It is a sad day for genealogists as another burnt courthouse is added to the list of records lost. Van Buren County, Tennessee, officials are scrambling after a huge fire destroyed the county administrative building in Spencer on Wednesday night. Historical records from the 1840s and later were destroyed, including Civil War artifacts, pictures from the Civil War, birth certificates, death certificates, and thousands of historical records. The local historical society also was housed in the building and lost everything as well.
“It’s a total loss,” said Van Buren County 911 director David Chandler. “We were able to salvage a couple old books and a few other items from the trustee’s office, but that was about it.” The fire was believed to have started in the historical society and then spread throughout the building.
One bit of good news: Mayor Wilson told news reporters county records are backed up on hard drives in different locations across the county in the event of situations just like this. That’s good news for keeping the county’s business affairs operational but I was unable to find any mention if older, historical records are backed up in a similar manner. Hopefully, the older records also are backed up as well.
Firefighters from six counties battled the blaze for nearly 15 hours but were unable to save the building. Firefighters were unable to put water on the building because their equipment froze over as temperatures hovered around zero degrees. The firefighters couldn’t spray water, and their ladders wouldn’t move up or down.
I looked in the news reports for any indication to learn if any of the historical records had previously been digitized and stored off-site. However, the news reports make no mention of any older records being preserved digitally.
You can watch a video of the fire on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtRzZSE2QGA.
Several news reports about the fire are also available by starting at http://goo.gl/ynTIuK.
My thanks to newsletter reader Cindy King for telling me the sad news.