HARRISON COUNTY COURTHOUSE BURNS IN 1874
A partial transcription from The Harrison County
Bicentennial History photograph of the newspaper article about the old
Courthouse burning in 1874
EXTRA OF 1874 DESCRIBES BURNING OF COURTHOUSE; EDITION FOUND AMONG OLD
NOTE: In papers which were those of Mrs. William Lewis, who
died here in 1919 was a copy of an extra edition of the Bethany Republican
of Jan. 8, 1874, which told of fire the night bfore that destroyed the
Harrison County Courthouse. This was the Courthouse which preceded
the one torn down when the present one was built.
The extra has
been found by Mrs. Edith (Ellis) Swigart, granddaughter of Mrs.
The extra edition was a single sheet a little more than 10
inches long, 6 3/4 inches wide, in three colums. It is of historical
value, and possibly has not been preserved elsewhere. Mrs. Swigart
has had some copies made, and will submit one of them to the Missouri
Thomas Neal was publisher and editor of the
Bethany Republican at that time. The Union officer of the Civil war
established the newspaper in 1873. Presumably he wrote the
The headlines were in six decks. They
"The Bethany Mo., Court House
"The Tax Books Destroyed."
"The Land and Probate Records
"Also a Part of those of the County Court and
"The Work of an Incendiary"
The News article
The Bethany court house is in ruins, and with it
perish many happy associations, many sorrowful memories. For nearly
twenty years it has stood in stately pride in the center of the public
square, to fall at last at the hand of an incendiary.
Discovery of the
About 11 o'clock last night, January 7th, the alarm of "Fire!" was
heard along the streets, followed by a ringing of bells and general panic.
The night was bright with moonlight, the ground partly covered with
snow, and a moderate breeze was blowing from the south. The fire was
discovered by the Bryant boys, Scott and Luther, wo came out of a room on
the northeast corner of the square. The observed a brilliant
light in the
on the north side
of the courth house. As the light increased they gave the alarm and
rushed down to the courth house, where they found the floor and papers
under a desk in Mr. Baker's office, all on fire, and the desk burning, and
also saw that the
Window of the Office
about two feet. Other citizens from every part of the town, soon
appeared, but as few comparatively brought buckets of water, and water
being scarce in town at this time, the fire soon gained such headway that
little could be done to save the building. The desk being of
considerable height and having a pigeon-hole case standing on top of it
full of papers, the fire reached the ceiling easily, which was soon in
flames. The square and streets were by this time thronged with a
multitude of men, women and children, who stood shivering in the bleak
night wind, powerless to render much aid in saving the court house, but
organized into an amateur fire companies to protect the row of buildings
on the north side of the square. Water and snow were thrown on the
roof and sides of the buildings, and the shower of sparks eagerly watched.
When the roof of the court house caught fire, the heat was so great
on the walk in front of the Ohio House, and the falling cinders so thick,
that many fled in terror.
It was soon seen by the most thoughtful
that the court house could not be saved, and the cry was given:
the Land Records!"
A rush was made for Mr. Skinner's office, the door
was broken down, and in a few minutes the land books and court books and
papers were taken to a safe distance. Next the Probate Court and
county clerk's office were emptied of their records.
was Saved and What Lost.
All of the Probate records were
saved, and most of the county records, probably all except some papers in
the large desk on the west side of the County Clerks office. Some of
the latter were destroyed including the settlements with township clerks
and the estimates for school expenses. The school fund notes were
saved. The tax books, all of the road recipts that that had been
received on taxes and other papers connected with the Collector's office,
Phillebaum and Rmer succeeded in saving all the
valuable books, papers, abstracts &c., in their land agency office.
There was litte doubt that the fire was the
for these reasons:
The fire started near the
desk of the Collector. When the parties first on the ground,
appeared, there was no fire about the stove. As we have said, the
window of the office was found raised. A bunch of shavings,
partly burned, was found in the hall of the Court house, in front of the
Sheriff's office door.
Just after the alarm was given by the Bryant
boys, John Devers, of the REPUBLICAN office, rushed out to the southwest
corner of the square to see the locality of the fire. He went as far
as the brick occupied by McGeorge & Dunn, thinking the trouble was in
the west part of the town. Then he saw the light at the Courth house
and at once turned for that place.
[transcriber note: this is all that is visable enough to
transcribe, but felt it important enough to include what I
transcribed: Melody Beery
source: Harrison County