LaSalle County

Mr. and Mrs. Rooney

Ottawa Free Trader

January 9, 1886


The following is an account of the burning to death of Mr. and Mrs. ROONEY at Seneca, on Christmas, furnished by a correspondent of that place:

The house was built "expressly to keep out the air," as Mr. Rooney often boasted and the sequel shows how well it did.  The windows, by a curious double weather-strip, were air-tight.  The foundation was of pointed masonry, Joliet stone, with none of the usual vent holes.  Under the kitchen there was no cellar, and the space was cut off from the cellar proper.  A fire would have burned equally well in a jug. The floor of the kitchen was pine.  The fire burned a hole just large enough to let Mrs. Rooney's remains fall through, and then died out for want of draught.  Standing almost over her as she lay on the floor was a round table.  The cloth, which covered it, caught fire, and that portion which hung below the edge of the take, burned.  The kerosene lamp was on this table, but if it had been lighted, it too, was smothered out.  Mrs. Rooney was very large, weighing more than 200 pounds.  The flesh was entirely consumed, except that part which covered the bones of one foot.  The foot was found just at the edge of the aperture in the floor, through which the body had disappeared.  The limb had burned slowly to the ankle--flesh and bone-- and when the body dropped the charred bone snapped, and the foot, with the shoe intact, righted itself and stood up as if its owner had been burned at the stake.  Nothing in the room was burned except Mrs. Rooney's body, the hole in the floor, and the table cloth fringe.

Mr. Rooney leaves four children by his first wife, a son who lives near him, Mrs. Murphy in Seneca, and two married daughters in Iowa.  He never helped them any, nor did he ever make a will.  There was money found on Mr. Rooney's person and a considerable sum in the cupboard.  The doors were all tightly closed and locked on Christmas morning, and no indications of foul play have been discovered.


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