Spicer, Cedar Falls, Iowa, died 1874

[I am not 100% sure who this lady is. I think she is Mary Ann Spicer (born in Canada in 1847) married to Robert Spicer (born in England in 1844) found on the Cedar Falls, Black Hawk, 1870 census, with no children. This would match up, especially because his occupation on that census is “dray driver,” and the story below indicates he drove “one of Geo. Clark’s teams.” However, the next time I think I might find him is on the Iowa state census taken in 1885. That Robert Spicer is now in Harrison, Iowa, (he was born in England, too) and married to Adelia. The state census does not indicate occupation, which would have been very helpful.  The children listed are Ella (14, which, if correct, would have placed her birth in 1871, which does not match the story below), Willie (11, which if this is the correct Robert Spicer father, would mean he could be the 3-month-old baby in the story, born in 1874), and Minnie May (calculated birth 1882). I can only find Robert Spicer on these two censuses and no other records for Mrs. Spicer or the baby. There are just too many loose ends for me to say this is definitively the right Robert Spicer on both censuses (or either census). But, here is the story, nonetheless, for someone doing the research who has access to better records. This story has also been saved on familysearch.org here, connected to only the information from the 1870 census (only Robert and Mary Ann Spicer.]

Kerosene Explosion–A sad occurrence last evening resulted in the death of Mrs. Robt. Spicer, living in the west part of town. Mrs. S., whose husband drives one of Geo. Clark’s teams, was in haste to get supper for him, and the fire seeming to go out, she took the kerosene can and poured some of the contents on the wood. No sooner was this done than the smouldering embers ignited, the blaze running into the can, which exploded with considerable force, throwing the kerosene over her and enveloping her in flames. All her clothing was burned from her body except the bands around her waist. She survived, in great agony, until three o’clock this morning, when she expired. Her husband was on his way home at the time and was near enough to hear her cries when the accident occurred. She leaves a babe three months old, the only one living out of a family of six children. Robert had nicely fixed, and took great comfort in his home.–Cedar Falls Gazette.

We publish the above in full, with all its horrors, that it may make if possible an impression upon the public mind of the danger of using kerosene as above.–Nearly every week we see notices of such casualties, notwithstanding all that has been published of them. We know nothing more horrible than these kerosene explosions. They instantly envelope the victim in almost unquenchable fire.–There is not the least difficulty in using kerosene to kindle a fire. Pour a little into an open dish, and turn it from that on to the fire, and it is perfectly harmless. But to pour it from a close can is to invite the most horrible deaths possible.–Iowa City Republican.

July 23, 1874

Anamosa Eureka, 2nd page


About Kindra

Executive Director for Quaker House, bringing a little bit of peace through counseling and support to military members and their families.
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