Stephen J. Pyne Year of the Fires © 2001
page 212 - 214:
“Thus began a tedious, often futile accounting of those injured and killed, an exercise that exposed the ramshackle process by which the men had been hired and shipped to the firelines. . . .
“ . . . In most instances the deceased left no identifying papers. Rumors, reported friendships, fragments of letters, telegrams thrust into pockets all provided clues. Newspapers across the nation printed the list of casualties, as the dead had recorded their names. Queries rushed in; counterqueries poured out. . . .For the Coeur d'Alene, now in the hands of Acting Supervisor Roscoe Haines, the clerical exercise was enough to virtually paralyze office operations.
“But let Haines, who thought he had signed on as a forester, describe his efforts on behalf of one member he thought belonged with the Lost Crew of Setzer Creek.
'The man known to us as J. Rusick was among those who lost their lives in this fire on Setzer Creek. Among the effects found on the person of J. Rusick was an old note-book from which we were able to obtain only a small amount of information. We were able, however, to determine that he evidently was friendly to M. J. Merrick of Spokane, Washington. During the summer of 1911 at various times I called upon M. J. Merrick and George Scojat of Spokane Washington, relative to Mr. Rusick and obtained the names of father and mother of Joe Ruzic. I took the matter up with the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Consul and secured his assistance in locating the relatives in Hungary. These relatives then appeared before the U.S. Consul at Fiume, Hungary, and executed an instrument, which, altho I am unable to read it, I would judge is a certificate of relationship. Altho there appears to be no means at this time for us to determine beyond every possible doubt that the man known to us as J. Rusick is Joe Ruzic, there is little question in my mind from my conversation with Mr. Merrick and Mr. Scojat and various correspondence from the Imperial & Royal Austro-Hungarian Consul of Denver, Colorado, and the papers furnished thru the U.S. Consul at Fiume, Hungary, but that the man who lost his life and who was known to us as J. Rusick was Joe Ruzic, the son of the parties who are now making this claim.'
There followed other conversations that confirmed, if circumstantially, thar Ruzic had died at Setzer Creek. But did Stipan and Ulijana Ruzic have a valid claim?
'They state that they were entirely dependent upon the earnings of Joe Ruzic for their support, but they do not state the amount necessary for their support. It is observed that the father I sixty-two years of age and that the mother is sixty-one years of age, and also that the father is now employed in a stone-quarry at Fiume, Hungary, in order to earn a living. It is evident, therefore, that the father is able, or at least is earning a living for himself and wife. With the assistance of the American Consul at Fiume, Hungary, I attempted to determine the nature of the dependency of the father and mother of Joe Ruzic upon the earnings of their son for their support. I also endeavored to determine whether or not they had any other means of support, as well as the amount necessary for their support.'
In any event
there was no longer time to exchange more letters across the Atlantic before the
claims period expired. Carlo Rusic, a brother living in Chisholm, Minnesota,
sent a letter asserting that Joe had sent to his parents $15 to $20 each month
and that they depended on this stipend. Haines also obtained a photograph of Joe
Ruzic from the consul at Denver. Carlo confirmed that the photo was of his
brother and sent another, more recent picture. These were shipped around to
rangers, foremen, and others of the crew who could be found. No one could state
'whether or not the man shown in the picture was among those who lost their
lives on Setzer Creek, or among those who fought fire on Setzer Creek.' Still,
Haines felt there was 'little question' of the man's identity and the parents'
dependency and recommended approval even without another round of forms.
“And so it went.”
- Correspondence relating
to Ruzic claim,
National Archives at College Park, RG 95, Records of the Forest Service,
Division of Fire Control, General Correspondence – Ruzic, Josef.
Coeur d'Alene National Forest Supervisor William G. Weigle in a report on June 24, 1911, to the regional forester at Missoula, had these notations about J. Rusick:
11. J. Rusick.
Buried at Setser Creek. Address unknown, Identified by M. J. Merrick, Spokane, Washington. )n May 27, 1911, we wrote the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Consul, Denver, Colorado, for information regarding father of J. Ruzic, who, we are informed, is Stjepan Ruzic, post office Hrejin Hrvatsko Primorje, Hungary. If it is determined that he is the father of J. Rusick a voucher and affidavit will be sent to him through the Austro-Hungarian Consul for his execution.
Aug. 9 - 11 hours
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168 hours, $42.00 amount due.