Minister suspects arson in fire that destroyed house

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2001

NATCHEZ – Fire destroyed the home of Natchez minister late Saturday night, and he says arson was the cause.

The Rev. T.M. Smith, 96, stood watching his home of more than 56 years crumble into a pile of burning rubble, as he related the events that led up to the blaze.

The wood house, at the corner of Smith Street and Martin Lane, was fully engulfed when fire crews arrived about 11:25 p.m.

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Smith said a man, with whom he was acquainted, approached late Saturday and asked about renting one of Smith’s rooms. &uot;He said, ‘Rev. Smith I need a room,&uot; Smith said. &uot;But he didn’t have any money, so I told him I couldn’t help him.&uot;

&uot;Then he said, ‘If you don’t let me have a room, you’ll be sorry,’&uot; Smith said. &uot;Ten or 15 minutes later, I heard something and I saw him through the window. I told him to get out of there. And that’s when I heard the fire.&uot;

Smith said he grabbed some money and headed outside. He said his insurance policy had recently been cancelled.