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The Great Hinckley Fire monument.

Great Hinckley Fire Museum and Mass Grave

Field review by the editors.

Hinckley, Minnesota

Towns sometimes learn the hard way to be careful about their claims to fame. Take the north woods burg of Hinckley. Before Sept. 1, 1894, it was nicknamed "The Town Built of Wood." That's the day a forest fire flashed through town -- really, a firestorm, with "as much force as an atomic bomb," to quote a display at the town museum. Hinckley's afternoon inferno killed at least 418, and burned up five surrounding villages as it consumed over 400 square miles of kindling.

It became known as the Great Hinckley Fire. In the town museum, a diorama shows what Hinckley looked like before the fire, a town surrounded by white pine forests. The exhibit includes a wall-sized painting of flames converging on the water-filled gravel pit, where many survived. Some escaped via the railroad, but hundred were dead within hours. The coroner's official tally (418) is reproduced for your skimming pleasure. A photo of the town's "award winning" fire department was on display (though we argued later in the car whether it was the Fire Dept. of 1893 or 1895).

The Coroner's Tally - 418 Dead.
The Coroner's Tally - 418 Dead.

A small group of statues in town represents survivors in the gravel pit.

The Fire Monument and mass grave is on Fire Monument Road, very near the interstate. Mass graves of 248 people are in lumpy mounds just behind the marker, dedicated in 1900 to the pioneers of civilization in Minnesota.

Boston Corbett, killer of Abe Lincoln's killer, is said to have left his hole-in-the-ground home in Kansas and died in the Great Hinckley Fire, in the neighboring town of Neodesha.

Hinckley's current slogan is "Relax...Have Fun!"

Also see: Great Peshtigo Fire | Moose Lake Fire

Great Hinckley Fire Museum and Mass Grave

Lutheran Memorial Cemetery

Fire Monument Rd, Hinckley, MN
I-35 Exit 183. Drive east a half-mile to the easy-to-spot mass grave monument, on the north side of Fire Monument Rd at Lutheran Memorial Cemetery. The Fire Museum is in town, at 106 Old Hwy 61.
Museum: May - mid-Oct. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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