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Hinckley Fire of 1894: Overview

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Hinckley and the Fire of 1894, by Alania Wolter Lyseth. 
Charleston, South Carolina : Arcadia Publishing, 2014.
MNHS call number: SD421.32.M6 L97 2014

From the Ashes: The Story of the Hinckley Fire of 1894, by Grace Stageberg Swenson.
St. Cloud, Minn.: North Star Press of St. Cloud, 1988.
MNHS call number: SD 421 .S84 1988

John W. Blair Papers, 1867-1915.
Personal account of an African-American railroad porter's heroic rescue of train passengers and townspeople during the disastrous 1894 forest fire in Hinckley.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P1788).

"The Hinckley Fire," by Alice A. Nelson Wilcox.
A reminiscent account of Alice Nelson Wilcox's experiences as a Pokegama, Minnesota, girl during the 1894 Hinckley forest fire. Wilcox gives details of the fire, how she and her family survived, the destruction of property and life, the removal of the survivors to Mora, and the rehabilitation of the land and the people.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P1193-3).

Commission for Relief of Fire Sufferers Records (1894-1995.)
Records of a commission created to provide relief for victims of the Hinckley fire, and of fires near New York Mills and Milaca, and in Carlton, Cass, Itasca, Kanabec, and Todd counties.
MNHS call number: Digital finding aid

 

Overview

The story of the Hinckley Fire of September 1, 1894, is a tragic saga of destruction, terror, courage, heroism, and death. Hinckley, a logging and railroad center, was laid waste by the inferno that roared through the town, sending hundreds of townspeople in flight for their lives and leaving hundreds dead in its wake. In attempting to escape the fire, people sought safety in wells, swamps, a railroad gravel pit, and the river. Heroic individuals saved many lives.

What caused this historic fire that raced across 480 square miles and burned 350,000 acres? A long drought made for tinder-dry conditions in miles of cutover forests — the wasteland resulting from the unregulated logging practices of the time. A southerly wind blowing over small fires in the area brought in haze and smoking sparks, picking up speed throughout the morning.

By mid-afternoon, a large black cloud hovered over the town, and the sound of the wind had grown to a distant roar. A huge fireball set several houses and the depot ablaze, then swept northward through the town and woods toward Barnum. A 37-mile segment of the Munger Trail memorializes the route the fire took between Hinckley and Barnum, the suffering and death it caused, and the devastation it wrought.

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