Poking through the Great Fire's ashes
A book about the 1877 conflagration that razed Saint
genealogical gold in the form of business, personal and street names.
By Ruby M. Cusack
As Cliff and I walked home from school on this really hot breezy day in June, we hoped Mum would allow us go for swim in the brook but we knew that was unlikely.
When we came into the outside summer kitchen, we were surprised to find Gram sitting there. The other surprise was no aroma of food cooking for supper.
Electric stoves had not arrived at our home at this time, so the only way to cook was on the wood kitchen range. As the day was hot, the fire had been let to die out once dinner was finished. It seemed that as the clock struck three-thirty Mum had gone to the woodshed to get some kindling to start the fire to cook supper. As she leaned down to pick up a stick, a little grey mouse went scurrying past her hand. This was enough fright to send her rushing back to the house.
Upon hearing of Mum's scare, Cliff hurried to the woodshed and brought back some cedar kindling, a couple of pieces of birch bark and an armful of soft wood. Mum rammed this into the stove on top of some crumpled newspapers and lit the fire. Since she was in a hurry to get a good fire going, she left the damper wide open.
Shortly we heard a crackling noise and realized the fire was going up the stove pipe. Mum quickly closed the dampers to try to prevent a chimney fire that was always scary to us but especially on this hot day with a breeze blowing.
Once everything was under control, Gram proceeded to tell us of her parents living in Saint John when the great fire occurred on June 20 of 1877.
The fire started in Joseph Fairweather's building at York Point at half past two. Due to the wind that was blowing the fire spread with alarming rapidity. Lower Cove was on fire and the huge blazing brands were carried in the air and wherever they dropped a house went down. Within nine hours, one thousand six hundred and twelve houses were leveled to the earth within a two hundred acre area covering two-fifths of the entire city. The fire raged with overwhelming violence.
‘The Story of the Great Fire in St. John, N. B." - June 20, 1877 by George Stewart contains detailed information on not only the physical aspect of the fire but gives lists of business houses burnt out, donations that came from far and wide, supplies received. as well as the names of property owners with street names.
The author of this book states, "I have told the story of the great fire in St. John in my own way. I have tried to do justice to my theme. My book has many imperfections. It was necessary that it should be hastily prepared. I can claim the history is reliable in every particular. Not a statement within its pages was committed to paper until it was thoroughly and reliably avouched for. I have verified every word which this volume contains. The book is a complete record of the fire as it was."
‘The Story of the Great Fire in St. John, N. B." - June 20, 1877 by George Stewart is available for viewing in the reference department at several institutions in New Brunswick.
Although the great fire destroyed businesses, homes, furniture, books,
and works of art, Saint John rose again from the ashes.
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Mullin - Anderson: I am searching for information on my great grandparents, Francis Jonah Mullin (1894-1965) and Myrtle S Anderson (1894- 1957). They are buried in the St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Cemetery in Kings County. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.
-Darren Mullin, 43 McKeown Cres., Amherstview, Ontario, Canada, K7N 1Y3. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mann - Bishop - Steeves - MacBeath: My great-great-great grandfather, Robert Mann (1787- 1867) is buried in Kinnear Settlement, in New Brunswick. He married Olive Bishop around 1820. Their son Josiah Mann (1820 - 1859) died of tuberculosis. He was married to Elizabeth Steeves, daughter of David and Jane Steeves. This Steeves family I speak of, is connected to the Steeves who was a Father of Confederation. My grandmother Elizabeth MacBeath, came from a large family (12 or 13 children). She was a school-teacher, was bilingual, and played bridge with pizzazz! I would be interested in finding out more about these relatives
-Deborah Leigh Mann, 426 Adilman Drive, Saskatoon, SK., Canada, S7K 7H2. E-mail email@example.com.
Whalen - Phalen: Matthew Whalen / Phalen was a school teacher. He arrived in New Brunswick in about 1829. His wife was named Margaret and two children Catherine and Thomas. The mother has a child in NB in 1829 named Mary Ann Whelan. I am interested in locating anything about this family or any possible school affiliations.
-E. Temte,121 South 16th Street, LaCrosse, WI., 54601, USA. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruby is a genealogy buff. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at email@example.com. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.