Bio: Kliss, Frank & Mary (Phillips Fire - 27 Jul 1894)

Contact: Dan Rusch-Fischer

Surnames: Kliss, Hales, Locke

----Source: Dan Rusch-Fischer Scrapbook


Kliss, Frank & Mary (Phillips Fire - 27 Jul 1894)

The July 27, 1894 Phillips, Wisconsin Fire and the Fates of Frank Hales Kliss, Wife Mary M. Kliss nee Locke & Baby Daughter Myrtle Kliss

(Excerpted from "Phillips Destroyed By Fire-In 1894, The Phillips Fire" by I. A. "Moose" Kenyon Mellen, Wis.,
August 16, 1942. Copyright has not been renewed, expired August 16, 1970)

The loss of thirteen lives occurred among those who sought safety by crossing to the north shore of the lower lake.
Frank Hales Kliss owned a large boat house that was built on a log float and anchored just below the box factory
bridge. When fire threatened the day previous he had stocked the boat house with provisions for an emergency with
the intention of poling the house, and float across the lake to a place of safety should the fire destroy the town. When
the fire did come he took his wife and daughter and eleven of his neighbors, Mr. James Locke, and his wife Eva Locke
nee Bursell and their five children; Hattie 7, Ruth 6, Myra 4, Thomas 1½ & James 6 weeks, and Mrs. David Bryden
and her two children (Dave was in the woods running camp for the Shaw company)-and, with the help of James
Locke, started poling down the channel and across the lake.

Things went well until they thought they had reached a point of safety where the wind would take them to the spot
they had chosen on the north shore. But just then the fire hit the north lumber yard. One who did not witness it (your
narrator did) could not imagine what a terrible thing those acres of burning dry pine lumber piles turned into. Flames
shot a full thousand feet into the sky and the whole burning mass took on a rotary motion. Whole piles of blazing
lumber were carried high into the air and the suction of the whirling mass seemed to draw everything loose toward it
from hundreds of yards outside its periphery. The floating boat house was caught in this suction and drawn to the
burning yard, whirling as it went like a great spinning top.

The boathouse/log float's occupants took to smalle boats-all except Frank Hales Kliss who was burned to death as he
stood with a pike pole trying to hold the float against that terrible suction. A great tongue of flame from the yard
reached out and took him just as one would snuff out a mosquito with a candle. Those in the boats fared little better.
The suction of the fire caused waves on the lake from six to eight feet high. And the boats were swamped before they
had traveled a third of the distance across the lake. Jim Locke and his entire family were drowned. Mrs. Bryden and
her two children suffered the same fate, as did also the little Kliss girl Myrtle. Mary M. Locke nee Kliss (Mrs. Kliss)
hung to the keel of an overturned boat until rescued by a man (James I. Kenyon) who fortunately had succeeded in
getting his family across the lake before the lumber yard had turned into a whirling inferno. She was so badly burned
about the head and face that she lost her eyesight a short time afterwards.



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