yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


compiled by Brenda Kirk Fiddler

Decaturville Courthouse Destroyed

April 1, 1927, Lexington Progress

Last Friday, March 25th, between the hours of 1:00 and 2:00 o'clock, the Decatur County Courthouse was entirely destroyed by fire of unknown origin, but feared to be incendiary.

The structure was built on the peculiar plan popular at about the middle of the last century, with four offices on the ground floor, with entrance thereto from an inside porch and occupying the east and west ends. On the east end were the offices of the County Court Clerk and the Trustee and Clerk of the Circuit court combined. On the west end were the offices of the Register of Deeds and the Clerk & Master of the Chancery Court. All of the interior space of the ground floor was practically thrown away except that the stairway led there from to the Circuit court room on the second floor. The fire was said to have been first burning under one of the stairways on the ground floor, and Decaturville has no water works or fire-fighting apparatus.

We hear that all the records in the offices of the Register and the Clerk & Master were saved, but most of those in the other offices were lost.

Decatur County was formerly a part of Perry County and the first court was held in Decaturville in 1848, in a log house on the west side of the public square and this was used until a two-story wooden house could be built. This building was burned June 2nd, 1869, supposedly to destroy records and in October of that year a contract was let to build the house just destroyed, the erection of which cost $9,000, which, by coincidence, was the exact cost of an up-to-date jail and residence for the sheriff which was put up in the latter part of 1884 or in 1885, and we can say as a matter of recollection that this jail was the only public building we ever knew to be paid for by the levy of an additional 50 cents poll tax.

The people of Decatur County are sufficiently progressive to lose no time in the erection of another "Temple of Justice" and good County Judge Eph Kennedy will be right with them until the bars of the neighboring counties are invited to attend a suitable housewarming for the new structure.

Judge England With us a While

April 1, 1927, Lexington Progress

Special Judge James A. England was here Monday on his way to Jackson and told us more particulars of the incendiary burning of the Decaturville courthouse last Friday morning between one and two o'clock. Miss Still, who comes from Rutherford County, a teacher in the Decaturville school, and who boards in the Duncan Hotel on the southeast corner of the public square, was somewhat ill and wakeful and at about one o'clock she saw a car pull up and stop on that side of the square and two men get out. The car then left but in a little while returned or another car came, carrying two or three men and the two men left before got into the car and all left, and soon thereafter, the fire burst forth on that side of the building. In addition to the records in the Chancery office and the Register's office, most of the contents of the County Court Clerk's office and some of the Trustee's books were saved, but the Circuit Court Clerk lived further away and his records were all or nearly lost. There was undoubted evidence of the room on that side of the building having been soaked with some highly inflammable liquid to expedite the burning.

Decaturville Courthouse to be Rebuilt

April 8, 1927, Lexington Progress

There will be no election on moving the Decatur County Courthouse to Parsons. The County Court in Quarterly session so decided last Monday when fifteen magistrates of the twenty five refused to allow an election called and to be authorized the issuance of $30,000.00 of short term warrants to replace the burned building. The fight for the removal to Parsons was getting pretty warm. Parsons offered an attractive proposition, but the magistrates decided that Decaturville should continue as the county seat.

The Second Courthouse Which Burned in 1927

Photograph from Lillye Younger
The History of Decatur County Past and Present
(Southhaven, MS: Carter Printing Company, 1978).

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