NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Monday October 23rd 2017

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Momentary absence.Flames prevail. Mother burned, and grieving

The unmarked graves of Rooth children, Gladys, age 4, Andrew, age 2, and Evaline, a baby are marked in this photo by photographer/historian Tim McCall who has plotted the location from Cemetery’s records. Tim has over 20,000 photos of the cemetery and has plotted graves of the entire Cemetery on a vector map. His interest in the Cemetery was prompted because of a relative buried there. Sue Hunter Weir researched for this month’s story after she saw the following message from Rhonda, a granddaughter of the Rooths in the story, had placed in the Minnesota Historical Society’s Death Index page. “Andrew Rooth, son of Andrew and Bertha Rooth waskilled in a house fire in Minneapolis in 1911. There were at least two other children killed, Gladys and one other. If any-one can provide any info (newspaper article, etc) I will be very grateful. Thank You, Rhonda Rooth Devilbiss” Sue searched for more information and sent that and the photograph of the gravesite published here. She then received the following e-mail from Rhonda. “I would be very grateful for any information you could send. I have the death certificates for all four children, and a couple of newspaper articles about the house fire. I do not have any information or articles about Clifford Rooth other than what is on his D.C. I cannot make out where he is buried because the hand writing is illegible. I think the other three are buried in Laymans’ cemetery, which may also be called Pioneers and Settlers’ cemetery. It is so difficult to make out the hand writing on these old documents. My grand-parents must have been very strong people to have survived so much tragedy in their young lives. I will appreciate any information you can provide. I look very forward to hearing from you. Rhonda”

By Sue Hunter Weir

In the early years of the last century the Minneapolis Tribune’s coverage tended toward the sensational, especially when it came to covering tragedies involving children. But every now and then a reporter captured the sense of loss and grief, like in this excerpt from a story written by an unidentified Tribune reporter on January 14, 1911:

A white hearse wound its way between snow-covered mounds and marble shafts at Layman’s cemetery yesterday and stopped at the door of the vault room. From the three carriages that followed it a little group of people stepped and moved silently toward the vault.

A man in a black cassock led. Following close came two old men, each looking straight ahead, their eyes dim with something besides age. Last came a little figure in deepest mourning, toil worn hand clutching the sleeve of the man who walked beside her. The door of the hearse opened and a square white coffin was borne out and carried into the vault room. It was very light. The last rites over the bodies of the three Rooth babies had begun.

Three days earlier the three children of Andrew and Ellen Rooth had been killed in a fire at their home, 3234 41st Avenue South. It was cold that day, and Ellen Rooth had left the three children alone for a moment while she ran an errand to one of the family’s neighbors. When she looked out of the window to make sure that everything was all right, she saw flames and smoke coming from the back of her house. Mrs. Rooth ran home and tried to open the door but was forced back by the intense heat. She tried again, but was again unsuccessful. A neighbor prevented her from trying a third time. Mrs. Rooth, burned on her face, neck, and arms and in shock, was taken to the City Hospital. Her husband, Andrew, was called home from work. When he reached home and learned what had happened, he, too, collapsed and was taken to the hospital.

The “two old men” referred to in the story were the children’s grandfathers, who “stood with bared heads and shaking bodies” at the children’s graveside. Their three grandchildren were Gladys, age 4, Andrew, age 2, and Evaline, a baby.

Although the exact cause of the fire was not determined, there was some speculation that Gladys had accidentally started it; investigators found an open kerosene can by one the house’s two stoves.

The Rooths built another house, this one at 2952 Pleasant Avenue South, and had several more children. They lost another son, Clifford, when he was seven years old. He was on his way home from school when he was struck by a car on Lake Street. He is buried near the Rooth’s three other children in Lot 28, Section P, of the cemetery.

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