Historically Speaking: Cotton Valley Fire, 1942

By Jessica Gorman

In the early morning hours of 9 November 1942, fire broke out in the DeLuxe hotel in Cotton Valley. The call came in to the Minden Fire Department at about 4:45 am. Fire Chief John David, Captain S.C. Gibson, and six firemen responded. It was reported by the Webster Tribune that this was the fifth fire in Cotton Valley within 18 years. With the exception of a few garden hoses, the only water available to fight the fire was 100-gallons carried by the fire truck. An unidentified resident of Cotton Valley “used his truck to keep the fire engine tank filled.” Water was sent for and expected to arrive via L&A Railway tank cars. This water never arrived. The fire department remained on scene until the flames were brought under control around 7:00 am. 

The fire burned most of Block D of the Hayes addition destroying the H.R. Hayes Lumber Company. This block is today bounded by Egan, Resident, Church, and Humble Streets. Losses included “the lumber yard, three warehouses filled with building supplies and oil drilling equipment, the DeLuxe Hotel, Tom Norris’s service station, and four apartment buildings” as well as “C.K. Kosek’s combination restaurant, grocery store and bar, Spink’s cleaning and pressing shop, and M.L. Coyle’s hotel.” Two of the warehouses were located across the street from the lumber company. The post office and the Hayes gin were spared only by a change of the wind. 

Mr. Grady Hayes owned the H.R. Hayes Lumber Company. He came to Cotton Valley from the company headquarters in Monroe to assess the damage and set up a temporary office. The Kosek lots were sold to the lumber company on 19 November and the Coyle lots to H.R. Hayes on 23 November. 

It was nearly four years later that Cotton Valley formed a volunteer fire department. They held their first drill on 7 May 1946, just days before another fire that consumed three buildings. The following May, the town was able to purchase its first fire truck with the assistance of the Webster Parish Police Jury. 

(Jessica Gorman is the Assistant Director and Archivist for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum in Minden and is an avid genealogist.)