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The Detroit News
October 20, 1908






 Father’s Refusal to Leave Home
Saved Lives of His Children


                The persistent refusal to yield to the pleadings of his children to place them aboard the rescue train leaving the burning village of Metz, saved the family of John Zimmerman, who, with his five children, arrived Monday afternoon at the home of his brother, Henry Zimmerman, 12 Plum Street.  With them came the two little daughters of Mrs. Edward Hardies, rescued by the merest accident from the steel gondola car in which their mother lost her life.

                The young people and children who will remain in Detroit until their father is able to rebuild their home, are Martha, Augusta, and Mamie Zimmerman, young women; Lavina and Fred, aged 9 and 7;and Theresa and Louise Hardies, aged 6 and 5 years.

                The Zimmerman’s lived on a farm just outside the village of Metz, about 25 feet south of the railroad tracks.  Augusta this tells the story of their escape from the flames that swept the village: 

Fighting the Fire 

                “When everybody was getting ready to go in the train, we all gathered around father and teased him to let us go, too. It was so hot and smoky, we thought we couldn’t stand it much longer, and it seemed hard to see everyone going away in the cars and we staying behind.

                “But father said, ‘No children, if we’re going to burn, we’ll burn right here on our own place.  We’re safer here, anyway, than we would be out in the woods on the cars.’

                “So we pumped up tubs of water and got quilts out of the house and soaked them with water to put them on the roof, for we thought that we would keep the house from catching fire from the sparks.  But, at last, father saw that it was of no use.  The wind blew so hard we could scarcely hold on to the things that we carried out of the house.  The air was full of hot sparks and ashes and burning shingles.

                “Then we carried bread and butter in cans out into the field, and buried them, for we knew if we escaped we should have something to eat.

                “It was about half past 6 when it got so hot that father saw there was no use trying to save the house with the wet quilts, so he wrapped them around the children and took us over to the field.  The last thing, my brother Adolph went to the barn and drove out the cows and horses.  Father stayed around the house, trying to keep it from catching fire.  But, at last, it began to burn, and then we saw father start to come to us.  He got part way across and fell.  He had worked so hard, and the smoke was so thick, that it got the best of him.

 Temporary Shelter 

                “Sister Mamie and I ran to him and dragged him to the place in the lot where we had our things.  We put water on him and in a little while he was alright again. Then father and Adolph got back to the barn and dragged out a load of lumber that we had stored for our new house.  With the lumber and a hay rake, they fixed up a kind of shed where we spent the night.

                “The next morning, the men took the lumber and built the first house that was rebuilt in Metz.  Before night, we had 15 people staying there, though it is not as big as a good-sized room.

                The two Hardies children, Theresa and Louise, were in the ill-fated gondola car with their mother when the car left the track and the awful holacaust began.  They escaped by clinging to the coat of a man who was jumping from the car.  Stunned by the fall, little Louise was lying on the ground, while Theresa, a year older, groped her way to a clearing where she was afterwards found by her cousin.

                Stumbling along in the blinding smoke and heat beside the train, Edward Hardies felt something that yielded beneath his foot.  He stooped and snatched up the body of little Louise and succeeded in getting her also to a place of safety.  His return was cut off, and his wife and other children perished.        


The Alpena News, October 22, 2908





                Martin Lapczinsky, his wife and two children, missing since Thursday, and though to be either burned to death or drowned n Grand Lake, were located today at the cottage of Bliss Stebbins on the lake shore, where they have been for several days.

                “Six of us were in a lumber camp near the lake Thursday night,” said Mr. Stebbins today.  “We did not think the fire was serious and turned in at the usual hour.  About 11 o’clock we were awakened by Lapczinsky, who rushed into our camp and gave the alarm.  We just had time to get to the lake when the flames burst through the forest.  We pushed our boat out and waded a long distance along the shore to a part of the forest where the fire had not yet come.  There we rested awhile, until the flames approached, then launched our boat again and pulled for Grand Island.  There was a tremendous wind, and it was all we could do to keep afloat with ten in the boat.

                “In the morning we tried to reach the mainland, but the fire was still burning.  Finally, we succeeded in reached the clubhouse and cottages, where we have stayed ever since.  We did not know that people were searching for Lapczinsky.”

                Mr. Stebbins reported that the camps of the Emery Martin Lumber Co., near Presque Isle, were destroyed, as was also the camp of Joseph Ritlitz, in the same vicinity. 

                “There were no fatalities in this region,” he added.  “We have slept only one night in the past five, however, and have been constantly on guard.  There is no fire near here now.”