1911 Court House
2 February 1911; The
NEWTON COUNTY COURT HOUSE
OLD BRICK STRUCTURE GOES
UP IN FLAMES TUESDAY NIGHT
Officers Brave the Blaze
to Save Records - Contents of Circuit Clerk's and Superintendent's Offices
Tuesday night between
the hour of 11 and midnight the Newton county court house at Decatur was
destroyed by fire, together with the greater portion of the contents. Fortunately,
most of the records in the chancery clerk's office, consisting of Land
and trust deed books, etc., were saved, being stored in the vault, which
was practically intact.
At the risk of his life,
Sheriff C. M. Wells broke open a window and rushed into his office, and
by the light of the blaze from the burning building, managed to save the
tax records, which heroic deed will be worth a great deal to the county
as well as to himself. In the circuit clerk's office, everything was burned
including court dockets, minutes, registration books, poll books, marriage
records, and various other valuable articles and court papers. The county
superintendent of education met with the same fate, everything in his office,
consisting of school records, etc., going up in the flames.
Chancery Clerk W. J. Leslie
managed to get in his office and save a few valuables before the fire reached
that part of the building, though it was dangerous to be in the building
at that time. Surveyor Dansby sustained a loss amounting to about $75,
having his instrument and other articles in the court house burned.
Hon. M. P. Foy, who had
his law office in the building on the second floor, where all of his books
were, met with a great loss, everything in his office being burned. His
loss is reported to have been about $700 or more, with no insurance.
The origin of the fire
is unknown but from all indications, it was the work of an incendiary.
The weather had been warm for several days, and there had been no fire
in the building that day. Some if the residents at Decatur left town not
more than thirty minutes before the fire, and there was no blaze in the
building at that time, and by the time they reached home the building was
all ablaze. The fire started in the front portion of the building, about
the stairway or little closets underneath, and was beyond control before
anyone could reach the scene.
The county carried about
$8,000 insurance on the building and contents. This court house was an
old brick structure, built to replace a frame building which was burned
in September, 1876, supposed to have been of incendiary origin. The brick
structure was a plain two-story building, 40X60 feet, with office rooms
on the first floor and court and jury rooms on the second floor, and had
a flat metal roof. The contract for the erection of same was awarded to
a Mr. Scully, of Meridian, for $7,000 and it was built in the spring of
1877. This was the fourth court house the county had, the first one being
a log structure built in 1836.