The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Compiled and Edited by Virginia Ross
Stronghurst Graphic, Feb. 22, 1923
STRONGHURST'S FINE SCHOOL BURNS: A large proportion of the population of the village stood helplessly by and shivered in the sub-zero atmosphere during the early morning hours of Friday, Feb. 16th while the fire demon raged and roared through the rooms and hallways of the Stronghurst District and Community High School Building. As they watched, they saw the structure which had been the pride of the community quickly converted into a smoking ruin of brick and plaster and warped and twisted iron.
The fire was an usually spectacular one. The flames fed by the oiled floor and combustible material composing the interior of the building and fanned by the strong drafts which swept through the open spaces and corridors, poured skyward in great volumes from the many windows of the structure and illuminated the entire village. There are no other buildings in close proximity to the school site and as there was but little wind at the time, no other property was endangered to any great extent.
The fire was probably first discovered by Supt. C.E. Larson, who has a room at the Mrs. Mary Thompson residence about two blocks from the school house. He said that he was awakened at about 2: 30 am by some kind of a noise and looking out of his window he saw that the southeast basement room of the school and the room immediately above used by the 5th and 6th grades were in flames. The basement room was the room in which the heating plant of the building was located. Supt. Larson turned in an alarm through the central telephone station and then hastened to the scene of the fire. A few others who live in the same neighborhood, and who had also been awakened, were soon on the scene, but the fire had made such headway that the whole interior appeared to be a mass of flames and no attempt was made to enter the burning structure. The clanging of the fire bell soon brought the firemen and multitude of citizens to the scene; but it was evident to everyone that any effort to subdue the flames would be useless and the work of the firemen was confined to the prevention of spread of the fire to other property. Within little of an hour and a half from the time the fire was first discovered, it had spread and the heavy slate roof and the floors of the big two story brick structure had fallen into the basement; only the tottering walls and chimneys remained standing.
There have been many theories advanced as to the origin of the fire, but the most plausible one appears to be that of a defective flue. The building was heated by steam generated in two large asbestos covered boilers in the basement. Some have advanced the theory that an explosion of coal gas in one of these boilers was the cause of the fire, but the fact that both boilers were found to be practically intact after the fire with none of the doors blown open would seem to disprove that theory. Mr. J. W. Layton, the janitor of the building, says that he carefully banked the fires in the boilers and closed all of the doors as usual at about 9:30 o'clock on the previous evening and that everything about the building seemed to be all right when he left for his home.
Insurance to the amount of $23, 400 ($321,048 in today's values) was carried on the school building and fixtures, but there was no insurance on the laboratory equipment, school library, piano, victorla and other equipment. The students also lost all of their books excepting those they had taken home with them on the preceding evening. The high school football team lost all of their suits and paraphernalia and the steel lockers which they had recently installed in the basement.
A loss which cannot be measured in terms of money was that of all of the trophies in the shape of silver cups, plaques, banner, etc. which the athletic and literary teams of the school have won in the past in their contests with other schools. Another irreparable loss was that of the school records, which were kept in the superintendent's office.
The edifice which was destroyed had been in use a little less than 14 years. It was built by school district No. 30 to take the place of the school building destroyed by fire in 1908. The old building was a wooden structure and stood on the lots now occupied by the Regan (Baxter today) and Fort (Ross) residences and the U.P. parsonage. At the time of the bonds for the new building were voted, it was also voted to purchase a new site from Joseph Dixson estate, this site consisting of 3 1/5 acres lying at the southern edge of the village.
The contract for the building was awarded on May 21, 1908 to A. N. Cochran of Monmouth, Ill. on his bid of $15,661.45. Alterations and additions to the original plans brought the cost of the structure up to something like $19,000 and it is doubtful if any public building in this part of the state was ever built at so proportionally low figure. As present price of material and labor, $50,000 would be a conservative estimate of the cost of replacing the edifice as it was previous to the fire.
The corner stone of the building was laid on July 24, 1909. As stated, the building was paid for by the proceeds of a bond issue, the bonds being of the denomination of $1,000 each and one bond maturing each year, beginning with the year 1910. The last of these bonds was paid off two years ago.
When the Stronghurst Community High School district was organized two years ago, arrangement were entered into under which the building was used jointly by district No. 30 and the community high school district, the facilities being considered adequate for such a combination.
TEMPORARY QUARTERS FOR SCHOOL SECURED: The most pressing problem which confronted the school officials following the burning of the school house was that of securing suitable quarters in which to conduct the school during the interval which will elapse before a new building can be erected.
Within 12 hours after the fire, proffers of the use of the M.E. and U.P. churches for school purposed had been made to the school boards and the Christian and Lutheran churches had both offered to co-operate in the plan by proffering the use of their places of worship with the other two congregations as occasion demanded. The school officials deliberated for a time upon the acceptance of this generous offer but finally decided to see if arrangements could not be made to secure other quarters for the schools better adapted to their needs. After considering various propositions, the Community High School board decided upon the use of the old opera house room over the Farmers' Co-operative store, Mr. R.A. McKeown, the owner of the building, agreeing to make the alterations and improvements which would be necessary.
The directors of district No. 30 have arranged for the use of the Hollingsworth building now occupied by the Women's Community Club ( Delmar Jacob Building) and the Chant building (Waterman home) on the east side of Broadway (formerly the B &W cafe). The club women generously agreed to give up their lease of the lower room of the Hollingsworth Building and this room will probably in use by the primary grade classes while the second story room of this building and the B & W cafe will be used by the older grade pupils and teachers. (Blanche Galbraith went to 5th grade at this site.)
The work of fitting up the various places of property will necessarily consume considerable time and there can be no definite statement made at this time as to when the schools will re-open. Since the misfortune has occurred it might be considered in a sense fortunate that the interruption in school work has come during the prevalence of an epidemic of measles, which would naturally have a tendency to interfere with attendance.
While it must inevitable follow that the teachers will be more or less hampered during the coming few months on account of the lack of proper facilities for carrying on their work, they hope to be able to still maintain a good standard of efficiency and it is up to everyone in the community to help them in their endeavors in that direction.
PAINLESS DENTIST: Dr. M. E. Blair, the painless tooth extractor with a national reputation, will remain at the Union Hotel, Galesburg, Ill. until Saturday, March 3rd. Call or see him. The doctor came here 3 weeks ago, patients have been calling to have work done from every town within 35 miles because they know he is one specialist that does exactly what he advertises to do and never disappoints. Many patients from Stronghurst have had work done by the doctor-Mr. B. L. Tucker and wife also Mr. R. Butler; ask them about it...
The doctor offers skill and anesthetic results that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. His 25 years of making a specialty of extracting is your best protection. No chloroform, ether, gas, vitalized air or cocaine used. No bad results, no physical debility-the doctor is the inventor of his methods and not understood by any one except himself and his wife. Mrs. Blair is in attendance.
OBITUARY: JAMES DOBBS: James Peter Dobbs passed away at his home Feb. 20th after a lingering illness of 18 months. He was 74 years and 11 months of age. He was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, March 23, 1848 and came to Illinois in 1870. On March 1, 1872 he united in marriage to Barbara Butler at Elmwood, Ill. To this union ten children were born, seven girls and three boys, all of whom survive him: Mrs. Mary Wheeler, Judith Gap, Montana; Mrs. Martha Galpin, Williamsfield, Ill.; Frank Dobbs, Elmwood, Ill.; Mrs. Cornelia Swagert, Galesburg, Ill.; Mrs. Elizabeth Rockel, Miles City, Montana; Mrs. Elsie Adair, James Dobbs and Miss Edna Dobbs of Stronghurst. Besides these he is survived by 21 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. His wife preceded him in death, Oct. 11, 1900.
Mr. Dobbs was converted at an early age and united with the M. E. Church, but after marriage became a member of the United Brethren Church. On coming to Stronghurst he again united with the M. E. Church by letter. He was a true devoted father, friend and neighbor whose first thought was always for others. During the World War his proudest moment was when his two grandsons enlisted in the service and fought for their country, the country he loved. Funeral services in charge of Rev. Van Sullins were held at the M. E. Church with interment in the Stronghurst Cemetery. Pall bearers were M. E. Beardsley, Meredith Lovitt, John McGovern, Grover Rehling, Joe Long and N. B. Curry.
LOCAL AND AREA NEWS: Clarence Hartquist was taken to the Burlington Hospital and was operated upon for appendicitis; he is doing nicely.