The Edwards Grocery Fire


Thank you to Valerie Edwards for sending this to me.

It can also be seen on this link



Three Business Houses and Six Homes Destroyed on the Queen’s Birthday





The original store after the addition and the brickwork was completed. (before 1905 destroyed this building. – Edwards‎ Family Photo Collection Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum



 Edwards‎ Family Photo Collection Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

This building was destroyed by fire in 1905. Another building was soon built on its foundation and remained for about 100 years before being torn down to allow the town to build the right hand turn onto Coleman Street from Franktown Road. Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum from the Edwards Photo Collection 


At 5:40 Wednesday afternoon last the fire-bells poured forth their clanging notes from their various towers. A hurricane was blowing – a South-Western. There had been high winds all day and those who carried responsibility were just beginning to become easy of mind. A vast volume of smoke near the station revealed the situation. The cry went forth that the Shops were on fire, followed by the corrected shout that it was the large three story brick block just purchased by Messrs. Aboud and Abraham. Mr. McLaren and his son pulled the fire-engine into the street, where Harry Hilliard hooked it up in a twinkling. With Engineer Bennett, Assistant Engineer McLaren and Firemen Virtue and Walters aboard, Mr. Hilliard began his race for life down the pike.



 Edwards‎ Family Photo Collection Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


Before the ten to six local arrived the engine was ready for action in the yard of the Willow Terrace where is a large tank supplied by the C.P.R. After the train passed and the pipes could be connected, two powerful streams began to play on the fire, which was a quarter of a mile away. Meanwhile the flames, which had started in the roof of a back shed, began to vigorously back up against the wind and to go forward with it. At the same time they deliberately widened. The Syrians got out all the goods possible in the first floor. But the whirlwind of blaze quickly ended this work and the spectacle became like that of a high, huge furnace, the numerous windows openings for the display of the operations of the carousing fiend.



This is building is at the corner of Franktown and Coleman-t was built by James Howard Edwards and his brother as a store to replace the store they had in the building at the corner destroyed by fire on May 24, 1905— Edwards‎ Family Photo Collection Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


The light barns and storehouses behind were soon demolished and then began the fiery attack on the solid brick home of Mr. Bradford, the solid brick of Mr. A. Saunders and the big double brick of Mr. Frank Nagle, the gift of his father the late Thomas Nagle, and the home of himself and Mr. W. J. Porter. Adjacent to Mr. Saunders were the stable and home of Mr. Clarence Hunter. Sparks and smoke embraced these wooden buildings. He was away up the lake, but friends mounted the roofs and while they pulled cinders from their eyes piled water on the blistering shingles. This property was saved. Seven other houses in the track of the tornado took fire, namely, Mr. Bremner’s, Mrs. Charley Stewart’s, Mr. Abernethy’s, Mr. LeBaron’s, Mr. Hamilton’s, Mr. Lambert’s and Mr. Purdy’s. Pails of water saved each. Retracing our steps to the place of beginning we hear the crowd debating whether in the absence of the Edwards Brothers at a merry pic-nic on the higher Mississippi, they should break in and save their books and goods.


 Edwards‎ Family Photo Collection Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

His building was nearly as fireproof as possible and this assurance gave halt to the trumpets of impetuosity. The wind and fire in jolly league laughed at the delay, seeing which a formidable foot crushed in the door. The books and papers were first cared for and the cash, too. Then began the clearing of the shelves and counters. None too soon was it. Indeed large quantities were left behind. The flames, like one annoyed at the loss of immediate booty, now took a livelier turn. They simply tore their way through this building and on into and through that of Mr. Eastwood emerging not far from the C.P.R. telegraph office in a big balloon of fire, solid, round, hissing fire, mad at its detention and magnificent in its fury. Now came the spectacle of shots of flame, as all these timber buildings offered themselves a prey. Smoke in thick, black volumes arose swirling in the air shot with shafts resembling burnished copper. It was like majestic moving darkness seeking to settle down over illuminated spires and minarets and towers.


The location of the original Edwards Brothers store. The gentlemen looking at the camera would have seen the old train station (current site of the Tim Hortons – 2012) behind the camera man.-  Edwards‎ Family Photo Collection Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


Hundreds took up vantage points to better witness the appalling panorama. Two streams from the town engine and one from the C.P.R. pump, together with wider spaces between the buildings, induced the fire to curb its anger, and at seven o’clock all danger of further damage was over. But the loss of three business places and six happy homes was the conquest of the Moloch – quite enough to satisfy his fury at one banquet. Nor was Thomas Begley’s home quite safe. Friends had to fight for its life with watered blankets and buckets of water. In front thereof were piles of miscellaneous goods, broken boxes and general debris. A slight change of the wind from the South would have imperilled both the C.P.R. Station and the Telegraph Office. The firemen worked till nearly eleven o’clock and it was not until midnight that they had finished, with the engine at her berth in the firehall ready for another campaign.


When the railway men heard their fire alarm whistle each man sprinted for his post as if Old Nick were at his heels.

Mrs. Bradford and Mrs. Eastwood were overcome by the awful calamity. Each of them was distracted and one of them required a physician.

The total loss has been estimated at $20,000.

The Edwards Brothers have resumed in the Bell block.

The key of the fire alarm at the fire station broke which caused some delay.

Had there been an iron roof on Mr. Nagle’s it would have been saved.

Mr. Arthur Burgess sent sandwiches and coffee to the firefighters. Mr. Wm. McDiarmid, jr., also sent a basket of refreshments.

Mr. Hanshaw of Napanee, Inspector for Mr. Hudson’s Company, arrived on Tuesday and adjusted for losses under his jurisdiction.

By a combination of diversions, Messrs. Edwards Bros. left $100 in their till. Each brother thought the other had the bag. Happily it was saved.

Mr. Bradford carried $300 on his house-hold effects and $700 on his house. Mr. Saunders had $1,000 on his house. Mr. Nagle had $1,500. Frank was in the States to come back with his wife, who was visiting her father, Mr. Wm. Rogers.

Citizens who were at the Park felt like prisoners at Helena. They wanted to fly down, so eager was their spirit. Horses and launches were like snails to them. High seas were running, too. It was fortunate that in the various dashes no one was hurt.

Next morning the scene presented a black blank. The ruins still smouldered and smoked. Hundreds visited the place. Let us hope that that woeful waste will soon be in the bud and blossom of a beautiful new career of business and domestic aspirations.

Mr. Walsh, far away from the scene down by the river, kept the pumps steadily moving and so maintained the supply at the railway tank, which fed that of the fire-engines. In passing around honors let not this faithful co-worker be forgotten.

Jack Bennett stood for hours at the engine, his two hands on the wheel of the throttle instantly ready should a bit of hose burst. The engine worked for almost five straight hours. Amid the praises of the hour citizens should not forget the noble part “Sir John”, played.

Mr. Eastwood owned the building occupied by the Messrs. Edwards and by himself. He carried on business for the manufacture of mattresses. Much of his property was saved; much was lost. The piano was carried out early. His insurance was $800 on his buildings and $200 on the piano.

Mr. Aboud was at Lake Park with the juvenile members of the household when a friend informed him that his place was on fire. He laughed as if douching a hot joke to put it out. “Yes yours and Edwards Bros.,” was the chilling chapter in conclusion. Frank dashed for his horse and in twenty minutes was back in town, helping to pack what friends had rescued.

The first knowledge the Edwards boys had of their loss was when they drove directly upon the smoking scene. As their business burned they were making merry at the lake shore. When they saw what kind friends had done, they were filled with gratitude. Their stuff had been as carefully put away as if done with their own hands. They carried insurance of $1,500.

The origin of the fire is variously conjectured. Some say there was a bonfire in the yard. This is positively denied. Mr. Abraham says some paper was burning about four o’clock, but it was a small quantity and it was in a lee. Besides water was poured on and a large piece of tin laid over the ashes. Neighbours comment on the care here taken of rubbish especially as a trench is dug to prevent spreading. Possibly a spark from a locomotive or a firecracker did the mischief.

Messrs. Aboud and Abraham bore their misfortune with fortitude. Their loss was $8,000 in goods and the building. They carried an insurance of $2,000 on the stock. There was a sum of $900 on the building, but whether the negotiations with Mr. Morris gave it to them they could not say. A policy of $1,500 had just expired. They were waiting for their new addition to be completed and meant then to have placed another policy of $3,000. Their total loss was probably $10,000 and would have been greater but for the holiday which brought some of their travellers home. Their salvage was placed in Mr. Beach’s blacksmith shop and the next day removed to Mr. A. W. Bell’s three-story Block, where they are now conducting a vigorous fire sale.



Clipped from The Ottawa Journal25 May 1905, ThuPage 6



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.

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