John Hobart Jansen (1861 - 1908) was the first member of the Waukegan Fire Department to die in the line of duty.
The son of Prussian immigrants, John was born near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and worked on his family's farm. When he was about 23 years old, he left the farm to work as a lineman for the Milwaukee phone company, and two years later became a fireman with the Milwaukee Fire Department as a "truckman" on hook and ladder #2.
In 1892, John married Jenny Van Arnam. About 1902, John and Jenny and their four children moved to Waukegan. John took a job as the manager of the the Chicago Telephone Company's Waukegan branch. While working for the phone company, he also volunteered as a fireman for the Waukegan Fire Department.
|Waukegan Fire Department Time Log Book, with last|
listing for "Jansen" on April 19, 1908, Dunn Museum Collections.
When the firemen arrived at the plant on Spring Street they found that "the belt on the big fly wheel was burning, that the interior of the plant had caught fire, and that the fly wheel was running wild."
Jansen was "aiding in bringing more hose to the firemen fighting the flames" when the drive wheel burst. "Jansen was picked up bodily by a huge fragment and carried through both walls of the Waukegan Ice Company building where his body was picked up bleeding and terribly mangled." He was rushed toward the Jane McAlister Hospital on North Avenue, but died en route.
|Damaged buildings on Spring Street in Waukegan after fire in which|
Fireman John Hobart Jansen was struck down about 11:30 p.m., April 22, 1908.
Image courtesy private collection.
According to the papers, scores of locals gathered to watch the fire even though they were warned of the danger. "Fragments of the flying iron and steel filled the air and littered the ground."
On Saturday, April 25, the funeral service for Jansen was held at his residence on North Avenue. The house was packed with mourners, including family, friends, members of the Waukegan Fire Department and other area fire departments, mayor and city councilmen, and Odd Fellows. The city had never seen such a large procession, despite the downpour of rain.
|Fireman John H. Jansen, circa 1889.|
|Jansen memorial plaque dedication, May 2005|
Fireman's Park on Dover Street, Waukegan.
Photo courtesy of Thomas Jansen.
Special thanks to Thomas and Kenneth Jansen for generously sharing the family's history and research.