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1948, December 13
Georgetown sufferd a major disaster 13 December 1948 when much of the main business section was destroyed by fire. The fire started about 3:20 PM when an automobile engine used to drive a feed mill at Major Feed Company on the SW corner of Hwy 64 and Kelley Ave exploded setting several hundred bags of already ground feed on fire. The 1919 Vintage fire engine used up its 500 gal reserve tank, with no success at all toward containment, and when they dropped a suction feed hose into the cistern on Hwy 64 the pump failed. Murphy's 2nd law, failures will happen at he worst possible time in the worst possible way. That engine had been checked out and pumps run monthly to be sure it was in operational condition.
From the Major Feed Store the fire jumped the "alleyway" (Kelley Ave.) to Lawler's General Store, a white frame older three story building, with Masonic Lodge above the store, but which was tinder dry, so burned rapidly. That was attached to Kellum's Kozy Korner, Pool Parlor and the Kellum house behind the Pool hall. All these were lost and the roof was caving in within ten minutes. Virtually nothing was saved from these structures. There was a double wide 200 ft vacant lot next to the west of structure at this point and the fire thus was contained with buckets of water applied to the roof of the next house.
On the other side to the east was the Stroud home. It was obvious that it was doomed, and men were arriving in numbers so started taking furniture etc, out of it. The solid concrete block wall served to contain the inferno for a while- with huge clouds of black smoke and flames now leaping hundreds of feet into the air. But a metal roof also held for a short while directing the inferno upwards instead of toward the house. In the 10 minutes or so allowed perhaps half the possessions were saved.
From the Stroud home the fire next went on to Slagater Grocery, and while most of the smaller valuable items like scales, meat slicers, hamburger mills, and cash register were saved, the majority of the stock and larger items could not be moved, and thus also were lost.
At this time the Lanesville Volunteer Fire Department and more importantly the New Albany Fire Department (Professional Firemen) arrived (both 20 min drive). They placed the Lanesville engine as a double pumper at the water reservoir at the Ball Park and ran two lines roughly a half mile to get two 2 and a half inch lines on the fire. They stopped it cold. There was an old log cabin structure attached to the Slagater store, used as storeroom, but actually the original store from circ 1830. They stopped the fire such that this relic from the past was saved. Radiant heat had also started the roof and eave structure on fire across highway 64 on two buildings, (one was the historically important Stage Inn for Georgetown from 1840-1870 (pre RR) time fame-- this was about a half day stage ride from New Albany, and thus a meal and rest stop from much earlier times) but those were quickly put out with minimal damage as the New Albany men were in charge and directing several other units which had also responded.
The general store was rebuilt as a one-story structure, but after three year became the post office. Slagater rebuilt, but the site of the log structure became a parking lot. The bank across the street merged with the much larger New Albany bank so as to have reserves large enough to be able to make substantial house loans, and the entire business structure of the town changed. Thus this was a critical shift in direction for the whole town.
This page is for perpetual written accounts of historical events that have occurred in the city. Anyone who feels they have pertinent information may submit it. This includes all people in or out of Georgetown Town and could involve any interested adults or children with events or items that are of interest. Items may be submitted for publication on this page where they will remain as part of a historical archive for the city. Items of interest may include noteworthy events, special events of historical importance, information about area growth that pertains to the history of the city, and other pertinent notes. We hope to establish a large data base of information about the history of each city. Historical Societies are encouraged to open their own page on Key to the City for more extensive historical information.
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