York County GenWeb: History St. Marys Fire Part 1
After the 1882 fire in St. Marys Walter MacFarlane and Susan Squires' father went shares in buying a hand engine from Fredericton paying $100 for it. Firemen's Festivals were held every summer for a number of years on the front lawn of the Rev'd William Jaffrey's home and subsequently in a field belonging to James Hayes as there was more room. The money raised at these went to build a fire station and buy new fire hoses and uniforms for the men.1These endeavors were to prove their worth as indicated by the following from the Tuesday, October 17, 1893, edition of The Daily Gleaner: 

St. Mary's is Again a Victim Of Its Dread Enemy, the Fire Fiend
Twenty Three Buildings Laid in Ashes Comprising Many Comfortable Homes and Busy Shops.

"Scarcely has the village of Gibson, at the lower end of the Parish of St. Mary's, risen from the ashes in which the fire fiend laid her four months ago, when her enterprising sister village, just above, is attacked by the same dread enemy and consigned to a like fate.

When the residents of St. Mary's Ferry, (with) their accustomed contentment, retired to their beds last night, they little dreamed of the scene upon which they were to look this morning. The main street, with its row of busy shops and comfortable homes on either side, and Jaffrey street (running parallel thereto fifty yards above), with its pleasant cottages, were no doubt scenes upon which they hoped to look for years. But fate ruled otherwise.

When the light of this morning made its first appearance these scenes had gone forever. The fire fiend had returned to the village and converted all into ashes.

Shortly before four o'clock this morning, Mr. Isaac Starkey, who lived in the dwelling house immediately in the rear of Mr. Thos. Biden's dwelling and bakery on the bank of the river, awoke, and, looking out of the window of his bedroom, discovered flames bursting through the roof of the adjoining woodshed. He at once awakened the inmates of his house and proceeded to alarm the neighbors. Before, however, anything could be done to stay the progress of the fire, the flames had communicated to the house, and the rear of Mr. Biden's bakery was also on fire. Mr. Dayton's dwelling and store next fell a victim to the flames, and from that one building after another quickly caught until the entire central portion of the village was a mass of seething fire. From the water's edge, at the old ferry landing, up main street to the corner, where the post road intersects it, no a single building was left standing save Mr. Winslow Tilley's on the south corner, which was badly gutted. Turning around this corner up the post road all the buildings on the southern side thereof up to Jaffrey street were also leveled, and from Alfred Haine's house, on the upper side of Jaffrey street, down to Rev. Mr. Jaffrey's on the river bank the same clean sweep was made as on the main street.

In all twenty-three buildings, not including barns and out-buildings, were destroyed, and in most cases their contents were consumed with them. The buildings burned comprised between twenty-five and thirty homes, a dozen or more shops of various kinds, two hotels, and two warehouses.

The total loss is estimated at between fifty and sixty thousand dollars. The insurance will probably reach over half that amount.

The origin of the fire is unknown. Many believe it to be the work of an incendiary".2

This observation is confirmed by Susie Squires reminesciences regarding this conflagration:
"It started directly behind our house. We were satisfied it was set but we could not prove it. The flames were going over a third story window when we woke. In the back shop. just through a thin wall from where the fire started were five barrels of oil on tap. One was machine oil, one fish oil, two paint oil, one boiled and one raw, and a barrel of kerosene. We had just twenty minutes to dress and get what we could out of the house. One of thebig fire engines from Fredericton was brought over and taken down the ferry hill and the hose put in the river. It did good work and saved the houses on the road to the bridge. The little hand engine saved Alfred Haine's house and kept the fire from spreading up the Douglas Road. Twenty-four houses were burned beside barns and sheds.

From a sanitary point of view the fire was no doubt a blessing for it cleaned out a lot of old buildings that were packed in close together. One doctor said that the place was ripe for typhoid fever. But of course it was a big money loss".3

The Daily Gleaner of Oct. 18, 1893, reported : "Yesterday's fire destroyed the two oldest buildings in the village, one was the building occupied by Thomas Biden as a store and dwelling on Main Street; and the other the residence of Rev. Wm. Jaffrey. These were among the first buildings erected on that side of the river.
Samuel Dayton lost a valuable gold watch chain. It was hanging in his room, and about everything else was saved. The watch was forgotten. He will fit up a part of his warehouse opposite the soap factory for a temporary store, where he will carry on business for the winter. Mr. Dayton is one of the heaviest losers by the fire. He only carried $1,500 insurance and his loss will amount to not less than $4,500. Whitman Haines is also a heavy sufferer. He lost his own dwelling and outbuildings with most of his furniture, and also two tenement houses and a big three story building on main street.

The Foresters lost all their lodge furniture and impediments. They had $200 insurance which expired a few days ago, but which had not been renewed!

It is a most fortunate thing for the village that the fire did not get across Douglas street, and the men who fought and saved Vanwart's building practically saved the town. Had this building burned, the handsome new residence and outbuildings of Walter McFarlane must also have gone. Mr. McFarlane was burnt out about a year ago, and had his building gone again. it is very doubtful if he would have re-built, and his removal from the village would have taken the greater part of the energy and business life of the place with it."4

1. Reminiscences of Early St. Marys, Squires, Susan, 1936, p.23; 
2. op. cit.; 
3.  Squires, p.23f; 
4. op. cit.

Back to top

Last revised: February, 2001