|Agency||Peoria Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||31 to 35|
|Date of Birth||11/11/1879|
|Date of Death||11/13/1911|
|Cause of Death||Struck by object|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations , Hose operations|
Fireman Chester W. ”Custer” Mooberry, 32, died while battling a fire at the National Hotel, located at the intersection of Hamilton and Jefferson Streets. Mooberry resided at 210 North Frink Street with his wife, Mary, and two children, David, 11, and Charlotte, 9. He joined the Peoria Fire Department on May 17, 1911, and served as a firefighter on Hose Co. 7. A strange incident surrounds the death of Mooberry. On Sunday night, November 12, 1911, fireman James Houlihan requested an authorized leave of absence, and his friend, Mooberry, kindly agreed to work in his place. Mooberry would later be repaid for his kindness with his life.
At 10:53 p.m., Fire Alarm Box No. 29 signaled a large fire at the National Hotel, a six-story brick structure occupying an entire city block. By 10:55 p.m., Fire Chief Thomas Worm called for a “33 All Hands” general alarm, summoning all available firemen to the scene. By 11:00 p.m., the hotel was a roaring mass of flame. At the scene, Mooberry entered the building with Captain Hadley and fireman James Hazzard. The firemen were forced to retreat from inside the inferno and resume defensive tactics from outside. Shortly after midnight, portions of the building’s walls began to collapse. Several explosions, presumably from leaking and trapped gas, were heard coming from the raging inferno. The firemen had been involved in the fight for more than five grueling hours. Mooberry, along with Captain Hadley and fireman Hazzard, were standing on the roof of a shed at the back of the hotel, hosing water onto the smouldering ruins, when a huge smokestack began to waver. Someone shouted a warning to Mooberry and the others, but before they could move, the smokestack collapsed. Hadley ran to the left and Hazzard ran to the right, both escaping injury. Mooberry, however, ran backward into the path of the falling stack and was caught under the debris and killed instantly. Later, the fire department would receive great credit for the aggressive way in which it confined the blaze to the hotel and prevented damage to surrounding structures.
A full military honors funeral was held for fireman Chester W. “Custer” Mooberry at 10:00a.m., Wednesday, November 15, 1911, at the Colfax Church. Peoria Fire Chief Thomas Worm and seven Peoria Fire Department members attended the funeral.
Summary by Marty Baker and Doug Brignall, Peoria Fire Department