K – KEROSENE & Dr. Cleage – 1923

Kerosene Fired

When Poured on Boy.

Three Lads Attack Detroit Youngster in Alley and Endeavor to Kill Him

Special Dispatch to the Enquirer

Detroit, Mich., Aug 16. – The police are investigating a report made by a boy , who is recovering from serious burns in Receiving hospital, that he was attacked by three older boys in an alley, doused with kerosene and set afire.

The boy is Joseph McAdoo, 10 years old. He did not give the names of the three who he said attacked him, or tell the cause of the attack. He said however, that two of the boys held him while a third poured kerosene on his face and ignited it with a match. The alley is behind his home.

Joseph was seen running with his head on fire toward his home, and a neighbor called Dr. Albert B. Cleage, after extinguishing the flames.

The boy will recover, although his face, head, neck, shoulders and one hand were injured painfully.

It was first feared Joseph might lose the use of his eyes.

Joseph told detectives of Scotten Station who were assigned to the case today that he was looking for wooden boxes in the alley when the attack took place. He gave the officers a description of the three.



Police Doubt Story Oil Was Poured on Victim.

Receiving hospital physicians Thursday were skeptical regarding the story told by 10-year-old Joseph McAdoo, 5424 McKinley avenue, suffering burns about the neck and shoulders, who, after being brought to the hospital, Tuesday, said that three boys whom he met in an alley in the rear of his home drenched his clothing with kerosene and set it afire.

Police of Vinewood station said Thursday that no investigation of the boys story is being made.

McAdoo, a Negro lad gave questioners at the hospital a description of the alleged assailants but furnished no details by which they could be located in the neighborhood of his home.

Mrs. Lucy McAdoo, the boy’s mother, was away from home at the time her son suffered the burns. A neighbor summoned a doctor, who called an ambulance and had the boy removed to Receiving hospital.

In 1923 Dr. Albert Cleage shared an office with Dr. Grimes at 4224 McGraw, above house next to Music store. The office was about half a mile from Joseph McAdoo’s home on McKinley.
Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr

Joseph Youles McAdoo was the oldest of nine children. In the 1920 census (three years before this incident) he was seven years old and attended school. There were three younger children ages five, almost two and 3 months . The family lived in a rented house in Hamtramck, Wayne County, Michigan, a small city surrounded by Detroit. Joseph’s father worked as a laborer in a can factory. His mother did not work outside of the home in 1920. The baby of three months died six months later of pneumonia. There were eventually nine children in the family.

Joseph had two years of high school before he began to work for a grocer. He eventually became a butcher. Over the years he was married and divorced several times. There were two step children.

On his WWII draft card, he was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 140 pounds, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. His only feature that they mentioned was “high cheek bones.”There was no mention of any scars from the burns in his childhood.

On October 18, 1987 Joseh MacAdoo died in Detroit, Michigan. His death certificate was not available online so I do not know what he died of. He was 75 years old.

15 thoughts on “K – KEROSENE & Dr. Cleage – 1923

  1. No investigation was done. The doctors were skeptical. May his soul rest and justice be found.

    1. Very strange story. He seemed to live the rest of his life without any more regard for that fire. It seems that there would have been some speculation about what the doctors and police thought happened if he wasn’t set on fire by others.

  2. At a time when so many are stepping up to help others during the C19 pandemic, this story of your Cleage ancestor being relied on in a crisis resonates. If this horrific attack occurred today and Joseph or the neighbors had a cell phone camera, the police would not have been able to brush off his story so lightly.

  3. Oh what a horrible thing. I have come across people being burnt to death in three different families I have researched for others but in each case it was an accident, one involved kerosene I think but was burning off grass.

    I had a relative who was a pilot in the First World War. One of his legs was amputated when he was a child after a horse riding accident. His military records say no distinguishing marks or characteristics! He was a prisoner of war and eventually to stop him escaping the Germans took away his wooden leg.

    Perhaps the military authorities in the case of Joseph made no mention of the obvious wounds out of kindness.

    1. You would think an amputated leg would be mentioned! I find it hard to believe that they would not mention them out of kindness. It’s a mystery.

  4. So many thoughts about the evil visited upon this unfortunate youngster. I wonder if one or all of the 3 were children of “connected” families, which would include police officers. To not only not investigate it, but to publish their lack of follow-through, compounds the evil. Three children willing to do that to another child wouldn’t just stop with one evil act. I wonder how many others were harmed or killed by them over the years? Makes me shake my head with sorrow mixed with rage.

  5. This was shocking to read Kristin.
    The second report sounds like things were being hushed up.
    It saddens me so.

Comments are closed.