Gibson Fire
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.1

The 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.1

1. UNB Library. The Daily Gleaner Microfilm. June 20, 1893; ibid. June 21, 1893, p.3.

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Last revised: February, 2001