Prairie Fire

In the early years, prairie fires were common.  The Cooperstown Courier of September 25, 1885, tells about one of them:

The most destructive prairie fire in the history of the county, raged Monday afternoon west of town.  The strong wind carried the flames in sheets over firebreak and stubble.  All ordinary precautions failed.  When the break was too wide to be leaped the blazing tumbleweed carried the seed of destruction.  (Losses follow:)

Alexander Nicoll on Section 6-145-61 loses his barn, wagon and four pigs.

James Gimblett, 40 acres of wheat and a wagon.

Frank Brown had his new separator destroyed at A.B. Richardson's.  The horses attached to it, belonging to Henry Guillickson, got panicky and perished in the blaze of the straw pile.  Richardson lost about 150 bushels of grain.

Charles Gartman lost 400 bushels of grain, and was badly burned on head and hands.

F. Lucht on Section 10-146-80 loses 4 stacks of wheat.

John McDonald loses 40 acres of No.  I Hard.

Albert Lindsey is minus a horse and 40 acres of grain.

William Murdock is houseless, and lost 90 acres of wheat.

The Grant Brothers lost 75 acres.

Eathan Siften has his engine badly damaged, the woodwork burning off, while two wagons, one belonging to Heatherington, and one to J.H. Montgomery were destroyed.  In the language of Lon Sickelsteel, they were caught up in a sheet of flame, traveling a mile a minute.

Maynard Crane, the lumberman, lost his new house and 900 bushels of wheat, a total loss to him of about $1,100.

J.H. VanVoorhis lost 7 acres of oats.

John Mills, near Bald Hill Creek, is one of the greatest losers.  He loses 1,700 bushels of wheat, granary, and barn.

Ed Hanson, Section 16-145-59, lost 1,000 bushels of grain, and granary; insurance $500.

Ed Michaelis has been laughed at for his big firebreaks; but just the same he was cleaned out - 1,500 bushels of grain, 25 tons of hay, and stable.  He says the flames leaped 150 feet.

George McCulloch lost his claim shanty, and one setting of four wheat stacks.

Carl Carlson lost one setting of wheat.

Dr. McGuire lost 20 acres.

James Walker, Section 4-145-59, loses 30 acres of wheat, and house.


Pen Picture Of The Fire

"It was noon when I first saw the smoke in the west. It had been hazy all day, like Indian summer, and very hot and dry, with a parching west wind.  The wheat shocks, not half a mile away, looked like great stacks in the distance.  A long slough west of my place must have stopped the fire, for an hour passed before the prairie chicks and small birds commenced to fly over, and an occasional jackrabbit and antelope came by.  Then the smoke rolled in, in great light clouds, with the blaze behind, running in sheets close to the ground.  I thought my stacks on the stubble, and my house with a firebreak, were safe; but the fire crinkled to the edge of the stubble, and in an instant leaped over, and my whole field was on fire.  I had time only to cut the halters of my horses and rush for the north slough.  The horses plunged in and I followed them to the east side.  An hour's work the night before would have saved everything, and now the fire had everything."

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 113 

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