Mecklenburg County, NC Barn Fires, Nov 1907

Loss From Barn Burnings

$40,000 Estimated In County.

Burning of Mr. Ferris’ Barn in Steele Creek Early Yesterday Morning Makes Seventeenth Barn Than Has Been Reduced to Ashes in This County Within the Past Twelve Months-Farmers Are Alarmed Over the Situation and Are Asking That Something Be Done-That It is Work of Incendiaries is Mere Suspicion, But Generally Believed-Want County Commissioners to Take Matter in Hand.

The burning of the stables of Mr. John Ferris, a large farmer in Steele Creek, at an early hour yesterday morning has added intensity to the alarm which is felt throughout Mecklenburg County just now over so many burnings. Mr. Ferris lost three mules and several bales of cotton, besides some roughness and corn. His barn was comparatively new and the loss on it alone would be considerable. His entire loss was probably more than $2,500. The fire was discovered about 1 o’clock and had gained such headway as to make impossible the salvation of anything but one horse and a mule. There was nothing else to do when they were taken from the stables but to stand by and watch the flames lick the structure and its contents and reduce them to ashes.

The burning of Mr. Ferris’ stables makes the seventeenth fire which is believed to have been of incendiary origin in the limits of this country with the past twelve months. A careful reflection upon this fact is startling in the amount of loss which the farmers of Mecklenburg have been occasioned. It is safely estimated that the loss, including stock, barns, feed-stuff and vehicles amount to no less than $40,000, and hardly any of this was replaced by insurance money. The loss in barns alone is said to be as much as $18,000, all the stables averaging over $1,000 in the cost of construction.

The epidemic of burnings started just about one year ago when the harvesting was done and the barns were filled with the gatherings from the fields, although a number were burned in the spring. A remarkable incident in connection with the situation is the fact that a majority of the barns that have suffered were all comparatively new and large, and belonged to farmers of more or less prominence. They were in the most instances at about the same hour of the night-Between 11 o’clock and midnight.

Farmers Much Alarmed.

To say that the farmers throughout the entire county are alarmed is an expression entirely too mild to convey properly their feeling over the situation. They are aroused to such a pitch of excitement as to cause sleepless nights and constant fear of being a victim to the alleged fire-bugs who are responsible for the epidemic of burnings. Many are the nights that they lie tossing upon their beds, fearful that any moment they may look out to see their stables in a mass of flames. This state of feeling existed a year ago as decidedly as at the present, but through the summer when there were no fires, the farmers were led to believe that it was all over and there was nothing more to fear, But the situation within the last ten days has reached a state similar to that of twelve months ago, and even exceeds it in intensity. Inquiries are being made as to the right course to pursue to get at the bottom of the matter and there is no farmer throughout the length and the breadth of Mecklenburg who is not willing to join hands and add something of his resources to any amount necessary to apprehend the cause of so many fires.

Want Something Done.

The anxiety which is being experienced is of itself an occasion for immediate work on the part of the people and the officers who should take a hand in the situation. No single portion of the county is exempt from the dread which the epidemic has caused. Unlike the burnings last fall, those within the past two weeks have not been confined to any locality, but have apparently swept from one corner to another. Last fall Steele Creek and Berryhill were the centres of the field within which the fires occurred, but not so now. Long Creek, Sharon, Morning Star and other townships have been the scenes of fires equal to any that occurred last year.

That something must be done right now is the feeling and conclusion which has been reached by the patriotic citizens of Mecklenburg, and even those who have not been victims of the flames, are desirous of doing all they can to find out the cause, both for their own sakes and the sake of their neighbors who have been less fortunate. The general opinion prevailing at present is that the county commissioners should give the investigation oversight and expend as much money as is essential in getting at the facts. It is argued that this board, being the county’s guardians, owes the citizens a duty in expending enough money to give them such protection as is needed.

The General Belief.

It appears now that the board will take the matter in hand, and while its treasury is not flushed just now, the people will not complain if the commissioners put as much as $5,000 into the investigation which is needed. It may require only a small amount, but the people want the burnings stopped, if it takes a large sum. It’s worth a good deal to them, they declare, to lie down on their beds at night and rest without dread of awaking to find themselves the victims of such terrible catastrophes as have been suffered. Just how the matter will be investigated cannot now be stated. There is so little evidence that the burnings are the work of incendiaries that it may be a matter of difficulty to get at the bottom of the matter. There exists no doubt any longer in the public mind as to the origin, everybody believing that they are an incendiary, but all this has never been reduced to a finer point than mere suspicion, and this is all that can be worked upon as a basis at the start. It is generally considered, however, that a thorough investigation, by the proper persons, exercising proper judgment would reveal facts and substantiate the grounds for the suspicion which is now universally felt.

Losses In Steele Creek.

A prominent citizen from Steel Creek who spent yesterday in the city declared that, in his opinion, the farmers of his community had suffered loss of about $18,000on account of the fires. Last winter and spring the barns of Messrs. Frank Edwin, W.B. Choate, John Smith and Mesdames Brown Grier, J.H. Saddler, and Knox, were burned with a total of 22 horses and mules. Mr. Choate was the heaviest loser of any whose barns have been fired. He lost two good horses and five mules, and his barn, was about the finest in the county.

Charlotte Daily Observer, Charlotte, NC 9 Nov 1907