Waverly, IA Canning Factory Goes Up In Flames, Aug 1909

Kelley Canning Factory Blaze Canning Factory Fire Remains Of Factory


Waverly, Aug. 28 -- (Special) -- Waverly is today recovering from the shock of losing one of its chief industries, the KELLEY Canning Co.'s factory. Much sympathy to the owners is expressed over their loss and to the employes now out of work and to the growers of sweet corn, some of whose product may not be marketed.

Jumped in Water Tank.
The fire started between the first and third filler and was caused by a large amount of gas which escaped from one of the cappers. It seems that the gas covered the whole floor where the cappers stood. E. LUESENHOP, who was assisting BERT HURSH in lighting the cappers, was a mass of flames, but with presence of mind he ran into the husking shed and jumped into a tank of water. On getting out he went to assist MR. HURSH, who was by this time also a mass of flames. MR. HURSH lost his wits and started to run out, but MR. LUESENHOP and another gentleman who worked on the cookers grabbed him and threw their coats around him, putting out the fire, which burnt both his arms, breast and neck. At the same time there was a fire alarm turned in and by that time the people on the second and third floors began to escape, but the only way they had of getting out without going through the fire was to jump on the adjoining roof and get off at the west end of the building. In doing this MRS. FRANK DAVIS lost her presence of mind and jumped from the third story to the ground, breaking her legs, and it is thought she is injured quite badly internally. At a late hour last evening it was not expected that she would live.
GEORGE McROBERTS, who was helping the employes to carry out some of the books, was overheated and when seen last was going towards the Illinois Central depot, but before reaching his destination he fell over and hit his head on the railroad steel. People hurried to his assistance, but found him dead.
MISS IRENE LOCKEY and GEORGE MILLER were severely injured.

Cool Amidst Panic.
The Kelley Canning Co. was under the management of CARL KELLEY, who was very cool-headed. He ran down stairs to the boiler room when he found that the fire could not be controlled and told the fireman to pull the fire out from under the boilers and open the escape valves. This was done and it kept the boiler from exploding. It seems that where the fire started the main belt, which carries the whole load, made a good suction and carried the fire very quickly to the second floor.
The loss is felt greatly not only by the working class of people, but by the merchants as well, who took pride in saying that there was located here one of the largest corn canning plants in the United States. The company had about 2,500,000 empty cans stored in the plant, which alone means a loss of over $30,000. They also have about a quarter of a million of this year's pack which is in their warehouse and not injured.
Many thousands of people last night visited the fire-swept district, and it was a pitiful looking sight. The whole loss is about $100,000.
Many of the adjoining towns who have factories have already offered to help put up the remainder of the corn crop. Manager KELLEY visited Cedar Falls and Waterloo last night and made arrangements to take care of much of the unused sweet corn.
Steps will be taken at once to rebuild the factory and from the smouldering, blackened ruins will rise a bigger, better and more modern building.

Second Bad Loss.
This is the second time within the past year that Waverly has felt the devastating touch of an extensive conflagration. The first was the destruction of the city water and lighting plants, which left the city in total darkness for a time. But these plants were quickly replaced, and the undaunted civic spirit which rebuilt them will be manifested on the part of business men to replace the canning factory.

Injured Better Today.
At 2:30 o'clock this afternoon the report from those injured in yesterday's fire was most encouraging, and all will rapidly recover. MRS. DAVIS, who, it was feared, had suffered internal injuries as well as broken bones, is resting comfortably and her recovery is now assured.

Waterloo Semi Weekly Courier Iowa 1909-08-31