The Chatham Fire of 1902
and the
Birth of Langhorne Jones

By Patricia B. Mitchell, 1976.

Judge Langhorne Jones, Sr.

Judge Langhorne Jones, Sr.

At approximately 2 a.m. on March 15, 1902, downtown Chatham was burning, and a baby, who was to become one of Chatham's prominent citizens, had just been born.

Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Jones lived two doors north of the Baptist Church, in the house which later was the home of Dr. M. H. Watson. Mrs. Jones had just given birth to a boy named Langhorne. Dr. W. P. Parrish had assisted in the delivery. After the birth, the doctor and Mr. Jones started to Mr. Jones's drugstore at the corner of Main and Pruden (where Leggett's is now). As they approached the general grocery store of J. P. Hunt (the current location of Sav-Mor Discount Store) they saw smoke billowing from under the door.

The men ran to the courthouse and rang the bell to spread the alarm. There was no fire truck. Volunteers came and battled the blaze using a bucket brigade.

Meanwhile, preparations were made to move baby Langhorne and his mother from the house, if it became necessary. A cot was found, onto which Mrs. Jones was to be placed if danger became imminent. By this time the Bennett Hotel (formerly Carter's Hotel) was in flames. The hotel was only about 125 yards from the Joneses' home.

Carter's/Bennett Hotel

The Bennett Hotel, seen here before the fire, was destroyed in the blaze.

The fire had also spread to the largest store in town, Whitehead and Yeatts (located where Chatham Furniture Store is now). People were afraid that the Chatham Baptist Church would burn so the bucket brigade doused it and hung wet blankets on it. They also put wet blankets on the fronts of the buildings on the east side of Main Street.

Finally the volunteers were able to put out the fire. No one was killed or injured. Mrs. Jones and her infant son did not have to be moved. The blaze had destroyed the Bennett Hotel. Mr. Bennett, who lived near Toshes had failed to come into town the previous week to renew his fire insurance which had just expired. However, he did rebuild the hotel the same year.

March 15 had been an eventful night for the Jones family and the people of Chatham. Of course, the baby did not remember the excitement — babies that new are practically oblivious to external stimuli, or are they? Who's to judge?


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