The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Compiled and Edited by Virginia Ross
Stronghurst Graphic, Feb. 2, 1922
SALE PAVILION BURNS: When the sun rose last Saturday morning, there lay upon a plat of ground in the north part of Stronghurst within a circle of less than a hundred feet, 153 charred and smoking animal carcasses and a pile of ashes to mark the spot where the evening before had stood a fine livestock pavilion, which was the pride of the town filled with sleek, purebred Hereford cattle of the choicest lineage and individual quality.
These cattle constituted an offering which H. N. Vaughan and Tom Dodds of this vicinity were preparing to dispose of at public auction today, Feb. 2nd. The preparations for the sale were practically completed and a number of men were being employed in looking after the valuable bunch of animals, pending their dispersion under the hammer of Col. Reppert, the well known Hereford auctioneer.
On Friday night, Jan. 27th, Robert Vaughan and Dale Dodds, sons of the owners of the cattle, were on duty at the pavilion. The office at the east end of the structure was fitted up with cots and the boys had retired for the night. They say that about 3 o'clock in the morning they were awakened by an uproar in the pavilion and on opening the connecting door, they were met by a suffocating volume of smoke which drove them back and compelled them to vacate the room as quickly as possible. They succeeded, however, in telephoning to Central(the telephone operator) and asking that help be sent and that the fire alarm be sounded. Naturally, some time was consumed in spreading the alarm and by the time help began to arrive the pavilion was a roaring furnace with the immense circular roof ablaze over its entire surface and the flames shooting upward in a solid stream through the ventilator opening at the top. The bellowing of the smoke and flame tortured animals imprisoned within the structure had also ceased and it was evident that nothing could be done to save any of the animals or the pavilion.
The fire had gained such headway that when the firemen arrived with the hose cart and hose that no attempt was made to get water on the blaze, and in an almost incredible short space of time the building was a smoking ruin.
The scene which daylight revealed was one of the most gruesome ever witnessed by many. The position of the carcasses indicated something of the frenzy which must have possessed the animals before death overtook them. Some were piled in helps, some were in a half erect position as though they had attempted to jump over the mangers in front of them, some were lying flat on their stomachs, others on their backs some were lying isolated from the others in the center of the ring showing that they had freed themselves and dashed out into the sale arena before dropping.
What the scene must have been within the pavilion before death mercifully put an end to the suffering of the last one of the 153 head of bulls, cows, heifers and young calves, can only be imagined. So far as has been learned, no human eye saw it. The scene of the fire was visited on Saturday by hundreds of visitors The origin of the fire is as yet a mystery and probably always will be incendiarism; a spark from a passing train; a stove containing some live coals and over turned by an animal which might have gotten loose, a cigarette stub carelessly thrown in hay or bedding-these and several other theories have been advance, but the only thing which is quite certain is that on account of the tinder like nature of the structure and the fact that several loads of hay and straw were scattered about the interior and also that the ventilator opening furnished the flames with an enormous draught, there could very little time have elapsed after the starting of the fire until it was entirely beyond control.
Among the valuable animals which perished in the fire were Wizard Atlas, a five year old bull claimed to be one of the best in the state; Gay Lad Gem, a two year old bull pronounced by competent judges to be one of the best Polled Hereford bulls in the United States and a this year's International show prospect, and Anxiety Gem, a half brother of the above. Amongst the cows and heifers were Britoness; Musoda Gem 2nd; Countess Fancy; Lady Park Gem; Polled Somnia 3rd; Queen Elzabeth; Verbena's Lass and many others of the best Polled Hereford blood lines.
Insurance to the amount of $52,000 ($704,080 in today's values) taken through the Kaskaskia Insurance Co. and transferred by that company to Lloyd' was carried by Messrs Vaughan and Dodds on the cattle destroyed. We are also informed that some special insurance was carried by Mr. Vaughan on one of two of the especially valuable animals. The men, however, estimate the amount of their loss as much beyond the amount of insurance carried.
The Sale Pavilion was built by the Henderson County Hereford Association in the winter of 1917-1918. At this sale 49 head of Herefords were disposed of at an average price of $560 per head. The third annual sale of the association was held Feb. 24, 1919 when 108 head were sold at an average of $513. In December of the same year, Messrs. Painters and Vaughan conducted a dispersion sale of noted Chandler herd of Herefords realizing the sum of $83,085 for 57 head, making the remarkable average of $1,457. At this sale the noted bull, Marvel's Pride was sold to Ed Stine & Sons at the record breaking price of $14,500. On Jan. 15, 1920 the 4th annual sale of the county association was held and 55 head were sold at an average price of $595. The last Hereford sale held in the pavilion was that of Ed Stine & Sons held Oct. 20, 1920 when 43 head were disposed of at an average price of $436.
During the four years since the pavilion was built, $232,470 worth of Hereford cattle have changed ownership in its auction ring and in addition, there have been many sales of pure bred swine and other livestock held in the structure.
The building was erected in the winter of 1917-1918 at a cost of about $7,000 at a time when material and labor were both cheaper than at present. The pavilion proper was a circular structure, 95 feet in diameter and in addition to the stalls for the accommodation of livestock, had a good sized sale ring in the center surrounded by tiers of seats capable of accommodating more than a thousand spectators.
Insurance to the amount of $6,000 ($81,240 in today's values) was carried on the building in the Hartford and Home Fire Insurance companies.
Representatives of the Kaskaskia, Lloyds, Hartford and Home Companies have been here this week looking after the adjustment of loses. We do not know whether any immediate steps looking toward the erection of another pavilion are contemplated or not.
(Blanche Beardsley Galbraith who lived not far away said that for months she could not sleep as she kept hearing the frantic bellowing of the cattle and could smell the smoke. Truly, this was a catastrophic occurrence for the town which depended on agriculture for its livelihood. Another dream of growth and wealth vanished.)