By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies as provided in our policy.

Unidentified Victims of the Houston Hotel Fire - Linkville Pioneer Cemetery - Klamath Falls, OR
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member thebeav69
N 42° 14.056 W 121° 46.941
10T E 600472 N 4676505
Quick Description: The graves of unknown victims of a hotel fire in 1920 are memorialized with a headstone here in Linkville Pioneer Cemetery.
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 4/23/2015 2:50:43 PM
Waymark Code: WMNR78
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 0

Long Description:
Located in the heart of Linkville Pioneer Cemetery is a headstone, memorializing those unknown victims of a hotel fire from 1920. The marker reads:

Dedicated to the unidentified victims

HOUSTON HOTEL FIRE

September 6, 1920

Klamath County Historical Society

I was able to locate two newspaper articles on a website that highlight this tragic event and they read:

NINE DEAD, 5 MISSING IN KLAMATH

Flames Sweep Block, Burn Hotel, Rooming House and Opera House; Roomers Are Trapped By Fire, Killed

Ruins Flooded and Searched in Effort to Determine the Extent of Holocaust; Babe Flung to Safety by Woman

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore., Sept. 6 - (By Associated Press) - Firemen working in the ruins estimated that at least twenty-five bodies are still within the smoldering debris. Heat has prevented recovery of the bodies.

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore., Sept. 6 - Nine persons are known dead, five missing and seven injured as a result of a fire which destroyed the Houston Hotel, a rooming house and a theater, doing a quarter million dollars damage here early today.

The dead so far identified are:
CHARLES HORMAN, Klamath Falls.
MRS. C. BILDERBACK, Ashland.
MISS LEONA BILDERBACK, Ashland.
MISS MARGARET HANLEY, chambermaid.
_________ SHADRICK.
The injured include:
H. McCHARLES.
WILLIAM MORSE.
THOMAS HIGGINS.
JAMES POFFDER, from Madera, Cal.

Firemen are drenching the smoldering ruins with water in an effort to cool them off sufficiently to permit a further search for bodies, believing it possible more dead may be buried in the ashes.

Search May Increase Casualty Lists
The city was crowded with workmen and others who had come to Klamath Falls for the big Labor Day celebration today. While the Houston Hotel, where the dead were found, normally accommodates fifty persons, it was believed that approximately 100 were registered there last night. Police and volunteers are attempting to make a check this morning which may reveal a still heavier loss of life.

Mother Throws Babe And Leaps From Window.
The fire spread to the HENDRICH apartment house and the ARGRAVES rooming house, which were also destroyed, as were six residences.

MRS. W. B. BARNES, who conducted the Houston rooming house, believes the death toll will reach at least fifteen and perhaps twenty.

The guests of the hotel, which was a tall wooden frame structure and burned rapidly, were trapped within the hotel, and although firemen made valiant efforts to save them many died.

MRS. MARY CAMORA was on the first floor of the hotel with her five-day-old baby. She rushed to a front window and threw the child, unhurt, to the waiting arms of firemen. Then she leaped and now is in the hospital among the injured.

Four Women Among The Known Dead
The known dead include four women.

Owing to the confusion and the loss of the hotel records the names of the dead have not been definitely established thus far.

The fire started at 3 a. m. in a rubbish pile in the rear of the hotel, the fire spreading to the hotel. The flames leaped the street, burning the rooming house opposite the hotel. Several buildings in addition to the hotel, rooming house and theater were damaged.

Oakland Tribune California 1920-09-06

The second article reads:

TEN DIE IN OREGON HOTEL FIRE

Four More Unaccounted for in Klamath Falls Disaster

PROPERTY LOSS OVER $300,000

Seventeen Injured and Nine Buildings Destroyed

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore., Sept. 6 - Ten persons are known to have been burned to death here early today when fire swept the Houston Hotel and part of the business district, with property loss estimated at more than $300,000. Four other persons are unaccounted for and police believe they may have perished.

It was thought that many more may have perished, for the cremated parts of many bodies were reported visible in the embers.

The identified dead are:
MRS. C. BILDERBACK.
MISS LEONA BILDERBACK, Ashland, Oregon.
MISS MARGARET HANLEY, chambermaid, Klamath Falls.
CHARLES HERMAN, Klamath Falls.

Unidentified dead are:
A girl of about 17 years of age, from Medford, Oregon.
Four men.

Sixteen bodies are believed to be in the ruins of the hotel. Seventeen guests are suffering burns and injuries sustained by jumping.

Mother Saves 3-Day-Old-Baby.
MRS. MARY CAMPORA, to whom a baby was born only three days ago, threw the infant from a hotel room window into a blanket held by rescuers, then jumped herself. The infant was uninjured but MRS. CAMPORA sustained painful injuries. Difficulty was experienced in identifying the bodies taken from the ruins. Four others have been definitely located, but the heat was so intense rescue was impossible late today.

100 Guests in Hotel.
All the deaths occurred in the hotel building, its thirty-eight rooms being filled to capacity. It is estimated that close to 100 persons went to sleep in the hotel last night.

The flames were discovered about three o'clock this morning. They gained great headway before water could be thrown on the building, a three story frame structure. Guests were fleeing when the first equipment arrived. Many jumped from the second and third stories. Three men appeared in a third story window, according to Fire Chief AMBROSE and gesticulated for assistance. They were seen to fall back into the blazing building.

The fire had its inception, fire officials say, in a pile of rubbish beneath a back stairway. It ate into the frame fabric of the hotel its flames enveloping the entire building, within a few minutes. Leaving the street the fire communicated to the Houston Opera House and a ______ adjacent. Before it was checked it had consumed nine buildings, including the hotel, opera house, three lodging houses, two business structure and two residences.

Klamath Falls was crowded with hundreds of visitors who had come to participate in a Labor Day celebration.

The Fresno Morning Republican California 1920-09-07

In addition, I located an article from the local Herald and News that highlights the memorial dedication of the marker in 2012 and it reads:

Wrap Text around Image1920 Houston Hotel fire: ‘This needs to be marked so it’s not forgotten ...’

Monument to honor victims buried in unmarked graves

It was Labor Day weekend, 1920. Hotels in downtown Klamath Falls were packed with visitors in town for the holiday celebration.

Rooms at the Houston Hotel at the corner of Main and Second streets were filled and people slept on cots in the hallways. At about 3 a.m., a pile of greasy rags ignited.

City night patrolman M.L. Barnett spotted and reported the fire.

Firefighters arrived to chaos. Flames by then had engulfed two blocks on both sides of the street. People on the hotel’s second floor were trying to escape using ropes dangling from windows. While the fire department struggled to access city water lines, the inferno grew.

The next day, the annual Labor Day parade passed the smoking rubble of the Houston Hotel.

The fire claimed the lives of at least 14 people, the deadliest blaze in Klamath Falls history.

The victims were buried in unmarked plots in the Linkville Cemetery.

More than 90 years later, those graves will be recognized when the Klamath County Historical Society dedicates a monument Saturday to the victims of the Houston Hotel fire.

The Klamath Falls Parks Department will host a ceremony commemorating an engraved marker designating the burial site of seven of 14 fire victims. The ceremony will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. A tour of grave sites will follow the ceremony.

“More lives were lost in this fire than any before or since, locally,” said Carol Mattos, a board member of the Klamath Historical Society. “For the future residents of this town, this needs to be marked so it is not forgotten.”

The number of dead was disputed due to the amount of recovered remains that were too damaged to be positively identified as human, Mattos said.

In a 1938 newspaper article, Keith Ambrose, fire chief at the time, remarked some remains were simply charred backbones entwined in blackened metal bed springs.

The victims were interred in two plots, one holding a mother and daughter, and a second holding five other victims, although coroners disagreed on the number.

The destructive blaze was among disasters that galvanized creation of fire codes in the 1960s, said Klamath County Fire District No. 1 Fire Marshal Scott Rice.

It also had an immediate impact on the fire safety standards for hotels, said Elizabeth Budy, member of the Klamath County Historical Society.

“It caused huge furor in the newspapers and it had a big impact on safety regulations,” she said. “It forced hotels to comply with safety rules more than a rope hanging from a window.”

City Health Officer Dr. A.A. Soule was quoted in The Evening Herald in 1920 saying, “now is the psychological time to attack (other unsafe hotels) while the Houston Hotel tragedy is fresh in the public mind.”

The fire caused about $126,500 in damages, according to articles published in The Evening Herald.

Burial Location: Linkville Pioneer Cemetery

Available Times for Viewing: 24/7

Visit Instructions:
Take a picture of the headstone. A waymarker and/or GPSr is not required to be in the image.
Search for...
Geocaching.com Google Map
Google Maps
MapQuest
Bing Maps
Trails.com Maps
Nearest Waymarks
Nearest Graves of the Unknown
Nearest Geocaches
Nearest Benchmarks
Nearest Hotels
Create a scavenger hunt using this waymark as the center point
Recent Visits/Logs:
There are no logs for this waymark yet.