The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

January 27, 2010

Wed. Jan. 27, 2010 – The Fire of 1957  

      On December 26, 1957 Leo Comeau was on his way to the mines for his 11 o’clock shift and as he was walking down Main Street he saw that there was a fire in the Stedman’s Store.  No having time to call in the fire he told Susse Porter who let the Fire Dept. know. 

     The fire originated in the basement of the Stedman’s 5 to $1.00 Store and worked its way up the wall.  The Firemen worked to get the fire under control but to no avail.  When high winds came up they asked for assistance from the fire departments  in Oxford and Amherst and without being called six men from the Parrsboro fire department showed up to help.

A short time later firefighters from the Civil Defense arrived from Dieppe, N.B. as well as a group from Pictou.

     Just after asking for assistance an explosion of flames broke through the front of the building, tearing out the front and causing the firemen to evacuate the basement.  After that high winds came up and the fire was out of control.  There was also a setback when the firemen lost water pressure due to a power outage.

     The heat from the fire was so great and the flying embers travelled so far that the whole of the town from the north and east were threatened.  At the height of the fire

Rushton’s Grocery Store was threatened from the flames from the Springhill Record Office and it was feared that the fire would spread west down Main Street and the whole block to Elgin Street and the bottom end of Fir Street would be lost.

     Around 11 O’clock that evening firemen were called away from the main fire to a call at Joe Pettigrew’s Store and dwelling on McGee Street which was completely gutted by fire.  Later that night they had to leave twice more, each of which, was a false alarm.

     The fire destroyed the Stedman’s Store and the Herb Terris Building, a four car garage at the back of this building was also leveled.  A building owned by the Town of Springhill opposite the Carleton Hotel was also endangered.

     On the south side of Main Street the stores that burned were: Kaylene’s Photographic Studio which had an apartment on the second floor occupied by Mr. And Mrs. George McLeod; H.S. Terris Insurance Company; Stedman’s; Jay’s Women and Children Clothing Store; Agnew-Surpass Shoe Store with apartments in upper level occupied by Mrs. Helen Hachie and three children and Mrs. Flora Hyatt.

     Businesses destroyed on the north side of Main Street were: Springhill Record Office with apartments above occupied by Mr. And Mrs. Donald Hoare and their daughter; Leadbetter’s Clothing Store; James Ryan Grocery Store with Randolph Clark in apartment above; The Saffron Building which housed Morris Saffron Company (furniture, electrical appliances and clothing) and Sziron’s Jewelers; a building containing an empty store with J.A. Gillis Hardware on the other side contained apartments above occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Simpson Weatherbee and Mr. and Mrs. Merlin Smith; The Vogue Millinery, T. Eaton’s Order Office and Pat McLeod’s Barber Shop were all in another building and living above these stores were Mr. and Mrs. William Lockhart, Mr. and Mrs. Reginald White and child, and Mrs. Fred Hawker.

     The flames spread so quickly that little was saved from these buildings.

     In addition to the stores on Main Street, four homes on Fir Street were also lost in the fire.  These were the homes of Charles Wilson, Charles O’Brien (unoccupied), Dr. Roberta Forbes and a duplex belonging to Morris Saffron.

     In total 14 businesses, 4 houses and 10 apartments were lost with a total of 34 people being left homeless.  Fortunately there was no loss of life and only a few minor injuries.

     The fire was well under control by 5 a.m. and a few hours later there was a heavy rainfall which dampened the smoldering embers.

     Within days of the fire most of the businesses had relocated and opened for business as usual.