West Fork Fire Claims Five Lives in 1916

(06/25/2001)

Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 3/16/1916.

Awful Tragedy on West Fork

Thursday morning five small children were burned to death and Mrs. James Hardway received serious burns and injuries, in a fire that destroyed the Hardway home, on Wolf Run, about a mile from Orma postoffice.  The dead are:  Rosa Hardway, aged 14; Pearl Hardway, aged 9; Johnny Hardway, aged 6; Gay King, aged 3; Naman King, aged 5.

Mrs Hardway, the mother of the Hardway children, who was alone with the children when the fire started, received such severe and painful injuries while trying to rescue the children, that for a time her life was despaired of.  However, she is now much better, and aside from the terrible shock of the affair and her pitiful grief over the loss of her children, is getting along very well.

The origin of the fire, which started about one o'clock in the morning, is not known, but it is presumed that a spark from the wood fire caught in the paper on the walls.  Mrs. Hardway was not wakened until the flames had reached her bed.  Taking up her little baby which was sleeping beside her, she made her way through the smoke and flame to the outside.  She then returned and attempted to rescue the other children, but they stupefied and suffocated by the smoke and fire could not be aroused.  She did manage to drag the oldest girl nearly to the door before the heat became so intense that she was forced to abandon her.  Mrs. Hardway is a small, fragile woman who has been crippled for some time and it is a great wonder that she accomplished as much as she did.  The house was remote from any other residence and when the nearest neighbors arrived it was too late to do anything except to provide for the comfort of the mother and baby.  The husband and father, James Hardway, who is employed in the lumber camps of the Interstate Cooperage Co., on Frozen Run, was away from home at the time of the accident.

When daylight came the bodies of the five children were found almost entirely consumed, only the charred and blackened trunks of the bodies remaining in the smouldering ruins of the house.

The two King children who were burned were children of William King whose wife died about a year ago.  Since her death the children have been living with the Hardways.

This disaster is one of the worst that has happened in this county for a number of years, being equaled only by the Spring Fork gas explosion and fire which happened in September, 1902, in which six grown persons lost their lives.


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