Croghan Marks 100th Anniversary of Devastating Fire
At 2:30 p.m. on April 30, 1912, Mrs. Clement Grunert was tending her cafe in what was then the Grunert Block in Croghan.
"She tried to go up the steps and check on her children and she ran into flames and smoke and couldn't get through," said local historian Kenneth Proulx.
It may have been an oil stove that started the fire.
Mrs. Grunert's two children, ages three and one, were killed, and the fire went on a rampage.
Business after business, home after home, the town hall and opera house were all destroyed.
The firefighting equipment was primitive, including a hand-drawn pumper.
"To respond to a location and grab this stuff and take off running and have only a garden hose, I can't imagine what it would be like," said history buff Steve Monnat.
The fire easily jumped the street and the railroad tracks.
With water problems and a stiff breeze, most of downtown Croghan was gone in about four hours.
The blaze destroyed 40 buildings and left 23 families homeless.
"The next day they're walking around stunned and dazed and half in shock," said Proulx.
But the village quickly rebuilt.
In fact, the date 1912 is at the top of many structures standing today.
"That's why we have, 100 years from the day, a tribute to the Croghan villagers, their spirit and pluck," said Proulx.
A century later, the village paid tribute on April 30, 2012.
The same church bell that sounded the alarm in 1912 tolled a solemn remembrance at 2:30 p.m.
The village also held an open house at the fire hall, followed by a slideshow about the fire at 7 p.m.