The Gibson Fire - June 20, 1893

Gibson in Ashes

This was the item header in the Tuesday, June 20, 1893, edition of The Daily Gleaner. The headings went on:

Terrible Conflagration This Afternoon

The Worst in This Vicinity since 1850

Nearly 100 Buildings Destroyed

And Almost All the Furniture and Contents With Them

From Arthur Sewell's Down to the Mouth of the Nashwaak

Ruin In All Directions

Two Churches, a Station House and a Round House

Go Up in Flame With the Rest

With these dire headlines the article goes on to state:

"The greater part of the village of Gibson is burning and lying in ashes as The Gleaner goes to press this afternoon; and the greatest conflagration which has visited this county since the great fire of November 11, 1850, is now raging.

"The fire broke out in Mr. Arthur Sewell's barn in rear of residence at 2: 30 o'clock while the heavy gale of to-day was at its height, and in less time than it takes to tell it the barn and house were a mass of flames.

"The fire was at once seen from the city, and in a few minutes the river bank, the bridge and all points from which the flames as they spread could be viewed, were lined with citizens.

" Aid was asked from the city, but the steam fire engine Alexandria was then engaged at the fire below Hale & Murchie's mill. A large detachment, however, of the firemen and salvage corp promptly started for the scene; and hundreds of citizens followed to lend what aid was in their power.

"By the time the firemen reached Mr. Sewell's, his house and barn were in ashes, and a dozen or more buildings on either side of the road were a mass of raging flame.

"It was clear that every house in the village in the path of the wind was doomed to speedy destruction.

"The furniture which had already been taken from the houses in the immediate vicinity of Mr. Sewell's was burning in the yards, the fields and on the sidewalks, and the remnants of many a happy home were being quickly destroyed in whatever direction one looked. It was useless to think of saving anything within the area which the flames had then covered.

"All efforts were then abandoned to save the houses and furniture on the main road above the railroad crossing, and the firemen and friends directed their attention to the buildings below. In the meantime the C.P.R. round house had taken fire, and in less than a minute afterwards Mr. Macklin's barn and house, and half a dozen others residences near by fell victims to the devouring element. Then came the new Baptist Church, and a dozen other buildings. Here again the firemen were forced to abandon their efforts to assist residents on the road leading to Marysville, but almost before they reached there the buildings on either side of the road, shops and residences alike, were being rapidly consumed.

"The heat was intense, beyond human endurance, and finally all were forced to stand aside only to see building after building ignite and rapidly pass to destruction.

"The scene is impossible of description, that of mothers and children endeavoring to save their furniture, and of mothers looking for their little ones whom they had lost in the excitement of the moment was heart-rending in the extreme. One mother was in the city shopping while her house was being destroyed. She had left her little one in the house. Her feelings can be better imagined than described when she was' being driven to the scene, and could get no infonnation at the time as to the whereabouts of her child. She was upwards of half an hour in the deepest mental agony before she was aware that an neighbor had her babe in a place of safety.

"At four o'clock the fire had completely wiped out all the buildings on the main road from Arthur Sewell's to Close's comer, and as far out as W.H. White's comer all of the buildings on either side were in flames, and rapidly going up in smoke.

"The C.P.R. depot and buildings and the row of residences opposite and below were the next to go, and from here the fire spread down the road almost to the Canada Eastern depot, which was in imminent danger when The Gleaner went to press.

"It was thought that the Nashwaak would surely be the limit of the devastation, but so high was the wind that the burning cinders were carried below to the barn and fine residence of Mr. Thomas Barker, and they too shared the fate of the buildings above.

"In all there are about a hundred buildings destroyed, and the loss will aggregate fully $150,000.

"When a Gleaner reporter left Gibson at four o'clock several children were missing, but it is not thought that any have lost their lives in the fire, but that when order is restored their whereabouts will be ascertained "

After listing the buildings destroyed the account continued:

"Mr. Jas. R. Ruel was badly burned during the progress of the fire. He was brought to town for medical treatment.

"The fire is said to have been caused by the lighting of matches with which Mr. Sewell's children were playing in the barn.

Wednesday, June 21, 1893, edition of The Daily Gleaner ran the following article:

"The village of Gibson presents a desolate sight to-day after the great fire of yesterday. From the starting point of the conflagration, at Arthur Sewell's, down to Close's corner, on both sides of the road, and from there down to the Canada Eastern round house and out to the Nashwaak Bridge road, in which district there were yesterday over one hundred and twenty-five happy homes there is not a building to be seen, if Babbitt's mill and the houses of John Allen and George

Logan on the river bank are excepted. It is one long scene of ruin and desolation. Chimneys and foundations are the only remnants of what was yesterday the 'business' centre of a prosperous village. Not even a vestige is left of a wall or even a floor, everything being reduced to fine ashes. This terrible devastation was the work of two and a half hours time, which fact describes the fierceness of the conflagration better than words.

The June 21, 1893, edition of The Daily Gleaner listed the consequences of the conflagration: The value of insurance, if any is given in square [ ] brackets.

From Arthur Sewell's down to the Marysville Road on the south side (roughly from Neill St. to Gibson on the river side of Union):

Arthur Sewell - dwelling house and barns owned by occupant, $4,000; all furniture lost. [Residence & barn, $2.000; furniture $800.]

Arthur Sewell -dwelling house, occupied by Wm Nelson, $800; almost all furniture lost.

Abbie Neill - Tenament House occupied by 4 families, $1000. All furniture lost.

Mrs. Cowperthwaite -Dwelling house, occupied by owner & McLean family, over $1.000; all furniture lost. [Residence. $400.)

Malcolm Brown - Dwelling house, $1,200, all furniture lost.

Harry Currie of Woodstock - residence occupied by Alex Heron, $1,000; few articles of furniture saved.

Charles Chase - residence unoccupied, $1.200.

Mrs. Currie of Woodstock - dwelling house occupied by Mrs. Colwell, $1000. Half of furniture rescued.

Chesley Moore - residence, $1000, nearly all furniture lost. [Residence $700, furniture $300.]

George Sherwood - dwelling occupied by Chas. Hall, $800, all furniture lost.

Benj. Babbitt - residence, $1,500, all furniture lost. [dwelling, $1,500, furniture $300.]

Ezekiel Allen - residence, $800. Furniture nearly all lost. [dwelling $600.]

C.P.R. Round House burnt. Babbitt's saw mill up river from the round house and two small houses owned and occupied by John Allen & George Logan were not burnt. However the lumber at the mill valued at $3.000 was destroyed. [It was insured for $300.]

Below the Round House - C.P.R. depot & tunnel burnt. Below station 4 cottages owned by the C.P.R. and occupied respectively by James Bailey, Mr. BagneIl, Owen Doherty and Isaac Smith were all destroyed together with all furniture in them. Buildings worth $1.200 apiece.

The fire stopped here and the Canadian Eastern Railway depot, the old brick works and the old tannery were left standing.

Across from Arthur Sewell's on the north side of what is now Union, near Neill St. and coming down toward Gibson the fire destroyed the following:

Mrs. Robt. Neill - dwelling, $1.500, all furniture lost.

Hiram Brewer - dwelling occupied by himself and Charles Brown. $1,000, all furniture lost.

Hiram Brewer - dwelling occupied by Rev. Mr. P.R. Knight, $1,200. [dwelling, $400. Mr. Knight's furniture and carriages $400)

Malcolm Brewer - shop, $500, stock all lost, $500.

Daniel Flinn - occupied by Abraham Rideout & John Culligan, $800, all furniture lost.

Abbie Neill - dwelling occupied by the Widow Rideout, $500, all furniture lost.

Chris Johnston - dwelIing occupied by the widow Titus and Samuel Merritt, $800, all furniture lost.

Justis Gill - occupied by Mrs. Sherwood, $800, all furniture lost.

Jas. R Gardner, post master - dwelling, $1,000. All furniture lost. [residence $600, furniture $200].

Henry Garrity - residence, $1,000, nearly all furniture lost.

Benj. Babbitt - dwelling, $1,200. [dwelling $1,500; furniture $300]

Benj. Babbitt - shop, $700. Entire stock lost $1,200. [store $250. stock $500.]

Baptist church - Burnt, $3000. [building $1,500, organ $100]

Henry Sewell - $1,200. Furniture all lost. [Dwelling $1,000, furniture, piano, carriages, $750]

Robt MackIin, - residence with barns, $3,000. All furniture lost. [residence $1,500, crops $500]

Prof. Bailey - large building on comer - J.R. Garden store downstairs, Hall upstairs, $2,000. All remaining stock destroyed. [Garden's Hall, $1,200]

Below the corner (i.e. of what is now Gibson & Union) on north side:

Alex. Gibson - tenament house occupied by David Cowie & Bevan Hughes, $1,000. [$2,000]

G.S. Peters - residence, $1,200.

Mrs. Andrew McLaughlin of Boston - dwelling occupied by Charles Morgan & David Wallace, $1,000. Considerable furniture saved.

Thos Hoben - residence, $1,200, all furniture lost.

Chas. Johnson of McAdam - dwelling occupied by Timothy Trib, $800, all furniture lost.

P.A. Logan - dwelling occupied by Rev. Mr. Parkinson, $2,500, most of furniture and library lost. [house $2,000]

Recorder A.D. Yerxa - residence, $2,100. some furniture saved. [dwelling & barns $1,200; furniture, $500.]

Harry Pickard - dwelling, $1,200. Furniture nearly all lost. (house $900, furniture $400]

John F. Miles - dwelling and two barns, grainery and woodshed. Some furniture saved. $2,500. [house and outbuilding $1,600)

James Pickard - dwelling, $1,200. Greater part of furniture saved. [dwelling $1,000]

Beverley Jewett - building, $500, all furniture lost.

Stair Jewett & sisters - residence, $400, all furniture lost.

Shop owned by P.A. Logan and occupied by Miss Merrithew, dressmaker, $200 value. Miss Merrithew lost nearly all her goods.

Dwelling owned by P.A. Logan, occupied by Wm Dennison. Value $1,200. All furniture lost.

Dwelling owned by Maurice Macklin, occupied by Robert Noble, value $1,100. All furniture lost. [Insurance $1,000]

Dwelling and Shop owned by Charles Bailey. Value $1,200. All furniture, stock valued at $2,000-$3,000 and account books lost.

Dwelling and Blacksmith shop of C.A. Parlee. value $800. Almost everthing lost. [$400 on dwelling]

Dwelling of Wm Rosborough occupied by James Semple and another family. Value $2,000. Furniture all lost. This was formerly the Orange Hall. [$1,100]

Dwelling owned and occupied by B. Webb. Value $500. Furniture all lost.

Dwelling owned in Fredericton, occupied by Robert Johnston, value $600. Furniture nearly all lost.

Shop owned by above person in Fredericton, occupied by James Merrithew as feed store. Value $300-$400. All stock lost.

Dwelling owned by Wm. H. White, occupied by John Billings. immediately below Methodist Church (now Gibson Memorial United) was saved.

On the opposite side of what is now Gibson Street from the comer with Union the following were consumed in the conflagration along with Gibson's hotel on the comer:

Blacksmith shop of Wm. Bradley. Value $300. Everything lost.

Dwelling of David Evans. Value $300. Nearly all furniture lost.

Dwelling owned by Christopher Robinson. occupied by James Merrithew. Value $1,200. Furniture nearly all lost.

Dwelling of Lewis Belyea. Value $1,000. Furniture nearly all lost.

Shop owned by Lewis Belyea occupied by Lloyd Belyea. Value $200. All stock lost.

Dwelling of Everett Johnson. Value $1,000. Almost all furniture lost. [$500 on building]

John Kyle's dwelling and store. Value $1,200. All stock and nearly all furniture lost. [$700]

Wm. H. White's Hotel. Furniture all lost. Value $2,000. [$2,000] This building was on the southwest corner of what are now Gibson and Barker Streets. Beyond the comer on Gibson St. two homes were consumed:

Dwelling of Edward Johnson. All furniture lost. Value $1,000. [$700 on dwelling, $350 on furniture.]

Dwelling of David Coombes. All furniture lost. Value $1,000. [$800]

On the north side of the Nashwaak Bridge Road (Barker Street) the following were destroyed:

Dwelling of Fred Pond. All furniture lost. Value $1,000. [$800]

Dwelling of Widow Byram. Furniture all lost. Value $600 [$500]

Dwelling of John Taylor. Nearly all furniture lost. Value $600

Dwelling of John Boyd. Most furniture saved. Value $800.

On the south side of the Nashwaak Bridge Road the following were burnt:

Dwelling of Widow Wallace occupied by George Logan. All furniture lost. Value $800.

Dwelling owned by Wm. Campbell, occupied by Charles Sterling. All furniture lost. Value $1,000. [$250 on furniture]

On the cross Road from the Nashwaak Bridge Road to Main Street (Titus Street?) the following were devoured in the flames:

Dwelling of Horatio Fradsham. Furniture nearly all lost. Value $1,200. [$800]

Dwelling of Sherwood Yerxa. Nearly all furniture lost. Value $1,200. [Insurance $750]

Dwelling of Mrs. McLaughlin of Boston, occupied by Hartley Smith & Samuel Gorse. Furniture nearly all lost. Value $1,200.

Dwelling owned by Mrs. McLaughlin, occupied by Turney Estabrooks. Nearly all furniture lost. Value $600.

Dwelling of Charles Titus. Everything lost. Value $600.

Dwelling of Moses White. Everything destroyed. Value $800. [$1,000]

Providentially no one was directly killed in the fire. Sadly, one person, James R. Ruel was burned seriously enough about the arms and back to be hospitalized. The other person reported injured was the Rector of St. Mary's, the Rev'd John Parkinson who had his hands badly scorched as he tried in vain to save his valuable library which included a collection of theological works which he and his father had collected.

By Thursday, 2 days after the fire, a relief committee was formed consisting of:

Hall's Bookstore in Fredericton became a depot for donations from Fredericton and a public meeting was held in the city on Friday evening to consider ways and means to help. Likewise, in Marysville, Boss Gibson and the ladies immediately volunteered assistance to "the lady sufferers and children in the way of clothing, boots and shoes, hats and caps and all other items of ladies apparel."

The Methodist Church Hall became a shelter where meals were served and "every resident in Gibson, north of the burnt district, cheerfully found shelter for their unfortunate neighbours; others were accommodated by our citizens (i.e. Frederictonians)."

Guardian angels were certainly at work when Mrs. Macklin in the excitement left her baby down in the field for a minute and when she returned it was gone. She was beside herself till it was discovered in the care of a neighbour half an hour afterward.

The Country Recorder, Abraham Yerxa had buried his wife Catherine the previous week, and was left homeless at an age of 71.

Mr. And Mrs. B.H. Babbitt, lost house and home, but were compensated by the safe arrival in the early hours of the day after the fire of a baby daughter.