Telegraph Herald
Monday October 8, 1917






The disastrous crash of two of the heaviest motor fire trucks in the city, the killing of one of the crew of the eighteenth Street house, serious injury to two firemen of the Central station at Ninth street, together with a record that included three fires in the business district within the short interval of two hours, provides one of the most tragic and exciting chapters in the annals of the Dubuque fire department.

The dead:
Peter Zillig, age 46, stoker on No. 1 Engine, Eighteenth street,
The injured:
William McClain, second engineer, Central station; rib fracture, cuts and bruises about head and shoulders. Joseph Keppler, Lieutenant; shoulder heard, internal injury, severe cuts in bruises.

The crash occurred when both the Central Engine "Jumbo" truck and "James Saul" at Eighteenth Street were responding to an alarm turned in from the Farley & Loetscher plant, Seventh and White streets. "Jumbo," driven by James Dougherty, and manned besides with four other firemen, was traveling east Eighth street; the "James Saul," driven by Harvey Woodward and carrying two others of the crew, Lieutenant Al Heer and Peter Zillig, was bound south one Clay street.

At the intersection of Eighth and Clay, and Eighth street car halted on the west side of the crossing , served to obstructive the view of the Eighteenth street crew. The "James Saul" had almost cleared the dangerous crossing the front end of the big seven-ton "Jumbo" struck the rear of the lighter machine. The crash was terrific and was heard with alarm for a distance of several blocks.

While the screams and hasty cries of several witnesses of the collision might have been heard by either driver, they had come too late to prevent the disaster. The "James Saul" was hurled completely around, describing a semi circle, and the lone occupant of the rear running board, Peters Zillig, was bolted through the air as though from a gigantic sling, a distance of fully thirty feet. He struck head foremost against the thick cement base of the jail yard fence that surrounds the grass terrace on the Clay street side. While several horror stricken witnesses of the crash assert that he moved and moaned slightly after he fell, it appears probable that death was almost instantaneous.

The miraculous escape of the others of the two crews is hard to understand. Dougherty, driver of the truck that struck the "Saul" was uninjured Joseph Keppler, suffered most. Both retain their positions on the truck, although the latter swerved onto Clay street and crashed into the curbing on the west side and several yards south of the corner.

Is Seriously Injured.
Keppler complained of severe pains in the right shoulder, but in examination late, failed to reveal a fracture. He was otherwise cut and bruised slightly about the head.

Second Engineer McClain, who was standing on the side running board of the truck was tossed from the wrecked car after he had been jammed against the side of the machine. He suffered a broken rib and a severe cut across the forehead, besides other bruises. Frank Lonergan, who was riding the rear end of "Jumbo" was hurled through the air and alighted on his hands and knees on the brick pavement. He did not require medical attention, although he was considerably bruised. Lester Benzer, also on the side running board was thrown in a heap to the street, a short distance from the wreck but escaped uninjured.

Others Escape Unhurt.
All of the crew of the Eighteenth street apparatus, Zillig alone suffered as a result of the crash. Woodward and Lieutenant Al Heer on the driver' s seat were able to retain their position even after the heavy truck skidded into the curbing on the west side of Clay, a few yards separating the two machines.

"Saul" Going Fast
According to the stop clock record at the Ninth street station, the Farley & Loetscher alarm was received at 7:45. With the special telephone system used by the fire department, the call could be almost instantly relayed to other stations. Captain Eitel was not on duty at the Eighteenth street station, and the alarm was received by Lieutenant Heer, who is of the opinion that the "Saul" left the station within a few seconds of the minute the gong sounded. Thus the two engines departed, one from Ninth street, two blocks from the scene of the tragedy, and the other from Eighteenth street, nine blocks distant, at almost the same time.

Whether or not there was a slight delay at the Central station that hindered the driver of "Jumbo" from getting away as promptly as the time would indicate, it is evident that he could not make as rapid progress as the Eighteenth street machine. He had to turn twice; once on leaving the doors of the station, and again at Eighth street. He therefore had one block to travel in which to get up speed before the collision occurred. Woodward, driver of the "James Saul" on the other hand had a clear course before him to the scene of the wreck.

Captains Not on Duty
Neither Captain Eitel of Eighteenth street, nor Captain Gehrke of the Central station were in their usual places on the trucks at the time of the accident. Both were at breakfast. John Smith, who would otherwise have occupied a place on the running board of "Jumbo" was forced to remain home this morning because of illness and failed to report for duty.

The damage to the two trucks is considerable. "The James Saul" appears, after a hasty examination, to have suffered the most. The rear end of the machine was almost totally wrecked by the force of the blow, while the fender, running board and hood were twisted and crushed.

"Jumbo" was hauled back to the Ninth street station shortly before 10 o'clock this morning, and mechanics aided by Driver Dougherty, were busy at work endeavoring to make repairs. Twisted springs on the front axle, together with badly damaged fenders and radiator and a sprung axle make up the damage. The heavy machine had to be towed back to the station.

The "James Saul" was removed to the Muntz garage, Fourth and Main, where it was said this morning repairs would be promptly made and the truck would soon be returned to service.

Prepare for Fires.
With two of the best motors in the department temporarily out of commission, the fire chief hastily made emergency arrangements after the three alarms that occupied his attention after the accident were disposed of. The Delhi street engine was ordered to locate at the Central station and respond to calls at that the point, while the Rhomberg avenue station was robbed of its engine to replace the wrecked motor at Eighteenth street.

It was shortly before 9 o' clock that the second alarm was turn the end. The call came from Eleventh and Main where sheds in the rear of the W. S. Gow plumbing establishment and back of the Saunders meat market caught fire. The cause was not discovered. The flames spread rapidly until the arrival of the department and threatened for a time to menace the Saunders residence on the Eleventh street, as well as the back porches of the Main Street buildings owned by the Peabody estate. Gow's sheds contained some valuable gas tanks and other plumbing supplies, all of which were more or less injured. The sheds were almost entirely destroyed before the fire was gotten under control.

Driver in Statement.
James Dougherty, driver of Jumbo, vouchsafed the following explanation to a Telegraph-Herald reporter shortly after the accident happened.

"We went out of the Central engine house on a box alarm. I was driving Jumbo, as you know. I intended to go is far is the corner of Eighth and White streets and their attach the holes to the plug on the corner."

"After rounding the bend at Eighth and Iowa streets I noticed a street car a short distance to the west of Clay. The car was moving slowly, I believe. It obstructed my view of Clay street proper. Momentarily expecting the other truck to swing into sight, I slack and speed."

Apply Emergency Brakes.
"I had just reached Clay street when the 'James Saul' veered into view. Instantly, I shut off the gas and applied the brakes and shoved out the clutch. Bill McClain applied the emergency brakes in all possible haste. The truck responded but the fact that there was only a few feet between both trucks when we sighted each other made a collision inevitable."

"I can but dimly recall what occurred immediately after the smash up. I know that Lieutenant Keppler, who had been sitting beside me, was hurled to the street. McClain on the other side of me lost his hold and also when sprawling into the street."

Escapes Luckily.
"I escaped with but comparatively few injuries. My knee hit the steering column with considerable force but except for that bruise I am unscathed." "Immediately after the crash, Jumbo described a zigzag course, finally stopping when it mounted the curb stone. The accident was unavoidable."

In speaking of the fateful drive, Harvey Woodward, driver of the "James Saul", said:

"When the alarm came in at station No. 1, Mr. Zillig was seated on the truck adjusting some part of the mechanism. He quickly clambered down and took his place in the rear. In but a few moments we had started to the scene of the fire. I intended to go straight down Clay to Seventh and then make the turn."

Expected Truck.
"I was confidently anticipating the arrival of Jumbo when we reached Eighth Street. A street car, possibly ten feet west of Clay made it impossible for me to see the oncoming truck, in fact I entertained the belief that we had safely crossed Eighth street, when there was a great clatter and suddenly the 'James Saul' whirled around for a complete revolution. I applied the brakes and piloted the car toward the gutter."

"I succeeded in retaining my position on the driver's seat as did Lieutenant Heer. While the shock caused the truck to tremble from one end to the other, it was not very pronounced in front. Of the violence of the impact in the rear there can, of course, be no question. I believe that we were in the vicinity of the center of the street when Mr. Zillig spiraled through the air for a distance of many feet."

"I cannot say that I heard an outcry of any description above the noise of the crash. I was not harmed in the least and I don't think Lieutenant Heer suffered any either."

Has Wife and Family.
Peters Zillig, who is a veteran in the service of the Dubuque fire department, was completing his seventeenth year in the service. He was made a lieutenant at Central station, serving on No. 1 more than six years ago. Five years ago he was transferred to Eighteenth street, under Captain Eitel. Always popular among the firemen, he has occupied a place of merit and distinction in the records of the department. He has been injured several times, and has been credited with daring and effective work at some of the biggest fires the department has had to contend with in recent years. He is forty-six years of age and leaves a wife and seven children, all of home except one son, Leo, who is serving with the Governor's Greys at Deming, N. M., make their home and 319 Kaufmann avenue. Three sons, Peter, George and Joseph, together with three daughters, Theresa, Mary and Agnes, are at home.

The decedent was a member of St. Mary's parish and has been a devout Catholic all his life. He was also a member of the Independent Order of Forresters and of the Eagles. Mr. Zillig was born in Germany where one brother still resides. The funeral arrangements have not been completed.

Telegraph Herald
Wednesday October 10, 1917

Views of Disaster That Resulted in Death of One Fireman and Serious Injury to Two Others.

Fireman Who Was Killed In Collision

"A Most Capable Fireman, and one of the best in the Department. Whatever else may be said of him, it is certain he was absolutely unafraid." —
Chief Reinfried
"One of my best men and we're all grieved that he was taken. Not only a good fireman, but a fine man, as popular as any I have ever worked with. I've had to caution him a good many times."—
Capt. Eitel
Any corner in the congested business section of the city where street car tracks intersect is apt to be a dangerous crossing, but this particular one shown in the panel picture above has escaped connection, in recent years at least, with any fatal clash of traffic. It remained for the tragedy of Monday morning to color it with the dread significance that attaches to localities where accident and sudden death are involved.

While all traces of the disaster were easily erased from the scene in the picture, its imprint is indelibly traced upon fire department history, and the havoc wrought upon the two heavy motor trucks will serve as a reminder of the ruin for months at least.

Contrary to first estimates of the accident, the big "Jumbo" truck of Central station presents the most serious difficulty. The twisted chassis offers a problem that will be hard to solve with facilities available in local garages and repair shops. The various parts also, such as the radiator, spring shackles and so forth, which must be replaced are all hand made by different concerns, several of which have gone out of business or ceased to manufacture auto truck appliances.

The big motor when in operation develops 110 horse-power and is capable of drawing 800 gallons of water a minute. It was purchased over three years ago at a cost exceeding $9,000, and has figured in one previous accident.

Answered Seven Alarms
The Eighteenth street machine, the "James Saul," is the newer of the two trucks. It has responded to only seven alarms and was placed in service September 10 at the Eighteenth street house. Harvey Woodward, the man who piloted the machine Monday morning has had entire charge of the apparatus since it entered the department. While its pumping capacity is almost as great as that of "Jumbo," its motor is considerably smaller. The exact value of the machine is not represented by money paid by the city as other apparatus was traded with the company that manufactures the truck. Over $8,000 figured in the transaction.

Through the Muntz garage, repairs for the "Saul" have been promptly secured, the damage being of such nature that new parts could be more readily substituted than in the case of the Central station apparatus. There appears to be every prospect that the "Saul" will soon be in commission again.

Both machines weigh in the neighborhood of seven tons. When it is considered that one had attained a speed much faster than exhibited by a street car, and the other a pace comparable only to a locomotive, there appears to be grounds for congratulation that of the eight men aboard the trucks only one life was lost in the clash. In a general sense the department has escaped fortunately in the matter of fatalities.

Three Others Killed
An accident similar to Monday's tragedy but less spectacular, occurred two years ago when George Beyer, lieutenant of Number 6, on Rhomberg avenue, was killed near Five Points when the motor apparatus on which he was riding struck the curbstone and precipitated him head-foremost onto the street. The records of the fire department described the fire call as a false alarm turned in August 17, 1915. Two firemen were killed in 1902 when a big blaze was faced in the Iowa Iron Works. Frank Ganahl and John Fitzpatrick, both of Central station, were buried under a wall that fell without warning while they were endeavoring to make their way to the top with a stream. Another man, aiding the firemen, but not a member of the department, Charles Weise (Wise), was also killed on that occasion.

From the picture above (Ed. note: Picture missing) that includes both trucks and a section of the corner, can be obtained an excellent idea of the distance Zillig's body was thrown. The clash occurred a few feet east and south of the exact center of the intersection of Eighth and Clay streets. The rear end of the "James Saul" was whirled around by the force of the blow and Zillig, who was standing on the rear platform, was projected from the truck as though from a sling-shot. He alighted on his head and shoulders at the point on the sidewalk where the arrow points. Traces of blood had not been entirely obliterated when this picture was taken.

The two trucks were whirled into their position at the curb by the impact. The "Saul" struck the cement curbing with the rear wheel which was badly smashed as a result, while the front truck of the other machine mounted the sidewalk as is revealed in the other picture. (Ed. note: As seen below)

"Jumbo" Mounts Curb on Clay Street After Fatal Crash.

It doesn't require the blunt testimonials of either the chief or Captain Eitel to assign to Peter Zillig a place of lasting affections in the memory of Dubuque firemen. He was known among the men at the various stations as a daring, intrepid fire fighter, always "on the job" and always counted upon to accept the biggest chances without the slightest hesitancy.

In later years--he passed seventeen of them in the service of the Dubuque fire department--Zillig was fortunately removed from close contact with dangerous situations that so often confront the firemen at a big blaze. After being transferred to the Eighteenth street station under Captain Eitel, he was assigned to the engine and this duty required his presence constantly at the throttle in order that the pressure might be kept in trim for the men who were handling the stream. He accepted the task cheerfully enough but the men who knew him best understood that he longed for the more active service, where the flames were hottest.

Had Been Lieutenant
He had served as a lieutenant in former years when he was a member of Captain Ahearn's (Ahern) crew at Ninth street house. That was the station that knew him first, when seventeen years ago he joined the department.

It was in the Jones Overall plant fire at Third and Iowa streets in March 1907, that Zillig was first injured seriously. On that occasion he had been commissioned to mount one of the walls, the day after the structure was reduced to ruins, and tie a rope at the top on order that the pile of brick and twisted framework might be razed. Instead of using a ladder, he ventured on the fire escape, although the chief had cautioned against it, when midway up, the wall tottered and fell with a crash, burying him underneath. Firemen and bystanders hurriedly lifted away the mass of brick, expecting to find Zillig crushed and lifeless. His escape with his life was, in fact, miraculous. Although painfully hurt, not a bone was broken and he was able to return to duty within a few days.

Hurt Last Spring
His active and daring work when the Hotel Julien burned was also commented upon, and in that fire he nearly sacrificed his life, escaping by the narrowest margin when a wall fell. Curiously enough, he was injured most severely while enjoying a furlough from the service less than a year ago. He tumbled from a delivery truck on Clay street and fell upon his head, the injury threatening concussion of the brain for a time, and incapacitating him for several weeks.

"Zillig was always being hurt," said one of the boys at the Central station yesterday. "He was mighty nervy-didn't know the meaning of fear."

Telegraph Herald
Thursday October 11,1917


The funeral of Peter Zillig, who was killed Monday morning when two fire trucks crashed together, was held Thursday morning. Services from his late residence, 319 Kaufmann avenue, were held to St. Mary's church at 9 o'clock. Monsignor Heer was celebrant of the requiem high mass and he officiated at the services at the graveside at Mt. Calvary, where interment was made.

The engine house at No. 1 station, Eighteenth street, was draped in black in honor of the deceased fireman and as the funeral cortege passed Thursday morning the bell was tolled. Honorary pallbearers were chosen from the Fraternal Order of eagles of which the deceased was a member: Sam Swift, Charles Scherr, Pat Fury, and Mike Kelly. Active bearers were all firemen from Station No. 1: Captain M. Eitel, Albert Heer, A. McDonald [McDonnell], S. Montach [Frank Motsch], Jack Noonan and L. Wemet [Wemett].

Flowers in a great profusion testified to the sincere sympathy of many friends for the family in this deep bereavement, and the attendance at the services was very large.