The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Upper Canada Herald (Kingston, ON), April 21, 1840

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We are again called upon to record a most desolating fire, which has laid a large part of the Town in ashes. About half-past one o'clock on Saturday morning, the roof of Mr. Counter's old storehouse took fire from the sparks of the steamer Telegraph's chimney, and the wind blowing a gale from the south at the time, the fire was rapidly communicated to the new warehouse, to the steamboat Cataraqui, the schooner Lord Nelson, the adjacent warehouse and houses of Mr. Fraser occupied by the Ottawa Company, to Dillon's Tavern, to the whole of the north block of the Market Square, and to the whole of the next block up to Store Street, excepting the Commercial Bank, Greenshields & Ross's house and store, Mr. Chesnut's, and Mrs. Macaulay's, - thus destroying nearly the whole of two blocks of buildings, and the immense warehouses and wharves of the Ottawa Company, with all their contents, including about 15,000 barrels of flour, a large quantity of pork, potash, dry goods, liquors, wines, etc., besides severely wounding several persons by an explosion of gunpowder in Mr. Fraser's store, at the wharf.

It is assumed that the fire was communicated from the Telegraph, as she was lying close alongside, "firing up," with the wind blowing on the buildings. Some persons have supposed that the place was set on fire by some of the Telegraph's people, and it is said that a passenger in her at the previous trip to Kingston heard them threatening revenge on this town; but this horrible suspicion requires better evidence to sustain it than has yet been given. Some persons believe it because the boat got up her steam and departed, just before the fire was seen, long before her usual time of starting; but the captain was compelled to put off to save his boat from being stranded by the wind and weather, that side of the wharf being very unsafe one in a southern gale. One of the Ottawa boats was sunk there two years ago. It was very dangerous to allow steam boats to get up steam close alongside these wooden buildings, for they took fire by sparks from the Kingston a year ago, but there was no intentional criminality in the case. Mr. McPherson had ordered his store-keeper to watch the Telegraph when she fired up, and take care that no sparks were allowed to lodge on the buildings, but the order seems to have been neglected, or rather, the storm caused her to get up steam sooner than was expected.

The hands on the steamer Cataraqui were among the first who saw the fire. The cook and a boy slept on deck, and the cook was awoke by the fire. He called up the steward, at which time the fire had not spread more than a yard on the roof. They instantly called up the other hands, and strove to get the steamer out; but she had been fastened so securely to prevent the gale from forcing her from her moorings that some time elapsed before she was cast or cut loose; and then the waves forced her in against all the men's efforts to push her out. In the mean time the schooner's rigging took fire, and the steamer's promenade deck also; and the flames spread so fast that the men were compelled to leave the boat to her fate. They both drifted out afterwards, by a change of wind, and were driven down the harbour in flames. The schooner went against the bridge, and would soon, of course, have set it on fire too, but Captain Sandom manned his boats, grappled the fiery mass, towed it off and anchored it at a distance. The burning steamer drifted against Mr. Scobell's wharf, but was pushed off, floated against the bridge, and was towed off by Captain Sandom.

further details of losses, explosion of 40 kegs of gun powder helped spread fire (another 1 1/2 columns)

We understand that the steamer Dolphin has been seized at Ogdensburgh for debt.

Notice - Messrs. Macpherson & Crane beg leave to notify their friends and the public that, notwithstanding the recent destruction of their Storehouses and contents, by fire, they will yet be enabled, from their means of Transport, to give the property of their customers the same despatch to and from Montreal that they had previously contemplated; nor will that disastrous event at all interrupt their general business. Kingston, 20th April, 1840.

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April 21, 1840
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Upper Canada Herald (Kingston, ON), April 21, 1840