Fire in Oswego in 1900
Kendall County Record, March 21, 1900
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson
Thursday evening, the Woodmen Hall was filled with people enjoying a home talent theatrical performance. About nine o'clock the cry of fire was raised. When it was determined that the fire was in H. S. Warner's store next door to the hall there was a rapid exodus but no panic resulted. The firemen responded promptly and energetically went to work. At first it was thought the fire might be extinguished but very suddenly it flashed out and enveloped the whole inside of the store. It was evident that the Schickler block was doomed. Even the ability to confine it there was in doubt and Aurora was called for assistance. However, before the Aurora fire company started for Oswego they were notified that the fire was under control and assistance was not needed.
The event has cast a gloom over Oswego. The west side brick block with its plate glass fronts was Oswego's pride. Now nothing remains of half of the block and its contents but fire gutted walls. Its young merchants just barely started in life are now broken up.
On the other hand, everyone was full of praise for the boys of the fire company. It is believed they did all that was possible.
Mr. Schickler's loss on the building is put from $6,000 to $6,500. Insurance coverage was $4,000. The loss in the Warner stock of goods was $3,500 with $2,000 insurance. The only thing he saved was his ledger. W. P. Wormley saved two barber chairs and razors. The other furniture worth $50 was lost.
The Knapp block, across the alley, had its side windows burned out. The occupants, Croushorn furniture store, and Malcom's meat market removed their goods.
Because of the performance, the Woodmen were all present and able to remove their effects from the hall. Ed Smith, Lew Inman, and John Russell had a thrilling experience. They, along with others, were taking the piano out of the building. They were in front of the piano and walking backwards. Just as they entered the stairway, the firemen rushed in from below with their hose a full pressure stream. They were struck in the back of their head and face with the stream, which made them release their hold on the piano. This caused the piano, with the three men in front of it to cascade down the stairs landing in a heap. Fortunately none were seriously hurt, nor was the piano seriously damaged.
The north room of the burned building was vacant. The upper story was being converted into dwelling apartments. Harley Richards was doing the wood work and had his tool chest there which was burned with a loss of at least $40. The wind from the west made it quite hot on the east side of the street. The heat cracked some of the glass in the store windows. The Edwards store and Figge barbershop suffered the most. The men responsible for the water works are now held in high esteem.
It is said Mr. Schickler will rebuild the block at once.