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"Heroine Grandmother"   Basham family story

Robert Basham
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While looking through some old newspaper clippings that my Grandparents kept, I came across a very interesting clipping that told of a heroic act by my Grandmother, Bess Vivian Moore Basham.

My Grandfather, William Hubert Basham, and my Grandmother lived in a Railroad Camp in Wilcoe, West Virginia. They shared a duplex house, which was owned by the Norfolk and Western Railway Company, with the Jamison Family. On Saturday, February 2, 1930, at around 7:30 pm, My Grandmother was at home in the kitchen with her two children, William Marshall (My Father) age 5 at the time, and John Averill, age 3, along with a neighbor's child, when my Grandmother smelled something burning. She told my father to stay in the kitchen and watch after the 2 younger children while she went to investigate. When she went outside, she noticed smoke coming out of the Jamison's side of the duplex. She knew that the Jamisons had left their two small children, Billy, age 5 and Betty, age three at home alone.

My Grandmother then went into the front door of the Jamison's house in an attempt to rescue the children, but was checked by the smoke. She then went around to the back door, only to find it locked. She then went and broke out a window, climbed through it, and made her way into a bedroom where she found the children in a bed with Betty sitting up and Billy hiding under the covers. With the fire and smoke getting more intense by the second, she gathered the two children, and carried them to safety. Once she got the Jamison Children out of the burning structure, she was able to get the other children that she left in her kitchen out of the structure before the fire spread into the Basham side of the Duplex.

The Welch, West Virginia and Gary West Virginia Fire Departments responded, but were too late to save any of the structure as it burned completely. The fire started as a result of a faulty flue in the Jamison side of the Duplex. Both the Jamison Family and the Basham Family lost all of their furniture and clothing. My Grandmother suffered a severe cut on her hand as a result of breaking out the window, other than that no one else was injured.

After the Fire, My Grandfather, Grandmother, Father and Uncle moved into Two Railroad Box Cars. Later they transformed the Box Cars into a home. My Grandfather and Grandmother lived there until My Grandfather retired from the railroad and moved to Christiansburg, Virginia in 1959. The House that was built from the two box cars was occupied until it was destroyed by a flood in 1999.
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