Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Moose Lake remembers the Fires of 1918


October 17, 2019

Lois Johnson

Candles were lit in memory of loved ones at the 101st commutation of the Fires of 1918 commemoration on Saturday by the Moose Lake Area Historical Society.

People that attended the 101st Fires of 1918 Commemoration at the Soo Line Event Center on Saturday learned how the Village of Moose Lake and the surviving people in the area rebuilt after the fires swept through the area on Saturday, Oct. 12, 1918, causing tremendous loss and devastation. Stories from area newspapers were read to tell of story of survival and "coming back better than ever."

From the Barnum Herald, Oct. 25, 1918:

"The Barnum Hotel, which has been a home for a number of unfortunate people who lost all their worldly goods in the recent fire that swept through the country, is again vacant. Only a few persons remain. They have been taken to the Clifton house, where they will be provided for. In a few days they will go onto farms in Kalavala, where buildings are being erected for farmers."

Barnum Herald, Nov. 1, 1918:

"The Barnum Red Cross ladies will again open the workroom at the school house next Tuesday. The work will be remodeling shirts. There is a demand for mittens for children of school ages. Old wool socks and underwear make good mitten materials. Boxes of clothing were received from Morris, Superior, Duluth, Minneapolis, Clearwater and from towns in Iowa and Wisconsin."

Star Gazette, Dec.19, 1918 (The first issue of the Star Gazette published after the fire):

"Reconstruction work in Moose Lake is progressing nicely in spite of cold weather and the fact that skilled carpenters and other laboring men are scarce. The people are making the best of adverse conditions and are determined to make Moose Lake bigger and better than ever.

"The country is practically rebuilt with small houses, barns and furniture that has been supplied, and there are hundreds of homes practically complete in every respect. In many instances the farmers have already begun to log their burned-over lands. This will salvage several million feet of lumber and thousands cords of wood, and will materially assist in the permanent reconstruction, which is planned to begin early in the spring.

"The spirit of the people is splendid. One thousand families lost all of their possessions, many being without any insurance, yet they have gone back to the farms with a determination that it takes more than one fire to put them out of business.

"The community building, which was erected as a temporary quarters for several of our merchants, is now completed and some of the stores are already doing business.

"The school building will be vacated this week by Dr. Walters, who has been using it as a hospital. School will open Jan. 6, and it is expected that people will be back to their homes and as near to normal conditions as it is possible under the circumstances by that time.

"Architects from the Twin Cities and Duluth are already on the ground making plans for several new homes and business blocks to be built in the spring."

Star Gazette, Oct. 16, 1919:

"Memorial Day services were held in Moose Lake last Sunday, it being the first anniversary of the great forest fire of Oct. 12, 1918. Two thousand people gathered at the cemetery to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the terrible catastrophe.

"Standing beside the graves of the 181 who perished in the great disaster of just one year ago, Gov. J. A. Burnquist spoke feelingly of the loss of life and the heroism displayed by the survivors. The governor praised the people of Moose Lake and other places that were wiped out for their spirit in 'coming back' and making their homes and town better than ever."

Star Gazette, Oct. 12, 1921, four years after the fire:

"Well do we remember Oct. 12, 1918, when the Village of Moose Lake, together with Kettle River, Automba, Cloquet and a vast farming area, were wiped off the map. Hundreds of people lost their lives by the terrible forest fires that swept though the countryside.

"Today the Village of Moose Lake presents an entirely different appearance. It is even better, by a great deal, than before the fire. Today we have several modern brick blocks in town, as well as many beautiful residences and buildings of a public character. Fire sufferers felt the need of 'digging in' and 'coming back' just as soon as possible, and truly they have accomplished wonders. We are proud of the fact that the Village of Moose Lake is a smart, up-and-coming town and, but for the grit of its residents and the farmers in the surrounding country, we would probably be where we were 15 or 20 years ago."


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