Central City, KY Commence Exercises Fire, May 1909

Panic At School Fire.

Five Fatally Burned at Commencement Exercises in Kentucky Institution.

Central City, Ky., May 25.-Five children who took part in the commencement exercises of Mrs. D. C. Boyd’s School in this city last night were burned, it is believed, fatally, and several other children were slightly injured by a fire. Panic was averted by the coolness of men in the audience, who covered the flaming children with their coats.

The dropping of a lighted candle by 8-year-old Dorothy Clay was the cause of the blaze, the dresses of other children catching fire as they crowded about her.
The New York Times, New York, NY 26 May 1909

Dresses Catch, Five Girls Are Fatally Burned

Terrible Disaster At Commencement Exercises On The Stage.

Little Tot Drops Candle During Dance and Flames Catch Light Clothing-

Central City, Ky., May 25.-Five children who took part in the commencement exercises of Mrs. B. C. Boyd’s school in this city last night, were burned, it is believed fatally. Several other children were slightly burned. A panic was avoided by the coolness of the men in the audience, who covered the flaming children with coats.

The fatally burned are:
DOROTHY CLAY, aged 8.
ZELMA CLAY, aged 10.
LOUISE MARSHALL, aged 12.
NELLIE MCGEARY, aged 8.
RENA MAY MILLER, aged 6.

Little Dorothy Clay was unwittingly the cause of the catastrophe. During a dance she dropped a lighted candle and in a twinkle her light muslin dress was on fire. Flames caught other light dresses and in a few seconds five dresses and in a few seconds five dresses were on fire. There was a wild scramble in the audience, mothers becoming frenzied in efforts to reach their children. Finally each little sufferer was wrapped in the clothing of friends, but it is believed that all of the little ones will die of their injuries.

Olympia Record, Olympia, WA 25 May 1909

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Little Children Burned; 5 Dying; School Exercises

Applauding Audience Becomes Fire-Fighting Mob.

Dresses In Flames

Men Wrap Coats About Burning Forms and Smother the Fire Enveloping Bodies.

Electric Candle Cause

Proud Parents See Girls’ Drill Broken-Youngsters Jump Over Footlights.

Central City, Ky., May 25. Five children who took part in the commencement exercises of Mrs. B. C. Boyd’s school in this city last night, were burned, it is believed fatally, the audience was changed from an applauding group into a fighting mob and several of the crowd were slightly injured. Panic was averted by the coolness of the men in audience, who covered the flaming children with their coats.
The fatally burned.
DOROTHY CLAY, aged 6.
ZELMA CLAY, aged 8.
LOUIS MARSHALL, aged 12.
NELL MCGEARY, aged 8.
RENA MAY MILLER, aged 6.

Little Dorothy Clay was the unwitting cause of the catastrophe. The little girls formed in a circle and had drilled back and forth in their white muslin dresses, the audience gathering enthusiasm as the entertainment progressed. Then the lights were extinguished and an electric candle in the hand of each child flashed out brilliantly. The aunts, mothers, fathers and playmates in the crowd cheered and applauded so enthusiastically that Dorothy grew frightened and dropped her candle. Flames leaped to the while muslin and in twinkling five dresses were afire.

Mothers fought to reach their children who wild with pain, made efforts to clamber over the footlights to those to whom they looked for surcease of all pain. Little Louise Marshall, a screaming rocket, leaped over the footlights and into the lap of her aunt in the audience. Men in the audience smothered the flaming clothing, but in the cases of those above named it is believed to have been too late.

Albert Clay, foreman of the Central City foundry is father of both the children bearing his name.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fort Worth 25 Feb 1909

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Four Children Die Of Burns

Terrible Accident at Central City, Ky., Commencement Exercises.

People Stunned By The Tragedy

Business in the Little Mining City Is Temporarily Suspended.

Applause Following Drill Caused Little Girl to Drop Her Candle igniting Own Clothes and Those of Other Children With Terrible Results-Music Teacher May Lose Mind From Her Grief.

Central City, Ky., May 25.-Four of the children who were burned during the commencement exercises here last night of Mrs. Boyd’s school died today.
They are:
SELMA CLAY, aged five years.
DOROTHY CLAY, seven years.
NELL MCGREARY, five years.
LOUISE MARSHALL, eight years.
RENA MAY MILLER, aged five years, may recover.

The Clay children by their deaths leave their parents childless.

Business has been suspended in this little mining city as a result of last night’s tragedy. Applause following a drill with electric candles proved too much for Dorothy Clay, who dropped her light and ignited her dress and those of her children on the stage. The house was in darkness and a panic was averted only by men who threw their coats about the screaming children.

Mrs. B. C. Boyd, a music teacher, whose pupils the children were, may lose her mind from the pain of her burns and her grief.

Grand Forks Herald, Grand Forks, ND 26 May 1909