The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

March 15, 2006

Mar. 15, 2005 – 1895 Fire

After the mine explosion in 1891 some of the residents moved away but the vast majority stayed. The mine was repaired and shortly thereafter the men went back to work. The new school on McGee St., which had been planned before the explosion, was built. New churches were built, and in 1892 Springhill was among the first towns to have electric lighting installed by the Electric Light and Power Company. By 1894 the power was extended to the churches, some stores and houses. Later the Edison Light and Power Company Ltd was inaugurated in 1905. It was represented by W.H. Murray and W.J. Pippy.

In January 1895 fire on the Springhill Mines property put a number of employees out of work. About eighty extra men were placed in the east slope but there was about five times that amount awaiting work.

On August 9, 1895 around 3:30 A.M. fire broke out in the new livery stable of H. Glendenning where five horses and a number of carriages and sleighs were burned. The fire spread to the houses owned by A. Lowe and Co., The Niagara Hotel, Ryan’s Livery Stable, Simpson’s Carriage Factory and Hunters Feed Store. The fire then spread to Main Street and burned Hollohan’s pool hall, J.S. Fraser building, containing the branch office of Logan & Casey, barristers of Amherst, J.W. Fraser’s building occupied by Bell and Company dry good store and by Ronald McAulay as a dwelling, Leadbetter’s building occupied by Gillispie’s shoe store and by O’Donald, photographer and by J. Hopkins as a meat market, Clem Hewson's building occupied by W.E. Heffernan as a furniture store. The large building on the East corner of Victoria and Main owned by John Murray Jr. occupied a general store and Peel Bros. barber shop, R.B. Murray’s custom house, all buildings between Victoria and Elm Streets were wiped out including James E. Crowe’s grocery. The fire then spread easterly and consumed Hall’s Hall occupied by W.R. Anderson as a grocery store and Jane Gould as a restaurant, the stores and shops of A.W. McMillan, J.D. Cole, Mrs. E. Fuller, A.G. Purdy and Colin McLeod.

When it was over the buildings from Church St to Pioneer St. had been burned. The loss was estimated at $75,000.00 and covered over two and one half acres of land. The cause of the fire was believed to have been started by some oily cotton waste or rags lying around the kerosene casks in the stable. The fire was contained to the south side of Main Street and the buildings on the north side were not harmed.

In the Nov. 16, 1895 Springhill Record it stated that “Timothy Leadbetter is erecting a new store on Main St, Springhill, next door to Murray’s new building. When this and the Gilmour’s are completed the buildings that were lost in the fire will have all been replaced on Main Street with the exception of the one on Hewson's corner.”

At the time of the fire Springhill did not have a fire dept. and so the fire had to be fought by a bucket brigade.

The Town Council, after the fire, decided to find a way to get a water supply in town for the protection against fires. A fire station engine house was built in November of 1895 on Elgin Street . The following year a chemical engine was purchased by the town. The engine was pulled by horses for many years, and the driver of the horse got $1.50.

Fire boxes were set up and were used as follows. To give an alarm open fire box and turn handle three times. The chime whistle will then blow five times, then after a pause of one second, it will give the number of the box. Any box on Main Street is No. 1 and those on Herrett Road are No. 2. Keys to the boxes will be found at the homes of Wm Wylie, John Murray Jr and Edward McKenzie, Main Street and E.B. Paul‘s Herrett Road. Even in those days the fire department got false alarms.

Col. E.A. Potter was in charge of making the changes to the fire dept in 1896.