Watercolor and Fire in Rolfe, Iowa


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Rolfe grain elevator watercolor by Marion Gunderson, circa 1950.  Click photo to enlarge.

Rolfe, Iowa, "Grain Elevator" watercolor by Marion Gunderson, circa 1950. Limited edition prints size 13.25" W x 17.25" H are $35. Click photo to enlarge.

Mother (Marion Gunderson) painted this Rolfe, Iowa, Grain Elevator watercolor in approximately 1950. As the article below describes, this grain elevator burned on November 12, 1969. I was in eighth grade that fall. The only recollection I have of the elevator and/or it burning was that my father (Deane Gunderson) took me into town that night. Staying in the car, we watched the blaze from a distance, probably near/at the golf course.

As can be expected, viewing the colors of this watercolor image online, the colors and detail look different in contrast to the actual print and original painting.

Rolfe elevator fire article 1200 W

Click photo to enlarge (and then, if your computer allows, click again to enlarge even more). Posted with permission from the Pocahontas Record-Democrat.


I obtained this article copy by looking through microfilm at the Pocahontas (Iowa) Public Library. (It’s easy as pie to view the microfilm, entertaining, and free.) I did not include the article’s photos because on the microfilm they are almost 100% blackened.

If anyone has a photo of this grain elevator before, during or after the fire, I would appreciate seeing it (and posting if permission would be granted).






The Updike Grain Company.  Click photo to enlarge.  From the collection of the Rolfe Pro Cooperative.

The Updike Grain Company. Click photo to enlarge. From the collection of the Rolfe Pro Cooperative.

The article includes history regarding previous Rolfe grain elevators. One mentioned in particular is the Updike Grain Company, shown in this black and white photo.ย  The Updike Grain Company was destroyed by fire on November 29, 1914.ย  Before it was destroyed, it was located on the site where the future Charlton Grain Company elevator (in Mother’s watercolor) was built.ย  Also shown in this photo is the J. & W. C. Shull Lumber and Coal.

The last paragraph of the article mentions C. L. Gunderson (Charles Lewis), my great-grandfather.

For information about prints availability, please click here.

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2 Responses to “Watercolor and Fire in Rolfe, Iowa”

  1. Clara Says:

    I’m excited that you found the article about the 1969 grain elevator fire and provided details about the fire as well as information on the previous grain elevator fires.

  2. Peg Says:

    Whew! Chalk it up to pneumonia slow-brain, but I got lost around the introduction of the Updike Grain Company. And I didn’t read the Arrow article. BUT (“and there’s a BIG ‘but’ here! ;-)) I’m really grateful to have the information on record . . . and to have you doing the legwork! ๐Ÿ™‚ And especially to have it all related to the painting.

    I enjoyed, too, your mention of being in eighth grade and your going with Daddy to see the blaze. November 12, 1969, eh? That was probably right around the week Clara took me to the Ames hospital for that raging fever. I wanted to go pheasant hunting, and you got to see the blaze with Daddy!

    Great nod to the Poky Public Library microfilm. And hats off to the staff there for being so serviceable.

    Creative, too, to ask for any photos that might be out there of the elevator before, during, or after it burned. How exciting it something turns up! Like Mother when she’d mail off for genealogy information, never knowing if she’d hear anything in return. She’d get so excited to see a new clue in her U.S. mail! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lastly, though I’m sure it’s common, easy to create, and probably been there all along, I like the option to “click here to go to this blog’s home page.” Especially if I or someone else entered the site *not* through the home page, the option (so clearly noted) would help for orientation.

    Keep up the great work, Louise! ๐Ÿ™‚

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