Old photo helps fill in background on firefighters|Forgotten Trails Column

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, April 15, 2009

By Staff
Lydia Grimes
One day last week, Dan McMillan brought in a copy of an old photograph.
I had not seen this particular photo and was very glad to get it. I thought if would fit right in with some information that I got from an old published book written by Robert Leslie Scribner in 1935. This book’s contents  were also printed in The Brewton Standard as a continuing article for months during 1959 and 1960.
The writer was writing at the time of the first public library being established in Brewton in the old Brewton Collegiate Institute. What follows was this: “The stockholders of the older Collegiate Institute had already lost their building, and the city directors were in no mood to lose another; but a fright was sustained when around 4:30 p.m., on Sunday, November 1899, ‘smoke was seen issuing from a rear room by Professor W.B. Harris, who was passing.’ He quickly spread the alarm, and nearby residents came on the run. They smashed in the door to the room and with a few buckets of water extinguished the blaze, which had eaten through a part of the floor. The municipal hose wagon, thundering superfluously to the scene, stuck the corner of a curb, so that a wheel collapsed and scattered volunteer firemen in bruised (and probably cursing) heaps. No one being hurt, an all around chuckle was enjoyed, but the question as to how the fire started was itself sobering. Some were idealistic enough to assume that it had been accidental, but the great majority of those musing on it were convinced that it was a ‘clear attempt at arson,’ leaving the reviewer of those days past to wonder what young lad, perhaps with accomplices, honestly attempted a conflagration of which most boys dare only dream.”
I have talked with Brewton Fire Chief Lawrence Weaver several times about the beginnings of the fire department here in Brewton. This is the first time I have seen it verified that there was a volunteer firefighting team by 1899. I still have been unable to take it back to the beginnings, but that information takes it back to before the turn of the century.
If you have any old photographs of Brewton, or of people in history, laying around your house, or up in the attic, please dig them out and let me scan them. The photos will not be hurt in any way, and they can be returned to the owner right away. Contact me at P.O. Box 887, Brewton, 36427 or e-mail lydia.grimes@brewtonstandard.com.

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