Fire-bombing – A Williams Family Memory

James was taking the photo, unfortunately because Williams photos are rare. The two youngest girls were not yet born. Taken about 1959. Williams family photograph.

My husband James was a baby, the youngest of the five children of Chester and Theola Williams, when they moved from Dermott, AK to St. Louis, MO about 1945. At first they stayed with Theola’s sister who lived on  Keokuk Street.  James older brother Harold, born in January 1942, was kindergarten age, the family moved to a house they bought on Washington Blvd and Whittier Street.

Route from the house to the school.
Route from the house to the school.  From Google maps.
Screen shot 2016-07-17 at 12.01.14 PM
Cole Elementary School from Google maps. Click to enlarge.

Harold remembers that he started kindergarten about 1947 at Cole Elementary School, which was around the corner from the house.  He did not finish the year out because their house was fire bombed. They had moved into a white neighborhood where they were not wanted.  The oldest sister, Jocelyn Maxine remembered that their mother was very calm as she moved the children from the front of the house, where the bomb entered, to a back room.

Because of the bombing, the city of St. Louis gave the family an apartment in Carr Square Village, a public housing project.  When the family included nine children, they had outgrown that apartment and moved to Pruitt–Igoe, a large housing project first occupied in 1954. Eventually there were 12 children and the family bought a house on Cabanne Street. They lived there until about 1970 when they moved to Inglewood Court, where they lived until that property was taken by the city to build a strip mall about 2005.

My husband has been trying to find validation for this oral history, mainly searching old newspapers. So far he has not had any luck, but I think that he may have been searching the wrong years, so we are hopeful that eventually the story will be validated.

13 thoughts on “Fire-bombing – A Williams Family Memory

  1. What a terrible experience. If you haven’t already, you may want to reach out to the historical society or central library to see if their local history section has resources that documented the attack. Good luck with your research.

    1. We just did that this past week while at a conference were we met several family historians from St. Louis. I wrote this up for them. I’m hopefully someone there will find something.

  2. I hope this gets so much attention on it. I passed this every where I could. You can’t assume like Judy taught us the record doesn’t exist! It’s the boots on the ground. I’m gonna keep looking to. This was so heartbreaking. Especially after accomplishing moving into a subdivision only to have to move to the Projects. Daddy did us this to us as a family as well. Had us in these neighborhoods and he didn’t like anybody telling him after WW2 where to live. I’m gonna pray someone comes forward or a record reveals itself. Great Piece!

  3. Was it reported to the St. Louis police department? They have a library downtown. Check the Missouri state archives website and FBI vault also?

  4. I’m still stuck on having your home firebombed!! That level of hatred and, subliminally perhaps, fear is simply mind-blowing.

    I can’t imagine this being an invented oral story…there will be evidence somewhere but I wonder if the papers would have cared enough to publish it. Good sleuthing and may the revised timeline bring the proof to light!

  5. What happened to the house after the fire bombing? Was it destroyed, renovated?

    Someone will find information to validate the family’s oral history.

    That’s a lovely family picture and to think there were two more.

  6. “Finding Eliza”, very compelling title for me since zi’ve been trying to find more information on my grt.,grt. grandmother, Eliza Walton. Just a coincidence, I know. These place sound familiar and I would suggest reaching out to Angela Di Silva in St. Louis. In the mean time I’ll float the information. The Williams name crossed my path in several ways. Wishing you success!

    1. I should know to check my comments before sending…<> not zi”ve been, <> not These place and >not name crossed. Sorry!

        1. Thank you Anne. I will pass the name on to my husband and he can pass it on to his siblings in St. Louis. Good luck on your search too.

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