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Chasing a Fire

Published on Wed, 06/06/2018 - 01:33pm
house on fire

My dad told me several times about the fire that burned down the farmhouse that he and his mother lived in. Since he is not here to ask, I quizzed my older first cousins to see if they could remember anything about the fire, but they couldn’t pinpoint the date or details.

I decided to go on a quest to find this elusive fire. I discovered that my small hometown published a newspaper for quite a number of years. I figured a fire would be front-page news in a little town like ours. I requested two reels of the Stewartsville News on microfilm via Interlibrary Loan, each containing four years of newspaper encompassing the years 1937-1944. I started looking just after my grandfather’s death in 1937. Published weekly, each issue generally was four pages long. I had no idea it would take so long, and I found nothing as months and years went by in my week-to-week searching.

The newspaper recorded all kinds of entertaining town happenings. My grandmother grew a stock beet (to feed her chickens) that was 20.5 pounds and 34 inches long. The newspaper office displayed it in their office window so people could see it to believe it. I also found that my dad had found a four-leaf clover, and right next to it, a six-leaf clover. The editor commented that he would have super-duper luck. I found a cousin’s marriage account, the obituary for my great-grandmother (who lived in Des Moines), and various birthday parties of my older first cousins that described details such as who brought the cake, who attended, and who helped to put on the party. I found a list of the high school graduates from 1888-1939. At about 1941, I began to see many accounts of the boys in town going off to join the military, including one my dad had mentioned—a WWII fighter pilot who lost his life. 

Finally, THERE IT WAS! Right on the front page in the upper-left column of the December 9, 1943, edition was the account I had labored to find. I figured since the fire occurred in the winter that they would wait until spring to build the new house (where I grew up). In mid-May, the newspaper reported that work had begun on the new house, and that hopefully they could move into it by July 4.

If the Midwest Genealogy Center does not have a newspaper you need, you can request the microfilm through Interlibrary Loan by filling out the form on our website. The Midwest Genealogy Center has connections with many other libraries across the country who will share their materials with us. What good news stories have you found in newspapers?

Twila R.
Midwest Genealogy Center

Comments

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Been trying for number of years to find who has property that and aunt was to leave me when she died. How do I go about getting this information.

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Newspapers add so much depth our research. Love it that we can access so many through MGC. Thanks for a great story!

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