FIRE DAMAGES CRACKER FACTORY

November 17, 1904: FIRE DAMAGES CRACKER FACTORY
Wadena Tribune of November 17, 1904 at the Wadena Cracker Company 210 Colfax Avenue Southeast, Wadena, Minnesota

Plant is damaged to the extent of $8,000 at 10 o’clock Sunday morning. FACTORY MAY NOT RESUME. Plans for the future will not be known until insurance is adjusted.

Fire at 10 o’clock Sunday morning damaged the plant of the Wadena Cracker company, causing a loss of about $8,000 on building, stock and machinery.

The origin of the fire is a mystery, but it was doubtless caused either by spontaneous combustion or by a hot steam pipe. As near as can be learned the fire started in the main baking room over against the east wall. It had a good start when discovered and was checked with difficulty. There had been no fire in the ovens since the evening before and employees who had been in the building earlier in the morning say everything was left in safe condition.

W. H. Benson, president of the cracker company, was the first to discover the fire. He was on his way to church and went to the factory to get a church book which he had left there. He noticed the smoke arising from the building and sent a boy to ring the fire bell. The fire company responded promptly and after half an hour’s work they succeeded in getting the fire under control.

The damage wrought by fire, water and smoke was enormous. All of the machinery was ruined, the ovens cracked and the stock of flour, lard and other things spoiled. Two different employees reported that they had been in the building early in the morning. One had been there at 6 o’clock and he said that everything was all right then. Another visited the factory at 8 o’clock, and there was no sign of fire at that hour. He stood in the alley along side the factory at the point where the fire started and talked with a friend for some time. No sign of fire was present at that time.

The factory presents a sorry appearance. The blaze had worked well along the sides and ceiling of the stock rooms, the baking department and the packing rooms. Everything was charred and blackened. The stock of flour is practically ruined, and all of the other goods used for baking will be a total loss. The machinery was warped by the heat and water and the ovens where bread and toast was baked are cracked and the arches are broken down.

In the stock room everything is chaos and it is not believed that any of the stock will be saved. The shipping room was not affected except by smoke. There was a large stock of baked stuffs in boxes ready for shipment, and at first it was thought that these goods would be tainted by smoke. The goods are surrounded in the boxes by paper, and it seems that the smoke did not penetrate. Some of the goods were sent out as usual Monday morning, and the local stores handled some. No complaints have been received and the goods are evidently all right.

The fire is a serious blow to the company, Business had been exceptionally good of late and the plant was working to its full capacity. Bread orders are being filled for the present from the cities and arrangements were made at once to satisfy, so far as possible, all the customers of the company.

An inventory of the factory was taken the first of the week, and it was then stated that the loss would total about $8,000. The loss on machinery is given at about $2,500. The building is damaged to the extent of about $2,500 more, and it is thought that the loss on stock will run to $3,500. A total of $7,600 insurance was carried overall. The building was insured for $2,600 and the machinery for $2,200. The stock was insured for about $3,300. The insurance adjusters will be here this week and as soon as the loss is adjusted it will be made known whether the plant will resume or close down permanently in this town.

It would be a sad blow to Wadena if the cracker factory should fail to resume or move to some other place. The plant is without doubt the most important industry in this town. About twenty five people are given steady employment and the monthly pay roll amounts to somewhere around $1,500. The factory brings into this towns a large amount of money each month and much of it finds its way into local business channels.

Asked if the plant would resume operations here, President Benson said that the company had offers from Sauk Centre, St. Cloud and Fargo, and all of these towns were anxious to secure the institution and would make it an object for the owners to remove it. Personally Mr. Benson expressed a desire to remain in Wadena. A meeting of the stockholders will be called as soon as the insurance is adjusted and it will then be decided whether the company will resume. In case the factory remains in Wadena and continues operations, it is almost certain that a new fireproof building will be erected and the plant constructed along more modern and convenient lines.

The fire of Sunday was the second within a year. The first fire caught from the large revolving oven, but the plant was running and the blaze did little damage. The plant was able to resume the next morning.