Reflections from 1933
Editor’s note: Mary (Fox) Knight submitted the following about her uncle James Ward Fox. The accompanying photo is thought to be a Tonganoxie High School senior photo from 1930.
November is typically when we honor our fallen heroes, and others that served our county. For one family, November marks the anniversary of another type of fallen hero.
November 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of James Ward Fox in Tonganoxie on Nov. 10, 1911. James, who went by the name Ward, was a farmer on the property of his parents, Laura and John E. Fox Sr., southeast of Tonganoxie. Ward was a graduate of Tonganoxie High School, in the class of 1930.
Ward met an unthinkable tragedy at the young age of 22 during the Thanksgiving holidays in 1933. His family was preparing to attend the pie social at the Pickens schoolhouse on the eve of Thanksgiving. It was while they were filling the car with fuel that a gasoline explosion occurred. Ward was fatally burned. His father, John, suffered multiple burns in an attempt to save his firstborn son’s life.
On Nov. 30, 1933, Ward was buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery. Ward was survived by his parents and three brothers, John. Jr., Robert, and Henry. Also surviving were his grandparents James and Mary Alice Torpey Fox, Leavenworth County pioneers. He was pre-deceased by his grandfather, Samuel H. Ward, Leavenworth County Commissioner from 1910-1916.
Calamity hit the family hard again a short time later, with the death of John Fox Sr. on Jan. 13, 1934. John died suddenly of a heart attack, which was thought to be brought on by the severe burns he suffered in his attempt to save Ward. Those who knew him stated that he never got over the death of Ward and he died of a broken heart. He was laid to rest on Jan. 18, 1934, next to his son at Sacred Heart Cemetery at the age of 45. John Sr. was born in 1887 in Tonganoxie.
After her husband’s death, Mrs. Laura Fox and her sons continued to farm the land. John and Henry entered military service during World War II and raised families. Robert (Bob) stayed on the family farm. Laura passed away in 1957. Many years passed and Robert Fox remained on the family farm until his death in 1995. Bob made multiple improvements and additions to the family farm, even winning awards for his terracing efforts. Presently, what remains of the Robert Fox farm is farmed by his nieces and nephews with the help of a local farmer.
As families gave thanks this holiday season and spent time together, the Fox family stopped to remember two beloved family members who suffered a Thanksgiving tragedy.