Turtle River Suffered Two Major Fires in 1908

By Cecelia McKeig


The International Hotel, one of the largest hotels north of Bemidji, was destroyed by a nighttime fire on March 24, 1908. The hotel was a landmark for the area and was owned by W. E. Hyatt. It was believed that a stove exploded in the parlor of the hotel. The room was quickly ablaze and the fire spread so quickly that it was soon out of control. Flames poured out from every door and window. A group of volunteers managed to get out the big pump and saved the A. O. Johnson meat market which stood only twenty feet from the hotel.


Then just three months later on June 28, a second fire destroyed the building belonging to A. O Johnson, as well as a building belonging to Miss Richards and the Congregational Church. The Kelso Lumber company's sawmill and large stock of lumber were also in danger, and if had not been for the heroic work of the citizens, every frame building on the main street of Turtle River would have been reduced to ashes. The fire started about mid-afternoon in the Johnson building that had been used as a meat market. Citizens suspected that it started either from firecrackers or matches dropped in the building by boys who were seen there just prior to the fire. The fire spread to the building owned by Miss Richards, and from there the flames caught on the Congregational Church building, reducing the entire three buildings to ashes.


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