. lots are numbered from one through twelve beginning at the First National Bank corner.) Buildings on both sides of the Free Press caught fire, which spread rapidly. It was hoped that the First National Bank building would withstand the threat, but it did not and the heat and flames became so intense that the two-story frame Reinhold building opposite the bank on the east caught fire. Fears mounted with the thought that if the Reinhold fire could not be contained it could spread to the Tank & Hoffmann lumber yard behind it and the whole
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business area would be consumed. All business houses on the rest of Main street were emptied with the help of citizens; the firemen, wrapped in wet quilts and blankets, were able to contain the Reinhold fire and the rest of the area was saved.
The Feldman fire occurred September 18, 1893. Fire was discovered at 4:45 that morning, but it was too late to save the Manning Bottling Works. The plant was a fine one and contained all the latest machinery for manufacturing and bottling soft drinks. The building also contained several thousand dollars worth of choice liquors, a carload and a half of beer, and a large supply of glassware and other supplies. There had been no stoves or heating being used for three weeks previous to the fire.
Manning Roller Mills, owned by Sutherland and Dutton, burned to the ground on March 14, 1898. In less than a half hour after the fire was discovered the entire building collapsed. D.W. Sutherland rebuilt a new two-story brick building with a basement.
Many other minor fires kept fire fighters on the alert, but with an organized volunteer department originating in the early 1900's who trained consistently with better equipment and eventually went on to world championship fame, they were better able to confine them and avert the disasters experienced in the town's beginning.
Fires of note were the big livery barn fire of 1916 located where the old part of the Manning General Hospital now stands. The barn was destroyed and some horses perished but the fire was kept from spreading north to the adjacent Paul Moerke cigar factory building, and to the south to the rooming house, later to become the residence of the George Dethlefs family. That same year the J.B. Nichols general store across the street from the livery barn, located in the double front building now occupied by the DeBoth Florists and Cliff's Place at 415 and 417 Main, had a fire. Severe damage was done to the store inventory and to the Hass Shoe Store merchandise and equipment occupying the north side with living quarters in the rear. Leon Hass had purchased the Earl Parish Harness Shop after serving in World War I and then located in the corner building at the south end of Block 7, formerly the Klean Klose Shop and now a parking lot for Manning Motor Co. Leon went into the shoe repair business and then moved to the Nichols location. He and wife Molly and two sons Harry and LeRoy lived there until he moved his shoe store to the basement of the old Manning Trust & Savings Bank Building. From there he moved to the basement of the old post office building on lot 4, block 4 and operated his Subway Shoe Store for the remainder of his business career.
A fire causing two deaths occurred May 23, 1921, when an explosion blew out the back part of the Rostermundt & Kuhl Hardware store at 302 Main, now the Piccadilly Circus Pizza place. John Rostermundt was blown out onto the streets and he and the bookkeeper, Ida Grelck, sister of Henry Grelck, were so severely burned that he lived for only 17 hours and Ida died June 5. Mr. Kuhl had stepped out of the building a few moments prior to the blast, and employees R. Stumpe and Edward Frahm were on a country call. No other customers were involved but two little boys, Leroy Zender and Ralph McGrath, both age five, were walking alongside the building and received minor burns.
An old landmark was destroyed by fire on March 17, 1925, when the old Germania Hall, later referred to as the Opera House on the northeast corner of Elm and 6th, burned to the ground. Only the old stage curtain, some chairs and scenery were saved. It was immediately replaced by the beautifully designed, brick building built by the Schuetzen Verein, which in recent
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years was torn down to make way for the new fire station.
One of Manning's fine stores, the Schelldorf Drug Store, located on the east side of Main street in a double-front building, was destroyed by fire August 3, 1925. The two-story building had rooms upstairs and the upper floor of the G.P. Schelldorf building was also destroyed. Firemen saved the main floor housing the Frank Livingston Pool Hall and barber shop which, however, did suffer smoke and water damage. The Ohde Bros. Furniture store to the south suffered smoke damage also.
The Milwaukee Elevator, owned by A.H. Wernimont & Co., caught fire from an unknown cause at 8:45 p. m. March 23, 1928, and was destroyed. J.A. Bruck had 8000 bushels of corn and 2400 bushels of oats stored there. Part of three cars of feed stored was hauled out. The Carroll fire department and firemen from Gray helped confine the fire away from the F.D. Ross gasoline storage tanks.
In the early 1930's the Neil Shoe Repair shop (located in one of the Kenyon buildings about where the south wing of the nursing home is) was completely burned out.
During a busy afternoon at the height of the Christmas shopping season a fire broke out in the basement of the Lewis-Reinhold drug store at 4 p.m. December 16, 1933. There were 50-gallon barrels of linseed oil, mineral oil, and turpentine, besides other paint stocks and sundries, which caused the fire to spread rapidly throughout the building. All occupants escaped safely but the two-story building was nearly destroyed, including the offices of Dr. C.C. Sullivan, Attorney E.H. Hansen, and the big Lyden Photographic studio. The offices on the second floor of the new building, occupied by Dr. Kelsey and R.H. Wheeler, were also smoke and water damaged. The entire Rober-Wehrmann department store suffered heavy smoke damage, and the dry goods department which occupied the south half of the Lewis-Reinhold building had the rear half and the north wall burned away. The intensity of the fire brought fears that the entire block might go and the Carroll, Manilla and Denison fire departments were called for help. The Audubon and Gray departments stood by that night to relieve the other firemen. The fire was brought under control at 7:30 with four trucks pumping 300 gallons of water a minute. The Rober-Wehrmann store was closed for several days to allow adjustors, with the help of typists and clerks, to inventory every item in the big store for insurance purposes.
July 22, 1932 the W.B. Parrott Company warehouse located near the C.M. St. P. & P. station was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire.
The Pontiac Garage owned by John Ostermeyer was located on the west side of Main street in block 7, about where the Struve Motor Co. is now. Living apartments on the second floor were occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lohmeier, and the Mrs. Rose Barnes family. The building was destroyed by fire in May, 1934. There were no injuries.
The original sale pavilion located on the Creamery farm west of the Great Western depot was the scene of a fire August 23, 1935. The building was used for the milking herd and the third milking had just been completed at midnight. The fire could be seen from Main street and spectators rushed down to help employees remove the famous Holstein show herd which had just been brought back from showing at the Harlan fair at 7:30 that night. Plans were made for immediate construction of a new building.
On February 17, 1939, another serious fire broke out in the Lewis-Reinhold Drug store's new building, erected after the 1933 fire. The south half was occupied by the Council Oak Store and the living apartments upstairs were occupied by Mr. and Mrs. George Brady, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Dusenberry, and Mr. and Mrs. Leo Kerwin. The Bradys smelled smoke at 5:30 that morning and by forming a chain of hands the upstairs occupants were able to get down the stairway through the thick smoke. Again the offices of Kelsey, Sullivan, and the Lyden Studio were destroyed and the Manning Municipal Light Plant office on the north threatened. Manilla, Carroll, and Audubon fire departments were again called upon for help to contain the blaze. Several firemen stood by that night and all was thought to be under control. Early the next morning natives were again startled by the fire siren and the entire Rober-Wehrmann store next door south was engulfed in a mass of flames and was completely burned to the ground. When the front display windows blew out, flames like a giant blow-torch burst across the street and scorched buildings and awnings, but steady streams of water prevented further disaster on the east side of Main Street. The town water supply proved sufficient.
An interesting example of community cooper
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ation is illustrated by the fact that Jacob Carstens, city marshal, inaugurated a clean-up day on Monday, March 27. In those days Memorial Day flags were flown on staffs placed in sockets drilled in the sidewalk at curbside. To emphasize the work day the staffs flew work shirts and overalls. Conrad Dietz and Lester Rowedder supervised the clean-up crews. Mayburn Ramsey and Jacob Carstens organized the truckers crews. The committee for general arrangements consisted of F.J. McMahon, Lester Rowedder, Mayburn Ramsey, Emil Kuhl, L.L. Hockett, Emil Opperman, B.J. Kasperbauer, and John Schroeder.
Another fire in 1939, October 16, was the Walters Elevator at the Great Western Yards. It burned to the ground and held no grain at that time. The elevator had been operated by Martin Peterson for many years and he had sold it to Walters the early part of 1939.
Two smaller fires occurred in 1942. The Club Cafe, owned by John Schmidt (occupying the Geo. B. Jones building) experienced a fire in May. Refrigeration equipment in the basement caused the fire. Valentine Bakery next door had water and smoke damage. June 24, a fire broke out in the Dultmeier paint shop. Six employees were working in the building. Herb Rowedder had slight face and head burns. Vertus Hansen smashed a finger rolling out paint barrels.
Two fires of note happened the following year. The Fred Petersen Garage, in the two-story brick building owned by Mrs. George Dethlefs Sr. (located on the southwest corner of Fifth and Main in block 9), the Kruse Hatchery, Basement Cream Station, and Geo. Jones' Place were all destroyed and only the northwest corner remained standing. Also lost in the December 9, 1943 blaze were 23 cars, the Des Moines-Springfield Bus and a Univeristy of Iowa Hospital ambulance. Hugo Ress and Merle Voss had worked on the bus that night until nearly 4 a.m., and the night marshal had made an inspection at 4:30. The second floor had stored 40,000 empty 30-Ib. egg cans belonging to W.B. Parrott Co. The hatchery building operated by Clarence Grundmeier was badly gutted. The Dethlefs family living across the intersection turned in the alarm.
That same month, on the 27th, a fire gutted the interior of the Crystal Theater owned by Fred Dethlefs. The fire originated in the furnace room.
In the early 1950's the Club Cafe, owned and operated by Ann Paulsen, was destroyed by fire. It was located at 310 Main on the east side. The site was later purchased by Dr. R.B. Anderson, who built the brick clinic building in 1956, now owned by Dr. Phil Myer.
A fire occurred February 12, 1955, when the Lloyd Rix Produce was destroyed. The brick building was owned by Peter Ohrt and was on the site now occupied by the municipal offices on Third street. It was a two-story structure with a meeting hall and living rooms on the second floor. John Wiese was a tenant, and the apartment was occupied by Edna Halbur and her uncles Louis and Otto Hagedorn. The fire is thought to have started in the northwest corner of the building. The tenants were quickly evacuated but the building was badly gutted and firefighters concentrated mainly on saving the telephone building next door, now the Home Mutual Insurance Company building. All the merchandise was destroyed. Telephone operators Marjorie Kienapfel and Mrs. Leroy Zerwas stayed at the switchboard the entire time of the fire.
Another big fire in Manning was the former Priebe building fire January 20, 1967. The building served as a warehouse for Pacific Adhesives, and also housed the Schroeder Farm Store. The 50-year-old structure was in the process of being remodeled by the owner, Walt Lauridsen of Sioux City. The top story had been
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removed. The warehouse contained 700,000 pounds of dried blood which was lost. The Manilla, Halbur, Westside, Arcadia, and Dedham fire departments helped. Extra help was called as a precaution because of the proximity of the big lumber yard and other businesses and private residences. Volunteers helped Schroeder save all his records, merchandise, etc. Lyle Hansen turned in the alarm.
A costly fire on January 24, 1974 destroyed a $30,000 inventory and gutted the building of the Falck Hardware. John Falck had purchased the former Kuhl & Vogt store from Ray Sander the previous year. The building was owned by Mrs. Verne Howe, the former Bernice Vogt, of Dunlap. Mr. Falck resumed business after remodeling the building and installing new fixtures and merchandise. The business has since been discontinued and is now the site of the Piccadilly Circus Pizza, at the southeast corner of Third and Main.
The Manning Fire Department has also been called to numerous home and farm fires throughout the years. An unusual turn of events occurred during the eight-month period from August, 1975, to March, 1976, when the volunteers were called to four separate fires along the same graveled road one mile west of Aspinwall.
The first fire, August 4, 1975, partially destroyed the Frank Kasperbauer home; lightning struck a barn on the Freddie Ehlers farm August 12, the building considered a total loss; February 7, 1976, a barn on the William Wanninger farm burned; March 23, Steven Muhlbauer lost a hog house, 14 sows and 225 pigs.
Plastico, Ltd., was the scene of a fire Sunday, April 13, 1980, when a $100,000 machine was burned. George Peters, living across the street, turned in the alarm at 4:30 that afternoon. A plastic molding machine was severely damaged and some water and smoke damage was done to the rest of the building. Firemen discovered a broken hasp on the basement door and noted that flammable material had been piled around the machine. The state deputy fire marshal was called to investigate the possibility of arson.