December 23, 1891: Accidental Lantern Explosion Turns Holidays into a Season of Mourning


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

December 23, 1891: An exploding lantern scattered boiling oil over 15-year-old Grace Sheeler’s clothing, which burst into flames. The frightened girl ran outside the house, screaming for help, but the movement only fanned the fire into a worse blaze, turning her into a massive inferno.

Hearing her cries, rescuers ran with blankets which they wrapped about her. With difficulty they extinguished the flames, but not until her clothing had been burned off, leaving her with frightful injuries. The flesh on her arms hung down in shreds. She was tenderly carried into the house where Dr. Thomas H. Leidy tried to soothe her suffering as much as possible. She remained conscious and spoke about the approaching Christmas festivities to take her mind from her distress.

Instead of a Christmas celebration, however, her family and friends attended her funeral. In the open casket, they silently viewed her charred, almost unrecognizable features that only a few days ago had been flush with the bloom of a happy, innocent life. The Good Shepherd Sunday School students attended the service in a body and sang two of her favorite hymns. She is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Sheeler.

More News from Boyertown
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified