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Tragic events in Newbern

The village of Newbern was for many years plagued by fires, and except for the good work of dedicated fire companies, the village could have easily been destroyed. Until recent years, the village has not had any fire protection except from firemen from other towns coming to the rescue and what little water the people could get from wells and cisterns.
The entire town was a fire hazard from its beginning because of the nature of its buildings — a large amount of wood and a small amount of stone or bricks. And in the early days of the village, buildings were crowded up next to each other, and when one would burn, it was likely that several more would go with it. In more recent times, Newbern has had a volunteer fire department, and its citizens rest easier as far as worrying about fires.
On Nov. 27, 1893, the village experienced a fire that would change the course of Pulaski County history. That was the night when a blaze was discovered leaping from the top of the red brick County Courthouse. Whatever firefighters and equipment were available were called out, but because of the shortage of water and the head start the fire had, about all the citizens of the village that had been the county seat since 1839 was stand on the street and watch their courthouse burn into a smoking rubble.
It is doubtful if many of them realized what effect the fire would have on the future of Newbern, but whey were to soon learn, because, within days of the disaster, a move was under way to move the historic county seat to the thriving Town of Pulaski. Had the courthouse not burned on that fateful night, it is likely that Newbern would have remained the center of county government, and Pulaski might have remained the little town up the road.
Newbern’s next big fire was in the year 1895 when an old frame hotel building burned down completely.
The first church of the Methodist denomination in Newbern was called the Dug Spring Methodist. On July 12, 1912, during a bad electrical storm, lightning struck the church’s steeple and bell tower. The resulting fire burned the building down completely, and it was never rebuilt. After the fire, the Methodists worshipped in union with the Christians (Disciples of Christ) until a Methodist Church was built a few miles from Newbern and named Peak Creek Methodist. In the last years of the 20th century, a new brick Methodist Church was constructed at the intersection of Thornspring Road and Route 611, adjoining the old Alexander house that was originally the home of Civil War Gen. Walker.
The worst fire to ever hit Newbern came on Dec. 4, 1924. The Southwest
Times of the Times on Dec. 5 carried the headline, “Big blaze at Newbern destroys many homes,” and continued, “Pulaski Fire Department called on, but shortage of water makes fighting difficult.”
Following is the story, in part:
“This turned out to be the town’s worst fire. Before the flames were subdued, practically one-fourth of the town was in ashes. Many of its inhabitants who had spent their entire lives here in this historic place were homeless, with the accumulations of a lifetime in ruins. The fire started in an old store building that belonged to J. T. King, where workmen had been installing equipment.”

Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

Tragic events in Newbern

The village of Newbern was for many years plagued by fires, and except for the good work of dedicated fire companies, the village could have easily been destroyed. Until recent years, the village has not had any fire protection except from firemen from other towns coming to the rescue and what little water the people could get from wells and cisterns.
The entire town was a fire hazard from its beginning because of the nature of its buildings — a large amount of wood and a small amount of stone or bricks. And in the early days of the village, buildings were crowded up next to each other, and when one would burn, it was likely that several more would go with it. In more recent times, Newbern has had a volunteer fire department, and its citizens rest easier as far as worrying about fires.
On Nov. 27, 1893, the village experienced a fire that would change the course of Pulaski County history. That was the night when a blaze was discovered leaping from the top of the red brick County Courthouse. Whatever firefighters and equipment were available were called out, but because of the shortage of water and the head start the fire had, about all the citizens of the village that had been the county seat since 1839 was stand on the street and watch their courthouse burn into a smoking rubble.
It is doubtful if many of them realized what effect the fire would have on the future of Newbern, but whey were to soon learn, because, within days of the disaster, a move was under way to move the historic county seat to the thriving Town of Pulaski. Had the courthouse not burned on that fateful night, it is likely that Newbern would have remained the center of county government, and Pulaski might have remained the little town up the road.
Newbern’s next big fire was in the year 1895 when an old frame hotel building burned down completely.
The first church of the Methodist denomination in Newbern was called the Dug Spring Methodist. On July 12, 1912, during a bad electrical storm, lightning struck the church’s steeple and bell tower. The resulting fire burned the building down completely, and it was never rebuilt. After the fire, the Methodists worshipped in union with the Christians (Disciples of Christ) until a Methodist Church was built a few miles from Newbern and named Peak Creek Methodist. In the last years of the 20th century, a new brick Methodist Church was constructed at the intersection of Thornspring Road and Route 611, adjoining the old Alexander house that was originally the home of Civil War Gen. Walker.
The worst fire to ever hit Newbern came on Dec. 4, 1924. The Southwest
Times of the Times on Dec. 5 carried the headline, “Big blaze at Newbern destroys many homes,” and continued, “Pulaski Fire Department called on, but shortage of water makes fighting difficult.”
Following is the story, in part:
“This turned out to be the town’s worst fire. Before the flames were subdued, practically one-fourth of the town was in ashes. Many of its inhabitants who had spent their entire lives here in this historic place were homeless, with the accumulations of a lifetime in ruins. The fire started in an old store building that belonged to J. T. King, where workmen had been installing equipment.”

Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.