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Cloquet Fire (1918): Topics in Chronicling America

In 1918, sparks from railroads and dry conditions led to one of the greatest fire disasters in Minnesota history. This guide provides access to materials related to the "Cloquet Fire" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"All that was left of the town of Cloquet after it had been swept by the forest fires that devastated a large section of northeastern Minnesota, killing 1,000 persons and doing $100,000,000 damage." November 1, 1918. The North Platte semi-weekly Tribune (North Platte, NE), Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

A large section of northern Minnesota today was a smoldering ruin...Latest estimates place the death lists at 1,000. Hundreds are more or less seriously burned; thousands are destitute and homeless, and the property loss will reach many millions,” read the Bismarck Tribune on October 14, 1918. The Cloquet Fire of 1918 remains one of the deadliest disasters in Minnesota history and will forever hold a special place in Minnesota history. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

October 10, 1918 Fire is noticed by two railroad workers near Cloquet, Minnesota.
October 12, 1918 Near Cloquet, forest rangers warn citizens to flee the oncoming flames.
October 14, 1918 Fire burns for nearly 4 days due to terrible drought conditions and gusty winds. Relief efforts, organized by Governor Burnquist begin arriving to Moose Lake and Turtle River.
Late October - November 1918 The National Guard, organized by Governor Burnquist, and led by Lt. Franklin of the National Guard, help administer relief to Cloquet and begin rebuilding. Burnquist establishes the Pioneer Fire Relief Fund to aid the rebuilding process.