Saturday, October 6, 2012

Arson! Masonic Fire from Another Photographer's Lens

All photos from the MDAH C.W. Witbeck Collection.  

Previously on this blog, I posted pictures of this same fire by John Holly Williams.

When I stumbled upon these photos, by a WPA photographer who set up camp in town for some seven years, I knew that I had to share, even though by now some folks may think me "obsessed" with this particular event in town history.  

This photographer, C.W. Witbeck, "opened the Witbeck Photo Service in Brookhaven, Mississippi, in 1948 and in 1955 relocated his studio to Hammond, Louisiana. He married Ruby Ardelle Johnson (1917-1997) on March 29, 1963, and died February 22, 1972," according to the MDAH official site.  

Witbeck was best known as a railroad/train photographer, but fortunately for Brookhavenites, he hung around long enough to document a lot of local history in the making.

Sadly, this particular fire was the work of a juvenile arsonist, or "fire bug," who set the historic building on fire the night of Easter Sunday, March 25, 1951.  The three-story building at Cherokee and Jackson was erected in 1899 and was designed by Capt. A.E. Moreton, a Baltimore-born architect and Freemason.

Please stay tuned for Witbeck's aftermath photos in tomorrow's post ...
Here's a Trivia Tangent for you:  The advertisement on the side of the building is for Dr. Tichenor's Antiseptic, which harks back to the Civil War when Confederate Assistant Surgeon and Freemason George H. Tichenor was wounded in battle outside of Memphis. 

When the battlefield Saw Bones recommended amputation of his infected leg, Tichenor, with the help of friends, left the field hospital and he alone saved his limb with his own concoction, an antiseptic that included alcohol, oil of peppermint and arnica.  

After the war, Dr. Tichenor practiced medicine in Canton, MS, and went on to pioneer the use of antiseptic surgery, and, as a result, many lives and limbs were saved with his help. (His loyalty to the South during the war was fierce, apparently.  While Confederate soldiers were treated with his formula, he reportedly refused to use his germ-killing concoction on wounded Union soldiers.) 

While living in Canton, he married the former Margaret Drane of Kentucky, and they had three sons.  

Demand for his amazing germ-killing formula continued, and in 1905, Dr. G. H. Tichenor Antiseptic Co. was founded in New Orleans.  He moved his practice to Baton Rouge, LA, where he lived until his passing at the age of 85. 

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