Rotan, TX House Fire, Dec 1949

Birth, Marriage & Death Records

11 BURNED TO DEATH IN FLAME HOUSE BLAZE.

VICTIMS ARE TRANSIENT COTTON PICKERS, ALL MEMBERS OF A FAMILY.

Rotan, Tex., Dec. 15 (AP) -- Eleven transient farm workers -- all members of one family -- burned to death today when fire destroyed their small house at the edge of a cotton field.
The blackened remains of the four-room dwelling on the C. A. DOUTHIT farm, eight miles northeast of this west Texas town, were found at 9 a.m.
Two hours later, 11 skeletons were counted in the charred ruins.
The dead included three generations. Seven were children, including a 14-year-old girl, married and pregnant.
The position of the skeletons showed the victims died in their sleep, huddled together on the floors of two bedrooms.
Officers said the cause of the fire was unknown but that evidence pointed to a two-burner kerosene cookstove.
The Latin American family had begun picking cotton only yesterday on the DOUTHIT farm. They arrived here from a Brownfield, Tex., job.

The Moberly Monitor-Index Missouri 1949-12-14

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FIRE SNUFFS OUT FAMILY OF 11.

Rotan, Tex. (UPI) -- Eleven transient farm workers -- all members of one family -- burned to death near here Thursday when fire destroyed their small home at the edge of a cotton field.
The blackened remains of the four-room home on the C. A. Douthit farm, eight miles northeast of this West Texas town, were found at 9 a.m.
Two hours later, 11 skeletons were counted in the charred ruins.
The dead included three generations. Six victims were children.
The position of the skeletons showed the victims died in their sleep, huddled together on the floors of two bedrooms.
Officers said the cause of the fire was unknown but that evidence pointed to a two-burner kerosene cookstove. The stove was in a "damaged condition," they said.
The dead:
BASILIO PEREZ, 75.
His son and daughter in law; MANUEL PEREZ, 38 and MRS. MANUEL PEREZ, 40.
The daughter and son-in-law of MR. and MRS. MANUEL PEREZ; ALBERTO CASTILLO, 21, and his 14-year-old wife. Officers said she was pregnant.
Other children of MR. and MRS. MANUEL PEREZ; JUANITA, 12; VICTORIA, 10; MONSE, 8; JESUS, 6; MANUELA, 2; and a baby girl about one year old whose name was not known.
The victims were identified by other transient laborers who were working on the farm.

Idaho State Journal Pocatello 1949-12-15

Comments

the truth

In 1949 the (transient) family from brownsville Tx were driving through Rotan on they're way to a job when they made a fatal mistake. they got hungry and decided to stop in rotan to eat, a farmer from Rotan begged them to help him harvest his cotton.
In return he would pay them very well or so he said.
The next night he and his (buddies) killed and raped three young females and from the group with no remorse and burnt the dwelling the group was staying in.
There was no justice then but knowning and telling the truth will bring shame to that farming family.

Truth....verified...by me!

I have spoken to several "old timers" from Rotan, and they all said that it was well known that the farmer burned the house down. He refused to pay them after their work as they were considered "wetbacks" and probably wouldn't fight the farmer. As for the rape allegations, none of the "old timers" mentioned that to me, but I'll find more about that in a couple of weeks when I go back to visit.