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The Hinckley fire by Antone A. Anderson
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The Hinckley fire

by Antone A. Anderson

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    John Blair and the Great Hinckley Fire by Josephine Nobisso (alco261)
    alco261: John Blair's actions are mentioned in some of the first person accounts in the Anderson work.
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Clara McDermott and her brother Antone Anderson were among the citizens of Hinckley, Minnesota who, on the morning of 1 September 1894 found themselves running for their lives to escape a northern Minnesota firestorm that obliterated the town. A few years after the fire they joined other survivors to form the Fire Survivors’ Association which held annual meetings. Over time the two of them took advantage of these annual reunions to record the stories the association members had to tell about the events of that day.

The book starts with the recollections of Clara and her brother. Once their stories have been told the book moves on to the stories of close relatives and neighbors and then to the stories of other Hinckley citizens. The focus of the book shifts to a series of recollections about the fire as told by several railroad men and passengers. They and their trains, one passenger and one mixed train (combination freight and passenger), ran through the universe of fire that was Hinckley and saved many of the people whose stories are recorded in the book.

The last third of the book consists of recollections of the fire from the standpoint of people who were in the vicinity of Hinckley and/or who were the first to greet and help the fire refugees after their escape.

While no mention is made of the way in which the stories were recorded the variety of styles would suggest the accounts were either taped and transcribed or represent a compilation of first and third person individually written accounts. One aspect of the structure of the book and the accounts which I found very interesting is the overlap of the individual stories. This story overlap both with respect to time and place give the reader a real sense of "being there".

The book is well written and the stories hold the readers interest. If you are interested in stories of survival or stories about railroad life or a mix of both I would recommend this book for your consideration. ( )
  alco261 | Sep 21, 2012 |
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About 1870 Hinckley was but a very small hamlet, lying amidst great pine forest in Pine Country.
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Standing there administering to the wants of the passengers was Porter Blair of the chair car, who I must say is as brave a man as I ever saw. On our backward ride from Hinckley to Skunk Lake I saw one of the pluckiest women I ever met. She stood inside the door of the chair car and handed me saturated towels from the washstand in the car, which I used to prevent the end of the car from burning. On my arrival at Skunk Lake I jumped from the train, first meeting Fireman McGowan holding an empty pail in his hand. I took it from him and got into the lake and filled it with water, then went back to put the fire out on the platforms of the coaches so as to get the passengers off. When that was done, Porter Blair was still at his post helping and relieving those people in his charge. When the train was relieved of its load of human freight, I contemplated making the awful trip to the next station, Miller.
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