Honey Grove Preservation League

Saving and Documenting the History of Honey Grove, Texas


Tragic fire of 1955 forever erased a part of our history.  From the Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, January 30, 1997


At around 2 p.m. on July 30, 1955, an event occurred which would forever change the face of the Honey Grove Signal-Citizen.


It was at about that time that then owner-publisher Mrs. C. K. Fladger and editor Joe Morrow discovered wisps of smoth issuing from the Masonic Hall which was adjacent to the newspaper plant.


By 3 p.m., despite the efforts of the Honey Grove, Ladonia, Bonham, and Paris Fire Departments, the newspaper plant and the Masonic Hall, along with the Diaper Jeans company next door, were in total ruins.  McCleary Eversole, Chief of the Honey Grove Fire Department, later surmised that the fire had begun in the shipping department of Diaper Jeans, and had spread through the "beaver wall" which separate the two businesses.


In the devastating fire, all physical assets of the paper were lost, including presses and equipment.  Most importantly, however, all back issues and other rich historical information was lost to the fir.  At present the paper's archives contain only those issues printed since the time of the fire, plus a few scattered issues that people have graciously sent to the office.


The original building was one of the oldest buildings in Honey Grove, having been constructed in 1894 by Blake and Fowler as a music store.  It was built of native stone from the Floyd Quarry south of town, as were many other subsequent buildings.


According to long-time type composer and Signal-Citizen worker Harry Thompson, who worked here for more than half a century, the buildings downtown were mostly constructed of wood until the Floyd Quarry stone began to replace them around the turn of the century.


So situated, the music store eventually went out of business, and was divided into two sections on the first floor.  The north office was occupied by the paper, and the south office was occupied by the shipping department of the Diaper Jeans Company of Indiana.  The second floor, which covered both lower offices was owned by the Honey Grove Masonic Lodge #64, and the Order of the Eastern Star. . . The building was repaired by the later part of 1955, and the Masonic Lodge eventually relocated to the downstairs portion on the north side of the office, where members constructed a modern one-story brick structure.

July 1955, from the August 5, 1955 Honey Grove Signal-Citizen


Fire of undetermined origin Friday afternoon completely destroyed the building occupied by the Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, the shipping department of Diaper jeans and the Masonic Ledge and wrecked the building occupied by the J. E. Robinson, Jr., tailor shop.


The Smith-Miller Motor Co., just north of the destroyed building, suffered smoke and water damage as did the VFW Hall, which was above the Smith-Miller Co.


The fire raged out of control for some 30 minutes and for a time threatened to spread to all building on the east side of North 6th St., just off the northern corner of the square.


Built in 1894 by Blake and Fowler as a music store, the building had later been divided into two sections by a beaver board wall, which afforded no protection against the spreading flames.  This building was one of the oldest in honey Grove and had been built of native stone taken from a quarry southwest of the city.

A spectacular fire, which raged out of control for over three hours early Monday evening, virtually wiped out the south side of the Honey Grove town square.


Completely destroyed in the blaze was the Ellis and Sons Furniture store, Honey Grove Insurance Agency, Mary Fain Flower and Gift Shop and a TV cable office.

August, 1970, South Side of Square

​From the Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, Aug 21, 1970 

June, 1959, as reported by Alma Braudrick


Our 4th northside square fire was 1959 - The Grove Theatre!


About 1950 Tri-State Theatre headed by B. R. McLendon bought the land where Williamson's burned and built a theatre there.  This was an elegant show and it seated 850 people.  It gave the black people a place to go to shows, too.  The theatre was an L shaped affair, the entrance on Main Street between Piggly Wiggly and Duke and Ayers and the auditorium was arranged east and west behind Duke and Ayers, and Lon B. Evans grocery.


Hone Grove was so proud of this comfortable, modern place of entertainment.  I for one went to every one of the change of pictures.  "I really enjoyed my show going."


It was June, 1959.  The show closed at 10:00 that night.  About 1:30 the night policeman, Mr. Herman Ryser saw smoke pouring from a ventilator on the east side of the building.  The fire had gained a big headway by the time firemen got there.


The Bonham and Paris fire departments sent help.  Their help and the firewall of the Collins Building was given much credit for keeping the blaze confined to the theatre.  Both water and smoke seeped into the Duke and Ayers building, but only smoke hurt the Collins grocery store.  The Duke and Ayers building was also the property of Tri-State Co.


Tri-State Co. restored the built the building back.  It is now [1979] the property of Mr. Jessie Smith, business man of Honey Grove.  A fine, modern beauty shop occupies the show building and Duke and Ayers is still in the east building.

January 9, 1929, as written by Alma Braudrick


Mr. T. F. Williamson was a wonderful man, and he had just built back a beautiful new department store that rivaled any in Dallas.  He had arranged a place on the balcony for a Beauty Shop.  At this time there was only one in Honey Grove and was in the back of Mrs. Beatty's hat shop.  Starnes of Bonham leased the Williamson Shop and this is where the fire was thought to have started - from faulty wiring.


It was a terrible time - the streets were all covered in ice.  Clark Russell, our Methodist preacher was trying to help the firemen, fell and broke his hip!  I know of no other casualties.  Just a beautiful store destroyed and we would never have another like it.


1946, from the March 1, 1946 Honey Grove Signal-Citizen


Fire at 1 o'clock Friday morning destroyed two buildings and the stock and fixtures of three firms in a blaze that is estimated to have done more than $25,000 damage, located at the northwest corner of the square.


The fire originated at the rear of the building occupied by the Collins Bakery, the building being owned by Gus Hutchison of Petty.  All equipment and stock of the bakery was badly damaged or destroyed.


Miss Annie Ballew and H. L. Ballew are co-owners of the building housing Ballew's Variety Store and the Ingram Jewelry.  Stocks of the two establishments were burned and damaged.  Miss Ruth Ingram of Roxton is owner of the jewelry store.


Firemen stopped the blaze at the Schreiber building on the north and the Wilt Plumbing Shop on the west.  Partial insurance was carried by all.


Mr. Ballew and Mr. Hutchison stated Friday that it was their intentions to rebuild as soon as materials are available.


Miss Ruth Ingram has secured a space in the Schreiber building with Liston Scroggins, who is opening a furniture and electrical store. 

1898, from the Weekly Texas Citizen, as summarized by Alma Braudrick


On November 8, 1898, there was a fire on the north part of the square.  At 3:30 in the morning the whistle of the light plant sounded a fire alarm, and the flames leaping up showed it to be on the square.  The immense Williamson and Blocker building was destroyed.  For two hours the fighters kept it out of the S. L. Erwin Furniture building, but it soon, too, was destroyed.  The whole block of buildings were gone.


Me. C. B. Trout was the first person on the square and 2 men with covered faces and collars pulled up around their necks were seen riding out of town.  Sam Garret, night policeman, found the back door of the building open and a window was up.  The door of the building open and a window was up.  The door could only be opened form inside.  Robbery could have been the motive and it could have been set.


Businesses burned were Williamson & Blocker, S. L. Erwin and Co., C. F. Koehler, Ben Looney and Co., Planters Bank, Gross and Gross and Dr. W. H. Saffarnas.


March 1913, from the Bonham Daily Favorite


Fire Loss in Honey Grove; Building and Stock of Drugs Destroyed Tuesday Night.  Loss About $11,500 With Partial Insurance


Tuesday night fire broke out in the building occupied by the Honey Grove Pharmacy on the east side of the square.  The blaze was confined to the building, which was practically destroyed with the exception of the walls.  The building is owned by Mrs. Ingram of Texarkana and the heirs of Mrs. Evaline Pierce of Mineola.  The loss on building is about $1500, covered by insurance.  The Honey Grove Pharmacy loss is estimated to be about $10,000, insurance $8.000.  Water and smoke damaged the following stocks:  F. Messerer, damage $250, covered by insurance; J. E. Thompson, barber shop, $75, insured, East Side Cafe, $100, no insurance.  At one time it looked as if the whole east side was doomed, and the fire department has been complimented very highly on their good work.


November 1913, from the Bonham Daily Favorite


A Big Fire at Honey Grove; Four Buildings and Contents Destroyed by Blaze.  Valued at $9,000


Early Monday morning fire destroyed four buildings on South Sixth street in Honey Grove.  The fire originated in the wagon yard house of B. A. James and spread quickly to the other buildings to the south and west of it.  The buildings destroyed:  Building owned by B. A. James, with feedstuffs stored in it, total loss.  The loss is estimated at $800, with no insurance.  Two buildings owned by J. B. Cothran, about $2,000, no insurance; one building owned and occupied by T. A. Smith , negro, with contents about $3,000, no insurance; Dryden Bros. second-hand furniture, store loss $2,250, insurance $1,000; J. L. Thompson restaurant, loss $750, no insurance.

Fires

1888Honey Grove Herald, May 11, 1888


In the Dead Quiet of Midnight the Fire Fiend Breaks Forth

And Spreads Death and Destuction - Ed Burnitt Loses His Life and More Than $10,000 Worth of Property Go Up in Flame and Smoke

At midnight Tuesday night the alarm of fire spread through the city and aroused the slumbering inhabitants to go forth and battle with the fire fiend for the safety of life and property. The conflagration proved to be in the long row of wooden buildings covering a part of the north side of the public square and extended north on the west side of sixth street. The fire was under full headway before discovered and it spread among and over and enveloped the old wooden structures like a prairie fire. The fire seems to have originated in the rear end of the second story of the Pennybacker building. In the front end of the building were sleeping Ed and Fred Burnitt and John Dickson. They were all nearly suffocated by smoke but Fred Burnitt and Dickson finally awoke and tried to wake their companion. But whether already suffocated or from some other cause he could not be aroused although they dragged him from the bed. By this time the flames were leaping into the room and they were forced to leave poor Ed to the devouring flames and themselves escape through a window onto the awning and jump to the ground. No out cry came from the unfortunate boy. Death soon did its awful work. Friends stood by in silent horror and more than one was the eye that dropped a ear; more than one was the heart that felt a pang; more than one were the lips that breathed a prayer; more than one that soul that yearned for power to save. But all was of no avail. Midnight stillness reigned save for the crackling flames and the calls of citizen firemen for help to stay the further ravage of destruction. On the west the fire was checked by the stone wall of the Opera House. On the east it went to sixth street, down sixth street to the north as far as there was a building.

Losses and Insurance

Geo. A. Daily building, loss $1000, no insurance.  Dr. Pennybacker building, $1000, no insurance.  R. J. Thomas, three buildings, $2500, insurance $1000.  Mrs. Ford, Millinery, $2000, no insurance.  Kirk & Choate confectioners, $800, no insurance.  C. F. Koehler, barber shop, $400, no insurance.  J. M. F. Graves, confectioneries, $700, insurance $150.  J. B. Barnett saddlery, $3000, insurance $1000.  Cornet Band, $300, no insurance.  The offices occupied by Carpenter & Gross and Geo. W. Wells, lawyers, and by W. H. Lemons, J.P., were also destroyed but most all the books and papers ob both offices were saved.  A little north was Allen's wood shop which went also but the tools were saved.  There were many minor losses of wearing apparel watches, sewing machines, etc.


Damage by heat and removal of goods was great.  Sharp & Banks were the heaviest losers but are fully covered by insurance.  J. B. Ryan, T. U. Cole, Mitchell & Varner and the Baptist church were damaged but all are insured.  The origin of the fire is not known.  Twice within the past twelve months unsuccessful attempts have been made to fire the same block of buildings.  This leads many to suppose that it was the work of an incindiary.  Others are of the opinion that the fire was by accident.