History of fires in Kinmundy, Marion Co., Illinois




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Or maybe you have stories or memories from the "Good Old Days"?  What do YOU remember?

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   Dolores (Ford) Mobley –

                       208 Joan Dr.; Divernon, IL  62530; (217) 625-7527



            Gladys (Corrie) See –

                                         408 S. Washington St.; Kinmundy, IL 62854; (618) 547-7731



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                    Kinmundy Fire of 1903


Kinmundy fire of 1903

(KF-6) Kinmundy fire of 1903




Kinmundy fire of 1903 - Decatur Daily Review

(KF-10) "Decatur Daily Review" - Dec. 2, 1903




Kinmundy fire of 1903 Centralia Sentinel


(KF-11) "Centralia Sentinel" - Dec. 3, 1903




Kinmundy fire of 1903 Vandalia Union


(KF-7) "Vandalia Union" - Dec. 3, 1903



Kinmundy fire of 1903 - Effingham Republican


(KF-9) "Effingham Republican" - Dec. 4, 1903




Kinmundy fire of 1903 - Effingham Republican


(KF-8) "Effingham Republican" - Dec. 4, 1903


                      1940 Fire in Kinmundy

Kinmundy Fire - 1940

"The Kinmundy Express"  - Thursday, May 30, 1940

 “$10,000 Fire In Kinmundy”

“Another one of Kinmundy’s old landmarks passed into history Sunday morning when the old frame building owned by C.B. ROHRBOUGH, H.L. WARREN, the ROHRBOUGH estate and George H. BARGH, was destroyed by fire. This building was occupied by John CURRY Barber Shop, R.J. FULFER Cafe, Dr. G.P. DOUGHERTY office, 2 vacant store rooms, and 3 sleeping apartments occupied by the FULFER family, Mr. Frank WILSON and Mr. Sam BANGS.

Len LEWIN, who was at work at his cheese factory, noticed a blaze as if an oil stove had exploded, in a back window of one of the upstairs apartments. The blaze soon disappeared and he thought no more about it until about a half hour later when he noticed smoke coming from the eaves of the building. Then he turned in the alarm. It was not long before several were on the scene. But the blaze could not be located. Soon there was an explosion and then the whole building appeared to be in flames. Then help from Salem, Farina and St. Peter was summoned and it was not long before they were on the scene. The four engines pumped water from the well on the square into which a pipeline was laid only last year, from the Illinois Central water tank. The firemen battled the flames from 8 a.m. until noon before the they were safely under control.  The contents of the CURRY Barber Shop, FULFER’s Cafe, and Dr. DOUGHERTY’s office were mostly saved. Practically nothing was saved from the three sleeping apartments.

During the course of the fire, there were 2 explosions. The first came when the blaze started as we explained before. At that time there were several men on the roof and some just ready to burst in an upstairs window. But this blast sent all hurrying to the ground. Some thought this blast was caused by a gasoline or kerosene can exploding while others are of the opinion it was spontaneous combustion.  The second came when the fire was at its best. Just what this was, no one knows, but at the time there were small fragments of cast iron flying thru the air. Some were of the opinion that an old cannonball had exploded. Mr. ROHRBOUGH had some old Civil War relics stored in his building and there was one of the old cannonballs cast hollow and filled with powder, and the heat exploded it. Taking everything into consideration, there is no question but what the fire really started in the apartment occupied by Mr. Sam BANGS, supposedly from an oil or gasoline stove. The brick building owned by J.R. TELFORD just across the alley east was damaged considerably. The building north, owned by W.S. PRUETT and occupied by COLE & ROLLINSON was damaged considerably by water. A light rain aided considerably in keeping the flames from spreading.  The fire was estimated at a $10,000 loss.

Our new engine did some mighty fine work but much credit is due the departments from the neighboring town.  And we are certainly thankful we had plenty of water for the occasion.

The building occupied by COLE & ROLLINSON was emptied and the stock carried across the street where it will remain until the room has been repaired and redecorated.  The E.C. BARGH building was damaged a little and some of the more valuable stock was carried out.  Postmaster GRISSOM took the more important mail from the postoffice [sic] and important papers were taken from the MAHAN & MOTCH store.  This building was one of the very first buildings built in the business district. As near as we can trace its history, it was built in the early 60's. And for the past 50 years, it has been considered a fire hazard, but it has seen some mighty fine brick buildings destroyed by fire across the street. Under present conditions, it will not be rebuilt.  Both the Bell Telephone Co. and the Central Illinois Public Service Co. sustained considerable loss to some of their equipment. The heat burned the insulation from a cable for the telephone company, which put several phones out of service.  But employees worked diligently into the night to restore service.  The electric company had two poles which were burned considerably and will have to be replaced, as well as considerable wiring.  The service drops to the electric fire siren were burned and at present, the siren is without service, Mr. J. E. WHITE local service man for the company, worked hard all day to restore service. As soon as the fire was out, the N.Y.A. boys were put to work cleaning up the debris from the streets and they all worked hard all afternoon.

Guin VALLOW had presence of mind enough to run home after his camera and during the scene, made forty-four shots. And to him we are indebted for the different scenes appearing in this issue.  Practically everyone in the city witnessed the fire and during the afternoon, it was estimated that a thousand visitors came from other towns nearby to witness the ruins.  In closing, in behalf of the business men and citizens of Kinmundy, we want to thank the fire departments of Farina, St. Peter, and Salem for answering our call.  They all did splendid work and cannot be praised too highly. The building was only partially covered by insurance.”

Wydell Pigg and Beryl Diss

Wydell Pigg and Beryl Diss in front of the smoldering buildings.


Kinmundy fire - May 1940 - "Decatur Herald" Newspaper

"The firemen in action.  Note the network of hose and the spectators.   The fireman on the ladder is Captain McMACKIN, of Salem,

viewing the situation over the top of the CURRY Barber shop, or better known as the old Building & Loan office.”



Kinmundy fire of 1903

(KF-1)  Kinmundy fire of 1940

“How the building looked after the first explosion and before help arrived.  The picture was taken from the Square and shows the two east rooms of the building.”



Kinmundy fire of 1903

(KF-3) Kinmundy fire of 1940

“St. Peter boys in action.  Note the many hose lines and the spectators. 

In the background can be seen the Rohrbohgh, Masonic Temple, Lowe, Neil, West and Telephone Exchange buildings.”




Kinmundy fire of 1903

(KF-4) Kinmundy fire of 1940

“A view of the ruins after the fire was under control, taken from the top of the Rohrbough building across the street west. 

The wet wall of the Curry Barber shop still standing, was pushed in for safety.”

Kinmundy fire of 1903

(KF-5) Kinmundy fire of 1940

“A view after the fire, taken while there was still danger.  This picture was taken from the southeast corner.  In the background can be seen the Masonic Temple.”


"Early Fire Protection in Kinmundy and Alma"

    "Shortly before the Civil War, the Chicago branch of the Illinois Central Railroad was laid through Marion county, leading to the establishment of Kinmundy and Alma. The hastily constructed wooden buildings in these railroad towns were subject to frequent and devastating conflagrations.

    "The Centralia Sentinel" of Jan. 24, 1867 reported that a fire at Kinmundy had destroyed several uptown buildings including Budlong’s Store, Hatton’s Drug Store, and Eagen’s Wagon Shop. Local newspapers told of the burning of Rohrbough’s Flour Mill and the Section house in 1885, and of the destruction of the Frost and Mendenhall block in 1893. On Dec. 2, 1903, the "Sentinel" recorded the story of a disastrous fire at Kinmundy which destroyed most of the downtown business section. Losses included the new Masonic temple; Dr. Camerer’s office, Weisberg’s Clothing Store, Gunn and Killie Grocery, M.A. Songer’s Dry Good and Millinery, the newly constructed First National Bank, the offices upstairs and the Odd Fellow and Rebekah Halls on the third floor, John Spillman’s Barber shop, C.T. Middleton grocery, J.P. Whitson Harness Shop, Haworth Opera House, Gramley Bros. Meat Market, S.L. Bundy clothing and shoes, "Express Journal" newspaper, S.R. Wooley real estate, C.W. Witwer real estate, and W. H. Gray building. The contents of the bank’s vault were saved, and all of the records of the city council were thought to have been destroyed but one volume reappeared, and from it, much was learned of early fire protection in Kinmundy. According to the Kinmundy Centennial History, "The bucket brigade saved the buildings on the opposite side of the street, but were powerless to stop the blaze till they tore down Dr. Camerer’s office and the buildings next to it. The Effingham Fire Department came down on a freight train and made the run in 35 minutes but arrived too late to save the buildings. The July 8, 1904 "Sentinel" reported that another Kinmundy fire had destroyed a dozen buildings. In January of 1916, the rebuilt Opera House was again destroyed. While there was at this time a pump cart and hose to assist the bucket brigade, it was not sufficient to put out the fire.

    Fires in Alma seemed to have been just as numerous if not as spectacular. These included the Al Tomlinson store (June 1, 1877 "Marion County Herald"), Warner and Mazanek’s Grain House (June 22, 1891 - "Centralia Sentinel"), Alma Creamery owned by Dr. W. Shrigley, loss $25,000 ("Centralia Sentinel", July 4, 1908), and the Alma School, formerly the Southern Illinois Christian College ("Salem Herald-Advocate, March 14, 1913). This writer was unable to discover any evidence of the existence of a fire department in Alma prior to the organization of the fire protection district.

    The earliest efforts in fire protection in Kinmundy are found in the minute book of the City Council on Sept. 16, 1867, at a special meeting when the mayor was authorized to obtain five dozen buckets, either India rubber or leather, a half dozen ladders, and a half dozen poles with hooks for fighting fires. In 1870, the mayor appointed a committee to examine all fires in the business section, reporting those found to be defective. Later that year another committee was authorized to go into any house in the city in order to inspect any hearth, chimney, stove, oven, boiler, etc., and advise the owner of the danger and order that connections be made. A $50 fine could be assessed for failure to comply and $5 for every day the danger was not remedied.

    An ordinance passed in 1873 established fire limits and authorized the purchase of 24 buckets, a 30 foot ladder, along with rakes and poles necessary to fight fires. In 1874, the city fathers voted to buy a wagon and secure a place to house it with all the other firefighting implements.

    "The Centralia Sentinel" of Sept. 22, 1904 announced that Kinmundy had purchased a fire engine. The Sentinel history states that "about 1919, a small Ford truck was purchased and that was used until 1940 when the city got a bigger Ford pumper. Almost immediately there was another big fire which took the whole south side of the block of Third Street between Madison and the alley. At this time the fire companies came from St. Peter, Farina and Salem.

Kinmundy-Alma Fire Protection District

    During the days of the Great Depression and World War II, fire protection in Kinmundy was as good as the limited equipment could provide. By the mid-1950's , it was determined that better service could be given to a larger area through the organization of a fire protection district. So, on Aug. 4, 1954 the first meeting of the Board composed of Carl Dunlap (President), Vernon Gragg (Secretary), and Ervin Soldner (Treasurer) completed the details for the new body.

    The Kinmundy-Alma Fire Protection district is the largest in the county, covering 20% of it’s area. It includes Meacham, Kinmundy, Alma and Foster townships. Soon after organization, a 1940 fire engine was purchased for $750, and the first new truck was purchased in 1955 for $14,000. This red truck is still at the station and is used in parades. The following vehicles were purchased: the big yellow Ford in 1972 for $34,000; the red 1977 for $40,000; the tanker truck in 1985, chassis only, cost $20,000; and the grass fire truck, a 1964 Chevrolet, cost $3000.

    The first district fire station was acquired on Feb. 25, 1955, for $2,000. On Feb. 6, 1981, the property on which the current station house is located was purchased from Cecil Jones and Harvey Johnson and following the construction costing $229,800, an open house was held on Oct. 16, 1988. This well-planned and attractive building is a source of pride for the residents of the district.

    Leadership is important in any organization, and the district has been blessed. Old timers recall the efforts of men such as Carl Dunlap, Jesse George, and Dwight Day in the formative years. In 1957, the following were the officers of the Kinmundy-Alma Volunteer Fire Department: Jim Alexander, President; George Feather, Vice President; Gilbert Doolen, Secretary-Treasurer; Carl Dunlap, Chief; Jesse George, Assistant Chief; P.H. Robnett, Captain; and James Lane, Lieutenant. Members were Vernon Allen, R.R. Atkins, James Brasel, D.C. Day, Lowell I. Devore, Edward Elston, Fred Gammon, Robert Geiler, E.E. Jahraus, R.R. Lee, John W. McCulley, Everett Tate, O. Yates Jr., and E.O. Zimmer.

    The current trustees of the district are Don Thompson, President; Robert L. Williams, Secretary; and John Jones, Treasurer. From the Charter Trustees to the present board only two other trustees, Howard Downey and D.C. Day, have served in that capacity. The current department officers are Kevin Day, Chief; Richard Day and Don Gilbert, Assistant Chiefs; Brad Hawkey, captain; and Gary Cooper, Lieutenant. Those who have led the department through the years include Carl Dunlap, George Feather, Jesse George, Bill Jones, and Kevin Day.

    When the local ambulance operator ceased providing service on Dec. 1, 1988, the fire department responded. A 1977 Dodge ambulance was purchased in 1982 for $6,500 of which the Kinmundy Bank contributed $500. Twenty EMTs were trained, five of which are known among the current 14 actives. The program headed by Gerri Molina includes 5 state-certified Emergency Rescue Technicians and 11 state certified first responders to assist ambulance personnel. This service is provided only in emergency situations.

    Upon interviewing some of those associated with the department, one immediately senses commitment, mutual respect, and a unity of purpose. Don Thompson, Board President and a director of the Illinois Fire Protection district’s Board, was enthusiastic about both the past and future of the district. He expressed interest in both the effectiveness of the programs and the necessity of keeping the district on a sound fiscal basis. He dreams of a new big truck in the next couple of years. Chief Kevin Day joins him in this goal and praised the cooperation of the board and the hard work of the members of the department. Chief Day was pleased that the department now had members living in Brubaker, Omega, Lester and Sandy Branch, as well as in Kinmundy and Alma. The Chief pointed out the involvement of the department with railroad accidents as well as those on the nearby highway. Don Gilbert, a 21 year veteran, takes pride in his service. His only suggestion for improvement involved the establishment of a county group to co-ordinate certain activities, such as training. Richard Day, who as been with the department 23 years, lives in the Alma area. He explained how those firefighters living in rural areas kept their "bunker gear" at home and headed directly to the scene of the fire when notified. They also make use of their radios to keep the station informed of the situation. He explained that first aid training was useful.

    The Kinmundy-Alma Fire Department represents the community’s interest from both the citizens and the department, in providing fire protection. The unselfish men and women serving those in need are deserving of our gratitude and support."

Written by George Ross and originally included in his "A Peek at Our Past" articles printed in the Salem Times-Commoner in 1996 and 1997.

"Footprints in Marion County"; Vol. XXII; Winter 1998, No. 3

Marion County Genealogical and Historical Society


Firehouse in Kinmundy

(KF-20)  This was the first firehouse located in Kinmundy, and was located where the Community Center and Parking lot now sits.



Second Firehouse in Kinmundy - Kinmundy-Alma Fire Department

(KF-21)  This was the first firehouse located in Kinmundy, and was located just east of "Main Street", and north of the Pentacostal Church..



                     Kinmundy-Alma Fire Department


(OF-4a)  (1977-78)

Back Row: Kevin Day, Wayne Shanafelt, Gilbert Doolen, Don Thompson, Dave White, Charlie Robnett, Don Gilbert, Donald Robb, Bryce Geiler, Jim Weeks

Front Row: Mike Diss, Bill Jones, Mark Middleton, Rick Deadmond, Richard Zinser, Billy Allen, Carl Dunlap, Richard Day



(OF-2a) (1977 or 1978) Richard Day, Kevin Day, Don Thompson, Bill Jones, Donald Robb, Billy Allen




              (OF-3) Geri Molina - EMT Coordinator                                                                  (OF-4) Linda Thompson - Radio Dispatcher



    (OF-10b) Oct. 26, 2007 - Salem Times-Commoner

    The Kinmundy-Alma Fire Protection District plays an instrumental role in emergency services in the area.  The district covers a massive amount of land

along with some unique terrain.  The Kinmundy-Alma Fire Protection District was formed in 1955.  The district averages about 90-100 fire calls per year, and

additionally covers about 250 EMS calls per year.  The district covers approximately 140 square miles of Marion County, including 10 miles of Interstate 57. 

Members of the Kinmundy-Alma Board of Trustees are: President Don Thompson, Treasurer John Jones, and Secretary Ken Neilson. 

Kinmundy-Alma firefighters include Chief Kevin Day, Assistant Chief Richard Day, Assistant Don Gilbert, Captain Brad Hawkey, Captain Gary Cooper,

Lieutenant Vernon Rose, Jeremy Chasteen, Ed Rankin, Blake Lane, Stephen Robb, Trevor White, Chris Hiestand, Tommy Daughtery, Joey Jones, Nathan Day,

Jeret Smith, Chris Webster, Bill Hawkey, Matt Hicks, Patrick Harrell, Cody Middleton, Jordan Hanks, Daniel Webster, David Snow, Lyle Hankins, Hunter Purcell,

Scott Kline, Johnny Rose, Billy Waggoner, and Randy Robbins.

    Gary Cooper also serves as the EMS Coordinator for the district, and his fellow EMS personnel are: Kevin Day, Vernon Rose, Ed Rankin, Stephen Robb,



More information about the Kinmundy-Alma Fire District can be found on their website at


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