Probably never before in the history of Coldwater did so deep a shadow of sorrow cover the entire community as has been experienced since early Monday morning when fire broke out in the home of B. L. Tandy, causing severe injuries to almost every member of the family and resulting in the death of Mr. Tandy at 2 o'clock p.m. on Monday and of Mrs. Tandy at 10 o'clock p.m. on the following day. At the time this is written the life of one of the children - Winnie Lou, aged three years - hangs in the balance, so badly was she burned.
The first information the people of the town had of the fire was at 6:30 a.m., when the fire alarm was sounded, and in a very short time it was known that Mr. Tandy's home - the Rich residence property just west of the Presbyterian church - was doomed and that Mr. Tandy, his wife and two or three children had suffered severe burns. Ernest Wood, who lives but a block away, was the first to arrive at the Tandy home. Not long afterwards Lewis Griffith and others arrived. The fire whistle at the Stewart & Emerson garage was sounded and in a short time the fire brigade had arrived and had begun their heroic work. They were not long in extinguishing the flames, but the entire house was ruined by the intense heat. Nothing except the night clothing which the family wore, was saved.
The rapid and unusually destructive work of the flames was no doubt due to the fact that the fire was spread all over the front room by the explosion of a can containing either coal oil or gasoline. An explosion was heard by some nearby neighbors and after the fire, a can was found not far from the heating stove and the bottom of the can had been blown out. Enid and Agnes and their mother, carrying Winnie Lou, rushed to Mr. Tandy in a frantic endeavor to rescue him from the scorching flames, and in so doing, they were badly burnt. Mrs.. Tandy's hands were so badly burned that she was compelled to drop the little girl on the blazing floor, where the child received serious burns about the face and upper part of the body. The first parties to arrive at the scene of the fire found the entire front room enveloped in flames and the fire spreading rapidly to other parts of the house. They found Mr. Tandy in one corner of the room, enveloped in flames and badly burnt, and made haste to get him out of the house. The attention of the people who quickly gathered was turned toward the caring for the injuries and looking after the safety of the inmates of the house, hence there was no time for saving any of the household goods. The awful fate of the injured family and how to best administer to their comfort was the consuming thought with all.
Mr. Tandy was carried to the home of Elza Holmes a short distance away, and Mrs. Tandy and the children were taken first to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Stewart and later to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Emerson. Clarence Emerson of this city, and Mrs. J. A. Matthews, mother of Mrs. Tandy and Mrs. Emerson, were in the Tandy home the night of the fire. They, and Mr. and Mrs. Tandy's one year old baby escaped without having received any burns of much consequence. The shock to Mrs. Matthews, however, caused her to collapse and her condition has since been quite critical.
Just how the fire started will probably never be known. But it seems quite probably that Mr. Tandy, in his efforts to start a fire in the heating stove, had intended to use coal oil, and it is thought probably that he secured the gasoline can instead and that in some manner the explosion followed. When Mr. Tandy was rescued from the building he appeared to be so dazed and was in such extreme suffering that he could give no coherent statement of the origin of the fire. All that was learned from him was that the last he remembered was that he struck a match. Evidently the explosion of the contents of the can followed immediately. Mr. Tandy was in his union suit at the time, and no doubt was completely covered with the burning liquid in a very short time, thus rendering his escape impossible. He had attempted to wrap about himself a comfort which he had secured in some way. Physicians gave him immediate attention, and they found that almost every inch of skin on his body had been seared almost to a crisp. One ear had been burnt nearly off. The soles of his feet were the only parts of the entire body which escaped being scorched by the fire. Hence, it was evident from the first that there was little hope of Mr. Tandy's recovery. He lived only about eight hours.
Mrs. Tandy's burns were principally about the face, neck and the upper part of her body. The most that loving hands and medical skill could do for her proved unavailing, and with her, life became extinct about 28 hours after the fire.
Mr. and Mrs. Tandy were among our best citizens. They had lived here for several years. They made their home for a time on the Frank Smith farm, eight miles north of Coldwater, but had lived in town most of the time since coming to the county. Mr. Tandy was an industrious and perfectly dependable man, honest in all his dealings and kind to all about him. Everybody who knew him has a good word for him as a man and as a neighbor and citizen. He was a member of the Woodmen lodge and we understand that he carried $1000 insurance in that order. Mrs. Tandy was a faithful wife and mother and was one of the best women of the community.
The funeral services were conducted from the M. E. church in this city at 4:30 p.m., on Wednesday, the pastor, Rev. L. F. Abernethy, being in charge. His text was James 4:14, and his message brought comfort to all. Rev. A. G. Alexander of the Presbyterian church assisted in the services. The church would not hold the large crowd of people who wished in pay tribute by their presence to their departed friends. The entire service had a solemnity and impressiveness which touched the hearts of all. Our people have not often experienced such a sad funeral, one where both the father and the mother were laid away at the same time.
As the Star goes to press on Thursday the news comes that the condition of Winnie Lou appears to be slightly improved and that hopes of her recovery are now entertained. The injuries of Agnes and Enid are rapidly healing.
Ben L. Tandy was a native of Arkansas, having been born in that state on October 4, 1879. His age at the time of death was, therefore, 40 years, 2 months and 4 days. About nineteen years ago he was united in marriage with Miss Lillie Matthews, a daughter of Rev. and Mrs. J. A. Matthews of Greenfield, Mo. To this union five children were born - two boys and three girls. They are: Agnes, aged 17; Enid, aged 16; James, aged 8; Winnie Lou, aged 3, and Dorothy Dean, aged about one year. Mr. Tandy is survived by a brother, Wm. Tandy, of Columbus, Kans., and a sister, whose home is in Oklahoma. Mrs. Tandy was born in Lawrenceburg, Mo., on September 22, 1882, and at the time of her death was 37 years, 2 months and 24 days of age. Both of her parents, also two sisters are Mrs. Frank Emerson of this city and Mrs. Thos. Burnett of Joplin, Mo., the brothers are Otha Matthews, now of this county, and James Matthews, who lives in Missouri.
Winnie Lou Tandy survived and married Floyd Alton Howard circa 1928.
"After the Tandy house burned, resulting in the death of Mr. and Mrs. Tandy, Enid and James came to make their home with the Smiths, until they were old enough to establish their own homes. Winnie Lou has expressed the loving concern our father extended to her, as she was recovering from her burns. J. Frank came and sang songs, recited poems and rocked her after his day in the field. Mrs. Frank Emerson was an Aunt to the Tandy children and took care of the girls." -- James Frank Smith Family History.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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