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Denton Community
Historical Society


Denton Disasters

Denton 1909
Thursday, October 7, 1909, a fire started in Denton at 10:00 AM. The fire destroyed about $50,000 worth of property. The fire started from sparks from a passing locomotive. The engine pulling the Wymore train threw out sparks. The fire started the H. O. Barber & Son Elevator ablaze. At first the blaze was considered insignificant, but soon the flames were so high that no water could reach the fire. Within a short time the building was entirely in flames. The fire then quickly spread to the H. S. Austin Elevator, which was located near the Barber Elevator. That elevator was also completely destroyed.

The fire spread quickly to a crib belonging to the Barber company which stood near the elevator. The Barber Elevator and crib contained between 10,000 and 12,000 bushels of grain, mainly wheat and corn, which was destroyed. The residence of Mike Quinn, the village meat dealer, was the next to be completely burned. Two good sized barns were also destroyed by the fire. The horses in the barns were lead to safety in time. George Little owned one of the barns. 

The local fire department fought the fire for three hours before bringing it under control. The fire was not under control until it reached the bank building. The rear of the bank building was badly scorched, but the bank received little damage. 

The loss to the Barber and Sons elevator was about $25,000, the Austin's loss was about $20,000, and Mike Quinnís loss about $4,000. There was about $8,000 worth of minor losses to several people. 


Lincoln Daily Star, October 7, 1909, page 1, column 6. 

Lincoln Daily Evening News, October 7, 1909, page 1, columns 1 & 2.

Denton Business Section Ablaze
About 11:30 PM Monday evening, January 27, 1930, a fire was discovered in Denton. Peter Jackson, who ran the pool hall opposite the grocery store, discovered the fire. Mr. Jackson woke up Earl A. & Flossie Burdick. Other towns people were aroused and before long 200 people were gathered. There were a few hundred residents living in Denton at the time of the fire. The fire appeared to have started in the rear of the hardware store and was not discovered for some time. The fire in the stove of the hardware store had been out for several hours. Spontaneous combustion was a probable cause of the fire. 

Five buildings on the east side of main street in Denton were destroyed. The town runs north and south. A bucket brigade was formed to pour water on the roofs of the buildings to the north of the fire. They were afraid the telephone exchange building on the opposite corner might catch on fire, but fortunately it didnít. 

The Denton State Bank building was located on the north corner of the block. It was owned by William Voss who estimated his loss at from $1,500 to $2,000. The bank was a one-story frame building built in 1906. It was the newest building to be destroyed by the fire. 

Robert Shaw owned two of the buildings destroyed by the fire. The first building was a two-story structure that was occupied by the Earl A. Burdick grocery and meat store on the ground floor. Earl and Flossie Burdick had their sleeping quarters on the second floor. 

The next building owned by Robert Shaw was joined at the rear with the other building by a door that was used by the Burdick's as their living quarters and also for storage. An ice house back of the store was another fire loss. Earl Burdick lost merchandise worth more than $500 and household goods of an undetermined amount. The buildings were worth between $1,000 and $2,000.

The Denton Hardware Company owned two buildings destroyed by fire. One of the buildings was occupied by the hardware department, the second building was occupied by the implement department of the Denton Hardware Company and a blacksmith shop. Merchandise in these two buildings was valued at $5,600. Only $1,800 of the merchandise was saved. The building was valued at $2,500. 

Denton owned a fifty-gallon chemical tank which didnít work the evening of the fire. The men didnít know if the equipment didnít work because the chemicals were frozen or because the equipment wasnít operating properly. Because some of the men thought the liquid was frozen, they placed the tank over the flames, which didnít help. The top of the tank was opened and acid came out. 

The liquid spurted over Jim Shane and ate the front of his overalls. The fire continued to burn. Due to a lack of water and fire fighting equipment that didnít work, there was little that could be done to stop the flames. Earl A. Burdick called the Lincoln Fire Department to ask for help. He was told that it was not possible for Lincoln to send equipment to fight the fire. Fire Chief Hansen stated that the Lincoln Fire Department would have only been able to bring forty gallons of chemical. 

Hansen felt it would be useless to make the trip to Denton. The people of Denton criticized the Lincoln Fire Department for not responding to the fire. Mr. William Voss, who owned the bank, felt the bank could have been saved if the Lincoln Fire Department had come to help. There was little wind that evening. With limited water, the only thing that the people could do was to carry the contents of the building outside in the snow.

Earl A. and Flossie Burdick moved the groceries and other items that they saved to the house back of the store. Very little was saved from the hardware and implement stores. A Ford truck, six gas-engines, a harrow and many other tools in the hardware store were destroyed by fire. 

All of the bank records were saved. Only the brick vault remained standing the morning after the fire. The night of the fire Clifford Clegg picked up the safe and carried it out of the bank by himself. The next day he couldnít lift it. The bank conducted business in a small frame building about 15 feet square, that was formerly a doctorís office. 

The vault was left intact but was not opened because the heat of the fire had set off the burglar alarm system whereby the vault was locked. The newspaper reported that the money was inside the vault. They were able to move the file containing the safe deposit boxes from the bank ruins to a location where business could be conducted. The safety deposit case was about the width and length of a kitchen table and possibly eight feet high. (See Bank Robberies)

The Denton Hardware Company suffered the heaviest loss. Jim Shane was President of the Denton Hardware Company. J. R. C. Miller had been the manager of the hardware store until a few months before the fire. He quit because of failing health. Mr. Shaw took over as manager. J. R. C. Miller, Robert Shaw and Jim Shane were the major stockholders of the hardware company. 

Ruth Rosekrans Hoffman remembers standing with her father, mother and brother (James, Pearl, and James Merlin Rosekrans) at the upstairs bedroom window watching the yellow flames from the fire. Frank and Mary Hocking ran a grocery store in Denton. Evelyn Hocking, Frankís niece, said she never saw so many people in downtown Denton the night of the fire without their teeth. 

Anna Belle Peshek remembers Merle Stoneman being on top of their home the night of the fire. People went to their windmill by their house and pumped water into buckets. The buckets were then hoisted up to Merle so that he could pour the water on the roof. Annabelle said they had a barn near the house. They got the horses out of the barn and lead to safety. People helped move the furniture out of many of the homes. Anna Belle remembers that the fish in the fish bowl froze to death as a result of being put in the snow. 

Loss was about $15,000. After the fire burned half the block of business buildings, the vault and the chimney from the bank were all that was left standing. 


Lincoln Star, Tuesday, January 28, 1930, page 1, column 3-7; page 11, columns 1 & 2. 

Havelock Times Post, Thursday, January 30, 1930, page 5, column 3. 

Annabell Peshek, personal interview, 2 April 2001. 

Ruth Rosekrans Hoffman, personal interview, 13 April 2001.

Denton 1961
St. Maryís Church and Rectory Destroyed by Fire 
Wednesday, May 10, 1961, the Denton St. Maryís Church and rectory was destroyed by fire. The fire was believed to have started about 1:00 PM. There was a strong south wind and the buildings were both leveled within two hours. 

Msgr. L. L. Mandeville was in the kitchen of the rectory when he first noticed the smoke. He found a fire in the southwest corner of the basement near the water heater. 

Within half an hour, Msgr. Mandeville said the fire was out of control and had spread to the church. Msgr. Mandeville was able to save some of the vestments, the Blessed Sacrament, the office desk with the church files in it, and about half of his clothes. 

Fire fighting units from Pleasant Dale, Milford, Crete, Malcolm, and the Lincoln Air Force Base all worked to put out the flames. The wind lifted the flames across both buildings. The trees on the north and the east sides of the church were charred and their leaves shriveled and burned. 

About six people from the parish stood with Msgr. Mandeville and watched the 49 year-old buildings burn. They had just finished redecorating the bathroom--putting new linoleum down. Sunday services were held in the American Legion hall. 

Source: Lincoln Star, Thursday, May 11, 1961, page 1, columns 3-5. 

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