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Posted: August 14, 2014 6:58 p.m.

Could Hacock fire happen here

The terrible fire that leveled the Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta on Aug. 13 destroyed more than just a building — it destroyed irreplaceable documents dating back to the 1700s.

Fires happen to buildings. Never say never.

But Newton County’s documents are safe, according to County Clerk Jackie Smith.

“Thankfully, records of the Board of Commissioners are in fireproof file cabinets,” she said Wednesday.

If fire, God forbid, took out the courthouse, the records should be safe.

“Of course, I can only go by what the fireproof people say,” Smith said. “But (the county’s records) are protected.”
The Newton County Courthouse was built in 1884 on a corner of the Square to replace an earlier courthouse on the Square that, yes, burned to the ground in the 1883 along with much of the north side of the Square. The historic building has been featured in several TV shows and movies, and is listed by as “one of the best-known of all Georgia county courthouses.”

“It would be just a tragedy” if Hancock County’s disaster was repeated, even if just the courthouse burned and not the records, Smith said. “I couldn’t stand it. This is the best thing that we’ve got in the county. It’s our history.”

When word of the Hancock fire broke, the Georgia Association of County Clerk (Smith was its president a decade ago) immediately sent word to Hancock County offering any help it could.

“I’m just shocked” at Hancock County’s misfortune, she said.

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