Boy healed by 'fire extractor'

For more than two centuries, this newspaper has been reporting advances in health and medicine.


Early editions of The Augusta Chronicle showed advertisements for remedies of everything from baldness to cancer.

Most of those sales pitches contain glowing testimonials. Most of those medicines contained alcohol or opiates.

Later news stories reported the breakthroughs in surgery or vaccination that we now take for granted. And today, almost no issue rolls off the press that doesn't have some account of a possible medical advance.

Some health news stories defy explanation. Or, as The Chronicle of December 1871 termed it, "a most singular case."

On Christmas Day, this newspaper reported, an 11-year-old boy named Spinks was out celebrating the holiday with fireworks -- a common enough practice in the 1800s.

Then tragedy struck. Something flashed. The child was "so horribly hurt by a gunpowder explosion that his face was consumed to a crisp. His eyes were so injured that he was blind. He suffered the most intense agony and his screams alarmed the neighborhood," the newspaper reported.

The doctors of our town could do nothing for him, so his father sought help elsewhere.

According to The Chronicle's account, he contacted a "fire extractor named J.H. Stallings."

Somehow it worked.

The newspaper reported in its Dec. 30 edition that "those who were present said he merely went up to the child and placed his hands on the burnt places. He let them remain there about five minutes ... The child began to experience relief, and in 20 minutes declared he was entirely free from pain. In the afternoon he was so well that he went out and resumed sport with his playmates. Since then he has continued to improve. The boy can be seen at any time at his father's house near the Union Depot."