Attala County, Mississippi


The Star-Herald, Kosciusko, Miss.,May 10, 1979


Courthouse Fires A Mystery

By Joyce W. Sanders

  "This house was destroyed by fire on the night of 26th July 1896. The alarm of FIRE was given a few minutes after 3 o'clock. Within 38 years Attala County has had three courthouses completely destroyed by fire. All of it done about the last days of July, when it was dry and hot and when there was no fire being used in the buildings.

  "The burning of the latter is perhaps the most difficult to account for; when first seen the fire was in the 'tupelo,' through the floor of which it had to burn before it could drop down into the courtroom. Then it had to burn through the floor of the courtroom and the ceiling before it could descend to the lower rooms, where the books and records were kept; so the motive could not have been to burn the records.

   "It is probable that we will never

know how it originated. It is probable that no human hand had anything to do with its origin. It is pleasant to know that there was sufficient time to save all the county records. The Board of Supervisors had the building insured for $8,000, so we have that sum to help build another courthouse." Signed Watkins. All of the preceding was taken from the KOSCIUSKO STAR for 31 July 1896.

  Some additional information was gleaned from THE ATTALA LEDGER for the same period. This editor states that the sheriff closed the building on Saturday evening with no indication of anything wrong. The building burned in the predawn hours of Sunday morning. The fire was first spotted by J. R. Haley who was awake and heard a dull sound, like a subdued explosion. Then he saw flames from the "cupola". Mr. Haley was soon joined by Gus Lowenberg and Dave Shanks.

  Chief Deputy T. O. Conner very heriocally saved nearly all of the sheriff's office files. The Circuit Clerk lost most all marriage records up to 31 December 1892, all court records to 1886, all indictments to 1890 and about $2,000 worth of supplies. The county's valuable Law Library was destroyed...many volumes which could never be replaced. Honorable J. F. McCool and Honorable J. C. Clark also lost part of their law books.

  This all happened some nearly 83 years ago. The mysteries of the fires have never been fully or satisfactorily explained. Though one newsman, Jim Wallace, said that Morgan Ivey burned the first jail and courthouse to escape. Watkins, who was here at the time, never made any mention of a jailbreak. Which explanation is most logical? Ivey or Sample's ghost? Guess it all depends on one's point of view.

copyright © 1979, Joyce W. Sanders. All rights reserved.

The above article appeared in the May 10, 1979 Star-Herald, Kosciusko, Ms. It is republished here with the knowledge and consent of Joyce W. Sanders.


copyright © 2001 by Everette Carr. All rights reserved.

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