Creston Burns in 1917 With Heavy Loss of Life

(02/13/2001)

Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilms of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 3/19/1917 and 4/15/1917.

3/29/1917 - Five are dead as the result of a fire that reduced all that part of the town of Creston lying on the east side of the West Fork at its mouth to ashes Monday night.

The Dead

Lindsey Stevens
Carl Stevens
Mrs. Henan Merrill
Two unknown

The fire, one of the most destructive conflagrations ever occuring in this section of the state, is of uncertain origin but is believed to have started from a gas jet in Carl Steven's room in the Stevens hotel, about 11:00 o'clock Monday night. Fanned by a strong wind the flames spread rapidly to other houses clustered near and in a short time every building on that side of the West Fork was ablaze.

The younger Stevens boy, Carl, a son of Capt. and Mrs. Henry O. Stevens, who operated the hotel where the blaze started, was burned in his bed while his brother, Lindsey, and Mrs. Merrill, were burned so badly aiding others to escape that they died Tuesday morning while being removed to Parkersburg. Mrs. Merrill, formerly Miss Isenaugle, of near Creston, had been assisting in the hotel during the absence of Mrs. Stevens, mother of the dead boys, who was at the bedside of her husband in a Parkersburg hospital for an operation.

The charred skeletons of two other people, whose identities are unknown, but presumably travelers returning home farther up the river, were found on the same bed springs among the ruins. Who they were may be made known when Misses Mag and Minnie Stevens, sisters to the dead boys, who sustained very severe burns rescuing a crippled brother and who were taken to Parkersburg for treatment, are able to tell about the disaster.

However, at present they are nameless and no clue as to who they are has been discovered.

It was thought at first and it is still contended by some that there were two other victims in the Stevens hotel, but it cannot be proved definitely now - perhaps never.

Strong hope was expressed Wednesday for the recovery of Miss Maggie Stevens, but her eyesight most likely is destroyed.

Travelers who stayed in Creston that night, who barely escaped with their lives, tell a grewsome story of the scene. The screams and sufferings of the crazed victims are indescribable, they say.

Carl Johnson Rescues Baby

Carl Johnson of above town, arrived here from Creston Tuesday night. He was returning home from Parkersburg and reached Creston about 9:00 Monday night. Retiring to bed some time afterwards, in the Armstrong hotel, he has not yet fallen asleep when a woman's screams brought him to his feet. His room was in a corner of the building next to the Stevens hotel, and on looking from the window was horrified to see that building ablaze. Hastily dressing rushed over to the burning hotel where he saw Mrs. Merrill in an upper story with her baby in her arms frantically crying for help.

Mr. Johnson shouted for her to throw the baby to him. He caught the child which was uninjured save for a few slight burns and carried it across the street out of immediate danger.

"When I returned," says Mr. Johnson, "Mrs. Merrill was on the ground. The next person I saw was Lindsey Stevens, making for the river, so badly burned that he was unconscious of his actions. He was stopped. His crippled brother was thrown from an upper window by his sisters, and escaped practically unhurt.

"The flames soon spread to adjoining buildings and fanned by a violent wind quickly turned the whole town into raging furnace. But few people lived in that section of the town and any efforts to have fought the fire would have been in vain. We saved all the live stock in the barns and all automobiles, and then fled to the hills."

Mr. Johnson himself received severe a cut on his arm from a broken window pane.

Property Loss About $40,000

The loss of property is estimated at about $40,000. About $10,000 will be recovered from insurance. The house and store of J.P. Campbell, Guy Rader's hardware store, the Stevens and Armstrong hotels, Eustace Gibson's store in which the postoffice was located, the residences of J.E. Stump and "Fuzzy" Reed, and a confectionery and restaurant building were destroyed.

Relief Fund

A fund for the relief of those who suffered at Creston of nearly $100 had been subscribed Wednesday at Grantsville. Contributions are being received at the M.H. Hardman store.

Fire Victim Was A Marietta Girl

4/15/1917 - Marietta, March _0 - Mrs. Mary Merrill, one of the victims of the disastrous fire that swept away the town of Creston, W.Va., Monday evening, was a daughter of Morris C. Icenogle, No. 221 S. Sixth street, this city, and a former resident of Marietta. Mrs. Merrill was so badly burned in the fire that she died on a gasoline boat enroute to Parkersburg.

Mrs. Merrill was 32 years of age and is survived by her husband and one child, who was rescued from the burning hotel. At the time of the accident, Mr. Merrill was at home in Fairmont, W.Va. His wife and child were visiting at Creston and had stopped overnight at the hotel in order that they might catch an early boat for Parkersburg.

Funeral services were held and interment made near Creston Thursday afternoon.


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