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Timeline of Little Nashville Opry fire news

Little Nashville Opry case timeline

April 4, 1975: The Little Nashville Opry opens and hosts Mickey Gilley as its first act. It was formerly a sawmill and a horse arena, but was converted into a concert hall by co-owners Esther and Dewayne Hamilton and three other couples.

1979: The Hamiltons buy out the other owners and the building undergoes a major renovation.

1996: Dewayne Hamilton dies. Esther Hamilton, along with partner and general manager Jim Bowyer, continues to improve the venue.

April 8, 2008: On a routine inspection for a required entertainment permit for the year, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security finds two exit lights that do not work. They were replaced that day. This was the last inspection of the building before the fire.

Sept. 19, 2009: Fire breaks out in the 28,000-square-foot, 2,000-seat concert venue. It is reported at 10:22 p.m., and the wooden building is fully engulfed when firefighters arrive five minutes later. A show by Goldwing Express had just ended at 9:30 p.m. About 70 firefighters battled the blaze until 11 a.m. the next day. The damage is estimated at $3 million.

Sept. 21, 2009: Esther Hamilton tells The Republic newspaper she is “heartbroken” about the fire and she’s not sure whether or not she will rebuild the concert hall “until I talk to my insurance people.” News outlets report that Little Nashville Enterprises owes nearly $69,000 in back taxes.

Sept. 22, 2009: The Indiana fire marshal’s office requests help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate the cause of the fire.

Sept. 25, 2009: The Indiana Department of Homeland Security reports that the Opry was operating without a required $203 entertainment permit that included inspections by the fire marshal. Inspections check to see if smoke alarms are working, exits are unobstructed and for other fire safety measures.

Sept. 28, 2009: ATF investigators announce that the fire was intentionally set, but will release few other details.

Oct. 19, 2009: Little Nashville Enterprises Inc.’s insurance company, Indiana Insurance, increases the reward money for information leading to an arrest in the case to $30,000. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security had previously offered $5,000.

November 2009: Contractors with Lafary Salvage and Demolition of Martinsville tear down the charred remains of the building.

Nov. 11, 2009: The Little Nashville Express, the Friday night house band at the Opry, announces plans to play at the Brown County Playhouse for the remainder of the fall. But tickets don’t end up selling as expected, and the season ends early.

Feb. 9, 2010: Carl “Nick” LaFary files a mechanic’s lien for $134,740.50 against Little Nashville Enterprises, for failing to pay bills related to demolition.

Feb. 17, 2010: In an interview with the Brown County Democrat, Esther Hamilton disputes that the fire was the work of an arsonist. “We don’t feel like it is, from the way it happened and everything, and they do,” she says, “and that gives them a little longer time to investigate.” She tells the newspaper that many of the hundreds of thousands of dollars collected in ticket sales “burned in the Opry.” The Brown County Democrat reports that more than $72,882.88 is due in back taxes on the Opry land, along with $14,635.63 in personal property taxes and a portion of a $1.3 million mortgage on the Opry building. The Indiana attorney general’s office offers Opry ticketholders the chance to file a consumer complaint.

Feb. 17, 2010: A 22-year-old Ohio man announces plans to build a new Opry and starts conducting fundraisers.

Oct. 14, 2010: Three parcels owned by Little Nashville Enterprises go up for tax sale, for a total of $88,449.88, the total amount owed in back taxes. None of them sell.

May 2011: In a civil court case, Brown Circuit Judge Judith Stewart rules that the Little Nashville Opry’s owners are not entitled to any insurance money from Indiana Insurance because they failed to adequately maintain the sprinkler system. At the time of the fire, more than 50 percent of the sprinkler system had been removed, plugged or capped in an effort to stop constant water leaks, at Bowyer’s direction, according to court documents. Only one small portion of the system, in the attic, worked. Hamilton did not return calls seeking comment. The Ohio man who had dreamed of rebuilding the Opry did not answer requests to discuss the progress on his project.

May 26, 2011: The Brown County Democrat reports that the attorney general’s office is reviewing complaints from Opry ticketholders, who have yet to receive refunds. Twenty-eight complaints had been received thus far, averaging $150 each. Brown County Prosecutor Jim Oliver dispels rumors that the arson investigation is complete.

July 2, 2011: Fifty-two ticketholders sue Esther Hamilton, Jim Bowyer and Little Nashville Enterprises Inc. for violations of the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. Hamilton refused to comment.

Nov. 2, 2011: The Indiana attorney general’s office announces a $26,500 settlement for 159 Opry ticketholders who had yet to receive refunds, with $10,000 to be allocated immediately.

Dec. 22, 2011: Jim Bowyer is arrested for stealing $776 worth of chewing tobacco from the Morgantown IGA. He gets a one-year suspended sentence and one year of probation and is banned from store property for a year.

Jan. 4, 2012: The three Little Nashville Opry parcels, which went unsold for a second straight tax sale, were placed on a list for certificate sale, scheduled for April 17. The amount of unpaid taxes now totals $114,690.62. Through the certificate sale, the parcels could be bought for half that sum.

March 6, 2012: ATF agents, Brown County sheriff’s officers and county Prosecutor Jim Oliver announce Bowyer’s arrest March 6 on a charge of Class B felony arson for the burning of the Opry.

Sources: Brown County Democrat and The Republic (Columbus) archives

Obituaries
See Full List »

Timothy White, 52, Brown County
  Husband of Loretta (Meredith) White of Brown County

Curtis A. Martin, 35, Columbus
  Employee of Always Inn in Nashville

Anna E. Hancher, 89, Elizabethtown
  Mother of Betty (Jerry) Bell and Lila (Eric) Wedan, both of Brown County

  • April 23
    Election Board
    9:30 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 23
    Board of Zoning Appeals
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 23
    BCHS sports for Wednesday
    5 p.m. Brown County High School, Providence Jr./Sr. HS
  • April 23
    Live music at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • April 23
    BC Parks & Rec. Board
    5:15 p.m. BC Parks & Rec. Office, 1001 Deer Run Lane
  • April 24
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • April 24
    'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • April 24
    Brown County/ Purdue Extension Board
    7 p.m. Extension Office, 802 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • April 24
    BCHS sports for Thursday
    4:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Brown County High School
  • April 24
    Rotary Club
    7:15 a.m. Artist Colony Inn, 105 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 25
    Live music at sports bar
    7 to 9 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • April 25
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 25
    Friends of the library plant sale
    3 to 6 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • April 25
    Game night at dance barn
    6 to 10 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • April 25
    Earth Day at Bean Blossom farmers market
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • April 25
    Live music at Out of the Ordinary
    7 to 10 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 25
    Congressman Young to meet at Nashville Town Hall
    10 to 11 a.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • April 25
    'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • April 25
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 25
    Morel mushroom festival at Bill Monroe
    10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 25
    Live music at the Pine Room
    10:45 a.m., 1 p.m. 1008 McLary Road and Deer Run Park
  • April 25
    18th Girlfriend rummage sale at Brown County Inn
    8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Brown County Inn, 51 State Road 46 East
  • April 26
    Arbor Day celebration at Brown County IGA gazebo
    10 a.m. to noon Brown County IGA, 30 Hawthorne Drive
  • April 26
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • April 26
    Live band at dance barn
    6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • April 26
    Dance lessons at Out of the Ordinary
    7:30 p.m., 8 p.m. to midnight Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 26
    Friends of the library plant sale
    9 a.m. to noon Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • April 26
    Plant sale at BCSP Nature Center
    9 a.m. until sold out Brown County State Park Nature Center
  • April 26
    Harpeth Rising band at The Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • April 26
    Hope for Hearts Farm free women's extravaganza
    9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hope For Hearts Farm, 1005 State Road 45, Bean Blossom
  • April 26
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 26
    Morel mushroom festival at Bill Monroe
    10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 27
    Brown County Railroad gallery
    1-4 p.m. Three Story Hill at State Road 135 N., Fruitdale
  • April 27
    'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • April 27
    Morel mushroom festival at Bill Monroe
    10 a.m. to noon Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 28
    BC Alcoholic Beverage Board public hearing
    11 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 28
    Helmsburg Sewage Board
    7 p.m. B.C. Community Church Annex, 2370 Main St., Helmsburg
  • April 28
    B.C. Board of Health
    6 p.m., 7 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 29
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • April 30
    April Red Tent women's gathering
    6 to 9 p.m. 1156 Old State Road 46 East
  • May 1
    CSCD Ecology Commission
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • May 1
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 1
    Brown County Schools Board of Trustees
    3 p.m., 6 p.m. Helmsburg Elementary, 5378 Helmsburg Road
  • May 1
    Nashville Town Council
    6:30 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • May 2
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 2
    Live band at 19th Hole sports bar
    6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • May 2
    Live jazz at Out of the Ordinary
    7 to 10 p.m. Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 2
    'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • May 2
    Antique tractor, engine, and machinery show
    9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Brown County 4-H Fairgrounds
  • May 3
    Spring Blossom Parade
    11 a.m. Downtown Nashville
  • May 3
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 3
    Morel mushroom fest, sale planned at BCSP Nature Center
    10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Brown County State Park Nature Center
  • May 3
    Live band at 19th Hole sports bar
    8 to 11 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • May 3
    Antique tractor, engine, and machinery show
    9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Brown County 4-H Fairgrounds
  • May 4
    Brown County Railroad gallery
    1 to 4 p.m. 18 W. Three Story Hill (at State Road 135 N.) Fruitdale
  • May 4
    Children can read to therapy dogs at the library
    2 to 3:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • May 4
    Antique tractor, engine, and machinery show
    9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Brown County 4-H Fairgrounds
  • May 5
    Nashville Redevelopment Commission
    4:30 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • May 5
    B.C. 4-H Council
    7 p.m. 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • May 5
    Gnaw Bone Sewage District
    5:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • May 6
    Government offices CLOSED for elections
  • May 6
    CSCD Building Commission
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • May 6
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 7
    Nashville Main Street Committee
    9:30 a.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • May 7
    Brown County Commissioners
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • May 7
    BC SWCD
    6:30 p.m. SWCD Office, 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • May 8
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 9
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 10
    Store to host bike blessing, open house
    10 a.m. to 5 p.m. House of Thunder, 4413 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 10
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • May 10
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 11
    Brown County Railroad gallery
    1 to 4 p.m. 18 W. Three Story Hill (at State Road 135 N.) Fruitdale
  • May 13
    Euchre
    6 p.m. 746 Memorial Drive, (fairgrounds)
  • May 14
    Thrive Alliance Board of Directors
    3:30 to 5 p.m. ACSSCI main office conference room, 1531 13th St., Suite G900, Columbus
  • May 15
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 16
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 17
    Late night dancing at Out of the Ordinary
    9 p.m. to midnight Out of the Ordinary, 61 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 18
    Humane society Dawg Gone Walk & Fiesta
    1 to 3:30 p.m. Deer Run Park
  • May 22
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • May 27
    Brown County Area Plan Commission
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • May 29
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • June 14
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road