A Deadly Fire

In yesterday’s post we learned that on a frigid early morning of January 26, 1907, a fire caused by carelessly discarded cigar stub destroyed the home and store of Mr. Bert Ruble, his mother and two sisters. Although homeless as a result, the Ruble family could at least console themselves on escaping with their lives.

But that morning a family in Toledo, Ohio was not so lucky. Because of another fire caused by careless smoking, they were in mourning.



Mid-afternoon, Thursday, January 25, 1907, Miss Hazel Whitmore was in a back room downstairs in her aunt and uncle’s home at 4455 Potter Street in Toledo, Ohio, where she had been visiting from her home in Jersey City. Her aunt came in the  came in the room, wearing her coat, and announced she was going out for groceries.

Hazel’s great uncle was upstairs in his bedroom, she was told, sitting in his “invalid chair,” and as usual, smoking like a chimney. Too bad about the old man, eighty-year old and paralytic, he spent most of his days and night either in lying bed or sitting in that chair.

Her aunt left, and Hazel returned to what she was doing. Time passed, and suddenly the young woman smelled smoke. She ran to the front of the house and up the stairs. Smoke billowed from the old man’s room. The smell of burning flesh assaulted her olfactory senses. Rushing back downstairs, she darted out the front door, screaming for help.


The fire department arrived first, with Doctor Crinnion right behind them. They found Hazel’s great uncle on his knees, his head buried in the bed. The flames had burned his clothes off him, and his skin was black and crisp. As four of the firemen carried him downstairs, his flesh sloughed off beneath their hands.


It’s a horrific story, isn’t it. And the descriptions are graphic and gratuitous, don’t you think?

But after hours of reading newspapers of the time, I have found that such descriptions were common.



“Helpless Paralytic Dies Amid Flames,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector,” January 26, 2907; page 1, column 1.



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