John Blair and the Great Hinckley Fire
Publication Date: September 2000
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No one who boarded the Limited No. 4 train on the morning of September 1, 1894, anticipated disaster down the tracks, but by three o’clock in the afternoon, the sky was as black as night and everyone knew something was wrong. Soon burning trees lined either side of the tracks, illuminating the smoky sky like gigantic torches. With fire ahead and fire behind, how would the passengers escape?
Amid the flames of the most devastating firestorm in U.S. history, the train’s porter, John Wesley Blair, acted with courage and compassion throughout that terrible day. Here, finally, is the untold story of a hero whom history almost forgot.
A brief mention of the Hinckley fire in a nature magazine inspired Joi Nobisso to find out more about this awesome event. After several years of research, she uncovered the tale of John Blair’s bravery and knew she had to tell his story.
"An exciting introduction to a little-known incident in American history and to a genuine African-American hero." Kirkus Reviews (8/15/00) Kirkus Reviews
"John Blair emergees as a quiet hero . . . a man who simply behaved the way we all hope we might, were we to face such awful danger." Riverbank Review (Fall 2000)
"A powerful one-stop introduction to a little-known historical event." The Bulletin (10/00) The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The descriptive language conveys the seriousness of the situation and reads well aloud. . . . The format is large for group sharing and the story would tie in well with studies of Midwest settlement, forests, fires, railroads, and notable African-Americans." SLJ, 12/00 School Library Journal