Chief tells of B’ville’s fire fighting history
Bennettsville Rotarians learned how the city’s fire fighting ability has grown during their weekly luncheon meeting Tuesday at The Skye.
Fire Chief Dixon Odom was guest speaker, introduced by Ricky Sheets, program chairman.
Chief Odom began his presentation by a power point showing pages from an 1895 Sanborn Insurance map of downtown Bennettsville.
He noted that near the courthouse and jail on the northwest corner of the square was a small rectangle labeled Hook and Ladder Building, but Dixon noted there was no hook and ladder wagon, only equipment.
This map showed a large area of downtown Bennettsville streets and yellow buildings indicated wooden structures and pink ones indicated brick ones.
Dixon then showed a 1901 Sanborn map which showed the brick Bank of Marlboro on South Liberty Street (which had formerly been Church Alley).
Sanborn’s 1905 map indicated where Bennettsville’s first large fire burned everything west of the courthouse square.
The 1906 Sanborn map had many more brick structures in the downtown area including The Skye Hotel block of buildings in the 200 block of East Main Street and the location of a 1000-gallon water tank behind The Skye.
Also shown were locations of Murchison School, Shiness and its round brick horse barn, and Lewis Livery Stable.
Chief Odom said the town purchased its first fire engine on March 7, 1906, and it was only a pump mounted on a wagon.
The next major fire struck downtown at 5 am in January 1908 and consumed the entire 200 block of The Skye Hotel and East Main Street.
This fire also totally burned five large homes on South Parsonage Street, which were set on fire when sparks from the Main Street fire caught on fire the wooden shingle roofs of these homes.
Later that year, the town erected its 170-foot 100,000 gallon water tank on the northwest corner of the courthouse square at a cost of $24,000. This tank was said to be the tallest east of the Mississippi River, Odom noted.
He also showed an August 1911 photograph of the “first fire company” of Bennettsville with the firemen standing beside their horse-drawn fire wagon on the courthouse square. He then showed a photograph of the local firemen standing beside their newest fire engine on August 11, 2011, also on the courthouse square.
Odom also showed an enlarged post card scene of Reid’s Fire in the 100 block of West Main Street, near Jackson’s Department Store.
He said the town purchased its first motorized fire truck in 1919 and the next was a 1929 Seagraves truck purchased that year.
Of special interest was a scene of a four-story scaffold erected near the town’s water tank when the South Carolina Firemen's Convention met here and demonstrated climbing on it in 1935.
Odom noted that the 1920 Sanborn map showed where Clyde Street had been opened from East Main to East Market Street.
Some in attendance remembered seeing the Hotel Powers fire in 1973 when that five-story hotel was destroyed. It stood at the corner of East Market and North Marlboro Streets.
Club President Mason King thanked Chief Odom for his presentation and presented him and Captain Thomas Dew guest speaker gifts.
$787 for Polio Plus
President King announced that last week’s member donations to the club’s Polio Plus eradication fund totals $787.
This, he said, will be matched by a gift from District 7770 bringing the club’s total contribution to nearly $1600.