The Almonte Fire of 1909



Photo from Historic Almonte Photo Archive

Just as Carleton Place had many bad fires-Almonte also had several, one being noted in 1906 and another in 1909. This recount is from the Perth Courier 1909. In the next year of 1910, Carleton Place was going to have a fire– just as severe, and deadly.

Almonte’s Bad Fire-Perth Courier, September 17, 1909

The Woolen Town on the Mississippi Once More Visited by Fire, Loss of $75,000. 

Fire swept through Almonte last Friday, 10th.  The chief business block on the main street was completely destroyed.  The sufferers are the Commercial Hotel, West’s General Store, Patterson’s Drug Store, Kaufman’s Hardware Store.  The loss will reach $75,000 and the insurance will not exceed $38,000. (After the fire Mr. Kaufman did not rebuild, instead he chose to go west)

No photo description available.

Kaufman’s store-

The fire originated from unknown causes in the rear of the Kaufman store at 3:00 am and soon got beyond control  It was discovered by Alex McLean, a baker who lives near by and gave the alarm.  The volunteer fire brigade turned out and the engines from the Mississippi Iron Works, Wylie’s Flour mills and the woolen mills also turned out.  The Carleton Place Fire Brigade offered to help but by this time the fire was under control. The fire may have been caused by a soldering machine in a tinsmith’s shop.


A.S. Henshaw, manager of the Bank of Montreal was hit by a falling telegraph pole (actually a wall of Kaufman’s Hardware Store collapsed bringing electric poles down along with it) while assisting the firemen and received injuries which may prove fatal.  Mr. Henshaw was struck by the cross bar of the falling part which broke his collar bone and three ribs.  He lies in critical condition at his home under continuous medical care.  At noon, Mr. Henshaw had not recovered from the shock of the accident and little hope is held by his physician for his recovery. (Henshaw did survive his injuries, but a few  days later pneumonia set in and on the following Tuesday the “final call” came for Mr. Henshaw)

The loss analyzed:

The Commercial Hotel, sheds and stables owned by J.K. Cole worth $10,000 insured for $4,000

West’s General Store owned by William Thoburn which is thought to be worth about $6,000.  Mr. Thoburn is at Toronto and the exact amount of insurance is not known.

Patterson’s Drug Store owned by M. Patterson estate worth $6,000 insured for $3,000.

A dentist office and the Masonic Hall owned by T.R. White worth between $8,000 and $10,000—he is away it is said there is no insurance.

Wesley West’s general store, worth about $22,000.  He is away at Toronto it is said the insurance is about $15,000. (Merchants complained valuable merchandise was stolen after the fire and The Almonte Gazette reminded everyone that looters were shot on sight during the great Toronto fire)

D.J. McDonald whose hotel is equipped with 30 rooms is valued at $4,000, insurance for $2,300.

J.T. Patterson druggist, $5,000 loss insurance for $3,500.  He lived over the store and had to hurry his family out of the building the loss of furniture in his living apartments is $1,000 insurance $400.

Masonic Hall regalia, equipment and new organ worth $300  all together valued at $1,200 insurance $550.

Dr. T. R. Patterson’s dental rooms and equipment worth $1,000 insured for $500.

George Young boot and shoe store stock kept in part of the Commercial Hotel building loss $7,000 insurance $3,000.

J.K. Cole – part of residence in rear of fire scorched and furniture damaged by moving every bit of it out of the house loss $100.

H.H. Cole general store next to where the fire raged damaged to an extent of $200 or $300.

It was only the absence of any wind and with the excellent work of the fire brigade under Capt. Young which saved the destruction of the entire business and manufacturing section of the town.

Within fifteen minutes of sending in the alarm the full fire brigade were on the scene.  With the assistance of adjoining factories, 7 lines of hoses were kept in play.  Half a dozen telegraph poles fell and the municipal power was paralyzed as a result.

The escape of some 30 occupants of the Commercial Hotel was a narrow margin.  Proprietor McDonald had only time to shout “fire” through the halls to the sleeping guests and all escaped in night attire.  It was not possible to save furniture or personal belongings. (McDonald reported to The Almonte Gazette he lost a tin box containing valuable papers- and was sure someone took them)

An exciting rescue of a horse in the hotel stable was effected by ex-Mayor Donaldson and Ben Boulton.  The two entered the stable to loose the horse when exiting by the door they were cut off by flames. The men were entombed.  Seizing a crow bar they smashed  their way out through a brick wall of double thickness and successfully escaped.

The fire was first seen by Tom Rutherford a night clerk in the Belmont Hotel.  A shed in the rear of Kaufman’s Hardware Store was aflame and the fire rapidly spread into West’s store and the Commercial Hotel.  A quantity of gun powder and rifle ammunition were among the stocks of the hardware store and the explosions of these hindered the firemen in their work for some time.

The front of Patterson’s building fell into the sidewalk breaking the telegraph pole which struck Mr. Henshaw.  The Sterling Bank was saved.  The manager, Jno. Bain, removed all the books and furniture, hopeless of saving the building.

Chief of Police Lowery says an investigation of the fire will be held although no one is suspected of incendiarism.  The stores were fully stocked for the fall trade and exhibition week and the town trade will be seriously crippled.

The stock of H.H. Cole’s general store removed for safety across the street, was pilfered by spectators to a great extent. This matter will be investigated.

An act calling for more than average nerve is related of William Kaufman, proprietor of the hardware store.  With the rear of his store burning, Kaufman entered and succeeded in extracting 7 kegs of blasting powder.  In doing so his hands were severely burned but his act prevented the blowing up of the adjacent buildings.

Harry Eccles and Miss Hattie McCarthy had a strenuous five minutes during the burning of the Patterson drug store.   The made a last dash to secure some clothes for the occupants of the apartments above when they discovered the door had been securely locked from the outside by another who was apparently satisfied that the building was empty.  Their position for several minutes was dangerous and exit was finally obtained by smashing down the door.

Life seemed to go on in Almonte after this fire as a notice in the September 17th issue of the Almonte Gazette had the following social notes:

“Postcards of the recent fire are on sale at Maguire’s Studio. They will also be available at the fair”.

The old Perth Couriers can be read at the Archives Lanark

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About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

  1. That’s the baker Alex McLean standing centermost in the photo, he is the baker in the white apron standing to the left of the other baker. Great photo and great story. A story on McLean would be appreciated Linda.


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