Bloomington (IN) Daily Telephone
October 13, 1925
page 1

Note: The item below was abbreviated from the original as noted by the ellipsis.


Kerosene Poured on Fire Caused Explosion – Four-Year-Old Attempted to Crawl to Safety – Husband Severely Burned

Down at Bedford yesterday morning, there was a horrible tragedy resulting from the often and very dangerous practice of kindling a fire with coal oil. Max Laverne, the 5-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Otto Martin, was burned to death, the mother was fatally injured, and Mr. Martin is also in a more or less serious condition.

The little home of the Martin family was on West 25th Street, and the Democrat in giving details says that a few minutes after six o'clock yesterday morning, Mrs. Martin arose and started to kindle a fire in the cookstove through the use of coal oil. The fluid was in a five-gallon can that must have been near full, and, as she poured the oil into the fire box, smoldering embers from a fire contained therein ignited it and instantly the flames followed the stream of oil into the spout of the can. Immediately an explosion followed and the blast threw flaming oil all over the single room in the house, Mrs. Martin's clothing being ignited.

Mr. Martin and their four-year-old [sic] son, Max Laverne, had not gotten up when the explosion took place, but on seeing the home threatened, endeavored to escape from the house. The child must have wilted from fright on seeing the only exit–a door on the north side of the dwelling–enveloped in flames and rushed to the extreme northeast corner of the room, kneeled down beside a dresser, folded his little hands over his face to prevent inhaling the flames, and there made a last stand against the treacherous tongues of the fire. When rescuers were able to enter the charred structure after firemen had extinguished the blaze, they found his blackened little form, his life having been sacrificed to the feelingless flames.

...Harris Holding, just across the alley from the Martin home, had noticed the light from the flames and hurrying to the scene found Mrs. Martin lying just outside the north door of her home in intense agony from burns. Her clothing had all been burned from her body, and her cries for help were heart rendering as she writhed in agonizing pain.

Opiates which were relied upon to alleviate pain failed to prove effective in Mrs. Martin's case, and she experienced great suffering until shortly before her death.

Mr. Martin will recover.

...Pearl Williams was born near Bryantsville, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sherman Williams, was 24 years old. She was married to Otto Martin five years ago and to their union one son, Max Laverne, was born. The husband, parents, three brothers and two sisters, survive, the latter being Otis Vance and Wilmer Williams, Mrs. Zoa Weddle, and Mrs. Dottie Beavers, all of this county.

Both bodies were moved to a funeral home following death where they were prepared for burial. Burial will be at Port Williams.

Bloomington (IN) Daily Telephone
October 14, 1925
page 4

Bedford Mail: "Otto Martin, who was so severely burned in the fire caused by coal oil early Monday morning at his home, passed a restless night, but his condition this morning was satisfactory. His burns are not considered dangerous, but he was not able to attend the funeral of his wife and son at Port Williams."

Bloomington (IN) Daily Telephone
October 17, 1925
page 1

NOTE: Earlier editions of the newspaper identified Max Laverne Martin, rather than Maxine Martin, as the 4- or 5-year-old son of Otto who perished in the fire.


Otto Martin Succumbs – Third Victim of Stove Accident Caused by Kerosene

Bedford, Ind., Oct. 17 – The third fatality, Otto Martin, aged 26, is dead here of burns received Monday when he attempted to rescue his wife and son from their burning home. Maxine [sic], 5-year-old son, was burned to death, and Mrs. Martin was fatally burned. She died a few hours after the fire. The fire originated when Mrs. Martin attempted to revive a fire in the cook stove by pouring kerosene from a five-gallon can. An explosion threw burning oil over the room. The jamming of the door probably was responsible for the deaths of the three members of the family.

Typed and donated by Randi Richardson.