Madisonian, Thursday, October 7, 1875, Page 2
Best Court House in the State in Ashes!
A DOLLAR INSURANCE!
Town Barely Saved
Oct. 2, 1875
o’clock today the cry of fire was heard. The Court House
was discovered to be on fire. The fire broke out in the
gable of the east wing and soon communicated with the dome.
The wind was blowing a fearful gale from the south and
nothing could be done to arrest the flames. The north side
of the square was in imminent danger and took fire several
time but the heroic exertions of the Fire Company, and
citizens generally, saved it. The Engine was disabled almost
at the start and the work had to be done entirely with
buckets. Too much praise cannot be awarded both the Company
Most, if not
all the Record Books were saved. The money in the Treasury
was taken out for safety. The prisoners in the jail were
released and placed under guard as soon as the alarm was
Just how the
fire originated is not definitely known, and probably never
will be. Some think it was an incendiary, and others that it
caught from the north-east flue. Had the dome of the Court
House been blown with the high wind to the north, instead of
falling directly down, the north side of the square, and a
large portion of that part of the city, would have been in
ashes before sundown.
excitement prevailed for some time, and the north side
merchants commenced to remove their stocks. Mayor Jellison
immediately put on a large police force, and the city will
be strongly guarded for several days. However, it will be
well for citizens to keep a sharp look-out tonight for
thieves and dead-beats.
3 P. M. – No
accidents have occurred. The massive stone columns and walls
are now falling with tremendous crashes.
Monday, Oct. 4th.
– The foregoing account of the fire was issued as an extra
on Saturday while the fire was yet burning. But little more
remains to be told. Fire was communicated to several roofs
and stables, some of them four blocks away, in the north
part of town, but everything was so closely watched that no
damage of any moment was inflicted. The Fire Company mounted
men and patrolled streets and alleys. The heat was so
intense, even on the windward side of the square that roofs
and cornices had to be kept watered. Had it not been
Saturday when so large a number form the country were in
town, and had it not been that our friends from the country
took hold and worked as hard as men could work, carrying
water, standing on roofs, pumping, etc., the north part of
town must have gone.
for many others who have requested us to do so, and in the
name of all our people whose property was I danger we return
thanks to the people of both town and country and to the
Fire Company for their prompt exertions, their laborious
work, and their kindness in the matter.
the Court House dome was undermined by the fire and dropped
down on the courtroom floor as easy and as straight as it
was possible to fall. It sat there upon the floor and burned
up. The bell was found in the cellar, melted.
Most of the
stone can be used in a new building and perhaps the value of
the material that can be thus used will exceed $20,000. The
unanimous opinion expressed by every one so far as we know,
and we have heard a large number express themselves, is for
a new Court House to be built just as soon as soon as it can
be built; and as Madison county has led the State, for the
new building, not only continue so to do, but to excel the
one in ashes and be fire proof. Let the steps necessary
therefore be taken at once.
It is a great
pity the present building was not insured. The Madisonian
had urged the insurance time and time again for the last two
years; and until it became tiresome. The expense of
insurance would have been nothing almost. If every smoker in
the county had smoked one cigar less a year the money saved
would have about paid the cost of an insurance of $50,000.
But crying over spilled milk will not mend the matter now.
Board is in session now and will engage temporary rooms for
the officers. We will perhaps be able to announce where, in
this issue. No record or paper of any value was burned, so
that the business of the county will go on at once as usual.
No person was
injured. The post office watch dog followed his master into
the Court House and was caught by the fire and burned.
spread very rapidly. In less than an hour and a half after
the alarm was given the building was in ashes and the
naked walls standing. Two gables, the east and the west
one, fell out and buried and broke the porticos under
them. The iron lining of the jail slipped down half a
story and there it hangs.
Thursday, October 14, 1875, Page 6
Court House Fire
The following beautifully written
description of the burning of our Court House we find in the
Saturday was a sad day for Madison County, her pride
and boast – her magnificent Court House – standing out
as a monument of her wealth and beauty, was in an hour
reduced to a shapeless mass of ruins. How the fire
originated is not known. The smoke was seen issuing from the
roof by Conductor Burnett about noon. Alarm was given,
hundreds of people rushed to the scene, but how could the
seat of the fire be reached, it was impossible. Some efforts
were made in that direction, but proved fruitless.
Sea of upturned faces, all excitement, all horror
stricken, swayed and surged about the ample park in helpless
despair. Many however were busy and their efforts were well
directed. Ere the floors of the first and second stories
yielded, the records were removed and the prisoners in the
lofty jail cared for. By this time the flames had burst
through the stony slate roof and lurid sheets of flame were
climbing the towering dome. It was a grand and awe-inspiring
sight. Up to the clock, still marking on the ample disk the
fleeting moments, the destroyer crept; and even when his red
fingers were about his face, time’s hand marked the dial.
But higher yet the flame climbed upward – to the lofty
dome, and then it fell from its towering height on one
hundred and sixty three feet spire, flag staff, dome and
great bell, the sentinels which watched, over our proud
county fell – down through jail room, court room, offices,
basement – fell and crumbled into dust, while a vast
volcano of flame, and ashes, and coals of fire leaped into
the air form the blackened craterlike walls, like demons of
the Judgment Day.
Kent G. Transier