Mitchell, SD Wesleyan University Fire, Mar 1888
The Wesleyan University at Mitchell, the finest and largest in the territory, was completely destroyed by fire on the morning of March 9, 1888. The fire broke out about 3 o'clock in the morning, and the building being outside of the fire limits of the city, no aid could be given the efforts to quench the flames by the Mitchell fire department. There were forty-two persons who lodged in the building, ten of whom were more or less injured in escaping, one fatally. Messrs. Taylor, Babcock and Stanton jumped from the second story and were injured internally. Professor Taylor and Students Smith, Parkin, James and Pitcher jumped from the third story. Pitcher died in two hours. The others were dangerously hurt. Professor Duncan came down safely from the roof on a clothes line.
Spontaneous combustion was responsible for the disaster, originating in a pile of oiled rags in the engine room. The loss was $50,000. Only $7,500 insurance was carried. The cost of the edifice, erected in 1885, was $50,000. Its walls had been built of Sioux Falls granite: It had been operated as a university for two years under the auspices of the Methodist conference, and was attended by 132 pupils at the time of its destruction. It was rebuilt.
After the fire it was discovered that had there been a piece of rope in each room, placed there for the purpose of enabling the inmate to escape in case of fire, it might and probably would have enabled all to have escaped without injury.
History of Dakota Territory, 1915, by George W. Kingsbury