partially unhitched and Dad asleep under the wagon, and Mom perhaps preparing a noon meal, this location would have fit the requirements and circumstances for a fire to "suddenly" have been upon them. The smoke? Dad was getting some much needed rest, Mom was busy caring for the needs of the family, and the children probably wouldn't have recognized it as a danger, or as any more than just another phenomenon of their long journey. With a wind of 15 -20 mph, the fire could easily have been advancing 8-10 mph. In the heavy grasses, a person could not have outrun the fire very long.
It was at this time and place the fire "crested a rise" and was upon them. (The wind had picked up- "hurricane force" and was out of the southwest and the fire was rapidly advancing to the northeast.) Fires of this size and nature make a good deal of noise as they advance and this hill would have acted as a partial sound barrier.
Apparently the family, with Mother driving, made a dash for safety with the team and wagon along the road to the northwest, but even though they had the horses going at a gallop, they were not going away from the fire but, by staying on the road to the northwest, they were, in fact, merely going perpendicular to the flames. Very soon the canopy to the wagon was on fire and chaos and panic set in. When Mr S. attempted to get down from the wagon, he was kicked by a horse and unable, for a time, to assist any of the family and all but he died quickly. (Or so most reports say)
The exact location of the final acts of this saga apparently were in the "east central part of Sec 9 in a slough, where a large boulder lay for many years". This information is provided in the thirties by H.L.Boyes who was raised in the neighborhood and whose father lived there at the time. He states that the old iron from the burned wagon lay over the site for many years.
Question has been made as to the overall extent of this fire- i.e. how did it start and where and how far did it go? What finally stopped it, etc? And how many acres did it consume? One source mentioned this fire burned their farmstead east of Story City but how much further it raced is unanswered. I can find only one reference to where the fire originated. Mr Harrison of Pales- tine Twp, six miles or so south of Ames was arrested for the deliberate starting of the fire that killed the family of six. Ironically, Mr Harrison had a family of four children very near the same ages as those in the Schweringen family. Both gentlemen had families of three girls and a boy and one of the daughters in each family was named Sarah.
The paper states that Mr Harrison was taken into a type of protective custody and to appear in the next con- vening of the district court but no record of the results of this court proceedings could be found. Mr Harrison had two "hired men" living at his home so it is easy to imagine that they may have been cutting fire- wood down by the South Skunk River and were burning brush and scrub timber and when the wind came up, the fire got away from them. The geography of where they might have been working suggests that the fire could have jumped the river.
At that time the Milford Twp area was covered with a variety of natural prairie grasses- some which were generally as tall as a horse' back and others taller. I've heard stories that at this time if one ventured on to the plains he did not get off his horse unless absolutely