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Waushara Court House, Wautoma, Wisconsin early 1900s
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Wautoma, Wisconsin

Waushara County Court House Fire

April 30, 1928

Flames Destroy Waushara Court House
Loss of building at Wautoma put at near $75,000

Wild Rose and Red Granite fire trucks prevent damage from flying firebrands; chimney dynamited.

(special to the Tribune)

Wautoma, April 30 Flames, supposed to have originated in the basement when the furnace door blew open, between 5 and 6 o’clock this morning completely destroyed the Waushara County Courthouse in this city with a loss estimated at from $60,000 to $75,000. Though fire departments from Wild Rose and Red Granite responded to calls for help, they were unable to do anything further than to stand by and help extinguish roof fires starting on buildings nearby, ignited by sparks from the burning structure. An extremely high wind scattered firebrands over a large area and only sufficient fire fighting equipment kept the loss confined to the court house.

Dynamite Chimney
As the roof of the building collapsed, grave concern was felt over the tall brick chimney which swayed dangerously in the high wind. Citizens at once decided on the use of dynamite and the chimney was brought down with a crash. The brick walls of the court house collapsed shortly after.

Started Fire at Five O’Clock
John Hahn,
janitor at the court house, started the fire in the furnace shortly after 5 o’clock as is his usual custom. He then went home to breakfast. Smoke bursting from the building was noticed at 5:45 by Wilbur Johnson, foreman at the county machine shop. He spread the alarm but the flames had gained such great headway that no time was left to carry much from the various county offices. District Attorney G. Jones rushed into his office and carried out a letter file and a typewriter. Nothing else was saved.

The Wautoma fire department, a Ford truck with pumper attachment, forced water from White River, two blocks distant, through two hose lines. The rest of the equipment was needed to combat small roof fires.

All records of the county were in the various vaults and late this afternoon they were found still too hot to open. It is believed however that the records are safe, as the vaults were fire proof.

The regular meeting of the Waushara county board was scheduled for tomorrow morning in the court house chambers. The meeting will be held in other quarters and it is expected that steps will be taken at once toward providing a new county building to replace the one destroyed.

Insurance totaling about $30,000 was carried, it is said.

The Waushara county court house was built in 1888 at an approximate cost of $10,000. Later additions and improvements to the extent of $45,000 were added.

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 30 Apr 1928

Transcribed by Jacquie Sewell.  Thanks Jacquie!


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