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Old News Stories
Dr. Bagwell's House Fire, 1899

From The Spring Place Jimplecute
May 12, 1899:

Dr. Bagwell, Three Children, and Mrs. Williams Burned to Death

Last Wednesday morning at 2 o'clock all that was mortal of Dr. L. P. Bagwell, his three children, Emmett, Ernest, and Florence, (aged six, three years, and six months, respectively) and Mrs. Williams, who kept house for him, went up in the flames and smoke of his burning residence–the Dr. And Mrs. Williams dying with the children in their arms, martyrs upon the cross of parental love and sublime duty.

Dr. John Gilbert and Frank Williams were sleeping in another room and were awakened by the smoke and groans of the dying ones, and bravely tried to go to the rescue, forcing a window and entering, but were driven back by the angry flames. The heat was singeing to their hair and severely blistered the ears and face of young Williams. Dr. Bagwell had returned from a professional visit about 1 o'clock and as the fire undoubtedly started in his room it is supposed that he left a lamp burning, and it either turned over or exploded, or that he had unthoughtedly dropped a lighted match upon the floor before retiring. About two o'clock the alarm of fire and the whole population turned out to fight the flames but they were too late, the entire front of the house being a sheet of fire. When it was seen impossible to help the ones in the fire, attention was directed to the protection of adjacent property, and it took a hard and furious work to accomplish this seemingly impossible task, but every one did his duty and in an hour's time the heat had abated to such an extent as not to be dangerous, in view of the fortunate fact that not the least air was stirring–else there is not a doubt that every building in that part of town would have burned.

As soon as it was possible to get (few words too faded to read) carried bucket after bucket of water and threw it upon the coals of that part of the house, at which the bodies were supposed to be and soon a ghastly spectacle was before the anxious workers, There, just inside the window, on the very brink of life and safety, lay the charred remains of Dr. Bagwell and Mother Williams and by and under them the blackened trunks of the three babies. What a sacrifice upon the pyre of affection had this noble father and grand old lady undergone for those innocent and helpless babes! What pathetic and sublime heroism they exhibited during the last moments of their existence. It is a towering monument to their spotless memory. Too brave and too loyal to leave them, they gathered the little tots to their bosoms, and together, they joined the waiting wife and mother in the realm of the Omnipotent Ruler.

The harrowing details of the holocaust are without a parallel in this section. No description can give one not present an insight in horribleness. Strong men wept and ladies grew frantic at the appalling destruction of human life. All five bodies were found in a heap, lying on their faces within a few inches of the wall under the window, through which they had intended making their escape. The Dr.'s body was nearest the window. His limbs were burned off from the knees down and his whole frame was scorched, blackened, and drawn beyond recognition. Mrs. Williams' body was nothing but a ghastly black trunk without head or limbs or human shape. The oldest child's legs were burned off and the back of his skull had bursted leaving the entire brain exposed. Ernest, the second child, was wholly consumed, except the spinal column and the heart and lungs. Only one body was recognizable, that of the baby, and its features had been protected by being held under the breast of either Dr. or Mrs. Williams.

Dr. Bagwell was a native of Pickens County, and moved to Spring Place less than six years ago. His success as a physician was phenomenal from the first, his practice growing greater every year. As a man and citizen he had no superiors. His unobtrusive manner and genteel disposition made a friend of every one he met–he never had an enemy. No one ever appealed to him for professional aid and was denied. A manlier man, truer friend, nobler citizen never lived. This county is bereft of one of its most potential powers for good and every citizen feels deeply and keenly the loss of this embodiment of all that was grand and noble. Peace to his precious spirit.

The funeral service was held at the Baptist Church yesterday, conducted by Rev. J. W. Bailey. Fully one thousand people formed the procession to the grave, all the bodies being buried in one grave, those of the Dr. and children in one casket and that of Mrs. Williams in another.

The Masonic fraternity conducted the exercises at the grave.

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