While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


H. Allen Anderson

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 Fort 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.


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).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, H. Allen Anderson, "FIRES, AMOS J.," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffi15.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on December 16, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...