The Metz Fire started in the late morning of October 15, 1908, somewhere
west of Millersburg, Michigan. Driven along by gale force winds, by that
night the fire had burned all the way to the Lake Huron shoreline.
Along the way, Millersburg, Hawks, Belknap, Hagensville, Posen,
Long Rapids, Alpena, and Rogers City had all been threatened. The
village of South Rogers, Bolton, Cathro, and Metz had literally been
At Metz, sixteen people had died horrible, fiery deaths when a D&M
relief train sent to evacuate them was derailed in a blazing inferno at
Twenty-one other hapless souls had been claimed by the smoke and flames
in Presque Isle and northern Alpena counties.
In the Metz area, 84 of 110 families were homeless.
In northern Alpena County, 50 houses, 75 barns, and 6 schools were
In many areas, fires continued to smolder and burn until the first snows
of the winter finally extinguished them.
Nothing better captures the horrors of the Metz Fire than the words of
Pastor Ernest Thieme of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church:
“Sunday, I buried, at one funeral service, ten
of the members of our church who died in the fire. It was a strange
worship service, which I conducted with a loudly sobbing congregation
alongside a church in ashes, conducted over open graves. I never
experienced such despair in my whole life. At first, I could not even
begin. I leaned against a lonely standing fence post and wept, perhaps
the first time since I was a child.”