Friday, August 06, 2021

Mother, daughter burn to death --- 20 years apart

Find a Grave photo by Carl Nollen

The Columbia Cemetery graves of neither Christina (Davis) Parker nor her daughter, Sarah Ann (Parker) Harmony, are marked, but Christina most likely is buried beside her husband, Richard, who died during January of 1887 and whose final resting place is near this hand-carved fieldstone. Sarah and her husband, Thomas Harmony, who died between 1880 and 1885, probably are buried nearby.

Christina and Richard brought their family west from Ohio to Lucas County during the 1850s, settling on the Lucas-Marion county line due east of the eventual location of Belinda Christian Church. Sarah and Thomas had married in 1847 in Ohio and accompanied them.

Both of these women lived long lives, and in one of those curious twists of fate died under similar tragic circumstances almost exactly 20 years apart.

Christina's death was reported as follows in The Chariton Herald of April 11, 1889:


Grandmother Parker, of Pleasant Township, widow of the late Richard Parker, dec'd, who lived on the county line one and a half miles east of the (Belinda) Christian church, met with a terrible calamity on last Friday evening.

While working about the fire in an old fashioned fireplace her clothes caught on fire and were almost completely consumed before she could get out of them or extinguish the flames. In her frantic efforts to free herself from the cruel torture the fire was communicated to several articles in the house but though she was over 95 years old and all alone she finally succeeded to getting rid of the remnants of burnt clothing and extinguishing the fire that had caught in other places about the house. 

Mr. Pettyjohn, a neighbor, came in on an errand just as she had succeeded in freeing herself from the fire and found her standing in the middle of the room almost unconscious, her body completely blackened and literally roasted. Taking in the situation at a glance he hastily gathered a sheet from the bed and wrapped it around her and placing her in bed started immediately for her son Harrison, who was at a neighbors. 

A physician was called from Columbia, one mile distant, as quickly as possible but upon his arrival it was found that nothing could be done for her except to ease her suffering. The poor old heroine was so badly burned and her aged physical frame had received such a shock that it was impossible for her to survive and on Sunday evening, April 7, death came to her relief.

The funeral services were held on Monday at her residence, conducted by Rev. Joshua Wilson and her remains were interred in the Columbia Cemetery.


Twenty years later, Sarah Ann was living in a small home in the village of Columbia, watched out for by relatives as she had no surviving children of her own. Her death was reported as follows in The Chariton Leader of Feb. 9, 1909:

On February 3, Mrs. Sallie Harmony, or Aunt Sallie as she was called, met with a fatal accident at Columbia. She was past 90 years of age and lived alone. Her remains were found on the floor with clothes burned off and must have met death sometime during Tuesday night. Her body was in a charred
condition when found, lying in a heap.

As she resided alone and was without company on the fatal night the facts concerning her death cannot be told. Her condition was discovered half past 7 or 8 o'clock Wednesday morning by her brother-in-law, Alf Phelps, who had gone to her home to start her fire and look after her other wants. 

Her greatest comfort during her lonely days and nights was her pipe, which had been her constant companion for many years. The evidence of the overturned chair and charred remains and the pipe suggests the idea that she arose in the night to stir up the fire and take a quiet smoke. Her clothing probably became ignited, either from the stove or from the match used in lighting the pipe and the great wonder is that the house was not burned. This would have obliterated all.

She was one of the pioneers of the northern part of Lucas County but had resided in Columbia for many years. Harrison Parker, of Knoxville, is a brother, and Mrs. Alf Phelps, a sister. On account of the ghastly condition of the remains the funeral services and burial took place on the afternoon of the accident. 

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