( Many thanks to Carl Lorber, Library Services, at Eastern Illinois University. 

He took the time to find and send me this article.  Thanks also to Peggy Manley.)

CUMBERLAND COUNTY COURT HOUSE FIRE
AS RECORDED BY THE “CUMBERLAND
(Democrat”, Toledo, Illinois Thursday, November 5, 1885)

Old Court House

COURT HOUSE BURNED,

Together With All Books, Records and Court Documents

    Court House burned by the fire, which occurred on yesterday morning the people of this county suffer almost irreparable loss one from which is will take years to recover.  No money consideration will replace any part of the years of labor and untold expense that the county has been to since its’ organization.  Everything of any importance pertaining to county or court business were in the courthouse and are now ashes.

“THE DISCOVERY”

        About 2:10 a.m. yesterday, Frank Field, sleeping in the City Hotel, was awakened by a strong light shining in his room.  Springing out of bed he rushed to the window and saw that the courthouse was on fire in the south-west corner, in the vicinity of the stairway.  Awakening some of those in the hotel they proceeded to give the alarm, and the north bound train coming in about that time, blowing the engine whistles it was not long before nearly everyone in town was on the square.  Having no implements or ladders with which to fight the fire the citizens were powerless to do anything but look on and see the flames do their work.
“THE LOSS”
        In the circuit clerk's office was one transcribed record of Coles County of deeds and mortgages and Index, 42 deed records, 16 mortgage records , one set of general indexes to mortgages, 2 chattel mortgage records, 2 transcripts of judgments of justices of the peace, 15 circuit court records, 13 fee books, 8 judges’ records, 1 masters book of sale and redemption, 1 sheriff's levy, sale and redemption, surveyors field notes of the county etc., George Bruster looses a set of abstract books valued at $500.  In the county clerks office were sale records of delinquent lands, marriage, birth and death records; all the county court records and documents; assessors and collectors books, with the exception of Union Township.  School plats, tax rate docket, judges’ dockets, guardian and administrator records, etc.  Besides all the records in the county treasurers office.  Summing it all up, the loss is inestimable.
 

“ORIGIN OF THE FIRE”

        To those that were first at the fire, it looked as though the fire started at the head of the stairs in the hallway and gradually burned into the stairway above, and from there spread to the roof.  If this was the case the fire was caused by an incendiary, and if by an incendiary his worthless life ought to pay the penalty for such a wanton crime.

“ NOTES”

        Every person seems to have his opinion about the origin of the fire.  The citizens of Toledo deeply deplore the loss of the courthouse records.  An effort was made to save some of the records yesterday morning but failed.  Circuit Clerk Bruster was also make W.S. Everhart’s law office his office temporarily.  County Clerk Lemen and Sheriff McCandlish have taken temporary quarters at W.S. Everhart’s law office.  Nearly every one is of the opinion that it was the work of an incendiary, but who, and for what purpose.  The board of supervisors will meet tomorrow and will take such action as the circumstances will permit.  It is said that the four men who were confined in jail for stealing ---- at the fair grounds, while in jail, threatened to burn the town.  The election news hardly caused a ripple of excitement in Toledo, so great was the feeling over the loss to the county of the courthouse and records.  Circuit Clerk Bruster and Sheriff McCandlish will lose by the fire between $4000 and $5000 each, while County Clerk Lemen’s loss will be considerable.  Their losses are in the way of uncollected fees.  While the county is practically at his mercy, Mr. W.S. Everhart informs us that the price for abstracting lands and lots will not be raised by one cent.  But will be the same price they have been ever since he owned the abstract books.  This confirms the opinion that this paper has always entertained for Mr. Everhart - that he is a fair square man.  P. Lawrence says he was the first man at the fire, coming from the west.  He thinks the fire started in the hallway at the south partition.  He also says the west window in the county clerks office was open and that he thinks the door to the county clerks office must have been open as he is positive he saw a light in that office.  Mr. Jacob M. Conner says he heard a short time before this alarm, a noise in the direction of the courthouse that sounded like the bursting in of a door.  Probably this was done and the windows raised to give draft to the fire.  George Shaw, living near the railroad south-east of town, was lying awake, he thinks about 1:00 o'clock.  He heard someone running at a fast pace, and got up to see what it was and saw a man running south at full speed, but it was so dark he couldn't see who it was.  The dog got after him and run him a short distance, the barking awakening Jack Shaw, who lives across the road.  It will be observed this was a short time before the alarm was given.



THE COURTHOUSE FIRE

        On the morning of November 5th, 1885, the Cumberland County, IL courthouse burned out of control.  Since there was only a bucket brigade, the call of “Fire” was spread throughout the town, but soon was realized that this fire was well on its’ way to destroying the courthouse and all records that were inside. 
        The courthouse was located in the town of Toledo, and was a 2 story brick building.  The rumor of the day was that a prominent attorney of the time was misappropriating funds, and was no longer able to cover his tracks, or he would soon be discovered.  He had been doctoring the books, so to speak, and the funds he had been stealing were all recorded in these books.  The only way to cover his tracks would be to burn down the courthouse.  The fire was a total loss, with all records being destroyed from 1843-1885.  This rumor was added to when this same attorney was found forging notes and he soon left town.  He was eventually located and brought back to Toledo, but was able to secure his bond, and mentioned that others would go down with him if he was sent to prison.  This man was able to pay off his debt and moved his family out of town out of state.

We suggest, if you can, read the article itself in  the 'Cumberland County History Book' complied by the Cumberland County Historical and Genealogical Societies. It was printed in 1968 to honor the states Sesquicentennial
( Now, no charges were ever filed against this attorney, no solid proof was ever found, so this is pure speculation on behalf of the town)

(Contributed by  Mary (Easton) Watson Mary14@cfl.rr.com )

I just found a newspaper clipping my Dad had saved.   It came from "The Toledo Democrate" which is a local newspaper in that area. It is dated November 7, 1985, 
Titled:  Cumberland County Courthouse
burned 100 years ago.

It was 100 years ago November 4, when the Cumberland County Courthouse burned to the ground.
The courthouse, a two-story brick building with a courtroom on its ground floor and offices and county records on the second, had been built in 1857.
According to newspaper accounts, the fire was believed to have started in a corner of the building near a stairway.  The cause was never  determined, but many believed that an arsonist was responsible.
The fire was first noticed by a man at a hotel across the street.  A train passing through town blew its whistle when the engineer noticed the fire.
Most of the town turned out to watch or help with a bucket brigade.  There was no fire department and not even any ladders available to reach the top  floor, so the building burned to the ground.
The fire destroyed all papers in the courthouse, including land records,  wills, mortgages and marriage and birth records.

Mary (Easton) Watson





New Court House After The Fire It Was Rebuilt




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