Occupants Jump From Third Floor, One Man Breaks neck, Others Seriously Hurt in Daring Escape
Little did the citizens of Linden know how quickly their investment in a volunteer fire department and construction of the 1939 Firehouse would play in a significant downtown tragedy.
The Thursday July 27, 1939 Edition of the Cass County Sun, announced in a banner headline, “Hotel George Damaged by Fire, One Dead Others Injured”. The George Hotel, a three story structure was located on the east side of North Main Street.
“At 4 o’clock a.m., according to the article, the George Hotel was discovered to be on fire on the third floor. The fire apparently started near or in the linen room at the head of stairway. When the fire was discovered Mr. R. P. Fant rushed to the third floor to awaken guests.
He and all guests on third floor were trapped, cut off from the stair way and fire escapes. Miss Ida Mae Fant, his daughter, who was on the third floor and was among the first to awake and threw a coat over herself and fled to safety.”
According to her daughter, Nancy Max Belford, Ida Mae recalled escaping the fire and leaving behind a treasured ring given to her by her great-aunt. Amazingly the ring was recovered later in the debris, in a damaged condition.
“…Mr. R. P. Fant, Mr. And Mrs. J. L. Trammel, L. F. Lummus, Paul Horn Lovelace, Gerald Stephens Travis Skelton, Floyd Kitchens, Eddie Hogan, and Mr. Charlie Miller were cut off from the fire escape and had to jump from the 3rd floor windows. Mr. Lummus, a traveling salesman from Paris, was instantly killed. Mr. Fant had 2 ribs broken, ankle broken and badly burned. Mr. and Mrs. Trammel were carried to Atlanta Hospital by Allday Caver Ambulance. The others, who leaped to the top of an adjoining one story building, we slightly burned and injured”” as described in the Sun.
“The Linden Volunteer Fire Co. was on the scene quickly and did a fine piece of work, they held the fire in check until the Jefferson and Hughes Springs fire departments arrived….. The supply of water in the city of Linden again proved to be plentiful with 3 sets of equipment running the pump and the tank supplied plenty water. Linden and Mr. Fant are deeply grateful to each one of our neighboring cities who came to our relief in time of need and to our Local Fireman, all of whom regardless of the danger did such a fine piece of work in controlling and extinguishing the fire without greater loss. This is Linden’s first fire to do any damage since the fire equipment was purchased.”
“The entire 3rd. floor of the Hotel was gutted, entire building and all furniture damaged by smoke and water. Estimated loss $10,000 – $14,000 thousand dollars insurance carried, $10,000 on building and $4,000 on furniture.”
“All recovered from their injuries except Mr. Lummus.”
Mr. Fant, can be hailed for his heroic act of going to the third floor to warn guest and exposing himself to serious injuries.
2 November 1939 – Cass County Sun – Page 1
“The George Hotel was remodeled and opened for business under the ownership of Mr. R. P. Fant in November 1939. Mr. Russell Law will have management of the hotel while Mr. W. A. Williams will be in charge of the coffee shop. We are indeed glad to see the reopening of the splendid hotel and wish the management unbounded success.”
Loss of life and injuries plus further damage to the George Hotel and adjacent structures might have been greater but for the City’s expansion of its firefighting capacity.
Earlier Fires Prompted Linden to Build Fire Fighting Capacity
In 1930, the Post Office burned suffering a total loss, attributable to the lack of firefighting capabilities.
In August, 1933, the Cass County Courthouse was damaged by a fire of unknown origin. Citizens salvaged what documents and other materials they could and but did little else but watch the courthouse burn.
As a result of the significant damage caused by these earlier fires, before the fire at the Hotel George, Linden was prompted to establish a waterworks along with a fire department and fire hydrants in the downtown thanks to the New Deal era programs. Motivation for a decrease in fire insurance rates, implementation of more efficient fire protection became a priority for the town.
Linden Gets a New Fire Truck & Organizes a Volunteer Fire Department
On May 23, 1935, the Cass County Sun reported that Linden’s new fire truck “should be delivered here this afternoon or tomorrow.” The following week’s publication described the new vehicle as “… a Ford V8 and has a pumping capacity of 500 gallons per minute.” Furthermore, the article went on to describe that a volunteer fire department would be established within a week.
Linden Builds Fire Station
26 January 1939 – Citizens Journal – Page 1
Linden started work this week on building a 24 X 30 stucco fire station for their fire engine, and the building will include office, storage room and sleeping quarters for two volunteer fire boys.
According to the Cass County Sun of February 16, 1939, “The fire station will be completed by the last of this week and ready to house the fire truck.”
The truck “officially” entered the firehouse the following week: “Did You Hear” – The fire truck as it moved into its new home Tuesday noon, near the water tower, this is a great improvement for our city. “(Cass County Sun, February 23, 1939, p.1).
Thanks and recognition go to our Linden Volunteer Firefighters of today who serve in the spirit of those who responded to the Hotel George fire. These are modern-day heroes, best known for their willingness to risk their lives to save the lives and property of others.
Credit is given to Gail Dorgan for providing this interesting history of Linden. Transcription by Catherine Knapp.