When The Streets of Carleton Place Ran Thick With the Blood of Terror!
Perth Courier, May 20, 1910
Lashed by a heavy gale, a fire broke out shortly after midnight Tuesday night in the rear of the Cameron Brothers, a meat shop in Carleton Place, spread with rapidity and before it was got under control 35 buildings were destroyed, entailing a loss of over $150,000 and nearly 100 people were left homeless.
The handsome Zion Presbyterian Church was totally destroyed and among the residences completely wrecked was that of the late Jas. Gillies, which was one of the finest in town. The drill hall, curling rink, Masonic hall and other structures that ranked among the best in town are completely demolished
The blow is the hardest that has ever been dealt the enterprising Junction Town and the people are stunned by the disaster. The only fortunate feature is that no lives were lost and no one was injured.
It is estimated that there was not more than $80,000 insurance so the sufferers will have to bear a very heavy personal loss.
It was shortly after midnight when the town was aroused by the wild clanging of church bells. The volunteer fire brigade members knew the signal and Chief William McIlquham and his men jumped into their fire fighting harness and were soon on the streets.
The fire had been discovered at the rear of the building at the corner of Bridge and Albert Streets in the heart of the town. This building was occupied by Cameron Brothers and W. Singleton & Son and there is considerable doubt as to which side of the premises the fire originated. However, it is generally believed that the fire started from a box stove at the back of the meat shop.
The wind was blowing like a hurricane and the flames leapt to the adjoining buildings with lightening speed.
Half clad men and women and children rushed out of their homes as the fire caught the houses in its grasp.
Every able bodied townsman became a fire fighter and Mayor Cram was one of the hardest workers. The 2 fire engines were placed at the Mississippi River and they did good work but were insufficient to cope with the conflagration. The fire rushed down Albert Street and caught on the brick building occupied upstairs by the Freemason lodge and downstairs by the Salvation Army.
From this building it leapt to near by buildings and then caught on the steeple of the Zion Church. The firemen worked valiantly to save the edifice but their efforts were futile for the stream would not reach the blaze. The flames soon enveloped the whole church and then huge arms of fire were stretched out for more prey.
Blazing timbers as big as a barrel were carried hundreds of yards by the gale and new fires sprang up everywhere.
A message was flashed to the neighboring town of Almonte for assistance and it was readily given. Carleton Place had assisted Almonte several years ago when the town of the woolen mills was attacked by fire and the Almonters remembered this and got up in the middle of the night to get aid to the other town.
A freight town happened to be passing through Almonte and it was stopped. The locomotive was attached to two freight cars and the Almonte fire engine and other fire fighting equipment were loaded on these and the run to Carleton Place was made in record time.
As the fire approached the armories Sgt. Major Collins of the 42nd Regiment whose headquarters was the drill hall, repeatedly entered the building and carried out rifles and other equipment. Before he had completed his work the building which was a frame structure, took fire and the hissing of exploding bullets could be heard as he emerged from the building hall on his last trip. Many rifles, uniforms and other equipment were destroyed. The equipment was to have been handed out to the members of the company this week.
Members of the Methodist Church formed a bucket brigade around the church and the parsonage of Rev. A. Wilkinson and succeeded in saving both buildings.
There were many narrow escapes from falling walls and tottering telephone poles. The heat became so intense with three solid blocks burning that the crowds had to retreat before the fiery blast.
A heavy downpour of rain came about 2:00 when the fire had been under way for about two hours and this storm helped to fire fighters in their work.
The embankment of the C.P.R. tracks kept the fire back and had it not been for this barrier it is thought that the greater portion of this town would have been reduced to ashes. The fire was raging so fiercely around the railway that two trains were held back until the flames subsided.
It was after 4:00 Wednesday morning before the fire had spent is course and the hundreds of exhausted men who had formed a circle around the burning area and who had been continually forced further and further back by the encroaching flames were able to get to their houses. A score who were left without a place to lay their heads were given shelter by more fortunate townspeople whose homes had escaped.
So quickly had the fire spread that few people were able to save any of their household effects. Many were without fire insurance and will be in destitute circumstances for a while.
With daylight Wednesday morning the full extent of the conflagration could be seen for the first time. The entire block bounded by Beckwith, Albert, Judson, and Franklin Streets was in a heap of ruins. Where frame buildings stood in many cases nothing but a huge pile of ashes was left. The destruction was not confined to this block but the whole neighborhood was touched by the fire.
The happiest man in Carleton Place was Mr. G. Leslie. The fire burned right up to the wall of his hardware establishment but through the efforts of the firemen it was saved. The building with the stock is valued at $30,000 and it was said there was not a cent of fire insurance on it.
John Fraser, formerly of Perth, an employee of the Mississippi Hotel, was roused by Mr. C. Fanning after the fire had caught on his house. Fraser rushed out with two young children in his arms and likely had he not been roused a fatality might have occurred.
The great velocity of the wind is evidenced by the fact that a big ember was carried into the air a mile out into the country and set fire to the barns of a farmer H. Morphy. The barns were destroyed.
The greatest loss was the Zion Presbyterian Church. It was valued at $35,000. It was a substantial stone edifice nicely furnished inside and contained a valuable pipe organ. Only last year the church was remodeled at the cost of $18,000. The church was insured for $15,000. (Note: see article below on the history of this church.)
The manse of Rev. Mr. Scott near the Zion Church was also destroyed. Great sympathy is felt for the pastor who is left, after thirty years service in this town, without either church or manse. Rev. Mr. Monds, pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, suffered the loss of his manse but the church was saved.
The Gillies residence was valued at $25,000 and was partly insured.
The loss to Singleton and Son is estimated at $10,000 of which $3,000 is covered by insurance.
Finlay McEwen, the postmaster, lost his residence which was worth $7,000 and was insured for over $3,000.
E.T. Wilkie, Civil Engineer, lost his dwelling which was valued at $5,000. A house owned by his mother Mrs. W.W. Wilkie and occupied by Dr. Howard, was destroyed. Dr. Howard left only a few days ago on a trip to New York.
The tower of Bates and Innes, Woolen Mill, caught fire several times but the employees remained on watch and quenched the blaze each time.
The building where the fire originated was owned by William Comerie who is now engaged in railway work at Chapleau.
Other persons whose buildings were destroyed are: Jas. Walters, David Thompson, Stephen Stanzel, J. Fraser, John McFarlane, John McDonald, E.A. Wilson, Mrs. Steele, John Gordon, Gilbert Gordon, Mrs. White, Samuel Dunfield, Francis Gallagher, Mrs. Code, W.H. Hamilton, Peter McDonald, J. McLeod, and Edgar Bradford of Ottawa.
The dwelling of Samuel Torrance who is now at Elk Lake City, was totally wrecked. Mrs. Torrance joined her husband last week and the home was vacant.
Business is practically suspended in Carleton Place and the townsmen have started to work clearing up the streets. Poles and telegraph wires were down everywhere and telephone and telegraph connection was partly broken off. A telegraph operator secured a barrel and made connections with the broken wires and established a temporary office outside in the center of the burned area.
A revised list of the losses in the big fire at Carleton Place are about as follows:
The losses are:
T.C. McGuire on building, no insurance and small loss of stock mostly removed.
A.W. Bell on buildings occupied by Keays, Tucker, Muirhead, Stuart, Dolan, DeWinter, W.H. Hoper, partly insured.
Robert McDiarmid on buildings and stock part of stock being saved—insured
Allan Brothers stock, boots and shoes—insured
S.A. Dack, jeweler, insured
Ed Keays, confectioner, insured
W.J. Muirhead—hardware stock partly got out, insured
- H. Tucker, jeweler, stock mostly got out, insured
- H. Hooper, photographer, lost most everything partly insured
DeWinter’s, dentist, partly insured
Bell Telephone Company, Central Exchange—Complete loss, insured
W.B. Stuart, drugs, stock mostly removed
J.S. Dolan, tailor, stock mostly removed
The I.O.F. and Chosen Friends lost all their lodge furniture, regalia and fixtures
In the buildings adjoining, Mr. Box removed his stock of boots and shoes, with heavy loss.
- Carmichael removed his grocery stock; J.L. Murphy his stationery stock; Dr. McIntosh removed his household furniture and effects. On the other side Mr. Chapman emptied his dwelling as did alsoMr. Reid. Mr. Bangs(?) had his things in readiness for a rapid exit in the bank building. Taber and Company suffered heavy losses due to water and smoke. Mr. Struthers also lost considerable on building. Miss Coleman, dress maker had her rooms cleared, the roof being destroyed. Dr. de Renzy had his effects removed.
The loss is variously estimated at from $50,000 to $85,000. The destroyed property cannot be replaced now at the latter figure. The insurance is between $30,000 and $40,000.
Zion Presbyterian Church, value $40,000, insurance $16,000
Zion Presbyterian Manse, value $2,000, insurance $2,000
St. Andrew’s Manse, value $3,000, insurance $1,000
Masonic Hall and Regalia, value $4,000, insurance $3,200
Heber(?) Singleton, value $10,000, insurance $3,300
Finlay McEwen, value 48,000, insurance $3,425
Mrs. Alexander Steele, value $2,100, insurance $1,100
Mrs. James Gillies, value $15,000, insurance $11,000
John Gordon, value $1,500, insurance $1,000
- Danfield, value $1,000
- Gallagher, value $1,500, insurance $1,000
Miss A. Cameron, value $1,200
John McDonald, value $7,000, insurance $1,500
Peter McDonald, value $2,500
Estate of Donald McNab, value $1,700
Armories, value $5,000
James Walters, value $1,000
R.F. Gordon, value $1,000
Residence of W. H. Hamilton, owned by Mrs. A. Code, $1,300
House owned by Edward Bradford of Ottawa, $1,500
Herbert Murphy, value $1,000
Singleton Block, value $4,000, insurance $1,500
A Cameron butcher shop value $2,000, insurance $800
E.T. Wilkie (2 houses) value $9,000, insurance $5,500
John McFarlane, value $2,000
Curling Rink, value $3,000, insurance $1,000
G.N.W. Telegraph Co., value $1,000
- Torrance, value $300
Bates and Innes, value $500, insurance $250
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