Aubra B., Evelyn Margaret, and Helen Jo Rainwater

On March 18, 1937, the town of New London, Texas was rocked by an explosion, later characterized as the worst catastrophe to take place in a U.S. school building. The explosion was caused by an undetected build-up of natural gas in a crawl space under the school, and is believed to have been set off by a spark when an electric sander was turned on. The subsequent explosion killed 298 students and teachers.

Among those killed were three youngest of the seven children of Ira E. and Alma Harper Rainwater. These were Aubra B., Evelyn Margaret, and Helen Jo Rainwater. They were buried, as were many of their classmates, in Shiloh Cemetery near Mount Enterprise, Texas.

Ira and Alma Rainwater’s surviving children were Fairy Onita, b. ca 1912; Bonnie P., b. ca 1913; Bernard Leon, b. 20 Nov 1915; and Lee Opal, b. 15 May 1915.

In the aftermath of the New London School Explosion, the Texas legislature mandated the addition of thiols to natural gas, making leaks detectable by the smell. This practice eventually spread to the rest of the country.

Related Items
Obituary, Henderson Times, Rusk Co, TX, 25 Mar 1937
Tombstone tour of Shiloh Cemetery, PDF
Find-A-Grave’s transcription of Shiloh Cemetery

About the New London School Explosion
Wikipedia, New London School explosion
Dallas Observer, “Today, a generation died”, by Carlton Stowers, 21 Feb 2002
Texas Monthly, “Oh, My God! It’s Our Children!”, by Katy Vine, Mar 2007

These photos were contributed to Find-A-Grave by Christie Marie Shepherd.

© 2018 Susan Chance-Rainwater
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License