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Bagwell Fire

Bagwell Fire
Spring Place, Georgia
May, 1899

Dr. L.P. Bagwell was born in Pickens County and moved to Spring Place in 1893. His home was located just south of the old Spring Place courthouse near the present day site of Spring Place Baptist Church. He developed a prosperous practice and his friendly disposition caused him never to meet a stranger. However, a catastrophic turn of events caused great sorrow to those whose lives had been touched by his gentle nature.

The tragic death of Dr. L.P. Bagwell, his three children and his housekeeper in a heartbreaking fire is considered to be one of the worst events in the history of Spring Place. The three children Emmett, age six, Ernest, age three and baby Florence, age six months were in the care of the Bagwell housekeeper, Mrs. Nancy Williams. Dr. Bagwell was a country doctor and had been out making visits that night. He returned home around one a.m. and it is suspected that he or Mrs. Williams had either left a lamp burning or accidentally turned a lamp over while attending to the baby.

Dr. John Gilbert and Frank Williams, grandson of Nancy Williams, were in an adjoining room sleeping and heard the cries of the victims. An alarm went out about 2 a.m. and the entire neighborhood came out to try and extinguish the blaze. The fire was finally brought under control one bucket of water at a time.

The bodies of Dr. Bagwell and his housekeeper were found just inches from safety underneath a window. They had used their own bodies to protect the three small children from the flames. Grown men were brought to tears at the sight of the small bodies protected by Dr. Bagwell and Mrs. Williams. The bodies were blackened and burned beyond recognition. The only body able to be identified was baby Florence.

Over one thousand people attended the funeral at the Baptist church. Dr. Bagwell was buried with his children in one casket while Mrs. Williams was placed in another casket. Both caskets were then placed in one grave in the Spring Place cemetery next to the grave of Mrs. Bagwell, who had passed just a few months earlier. A monument memorializing the event is on Elm Street in Spring Place, south of where the courthouse once stood behind the Dollar General Store.

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