THE 1914 FIRE AT THE FLORIDA REFORM SCHOOL & INHUMANE CONDITIONS IN 1918
These two examples questions the 1914 Fire Reports and shows that the conditions at the school was as bad as the dreaded Turpentine Camps, Lumber
Camps and Phosphate mines where thousands were held as slaves from 1900-1950 in conditions that were horrific and brutal. Hundreds upon hundreds died
of sickness, torture and flogging, hidden in the deep woods of the Panhandle from Jacksonville to Pensacola.

THE 1914 FIRE THAT CLAIMED TEN LIVES AT THE FLORIDA INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL FOR BOYS IN MARIANNA, FLORIDA: ESCAPE DOORS LOCKED










































ARTICLES ON THE 1914 FIRE

THE NEWS HERALD
FROM MARLENE WOMAC

http://genforum.genealogy.com/fl/jackson/messages/493.html

One year later on Nov. 17, 1914, the school experienced one of its worst scandals. The headlines of the Times Courier of Marianna reported: "TEN LIVES LOST IN
INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL FIRE - White School Building No. 1 Destroyed - Victims of Death on Second Floor - Fire Escapes Could Not be Opened. THOUGHT TO BE
INCENDIARY."

The burned building was designed to house 100 boys. It was built of brick with much interior woodwork, which made it a veritable firetrap. It had, however, recently been
equipped with fire escapes, and the institution had a fire-fighting organization, but not adequate water supply.

The newspaper reports stated that "not one body could be identified in the fire. Flames spread while all slept except two inmates, detailed as guards, who
rushed upstairs to fire escapes that have never been opened and screaming for help, "were soon mercifully smothered to unconsciousness."

I.A. Hutchison, Panama City's representative in management at the reform school, left immediately for Marianna. He attempted to clear up some of the conflicting
stories. Later, he reported "the horrible holocaust" was sensationalized by false accounts "of locked doors and keys that could not be reached."

LATER ON: SAME PAPER & WRITER:
An investigation revealed that "officials higher up" had neglected their responsibilities. Those in immediate charge were found to be "frequenters of houses of ill fame"
while on duty. Several others reported absent from work, grossly neglecting the care of the boys.

In 1915, a second investigation committee, appointed by the state to ascertain the cause of the fire, blamed management. Then, according to the Panama City Pilot,
instead of confining themselves to the issue, the committee and candidates for public office turned the fire into a political issue.

They recommended the removal of the facility to some point in Central or South Florida. "Why should West Florida be the seat of any of the state's institutions," queried
other newspapers, echoing the comments of downstate politicians.

But in an allocation lost to passerby on the grounds, a small wire-fenced cemetery, marked with white crosses, remains from the big fire in 1914.

**************************************************************
FROM FLA STATE ARCHIVES
http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/FSB-TIMELINE.HTML
Nov. 18, 1914: A fire erupts in a ''broken and dilapidated'' stove in the white boys' dormitory while
almost all of the staff members were in town. Six boys and two staff members die in the fire, resulting in a grand jury report.
**************************************************************

Sunday, October 3, 1999

Few envisioned controversies of Dozier School
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of two articles on Arthur G.
Dozier School, Florida's oldest training facility, located in Marianna.)

MARLENE WOMACK
Contributing Writer

A century ago when Marianna residents built the Florida Industrial School for Boys, which later became Dozier School, few envisioned the numerous
controversies the institution would experience or the many secrets the grounds would hold.

The concept of a reformatory for juvenile delinquents was a new idea in 1847 when Henry Hayes Lewis, a freshman in the Florida Legislature, introduced a bill to
establish this type school for both "white and colored boys" in Marianna.

As early as 1825, New York City founded a "house of refuge," the predecessor of this country's reform schools. Other large cities such as Boston and Philadelphia soon
followed. All were supported through private donations and rehabilitation was attempted through education and work.

But it remained for England to pass the Reformatory Schools Act in 1854, demonstrating the success of separate institutional treatment facilities for juveniles, for the
idea to spread in the United States. These training facilities became known as state industrial schools.

Determining the age when teen-agers should be sentenced as youthful offenders or adults continued to be the issue, however. The courts finally decided to attempt
reform with those who appeared not to be unduly vicious on the presumption that they had acted without exercising clear judgement. Those the court deemed incapable
of reform were sent to ordinary prisons.

THE COMMUNITY

Marianna had a population of approximately 2,000 at the turn of the century. Surrounded by numerous farms that had once been huge antebellum plantations, this
prosperous town of the Old South had yet to construct electrical lighting, a sewerage system, a public waterworks, telephone lines or an ice plant. Cotton ranked as
Jackson County's number one crop with bales of cotton often lining Marianna's streets.

Houses were built on large lots with room for horses, chickens and spacious gardens. Hogs and cows roamed free and often slept on the wooden sidewalks at night.

Meat sold for 5 cents per pound and syrup at 20 cents per gallon. In the cooler winter months, fish peddlers drove wooden covered wagons up from St. Andrew Bay to
sell salt fish and oysters in a vacant lot near Green Street. Trains on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad stopped at the depot as they had since 1882 when the tracks
were first constructed through town.

In Marianna the jail remained a major concern. Although the town had the only secure jail west of the Apalachicola River through the 1850s, Jackson County grand
jurors recommended the facility's windows be enlarged to admit more pure air into the dank hollow that bred disease just prior to the Civil War. After the war numerous
jailbreaks occurred. But in 1899, Marianna proudly boasted a new secure jail, and townspeople breathed a sigh of relief.


THE EARLY YEARS

In her book Our Yesterdays, J.S. Rhyne tells of the first years at the reform school when inmates "worked in fields with their feet shackled by chains."

During that time, the management was under constant pressure to turn out "enough bundles of hay and bushels of corn, peanuts and other products" to justify the
amount the state paid for fertilizer for the farm.

The superintendent answered the complaints in 1913 by reminding the legislative committee reviewing the school's proceeds that "with the work done by the boys,
some little and 'very bad boys' at that, the show in produce compares favorably with that of other farms."

He called their attention to the fact that this was not only a farm, "but a home and a reformatory where boys also received an education."

Marianna State Reform School, as the facility was commonly called, accepted boys of all ages. On Aug. 28, 1913, the Panama City Pilot listed 9-year-old Robert C.
Mitchell as "unmanageable." His mother appeared before Judge D.K. Middleton and gave her story. After Middleton committed Mitchell to the institution, Sheriff W.A.
Brown escorted him to Marianna.

One year later on Nov. 17, 1914, the school experienced one of its worst scandals. The headlines of the Times Courier of Marianna reported: "TEN LIVES
LOST IN INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL FIRE - White School Building No. 1 Destroyed - Victims of Death on Second Floor - Fire Escapes Could Not be Opened.
THOUGHT TO BE INCENDIARY."

The burned building was designed to house 100 boys. It was built of brick with much interior woodwork, which made it a veritable firetrap. It had,
however, recently been equipped with fire escapes, and the institution had a fire-fighting organization, but not adequate water supply.

The newspaper reports stated that "not one body could be identified in the fire. Flames spread while all slept except two inmates, detailed as guards,
who rushed upstairs to fire escapes that have never been opened and screaming for help, "were soon mercifully smothered to unconsciousness."

I.A. Hutchison, Panama City's representative in management at the reform school, left immediately for Marianna. He attempted to clear up some of the
conflicting stories. Later, he reported "the horrible holocaust" was sensationalized by false accounts "of locked doors and keys that could not be
reached."

Although evidence was circumstantial, Walton County Sheriff Murdock Bell arrested George Caldwell of Laurel Hill for setting the fire. Earlier that year
Caldwell's son Bill ha been convicted in criminal court of aggravated assault for cutting another boy with a knife. In May 1914 Bill had been sent to the
Marianna reform school while his attorney appealed his case to the Florida Supreme Court, which affirmed the decision of the lower court.


****************************************************************

The News Herald


Out of the Past Dozier remains a residential facility that incarcerates juvenile felons from all over Florida

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of two articles on Arthur G. Dozier School, Florida's oldest training facility for youth, located in Marianna.)

MARLENE WOMACK
Contributing Writer


After the great fire of Nov. 17, 1914, that claimed the lives of 10 boys in Dormitory No. 1 at the Florida Industrial School for Boys in Marianna, George Caldwell of Laurel
Hill was arrested for setting the blaze.

According to the Defuniak Springs Breeze of Dec. 3, 1914, the elder Caldwell remained "very much wrought up over his son's commitment to the reform school." After
all efforts failed to get him released, Caldwell threatened to "blow the damn thing up with dynamite but that he could get his boy out."

Some reports stated that Caldwell had been at the reform school the day of the fire to visit his son, Bill, who had been sent to Marianna on a charge of cutting another
boy with a knife. That day Bill escaped. One person reported seeing the elder Caldwell run around the corner of the building just before the discovery of the fire.

Now the "boy must not only answer the charge of escaping but is charged with his father being responsible for the fire," reported the Breeze.

But later that month, the grand jury of Jackson County exonerated Caldwell and recommended that his son be pardoned. They determined that Caldwell had been
made a scapegoat.

An investigation revealed that "officials higher up" had neglected their responsibilities. Those in immediate charge were found to be "frequenters of houses of ill fame"
while on duty. Several others reported absent from work, grossly neglecting the care of the boys.

In 1915, a second investigation committee, appointed by the state to ascertain the cause of the fire, blamed management. Then, according to the Panama City Pilot,
instead of confining themselves to the issue, the committee and candidates for public office turned the fire into a political issue.

They recommended the removal of the facility to some point in Central or South Florida. "Why should West Florida be the seat of any of the state's institutions," queried
other newspapers, echoing the comments of downstate politicians.

But in an allocation lost to passerby on the grounds, a small wire-fenced cemetery, marked with white crosses, remains from the big fire in 1914.


November 1,1914  Miami Herald

http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/ARTICLE-1914FIRE-FSB.html

Fix the responsibility

Two instances of how the lamentable fire at the school of Marianna affect the families and friends of those who lost their lives in that horrible accident are told in the
Tampa Tribune

Clifford Jeffords, 15 years old, was incorrigible at Clearwater, and no other charge than playing truant from school was lodged against him when he was sent to the
reform school.

Mrs. Fred Wetherbee, care probation officer: Dormitories of industrial school burned last night. 10 lives lost. Among the dead was your son Joe Wetherbee, bodies
charred beyond identification. Will be buried here. Greatest sympathy to family.

W.H. Bell, acting superintendent: Immediately upon receiving the information Mr. Lanier located Mr. Wetherbee who is employed at the shops of the Seaboard Air Line
railroads. The sad news was told to the father and Mr. Lanier went personally to the home of the family on Day Street to offer words of sympathy to the family. The boy's
mother was frantic with grief when she learned that terrible news.

For playing Truant from the school a boy is placed within the care of the state, under the law. The state houses him in a building where there is insufficient fire
protection. It neglects to see that a competent night watchmen is employed to guard the premises at night. It permits the use of an oil lamp at night.
It sends the boys
to the
third story of the building, and, to make matters certain for the inevitable horror, locks them in so that they have to climb through a skylight to
obtain safety.

Some of them had not the time to save their lives, and eight boys perished.

It is certain that the parents of those boys will suffer all the sorrows at the horrible fate of their children than they would have had their son's lost their lives in some
college in the north.

It is said that the state can do no wrong. The people of Florida would be glad to know, that the state is not responsible for the death of those eight boys who lost their
lives in the Marianna fire. Furthermore, they want to be assured that the investigation into the accident is thorough and that the responsibility for the accident will be
fixed.

**************************************************************
AND THEN: FROM IDAHO STATESMAN
MARIANNA, FLA.

REFORM SCHOOL BURNS: INMATES LOSE LIVES: ESCAPE DOORS LOCKED

"Ten Persons Perish in Destruction of Florida State Institution at Marianna"

"NEARLY A HUNDRED BOYS ESCAPED BY CLIMBING THROUGH A SKYLIGHT AND
DOWN THE SIDES OF THE THREE STORY BUILDING ON FIRE ESCAPES."

ARTICLE IN AVI ON YOUTUBE (ORIGINAL)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_0YRpSB0C0&feature=youtu.be

*************************************************************
Credit this photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
http://floridamemory.com/items/show/20095
Fire is said to have destroyed the three story
building on right with tower on top. Looking at this picture, the roof slanted, no
visible fire escape ladder, I find it hard to buy the "skylight" story. A fire escape door
would have been out the side of the building, not through a skylight on a slanted
roof. A fall from that height would be fatal, considering the hard clay ground at FISB
.
Credit this photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
http://floridamemory.com/items/show/20102
Credit this photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
http://floridamemory.com/items/show/28904
This building on Dale Cox's Blog is described as "Dormitory destroyed by
fire in 1914" This is a two story building, not three. The burnt building was
three stories.
1922 General Note
"This is a general view of the campus and main buildings at
Department number Two which houses over two hundred boys.
This is the type of building which housed the white boys but after
the lamentable fire which destroyed them in 1915 it was decided
to have a much neater design."
TULSA WORLD OKLAHOMA  NOVEMBER 19, 1914
TAMPA TRIBUNE  NOVEMBER 26, 1914
TAMPA TRIBUNE MAY 16, 1914
TRIBUNE BUREAU, TALLAHASSEE
FL, MAY 15, 1914
EVENING POST CHARLESTON SC NOV. 19, 1914
OTHER NEWSPAPERS
NOTE THAT TWO OF THE REPORTS ARE IN CONFLICT. One has them:
screaming for help, "were soon mercifully smothered to unconsciousness."
which suggest no one got out, the other says nearly a hundred boys escaped.
I think this could be another cover-up from long ago, having juveniles burned
alive does not make good press. Officials in the Department of Juvenile
Justice are famous for cover-ups in Florida and this was a huge blow to their
credibility as administrators. Who can say how many died and perhaps some
deaths were covered up to reduce the body count? If there were orphans they
could have buried them quickly.

I find myself hard pressed to think that 100 boys, woken from sleep, smoke,
fire confusion and panic, would somehow all get out by climbing through a
skylight: "Victims of Death on Second Floor - Fire Escapes Could Not be
Opened." If not, how did they reach the skylight in the first place? The story
jumps from the second floor to the third floor so there is a conflict there. The
facility has an infamous reputation of brutality and cover-up since it opened in
1900. Boys as young as eight were flogged until it was stopped in 1968 by
Governor Claude Kirk.
1918 CONDITIONS AT THE FLORIDA INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL FOR BOYS AS REPORTED BY THE
U.S.PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE      
Read These Articles in Word Doc Click This

This article from 1918 sums up what we had maintained about 1900-1940. That the conditions were at their most brutal time period which created
circumstances of poor living and health conditions beyond imagination. This would have led to the deaths of many boys, many more than the
years in the 50's and 60's. This is the strongest evidence of that time period that justifies what we have been reporting all along. Remember,
boys had already suffered these horrors for 18 years as the brutality of the Turpentine Camps walked in the door when it opened.
ON THE 1918 ARCHIVE FILE FOUND IN FEBRUARY OF 2014
File Path: http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/FILE-1918-CONDITIONS-FISB.html

Jerry Cooper and I (Robert) have talked many times on the conditions at the Marianna Reform
School. This was the original name for the reformatory. We have come up with many archive
articles, numbering 97 on my site, as well as the archive section on his website:
http://www.officialwhitehouseboys.org/

From State Archival Records

Jan. 1, 1900: The Florida State Reform School opens.

June 1, 1903: A legislative committee reports it ``found [inmates] in irons, just as common
criminals.''

1911: A report of a special joint committee on the reform school says: ``the inmates were at times
unnecessarily and brutally punished, the instrument of punishment being a leather strap
fastened to a wooden handle.''

June 5, 1913: The school's name is changed to Florida Industrial School for Boys.

Nov. 18, 1914: A fire erupts in a ''broken and dilapidated'' stove in the white boys' dormitory while
almost all of the staff members were in town. Six boys and two staff members die in the fire,
resulting in a grand jury report.

Oct. 22, 1918: A flu epidemic strikes. The mayor of Marianna sends a telegram to Tallahassee:
``Industrial school in critical shape. Need nurses and doctor, am using every person able, so
many places cannot attend to all.''

Jan. 4, 1926: A committee is appointed to investigate whether boys could be paroled from the
Industrial School for Boys to relieve ``crowded conditions at the institution.''

END ARCHIVE EXCERPT

There were not many records from 1900 to 1940, the time period that Jerry and I agreed had to
be the most brutal of times. Neither of us believe that a cemetery existed back then. In light of this
time of overwhelming racist abuse and cruelty of black boys and the fact that white boys didn't
fare much better, we believe they were merely thrown into pits, probably dug by the inmates.
When one was filled it was covered over and another dug.

I can just about hear the Jackson County Board screaming their heads off about no proof,
imagining, guesswork and speculating. However, the reason there was such brutality at the
school came from the turpentine camps, lumber camps and phosphate mines that stretched from
Jacksonville to the other end of the panhandle. There were hundreds of these camps, each with
a whip master and the living conditions were brutal beyond imagination. This was considered the
norm for prisoners, even boys as young as fourteen.

The Turpentine Camps (The conditions for the boys were as bad as these)
http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/ARTICLE-TURPENTINE-CAMP.html

The Death of Girrard H. Blake & Torture of Oscar Anderson
http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/DEATH-OF-GIRRARD.html

This is what walked in the door of the Florida Reform School, the whips, the chains and flogging
as punishment or at whim:   Note Chaplin Andrew's Bower's Statement:

http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/HISTORICAL-WITNESSES-SHORT-LIST.html


These are the graves that may never be found. We both have tremendous respect for Professor
Erin Kimmerle and USF. Perhaps they will find them, perhaps not. Regardless we will both go to
our graves knowing in our hearts that this probably happened. They threw prisoners into the
swamps after death at some of these camps.

I myself overheard two guards talking about the boys that had been killed and thrown into the
swamp at the Florida School For Boys. I was directly behind them, separated by a louvered door,
changing into my hospital whites when they came in out of the rain and commented on a boy that
had ran. He had, they said, ran one time too many and probably wasn't coming back. One
commented on the number of boys that had been thrown into the swamp. I froze, knowing if they
heard me behind that door, they would have opened it and God only knows what would have
been the outcome.

Researched By:

Jerry Cooper
Robert Straley

02/29/2014


There are two separate links for this story, one one the fire and one on the 1918
conditions. Here are those links:

THE FIRE OF 1914
http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/ARTICLE-1914FIRE-FSB.html

CONDITIONS OF THE FLORIDA REFORM SCHOOL IN 1918
http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/FILE-1918-CONDITIONS-FISB.html