The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

June 27th, 2012

Fire of 1896

Nov. 2, 1933 Springhill Record- Disastrous Fire 1895 Wiped Out 38 Business Houses

     A copy of the Springhill Advertiser, published August 8, 1895, was given to us by Mr. Colin McLeod and contains an interesting account of the big $100,000 fire that swept the south side of Main Street, destroying 38 buildings.  We have reprinted the full story below.  The Advertiser composed of eight pages 16 x 11 inches and edited by H. A. McKnight.

     Springhill has again been the scene of a disastrous fire, which has resulted in a large amount of valuable property, estimated at about $100,000.  The loss of such a large amount of property – though a few will profit from it – will be felt by a majority of our citizens, and will thus be another drawback to the prosperity of our town, which has suffered very much already from bad trade.  Now we hope that when trade does liven up a little, as it must do soon, our town council will make every effort to get in the waterworks.  The want of water was very much felt at the fire.  Many a smaller and less important town in Nova Scotia than Springhill has its waterworks.  Why can’t we have them? 

    If the town is too poor, you say, why not get some company to put it in for us.  If we had had a large supply of water and plenty of hose, the fire could have been checked much sooner than it was.  Many of our citizens were heard to remark, “Just what I was expecting.”  Now, who is not all the time expecting a fire in any town?  What we want to do is be more careful in preventing fires.  The report that the fire must have been caused by someone, we scarcely think is true.  The person, who would attempt it, must have a hard heart to set fire to a building which contained so many horses and to see the poor animals burned to death.  It would require a person of considerable courage to attempt such a thing, and he could scarcely fail to be detected in town where everybody knows his neighbor. 

    Many reasons for the fire can be given, as for instance many of our better informed citizens think that it must have been caused by the spontaneous combustion of some oily cotton waste or rag laying around the kerosene casks which were in the stables.  It is a well known fact that cotton rags or waste when saturated with oil, will in warm weather take fire by spontaneous combustion, which is generally supposed to be the cause of many disastrous fires.  This should be a hint to many of our tradespeople not to allow oily waste or rags to be laying on wooden floors, which we have often seen. 

    We here congratulate those of our citizens who again distinguished themselves in their efforts to check the fire.  It takes Springhill men to check a fire.  Many when they first saw the fire were positive that it would carry away more of the town than it did, and some of these seemed sadly disappointed when their prophecy fell through, and the fire was checked where it was.  Our citizens must feel sorry for the sad accident which happened to Ernest Dwyer, one of the most popular young men.  His leg was broken and his head severely injured.  Another sad event was the breaking of the bed on which some persons were carrying poor Mrs. Humphries.  We were sorry to see a number of our young fellows disgracing themselves by getting drunk.  If they have the least spark of self-consciousness left, they must now, we are sure, feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves.  The fire will disturb many of the rest of many our citizens for some time to come as they will be wondering if it won’t be their turn next.

     The following business places were burnt out:

     Victoria Street – Glendenning, Livery Stable; Ryan, Livery Stable; Barker, Restaurant; Simpson, Carriage Factory; Hunter, Feed Store; Coghill, Niagara Hotel; Coghill, Livery Stable; Murray, Ware-Rooms; Heffernan, Furniture.

     Main Street – Hollahan & McGinley, Billiards; Fraser, Dry Goods, etc; Bell & Co., Bankrupt Stock; Gillispie, Boots & Shoes; O’Donnell, Photographer; Hopkins, Butcher; Murray, Groceries; Peel Bros., Barbers; Murray, J. P., Insurance, etc.; Forbes, Tailor; Jones, Barber; Leadbetter, Pint Shop; Crowe, Groceries etc; Anderson, Watchmaker; Gould, Restaurant; Robinson, Boots & Shoes; Armshaw, Confectionary; Pineau, Tailor; Hall’s Hall.

     Elm Street – R. McKenzie, Undertaker; also 8 buildings belonging to Wm. Hall, making in all 38 buildings.