A fire in downtown Smithfield originated in a men’s furnishing store and burned a block in each direction. The fire destroyed several businesses including the telephone central offices thereby cutting the town off from all communication. The blaze caused $30,000 worth of damage.
Several nights later, prominent business man George Rouse was seen crawling underneath a house with a can of gasoline. Just as he was about to light the fuse, he was apprehended by watchful authorities. Once taken into custody, Rouse confessed that he started the earlier fire. When asked about his motive, he said that he was compelled by an unknown power that he could not resist. It is believed that Rouse was responsible for many more fires in the area.