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FIRES, AMOS J.

FIRES, AMOS J. (1860–1941). Amos J. Fires, lawyer, judge, and civic leader, son of Thomas J. and Emeline Fires, was born on June 16, 1860, on a farm in Clay County, Indiana. In May 1886 he received his law degree from the University of Louisville, Kentucky. After accompanying an attorney to San Antonio, Fires decided to move to Texas. On July 15, 1886, he joined the law firm of Matthews and Wood at Lampasas, but a severe drought caused him to move north to Vernon later that year. Hearing that Childress County was going to be organized, Fires and a companion named Upfold drove a covered wagon to the new townsite of Childress City, where they arrived on November 10, 1886, during a heavy snowstorm.

Over the next few months Fires built up acquaintances by doing odd jobs for various farmers and ranchers. On April 11, 1887, he was elected the first county judge. During this time he led the fight to elect Childress City county seat. His satirical letters to Robert E. Montgomery, agent for the Forth Worth and Denver City Railway, reflect his combined humor and earnestness in his attempts to get the line to build through the town. In the end Fires and his partisans accepted the railroad's compromise proposal to move their homes and businesses to the nearby depot town of Henry in September 1887, and Henry was renamed Childress.

When Fires was first elected county judge, he boarded at a dugout and slept in his courthouse office. After the town moved in 1887 he entered private law practice and filed on a section of land northwest of Childress, on which the town of Carey was later located. Here he was said to have sown the first wheat in the county. From the time of his initial arrival in Texas, Fires kept in touch with his sweetheart, Margaret Warwick, in Bloomfield, Indiana. They were married in Kansas City on May 15, 1889. Afterward they settled on a section southeast of Childress, where Fires built a three-room house; they had a daughter and two sons.

During his long career as the leading Panhandle trial lawyer, Fires defended 123 persons charged with murder and lost only four cases. People came from miles around to hear his trials; many camped out in the court towns. Temple Houston worked with him in several cases. Fires helped establish the county's first public school, organized the first bank, built the first brick business house, helped dig the first grave in Childress Cemetery, and did legal work to secure the railroad shops for the city. He also helped to organize Collingsworth, Cottle, Motley, and Floyd counties by preparing their petitions and representing them before the commissioners' court.

In 1927 Fires retired as attorney for the FW&D and accepted appointment by Governor Dan Moody as district judge of the 100th Judicial District. He was elected to that office in 1928 and again in 1932. He strongly opposed the Ku Klux Klan as being un-American and became involved in a bitter feud with that organization. Throughout his later years Fires was looked upon as a one-man university by many aspiring young lawyers. In 1936 he retired from active public life to live quietly at his home in Childress. After a lengthy illness he was taken to the home of his daughter, Callie, in Wichita Falls, where he died on April 13, 1941. During his funeral in Childress, the entire town flew flags at half-mast.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Billy Mitchell, "Judge A. J. Fires, Childress Pioneer," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 19 (1946). LeRoy Reeves, The History of Childress County (M.A. thesis, West Texas State College, 1951). Glenn Shirley, Temple Houston (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "FIRES, AMOS J.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffi15), accessed July 14, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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