1926 Fire Destroyed St. James Rectory at Vesper

A fire in April 1926 at the parish priest’s residence in Vesper, Wisconsin, spread so fast that the building was reduced to its foundation before firefighters arrived.

Rev. Charles W. Gille
Rev. Charles W. Gille

Fire broke out in the rectory of St. James Catholic Church on Monday, April 19, 1926. Calls went to the Wisconsin Rapids fire department, but its firemen were all out battling grass fires. Villagers were on their own.

Belongings from the burning home can be seen in the foreground.
Belongings from the burning home can be seen in the foreground.

Neighbors rushed into the burning building to pull out as much as possible before the home was lost to the flames. It’s not known if the parish priest, Rev. Charles W. Gille, was at home when the fire broke out. Within a matter of minutes, the home was, as firefighters say, “totally involved.” The buckets of water thrown at it were of no use. By the time firemen from Marshfield arrived, it was too late.

As the fire reduces the home to its foundation, a man is seen tossing water on the roof of a nearby building.
As the fire reduces the home to its foundation, a man is seen tossing water on the roof of a nearby building.

The former residence of the Henry Stahl family on Benson Avenue was purchased by the St. James parish in 1919 to serve as a home for the parish priest. The loss from the fire was estimated at more than $4,000. The photos were taken by Carl F. Hanneman, whose father-in-law, Walter Treutel, lived just down the block from the fire scene.

This double exposure appears to show a man walking through the remains of the fire.
This double exposure appears to show a man walking through the remains of the fire.

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