Wichita, KS Masonic Home Fire, Dec 1916
KANSAS MASONIC HOME BURNED.
THE $250,000 STRUCTURE AT WICHITA WAS DESTROYED BY FIRE EARLY THIS MORNING.
FOUR BODIES RECOVERED.
A FIFTH PERSONS STILL IS UNACCOUNTED FOR.
FIRE STARTED IN THE BOILER ROOM, AND FROZEN WATER PIPES MADE ITS CONTROL IMPOSSIBLE -- ESTABLISHED BY GRAND LODGE OF KANSAS IN 1896.
Wichita, Kan., Dec. 22. -- The Kansas Masonic Home here was destroyed by fire early this morning. The property loss is estimated by Board of Trustees to be $250,000. Only five persons, all adults, are unaccounted for. They are MR. and MRS. JESSE BROWN, of Wichita; MR. and MRS. FRANK FARIS, of Atchison, and GERTRUDE WEGGLE, employed in the dining room. The other four persons missing are aged. JOSEPH DECK, who was belileved to have been burned under a bed where he was seen by a fireman, was later found at a nearby residence.
There were ninety-two adults and forty-one children living in the home. The destruction of the records and the fact that the persons rescued were taken to numerous residences in West Wichita makes it difficult to account for the residents at the home.
The home was the property of the Masonic Lodge of Kansas. The chapel valued at $10,000, and the hospital, valued at $9,000, were the only buildings saved. The fire started in the boiler room and had gained great headway before it was discovered by passersby. Frozen water pipes made it impossible for the firemen to check the flames. Several thousand gallons of crude oil, stored in the basement added fury to the flames. Two firemen, who made a final trip into the children's department, crawled sixty feet and found three children hidden in a closet. Many of the children wrapped themselves in bedclothes and tried to hide from the fire. Firemen found them hidden under beds, in corners of the rooms and elsewhere.
The Masonic Home was established by the Grand Lodge of Kansas in 1896. Since that time, $100,000 has been spent in buildings alone. The home is maintained by a per capita tax of 50 cents per year from the Grand Lodge of Kansas and 10 cents per from the Order of the Eastern Star. The beneficiaries of the home are the aged Master Masons, their wives or widows, and children of the members of the Order of the Eastern Star. It has given shelter to more than 200 of these needy people and helpless children since its foundation, DANIEL F. BURDICK and wife are superintendent and matron of the home.
Col. THOMAS G. FITCH, member of the Kansas Masonic Home Board of Trustees, stated at 7:30 this morning that he did not believe there were any bodies in the ruins.
"We are positive that all the children were taken out," said MR. FITCH. "All have been accounted for. We believe there was no loss of life among the aged residents at the home. Some of them were taken to homes in West Wichita and others to residences of friends at some distance from the fire.
This has made it impossible to make an accurate checking of the list to ascertain positively whether there were any casualties."
The main building was of three stories, and the two wings that extended to the west were two stories in height. The north wing, in which the fire started, was the women's department.
Rescued men, women and children were taken to nearby homes for the night. Several were unconscious due to exposure. The children and aged women, some of whom were past 90 years old, suffered the most. Fire Chief WALDEN said today that the buildings would burn for fully ten hours, and not until then would it be possible to search the rules for bodies. The blaze was got under control at 5 o'clock but not before the entire structure, with the exception of the east wall of the main building, had fallen in.
Four bodies, all of adults, have been taken from the ruins. It is impossible to identify or even determine the sex. They were in the basement in eighteen inches of water. They were found in twos directly under the rooms occupied by MR. and MRS. JESSE T. BROWN, of Wichita, and MR. and MRS. FRANK FERRIS, of Atchison, all of whom are unaccounted for. GERTRUDE WEIGLE, twenty years old, of Burden, Kan., is the fifth person believed to be missing.
Emporia Gazette Kansas 1916-12-22