Columbus, OH State Penitentiary Fire Disaster, Apr 1930

Ohio State Penitentiary Fighting Fire at Ohio State Penitentiary Damage From Fire Bodies At Fairgrounds





Columbus, O., April 22. -- The slow death that comes from burns and smoke-choked lungs continued to claim victims today of the fire at Ohio State penitentiary where 319 men already have perished.
Hospitals reported there were approximately 150 injured who had slight chance of recovery and 100 others were suffering minor injuries. The death list was expected to grow hourly in this, the worst prison fire in modern times.
Pending the findings of the investigation ordered by Gov. COOPER it was said by officials that all evidence indicated prisoners had started the blaze, originating in Section "I", licked along dry timber into Section "H", from Section "H" to Section "G", and thence upward to where 300 prisoners, trapped like caged animals, tore futily at steel bars that became their pyre.
It was a twilight of indescribable horror.
There were 835 prisoners in Section "G" and "H." It was 5:45 p. m. They had just returned from the prison mess hall and were locked in their cells for the night.
Some one shouted "Fire." The alarm spread. It reached the innermost points of the prison and within a moment stark terror and utter confusion prevailed.
More than 4,000 other convicts mingled screams and curses with the shrieks of those who saw fiery death, horrifying, inevitable, licking up the timbered walls to their cells.
The only means of escape was through the cell doors. These were locked and the guard in custody of the keys said he had orders not to unlock them when a disturbance was threatened.
It was too late for those on the upper tiers when the keys were obtained. They were trapped. Most of them were dead or dying. Others were shrieking from pain, or were lying unconscious, overcome by deadly carbon monoxide.
Mutiny under the most frantic pressure never developed, but the presence of federal and state troopers was believed to have averted a bloody battle.
New tiers were being erected in section "I" where the fire started. The section was unoccupied and was unlocked. Convicts work in there by day and it was believed that there the plot, if there was one, was conceived.
A general alarm brought all available fire apparatus and police to the scene. The flames, by then, had penetrated the roof of the antiquated old structure. Shrieks of the convicts intensified. A general riot impended and Warden PRESTON E. THOMAS sent out calls for federal and state troopers.
A cordon of penitentiary guards was thrown about the towering prison walls. Other squads took up vantage points in sentinel towers and by this time 500 soldiers from Fort Hayes, local military post, were on the scene.
Machine guns were mounted at the gates and on the walls. Bayonets were gixed and the troopers were ordered to shoot to kill. A troop of National Guardsmen soon augmented the regulars, and a half hour after the fire started the prison was completely surrounded.
Inside scenes of horror and heroism were being enacted. The lower tiers, one and two, in the doomed cell blocks were opened and prisoners were staggering or crawling to safety or were being carried out by guards and comrades.
Here heroism cropped out in unexpected places. Through miraculously escaping from what seemed certain death, most of the liberated convicts gasped fresh air into their lungs, armed themselves with sledge hammers and crowbars and rushed back into the burning tiers to help rescue the less fortunate.
Locks were knocked off. Case-hardened steel bars were spread. Cell doors were ripped away and convicts and guards plunged into the inferno to drag out or carry screaming men to safety.
The bravest of the heroic were members of Company "K", a group of incorrigables, who are isolated from other prisoners as "trouble makers." They inspired past riots, fires and escapes, but last night their courage was supreme. Grievances were forgotten and guard and prisoner fought side by side under a common bond.
It was 8 p. m. before the fire was under sufficient control to enable guards and firemen to see what the fire had wrought. They saw men, dead and dying, piled in grotesque heaps, some of them charred, others unscathed but dead from acrid gases.
Meantime, those prisoners who escaped and joined rescue crews, were herded together in the huge quadrangular prison yard. There bodies of the dead and injured, swathed in blankets were deposited while doctors and nurses and first aid crews passed among them, administering to them.
Every available physician was called to the scene and trucks and private automobiles laden with spirits of ammonia sped through the prison gates into the yard. For most of them the ammonia was too late. Carbon monoxide or flames had seared their lungs or their bodies were badly charred.
Following the physicians and white clad nurses came priests and ministers the former dispensing extreme unction, the last sacrament of the church, and the latter seeking to comfort the dying with prayer.
WILLIAM WALKER, Muskingum county.
HAROLD SMITH, Muskingum county.
GEORGE CHORJEL, Muskingum county.
ALBERT J. WELMAN, Cuyahoga county.
JAMES COLLINS, Seneca county.
LEE SHIPMAN, Franklin county, robbery, 10 to 25 years in March 11, 1930.
ANTON J. KRAMER, Cuyahoga county.
NICHOLAS REICH, Stark county.
T. E. DOLOY, Columbeana county.
JAMES ANDERSON, Hamilton county.
ROBERT PENDELTON, Hamilton county, life.
FLOYD FARRIS alias JOE LUNDY, Franklin county, 14 to 25, robbery in March 4, 1930.
JESSE BAUGHMAN, Seneca county, life, bank robbery.
ROBERT STONE, Franklin county, murder first degree with mercy in May, 31, 1929.
GEORGE CYRUS, Ross county.
FLOYD BROWN, Putnam county.
FRANK MYERS alias RAYMOND MILLER, Lorain county.
ELMER FETTER, Franklin county, 10 to 25 years, robbery in June 14, 1929.
ALBERT KING, Hamilton county.
ROBERT BRANNICK, Clark county.
RICHARD KOZAK, Cuyahoga county.
NORRIS SNELLING, Licking county.
JAMES LAZETTE, Lucas county.
JESS SHIVELY, Franklin county, 14 to 25 years, robbery in Feb. 10, 1930.
RAY MEYERS, Lucas county.
GEORGE MULHNEX, JR., Miami county.
JOHN NICICEKI, Lorain county.
KENNETH CROUCH, Columbiana county.
RICHARD HAPPER, Union county.
LAWRENCE KERRIGAN, Guernsey county.
CHARLES G. FORD, Stark county.
ORVILLE KLERMLEY, Hancock county.
CHARLES POULIN, Wood county, life.
DAVE DAVIS, Cuyahoga county.
GEORGE BAKER, Hamilton county.
WALKER BRYAN, Hamilton county.
SHERMAN SLAWSON, Cuyahoga county.
MIKE LAWRENCE TROMOERRL, Jefferson county, life, first degree murder.
ROBERT SHERMAN SOLE, SR., Lawrence county.
PEARL GARMAN, Pike county.
ELDON McNEAL, Lucas county.
JOHN FORKNER, Greene county.
O. D. KELL, Belmont county.
GUY MULLENIX, Highland county.
BERT WALTERS, Lucas county.
ALBERT HOLLAND, Coshocton county.
ARCHIE JENKINS, Clark county.
JOHN NORZANSKAY, Montgomery county.
LARRY SAFFRAN, Cuyahoga county.
FRED WATERS, Starke county.
JOHN E. BOWMAN, Delaware county.
JOE SIBERT, Coshocton county.
HOOSEY O'BRIEN, Lucas county.
PETE MIHALEY, Mahoning county.
LEWIS MARSHALL, Lawrence county.
LAWRENCE ROBY, Belmont county.
MIKE LEWIS, Mahoning county.
GEORGE D. PHILLIPE, Clinton county.
GEORGE CLARK, Starke county.
EDWARD HESTON, Summitt county.
ALBERT BLACK, Greene county.
WILLIAM MURDOCK, Cuyahoga county.
WM. WALTER LAWS, Franklin conutry, three to 20, rape with consent, in March 10, 1930.
GEORGE E. NOELTE, Lucas county.
JAMES JACKSON, Hamilton county.
CARLES SUNKLE, Henry county.
DALE W. HARMON, Union county.
LEROY GRAY, Lucas county.
ROLLAND J. TAYLOR, Clark county.
EARL MULER, Wood county.
JOSEPH STONER, Cuyahoga county.
THEODORE ANGILAN, Hamilton county.
FRANK ANGILAN, Hamilton county.
HUGO BONNOUGH, Henry county.
BENJAMIN ALLMSN, Washington county.
JAMES HERLING, Hamilton county.
FRANK THOBLIN, Clark county.
ALBERT McWHORTER, Pickaway county.
THOMAS SHERRICK, Clark county.
EARL YOUNG, Clark county.
HARRY VIPER, Mahoning county.
JACK BEERS, Summit county.
CHARLES FOSTER, Summit county.
ARTHUR HAMILTON, Hamilton county.
JOHN BUEHNER, Cuyahoga county.
GEORGE TODOROFF, Stark county.
PETER MUSSO, Stark county.
EDWARD HALITSKY, Jefferson county.
CHARLES HARRIS, Jefferson county.
MIKE GLOWATCH, Cuyahoga county, life, murder second degree.
SAM FRAZELL, Franklin county, ten to twenty-five years, robbery, admitted Feb. 1, 1929.
MARSHAL R. JOHNSON, Portage county.
WILLIAM KOSNER, Summitt county.
HOWARD ALLEN, Clermont county.
GUY McINTOSH, Cuyahoga county.
FRANK BUTLER, Summit county.
RAYMOND McABIER, Carrol county.
MAYNARD NICHOLS, Portage county.
JOE RENO, Trumbull county.
HARRY BAKER, Hamilton county.
WILLIAM ARTHUR HUTCHESON, Maroning county, life, second degree murder.
SAM ALDRICH, Lucas county.
JOHN LONGACRE, Crawford county.
JOE SLACK, Cuyahoga county.
ROBERT McMULLIN, Summit county.
RAY SPENCE, Cuyanoga county.
WILLIAM BOUGHTON, Hamilton county.
EDWARD MEADOWS, Mercer county.
MIKE SOPKA, Cuyahoga county.
CHARLES B. STETSON, Lucas county.
SAMUEL MANN, Columbiara county.
JOHN ADKINS, Franklin county, 3 to 15 years.
HARRY P. FOREMAN, Franklin county.
JACOB BERNALTER, Hamilton county.
ANDREW MURPHY, Cuyahoga county.
KENNETH CLAAR, Jackson county.
GERALD POTTS, Auguaine county.
HARVEY COHN, Hamilton county.
WILLIAM GARRISON, Franklin county.
HARRY F. DUNCAN, Marten county.
JAMES FENTON, Cuyahoga county.
WALTER SAGOWSKI, Cuyahoga county.
JAMES ANDERSON, Cuyahoga county.
FRED AMES, Wyandotte county.
CHARLES HANSEN, Summit county.
ROBERT COMER, Montgomery county.
BUD LEE, Columbiana county.
THEODORE COTRAL, Montgomery county.
JOHN RUDNICKI, Lucas county.
HARRY WILSON, Clinton county.
This is a partial listing.

The Zanesville Signal Ohio 1930-04-22

Transcribers Note: A conplete listing of casualties with information about each individual, may be found at Ohio American Local History Network
Also see


OP Fire 1930

I am finishing up my book on the OP fire and its aftermath to be published by a university press. Look forward to hearing from anyone that has any questions I might be able to answere, or anyone that would like to share information before book is completed next month.

George Todoroff

While doing research at the Columbus Metropolitan Library on the April 1930 Fire at the Ohio State Pen, I found a George Todoroff, Ohio Pen # 60946, state Canton, Ohio died in the 1930-23004 would be the Death Certificate number. Hope this helps.

For those asking for information.

I know based upon my research the the historical society at the Ohio State Fairgrounds can look up information regarding the incarceration of prisoners from the facility. I too have a grandfather that was a prisoner during this time and I know his sentence was shorter from what he was supposed to get, while trying to find out why I stumbled across this site. I no longer live in Columbus, but I figured I would pass the information along to people, in case they live in or have friends who can get the data they need from there.

You can also make a request as well for a fee. this will explain the information and fee's for it.

prison records

For those looking for former inmates, take a trip to the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus. They hold most of the historical prison records for the state.

Please help me with information!

My grandfather was also imprisoned during the fire, but unfortunately neither of the released or escaped from. His death certificate read. I do not know details of his life there, CLOSE you please if anyone knows more information to share. I would be very grateful! Prisoner George Todoroff -Bulgarian.

details regardign the 1930 fire

While researching census records, I discovered that my biological father, James W. Lamont, was listed as
"prisoner" in the 1930 census.
I believe that he was incarcerated at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus at that time, but I have no information about the nature of his crime(s).
Having been adopted during infancy, I have had to search diligently to find even the most basic of facts regarding this man. However, with your assistance, I feel certain that I'll be able to learn more about him, and I am especially interested in obtaining information about his criminal history.
Thank you in advance for helping me to solve some of the mysteries of my past. My adoptive parents, Fred and Florence Brettschneider, of Bedford, Ohio, provided me with a loving home, but they never gave me much information about my biological father. Now they are dead, and so my only source of information about my past is organizations like yours. Thanks in advance for helping me discover who I really am!


My great grandfather, Fred J. Harper was an inmate, Federal Census of 1930, dated 5th April 1930 places him there,16 days before the fire. Mother says my grandmother told her he was one of the few who managed to get away from the flames before everything was locked down.

my father was a prisoner during this fire also and was released

My father was a prisoner during this fire also and was released for helping to save others

Ohio Fire

My father was a prisoner during the fire. I understand from relatives he was released from prison because of heroism. Would like to find out the details, but don not know how to research this.

writing book on fire

I am an author and criminology historian and am writing a book on the prison fire. I would appreciate any information or leads you could provide me. Feel free to contac t me by email.