Wayne County

1886 Court House Fire

Submitted by Dianna Williams

First, looking in the 'next day' paper and there was nothing about the fire.  But, there was an article on the front page about how the newspaper got 'new equipment' so they could get 'new items out to the press faster'.  How we laughed ... the equipment was so new the fire was in the next week's addition!

In the Nov. 8, 1886 issue, on the very top of the page was a hand written note:' more fire January 4, 1912.

After I printed the article on this page, I got the film for that story.  What a surprise!  Everything on that page was there but the story on the fire, of which was 'blocked out'!

The information on this page is typed exactly as the paper had it written.  I did not change any of the grammar, spelling, or punctuations.   When I got to the very end, about 3 sentences just could not be read.


Wayne County's Great Loss

November 8, 1886

At 11:30 Wednesday night the brick building containing the county's offices was found to be on fire.  When first discovered Mr. H. Sessel of the U. S. Clothing Store and J. B. Wightman both seen the whole interior of the county clerk's office was a mass of flames, preventing all entrance to save books or papers.  The fire soon spread to the treasure office but not until the tax collectors books now in progress of making out and another number of books were saved.  The valuable Circuit Court Records in the east room upstairs were saved by very hard work after the fire had made much headway, but the Deed Records in the west room upstairs were all burned not a book being saved.  After the flames were somewhat reduced by liberal quantities of water, some of the Probate Records in the County Clerk's office were rescued in a very badly damaged condition.

The Tax Book for 1886 were rescued in good shape except that for Bedford.  It was finished the previous evening and was all ready for the collector.  It was one of the sixteen books that was damaged and so badly burned that a new book must be made and the whole matter copied.

The bonds of the new Sheriff and Superintendent, which had been approved by Judge Keen, were in one of the safes and came out scorched but perfectly legible.

The books and papers in the Circuit and County Clerk's safes came out but little damaged.

The entry book of Deeds, which was in a safe was among the most valuable book which was saved.  It contains the registry of all the files for records since January 1, 1880, showing the grantor, grantee, date, description of land, and consideration.  The facts here preserved will help very greatly in  establishing the title of a large number of tracts.

Wilson's and Mabry's safe were but little injured, the locks working so that force was not required to open them.  Patterson's safe, in the eastern end of the east room downstairs, was badly scorched, the fire having been kept from that part of the room.

Early Thursday morning the great mass of books in the western end of the County Clerk's office were still burning.  A number of books were rescued from the burning mass at various times during the night but all were in such bad shape as so to be of little value. The brisk wintry wind of Thursday morning filled the court house yard with marred fragments of valuable books.

Judge Keen did not allow the fire to interfere with the business of the Probate Court but promptly convened court in one room of Hanna & Adam's office Thursday morning.  A large amount of business was on the docket for the November term, and as the parties were present the business could not be delayed.

There was probably over 1,000 deeds in the Circuit Clerk's offices which had been recorded but which had not been called for.  Such carelessness will now cost the owners of the land considerable expenses in many cases.
Note: the rest of this paragraph was not legible.

Superintendent  guest's books were not exposed to any hazzard, none of them being in the burned building.  The rest of this article shows the age of the newspaper with holes and turned paper in sections and, poorly old technology to be copied to the microfilm and can not be fully read.

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