In 1901, the Greer County probate and district court clerk offices of Mangum, Oklahoma, were housed in a building with business offices, separate from a small courthouse. On a cold frosty night this building caught fire and Greer County, Oklahoma Territory lost probate and marriage records since 1886, irreplaceable records. The County School Superintendent lost school records and County District Attorney lost records. This Mangum Star news article informed the town of its serious loss.The Mangum Star, Volume XIV
Mangum, Greer County, Oklahoma Territory, December 12, 1901
Loss Over $30,000
Loss to County Can't be Estimated
Records of Four County Offices
Burned, Land Office and Post Office also.
"About 3:30 Sunday morning the alarm was given and hundreds of
people were called from their comfortable beds to watch Mangum's
best business house burn to ashes during a blinding snow storm,
which had covered the roofs of houses with ice and snow, which
fact alone saved hundreds of thousands of dollars to the town.
The fire originated in the Oklahoma Drug Co., Store, the fumes
from burning drugs were suffocating to those sleeping up stairs and
drove them at once from the burning building. The same cause
made it impossible to save anything in any part of the house.
W. H. Beauchamp took his typewriter with him as he fled, and
Jas. Scarborough his trunk. E. E. McCollister broke the plate glass
in front of his book store and saved a desk containing some valuables,
papers mostly, otherwise everything in the entire building was
consumed. Jno. Dieters shoe shop immediately in the rear of the post
office and Dr. Dawson's office joining it were burned.
Your reporter went carefully over the ground and found the losses
as stated by the parties to be substantially as follows.
The building which was only completed a few months ago
at a cost of $8,000.00 and was paying a good interest on
three times that sum. It was insured for $5,000. Oklahoma Drug Co.,
loss claimed $8,000, insurance $4,500. Mangum National Bank,
loss on furniture $450. E. E. McCollister loss on book store $1800,
insurance $750. W. C. Shadden, individual loss on furnishings of
postoffice $1150, loss to government $500 in stamps.
The records of the office and about 60 mail sacks would probably
amount to $500 more. No insurance. The government's loss at
the land office is estimated by Judge Oliphant at from $1000 to
$1200 and the Judge's own individual loss amounted to about the
same figure. No insurance.
The District clerk records were entirely destroyed, except those he
had at the courthouse temporarily, during court week. All of these records
that money can replace can be replaced by something like $1,000.
District Clerk Elliot's individual loss was about $300.
C. H. Eagan who officed with him sustained a small individual
loss, and his records as United States Commissioner.
The Probate Judge record was an entire loss, involving the marriage
records which contained about 1000 marriages, the probate
record, etc. The part of this loss which can be replaced will cost
about $1,000. Judge Clay's individual loss in library, office furnishings
and uncollected costs will amount to something like $1600 to $1800.
Judge Kelly and Mr. Mansur who occupied the same suit of
rooms with Judge Clay, both sustained losses running from one to
two hundred dollars.
The County Superintendent's record's were a complete loss, ag-
gregating something like $1,500, with the same condition existing
as in the other offices, the impossibility of replacing them as they were.
W. H. Beauchamp whose insurance office was with the County
Superintendent sustained a loss of about $200 in office furniture.
The County Attorney's office was also involved in the fire, the
county's loss in this case being principally in valuable evidence
and memoranda, which may result in one or two murderers escaping
Judge Thacker's individual loss on library and office furnishings was
between $800 and $1,000.
J. O. McCollister, abstracter, lost in cash about $500 besides the
fruit of much labor. Mr. High, who officed with him sustained a loss of
J. M. Wileman lost $2,000 on library, furnishings, etc. J. F. Griffith,
who officed with him lost his entire library and furniture, but the amount
could not be learned.
Oscar Smith who conducted his commission business in the same
office lost about $100.
Alldredge & Himes lost $550 on library and office furniture, and
Att'y Jones, who had part of his library in their office, lost about $150.
Don Carlos & Son lost about $800 on library and office furnishings.
Jno. Dieter, whose shoe shop was immediately in the rear of the post
office and Dr. Dawson, whose office adjoined him, both lost about $500
Of all these losses, only three carried any insurance at all. The
drug store, the book store and the building itself. The loss that can
be computed in dollars and cents will aggregate to $35,000,
while the insurance aggregates $10,250. But there is little doubt
but the greater part of this loss is one which can not be computed, or
money replace; that is, the loss to the county by reason of its records
being destroyed. However, the most valuable part of the record was not
by R. C. Echols
Courthouse, Fire, Etc.
"The recent fires in Mangum emphasize the necessity for several things
-- chief of which is a courthouse.
Second in importance is the necessity for organizing the town of Mangum
as a city, which would put us in a situation that we could vote bond for
waterworks. .... [unreadable portion] .... the one Sunday morning destroyed
the records of four of our county offices, the loss of which cannot be estimated
The loss sustained by individuals would more than pay for water works
and fire equipments, and with water facilities and facilities for fighting fire
this last fire -- or the first one either, could have been put out with a loss of
less than one thousand dollars. Again, with adequate water and fire facilities
thousands of dollars could be saved annually in premiums paid for insurance.
These considerations should not be treated lightly, gentlemen, but are worthy
of your earnest consideration.
The STAR would like to have expressions from the public, with practical
suggestions along the line indicated."
December 12, 1901, Mangum, Oklahoma Territory
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