The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Dec 1897

Full Text



Richardsons' Big Warehouse Goes Up in Flames.


Flame is a most excellent servant, but as a master it becomes a tyrant. Held in subjection and its elements properly applied, it provides means for the execution of marvellous wonders, but breaking forth from the bonds that hold it subservient, it becomes an angry fiend, showing respect for no man nor mortal. Nothing is sacred to its consuming mantle, and whatever may be touched bears the marks of the impact. It revels in destruction and dances with glee as it consumes all material with which it comes in contact. In an angry mood it becomes an enemy that fairly baffles the skill of mankind to successfully combat.

The members of the firm of James Richardson & Sons have reason to fear the angry touch of the devouring element. Thrice have they suffered loss from a visitation of the fire fiend in all the dread accompaniment of its unsatiating desire. In 1881 their elevator was completely destroyed and they suffered great loss. Less than a month ago they suffered heavily through the burning of an elevator at Goderich, where they had a great amount of grain stored. Last night, for the third time, fire again scored the firm, completely destroying their very compact elevator and storehouse situated at the foot of Princess street. What was a magnificent structure up to eleven o'clock last night was reduced to a charred, blackened mass by daylight this morning. The remains present a harrowing sight. Of timber little is left.

The metal plates which sheeted the building on the outside, are scattered around indiscriminately, bent, torn and rendered useless. Strong iron rods which were used to make the building firm, traversing it from side to side, are twisted, broken and bent out of all semblance to their former straight condition. Likewise the shafting, not one foot of it can be used again. Two inch bars of steel were twisted in shapeless masses like so much stove-pipe wire. Everywhere are evidences of destruction, a sad, disheartening spectacle.

Only one theory can be formed as to the cause of the fire, and that is that during the day a spark from the smokestack found lodgement in the tower through an open window, smouldering away in a quiet but sure manner, gathering strength every moment, waiting for the decisive hour when sufficient energy would warrant it breaking forth in a wild carnival of destruction. The machinery was in operation the greater part of yesterday, closing down at six o'clock last night. Employees locked up and left the building at that hour. Everything appeared to be in proper condition, and a visitation of the fire fiend was not dreamed of. At 11:15 o'clock the firemen at the Ontario street station were aroused by somebody kicking at the station door, shouting out that Richardsons' elevator was afire. Not a moment was lost in sounding a general alarm, and the entire brigade responded. When the firemen arrived the tower of the elevator was sheeted in fire, the forked flames mounting upwards until, seemingly, they were gathered up by the clouds of night.

The flames chose a good spot for the beginning of their revelry, as air swept up the tower and fanned them to a condition of fury. They sparkled and crackled, sending forth blazing brands, which were carried cityywards by a fairly stiff south-east wind. It was positively dangerous for the firemen to work near the tower, as the falling metal plates, with which the building was covered, threatened at any moment to cleave the men, either killing or maiming them. Still, they never shrunk from their duty, but stuck to their post with commendable courage. However, the magnitude of the fire showed up the inability of the small brigade to cope with it. In comparison it was like an infant holding up its hand to stop the impetus of a gale. The men worked vigorously, but without outside support, especially from the battery men, their efforts would have amounted to naught.

Before the tower fell the fire had extended to all parts of the building. On account of the building being sheeted with metal the firemen found it difficult to fight the flames. The devouring element ate away inside,the smoke finding outlet in the windows above. It was necessary to tear away the metal plates and chop holes in the sides of the building in order to throw streams of water inside, but the flames gained headway faster than they could be checked, despite the fact that every branch of hose was pressed into service. The material upon which the flames fed was as dry as tinder and of the very worst that the fire laddies could have to combat with.

The wind from the south-east carried up towards the city burning brands, which alighted upon the house tops in the neighborhood, igniting the shingles. In this way the roof of the Ottawa hotel was set blazing, also the one covering Tierney Bros.' grocery and liquor store. On all the surrounding housetops and in Massie's lumber yard men were stationed to extinguish the sparks that alighted and threatened to extend the conflagration. Too much credit cannot be given the men of "A" field battery, who turned out and worked with a will, rendering valuable service. Their efforts were well directed and no energy was wasted. Citizens also turned in and supplemented the efforts of the firemen and soldiers, so that chief Youlden had an extensive brigade under his command.

While it was seen that the storehouse would be consumed in any case, the fireworkers directed their efforts toward saving surrounding structures. In this way the office building of the firm, situated about twelve feet from the burning building, and only a few feet from a burning outhouse, was saved. At times it looked like an impossibility to save the office, but by well directed efforts the flames were fought off and were unable to gain a hold. Campbell & Renton's flour mill was also threatened, but was saved from destruction. J.M. Forsythe's buildings, just across the railway tracks, were also in danger but escaped injury. The residence of Capt. Gaskin, the vehicle works, the old Atlantic elevator and other surrounding buildings were also in danger of destruction but were saved by the firemen, assisted greatly by the soldiers and citizens. Capt. Gaskin had a gang of workmen in the employ of the M.T. company stationed at his own residence and on top of J.M. Forsythe's empty buildings. They were supplied with a private line of hose and rendered valuable service in checking the spread of the fire.

The steamer American and schooner Pilot were quartered in the slip to the north of the burning elevator, and before they could be towed out to a place of safety suffered more or less from scorching. All the paint on the steamer was blistered and blackened. The side of the schooner was charred, but not sufficiently to damage the planking. Between twelve and one o'clock the south side of the building, to which adjoined the engine and boiler room, gave way carrying the engine and boiler into the slip where they now lie on the bottom beneath ten feet of water and buried under a pile of grain. The slip, from the shore to near the outer end, is completely filled with grain, which banked itself up to the level of the second story of the elevator. In consequence, Campbell & Renton's flour mill will be unable to resume operations, as the feed pipe to the boiler in their mill enters the slip and is choked up with grain.

By two o'clock the fire workers had the flames pretty well under control. The lurid forks had been calmed and it appeared as though the fire had run its course. Up to this time the elevator leg, situated on the wharf at the end of the storehouse, had not been touched by the flames. Suddenly the wind shifted to the south-west, carrying sparks out to the leg in question. In a moment it was a mass of flame, and it became necessary for the firemen to give it all their attention. While working at it several of them had a narrow escape from being killed. An accident would have happened had not Joseph Grattan warned the firemen of their danger. They had just moved away from beneath the building when the ropes supporting the leg burned through, and the heavy iron appliance fell with a crash, going over the side of the wharf into the water, where it is covered with ten feet of water and a considerable quantity of grain.

The elevator had a capacity of 60,000 bushels, and at the hour the fire broke out it contained about 46,000 bushels, consisting of 30,000 bushels of wheat, 8,000 bushels of oats and 8,000 bushels of peas. More grain was stored therein than at any other time this season. The estimated loss is between $60,000 and $65,000. As near as George Richardson could remember the insurance totals $44,000; the building having $8,500 and the balance being on the grain. Until the books are examined the total loss and amount of insurance can not be actually determined.

The barge Nebraska contains 15,000 bushels of wheat which it was intended to place in the elevator today. Another cargo is on its way down from a western point, but it being consigned to places on the line of the C.P.R. it will be sent on down to Prescott. Quite a lot of grain in this locality was intended for storage in the elevator and within a day at least the building would have contained its complete capacity. Chief Youlden speaks very highly of the conduct and the services rendered by the members of "A" field battery. He says they did nobly and worked without confusion and with well directed effort. Citizens also, he says, worked hard and gave the brigade valued service.

Asked this morning as to whether or not the firm would put another elevator, George Richardson, the senior member of the firm, replied that the firm would surely erect another elevator, but whether the one destroyed would be replaced, or the firm would build elsewhere, he could not say. He thinks that with the amount of insurance, together with the salvage obtained by the recovery of damaged grain, the firm will be fully compensated for its loss. He thought at least 25,000 or 30,000 bushels of damaged grain could be recovered. He was well satisfied with the work performed by the fire brigade. It is difficult, he said, for men to fight fire on an iron sheeted building, but they did well to save the office and its contents. He was well pleased with their work. The books of the firm were not damaged, and when they would be opened tomorrow their loss could be fully figured out. The insurance on the building would not commence to replace it.

It will be at least a couple of days before the fire will be actually conquered. At noon today quite a fresh breeze sprang up, which required some time to dampen. The firemen were kept at work, without intermission, all day and were nearly worn out in consequence. The hose was difficult to handle being encased with ice, and as stiff as a solid piece of metal.

This morning it was difficult to recognize any of the firemen. Their faces were blackened, and their clothing, from head to feet, sheathed in ice. Those who had moustaches had them frozen into a solid mass.

The steamer Merryweather was stationed on Folger's wharf and supplied two branches of hose. The steamer worked for about two hours and a half and then gave out, some part of the machinery becoming defective.....

The only parts of the building left standing are portions of the first storey. Much of the place has been levelled to the ground, the grain being strewed around the ground or emptied into the water. Pulleys, shafting and other pieces of machinery are strewn about in a shapeless, indiscriminate disorder, worthless except, perhaps, for scrap iron.

The actual loss cannot be estimated without taking into consideration the number of men deprived of work. Not only the actual employees, but all the grain shovellers are thrown out of work. Their loss is great indeed.

Lost Their Lives - Escanaba, Mich., Dec. 1st - Dock No. 4 destroyed by fire that started in hold of steamer Nahant; two sailors killed.



The tug Jessie Hall arrived up yesterday with three light barges.

The crews of two of the M.T. company's barges left for their homes last night.

The sloop Madcap discharged 1,500 bushels of wheat at Richardsons' elevator yesterday.

The S.S. Bannockburn from Fort William will reach here on Friday and will go into winter moorings.

The M.T. company's local employees are busy at present laying by for the winter the rigging of the boats.

S. Orr and Dexter Eves have purchased the sloop Two Brothers, owned by Capt. Sherwood. The price paid was $1,000.

The tug Brown, it is said by the Montreal Witness, cannot pass Valleyfield owing to her pontoons being too large. It is feared that this will necessitate the tug lying at Valleyfield until next spring.

The propeller Persia has gone on dry dock at Port Dalhousie for repairs. She will winter at St. Catharines. The steamer Ocean has had her repairs completed, and is off the dry dock at Port Dalhousie.


A Fine Exhibition Of Paintings Now On View.

Ask an artist what he considers the two greatest conditions that have afforded delight to mankind since the world was in its gentlest infancy, and he will answer "light and shade." The art of the toiler of brush and palette, therefore, lies in the successful distribution of light, shade and color, in a manner depicting nature in its exactitude and varying moods. That these truths have been grasped in their fullness by Messrs. Otto E. Hewton and Nicholas Henderson, and that they are sympathetic students of nature, is affirmatively answered by an inspection of the forty seven productions of their skill now on exhibition at Kirkpatrick's art gallery, Princess street. The two artists follow different branches of their profession; one confining himself to portraiture and landscape, the other to depicting with the knowledge of a sailor scenes upon the trackless highway, but their sympathies harmonizing on the mutual point of landscape.

Mr. Hewton shows twenty-six and Mr. Henderson twenty-one paintings......

There is no mistaking the identity of the artist whose marine views are intermixed with the paintings of O.E. Hewton. No hand save that of Nicholas Henderson could have produced those marine scenes with such accuracy and minute detail. His finest picture is that which shows the departure of a fleet of vessels from Chicago harbor, and for which he was awarded a diploma at the world's Columbian exposition, Chicago, in 1893. The award was made upon the recommendation of W. Mosdog, Holland, who is widely known in the world of art, and who was commissioner to the world's fair from his native country. Mr. Henderson claims, however, that his best effort is that showing the steamer Rosemount in a storm in Lake Superior. The handling of this piece of work and its vivid and realistic treatment shows the combination of the true artist and born sailor. Another beautiful thing is that styled "Freshening to a Gale," showing a vessel under full sail with sailors aloft reefing topsail. Mr. Henderson is also quite successful in landscape efforts, everything in the way of woods, bushes, etc., apparently being capable of penetration. His Spanish caravois, painted at the world's fair, are also worthy of notice.....

p.6 General Paragraphs - The big tug W.H. Brown is at Valleyfield and unable to get through the Beauharnois canal on account of the four pontoons protruding over the sides of the boat, making the extreme width greater than the locks. The wooden casings are being taken off the pontoons. There is ice at the canal and at Valleyfield.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Date of Publication:
1 Dec 1897
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
Creative Commons licence:
pd [more details]
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
WWW address
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.

British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Dec 1897