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The Hinkley Fire

Words & Music by Charlie Maguire © 2001 Mello-Jamin Music. All rights reserved.

The entire town of Hinkley, Minnesota burned in a giant forest fire in 1894. This song tells of James Root and his Afro-American fireman Jack McGowan in one episode of bravery that up until now was "unsung."

Play Sample (from "Harbour Lights")

Verse:

E           A                   E
It was the first of September 1894
B7                                   E               E7
Jim Root left the station bound for Saint Paul, Minnesota
          A                             E
With his hand on the throttle of Engine 69
                         B7      E       
Fireman Jack McGowan was by his side
              A            E
There was no warning come over the wire
      B7                       E      E7
That they were heading into a raging fire
     A                      E
Tom Dunn was dead at his telegraph key
                             B7      E
Before he could tap out what he did see


Chorus:

E
Jim Root said "We'd better roll it Jack
      B7                      E      E7
The devil himself is burning up the track
  A                          E 
Shovel that coal, get some smoke in the stack
                                       B7         E
Two-hundred people from Hinkley don't want to go back"

Additional verses:

Hinkley was burning like the end of the world
In a forest fire that did jump and curl
Over the housetops and the tall white pine
Coming for Engine 69
Near town the sky turned black as night
Jack climbed the engine, and lit the big headlight
The smoke made the sun shine like the moon
At 4 O'clock in the afternoon (refrain)

Then out of the woods and running fast
Men, women, and children, stood in their path
Saying "Hinkley is gone, the fire is just behind
Let us on your train and spare our lives"
They climbed aboard, Jim gave it all he had
The skies above, turned flaming red
He started rolling and he set the pace
Back up the rails, in a deadly race (refrain)

They ran for miles to a shallow lake
Stopped there by the waters cool and safe
The passengers rushed into that stream
The fire passed over them through the trees
Jack carried his engineer from the cab
Of that train that had run its last
And there they all stayed through the night
While the fire was burning bright


Previous Songs: Gypsy Woody * Fall Is Here * Rainfall Has Turned to Snow * I Like It Here/O Cold and Misery * Winter on the Farm * Darling * Fine Old Lady * The Teton Dam * Towboat * Ozawindib

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