Palmyra, WI Erricson Building Fire, Jan 1909

The Erickson building in Palmyra was burned to the ground at an early hour Monday morning and Capt. and Mrs. W. O. Hilborn, their son, Capt. Hilborn's aged father, and Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Ayers, all of the Union Gospel Brigade, who are well known in this city, barely escaped with their lives.

They were occupying the second floor of the building, the lower floor of which was used as a garage. The fire started with an explosion at 4 o'clock Monday morning, and almost in a moment the building was a mass of flames. The Hilborn and Ayers families fled from their beds in their night clothes. They lost all their clothing and personal possessions and carried no insurance.

Mrs. Hilborn and Mrs. Ayers were in this city Tuesday. "Perhaps it was the first explosion that awakened us," said Mrs. Hilborn. "There were two or three explosions, probably of gasolene, after we got out. We found the building a roaring mass of fire with the flames bursting from the large front windows. Luckily there was an outside stairway by which we escaped to the street. We were obliged to run a block or more in our bare feet before finding shelter, and the thermometer was below zero Monday morning.

We lost absolutely every thing, but the ladies of Palmyra kindly came to our assistance and provided us something to wear. Our little son Herbert, aged 11, was with us, but our daughter Edna was luckily spending the night with friends. She lost all her clothing except what she had with her.

"We arrived at Palmyra only on Saturday and had held our first meeting on Sunday evening in the Methodist church. We shall continue the meetings just as if nothing had happened and expect to remain in Palmyra at least two weeks."

The lost of the building is complete and three automobiles were destroyed in the garage. The origin of the fire is unknown but it is thought to have been caused by spontaneous combustion among oiled rags or waste. Palmyra has a chemical engine, and the efforts of the volunteer fire company prevented the spread of the fire to other buildings.

The Union Gospel Brigade has been station in Waukeska for considerable periods during the past two or three years and its members are well known here. Capt. Hilborn was for some months a student at Carroll college. Later he went west and became interested in a Nevada mine.

Waukesha Freeman Waukesha, WI January 14, 1909

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The Erricson building in Palmyra which burned to the ground ten days ago, and from which Capt. and Mrs. Hilborn and other members of the Union Gospel Brigade narrowly escaped with their lives, was owned by Otte E. Scherer of that village, who carried light insurance.

 The building was valued at $5000 and contractors say that it could not be built to-day for less than $7000. Mr. Scherer's Buick auto was stored in the building and was not insured. He had been offered $1300 for it. Two other autos were stored in the building and totally destroyed. They belonged to Christie Carlin and Robert and Will Turner and were a total loss. There were valuable robes and tools also in the building belonging to Mr. Scherer.

The total loss caused by the fire is said to be about $10,000. The members of the Gospel Brigade were for some days entertained by the hospitable families in Palmyra, and have now secured other rooms and gone to house keeping.

Waukesha Freeman Waukesha, WI January 21, 1909