The Metz Fire Tragedies in Presque Isle County, 1908
A few years ago, I did an article on the Metz Fire, but I was able to dig up some extra photos and show them to you here. Here's a re-cap:
It is believed that the 1908 Metz Fire of 1908 started near Millersburg, about 15 miles west of Metz on the morning of October 15, 1908.
As with the “Great Michigan Fires” of 1871 and 1881, the flames were pushed further east by strong winds. Many areas and some communities were ruined, the worst being the town of Metz. According to the Metz Fire webpage, as the town burned, the Detroit & Mackinac Railroad sent a train to Metz in order to get residents away from the fire. It was mostly children and their mothers who boarded the train, some getting into an open-air gondola.
As related at Metzfire.com, unbeknownst to everyone, the piles of wood along both sides of the tracks were on fire with the heat so intense, it melted the railroad ties. As the train crept along the tracks it hit the warped ties and derailed. Some were able to escape, but twelve people in the gondola – nine of them children – died in the fire.
News of the Metz residents' plight spread through the newspapers with pleas for assistance, including building equipment, food, clothes, household goods, stoves, tools, feed for horses and cattle, and in some cases, even refuge.
Even though the fire ravaged and wasted miles and miles of land, it would forever be known as “The Metz Fire” because of the tragic rail incident. The fires raged through Presque Isle County, finally burning out on the banks of Lake Huron. Somewhat feeling a sense of responsibility, the Detroit & Mackinac Railroad transported supplies to the remaining folks of Metz and began constructing makeshift shacks to get them through the upcoming winter.
What started the fire? Nobody ever figured it out. According to Metzfire.com, “It could have started with a lightning strike, spontaneous combustion in a sawdust pile, a spark from the steam engine of a passing train, a plug of smoldering tobacco from a careless lumberjack’s pipe, or a brush fire set by a farmer to clear land”. Speculation is fine, but after over 100 years, the cause will probably never be revealed.
The gallery below shows some of the devastation in Metz and areas affected by the fire.
METZ FIRE AND AFTERMATH