Article from the Princeton Union Democrat, July 1, 1871
(It is calculated that the accident occurred on the evening of 26 Jun 1871. The date of death for both girls on their headstone is the next day, 27 Jun 1871.)
Two Children Burned to Death
On Monday evening last one of the most heart-rending accidents that ever occurred in this county, took place in our neighboring town of Patoka, by which two bright, interesting children of Dr. W. A Downey, aged about 8 and 10 years, lost their lives. A girl who had been living at Dr. Downeys some time since, it seems, was the habit of kindling a fire in the kitchen stove with Coal Oil. On the afternoon upon which the accident occurred, the hired girl then staying at Dr. Downey’s was absent, and Mrs. Downey being unwell, she asked the little girls if they could make a fire in the stove, and they replied that they could.---They went to the kitchen and started the fire, but it not burning as quickly as they desired, they followed the example set them by the hired girl first mentioned, and took the Coal Oil can, which contained about three quarts, an upon pouring the oil upon the fire the blaze communicated to the can, when the explosion took place, enveloping both children in a blaze of fire. Their father had just reached home, and running in, he caught one of them and partly succeeded in smothering the flames, when the other child ran out into the yard, and leaving the one in the house to the care of Mrs. D., he followed the one who had run out doors. Every effort was made to smother the flames, but to no avail, until the children were so badly burned that they died before 12 o’clock the same night:
The report made by the explosion, we are informed, was heard a quarter of a mile distant. Mrs. Downey fainted at first, but rallied and done all she could to save her children. The Doctor and several others burned their hands severely in attempting to extinguish the flames and tear off the children’s clothing. The one that ran into the yard, fell and caught the yard fence, leaving the flesh from her hands and the nails from her fingers sticking to the plank. We are told that Children did not complain a great deal.---The were conscious, yet the youngest as perfectly sightless. They asked if they were going to die, when told that it was hoped not. They then asked if they were good enough to die, and were informed that they were. They said they were going to die, and desired that their grandmother be telegraphed for, that she might reach them before they died. A few minutes before the youngest died she sang a Hymn.
This accident has cast a gloom over the entire town and neighborhood.---Dr. Downey and wife have the sympathy of the entire community in their sad bereavement.