Life on the prairie was never easy under any circumstances. Tragedies were very common but the tragedy that happened in a soddie just inside the line in Rooks County in December of 1904 was one of the worst. On Bow Creek at the homestead of C.H. Smith Mr. Smith and his wife took two wagons of corn and headed towards Stockton, leaving the children at home in charge of the 14 year old, Lily Locey. Lily was the oldest and from the first marriage of Mrs. Smith.
The four children were in the home and the fire had died down in the stove. It was decided to get the fire going in the stove again and the five year old, Neva, took a can of kerosene and poured the contents on the ashes in the stove. But the ashes had not gone out completely. The little boy struck a match and the stove exploded filling the soddie with flames. Being next to the infant Lily grabbed the boy by his flaming clothing and rushed him outside by the well. She put out the fire and went back into the burning house.
Lily carried both of the other flaming children outside and put them in the barn covered with a blanket and went in and pulled out several pieces of furniture. By this time the clothing had been burned off of poor Lily who had rolled in the snow to put herself out. But she knew she had to go get help. The children were writhing in agony and the courageous Lily started down the road to get help.
The First Buffalo Bill
Lily ran into a Dan McGee who was shucking corn about a mile away. He put the burned and naked Lily in the wagon and drove a quarter of a mile to his fathers home. By the time they got poor Lily into the home her flesh was dropping off of her body. Word was sent to Dr. R.J. Dickerson of Kirwin but it was after noon before he could arrive.
The men drove back to the Smith place and it was a gruesome sight that awaited them. The younger girl, Neva, who had put the kerosene in the stove had her eyes burned from her sockets and the flesh and muscle had sloughed off of the bones in several places.
The parents were caught up to about two miles from Stockton and could not believe that such a terrible thing had happened. They were brought back home in a carriage to be horrified by what they found. There was no medical skill that could do anything but try to ease some pain but the two girls and the baby all died that day. One of the girls had been able to relate the story about what had happened.
Lily lingered until the following Monday. The children are buried in the Bow Creek Cemetery at Glade in Phillips County.
Fire has always been a fact of life in Kansas but when it strikes so many so horribly it is an event that needs to be remembered.
Find A Grave, Lily May Losey
Phillipsburg Hearld, Dec. 15, 1904 front page
Children Die in Fire, Jewell County Republican Dec. 23, 1904 page 7
Burned to Death! The Kirwin Kansan Dec. 15, 1904 page 1
Children Die by Fire, The Stockton Review and Rooks County Record, Dec. 16, 1904 page 1
Roger Ringer was raised in rural Kansas and has loved every minute of it. Inspired by two high school history teachers the love of the unique history of Kansas has always been his first love. Through a lot of experiences the farmer, cowboy, businessman, firefighter/EMT, and much more, the life experiences came together to start Roger on a journey of discovering the almost lost people, places, and happenings in Kansas History.
Working at Old Cowtown Museum the art of telling the stories of Kansas was refined. Also venturing into Cowboy Poetry and Western Music all added to the love of telling a good story. People are amazed at things that happened near them or even in their own families.