1904, 22 April: Columbia Falls Has A Blaze
Row of wooden buildings burned - body of man found in ruins.
Five frame buildings were totally destroyed by fire at Columbia Falls Monday. The burned buildings were in the block north of the Gaylord hotel, and only the building occupied by the Main Mercantile Company was left standing. All were occupied by saloons.
It is thought the fire was of incendiary origin, as a number of attempts to burn the buildings are believed to have been made before. The fire started in the saloon of Al. Morgan, and when discovered had got under such headway that few of the contents of the building could be saved. From the adjoining buildings much of the contents were saved. The Main Mercantile Co.'s store was protected by its heavy brick wall, and a fortunate change in the direction of the wind made it possible for men to work on top of that building, or it would certainly have been destroyed, as it was on fire under the roof in a number of places. All the goods from the store were removed when it seemed likely that it would also go up in smoke.
Soon after the fire a message was sent to Kalispell asking for aid, and the chemical engine, accompanied by forty or fifty men from here, was sent up on a special [train]. A quick run was made, but the fire was practically under control before the Kalispell department reached it.
Several hours after the fire was under control the body of a man was discovered a few feet from where the Stockholm saloon, one of the burned buildings, had stood. Two small boys made the discovery and reported it at once. Coroner Willoughby, who was in Columbia Falls at the time, took charge of the body, and held an inquest to discover if possible a clue as to the manner of his death. A watch and key found near the body made it certain that the body was that of Howard L. Gladwin, who had slept in the Stockholm the night before, and who had gone back to bed a short time before the fire was discovered. The jury was uncertain as to the cause of his death, and returned a verdict of death from unknown cause. It was the opinion of Dr. Robinson, who examined the body where it was discovered, that the man was dead before he had been touched by fire, and that he had not died from suffocation by smoke. His reason for his opinion was that the muscles of the limbs were not contracted in the least, as they could have been had death been the result of burning or suffocation. The body when discovered, was lying flat upon the back, with the arms and legs extended and was burned and charred beyond recognition.
May Have Been Murder: Later developments in regard to the body of Howard Gladwin who was found dead after the fire at Columbia Falls Monday, point to the possibility that Gladwin may have been murdered and the building burned in an attempt to conceal the crime. Two men were reported in custody at the Falls each accusing the other of having been concerned in the murder. County Attorney Grubb and Deputy Sheriff Donahue went to Columbia Falls yesterday to hold an examination, which is being continued today. A telephone message from there says that nothing of any importance had yet been developed in the inquiry, but the investigation had not been completed.
April 29, 1904: No Clues Found: The investigation that was conducted at Columbia Falls last week in the attempt to determine the cause of the death of Howard Gladwin brought out nothing on which a definite charge could be made. Ed. Staples, who had been held on Burns' statement that he had seen Staples strike Gladwin with an iron bar some time before the fire, was discharged. Burns had been drunk, and the general belief was that he was in no condition to know what had really happened. He has been in the county jail since the fire, and since he has sobered up sticks to the story practically as he told it in the first place. County Attorney Grubb is still investigating the case, but has so far been able to find little to throw light on the affair.
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1929, 31 January: Fire Totally Destroys The Gaylord Hotel
Hostelry was one of the old landmarks of the valley - built by James Talbot 35 years ago.
With the thermometer registering 10 below zero and with a stiff gale blowing down through Bad Rock Canyon, members of the Columbia Falls fire department were unable to save the Gaylord Hotel building at Columbia Falls Saturday evening, when fire of unknown origin broke out in the attic of the building, and soon had spread to the lower floors.
The 31 rooms of the hotel were all occupied at the time of the fire ad many of the guests escaped with only the clothing they were wearing. The homes in the town were thrown open to the fire victims and with the exception of a number of frozen ears, fingers, and toes the guests suffered no severe injuries in leaving the burning building in the blizzard which was raging outside.
Several teaches who made their home at the hotel were attending a movie when the fire broke out and they lost all of their possessions, one of the teachers losing a piano as well as all her clothing and personal belongings.
John E. Lewis, proprietor of the hotel, was away at the time of the fire and did not learn of his loss until his return Sunday morning. Several thousand dollars worth of raw furs which were stored in one of the rooms of the hotel were saved and some of the furniture was also removed from the lobby and the lower floors.
Three paintings, the work of Charles Russell, and valued very highly by Mr. Lewis, were also saved. One of the paintings, "The Three Wise Men," is valued at $40,000 by Mr. Lewis.
The members of the fire department being unable to save the hotel building put forth their best efforts to confine the blaze to the single building, and succeeded in doing so, although the fierce wind carried the heat of the flames across the street to the brick building occupied by the Bank of Columbia Falls, and it is understood every window in the building was broken from the intense heart. Several stocks of merchandise from nearby buildings were moved out into the street, when it looked as though the adjacent buildings were to be gutted by the flames.
The Gaylord was one of the old landmarks of the Flathead Valley. It was built by James A. Talbott some 35 years ago, with the advent of the Great Northern Railway, and was one of the finest hostelries in this part of Montana. The hotel in those days was a social center and many are the parties that were held there and remembered well by the pioneers of this section.
The property changed hands about twelve or fifteen years ago, J. E. Lewis taking over the building and making many improvements, so that it was modern and used much as a community center for the people of the Columbia Falls vicinity. The loss will be felt not only by the owner but by the whole community as well.
The building was valued at $32,000 and the contents at about $10,000 it is understood. The insurance on the building and contents amounts to $22,000. It has not been learned whether or not the building will be rebuilt.
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