Obit: Lowe, Mary
A. Raas (1861 - 1939)
Contact: Crystal Wendt
Surnames: Lowe, Longenecker, Zaske, Ludovic, Dahnert, Hart, Olson, Jake, Turner, Trogner, Catlin, Raas, Weeks, Runkel, Bladl, Schmidtke, Finnegan, Marg, Peterson, Lautchbach, St. Dennis, Dahl, Schoengarth, Woodward, Scherer, Hauge, Radke, Westphal, Stelloh, Carleton, Smith, Prochazka, Von Gorden, Lyons, Walk, Frantz, Schlimme, Smith
----Sources: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark County, Wis.) Thursday, 19 Jan. 1939; Photos of the fire were contributed by Mike Warlum from the collection of Peter Magnus Walum (1878-1944)
Lowe, Mary A. (27 Feb. 1861 - 16 Jan. 1939)
No plan has yet been made for clearing the ruins of the J. B. Lowe and Son furniture store building in downtown Neillsville, destroyed Monday night by a $16,000 fire in which Mrs. J. B. Lowe, 77, lost her life.
The funeral services for Mrs. Lowe were held at 2 p.m. today from the funeral home of her son, George, H. Lowe, with Rev. G. W. Longenecker in charge. Burial was made in the Neillsville Cemetery.
Mrs. Lowe evidently suffocated as she attempted to make her way out of the smoke and flame filled second story apartment in which she resided. The body, fully clothed and burned only slightly on the left hand, was recovered about 2 p.m. Tuesday by Gilbert Zaske of Neillsville, after eight men directed by Coroner Peter C. Ludovic had searched nearly an hour and a half.
The body was taken from the ruins in which it lay about midway from the front to the back. Its position indicated that Mrs. Lowe had been overcome while attempting to fight her way to either the stairway or the elevator shaft, Firemen said she apparently dropped to the floor about 15 feet from the exits.
The body was covered by three thicknesses of linoleum and was pinioned by a heavy electric refrigerator. Several minutes of work by Coroner Ludovic, Gilbert Zaske, Gerald Hart, Oluf Olson, Jr., Orville Jake, Orville Turner, Wilbur Turner and Neil Trogner, who aided in the search, were required to free and move the body to the street.
Damage to the building and the stock was estimated by Fire Chief William F. Dahnert at $16,000, following Wednesday afternoon. About $200 water damage was suffered by the A & P food store, adjoining the ruined building on the north. Smoke and water damage estimates had not been made for Eva’s Fashion Shoppe, located in the building adjoining on the south, and Otto Catlin’s barber shop, in the basement of the A & P store building. The Lowe property was only partially covered by insurance.
Eight members of the Granton fire department and three other Granton men, with fire equipment, gave valuable assistance to the Neillsville fire fighters in checking the flames which threatened for a time to spread to the adjoining buildings.
The alarm was turned in shortly after 10 p.m. by Neil Trogner. He said he smelled smoke as he came out on the street after tending to the fires in the A & P store building. At that time, he said, smoke was pouring out from the cracks between walls on either side of the furniture store, and was rolling out of the doorway to the stairs leading to Mrs. Lowe’s apartment.
That the fire apparently had been burning for some time was evident when firemen arrived. Chief Dahnert said thick yellow-grey smoke was forcing its way out of several cracks in the brick veneer front of the old frame building. Flames already had reached the head of the stairs, he said.
Firemen were not certain at first whether Mrs. Lowe had been able to make her escape from the building. Their fist attempts were directed toward a search of the apartment; but they were turned back at every attempt.
They then attempted to gain entrance to the second floor through the front windows. However, dense clouds of smoke, released when the windows were broken by Lyman Smithy and Harry (Boney) Frantz, made entry by that way impossible.
It was not until some time later, when Mrs. George H. Lowe arrived, than it was learned definitely that the elder Mrs. Lowe had not escaped. George H. (Tubbie) Lowe was in Tomahawk when the fire broke out. He was notified by his wife, and arrived at the scene about two hours later.
Several firemen—among them Lloyd L. Spry, assistant chief of the Granton fire department, and Lyman Smith—forced their say into the apartment bedroom at the rear of the building about an hour after the blaze was discovered. At that time they reported that Mrs. Lowe’s bed apparently had not been slept in.
This fact, coupled with the condition of the body when found, indicated that Mrs. Lowe was overcome as she attempted to leave the building following the explosion of an oil heater in the living room or the kitchen of the building, Fire Chief Dahnert said.
In the meantime, volunteers of the Neillsville fire department poured water through the two broken front windows into the second floor apartment, and fought the fire from the head of the stairs until they were forced back by smoke.
However, the fire was stubborn and extremely difficult to fight.
When reflection of fire on the dense clouds of smoke above the buildings caused the hundreds of spectators to believe that the fire had spread to the roofs of A & P food store and Eva’s Fashion Shoppe the Granton firemen arrived. With their pumper shooting out more than 350 gallons of water a minute from two hose lines on vantage points atop of the roof of Eva’s Fashion Shoppe, the Granton firemen soon brought the blaze under control.
The Neillsville pumper, by this time shooting streams from three hose lines, and two smaller lines, was throwing water at about 660 gallons a minute, according to the gauge-although the pumper is rated as only a 350 gallon pumper.
In all, firemen estimated more then 250,000 gallons of water were poured into the building before the fire was thoroughly extinguished, 24 hours after it was discovered.
At 12:15 a.m. about an hour *[missing a small portion here.] but a few minutes before.
As it was, the falling brick narrowly missed "Bunny" Matheson and a companion, who were looking through the front window of the furniture store, as it started to break loose. They scampered to safety, as the top tumbled, and were missed by only a few feet.
Throughout the night as smoke filled the streets and swirled about the A & P store building, Mrs. Margaret Kapellan, legless owner of the building and occupant of a second floor apartment, refused to allow firemen and others to move her from her room.
Eva Clouse, proprietor of the Fashion Shoppe, was attending a church card party when she was notified of the fire. She dropped her cards and hurried to her shop. Several willing hands aided her in removing the major portion of her stock to the Coast to Coast store, a safe distance away.
However, Neillsville firemen continued to play water on the fire steedily until about 7 a.m. after that time they threw water into the smoldering ruins through one hose, depending on the pressure in the water mains while the engine pumper was set to pumping water from the basements of the buildings in order to allow the search for Mrs. Lowe’s body to be carried on.
Mrs. Lowe was born May A. Raas on February 27, 1861, in Charlotte, Mich., and was married in 1881, to Joseph B. Lowe, who died in 1927. The family moved to Neillsville in 1883 from Sechlerville, Wis. And she had lived here continuously since that time.
Surviving besides her son, G. H. Lowe, are three daughters, Miss Nan Lowe of Shorewood, Mrs. Florence Weeks of Milwaukee, and Mrs. William E. Runkel of Waukesha, and four grandchildren, Jane Weeks, William F. and Richard N. Lowe, and Joseph E. Runkel.
She was an active member of the Rebekahs, the Royal Neighbors, Beavers, and the Women’s Relief Corps, and attended the Congregational Church.
Granton firemen and residents who responded to the call of the Neillsville fire department were: Chief Carl Bladl, Assistant Chief Lloyd L. Spry, William Schmitke, Chester Finnegan, Elmer Marg, Pete Peterson, Arlo Lautschbach, and Leonard St. Dennis, Ferdinand Dahl and Herman Schoengarth.
Neillsville volunteers included: Chief William F. Dahnert, Assistant Chief Les Woodward, Nick Scherer, Martin Hauge, Herbert Radke, Claude Westphal, Conrad Stelloh, John Trogner, Free Carleton, Herbert Smith, George Prochazka, Albert Marg, Archie Van Gorden, Judd Lyons, Oscar Walk, Lyman Smith, Harry Frantz and Otto Schlimme.
Lowe Furniture Store Fire, Monday, 16 Jan. 1939
*The photos below were contributed by Mike Warlum from the collection of Peter Magnus Warlum (1878-1944)
Joseph B. Lowe and Son furniture store building in downtown Neillsville, was destroyed Monday night, 16 Jan., 1939.
Mrs. Joseph B. Lowe (Mary A. nee Raas), 77, lost her life when she was unable to escape the raging flames.
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