Willshire Fires-1908, 1914, 1922

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the Willshire Canning Company.

The Willshire Canning Company was started about 1904 and operated for roughly 10 years. It was listed in Dun and Bradstreet from 1905-1913, and may have been called the Willshire Packing Company in 1914. I am not sure if the name of the company changed or if those were two separate companies.

The Willshire Canning Company per se seemed to disappear about 1914 or 1915. Sondra Samples commented that the company may have been destroyed by a major fire in Willshire on New Year’s Eve 1914 and the early morning hours on New Year’s Day 1915.

A couple news articles about Willshire’s fire, New Year’s Eve, 31 December 1914.

Fire Wipes Out Half Block At Willshire
Decatur, Ind., Jan. 1-The new year at Willshire, O., east of this city, was ushered in with a fire that wiped out half a block, including four frame businesses buildings of seven rooms. The loss is estimated at about $25,000. The businesses wiped out were the Willshire Hardware company, Harry Cowan’s grocery, Frank Detter’s barber shop, Dr. Alspaugh’s office, Dr. Christy’s office, Simms & Simms meat market, Cully & Roller’s garage. The greater part of the goods was gotten out. Christ and Altheon carried no insurance on their three rooms, but some insurance was carried by the Cully’s and James Willey on their buildings. The amount is unknown. The origin of the fire is not known. It started in the canter of the block wiped out.

The next account indicates the fire started in Frank Detter’s barber shop:

Fire At Willshire
The business district in the village of Willshire was swept by a destructive fire last Thursday night, at the hour for the reception of the New Year. A blaze, which had its origin in the rear of the F.A. Detterer
[sic] barber shop soon gained great headway, under the force of a driving wind, and rapidly spread until seven business rooms were laid waste. The Detterer [sic] shop is located on Main street and the fire on the thoroughfare spread until it wiped out the establishment at the place of origin and those of the Willshire Hardware Co., the H.V. Conn grocery, the office of Dr. Alspaugh and Dr. S.K. Christy, the Sims & Sims meat market and Cully & Roller Auto Garage. The loss of stocks was almost total and the damage was on this basis, the buildings being all frame structures. The loss is estimated at $15,000, only partly covered by insurance. [2]

But apparently that New Year’s Eve fire did not destroy the Willshire Canning Factory. A separate fire, eleven months later, on Sunday, 6 November 1915, destroyed the canning factory.

The Willshire Canning factory burned to the ground Sunday morning at 1 o’clock, destroying the factory and its contents, a quantity of canned corn and tomatoes. The plant did not operate this year. It is believed the fire started from a passing locomotive. The loss will probably reach $10,000. [3]

We learn several things from that piece. It appears that the canning factory was located near the railroad tracks. The factory had not been in operation that year, apparently shut down before the fire. One wonders why. Or was it damaged during the New Year’s Eve fire? If it was, it was not mentioned as one of the businesses involved in that earlier fire. And, it appears the only produce they canned was corn and tomatoes, as was also indicated in a 1904 Willshire Herald article.

Below are some photo postcard images of an earlier Willshire fire. That the fire started 2:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, 23 June 1908, hand-written on the back.

Willshire fire, 23 June 1908

Willshire fire, 23 June 1908

Willshire fire, 23 June 1908

Willshire fire, 23 June 1908

Willshire fire, 23 June 1908

Like many towns, Willshire had its share of fires over the years. There was another major fire in March 1922:

Village Gutted
Van Wert, O., March 21-The village of Willshire, near, the Indiana state line, was the scene of a fire which destroyed four business houses, including the post office and the Harald
[sic] Printing company. One residence also was burned. Five automobiles and three horses were burned at a livery. [4]

Sustain $100,000 Loss In Big Willshire Fire
Decatur, Ind., March 20-Fire of undetermined origin, which started in the Ward Atchison livery barn at Willshire, Ohio, early today, caused losses estimated at $100,000. Three business houses and one home were damaged by the conflagration. Willshire is nine miles south of here. [5]

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has additional information about Willshire’s fires.

[1] The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Ind, 2 Jan 1915, p.4; Newspapers.com, viewed 1 Nov 2022.

[2] The Celina Democrat, Celina, Ohio, 8 Jan 1915, p.1; LibraryofCongress.gov, viewed 1 Nov 2022.

[3] The Fort Wayne News, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 10 Nov 1915, p.11; Newspapers.com, viewed 1 Nov 2022.

[4] Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, Lancaster, Ohio, 21 Mar 1922, p.1; Newspapers.com, viewed 1 Nov 2022.

[5] The Richmond Palladium, Richmond, Ind., 20 Mar 2022, p.1; Newspapers.com, viewed 1 Nov 2022.


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