Sunday, April 19, 2015

School Boy Died after Making Fire in Stove with Coal Oil

Sunday School Class with a stove in the background to the right

Was this the first time he made a fire in the church stove, or one of many? Deacons and older teenage boys of congregations usually had the job of making a fire in the stove so the congregation could arrive to a warm church.

On Sunday morning, February 14, 1943, John Walter Hilliard made a fire using coal oil in an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Brookhaven, Lincoln County, MS.. The fire burned the right side of his body, head, back and face. He developed pneumonia and died less than two weeks later on February 23, 1943.

John was born in May 1932, to John and Carrie Hix Hilliard in Lincoln County, MS. He was 10 years old at the time of his death.

I couldn't find any census information on the family. Found was one line from a 1929 Jackson, MS, city directory for Rev John Hilliard and his wife Carrie. The older John's occupation was pastor of an AME church. It is feasible John Walter was a member of the family business.

Research did not connect this family to Hilliard cousins of Lincoln and Franklin Counties, MS.

John Walter Hilliard's Death Certificate

Photograph Courtesy of
Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library
100 S. Jackson St
Brookhaven, MS 39601


  1. That is so sad. He should not have been using coal oil in a wood stove, which is what that one in the background looks like. Tragic.

    1. A tragic event the parents had to live with the rest of their lives.