Tidbits of Shelby County History
Fire of 1911


I am writing today about the 1911 fire on the Center Square. I wasn't able to find out much about the fire that wasn't already on the Shelby County Museum site. I did a research on Newspapers.com and many newspapers had information about it. Most of the papers reported the same general information. I did discover the date of the Fire which was the early hours of March 4, 1911. I will also include two of the articles for clarification of the news. The information about the 1911 Fire on the Museum site is from an article in the East Texas Light by Kay Sanders. If anyone has additional information on this fire, please send it to the museum so it can be added to the file.


March 4, 1911


As the bodies were recovered, the dead were taken to S.P. Irvin's Undertaking Establishment, and the injured taken to their homes where the doctors and family attended them.


The dead included the wife of C.C. Locke of the Mistrot House; William H. Booth, 49, husband of Theodocia Lee Booth; John M. Mull, 57, husband of Mary E. Mull and brother of Rev. James Allen Mull; Cliff Goodson, 27; Lindsay Ferdinand "Jack" Davis, 15, son of Ida Davis and brother of Louise Mae Davis; and Joseph L. Crawford, 60, husband of Bobbie Horn Crawford.


The injured wer Marian Davis, suffering a spinal injury; B.W. Pearce, suffering a broken limb and numerous brusies; T.Wood Smith and Kirksey Martin, suffering many bruises and gashes, but their wounds were not considered serious; and W.G. Carnahan, who suffered several bruises and burns.


Mr. Fitze lost his entire stock of merchandise, valued at $3,000, on which he carried $2000 insurance. The bulk of the merchandise in the other two houses were saved but badly damaged and sustained losses as follows: J.C. Rogers' loss on building and contents, $3000, fully covered by insurance; the Mistrot house, owned by Ben Pearce, building a total loss for $3000, the Center Feed Store loss which he carried insurance to the amount of $9000. Upstairs in the Fitze building losses were suffered by J.L. King, Judge J.M. Sanders, E.H. Parrish, and Judge Rufus Price. Judge Price lost a law Library that was the collection of a lifetime, and was among the greatest earthly treasures. It was said that Mr. Parrish lost all his personal effects, and the following morning his only clothes in the world were on his back.


All the businesses, banks and industrial enterprises of the city closed the following day. District Court was adjourned by Judge Perkins, and friends and families of the deceased began to bury the dead. Mrs. Locke was carried to her hometown of Groveton. Mr. Goodson of the Paul's Store Community was laid to rest in the Carroll Cemetery, with Mr. Booth, Davis and Crawford buried in Fairview Cemetery. Young Mull was buried in his family cemetery near Center (The Mull Cemetery is located on Hwy 96 South).


Among the rescue workers were Mr. Guinn, a new dentist in the town, W.H. Paxton, Bob Parker, J.C. Pigg, and A.C. Cooper, Oz Metz and many other men and women of the town.

 

Center was visited by another great fire in 1893, and on that occasion Mollie Bailey's Circus was visiting the town, and every member of it volunteered aid in saving the town from total destruction, but the fire of 1911 is long remembered as the most costly and destructive in the history of Shelby County.


Beaumont Enterprise, Sunday, Mar 05, 1911, page 1
Walls of Burning Building Fell Through Roof of Adjoining Store, Entrapping Occupants


Special to The Enterprise - Center, Texas, March 4. - Six are dead and several wounded as the results of a cave-in of the roof of the Mistrot Bros. store here at 1 o'clock this morning during a conflagration which destroyed the two-story general merchandise store of W.E. Fitze, adjoining.
The flames broke out in the Fitze store which was owned by O.H. Polly. When it became apparent that the blaze could not be controlled, spectators surged into the Mistrot store in an attempt to save the contents.


The falling walls of the two-story burning building crashed through the roof of the one-story Mistrot building, catching a score of persons in the ruins.
The dead: J.L. Crawford, Mrs. C.C. Locke, Will Boothe, J. Goodson, Jack Davis, John Mull
Marion Davis is not expected to live, and T. Wood Smith, B.W. Pearce and W.G. Carrihan are badly injured.


It was several hours before any of the dead or wounded were removed from the building and the fire company was compelled to give its entire attention to the Mistrot building in order to save the victims from cremation.


The Houston Post (Houston, Texas) 6 Mar 1911, Mon.  page 2


Funerals of Victims
Of the Center Fire Disaster Were Held Yesterday


(Houston Post Special)  Center, Texas   March 5 - Those injured by the falling of the burning building is resting very well today. Marion Davis, whose condition was considered desperate yesterday, is doing exceedingly well today. T. Wood Smith is in good shape, as is also Kirksey Martin. Ben Pearce is hurt more seriously than was first supposed, but is resting easier now.


Today has been a day of funerals. At 9 o'clock this morning Rev. Mr. Owens, pastor of the Baptist Church, held the last rites over Will Booth at the Baptist church. He was interred at Fairview cemetery. Immediately afterward the services were held for Jack Davis at the home of his mother. Then John Mull was buried by his wife on the old Mull farm. At 4 o'clock this afternoon for the fourth time today the people gathered together to pay the last tribute of respect to J.L. Crawford. Over 1000 gathered to show him respect.


A special train came from San Augustine with about 200. They came to weep with Center in her sorrow.

(Note: In researching newspapers regarding the 1911 Center fire I did find another newspaper item about a fire on 8 Oct 1911.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas) 8 Oct 1911, Sun page 23


Center Hotel Burns
Center, Texas, Oct 7 - The Swearingen hotel, together with a livery stable, burned at noon today. Loss is estimated at $10,000. The hotel was the property of Dr. P.G. Swearingen.)
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