At 5:15 p.m. today church bells will ring downtown, not for the upcoming Christmas holiday but for a more somber reason — the 100th anniversary of the Lyons Union School fire that killed two young girls and destroyed the school.
It will be exactly 100 years to the time when a fast-moving blaze tore through the William Street building, trapping and killing 12-year-old Helen Baltzel and 13-year-old Elizabeth Burns. The fire ravaged the school building, causing $300,000 in damage, according to old news clippings. Another Lyons resident, Jacob Keller, also died — “overcome by excitement of the fire and fell dead of heart disease. On his return home he was telling members of his family of what had occurred, when he toppled over.”
Scott Bailey of Lyons and Eric Lewis of Geneva, a sixth-grade teacher in Lyons, are both history buffs who have been researching the fire’s history.