Bennie Ware, Dallas, TX Orphans Home Fire, Jan. 1897

“SUDEE BRITTON, aged 17, hands burned and ankle sprained from a jump from the second story.

WALTER BLOCKINGTON YARBOROUGH, aged 8, both hands burned.

BENNIE WARE, aged 11, seriously burned over half of the surface of his skin; not expected to live.

JIM SCOTT, aged 10, burned on both legs.

SAMUEL HENDERSON, aged 10 burned about the face, hands and arms; not considered fatal.

As stated in today’s News, the fire was discovered by the matron of the boys’ dormitory, MRS. SALLIE BRITTON, who was sleeping with her four children in the room above the sitting room of the dormitory.  She was awakened by either the noise of the fire or the smell of the smoke and sprang out of bed.  When her feet touched the floor she felt that it was hot and sank beneath he weight.  She ran screaming into the next rooms to give the alarm of fire in the room below.  Her eldest child SUDEE, aged 17, who had been roused by her mother’s screams, had barely time to throw herself from the window and escape with her hands severely burned. The younger children, in the deep sleep of childhood, did not awaken or were too confused and panic stricken to escape. MRS. BRITTON sprang through a window and escaped with severe bruises.  She is so heartbroken over the loss of her children and unnerved from the terrible excitement that she is in the orphanage hospital under treatment.

The alarm spread through the dormitories and the children rushed hither in the wildest excitement and confusion.  The halls and porches and stairway landing were thick with hot, scorching smoke.  The building had stood for a number of years and was as dry as kindling and burned with fearful rapidity.  The wind was from the southeast, which drove the fire into the building to the northwest.  It was eating into the three principal stairways almost as soon as it was discovered and the little fellows on the second floor of the west wind were cut off from any escape except the windows.  There were about 110 boys between the ages of 6 and 14 years asleep in the dormitories.  Many of them were upstairs, but they were the larger ones, as the 6year old tots had been quartered on the lower floor, with a view to such an emergency.  Even with precaution some of the smaller ones were burned to death, either not being awakened by the alarms, else being in such a demoralized state, they did not know how to make their way out.  Those with presence of mind followed the larger ones who raised the windows and jumped out.  A few had presence of mind enough to save their clothes, but most of them escaped in only their night garments.

The panic-stricken little ones did not stop after they were out of the building, but fled in wild terrors as if some horror was pursuing them, through the rain and mud across the fields in every direction.  Some went to neighbors’ houses as far as a half mile away, and others were found staggering along the slushy lanes in the city in seeking a place of safety.  The people from the neighborhood found the little fellows who had not reached shelter by their cries and brought them back to the home.  Those, who had found a house were accompanied and motherly hands supplied the comfort.

Mr. J.D. Buckner, son and assistant to Dr. Buckner, had rooms on the second floor of the boys’ dormitory.  Mr. Buckner was in Dallas Friday night, and his wife was among the first to hear Mrs. Britton’s alarm.  She wrapped a comfort about her and barely escaped.  Mr. Buckner’s household effects were a complete loss, amounting to about $400, uninsured.

As soon as possible after the alarm, the pump in the power-house was started with the steam remaining in the boiler from the night before, and a stream was directed on the side of the power-house, which was beginning to scorch and by this means was saved, with valuable machinery in it.  The water from the dormitories artesian well was stored in two large cisterns, placed at considerable height, which gave a good head of water without pumping.  The hospital building was also threatened when the fire was at its height, but was not damaged to amount to anything.

In the girls’ building, Mrs. Beddo, the matron, went from ward to ward and had the girls get up and dress, and remain in their rooms and await orders.  The girls’ building is of brick with metal roof and cornices.  The doors and window panes were the only exposed parts, and though the paint blistered and some of the glass cracked from the heat, the building escaped.

As soon as the danger of the other buildings catching was over attention was given to the injured and supplying places for the poor scared, shivering boys to spend the night.  The injured were placed in the hospital under the care of the matron, Mrs. Ballard, and under the medical attention of Dr. Beddo of the orphanage and Dr. Enhaunan who arrived shortly after the fire started.  The worst burns were dressed at once and all efforts were turned to saving lives of little TOMMY BOHANNON and DAN GRACE, who were fearfully burned.  Medical aid failed to save TOMMY BOHANNON and he died at 1 o’clock this afternoon.  Little DAN GRACE was still living at a late hour tonight.

Dr. Buckner arrived at the fire as soon he could get there after the alarm.  His residence is about three-fourths of a mile south of the home, near the Texas and Pacific railway station.  Mrs. McNeill, the postmistress at the orphans home was also aroused, and proceeded to the fire on foot, through the mud, with rain pelting down.  This noble lady made two trips to the station during the night to bring medicine and other aid to the stricken orphans.

After the excitement period of the fire passed, Dr. Buckner was completely prostrated by the terrible scenes he had witnessed in the institution he so loved.  At his request the neighbors took charge of the sorrowful task of finding the bodies of the dead and burying them.  The last body was found about daybreak today.  Only two or three of them could be recognized.  They were charred beyond semblance of human beings, sickening, appalling to look upon.  The tender hands of the friends in the neighborhood made them ready for internment, and they were placed in plain pine coffins made by the larger boys of the orphanage, and at 4 o’clock this afternoon were buried in the orphanage cemetery while a drizzling rain was falling.

Galveston Daily News Texas 1897-01-17”

Newspaper story header from unknown paper.

Buckner Orphan Home Panoramic Photo circa 1911

Library of Congress


Bennie Ware, Dallas, TX Orphans Home Fire, Jan. 1897 — 1 Comment

  1. An extreme tradedy that could have been much worse with even more lives lost. The sufferings these children went through is undescribable. It is with great sorrow that I read this post and I must admit having tears in my eyes at this moment.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By submitting a comment here you grant this site a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution.