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Ogle County
Accidents, Fires, Train Wrecks and other
News Stories

Rochelle, Ogle County, Illinois; Wednesday, Dec. 3, 1930
Father Fails in Frantic Effort to Save Babies
Flames which early Sunday morning swept the humble boxcar home of Ira Himes, local railroad section worker, at Oregon, snuffed out the lives of three of his four children in one of the most gruesome tragedies ever recorded there.
The dead are:
BETTY JANE HIMES, age 2 years
ETHEL MARIE HIMES, age three weeks.

Himes and his wife escaped from the seething furnace which had been their home, by climbing through a small window above their bed. In the terror of the moment, Himes forgot the three weeks-old infant which had been sleeping by their side. Outside he realized that his three children were burning to death and then came the horrible realization that he had locked himself out, the door having been bolted from the inside. By the time he smashed the door down, the angry flames defied every effort he made to snatch the three children to safety. Clinton, age 4, a fourth child, is alive today because he spent the night at the home of an aunt, Mrs. Maude Behrends, on Fifth Street. E. J. Miles, C. B. & Q. night operator, summoned the fire department, but down on the tracks no water was available and there was little to be done. From the smoldering ashes the firemen raked a handful of whitened bones that had been one of the children, the blackened torso of another, and the seared body of the infant. Monday afternoon the heartbroken parents stood at a single grave in the cemetery at Lighthouse—the final scene in the tragedy. Brief services were held from the Farrill Undertaking parlors at Oregon, the Rev. E. Y. Knapp officiating. Sunday afternoon a coroner’s jury composed of John S. Samey, William A. Beck, Albert Selfarth, Seiger Cirksena, Charles Reed and Harry Camling, heard from Himes, the story of the fire. Himes told how he had retired about 1:30 p.m. , first banking the fire in the stove. He described the interior of the boxcar home which consisted of only one room and was plainly furnished. He and his wife and the infant, he said, slept in one corner of the room, while the other two children slept in the opposite corner. Above the bed in which he and his wife slept was a small window which he opened part way for ventilation and this, he believes is the only reason he and his wife are alive today. Had the window been closed he is certain they would have suffocated in their sleep. It must have been two hours later, he testified, when his wife, aroused by the gas fumes, awoke him. The entire room was already in flames. Swiftly he aided her in escaping through the window. Then he crawled out himself. He told how he was forced to batter down the door----the only entrance to the structure, and how he tried to get to his children. In his attempts to reach them his feet were badly burned. He expressed the belief that the children died from suffocation and that their bodies were then consumed by the flames. Accumulation of gas in the tightly checked stove, authorities believe, l may have caused a minor explosion which possibly forced open the door and scattered embers about the little room which quickly set fire to the fixtures and furnishings. Sobbing, Himes told the jury that he and his family had lived in the little boxcar home for six years and that all of his four children had been born there. He never dreamed, he said, that it could thus be turned into a death trap. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict finding that the cause of the death of the three children was from suffocation and burning.
Contributed by Pat Esterday - g.esterday at

[This accident occured in Lanark, Carroll Co IL - but the parties killed lived in Ogle County..]

Two Girls Run Over in a Buggy by a Milwaukee Train.
A terrible accident occurred at a crossing o n the C. M. & St. P. railroad near Kittredge and Lanark Thursday [04/03/1902] might at about 9 o’clock which caused the death of three persons, two young women and a young man of 17.
The Misses Shipman, aged 17 and 19 years, were being driven home to Brookville by Earl Kahl, they having been at Shannon during the day taking a teacher’s examination. At the crossing mentioned their rig was struck by the fast mail train, running from Savanna to Chicago. Both the young women were killed outright and the boy received injuries, from the effects of which he died at Lanark Friday. The horses were killed and the buggy demolished.
An inquest was held Friday morning and the remains of the unfortunate young people were taken to their homes.
Young Kahl was the son of Henry J. Kahl, a well-known resident of Brookville, and a brother-in-law of F. W. Heofer, of Freeport. His funeral will be held Sunday morning at 10 o’clock.
[The Sterling Evening Gazette, April 5, 1902, page 4, column 1, Contributed by Larry Reynolds]

Gloria Ballard, Lloyd and Mary Wakenight, Thomas Joseph McCue IV, Carol Ann McCue

Polo – Five persons, including two children, were killed Tuesday night as the result of a two car collision four miles northwest of here. Another person is reported in critical condition at Dixon Public Hospital this morning.
Killed in the crash were Thomas Joseph McCue IV, 12, and his sister, Carol Ann McCue, 15. The two McCue children were riding in a car driven by their mother, Mrs. Miriam E. McCue, 34, who was injured and take to the Dixon hospital. The McCue family recently moved to Sterling from Freeport .
Dead in the second car were the driver, Mrs. Wayne (Gloria) Ballard, and two passengers, Lloyd W. Wakenight, 50, and his wife, Mrs. Mary E. Wakenight, 43. all three person were Mount Morris residents.
State police said that the crash occurred at 9:15 p.m. at the intersection of Ill. 64 and a blacktop road. The junction is located in Ogle County about two miles from the intersection of Rt. 64 and Ill. 26.
According to sate police report, the accident was a “right angle collision.” authorities have been unable as yet to determine the direction of the two cars involved.
Reports from the scene of the crash said that state police required almost two hours to remove the bodies from the wreckage. State police set the damage to Mrs. McCue’s auto at $1,500, while the care driven by Mrs. Ballard sustained $2,000 damage. The five fatalities make a total of seven auto accident deaths with in the last three days in the local area. [
MT MORRIS TIMES. 7-11-1968 - Sub. by Sharon Strow]

Deaths of Gerald A. Sterenberg & Paul Hoffman
Two Polo Men Killed by Train at Lanark
Two Polo men were killed Sunday when the Station Wagon they were riding in collided with a Milwaukee Road Passenger train one half mile west of Lanark. Victims were Gerald A. Sterenberg, 39, Route 2 Polo, owner of the station wagon and Paul Hoffman, 25, 120 N. Division St. It is believed the men died instantly in the crash which happened about 6:15 Sunday Morning August 1, 1954. An inquest into the accident will be held at 4:15 p.m. in Lanark. Coroner E.A. Flexman will conduct the investigation. Dr. Flexman said the men apparently had left a farm which Sterenberg owns in the area and were returning to Polo at the time of the accident. He said the locomotive struck the rear of the Sterenberg car. Funeral arrangements for the two men were completed today at the Melvin Funeral Home in Polo. Services for Mr. Hoffman will be held Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the funeral home with Rev. A..E. Shearer pastor of the Polo Christian Church officiating. Military rites are planned. Burial will be at Chapel Hill Cemetery in Dixon. Services for Mr. Sterenberg are Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Evangelicial United Brethren Church in Polo with pastor Ira Wilson officiating. Burial will be in Fairmount Cemetery in Polo. Mr. Sterenberg was born Nov. 26, 1914, in Fulton the son of Richard J. & Katie (Wiersema) Sterenberg. Survivors are his mother, two brothers; Harold and Lauren both of Polo; four sisters, Mrs. Alene Heinrichs, Milledgeville: Mrs. Delta King, Sterling; Mrs. Henrietta Noakes, Riverside CA; and Mrs. Annabelle Ditzler, Polo and his maternal grandmother Mrs. Alice Wiersema, Fulton. Mr. Sterenberg was employed Sweet Brothers Contracting Co. Polo and he was a veteran of WW II. Mr. Hoffman was a employee of Farmer Lumber Co. Polo. He was born in Chicago Oct. 28, 1928. He is survived by his mother Mrs. Naomi Hoffman of Polo. Mr. Hoffman entered military service in July 1948 and served during the Korean War. He was discharged in June 1952. [Dixon Evening Telegraph 2 August 1954]



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