News: Loyal – Fire Destroyed First 3 Story Building (50 years ago – 1931)
Surnames: Allen, Kehrberg, Meyer, Christensen, Beaver, Clemetson, Theisen, Shober, McGonigal, Wepfer
----Source: The Loyal Tribune (Loyal, Clark Co., WI.) approx. March 31, 1961 (originally published in Leader-Telegram)
50 Years Ago Fire Destroyed First 3-Story Building at Loyal
By Florence Garbush, Leader-Telegram correspondent
LOYAL- Fifty years ago the month of March was ending when a howling snowstorm hit Wisconsin.
In the dead of that snowy night the fire siren sounded and the little village of Loyal was in the midst of confusion. Its largest building, the three-story Allen Block was on fire. That was in the early hours of March 28, 1931.
The Allen Block, Loyal’s last three-story building, was built by the enterprising G.W. Allen. He bought the land in 1880 and built a hotel in preparation for expected business from construction of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. But the railroad stopped six miles short of Loyal and in 1915 the structure was sold to Herman F. Kehrberg who started a merchandising store.
In 1931 – the year of the fire – the first floor of the building contained the local newspaper office, a drugstore and the Kehrberg Store. In the basement was a bowling alley owned by Bill Meyer.
The back part of the building was on a slightly different level than the front part. The Frank Christensen family with three children had moved into the front apartment only a few days before the fire. Mr. and Mrs. Matt Beaver lived in the rear apartment. Other families occupied other parts of the building.
Night of the fire
On the night of the fire there had been a rowdy party at the Matt Beaver apartment. Village Marshall Ralph Clemetson was walking to the depot at 2:45 a.m. when he saw flames at the entry to the Allen Block building and sounded the fire alarm.
It is believed that Bobby Christensen, 10, and his sister, Marie, 3, plunged into the burning stairway. Their mother, 34, and their sister, Jane, 4, had been caught in the flames but escaped to a window where Fire Chief Leo Theisen had set up a ladder to rescue them. Mrs. Christensen and Jane died in St. Joseph’s Hospital at Marshfield.
Matt Beaver was rescued from a window at the back of the building.
Beaver’s wife, Mary Beaver, 23 , and Marjorie Shober, who had been spending the night with the Beavers, presumable were victims of the fire but no remains were found.
Later, a bone was found and taken to Dr. McGonigal’s office, but no other remains were found.
The search for remains continued for some time and made the headlines in the neighboring daily paper. “They sifted through every bit of the ashes for days,’ recalls William Theisen, 95, of Fall Creek.
Scandal about the party spread through the community as guests and prominent persons were questioned.
After the fire, the Wepfer Drug Store moved down the street. The newspaper office also moved to another location. Only the Kehrberg Store was rebuilt, this time as a two-story building, with two apartments on the second floor. The store is now owned by Herman Kehrberg’s grandson, Wilbur Kehrberg.
Picture transcription: Loyal old-timers still can remember the fire that destroyed their last three-story building, Allan Block, 50 years ago. The building, above, was built by G.W. Allen. He bought the land in 1880 and built a hotel in preparation for the expected construction the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad to Loyal. Below is a scene of the building’s remains after the March 28, 1931, fire killed four persons. The Kehrberg Store now stands where the Allen Block was located.
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