Memorial for Opera House 170 fire victims to be held
Public invited to attend ceremony at Fairview Cemetery
The third annual memorial service for the 170 victims of the Rhoads Opera House fire will be held on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 1 p.m. at the Fairview Cemetery in Boyertown to commemorate the victims of that fire.
This event is sponsored by the Boyertown Area Historical Society and the public is cordially invited to attend the short ceremony. The Society is especially interested in honoring descendants of those victims, and they are invited to make comments about their ancestors’ experiences in that holocaust.
Twenty-five of those victims could not be identified, and their burial on Sunday, January 19, 1908, was viewed by 15,000 spectators who had arrived in town for the ceremony. A stately procession of hearses began promptly at 9 a.m. from the Washington School, whose front door was draped in black and its flag flown at half-mast. Thousands of residents and strangers lined the route, most moved to tears as they stood at silent attention with bared heads in respect to the dead. Moving up Philadelphia Avenue, each hearse was accompanied by an honor guard of four pallbearers, all dressed in black and wearing white gloves.
The unidentified bodies were placed in individual caskets, in separate graves, divided by 9 inch brick walls. It was the busiest day for the Reading Railroad Company since its opening in 1869, bringing 7000 people on special excursion trains from as far away as New York City. The rest came by trolley, horse and buggy, a few by motor car, and some on bicycle. There were many newspaper reporters in town.
Members of the State police and officers from the Reading city police force directed traffic and maintained order. It was a tribute to their good work that events progressed so smoothly that day.
The fire took place on January 13, 1908.
The historic fire took place on January 13,1908 . Days following, the Procession of Hearses carry the unidentified to the Fairview Cemetery.