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Text Box:  
The Detroit News
October 21, 1908





 Tells How “Little Phoenix”

Found His First Clothes Ready

            The home of Mrs. Frank E. Haske, two miles north of Metz, was destroyed in Thursday’s big fire.  Haske tells this story:

                “Our horses, barn, and stables burned to the ground, and we saved nothing,” he said.  “My wife was fighting the fire with me.  She was taken ill.  I drove her as fast as I could to the place where her father was staying.  She is all right now, and so is our new baby.  It’s a boy.  First baby after the fire.  Something to be proud of, yes?”

                If the Haske family were familiar with the classics, they might name the boy Phoenix.  As it is, he will probably be known as John.  This important question has not been decided.  Preparations were at once made to give the newcomer a few reasons for remaining.  A large bag was filled with the smallest articles of apparel that could be found.  It was about to be handed to the Haske family when one of those rummaging among the boxes brought to light a bundle marked “Full outfit for a new baby.”
                At this manifestation of the wonderful work of Providence and the people of Michigan, Haske nearly collapsed.

                Some thoughtful person sent a baby carriage and blankets to the week-old child of Mrs. Oliver Hurket, which came through the wreck at Nowicki Siding without a scratch or a burn after being thrown from the gondola by its mother.

                John C. Haske, grandfather of Metz’s fat cat, stopped his wagon, laden with clothing, food, and a new stove, to discourse on past and future. Haske was reputed the richest farmer in Metz township.  He owns 400 acres. 

                “I used to live in Detroit,” he said.  “I drove for C.A. Newcomb when the Newcomb-Endicott store was built.  Afterwards, I was coachman for George Robertson.  But, I wanted to be my own boss, so I came here, where my father was, about 25 years ago.  I lost two barns, all my stables, my granary, my hog pens, and my house.  It was the biggest house and the biggest barns in the township.  I had an organ and four stoves, and 20 chairs.  I saved only two chairs.  That’s all.  First I tried to save the house, but the fire came up like a …oud and took it.  I soaked my shirt in a barrel and put it on, so that the water ran over me.

                “Then I tried to save one of my stoves, but I couldn’t get it out.  Then I ran for my organ and carried it into the yard.  Then I went back for the stove, but I thought of my new $7 clock and my $2 alarm clock, and tried to save them, but everything was on fire.  So I ran out and grabbed my organ after soaking my clothes.  I ran with it, but the fire was so hot I had to drop it and run for my life.  It was all burned up.”

                Three of Haske’s 13 children were in the ill-fated gondola, but one became terrified before the train started and climbed out.  The others followed to rescue him from the flames, thus probably saving their own lives.

Text Box:  The Detroit News
October 20, 1908







PLYMOUTH, Mich., Oct. 20—“The people in the burned district need food, lumber and hay most of all,” declared Gov. Warner this morning, on his return from the northern fire-stricken region.  Sunday the governor went up to Alpena, joined Gen. Rogers and Supt. Luce of the D&M railway, and made a tour by special train, an engine and one coach, Monday.  He had to miss his scheduled meetings in Washtenaw County yesterday, but got back in time today to take up his Monroe County meetings on time.

                “The fire victims, up north,” said the governor, “will be flooded with clothing.  Alpena alone has already supplied half enough clothing to supply all who need it.

                “According to best estimates there are about 200 destitute families around Metz.  As most of the families are large, this means from 1,200 to 1,500 persons.

                “Shipments should be made to Alpena, care of the relief committee.  This Alpena organization is an excellent one, splendidly managed and working with remarkable efficiency.  As has already been announced, the Michigan Central, Pere Marquette and D&M will carry all such consignments free.

                “The Alpena relief committee is working especially for the relief of those persons living along the line of the D&M at LaRocque, Metz, Posen and Bolton, and in the surrounding country.  There are, however, many other districts more or less damaged, and many isolated cases of suffering will be found.

                “I wish the officers in all parts would report such isolated cases to the Alpena relief committee, and they will attend to the wants of the sufferers.  This will be a more effective way of affording relief than the attempt to send special consignments from the lower part of the state to the individual cases.

                “Lumber is needed in great quantities.  For this purpose, money will be much better than loaded freight cars from the south, because lumber can be bought for so much less in the district.

                “It will require about 600,000 feet of timber to build shanties and sheds for the 1,500 people and their horses and cows.  The D&M railroad has sent up its full force of carpenters, and is assigning one to each family or group of families to direct the rebuilding.  The shacks are about 20 by 16 feet, with two or four double-deck bunks in each room.  Five lumbermen of Alpena have already contributed one carload of lumber each, making 75,000 feet in all.

                “From Grand Rapids has come two carloads of furniture, available as fast as the shacks go up.  In the meantime the victims are stopping with farmers living outside the burned region.

                “For the winter, fully 100 cars of hay will be necessary, in addition to quantities of food for the people.  And of the money raised, the committee ought to hold back at least $5,000 until spring to buy seed, for the people are destitute.  Their crops, hay, grain and all the rest has gone.

                “Here is a sample:  I talked with one farmer who said:  ‘I had 40 acres of hay in my barn, 300 bushels of potatoes, other things in proportion, and seven cows and two horses, also houses, outhouses, barns, and the like.  Now, I’ve nothing save seven hungry cows and two horses, and ashes all over my farm.’

                “These people have got to start all over again.  Many of them have lived there many years—18 or 20—and had grown quite comfortable.  They came as pioneers after the timber had been cut, cleared fields of stumps and found good farm land.

                “The fire burned a swath from five to six miles wide from the interior, easterly to Alpena, ending at the lake.  The people are mainly Germans and Poles.  They are hardy citizens but with everything wiped out they must be maintained until spring and then started out with seed.

                “One of the most pathetic incidents I encountered was at Metz.  A German farmer and his wife [Mr. and Mrs. John Nowicki, Jr.] left their four children, boys 10, 8, 6 and 4, while they went to town.  They lost their lives, and when rescue parties went out they found the farm house and all the buildings gone.  It was supposed the four boys were dead, but they were found alive in an orchard.  The ground had just been plowed, and with presence of mind the 10-year-old boy led his smaller brothers to safety.  All four have been sent to Alpena to homes.

                “Metz is all gone save the schoolhouse.

                “At Bolton only a church is standing.

                “Posen got off luckily, but the surrounding country is devastated.

                “Along the lines of other railroads there will be found families here and there whose possessions are all gone.  As to the total number killed, it is hard to say:  between 30 and 50, anyway.

                “At Posen, I called on the parish priest.  He said he has 350 families in his parish and from an enumeration he took Sunday finds that between 50 and 100 are destitute.  All are Polish.

                “The board of supervisors of Presque Isle County met Monday and named a committee to go over every township to find just how the people stand.  Some whose property is wiped out may not be destitute.  The committee with learn just where aid is needed and see that it is given.”