When the Family Home Burned Down, 1902

I’m so jazzed to have an article about the aftermath of the fire at my relatives’ home in 1902 up at the wonderful creative nonfiction magazine, Broad Street! It’s week 4 of the 6 week series. This is the only piece featured that is flash nonfiction, rather than poetry, although I am hoping you can find some “poetry” in it.

The Family Kalamazoo

The horrific fires in California have been in the news over the past week. My heart breaks for the people who died, those who lost their homes, and the animals that perished as well. Fire has long been a blessing and a devastation for humankind. Today’s post is about a fire that burned down the home of my great-great-grandmother’s brother and his family.

The last three weeks I’ve shared articles published by Broad Street magazine. They are featuring a series showcasing what went into the making of six poems and flash prose pieces in my chapbook Kin Types. The idea is that you can see how you, too, can put together stories of your ancestors.

Today the fourth part of the series was published and can be found here: Family Laundry: “The Weight of Smoke” by Luanne Castle

The first feature article is “Family Laundry: “An Account of…

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Filed under Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Kin Types, Poetry, Publishing, Writing

12 responses to “When the Family Home Burned Down, 1902

  1. I am becoming more and more intrigued by how the internet can aid family research Luanne – I’m guessing it can be quite exciting at times. I have really enjoyed reading both the histories and your research processes. One day I shall buy this book!!

    • Me too, Pauline! I am such a huge fan now of using the internet for family history research! I would still be back at “square one” if I hadn’t started blogging about it! Yay! And thank you!

  2. I read this poem out loud to some of my relatives, Luanne, and it was quite dramatic! It certainly stands out among the poems in the chapbook due to its shocking material and the way you have narrated the event. Enjoying the article series!

  3. Very interesting read. I like how you imagine what was happening from the clues you’ve gathered.

  4. It is interesting and tragic how both brother and sister survived fires. I love how the objects–watch and dresser—provide inspiration and also a sort of continuity through generations.
    I agree with above comments about how helpful the Internet and online sources have been for you with doing family research.

    • It really is amazing what the internet has done for my research! And I used to think books were fun for research ;). It does give me pause that they both survived fire. But in researching previous generations there were so often tragedies of the sort that happen less today. We have our own share of tragedies (California fires are certainly one of them) today, but there is a difference. 100-200 years ago there were so many fires and also asphyxiations (is that spelling right?) because of how people heated their homes, etc.
      The objects were real “Godsends” in learning the Paak family story! When I noticed Cora’s watch and saw that she was the only one and realized she was the oldest and the one, according to the newspaper, burdened with becoming a “mother” as a young girl, I “knew” why she had the watch.

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