Clairemont, TX Kent County Courthouse Fire, Apr 1955

Kent County Courthouse, early 1900s, photo from familyoldphotos.com Kent County Courthouse, photo from familyoldphotos.com

Fire May End Feud Over Kent County's Seat

CLAIREMONT, Tex., (AP)---An old West Texas landmark, the vacant Clairemont courthouse, was almost a total loss today, after a fire of undetermined origin broke out in it Tuesday night.

The fire probably settled a feud between this town and nearby Jayton.

The start of the fire found Clairemont's only piece of fire-fighting equipment, a pumper, out of order. And the volunteer fire department made no effort to quell the blaze without equipment,

Ethel Harrison, former Kent County judge, said the only records in the building were a few old books of little value. But estimates of the loss ran as high as $35,000.

The old courthouse, built 1893 had been the center of a 3-year--old feud between this town and Jayton. County offices were moved to Jayton in 1952 after a countywide election established it as the county seat.

In 1952, county residents voted to transfer the county government headquarters to Jayton.

The vote, which fell a couple of ballots short of the required two-thirds, precipitated a two-year squabble between pro-Jayton and pro-Clairemont factions that saw litigation carried all the way to the State Supreme Court in Austin.

It was following the high court's decision last summer that county records were transferred under highway patrol and Texas Ranger escort and placed in the vault of the First National Bank at Jayton.

Even the Supreme Court ruling failed to halt legal by-play. Since the moving of the records of Jayton, it has been ruled in 32nd District Court at Sweetwater that the records should be moved back to Clairemont. That decision was overruled Feb. 11 in the Court of Civil Appeal at Eastland.

Thus the records remain at Jayton. But the matter has not been dropped. Further court action has been planned by the pro-Clairemont element.

Big Spring Daily Herald, Big Spring, TX 14 Apr 1955


Fuse Box Believed Cause Of Kent Courthouse Fire

CLAIREMONT, April 13---Investigators tentatively believe that the fire which Tuesday night destroyed the old Kent County courthouse here started from an electric fuse box.

That report was given Wednesday morning by County Judge John Montgomery of Jayton.

"The insurance company has been notified of the fire, and we are waiting for its man to arrive", the judge said.

Montgomery reported that the county carried $15,000 insurance on the old structure.

The building was nearly vacant of furniture, but the utilities---electricity, telephone, and butane---were still in service.

Kent County Commissioners' Court holds part of its meetings in the old courthouse, although residents of the county voted in March, 1952, to move the county seat from Clairemont to Jayton, the judge said.

Tuesday night's fire destroyed all of the old Clairemont courthouse building except the sheriff's office in the northwest corner, Montgomery reported.

The fire started about 9:20 or 9:30 p.m., another informant said. It took less than half an hour to gut the building, leaving the stone walls standing, blackened by smoke.

High winds fanned the flames, which quickly ate through the wooden flooring, ceilings and roof.

A large crowd gathered to watch the fire.

Judge Montgomery said the building is a complete loss to all practical purposes.

Abilene Reporter News, Abilene, TX 13 Apr 1955


County commissioners halted the argument between Jayton and Clairemont yesterday when they declared Jayton to be the official county seat and announced they had leased two buildings to house the county government.

The former First National Bank building will hold the court house and a theater will serve as a courtroom.

The announcement came at a meeting held outside the burned-out shell of the old courthouse in Clairemont.

Big Spring Daily Herald, Big Spring, TX 14 Jun 1955


Kent County Courthouse

According to TexasEscapes. com, only the second floor was destroyed by the fire and the remaining portion of the building is used as a Community Center today. See photograph of the building at TexasEscapes.com.