Despite a steady rain, the stubborn, smokey fire still smoldered by late morning Thursday. The downtown inferno destroyed much of the 500 block of South Main in Poplarville.
Although the blaze claimed two historic buildings, a quick response from fire crews kept it from igniting any more of Poplarville’s downtown.
“Making sure we kept fire off of the exposures, which my guys did an excellent job. Kept it from spreading, kept it contained. There was nothing else we could do to the main fire building,” said fire chief Chris Foster.
The masons must build again. Sherrard Byrd Masonic Lodge 353 had barely bounced back from Katrina.
“We had extensive damage during Hurricane Katrina. We had $80,000 worth of damage. And we rebuilt that and had started over again. And it looks like we’ve got to start again now,” said Thomas Cumberland, who heads the Masonic Lodge.
The destroyed buildings were an important part of the small town’s history. We met a 91-year-old man who’s family opened a mercantile business here many years ago.
“Two hurricanes couldn’t knock it down, but the fire took care of it,” said Thomas Rawls, as he looked sadly at the rubble of a building which meant so much to his family, and the town.
The former mayor knew everyone in Poplarville when his family ran the business there.
“We had a general merchandise store. We sold everything. Groceries, feed, fertilizer, seed. Even had coffins in the upstairs part of it. So, we took care of the community as we were here,” Rawls explained.
The building which housed the Rawls Company for so long, most recently held a dress store and gift shop. Charred ruins are all that remain now, along with decades of downtown memories.