Le Mars Sentinel, March 2, 1876
We are now enabled to lay the particulars of the fire, by which a mother
and three children were burned to death last week, before the public.
Wednesday near midnight fire broke out in the west end of A. B. Griffin’s
West End Hotel about half a mile south west of the Central Depot. It was
occupied by Griffin and his family, Niermeyer and his family, Mr. and Mrs.
White, a quite old couple, eighteen persons in all. James Andrews and
George Pugh were the first on the grounds. The flames had lapped over the
west end of the building when they reached it, and no one was astir. Simon
Niermeyer, his wife, five children, and his blind brother Jacob, occupied
one apartment up stairs in the west end. Simon woke up though he can not
tell what awakened him. He found the room full of smoke and almost
unconscious of what he did, raced down stairs to see what was the matter.
When he opened the outer door he saw the peril his family was in, and
attempted to go back to their rescue, but before he could reach the
stairway, it fell with a crash, his brother and two of the children coming
down with it. He seized the brother and children who were lying prostrate
among the burning debris and conducted them from the building. His means of
reaching the bedroom of the wife and children were cut off, and they fell
victims to the flames. Whether they were conscious of their pending doom in
not known—if they screamed for help their appeals were unheard and in a few
minutes they were beyond reach of [unreadable]. After the fire the bodies
of the mother and children were found burned [unreadable]. The deceased
were as follows: Emma Elizabeth Niermeyer nee Mitchel, aged [unreadable]
years, Nora, aged 4 years, John Henry 2 years, and Franklin 6 months.
The charred remains were placed in a coffin, and followed to the cemetery
by a large concourse of sympathizing friends that afternoon. Last Sunday
[unreadable] services were held in the M. E. Church, and the funeral sermon
preached by the Rev. R. O. Glass.
The fire, aside from the appalling tragedy that accompanied it, was very
disastrous, as the occupants of the burnt building lost everything they had
in the world. Doc. Griffin, the owner of the building lost $1200 at least
and had no insurance.
A subscription was at once started and $250 cash besides a large amount of
clothing etc., were collected for the sufferers. Everything was done that
our people could do to alleviate the distress of the victims.
A dark pall hangs over the town and a fervent prayer on every lip that it
may henceforth be spared a similar calamity.
Not the slightest clue to the origin of the fire can be had. Early in the
evening Mr. Niermeyer took out a pan of ashes, but thinking of possible
danger, he carried it a considerable distance from the house. A suspicious
looking character was seen next morning—he was a tramp, the back of his coat
was scorched, but nothing more than a dim suspicion could be fastened on
him. We can hardly believe it possible that it was the work an incendiary.