BIRD CITY, KS – The prairie fire that started on the farm occupied by Paul Phillips, six miles north of Bird City last Wednesday morning [March 9], burned to death Frank McGrew and destroyed large amounts of grain and feed. The St. Francis Eagle says the fire was started by the burning of weeds by Paul Phillips. The wind suddenly arose and the fire got away from him. The wind increased and the fire spread so rapidly that it was soon beyond all available help.
Frank McGrew, who lived with his family on the Mothershead farm to the south of Phillips and Walter Sheeder, were at work plowing fire guards about 30 rods from the house, just south of where the fire was burning furiously, and here the grass was tall, thick and very dry. It was about the middle of the afternoon that the wind with a sudden gust veered staright from the north and brought the fire directly upon them. The men tried to unhitch the horses, but they broke and ran away. The smoke and dust were so thick the men were almost suffocated, their clothing caught fire and was entirely burned off their bodies. They became separated and McGrew was found on the priaire and taken home and all that could was done for him, but he died about midnight. Mr. Sheeder made his way home. He was very badly burned, but at the last report there was hope of his recovery.
Mrs. McGrew saw the flames cover the men and she climbed into the water tank and sat down to wet her clothing in order to prevent it getting on fire and started out to help or find them. In this she failed and after some time returned to the house. Up to Thursday evening but one of the horses had been found and its mane tail were burned entirely off. The damage to property is hardly known yet, but we have learned that Beesons, who live on the Kerndt farm just north of Bird City lost everything, house, barn, sheds, feed and some hogs. W. H. Smith lost all but his house, including 1,000 bushels of wheat, 1,000 bushels of barley, barn, sheds, and feed. John Cram lost his barn and contents. Thad Weesner lost all his feed, Frank Nixon all his feed and Andrew Weesner part of his feed. The buildings on the B. W. Knott farm were also burned.
Other small fires were reported in Cheyenne and Thomas Counties. The engines on the stub of the Burlington road started several fires, which did damage to the range and a bridge between Haigler and Baird was burned out. The Goodland Republic, Friday, March 11, 1904. Page 1. (c) Transcribed by Darren McMannis for the Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies, Inc.