By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, MN When the village of Dassel was first established, buildings were heated with wood and coal. Furnaces were often stoked before business owners went home for the night.
This caused many more fires than there are today, according to Julie Lindquist, archivist at the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum.
The largest fire in Dassel to-date occurred Jan. 12, 1900, and destroyed Dassel’s Block 8, between Third and Second streets, and Atlantic and Parker avenues west.
During the wee hours of that cold January night, the night watchman for the village of Dassel, Alva McKinney, discovered a fire in Charles Robison’s barbershop on Atlantic Avenue, according to the April 2010 Dassel History Center newsletter.
Although he sounded the alarm at once, and the volunteer fire department responded quickly, their efforts were for nought.
When the firemen tried to attach the suction hose of the engine to the cistern, it snapped in two, “and the village was at the mercy of the flames,” according to the Dassel Anchor.
Litchfield and Cokato were both contacted to send help for the fire sweeping down Block 8 of Atlantic Avenue.
Litchfield did not have an engine, but did send its firefighters to assist.
Cokato, however, had its fire engine at the train depot when the freight train from the west arrived.
The fire engine was loaded onto the train, which made the trip back to Dassel at the rate of one-mile-per-minute, according to the Dassel Anchor.
In the meantime, the firemen and citizens of the village went to work carrying goods out of the buildings doomed by the flames.
A bucket brigade soon formed, and its efforts kept the flames from crossing the streets to the elevators to the south, Palmerston’s and Olson’s general store to the east, and Louis Osterlund’s to the west.
While working to control the raging fire and carry out goods, an explosion of gun powder from Peter Rudberg’s hardware store injured and badly shook up those trying to carry out goods.
Olof Olson broke a rib, while several others were knocked down by the explosion, reported the Dassel Anchor.
The explosion was big enough to blow the windows out of Osterlund’s store, and window lights out of buildings three blocks away.
By the time the Cokato fire engine arrived at Dassel, the block had already been destroyed by the fire.
The losses from the fire totaled $50,000 to $60,000, and over 14 businesses were destroyed, according to the Dassel Anchor.
In the same newspaper, which published six days after the fire, was a thank you from Palmerston and Olson for those helping to save their business.
There was also a notice from W.A. Linquist, whose building burned in the fire, thanking those who saved the goods from his store, and saying he was still in business.
The week after, in the Jan. 25, 1900, edition of the Dassel Anchor, Linquist notified citizens he had moved to a new location in a new building across from town hall.
After the fire, Erick Hagelin and William, Charles, Minnie, and Oscar Linquist, formed a partnership, building the largest building on the street.
It was located at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Third Street and was built in less than a year, being completed in October, according to the Dassel History Center newsletter.
The large building was able to house many different stores, becoming Dassel’s first and only mall.
There was a bowling alley in the basement; different stores and a barbershop on the main floor; and a dentist, doctor, newspaper office, and a movie theater on the third floor, according to the Dassel History Center newsletter.