Sampsel fire

Sampsel Fire

Being the only small child living in Sampsel had its advantages. Times were different, life was safe and people in the area knew each other and were friendly. It was early in July of 1953, a day with a record-setting high temperature.

I was sick and my mother, Helen Vanzant, had taken me to the doctor in Chillicothe. My dad, Roger Vanzant, stayed in Sampsel to run our little store. My mom and I were in with the doctor when the phone rang. The doctor talked briefly and handed the phone to my mother. As long as I live I will never forget the look on her face as she took that call. Our house was on fire, and being so rural a fire department was not very close. The doctor asked my mother if she was going to be OK and did she have some place to take me. She told him that she would take me to my grandmother's (Maude Trammell Vanzant) home in Chillicothe. By the time she drove back to Sampsel the house was smoldering ashes. I can't remember how long before they took me back to see where our house had been.

One of the neighbors had ran in to the store and told my dad that our house was burning. A generator on our back porch had overheated and ignited. Dad was only able to reach inside and grab his overstuffed broken down easy chair. He threw my box of building blocks into the seat and pulled it out the door. Another neighbor had called the fire department in Chillicothe but it was too late to save the house by the time they got to Sampsel. Even though neighbors hurried to help, nearly everything was lost. And there was no insurance.

The old Todd house in Sampsel was empty and we were able to rent it. All the people in Sampsel and the surrounding area gave my mom a shower. Without that I really don't know how we would have survived. Still today, I have some of the items that were given to us by our wonderful friends and neighbors.

Karen Vanzant Chonech
December 2015