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Daily Optic Fire


Minot, North Dakota is no stranger to fiery disasters. The city lost banks, businesses and hotels in nearly every decade of the 20th century. On this date in 1909, Minot residents read about the fire at the Daily Optic newspaper. The Ward County Reporter story told of four firefighters being injured in the blaze, which damaged the office’s paper, type and machinery.

The fire began about 9 o’clock the night before, involving a gasoline tank supplying the paper’s linotype machine. Firefighter Tom Shields was thrown beneath the paper’s press by a blast of flame when the gasoline tank fell to the ground. Ink spilled over him. He suffered cuts and burns on his hips, face, hands, head and arms. He died five days later. He was Minot’s first firefighter to die in the line of duty. His funeral was held in Minot’s opera house. Minot’s fire chief was also injured, but he recovered.

The Daily Optic’s losses totaled $2,500, but the Ward County Reporter helped the paper recover. And five years later, the owners of the Daily Optic and the Reporter consolidated their papers to form the Minot Daily News.

The Optic had lived a short life, about fifteen years. Its founder and editor was Marshall McClure, a colorful man who grew the Optic out of the Mouse River Advocate. The Optic ran headlines like “Man shoots wife two times!” and covered hangings in Ross and Bottineau. McClure died in 1906 as “one of the best known quill pushers in the state.”

But the Optic fire was neither the last nor the biggest fire in Minot’s history. Two downtown blocks burned in 1923, racking up 250,000 dollars in damages. Stores, apartments, a dentistry and even a Boy Scout headquarters burned in that fire. Hotels burned in later fires, and a fuel fire rocked Minot’s business district in 1947, killing four people.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


The Ward County Independent. (1906, Nov. 22). Marshall McClure Sr. gone to great beyond. Retrieved from:


Caldwell, D. (2008, Oct.1). “Four firemen injured at fire which disabled optic.” Minot Daily News. Retrieved from:



Gavett, J.L. (2006). Minot: The magic city. United States: Wexford College Press. Retrieved from: