Fire of an undetermined orign practically destroyed the plant of the Livingston County Canning company at Hemlock Tuesday morning.
The fire was discovered about 11 o’clock by Gay F. Osborne, who was washing his car near the factory. He smelled smoke and went up to the office, which was on the second floor of the north wing, and when he opened the door of the room he was met by flames and smoke. The fire burned so rapidly that he was unable to get down the stairway again and was forced to go out a window onto the roof of the corn shed.
The plant, which was owned by W. H. Osborne of Honeoye Falls, and operated by his two sons, G. F. and L. C. Osborne, covered a large area and was built without fire walls or partitions and the fire could not be confined to the section in which it started, this open construction making it difficult for the firemen to fight the flames effectively.
Fire companies from Livonia, Lima, Avon and Lakeville made fast runs, but their effort, united with that of the Hemlock department, was unable to save the building as the fire had gained too much headway.
The warehouse contained about 60,000 cases of canned goods and the loss on this and the plant and machinery will reach about $200,000, which is partly covered by insurance. It would be impossible to calculate the loss to the farmers and those depending upon the factory for labor. The Osborne boys and Hemlock and surrounding communities have suffered a severe blow. It is hoped that the factory can and will be replaced.
The original factory was promoted and built by a man from Baltimore in 1908 and 1909. Local men invested to start it, John F. White of Mount Morris being elected president and E. B. Woodruff Secretary and Treasurer. This orgainzation was not successful and the company was reorganized and it again failed when it was taken over by T. S. Stevens and F. H. Caskey as executors of D. W. Beam’s estate. These people operated it two years and sold to another company organized by A. T. Wallace and this one went into bankruptcy and the Osbornes purchased it in 1913 at a bank sale. They have successfully operated it since then, enlarging it to several times its original size and capacity. Its products have always been considered of the best and were widely distributed.
This is the second heavy fire loss in Hemlock in the past three years, the high school having burned July 19, 1928. Each time neighboring towns have assisted in preventing greater loss and their help has been greatly appreciated by the people of Hemlock.