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June 2, 2006
Oroville Mercury Register November 1973.

Many Oroville Landmarks Destroyed By Fire: Union Hotel Fell in ’44
One of the worst catastrophes to befall the Oroville area occurred May 12, 1944, less than 30 years ago, when the 50-year old Union Hotel burned. Five people lost their lives. In the early morning hours (3 a.m.) of a Friday, a fire started outside the rear of the hotel, which was located at the corner of Myers and Montgomery, an area that was reduced to its present state by a more recent, but less damaging fire than the 1944 blaze. The Union Hotel had been for many years the center of the much local and transient activity. It had dropped to the status of less than No. 1 by the construction a number of years earlier of the Oroville Inn, but the old Union still held an important spot in the Oroville community. There were 71 registered guests. A third body was found during the night, but could not be identified. It later proved to be that of Pfc. Morris Tims, a soldier stationed at Camp Beale who had come to Oroville for the weekend. The owner of the hotel was the late Douglas R. Jacobs, a prominent Oroville businessman who, after the fire, operated the Greyhound Depot and travel service. Also burned out was the Crystal Drug Store, which suffered a loss of $18,000. The late Howard Davis was an owner. A. F. (Ad) Kessler, later police chief, was the fire chief, and he along with several others were credited with doing a heroic job in holding the casualty lest as low as it was. The hotel was never rebuilt. Store buildings were constructed on the site, with former-Mayor Connie Weisker being the tenant of longest duration until the second fire. He operated the Payless Drug Store on the corner.

Oroville Mercury May 20, 1944

Beale Soldiers Play Big Part In Hotel Fire
A story of three Camp Beale soldiers who proved themselves heroes in the Union Hotel Fire was published this week on the front page of “The Bealiner and The Wildcat.” Camp Beale newspaper. The paper also carried a picture of the three men, Pvt. Chauncey Horn, T/S Frank Napier, and Pfc. Hardy Weingard. At the risk of their own lives the three soldiers assisted firemen in carrying out guests from the burning hotel. None of the men was injured, although all were slightly scratched and Napier’s hair was singed. All three men were on pass in Oroville the night of the fire. Napier and Weingard were guests at the hotel. Horn was in the lobby waiting for a bus to return him to Beale. In Horn’s story published in the camp paper, the soldier said that at about 2:45 a.m., Friday, while waiting in the lobby of the hotel, he heard a terrific explosion from the rear of the building. “It sounded just like one of the big guns,” he said. Weingard and Napier were asleep in a third floor room and neither heard what may have been an explosion. “A few minutes later I woke up again and saw the whole ceiling about to fall in. I tried to wake Napier. He just rolled over. I had a heck of a time getting him to wake up. He wouldn’t believe me.” The story continues that with Napier finally awake the two men snatched their clothes and rushed for the door. Flames drove them back. They escaped through a window Weingard had smashed out with his fist. Dropping to a porch roof they started down a ladder that was there when Weingard heard cries and looking up saw a woman hanging by her hands from a third floor window. He caught her as she fell and helped her down the ladder. All three men participated in numerous other rescues.

Fire Chief Kessler said this afternoon he is now convinced that the Union Hotel fire, as well as today’s blaze, was set. He based his conclusion on the similarity between the two fires. In each, the flames started outside the building, in a spot where they would not be readily seen by passerby. Miss Dorothy Rabe of Route 3, Oroville, said she had been in Tims’ company the night before the fire. When he left, she told the jury, said he thought he’d obtain a room at the Union Hotel.

Coroner’s Hearing Into Hotel Disaster An inquest held last night at the Thomas Funeral Home failed to bring out any information on cause of the fire that razed the Union Hotel Friday morning with a loss of five lives. Toe coroner’s jury returned verdicts stating that all five victims died from burns and suffocation, from a fire of unknown origin. Albert J. Walsh was foreman. The same verdict was returned in the case of each of the five victims, Pfc. Morris Tims of Camp Beale, Earl Price of Butte City, H. C. Brown of Oroville, S. L Harrigan of Roseville, Western Pacific brakeman and Miss Luella Knott, former Butte county auditor..

Rotarians will be given a memory test next Monday. It will come in a startling reversal of form. For many years Rotarians have contributed to worthy causes through the fine method or when the “hat” was passed. Monday, when asked for a substantial showing of their regard for three soldiers who helped rescue guests from the Union Hotel fire the Rotarians contribute, $58. That afternoon when President Gordon Hill began wondering the thing was “proper”, he telephoned the adjutant at Chico Army Air Field and was told that soldiers could not accept money under any circumstances. “That’s that.” He said. “ The boys have been so generous on many occasions that I’m going to pass it back to them and each one can take out what he put in.”

Stu’s Notes: More on the story of Young Pvt. Morris Tims, Who I wrote about Jan. 20, 2006. Some of this will be redundant. But ask my Lynn, I live in a redundant world. I’ve had this story of Pvt. Tims for a long time. He didn’t die in the war but he surly did die, on the streets of Oroville, probably murdered, as the fire was probably arson. He came to Oroville, maybe only one time, in his young life. He was training at Beale Army Base to go to war for us. He died and was soon forgotten. He was from Tennessee so far from home, the least we in Oroville can do is to put his name in stone. Hopefully we can find some relatives and let them know. He is Not Forgotten here. Any of my readers going to Tennessee? I did know the Rabe Family but I never heard them talk about the young Soldier who spent his last hours with a family member. Lynn is a member of the Rho Eta Chapter and Clarise “Rabe” Peterson was their Sponsor for many years. She was a most wonderful lady who has passed on. Could Dorothy be one of her many sisters? Perhaps the Rotarians would donate the $58 plus 62 years interest it could have drawn, to the Veterans Memorial Park, just a thought. Stop by the Veteran’s Memorial Park Booth at the Senior Faire at the Gold Country Casino and say Hi to Bill Fox and Crew. 10AM on Saturday, June 3rd.