Webster County historic courthouse burns

By Ruthie Robison

The Webster Progress Times

An early morning fire gutted and destroyed most of the historic Webster County Courthouse.

Around 2:30 a.m. the Walthall Volunteer Fire Department with Eupora Volunteer Fire Department backing up responded to an alert, and found the historic Webster County Courthouse in flames.

When the emergency responders first arrived to the scene, the fire was confined to the southwest corner of the building. Firefighters immediately attempted to tame the flames from both outside and inside of the 109-year-old structure. Heat transferred to the attic on the second floor of the courthouse breaching the roof of the building. As a result, the roof of the structure began to cave in forcing all firefighters inside to evacuate. No injuries were reported; however, the building became engulfed in the blaze.

With Webster County under a winter storm warning, strong gusts of wind fed the flames causing hazardous conditions for emergency responders with burning timbers flying through the air.

Due to safety concerns, efforts to cease the fire were halted until Starkville’s station one ladder truck arrived.

Bellefontaine, Mantee, Mathiston, Maben, Bywy and Calhoun County volunteer fire departments assisted in putting out the fire. East Oktibbeha volunteer fire department brought a tanker of water to feed through the ladder truck. The State Fire Marshall’s office was at the scene as well.

After containing the fire to a manageable state, the main concern was to preserve the vaults inside the of the courthouse. Mathiston firefighters kept a steady stream of water on a corner of the building where the chancery clerk’s office resided where the vaults were located.

The courthouse was erected in 1904, and is one of the most famous courthouses in the state. The Jackson architect N.W. Overstreet used a brick and terracotta late empire masterpiece design for the building, which is rare in Mississippi.

If the brick and walls remain structurally sound, a restoration may be possible.

An investigation for the cause of the fire is underway.