First, some background.
The idea for the Our Home Town series came to me one night while dropping #3 of 5 off at a friend’s house. On my way home, I happened to be driving past our local Fire Department. The image of the Fire Hall in the dark with it’s exterior lighting just sort of struck me. I did a quick u-turn, got out and snapped some pictures. Not only did I get some pictures of the building, I snapped some photos of another unique aspect of the Jordan Fire Department. (Stay tuned)
Once back in my car and heading home, I asked myself why I took those pictures. Although I am a Fire Dispatcher, I am not a dispatcher for - or member of the Jordan Fire Department.
I thought about posting them on Facebook as some “cool photos”… But that was not quite a fit either.
Then, I started thinking about if or how I could use them here on FOF. How would I “frame” a blogpost to use the photos? What would the context of such a post be? Being a 9-1-1, Police, and Fire Dispatcher it would not be too hard to come up with a “public safety theme” – maybe something emphasizing both the Jordan Fire Department, and the Jordan Police Department.
Yup! That was it!!
As I drove home, the creative juices began flowing. I started thinking about what I could write about and some of the other photos I could use to highlight our local Police and Fire Departments. Should I do one post for both the police and fire departments? No. I decided that two posts – one for the police department and one for the fire department would be the way to go.
As I developed the idea, the possibilities beyond Jordan’s “public safety” elements crept into my mind. Soon, a flood of ideas began filling my mind, it was not long before the floodgates burst open – and the series “Our Home Town” spilled out!
The Jordan Fire Department provides both Fire and Rescue services for the City of Jordan and the surrounding townships of Belle Plaine, St. Lawrence, Helena and Sand Creek. They also provide mutual aid to other surrounding cities and townships as needed.
The Jordan Fire and and Rescue Department consists of one fire station located at 501 Varner St. N. The fire station houses two engines, one ladder, one rescue truck, two brush trucks, one ATV, and a rescue boat.
This equipment is operated by a staff of (up to) 35 volunteer fire fighters led by Chief Steve Kochlin. Together they respond to approximately 125 calls annually, and are dispatched by the Scott County 9-1-1 Emergency Communication Center.
(Photo above used with permission from the Jordan Independent)
One of the most intriguing things about the Jordan Fire Hall (for me) is a small garage with a large glass viewing window located just off the main fire hall. (Bottom right in the photo below)
Inside the garage is Jordan Fire Department’s historic horse drawn steam pumper. Inside the display garage displayed in front the steam pumper is a placard that shares a little bit of history. According to the placard, this steam pumper first arrived in Jordan in the 1880’s and was used in the fire service until it was retired in 1925. The highlight of its career came during the September 1906 fire at C.H. Casey’s Hardware Store. When I look at the steam pumper, I get taken back to days of old. Days before automobiles, telephones, and electricity. It’s a “happy place” for me!
While doing researching for this post, I found very little information available about the our fire department on-line. (Heck, even the City of Jordan’s webpage does not have an official page for the Fire Department.) What I was seeking was some historical information about the Jordan Fire Department, the C.H. Casey hardware store fire, or the historic steam pumper.
With a lack of information available on line, and limited amounts of information on the placard inside the Steam Pumper’s garage, I turned to my next source for information on Jordan’s history – the two volume set of books titled “Jordan, Minnesota – A Newspaper Looks at a Town”.
These books contain highlighted news articles from our local newspaper (The Jordan Independent). Volume One contains newspaper articles from 1853-1900. Volume Two contains newspaper articles from 1900-1930. These books document some AMAZING history – including the first automobile that came to town, when electricity first arrived in Jordan, and the town’s first telephone line!
They were originally released in 1976 for the nation’s bicentennial. I would see one floating around the city in various lobbies, waiting rooms, and at the library from time to time but it was difficult to find one for sale anywhere. Then on the city’s sesquicentennial (150 year) anniversary, the books were re-printed and made available for public purchase again. I JUMPED at the chance, and am now a proud owner of the set!!
Using the “Jordan, Minnesota – A Newspaper Looks at a Town” books as my source, I began my search. I was not disappointed in what I found. I located many articles documenting the history of the fire department – and even better, I found a number of interesting articles specifically about the C.H. Casey Hardware Store Fire – and even one that mentions the steam pumper!
Here, you see one of the earliest photos (dated November 1887) of the Jordan Fire Department.
An interesting article accompanied the photo above. The article stated that due to minimal budgets, the Fire Department could not afford their own teams of horses, and to solve this problem the “town dads” are offering a cash premium to the first, second, and third man who arrived at the fire hall with a team of horses to pull their equipment to the fire scene. All residents were welcome to participate (you did not have to be a member of the fire department). The first to arrive would receive a $5.00 premium, the second would receive a $3.00 premium, and the third would receive a $2.00 premium – along with the opportunity of having a front row seat to the excitement of watching the fire fighters work on extinguishing the fire!
I went in search of the articles for 1906, and before long I located what I was looking for! Below (for your reading enjoyment) are copies of the articles and a few photos I was able to locate written about the C.H. Casey hardware store fire.
Note: I love the “historical dialect” and cadence the author(s) of these articles used back in the day! It’s so much fun to read! I would truly enjoy going back in time and visiting Jordan in 1906!
(All articles have been used with the permission of (and my thanks to) the Jordan Independent)
Fire Destroys Casey Hardware
Published September 27, 1906
The proprietor had his face badly burned by the force of the explosion, but retained presence of mind enough to rush for a hand grenade and cast it into the flames.
Chas Groh, the metal worker, at once ran to give the alarm. As soon as the firemen could get a stream of water in play, it was thrown into the cellar, but to no avail.
So quickly did the smoke and gasses from the burning oil in the cellar fill the store that C.H.Casey had barley the time to lock the safe and get out the ledger that lay on the high desk, as well as some valuable papers laying in the drawer of that desk.
He was unable to get the money out of the cash register in the center of the store, as well as some $50 of lodge money that was in his desk. He wanted to dash in for this salvage, but a few restrained him, knowing it would be madness to venture into that infernal pit of poison smoke.
The fire was of the fiercest and most unconquerable that ever raged in Jordan. The hardware store was a total loss. The second Casey building, a frame structure, known as the old Erkens building, was also destroyed.
The fire siren wailed the alarm about 4pm yesterday. By 6pm, the whole building was a mass of ruins. The explosion occurred in the cellar, among a lot of oil barrels, and at once filled the building with poisonous gaseous smoke, black as midnight.
Living Quarters Above Store
Mr. & Mrs. Casey had their living apartments above the store, and did not save even a handkerchief. Not even their most prized personal belongings were gotten out.
An elevator shaft reached from cellar to second floor. Through this the smoke and gasses rolled, filling the upper rooms. Mrs. Graham and son Frank, adjoining the store on the east, and their house burned. The saved some household goods.
The Schaefer store and apartments on the west had heave loss from smoke and water. Mrs. Mertens and daughter Mary, who lived in the upper rooms of the second Casey building, lost some household goods. H. A. Engler, across the street from the Casey's, suffered the loss of his fine plate glass front from the intense heat.
There was some wind, and several shingle roofs caught fire in the next block. But anxious watchers put out all such fires. At one time it looked as though every building in the he block west of the Casey store would go.
Other Towns Send Assistance
Chaska, Belle Plaine and New Prague were asked to send help.
New Prague and Belle Plaine came with their equipment, and Chaska was just about to start when the flames were brought under control. The M & St. L and Omaha railroads transported their equipment on special trains, free.
Losses were well covered by insurance, excepting C.H. Casey, who, after receiving all his insurance, will be financial loser by several thousand dollars.
Chas. Groh, John Schaefer and Werner Nolden deserve great praise for getting away 25 lbs of dynamite and 100 lbs of powder, in an outside magazine. Most of the material in the metal shop was saved.
C.H.’s Shaving Mug Salvaged from Fire
Published October 4, 1906
Al Ricklick and crew have the debris cleaned up in the cellar of the late C.H. Casey store.
Some articles were rescued from the piles of brick and twisted iron, most of which will have to go to the junk dealer.
There are a few steel ranges that would make good camp or summer kitchen stoves.
Freaks of the fire have not been wanting. Down in the debris, workers found a couple of frail china dishes that came through almost unscathed, after falling 12 feet and lodging under hundreds of pounds of heavy brick and iron, and being through all the heat.
C.H.’s shaving mug, that had reposed in a dresser drawer upstairs, was found almost uninjured.
One sad feature of the conflagration was the death of C.H.’s hunting dog Tony. The faithful animal was somewhere in the store building when the explosion happened, and was never seen again.
Sewing Bee for Fire Victims
Published October 4, 1906
A neighborly social function occurred last Saturday afternoon.
Mrs. C.H. Casey’s clothing have been destroyed in the fire, a large company of ladies gathered at the home of Mrs. John E. Casey and surprised her at a sewing and quilting bee.
The entire house was filled with busy seamstresses all afternoon, five sewing machines constantly whirring and the swift needles and nimble fingers accomplishing a great deal.
Those present were Mmes. Burns, Casswell, Champlivear, Engler, Groh, Habegger, Hartman, Juergens, Kehrer, Lonard, McMullen, Morgan, Margaret, Mertens, Nolden, Nicolin, Orr, Phillips, Phetteplace, Ricklick, Ruppert, Celia Straight, Mary SStrait, Shultz, Schaefer, Louise Schmitt, Edna Schmitt, Sly, Kate Wolf, Lizzie Wolf, and Mattie Wood and Misses Baihly, Ley, Mertens, Schmitt and Schaefer.
A lunch of salads, coffee, cake, etc. was served at 5 o’clock.
To Our Neighbors
Letter to the Jordan Independent
Published October 4, 1906
We desire to express our thanks to our neighbors who so kindly rendered assistance during the fire yesterday. We thank the Jordan firemen, and those from belle Plaine and New Prague.
Mr. & Mrs. C.H. Casey
(Photo of Mr. C.H. Casey)
Published unknown date October, 1906
It was not until Tuesday that the last smoldering embers of the fire in C.H. Casey’s hardware building were quenched.
The fire engine remained on duty all of last Wednesday night, throwing water almost continuously. But burning embers in masses of brick from the fallen walls continued to smoke until Tuesday.
The destruction of the fire was terribly complete. Most of the brick from the walls lies in the big basement, which ran the entire length of the structure.
The frame building to the west, formerly Erkens clothing store, later used as Casey’s metal worker’s shop, was likewise destroyed.
It looked at one time as though no power on earth could save Frank Pekarna’s meat market and Tony Waclavek’s shoe shop. But the fire was curbed before it reached them.
Handsomest Business Building
The Casey store was by unanimous verdict Jordan’s handsomest business building. In fact, it was known far and wide as the very best country hardware store in southern Minnesota.
A stock commensurate to the building was carried at all times. There was nothing in the hardware line you couldn’t find at Casey’s.
The building was built in 1901 and occupied for five years. It fronted on both Water St. and 1st St. Facing each street was a beautiful plate glass front, 33 feet wide. It was two stories high, with lofty ceilings. The interior was finely finished and appointed. All the counters, cabinets, etc were solid quarter sawed oak.
Lost Store but Found Neighbors
Mr. & Mrs. Casey have lost their home and store, but they have found their good neighbors. Every expression of sympathy and assistance has been theirs.
C.H.’s face has been swathed in bandages. His eyebrows and eyelashes were burned away by the explosion, and a considerable portion of the skin on his face was burned off also.
In a sense, however, he was luck, as the surgeon finding there will be no permanent traces of the face injuries.
It is the irony of fate that Casey has always taken extra precautions in the matter of explosives and inflammables. All his powder, dynamite, gasoline, and kerosene were kept outside. Only machine oils, greases, linseed oil and roof paints were stored in the cellar, well guarded.
A roof paint, guaranteed fireproof, was the cause of the explosion.
C.H. and the metal worker, Chas Groh were getting some out of a barrel. The former lighted a match to see if it was all taken out, and the exposition occurred.
The insurance policies aggregate $16,300. It is but a question of the time until the insurance will be paid. But the proprietor is still a heavy loser.
He intends to resume business here soon. It would be impossible to rebuild this fall, so he will open up at once in the old Mammoth Store.
As I flipped through the historical books, it became obvious that the Jordan Fire Department has had and will continue to develop a deep and lasting history. I could have spend hours delving into it, documenting countless historical events that help shape the Jordan Fire Department into what it is today - but in the end, I need to remember that I am not compiling a full and comprehensive history of the Fire Department. I am only trying to highlight some of the unique, interesting and wonderful things about life here in “Our Home Town” – Jordan, Minnesota! The Jordan Fire Department is one of those things!
Before I finish this post, allow me to bring you back – more than a century later – to June 2009. Here are a few photos of a the Jordan Fire Department “in action” during a more recent fire in our town! You can read more about this fire (and see even more photos) HERE!
I also want to give many thanks to the Jordan Independent and it’s Editor Mathias Baden for permission to share some of the rich history you have seen here!