Winterville, MS Cabin Fire, Mar 1959


Winterville -- The bodies of six Negro children, five weeks to 11 years old, were to be buried in a single casket following graveside services at Lamont at 2 p.m. today.
The children burned to death about 9:30 Saturday night in a fire that destroyed their cabin on the J. L. Young plantation, near here, six miles north of Greenville.
BEATRICE McGEE, 26, their mother, told Deputy Sheriff Horace Eubank she was at nearby Winterville when the fire broke out, having left the six children about dark.
Deputy Eubank theorized the fire started, apparently after the children tried to build a fire in a wood stove with a can of kerosene. The woman's two other children were away, one in Greenville and another on the nearby Marlow Park plantation.
Deputy Eubank identified the dead, two boys and four girls, as GLORIA JEAN JACKSON STEELE, 11 years old; ALLEN STEELE, 10; LONZELLA STEELE, 8; WILSON STEELE, 4;
BEATRICE McGEE, 13 months, and BETTY JEAN McGEE, 5 weeks old.
Engine Company No. 2 of the Greenville Fire Department responded to an alarm, and arrived with the house a mass of flame. They were able to cool down the blaze with booster tank lines and with officers recovered five of the bodies. The sixth body, that of the five weeks old child, covered with debris of bricks and tin was located Sunday morning. The bodies were taken to Edwards and Evans Funeral Home.
With Coroner Bob Gookin out of town at Union City, Tenn., Deputy Eubank, acting as coroner at Gookin's request, summoned a jury and an inquest was held Sunday afternoon. The verdict was that the deaths were accidental.
Deputy and Acting Coroner Eubank said he was told by BEATRICE McGEE, mother of the children, that when she left home there was kerosene in a container in the house and the kerosene was later found by the officer. He said he believed GLORIA JEAN JACKSON STEELE, the oldest, had attempted to kindle a fire in the wood stove and the blaze resulted. Her body was found near the stove and not far from the door.
Deputy Eubank said Tobe Wood who was hunting in the area, called him and reported the fire and told him several children burned to death.
BEATRICE McGEE formerly worked as cook and maid for Luther Winn when Mr. Winn engaged in business at Winterville. She was not a tenant of the Young Plantation, living in the house for which she agreed to pay the electric bill.
The scene of the blaze was near the Winterville Indian mound about a mile from the town of Winterville.
Deputy Eubank Monday expressed appreciation to the Greenville Fire Department and to Highway Patrolman Paul Cox for their assistance at the fire. He said without the aid of the city firemen to cool the embers, "I don't know when we would have recovered the bodies."

Delta Democrat Times Greenville Mississippi 1959-03-23