New London, TX School Disaster Museum

New London, TX School Disaster Museum Located in New London, Texas; the London Museum recalls the story of the tragic explosion that destroyed the London School on March 18, 1937.
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The (New) London Museum aims to preserve, for public benefit, the natural, historical, and artistic heritage of the London community from the time of the original inhabitants to the present; specifically including the discovery of the East Texas oil field and the London school disaster of 1937.

The (New) London Museum aims to preserve, for public benefit, the natural, historical, and artistic heritage of the London community from the time of the original inhabitants to the present; specifically including the discovery of the East Texas oil field and the London school disaster of 1937.

Mission: To tell the story of the 1937 school explosion to future generations.

Operating as usual

08/31/2020
OneDrive

This page is here for research purposes. It contains:
1) Museum events and happenings from July 2015 through July 2020
2) Information about the 1937 London school explosion; and
3) Facts about victims and some survivors of the explosion. You can find a list of all victims here:
https://1drv.ms/u/s!AqQnBR68n5sYkz2nfYDJib4JXgyP?e=9sU1mV
Additionally, there is at least one post on this page about most of them. Just type their name in the Facebook search box at the top of this page.

Our apologies. WE ARE STILL HERE, working as hard as ever to tell the story of the 1937 London school explosion and keep...
08/31/2020

Our apologies. WE ARE STILL HERE, working as hard as ever to tell the story of the 1937 London school explosion and keep the memories of all the victims alive by saying their names and telling the story.

We had a recent staff change that has impacted this page. Stay tuned for further updates.

Shawn Bilyeu and his family from Modesto, California visited London Museum Saturday afternoon, July 25. Bilyeu’s Great G...
07/27/2020

Shawn Bilyeu and his family from Modesto, California visited London Museum Saturday afternoon, July 25. Bilyeu’s Great Granduncle S. J. “Jack” Wartham, was a 9th grader killed in the London School Explosion. Bilyeu’s grandmother, Lillian Wartham, was in 6th grade and survived. A member of Bilyeu’s family, Lillian Martin, is named for her.

Standing: Shawn Bilyeu, Jaymi Bilyeu (holding Trevor Martin), Apryl DeJarnett, and Stacey Martin
Seated: Lillian Martin, Waylon Bilyeu, Bristol Bilyeu, and Haley Martin

Meet our new friend Nanette Sudweeks Faucett with her children  Bowman, Drew, Claire, Nate, and Audrey. They visited us ...
07/20/2020

Meet our new friend Nanette Sudweeks Faucett with her children Bowman, Drew, Claire, Nate, and Audrey. They visited us recently. Thank you so much for coming!

07/07/2020

Cafe Menu

Thank goodness, things are back to normal today!Come see us. We're also happy to take to-go orders for lunch from 11-2, ...
07/07/2020

Thank goodness, things are back to normal today!
Come see us. We're also happy to take to-go orders for lunch from 11-2, and the museum is open for self-guided tours.
903-895-4602

Power was out at the museum today. We're really sorry if we missed you. It finally came on late this afternoon. We're ho...
07/06/2020

Power was out at the museum today. We're really sorry if we missed you. It finally came on late this afternoon. We're hoping for better luck tomorrow!

FYI:
06/30/2020

FYI:

Did you get this reminder in the mail about natural gas and pipeline safety?Unfortunately, we know all about it. A natur...
06/29/2020

Did you get this reminder in the mail about natural gas and pipeline safety?

Unfortunately, we know all about it. A natural gas explosion is what destroyed the London school in 1937. We can teach you all about it. Come see us!

Oh, and read those brochures, too... it truly is important. You never know when you may need that information. Read about Danielle Smalley at https://smalleyfnd.org/danielle-dawn-smalley. We partner with the foundation formed in her name.

The Beauty Bar is currently featuring a "crazy quilt". In their late 1800s heyday, crazy quilts celebrated an age of pro...
06/26/2020

The Beauty Bar is currently featuring a "crazy quilt". In their late 1800s heyday, crazy quilts celebrated an age of progress. Irregular shapes, haphazard fabrics, and meticulous embroidery compose these beautifully busy works. Enthusiasm for this quilting fad continued until about 1910.

This quilt, donated to the museum, appraised for $1000.
It is for sale for $500. Proceeds go to the museum maintenance fund.

The quilt is a wonderful example of handwork. Other past times featured in the Beauty Bar are old board games, picture puzzles, crafts, and gardening.

If you're out, some see us. Take a look at the quilt, and tell us what you did during the quarantine!

For those who have expressed an interest in ordering a memorial brick, the order form is attached below, along with phot...
06/25/2020

For those who have expressed an interest in ordering a memorial brick, the order form is attached below, along with photos of other bricks to give you ideas.

It may seem pricey, but the price includes the engraving, shipping, installation, and umpteen years of maintenance. Also, it's less expensive that other memorial walks, as most of them charge at least $100. We've tried to keep ours as low as possible.

See those blank bricks? They are all that remain to be purchased in our memorial walk in front of the museum.Since our b...
06/23/2020

See those blank bricks? They are all that remain to be purchased in our memorial walk in front of the museum.

Since our beginning in 1992, the walk has been a place to honor someone who is/was important in your life. It is now nearly compete, and represents, in a way, the history of our community. So many memories come when you read the names on the bricks.

If you've been thinking about purchasing a commemorative brick, NOW is the time. There aren't many spaces left.
For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/notes/new-london-tx-school-disaster-museum/brick-pavers/1688453737923435/ or message us here.

Welcome back, J. D.!Our valued volunteer J. D. was out for about a month with health problems, but he was kicking up the...
06/22/2020

Welcome back, J. D.!

Our valued volunteer J. D. was out for about a month with health problems, but he was kicking up the dust mowing last Friday, June 19.

J. D. has done a great job keeping our grounds since last year. His volunteer efforts qualify for the Exxon-Mobile Foundation matching gift program (for retirees), and he recently earned us a $1500.00 donation.

Thank you, J. D.! We truly appreciate you!

We're open!We're practicing social distancing and other CDC recommended measures. We want to keep you and our valued vol...
06/16/2020

We're open!

We're practicing social distancing and other CDC recommended measures. We want to keep you and our valued volunteers as safe as possible.

We miss you! Come see us!
Grilled hamburger special today!

We're excited to announce that the museum, soda fountain, and cafe will re-open on Monday, June 15.Hours are the same: M...
06/06/2020

We're excited to announce that the museum, soda fountain, and cafe will re-open on Monday, June 15.

Hours are the same: Mon-Fri 9-4, Sat (museum & fountain only) 10-3

Please join us in wishing our favorite head docent and longtime volunteer John Davidson, a blessed 80th birthday today. ...
05/12/2020

Please join us in wishing our favorite head docent and longtime volunteer John Davidson, a blessed 80th birthday today. We miss you!

05/06/2020
Jiggs Burgess, playwright

A nice note from the writer of "The Girl in the White Pinafore"!

I want to thank all the schools who produced The Girl In The White Pinafore. Thank you for telling my version of the story and researching the real one. It's my eternal hope that the victims of the New London School Tragedy are never forgotten.

Tyler Paper article about stadium lights at West Rusk. We love that it honors the memory of the 1937 explosion while als...
04/22/2020
West Rusk lights up stadium for 37 minutes each night

Tyler Paper article about stadium lights at West Rusk. We love that it honors the memory of the 1937 explosion while also providing hope during today's pandemic.

There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. And for the foreseeable future, there will be lights shining bright each night at West Rusk’s Bruce Bradshaw Stadium.

This starts tonight!
04/20/2020

This starts tonight!

We will begin turning the lights on Monday evening. Please stay safe. We look forward to seeing everyone again as soon as we can. #RPND

UPDATE:The museum is still closed. We will reopen as soon as possible.
04/08/2020

UPDATE:
The museum is still closed. We will reopen as soon as possible.

Remembering 9th-grade victim Allen Gerdes4/1/1920 - 3/18/1937His older brother Alvin was also a victim.
04/08/2020

Remembering 9th-grade victim Allen Gerdes
4/1/1920 - 3/18/1937

His older brother Alvin was also a victim.

Allen Gerdes was born to John William Gerdes and Mary (Graves) Gerdes on April 1, 1920. There were at least 6 other children: Cora (b. 1905) Ruby in 1913, Alvin in 1917, Vernon in 1924 (he died in 1926), Clifton, and John W.

The 1930 census shows the family living in Crane County, TX (West Texas, just southwest of Monahans). John, a German immigrant, drove trucks for a living. His wife took in laundry to help make ends meet. By the mid-1930s, they had relocated to East Texas following the oil boom.

On March 18, 1937, the school held a pep rally in the morning to rev up participants of the next day's UIL athletic events. Allen's older brother Alvin was set to compete in the javelin throw. At 3:17 that afternoon, the school exploded, killing both boys.

Allen, a 9th-grade victim, is buried with his family at Oakwood cemetery in Waco, TX.

Remembering 6th-grade victim Dessie Moore3/31/1925 - 3/18/1937
04/08/2020

Remembering 6th-grade victim Dessie Moore
3/31/1925 - 3/18/1937

Dessie Lometer Moore was born to Jessie Orie Moore and Idealia (Hubbard) Moore in Natchitoches, LA on March 31, 1925. Her brother Delma was born in 1927. Sadly, Idealia died of meningitis in 1929. Jessie then married Fannie Sue Grant in 1931 and had 2 more children; Orie in 1931 and Barbara in Nov. 1937.

Dessie was in the 6th grade when she died in the school explosion on March 18, 1937. Her brother Delma survived.

Dessie is buried near her parents and grandparents at Shiloh cemetery in Provencal, LA. Her tombstone inscription reads "A little flower of love that blossomed but to die, transplanted now above to bloom with God on high."

Remembering 6th-grade victim Margretta Hogue3/31/1923 - 3/18/1937Her cousin Earnestine was also a victim.
04/08/2020

Remembering 6th-grade victim Margretta Hogue
3/31/1923 - 3/18/1937

Her cousin Earnestine was also a victim.

Margretta Hogue was born March 31, 1923, the youngest child of John William and Ina Jewel (Edwards) Hogue. Bula was born in 1916, Jessie Leona in 1918, J. C. in 1919, and John D in 1925.

On the 1930 census, the Hogue family lived in Wichita County, TX where John was a farmer. Shortly therafter, they relocated to East Texas following work in the oil boom. John set up an oilfield trucking business in the area. His son John D. sent us some photos recently, one of which is shown below.

March 18, 1937 was Margretta's first day back at school after having undergone surgery some weeks before. Margretta and much of her 6th-grade class died in the school explosion, including her cousin Earnestine Hogue. Her older brother, J.C. Jr., survived. Margretta is buried at Pleasant Hill cemetery near New London.

J. C. was registered for the 1937-38 school year, so we know they stayed at least that long after the explosion. The rest of the family is buried at Elmwood cemetery in Bowie, TX.

Remembering 7th-grade victim David Scott3/28/1923 - 3/18/1937
03/28/2020

Remembering 7th-grade victim David Scott
3/28/1923 - 3/18/1937

David Willard Scott was born to Willie and Frances (May) Scott in Mississippi on March 28, 1923. The Scotts also had a daughter in 1925; Frances Katherine Scott lived just past her 1st birthday.

David was in 7th grade when he perished in the school explosion on March 18, 1937. His cousins Earl Scott and Bryan Bowlin were also victims. David is buried next to his family at Joaquin cemetery in Shelby County, TX.

The tombstone inscription reads "He went happily off as was rule and God called for him at the New London School".

Remembering 7th-grade victim Hubert Hudson3/27/1923 - 3/18/1937
03/28/2020

Remembering 7th-grade victim Hubert Hudson
3/27/1923 - 3/18/1937

Hubert Hudson was born to John Preston Hudson and Margaret Frances (Beasley) Hudson on March 27, 1923 in Columbia County, Arkansas. As far as we can tell, he was the 4th of 5 children. His sister Exer was born in 1909, brother Jessie in 1911, sister Melissie in 1914, and brother Johnny in 1930.

The 1930 census shows the Hudson family living in Haynesville, LA where Johnny was born. Obviously they moved sometime thereafter to Rusk County, TX.

On March 18, 1937, Hubert was in 7th grade when he perished in the school explosion. According to his distant cousins, he is buried in an unmarked grave at Shiloh cemetery in Lamartine, AR.

On the 1940 census, Jessie, Johnny, and their parents had moved to Corpus Christi. Hubert's parents are buried at Rosewood cemetery in Humble, TX.

If you have any additional information on Hubert, or can obtain a photo of his grave, please contact the museum.

Remembering 10th-grade victim William Sowell3/27/1922 - 3/18/1937
03/27/2020

Remembering 10th-grade victim William Sowell
3/27/1922 - 3/18/1937

William Edward Sowell was born to Henry and Pearlie (Self) Sowell on March 27, 1922 in Louisiana. His only sister Margie was born in 1919.

In the 1930 census, the Sowells lived in Smackover, Arkansas where Henry worked as a pumper in the oilfield. By 1935, the family had relocated to East Texas following work in the oil boom.

Edward was a 10th-grade victim of the London school explosion on March 18, 1937. He is buried next to his parents at Central cemetery in Robeline, LA.

Remembering 11th-grade (Senior) victim Robert Sallee3/26/1920 - 3/18/1937
03/27/2020

Remembering 11th-grade (Senior) victim Robert Sallee
3/26/1920 - 3/18/1937

Robert Henry Sallee was born to Robert M. and Martha Alice (Parmley) Sallee on March 26, 1920.

Sixteen-year-old Robert was a victim of the tragic explosion at the London school on March 18, 1937. He was in eleventh grade (a senior). Robert is buried at Rose Hill cemetery in Tyler next to his mother.

Remembering 6th-grade victim G. W. Gipson3/22/1921 - 3/18/1937
03/24/2020

Remembering 6th-grade victim G. W. Gipson
3/22/1921 - 3/18/1937

Garner W. Gipson was born to Emma Lou Phillips and Riley James Gipson on March 22, 1921. G. W. was the 4th of 5 children. Richard Ruby was born in 1907, Opal in 1910, Pearl in 1912, and Leloe in 1917.

In the 1930 census, Riley and Emma were separated, and she was living in Arkansas with all 5 children where her eldest son was working as a roustabout in the oilfield. By the mid-1930s, they had relocated to East Texas to be near Emma's brother William Henry Phillips.

When the London school exploded on March 18, 1937, G. W. was killed along with 3 of his cousins Virgil, Twillia, and James Henry Phillips (children of Emma's brother). All of these children are buried in the Philips family plot at Pleasant Hill cemetery near New London.

Remembering 5th-grade victim John Buzbee3/19/1926 - 3/18/1937
03/23/2020

Remembering 5th-grade victim John Buzbee
3/19/1926 - 3/18/1937

John Robert Buzbee was born to Manza and Ovetra (Hatcher) Buzbee on March 19, 1926 in Electra (Wichita County), Texas. He was their only child.

On the day before his 11th birthday, John perished in the school explosion. He is buried next to his parents at Sonora cemetery in Fairlie (near Commerce), TX.

John's encyclopedia set is on display at the museum. Search for our post about his cousin Edna Laura Wickersham to learn more.

Remembering 8th-grade victim Florence Lee3/19/1923 - 3/18/1937
03/23/2020

Remembering 8th-grade victim Florence Lee
3/19/1923 - 3/18/1937

Florence Ruby Lee was the only child of Erroll and Birdie (Wagstaff) Lee, born in Arkansas on March 19, 1923. Named after her maternal grandmother Florence Flemming Wagstaff, she was one day shy of her 14th birthday when she perished in the school explosion on March 18, 1937.

Florence is buried next to her parents at Mount Hope cemetery in Rusk County, TX. There are 4 victims buried there (Florence, A. W. Stubblefield, Graham Henson, and Willie Ruth Roberts).

03/20/2020
Since we weren't open on March 18, the anniversary of the 1937 school explosion, we wanted to provide a little more back...
03/20/2020
“Oh, My God! It’s Our Children!”

Since we weren't open on March 18, the anniversary of the 1937 school explosion, we wanted to provide a little more background here. We've ran this story before, but it's worth repeating.
https://cutt.ly/ltxgxij

On March 18, 1937, the residents of New London, southeast of Tyler, endured the worst small-town tragedy in U.S. history: an explosion at the combined junior-senior high school that killed some three hundred students and teachers.

Remembering 9th-grade victim Homer Latham3/15/1922 - 3/18/1937His older brother Walter ("W. D.") was also a victim.
03/20/2020

Remembering 9th-grade victim Homer Latham
3/15/1922 - 3/18/1937

His older brother Walter ("W. D.") was also a victim.

Homer Clint Latham was born to Walter Dumont Latham and Mollie (Slaton) Latham on March 15, 1922. Homer was the baby. He had 2 older sisters, Jessie and Bernice, and one older brother, Walter Jr.

Homer was in the 9th grade when he and Walter, Jr. perished in the school explosion on March 18, 1937. The boys are buried next to their parents at Thornton Church cemetery in Trinity, TX.

On this date in 1937, the unthinkable happened.
03/18/2020

On this date in 1937, the unthinkable happened.

Nearly Three Hundred Die in New London School Explosion

On 18 March 1937, a massive explosion caused the steel-framed school building in New London, in Rusk County, to collapse, killing a reported 298 people. It was the worst school disaster in United States history. Of the 500 students in the building, only about 130 escaped serious injury. The explosion, which was heard four miles away, occurred when a manual-arts teacher turned on a sanding machine and inadvertently ignited a mixture of gas and air. Three days after the explosion, inquiries were held to determine the cause of the disaster. Investigators learned that in January 1937, to save gas expenses of $300 a month, the school board and superintendent had authorized plumbers to tap a residue gas line of H. L. Hunt's Parade Gasoline Company. Apparently gas had escaped from a faulty connection and accumulated beneath the building. No school officials were found liable. More than seventy lawsuits were filed for damages, but district judge Robert T. Brown dismissed the few cases that came to trial for lack of evidence. The thirty surviving seniors at New London finished their year in temporary buildings while a new school was built on nearly the same site.
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Two vintage newsclips about the explosion from YouTube:

https://youtu.be/mNInO3XoKNo

https://youtu.be/Z19IczVwsK0
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Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas Online articles on:

The New London School Explosion – http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/yqn01

New London, Texas – http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hln30

Haroldson Lafayette “H.L.” Hunt – http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhu59

Robert T. Brown – http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbrdh

Rusk County, Texas - http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcr12

Address

PO Box 477
New London, TX
75682

General information

The London Museum is dedicated to all those who survived or died in the school explosion on March 18, 1937.

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Why We’re Here

In 1992, Molly Ward, an eyewitness to the 1937 tragedy that killed 294 when the London School exploded, determined to open a museum to tell the story of this event and keep alive the memory of those who had died and those who had survived the worst school disaster in the history of the United States. The museum is housed in a historical site located in New London, TX. The building not only housed Charlie’s Drug Store, but also the first Post Office, first City Hall, and first water department of New London. Using volunteer resources, the was renovated and remodeled, and fashioned into a cafe and museum. The cafe opened on April 1, 1995.

The grand opening of the museum was in 1998. Over time, additional donated items were added as deemed appropriate. Space does not allow us to have a rotating exhibit, but we do keep displays in the "Beauty Bar" in the cafe. Past exhibits have included Martha Marshall’s hooked rugs, Joe M. Jones' Boy Scout and Girl Scout memorabilia, James Trammel's carvings, Betty Wagoner’s Santa Claus collection, Joe Freeman’s football memorabilia, Queen Price Garden Club historical documents, and museum volunteer-generated exhibits on local history and facts from the year 1937. We welcome exhibits from anyone who would like to share something. In 2003, Phase II of the museum opened thanks to the Meadows Foundation and the McMillan Foundation, adding 3200 square feet to the building. We accept donations of all kinds, including monetary, information and photos about explosion survivors, victims, and witnesses.

Using an all-volunteer staff, we collect, catalog, and preserve items pertaining to the old school and/or the explosion as well as the early community. Our volunteer docents provide educational services to anyone who visits the museum, including school bus tours. In addition, we do speaking engagements when asked, and we participate in community activities to represent the museum.

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Comments

Power is out at the museum. We are closed until it comes back on.
I saw Jim Arnold passed in church yesterday! Here's the obituary if it's not been posted
March 18, 1937 - everything changed - the New London School Explosion impacted all of the East Texas Community. Tyler Lee Theatre will be presenting The Girl in the White Pinafore Auditions are December 5th see Ms. Clemens for more information
I saw a post earlier asking about info on Tom Howard Guinn. He was killed in the explosion. Tom was born Dec 22, 1921 to Ralph and Goldie Howard Guinn. They only had two children. Tom Howard was their oldest son and Grady (born in 1926) was killed in an auto accident in 1933. In 1930 Ralph worked for an oil company in Winkler, TX.
I have loved reading your webpage! The back stories are so interesting (and heartbreaking). I heard about this tragedy in the ‘90’s when I lived in Marshall. I have learned so much from your page. Thanks to the people who share this with us all.
My dad was working in the oilfield. All workers left to help with tragedy. He and mother were newlyweds and had just moved to New London.
We just celebrated our 58th Roberts' Family Reunion in Kilgore, Texas this past weekend. We lost our sweet Willie Ruth Roberts in this tragic event. Her brother, Orval Wayne Roberts, was on the football field when the explosion took place. He was the one to find Ruth's body in all the rubble and confusion. My mother Emma Naomi (Holland) Whatley had been in the operetta that had taken place that day. She is in the film at the Museum. She was holding her teacher's hand waiting for the school bus and watched the school explode. She is now 89 and has Alzheimer's but I grew up as many of my cousins did hearing the story of this tragic day. We have several of our family that were either going to school or lived in the area at the time. Our family reunion contributes to the New London Museum each year in honor of Ruth Roberts. I want to thank all that help in keeping the museum going, help in continuing the memories. We have to keep saying their names and remembering them to honor them.
http://obituaries.tylerpaper.com/obituaries/tylerpaper/obituary.aspx?n=patsy-d-wilson&pid=184488208&fhid=6208 Billy Roberts sister!! My sweet Mama!! Even though she wasn’t killed in the explosion, she was there as a second grader. She carried many mental scars from that day!! Despite the trauma, she was strong !!
Just saw this, while looking for others events:
The New London School explosion occurred on March 18, 1937, when a natural gas leak caused an explosion, destroying the London School of New London, Texas,[1] a community in Rusk County previously known as "London". The disaster killed more than 295 students and teachers, making it the deadliest school disaster in American history. As of 2017, the event is the third deadliest disaster in the history of Texas, after the 1900 Galveston hurricane, and the 1947 Texas City disaster.
My grandmothers first cousin Mary Elizabeth Vines was killed in this disaster.