Railroads in Texas / The Frisco

During the golden age of railroads Texas had it’s share. One of the busier and more historic railroads in Texas was referred to as “The Frisco“. To learn more about the Frisco Railroad we visited one of the best places on the subject, the Frisco Heritage Museum located in Frisco Texas.

A Town and a Railroad

frisco diesel locomotive

Frisco EMD Locomotive

Frisco is a northern suburb of the Dallas metropolitan area. What is now the city of Frisco Texas was at one time named Emerson and then renamed Frisco City before just being named Frisco.

The one time town of Emerson Texas benefited greatly by being connected to the outside world by a railroad. Railroads were connected to most aspects of community and economic life. Railroads could literally make or break a new town. As it turned out, the present city of Frisco was not only named after the railroad but also uses the old railroad’s logo as the city’s official logo.

The Routes of The Frisco Railroad and the Texas Special

The Frisco Railroad was also the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad. The Frisco took it’s new name in 1896 when it emerged from bankruptcy. Many railroad history buffs may recall that railroads suffered greatly during the financial depression on the 1890’s. Mergers were common. The old Frisco operated for over 100 years from 1876 to 1980. In 1980 it merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad.

frisco texas train station

Frisco Train Station in Frisco TX

An interesting note is that the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad never ran to San Francisco California. Texas was it’s most western state.

For many years the Frisco operated in conjunction with the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, commonly referred to as the Katy, operating the “Texas Special“. The Texas Special was considered quite luxurious and ran from St. Louis Missouri to San Antonio Texas via Dallas and Fort Worth. Passengers could also join this route in St. Louis connecting from the Pennsylvania Railroad‘s train from New York City with through sleeper car service. Through sleeper service between St. Louis and Washington D.C. was also available via the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The Texas Special was a key route into Texas. The train connected the important eastern cities with Texas markets.

The Texas Special Streamliners

The age of the Streamliner Trains was from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. If you were to define the new Streamliners you would say they were light, fast and luxurious. They were quite different from what was before them. They were sleek looking.

1910 steam locomotive

Frisco 1910 steam locomotive

The Streamliner was created to help improve railroad market share. By the 1930’s, long highways were being built and connected together for the automobile. Route 66 was a good example of this. The Streamliner concept for the most part was to make the railroad experience more than just getting between two points. Speed, luxury and adventure was what the railroad intended to offer the traveling public. It was an innovative effort to bring people back to the railroad.

One example of success in the Streamliner effort was certainly the Santa Fe Railroad’s Super Chief train running between Chicago and Los Angeles. Americans were fascinated  with the American Southwest and the new AT & SF streamliners offered them a luxurious unique adventure.

The two railroads which operated the Texas Special  were considered mid-sized Class I systems that operated in the Midwest and down through southern Texas. The Texas Special locomotives were some of the most flashiest looking in the country.

hudson steam locomotive

1938 J3 Hudson steam locomotive, 1938

The Frisco Locomotives and Railcars

The Texas Special streamliner locomotive was of the EMD- E Series diesels. The streamliner diesel service began in 1947 with the EMD’s and in 1949 two Alco PA-1 diesels were added.

The locomotive was painted with a yellow nose and a large centered “Lone Star”.

Both railroads spent a lot of money on equipment and design. Red Pullman Standard cars with stainless steel sheathing were ordered and carried names of Texas locations and notable people. Rail cars included sleepers, diners, a coach buffet lounge, and a unique sleeper lounge observation. A full train would have seven sleeper cars. Interiors of the Texas Special also included red colors and reclining coach seats. This was about as first class a train you could offer the traveling public.

The Beginning of the End

Railroads in general faced an uphill battle when the Interstate Highway system became a reality. What eventually happened with the Frisco Texas Special was no different than what happened to non-transcontinental railroads all over the U.S. In addition to the Interstate highways, airports and air passenger traffic was increasing each year. In other words, the railroads faced competition like never before.

frisco passenger train schedule

Frisco schedule when later service ran only between Kansas City MO and Ft. Worth TX

The major change regarding the Texas Special was when the Katy was taken over by a new ownership group and began to focus more on the growing freight business.

With Katy’s new  lack of interest in both supporting the passenger business and with funding it adequately, Frisco decided to simply pull out of the partnership. This necessitated the Katy to make the northern terminus Kansas City rather than St. Louis. This change of course had negative traffic implications.  In 1964 the Texas Special passenger service ended south of Dallas and the Texas Special ceased operations entirely in 1966.

The economics of offering passenger rail service had changed dramatically. Railroad passengers were only five years away from the introduction of Amtrak in 1971.

You’ll also enjoy our photo articles on the Historic Pullman Cars and the Passenger Rocket Trains of the Rock Island Railroad. On our Western Trips site see the photo article on the Katy Railroad.

frisco heritage museum

Frisco Heritage Museum

Visiting the Frisco Heritage Museum

The Frisco Heritage Museum is an excellent addition to your Texas trip planner. The Frisco Heritage Museum is comprised on a modern museum building with a great collection of railroad artifacts, vintage automobiles, model trains, vintage printing equipment, oil industry artifacts and many other interesting items and murals. Outside the museum are a collection of historic homes and structures from Frisco’s past along with a 1910 steam locomotive and caboose. The museum address is 6455 Page Street, Frisco TX. The museum area is easily reached from Dallas via the Dallas North Tollway.

The year 2013 will bring about big changes to the Frisco Heritage Museum and surrounding grounds. The Museum of the American Railroad located in Dallas Texas will be relocating their entire collection to Frisco TX during 2013. The Museum of the American Railroad is a not-for-profit Texas corporation dedicated to celebrating the heritage and exploring the future of railroads through historic preservation, research, and educational programming.

For information and the status of the museum’s opening in Frisco TX, check out website  www.museumoftheamericanrailroad.org.

(Photos from author’s private collection. Frisco timetable schedule courtesy of Frisco Heritage Museum)


Alamo in San Antonio

The Alamo in San Antonio Texas has been and is the most popular tourist attraction in San Antonio Texas. The Alamo, then with the Mexican name of Mission San Antonio de Valero, represented ground zero in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico during the 1830’s. The site of the Alamo is both a popular stop in San Antonio for historians as well as those which look upon it as a type of shrine.

alamo in san antonio

The Alamo

If you haven’t visited the Alamo in San Antonio TX  I would highly recommend that you add it to your Texas vacation planner. San Antonio has a wealth of historic sites in addition to popular modern day attractions such as Sea World, the famous River Walk and Fiesta Texas. San Antonio literally has something to offer everyone and it’s a top Texas family vacation destination.

The Alamo in San Antonio Then and Now

The Alamo in San Antonio, built about a quarter mile east of the village settlement,  was the first Spanish mission built in San Antonio. There four other missions built to the south along the San Antonio River. The Spaniards built missions in California, New Mexico and Texas for the purpose of Christianizing the Native population and by doing so also creating new subjects for the King of Spain and helping to solidify Spanish rule in North America. All of the Spanish missions including the Alamo served as a symbol of Spanish rule. While being separate, the mission system worked alongside the Spanish military quite effectively. There was no other colonial power of the time where the church and state worked so much in unison.

alamo walls

Walls and convent rooms along Alamo perimeter

The Texas Republic

What has happened several times when American settlers flooded into certain regions, an urge to form their own government takes over. This happened in Texas and later to a degree with the Bear Flag Revolt in California in the 1840’s. In Texas it didn’t take long for American settlers to struggle against Mexican rule and this was only about a decade after the Mexicans themselves had ejected the Spanish from North America. Americans in Mexican controlled Texas wanted their independence. At the same time, General Antonio  Lopez de Santa Anna, dictator of Mexico in 1836, and self styled “Napolean of the West“, aimed to keep Texas under strict Mexican rule. The battle at the Alamo couldn’t be avoided.

What the Alamo Meant

It was widely felt that taking control of the Alamo Mission was the key to wresting away Texas from Mexico. The settlement, then named Bexar, was also a site of Mexican garrisons. The Alamo itself was a mission, not a fort. The perimeter walls were easily scaled by ladders. The chapel was the only relatively secure building due to it’s twenty foot high walls. The Texas defenders had thought they could hold out long enough for reinforcements to arrive. In the meantime, there had been other victories won by the Mexicans and many a Texan settler, fearing that all was lost, dashed for the U.S. border. The feeling was that if Mexico did indeed prevail, perceived traitors would be surely executed.

spirit of sacrifice memorial in san antonio tx

Spirit of Sacrifice Monument, San Antonio Texas

Back at the Battle of the Alamo, after two unsuccessful assaults on the Alamo mission grounds by troops under General Santa Anna, the third assault, using all the reserve troops under his command were able to scale the walls. Messages were dispatched from the Alamo by the Texan defenders calling for reinforcements but as history chronicles they never did arrive.

Mexican troops poured over the northern wall and after severe hand to hand combat, the Texas defenders fell back to die in the Alamo convent barracks and chapel building. Among those who lost their lives were Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett and Colonel William B. Travis. It is widely believed that Davy Crockett was among the defenders captured alive but shortly thereafter executed with the other prisoners by direct orders of Santa Anna.

What the Defeat at the Alamo Unleashed

It has been said that Santa Anna, while still losing some six hundred of his troops, considered the Alamo battle of little consequence. As it turned out he was dead wrong. The Alamo defeat stood as a symbol and battle cry that would galvanize the Texas forces in such a way that just some six weeks later Santa Anna was defeated further east by forces under the command of Sam Houston at Battle of San Jacinto and Texas won it’s independence. It was at this decisive battle at San Jacinto that the Texas volunteers charged the Mexican troops with the famous battle cry, “Remember the Alamo“.

alamo in 1860s

Alamo Plaza, 1860

Santa Anna Makes a Strategic Blunder

Historians contend that Santa Anna had made a terrible blunder while marching east. Instead of pursuing Sam Houston and his troops, Santa Anna decided to attack the settlement of Harrisburg where supposedly Texas government officials were. The town however was empty and Santa Anna’s diversion allowed Houston’s troops to fall in behind him. At this point, Houston had some 800 Texas troops. They would have about equal strength as the Mexicans. After sneaking up on the Mexicans through tall grass the Texas troops engaged the Mexicans in what would be a decisive defeat for Santa Anna and victory for Texas in it’s war for independence.

General Santa Anna’s Fate

Santa Anna facts include the following. Santa Anna was captured at the Battle of San Jacinto. After signing papers acknowledging Texas independence, Santa Anna was assured his safe return to Veracruz Mexico. The situation back in Mexico was a bit more complicated. A new government was formed in Mexico and it declared that Santa Anna was no longer president and that the treaty with Texas was null and void. As it turned out, the Mexican General spent some time in exile in the U.S. and while there actually went to Washington to meet President Andrew Jackson.

mexican general santa anna

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Mexican Dictator and General, circa 1853

Santa Anna eventually did make it back to Mexico and at one time regained power just to lose it again. Among the countries he lived in exile at included Cuba, Colombia, Jamaica, St. Thomas and the U.S. In 1869, the old Mexican general was actually living in exile on Staten Island in New York.

Santa Anna returned to Mexico under an amnesty given to him in 1874 and was largely ignored. He died in Mexico City in 1876.

An excellent book to learn more of the details on the life of the “Napolean of the West” is Santa Anna of Mexico by author Will Fowler.

You’ll also enjoy our Western Trips photo articles about the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in San Antonio and the historic Guenther House and Pioneer Flour Mill just south of the Alamo. Also, on our Trips Into History site the story of the de Anza Expedition and the founding of San Francisco and Exploring Western Art in San Antonio Texas.

San Antonio Texas is located 275 miles southwest of Dallas TX and 199 miles west of Houston TX.

(Photos from author’s private collection. Photos of the Alamo in 1860 and Santa Anna from the public domain)

Re-Riding on the Pony Express Trail

There’s one fun and historic event that occurs each year sponsored by the National Pony Express Association. It’s a Re-riding of the 1,966 mile Pony Express Trail and it takes place each June. This event offers a fun and close glimpse into the era of the famed Pony Express.

frederick remington pony express art

Frederick Remington's "Coming and Going of the Pony Express"

The NPEA’s main aim is to keep the spirit and memory of this National Historic Trail alive. Headquartered in Pollock Pines California, right on the old trail itself, the NPEA works to preserve the trail and what better way to do that than to put together a reenactment of the Pony Express ride.

Prior to the NPEA forming, there were three re-rides of the trail. The first Pony Express Re-Ride was held in 1935 which commemorated the 75th anniversary of the trail. There was another re-ride held in 1958 sponsored by the Western States Trail Ride. This famous re-ride actually carried U.S. Mail. Then again in 1960, as a 100 year commemoration, there was a re-ride put together by the Western Pony Express Trails Association along with the Central Overland Pony Express Trails Association.

The next ride after the ones mentioned above didn’t occur until the NPEA was formed in 1977.

The Old Trail

The Pony Express National Historic Trail runs from Missouri to California. The very fact that riders accomplished this arduous and dangerous task of getting mail to Sacramento California from St. Joseph Missouri in about ten days overshadowed the fact that the Pony Express only existed for eighteen months. Only ten days to deliver a letter to California was fascinating to the public at that time considering the alternative routes would have been by steamer either around Cape Horn or over to and across the Isthmus of Panama. In both cases it was months, not days.

pony express postage stamp

100th Anniversary of the Pony Express U.S. Postage Stamp

The Pony Express operated in the west during the American Civil War. This was several years before the Indian Wars on the Plains began. This was years before Red Cloud’s War and the Fetterman Massacre in Wyoming, sixteen years before Custer’s defeat at the Little Bighorn and decades before the Indian Wars in the west officially came to an end.

It was a time when traveling on horseback day and night over primitive routes through Indian country could be quite dangerous in the least.

Necessities included a fast horse, a wiry rider and the ability to find your way in daylight and darkness. You may have seen the old advertisements for Pony Express riders which suggested that orphans were preferable. It was both dangerous and adventurous.

Today’s Pony Express Trail

The proposed route for the Pony Express was very simple. It headed west out of St. Joseph Missouri, up the Platte and Sweetwater rivers, through South Pass Wyoming and the Rockies to Salt Lake City. The route then ran out across the Utah and Nevada deserts, up and over the Sierra Nevada and into California at the south end of lake Tahoe and then down the western side of the Sierra Nevada.

old town sacramento

Today's Old Town Sacramento, the western terminus of the Pony Express

Segments of today’s Pony Express Trail are both publicly and privately owned. The National Park Service depends on many organizations and private land owners to keep this historic trail alive. This involves communication with state governments and municipalities. The Pony Express National Historic Trail follows the 1,900-mile route taken by those daring riders through the states of  Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.

Just as with other notable old western trails, much of the original trail has been worn away by weather and modernization. Some of the best remaining segments are to be found in Utah and California. Eventually, the Pony Express National Historic Camp Trail is planned to run past 120 historic sites related to the famous yet short lived mail operation, including what remains of 50 stations along the route.

placer county california courthouse

Placer County Courthouse California, along the Pony Express Trail

Exploring the Pony Express Trail

Driving directions and maps are available to provide modern travelers with directions along highways that approximate the historic route taken by the Pony riders during the eighteen months that it operated from 1860-1861. The link Pony Express National Trails has a map where you can pinpoint what parts of the trail you intend to visit. In California for an example, the old Pony Express Route generally follows U.S. Hwy 50 up the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. U.S. Hwy 50 is also the primary route to take through Nevada toward Utah. In Utah, the route travels northeast past Salt Lake City and into Wyoming.

Two additional articles you’ll find interesting include a Visit to Old Town Sacramento California and Traveling on the Old Butterfield Stage Line.

pony express mochilla

Pony Express Mochilla exhibit

The Utah Segment

The Pony Express Trail National Back Country Byway in Utah begins near Fairfield and ends at Ibapah, Utah.

Add Camp Floyd / Stagecoach Inn State Park on state highway 73, 5 miles south of Cedar Fort to your trip planner. Then add the Pony Express National Back Country Byway Visitor Information Site. The location is 1.8 miles west of the Fausts Junction along the north side of the Pony Express Trail. The station there was named after station keeper “Doc” Fausts. The station was a two-story stone structure located some distance from the present historical marker which was erected in 1939. The entire Back Country Byway is 133 miles long. Most of the route is range land and managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Visiting historic segments of the Pony Express Trail makes an excellent addition to your western road trip planner. The map provided by the National Park Service is a good place to start in planning your upcoming road trip. Attending a segment of the annual NPEA Re-Ride is also a great way for the entire family to learn about the days of the Pony Express. For more information, visit the NPEA site at www.xphomestation.com

(Photos and images from the public domain)


The Great Hinckley Firestorm and the Killer of John Wilkes Booth

Prelude to Disaster

The 1800’s was a time of great invention, westward migration, the American Civil War, industrial expansion and it also was a time of recklessness which all too often led to catastrophe. Such was the case in Hinckley Minnesota in the year 1894.

Pine County Minnesota was going through a tremendous drought in 1894. In fact, it hadn’t rained for months and compounding the extreme dryness were soaring temperatures. People of the area hadn’t remembered a time that it was so dry. Summer fires in the forests were nothing that uncommon.

horse drawn fire wagon

1800's Horse Drawn Fire Wagon

Somewhat common were small fires set off from the sparks of passing locomotives and there was an abundance of locomotives in the late 1800’s. Railroads stretched throughout the state. Hinckley was fortunate enough to be the crossroads to several rail lines. The main line ran south from Duluth to St. Paul. Plenty of passengers were heading in both directions. Hinckley was a town where many people were traveling to.

The logging industry in and around Hinckley meant everything to the economy. The pine forests of Minnesota were a bonanza for the logging industry after many of the eastern forests were depleted. The logging industry kept heading west. Sawmills in the area were operating at full capacity and the jobs were plentiful for immigrants arriving in America looking for a fresh start. Hinckley, although small, was a classic example of a town created from one burgeoning industry. During all of this building and the subsequent increase in population the one thing that may not have been addressed was the real possibility of fire a devastating fire.

Everything looked good for Hinckley Minnesota. The population was growing, people were building houses and the jobs were plentiful. What happened to Hinckley happened to other towns and cities who were in an around about way a victim of what was endemic during the latter 1800’s in America...an absence of federal regulation and oversight.

hinckley firestorm

Hinckley Minnesota after the Great Fire Storm

While the trees were felled at a dizzying pace forest management practices were nonexistent. Limbs, sawdust and a combination of wooded debris was simply left on the forest floor. The loggers were after the big trees not the small stuff. Trees that were cut down were quickly hauled to the nearest stream and floated down river to the sawmills. Cleaning up after the cutting was never a thought. When trees were felled and there was still daylight, you simply moved on to the next stand. Forest management, while being discussed and debated both here and in Europe, was just that…a debate, although several European countries were starting to practice wise forest management.

Like most disasters, there usually are several contributing causes and sometimes the added danger of a sheer lack of disaster preparedness. One cause alone usually isn’t enough. In Hinckley’s case, the summer of 1894 was a time that would bring together all the necessary elements to form a catastrophic firestorm.

The Disaster Unfolds

While the summer of 1894 was a particularly brutal one for Hinckley Minnesota, the extent of the problem really was not fully understood. Disaster preparedness probably wasn’t on the top of peoples minds. The possibility of a firestorm, let alone the understanding of what a fire storm was, didn’t seem to rattle the populace. The weather service of the U.S. government was in it’s infancy. Weather forecasting in 1894 was essentially a telegraph message of what conditions were like at some point further west or southwest. You could call a forecast in 1894 purely conjecture however most believed it to be better than no forecast at all. What was on peoples minds in Hinckley was the need for rain, not really a fear of a firestorm. Why there wasn’t some type of evacuation under way before the conflagration occurred will never be known. After all, fire as a disaster was nothing new. It happened years earlier in Peshtigo Wisconsin. The Peshtigo fire occurred on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

Two additional articles on our Western Trips site you’ll find interesting are the Great Fire of 1910 and the Beginnning of the Forest Service and the Smokejumpers.

An Unusually Hot and Dry Summer

pine county minnesota map

Pine County Minnesota

As the dry and hot summer progressed in Pine County Minnesota, what became apparent was that the debris on the forest floors would dry out to such an extent that it would actually smolder. The forest floors would begin smoking as a result of extreme dryness coming in contact with hundred degree temperatures. In a way it’s almost like a ticking time bomb which only an adequate rainstorm could stop. Certainly there was concern but probably what wasn’t realized at the time were the consequences. This was all a prelude to the Hinckley fire.

Finally. on September 1st 1894, after months of no rain, the conflagration began. The forests erupted in flames from several directions at once. To the people in Hinckley it was a smoldering fire which had covered the town with smoke and a haze for days that suddenly erupted into spontaneous combustion, almost like an explosion. It was spontaneous combustion in several places at once. There were efforts to fight the flames and try to save town structures however it soon became apparent that it was a losing battle. This of course was before smokejumpers, water tanker aircraft and hot shot crews. The town of Hinckley had a fire wagon loaded with water along with shovels and pick axes to try to dig fire breaks…all quite inadequate to fight this type fire. It was a firestorm, not a mere fire. It had a mind of it’s own. The Hinckley fire was beyond anyone’s control.

When fires of the size Pine County experienced grew, they spawned their own weather. This happened during the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894.

great chicago fire

This drawing of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 shows the winds generated by a firestorm

The fire became a firestorm with vortexes and actual tornadoes forming from the high winds created by the fire itself. The science of the firestorm is fully understood today, but in the 1890’s it was not. Escaping a firestorm like this was extremely difficult. The fire storm created updrafts which caused strong gusts of wind which only increased the flames and made the conflagration spread at an enormous speed. Again, there were attempts to fight the flames that tore into the wooden structures. Wooden structures in a town like Hinckley were the norm. After all, wood was plentiful in Hinckley. The flames simply overwhelmed the fire crews and the only option was to try to escape. That was not easy. Many fled to the train depot to try to hop a train. Others ran to the river and attempted to hide underwater  frequently coming up for air. Some others put their worldly belongings on wagons and tried to get out of town. The Hinckley evacuation was essentially mass hysteria. Even the train was caught in the flames and many didn’t make it out by that means. According to news stories of the time, people looked for shelter everywhere including wells and a railroad gravel pit. For many, evacuation simply was impossible.

According to the Minnesota Historical Society records, the fire raced across 480 square miles and burned 350,000 acres. An enormous area to be burned in only a matter of hours. The death toll was estimated at 400.

boston corbett

Boston Corbett

The Story of Boston Corbett

Who would have thought that Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett would end up in Minnesota? This is the Boston Corbett who in 1865, some twenty-nine years before the Great Hinckley Firestorm, was a soldier in the Union Army.

Corbett was with a cavalry group hot on the trail after John Wilkes Booth, just days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Booth had fled with a companion through the southern Maryland swamps and across the Potomac River into Virginia. Boston Corbettt was a member of the 16th New York Cavalry Regiment.

This regiment was dispatched to locate and arrest John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Lincoln. Booth was at large but the noose was tightening. On April 26th, the regiment which was transported down into Virginia by steamer surrounded Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, in a barn at Garrett’s Farm just south of Port Royale Virginia. Herold surrendered and left the barn. Booth remained inside. After Booth refused to surrender the barn was set on fire. The intent was to force Booth out, not kill him. Boston Corbett was standing near a large crack in the barn wall. Corbett saw Booth through the crack, aimed his Colt revolver and shot him. The shooting by Corbett was strictly against orders. Secretary of War Stanton had wanted Booth taken alive. As a result, the commander of the regiment placed Corbett under arrest.

john wilkes booth wanted posterBooth died hours after the shooting and his body, along with the cavalry regiment, was transported back to Washington D.C. via steamer. Incredibly, and aside from the fact that Corbett disobeyed direct orders, he was awarded a handsome bonus for his action of over $1,600. This apparently was his share of the total reward money.

Years of Running

Corbett left the military later in 1865 and worked as a hatter in the northeast. Eventually, Corbett moved to Kansas and his behavior became quite odd and at times violent. Was this the “mad hatter” syndrome where mercury used in felt hats caused insanity? This indeed was what many thought during the 1800’s. We do know that mercury poisoning can be fatal. As far as whether or not it can lead to insanity, no research I have seen either proves or disproves it.

While working as a doorman at the Kansas State Assembly, Boston Corbett pulled out a pistol and threatened people. This got him a one way ticket to an insane asylum. He escaped from the asylum and at first was planning on fleeing to Mexico but changed his mind. Instead, he ended up living in a cabin in the woods outside of Hinckley Minnesota. This was during the years of 1888-89, just in time to settle in a growing lumber town far away from big cities.

Engulfed By Two Fatal Events

While precise records concerning Corbett’s movements in those years is a bit sketchy, what is known is that he was living outside Hinckley, in the forest, when the firestorm occurred. After the Great Fire Corbett was gone, never to be seen or heard from again. What apparently remained at the site where the cabin was located was simply a dug out hole.

Based on this and the massive loss of life during the Great Fire of Hinckley, it was presumed that Boston Corbett fell victim to the catastrophe. Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett ironically came to be a well known individual as a direct result of one of the most infamous events during the 19th century, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It’s believed he left this world during another catastrophic 19th century event, the Great Hinckley Firestorm. At the time of his presumed death, Boston Corbett would have been 62 years old.

Fire Museums in Hinckley and Peshtigo

Today there are two fire museums which chronicle the devastating firestorms in both Hinckley and Peshtigo Minnesota. The Hinckley Fire Museum is located at 106 Old Highway 61 Hinckley, MN. The Hinckley museum tells the story of what happened and the stories of the survivors and those who didn’t survive this epic firestorm. The Peshtigo Fire Museum is located at 400 Oconto Avenue, Peshtigo, WI.

(Photos and images from the public domain)