Historical Details

Fire: Masonic Temple and Odd Fellows Destroyed by Fire

Courtesy of The Lusk Standard, 11/28/1919


The Lusk Standard, November 28, 1919

Starting from a defective furnace in the basement of the Lusk Furniture store in the Masonic Temple building at an early hour Wednesday morning, fire completely destroyed that building and the Strand Theatre, which adjoined it on the south. Nearly all the contents, representing thousands of dollars, were also wiped out in the flames. The south wall of the First National  Bank building, just north of the Masonic Temple was badly burned and will have to be replaced.

First knowledge of the fire was had about 7 o’clock when it was discovered about the furnace and was apparently extinguished by the use of a few buckets of water. Nearly an hour later one of the men in the office of County Surveyor Dick Gray, having occasion to go to the basement, discovered fire in the back wall. He turned in an alarm and the firemen made quick response. Two puny streams of water were first played into the basement of the Masonic building which by this time had filled with smoke. No flame was apparent until about an hour later. The water pressure was entirely inadequate to stop the ravages of the fire which, after gutting the basement of a big stock of furniture, coffins and paint, burst onto the upper floors and from then on it raged fiercely.

Before the fire had mounted to the upper story some of the records in the county clerk’s office had been removed but the records in the offices of the sheriff, the county school superintendent, the county agent and the district court were eaten by the flames. W.J. Westfall, architect, saved nothing from his office and the records of the county surveyor were destroyed though the instruments were gotten out in time. J.G. Hartwell, state’s attorney, saved a few law books but records and furnishings to the value of $6,000, which were in his office, went up in the flames. Mrs. Frances Burner Russell lost her office equipment and a few records. The office of W.C. Carson, attorney, was completely destroyed. Dr. L.M. Morris saved not even a prescription blank from his office. A valuable X-ray machine was among the office equipment and his books, carrying about $6300 in accounts, are now ashes. He carries but $500 insurance and a shipment of more equipment now on the way here was saved only because it was late in arriving. Otto Koeberlin, tailor, who had a room in the building lost everything there, including some clothing which had just been made for a customer. Also, a pair of shoes, valued at $50, which had been manufactured especially for Mr. Koeberlin, were consumed.

The tenants of the First National Bank building on the upper floors removed all of their stuff immediately after the alarm was given and no loss was sustained there. The lower floor was occupied by the bank on the north side and the Rogers Drug Store on the south side. Beyond a slight damage to the walls and stock by water which seeped through, no loss was sustained there. This brand-new building, erected at a cost of $65,000. Insurance adjusters are expected here this week.

While the fire was at its highest point in the masonic building, aided by a strong north wind, it reached across the ten feet of space intervening between the building and the Strand Theatre and attacked the roof of the latter building. This being a frame building, very aged and dry, it burned rapidly. The equipment of the Odd Fellows lodge room on the top floor was carried to safely before the fire reached that point but the moving picture equipment, consisting of two machines and other paraphernalia and valued at $1,000 was burned.  

Three attempts were made to dynamite the building to prevent the fire’s spreading to the Austin-Elquest-Slack building just east of this but not effect was apparent—the building continued to stand until the fire undermined it. The Austin-Elquest-Slack building suffered no damage, men being on the roof continually with water.

Sparks were carried in a northwesterly direction during the morning and the roofs of the Lusk Motor Co., and the Bergman buildings were at one time slight. A quick use of water saved these.

Several large window panes on the opposite side of the street were cracked by the fierce heat that extended there from the burning building. Snyder’s store was the heaviest loser, nine of their windows being broken by the heat. They are fully insured. The windows of the Niobrara Grange and the Hassed-Howe’s Drug Store, as well as one of the panes int the front of the Rogers Drug store were broken by the heat. The bakery was unharmed by the fire but, as a precaution, the street was filled with cases of bread and pies, and the Wyoming State Bank kept their windows covered with tar paper and a plentiful sprinkling of water. The clock in the front of the bank was also protected. Great fear existed in regard to a probable explosion of the gasoline tank just opposite the Temple building and owned y the Niobrara garage. This was protected by cloths and much water.

At no time was the fire under control. It ate its own way regardless of the valiant performance of the fire boys and volunteers who were kept fortified for the fight by the thoughtfulness of the Snyder store which supplied hot coffee to the workers. At twelve o’clock it had burned away two buildings and no further danger was in evidence. It will possibly continue to burn for a few more days, but there is no likelihood that further damage will result.

During the progress of the fire, Arch Crary, Ted Waugh, and a young man employed at the freight office acted as a rescue crew going into the smoking rooms and tumbling out such things as their groping hands came in contact with. These were piled out the windows into waiting canvas below. Ed Gadske was overcome by the smoke while in one of the upper rooms but soon revived without serious consequences.

The complete abstract records of the Niobrara Abstract Co., which were in the basement of the Masonic Temple building were burned. This represents a distinct loss running into the thousands of dollars but much is covered by insurance.

Hal Faust suffered a broken right arm, the result of a fall. He was descending a scaling ladder which had been propped against the First National Bank building. When about halfway down, the ladder slipped on the ice-covered pavement and fell, carrying Mr. Faust to the ground. He was helped into the offices of Harkins, Fagan & O’Brien and given medical attention.

C.O. Woertz of the Niobrara Abstract Co., rented the entire basement of the First National Bank building and this will be occupied by his company and the county officials until such time as the new court house is ready.

The huge vault containing the county records is still standing and it is thought that much of the contents be saved.

Judge O. E. A. Blenkarn, who had an office in the Masonic building, lost all of his equipment and some of his records.

The Masonic Temple building was erected in 1911 at an approximate dost of $40,00 but was valued at a much higher figure owning to the added cost of materials and labor in the construction of such a building. According to Ralph Olinger, very little insurance was carried on the building. The Odd Fellows Building, the lower floor which was formerly occupied by the Strand theatre, was valued at more than $25,000, that offer for the building and corner lot having been refused a short time ago.



The Lusk Herald, November 28, 1919


Defective Flue Responsible for the Destruction of Beautiful Masonic Building and Odd Fellows Hall—Other Buildings Are Threatened


Flames Sweep Structures in Spite of Untiring Efforts of Fire Department and Citizens ----Early Estimate Places Loss at $300,000—Odd Fellows Building Dynamited to Avoid Spread of Flames—Hal Faust Injured

At about eight o’clock Wednesday morning fire was discovered in the basement of the Masonic Temple and in thirty minutes flames had spread to nearly all parts of the building.

Judge Blenkarn Gives Alarm

Judge Blenkarn had gone into the basement to look after the furnace and discovered the flames near the chimney. He summoned assistance and it was believed for a time that the fire was extinguished but later developments showed that the flames had traveled between the basement ceiling and the first floor and gained a start in the basement of the Lusk Furniture and Undertaking Company store.

Fire Department Handicapped

Sam Langford and his assistants were on the scene as quickly as could be expected and had two streams directed into the building in short order but the fire had gained such headway that it was impossible to get into the basement or even the first floor rooms and their efforts were of little avail.

Takes Building Slowly

It was not until 9:30 that the flames gained sufficient headway to break out through the first-floor windows and it was after 10:00 o’clock before the floors and sections of the roof and front walls began crashing downward. 

Odd Fellow Building Catches

The Odd Fellows building was given up even before the roof of the building caught and there was talk of using dynamite as it was the opinion of some people that by razing the structure the flames might be prevented from spreading further. The upper portion of the old building was blazing before the plan could be carried out and while some blasting was done later on the old landmark was reduced to a pile of ruins in less than an hour after the first flames were seen on the roof.

Some Lodge Property Saved

Some of the property of the various lodges that have been using the Odd Fellows Hall was carried out but it was impossible to remove much of the furniture.

Very Little Excitement

There was very little excitement. The limited apparatus and water supply made it impossible for the firemen to make any headway against the flames but they put forth every effort possible and deserve much credit for their hard work against great odds.

Snyder’s Windows Damaged

The intense heat broke several of the big plate glass windows in the front of H.C. Snyder & Co.’s new store. Messrs. Agnew and Olinger were working with the fire fighters and had most of their clerks out with them so it was not until after one or two of the big windows had crashed to the walk that the work of protecting their own property was started. Some of the glass was saved by suspending canvas from the top of the building downward.

A. E. S. Building Saved

The Austin-Elquest-Slack building, just across the alley from the two destroyed buildings, was saved from any serious damage only by the hardest kind of work. Their alley windows were covered by sheets of metal and a crew of men were stationed on the roof with pails of water until all danger was over.

First National’s Building Escapes

The First National Bank building escaped with comparatively slight damage. The building was filled with smoke for a time and practically all the tenants on the second floor moved their effects into the street or adjoining buildings.


Jud Lorenzen was as usual talking very little but “on the job” with his hydrant wrenched at all times.

Scottie Jack saved some of his possessions and rejoiced that his much cherished drums were not in the building.

“Happy” Hartwell saved a few books and a chair or two but the bulk of his fine library of law books was destroyed. “Hap” says he is “glad he is alive.”

No one is especially responsible for the lack of water. The city has simply outgrown its water supply and the work of replacing the old equipment with new is being accomplished as fast as it is humanly possible.


Hal Faust sustained painful injuries during the fire Wednesday morning. He had just reached the top of a ladder placed against the First National Bank building when the firemen started to move a line of hose that was strung along the sidewalk between the foot of the ladder and the building. The hose caused the foot of the ladder to skid and Hal fell heavily to the cement walk twenty feet below. He was carried into the office of Attorneys Harkin, Fagan & O’Brien and a physician was summoned. Hal assured a representative of The Herald that he “was not hurt” but late reports are that one of the small bones in his left arm was broken and two ribs “caved in.”



The Lusk Herald, November 28, 1919

Numerous Firms and Individuals Lose All When Lodge Bldgs. Burn

COUNTY LOSES OFFICE EQUIPMENT, Records May Be Safe But Vaults Not Yet Opened—Some Insurance

It will be a matter of some days before a complete list of the losses in Wednesday morning’s fire can be completed but it is certain that next to the Masonic Lodge, whose loss is easily $60,000 with about $10,000 insurance, The Lusk Furniture and Undertaking Company are the heaviest losers.  The firm has been in business but a few months and increased their stock in every department to meet the growing demands of a steadily growing business.  Both Bob Rymill and William Stigile were away on a hunting trip when the fire occurred so no definite statement is to be had but that their loss will run close to $25,000 less whatever insurance they may carry is considered something near right by persons conversant with the affairs of the company.

Niobrara Abstract Co.

The Niobrara Abstract Company loss will be heavy indeed for besides a lot of expensive equipment and office machines their records, representing months of labor and thousands of dollars expenditure are totally destroyed.

Hartwell Saves Some Property

Attorney J.G. Hartwell devoted his services to fighting fire for some while but finally decided that the building was doomed and after some of his friends had secured a ladder, turned his attention to saving what he could of his office fixtures and library. Undoubtedly most of his books were destroyed but a few of them were saved as well as some of the lighter pieces of furniture that could be gotten through the window.

Dr. Morris’ Loss Heavy

Dr. Morris sustained a heavy loss as none of his expensive office equipment was saved. Besides a fine cabinet of instruments, office furniture and medical library, he had a number of electric machines. One of the latter that was lately added cost more than $1500.00. The good doctor was seemingly forgetting all about his personal losses and giving all his attention to aiding the fire fighters.

Attorney Carson’s Loss

Attorney W.C. Carson’s office equipment was a total loss. He had but recently established himself in the city and as he was but lately out of the service most of his effects were new.

Masonic Equipment Total Loss

The lodge hall of the local Masonic body was conceded to be as fine as any in the state and there was nothing saved. Besides the elegant furnishing and lodge equipment of Harmony Lodge No. 24 and the Eastern Star Order a fine motion picture and stereopticon equipment and the jointly owned kitchen and banquet hall equipment was destroyed.

Building Worth $50,000

Back in 1911 when the corner stone of the Masonic Temple was laid the unfurnished building represented an investment of about $30,000. Just what valuation might be placed on the property today would be difficult to arrive at. That the total loss on Tuesday morning’s fire will total well above $300,000.00 seems at this time  a most conservative estimate.    



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