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The Story of Marie, a 19th Century Swedish Immigration and young girl immigrant to Minnesota in America-part 10-fire

Updated on October 17, 2014

Mora train

Authors note “fire”:

A great firestorm consumed and destroyed Hinkley, Minnesota and 5 neighboring communities on Saturday, Sept. 1, 1894.

The ground was filled with limbs and stumps of trees that had been felled over years. Over time all this wood dried out when in the summer of 1894 the whether was extremely hot and dry. Conditions were ripe for fire. Sparks from trains stated many small fires. On Sept. 1 there were an unusual number of small fires scattered around and temperature inversion covered the area keeping the air hazy with smoke.

A morning breeze from the southwest fanned the smoldering fires into open flames and created fires big enough to break through the inversion to reach the cooler air above. With cooler air feeding the fires it became apparent it was a losing battle. A gigantic wall of flame developed into a racing cyclonic fury.

The fire left death and destruction with 418 persons dead. The fire covered 400 square miles and many died trying to outrun the fire. The railroads from nearby cities came to lend assistance.

There were many heroes. A telegrapher stationed at the Duluth Depot in Hinkley named Tommy Dunn stayed at his post. Eventually the tracks themselves burned. Tommy perished in the fire.

In Marie’s letter she mentions a girl she knew having died in the fire. I earlier portrayed that girl as “Ingrid.”

ruins of Hinkley after fire

public domain
public domain

Marie tells about fire

Brunswick October 4, 1894

Dear mother!

I think you are wondering about how I am because I haven't written for a long time. But I have totally forgotten Sweden. I never remember I'm in a foreign country. I'm sorry about that.

I'm very well and happy too. I have been working all the summer since April. At the beginning of spring I lived with a Swedish family for three months and since then I have been working in the town Mora at a hotel until I was coming here to Brunswick yesterday. Now I will be here a few days to get in order to go to Duluth to work there in the winter. At that time, mum, when I get so much money, so I can and want, I think you will have me back at home again. That is because I'm still alive and healthy too. I'm happy and very well but of course I want to see you again mother if God will save me. There are many troubles and dangers here but if God wants he of course save me. This summer it has been two cyclones of fire, which have burnt two towns down only three Swedish miles from here.

Fire cyclone means so that if it blows up a lot it begins to burn in the clouds in the air. After that the fire falls down and then it of course burns. A town, which burned, was called Hinkle. It was a town full of sins with many restaurants and whorehouses. It was a fine day and nobody knew something before it came fire from the air and in a moment it was fire all over the town. More than 400 people were killed. It was only a few who were saved. It was people coming from a train, which left at that moment to Duluth. Another train came. When the fire started it was full of people.

It used to be a lot of work for girls and a lot of places here. In the summer when I was out of work just before I went to Mora I knew a Swedish girl from Hinkle. She promised to help me get work but it was not possible to find a work for me. It was my happiness because that girl died in the fire and if I had been there 1 might also would have died. It was God; I thank him mother, that I am still alive.


A markerhinkley,mn -
Hinckley, MN 55037, USA
get directions


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    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      ladyguitarpicker, yes, there were a lot of fires at that time. A lot of it was the lumbering methods of the times that left a lot of woodchips and such that could catch fire, I think. Sparks from the trains might have set some of the chips and brush on fire. Thanks for commenting.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      That was a terrible fire and no way to get out. There were lots of fires of small towns in the Chicago,Illinois area at that time. I never realized the rail roads were responsible for this fire. We have fires here but they seem to contain them. Very interesting.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I went to Hinkley a few years ago along with my sister. They have a small museum there dedicated to the fire.I'm afraid the main industry there is a casino, probably what marie feared. I also learned that there were several towns that suffered similar fires in that day. Clinton, Iowa is one of them. Thamks again for your interest.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a terrible fire consuming so many people who had no way to escape. Must have been awful!