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"C" is for Cleveland School Fire

"C" is for Cleveland School Fire (May 17, 1923). Cleveland Public School was situated in Kershaw County, six mile south of Camden. The school was housed in a two-story frame building; an auditorium (40 feet by 20 feet) was on the second floor. On May 17, 1923 the room was packed with 300 people attending graduation ceremonies and a class play. During the performance, a large oil lamp fell to the stage and ignited an intense fire. Terrified spectators rushed toward the only exit. Some persons were trampled to death and the wooden stairway collapsed. The official death toll was seventy-seven but only twenty-five victims were identified. Entire families were wiped out and the unclaimed bodies from the Cleveland School Fire were interred in a mass grave at nearby Beulah Methodist Church Cemetery.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.