NL GenWeb - St. John's fire 1846

NL GenWeb

Avalon South Region ~ St. John's District

Newspaper account of the St. John's fire of 1846

Transcribed as written (no corrections) by Tammy Hammond, March 2021 from the Wellington Independent, Volume ll, Issue 134, January 23, 1847, Page 3. National Library of New Zealand. While I have endeavored to be accurate, there may be errors.

Destruction by Fire of St. John's Newfoundland

[From the Liverpool Times, July 1]

The Princess Royal, steam packet, from Glasgow, has this morning brought the intelligence of the almost total destruction of St. John's, Newfoundland by an awful conflagration, which broke out on the morning of the 9th of June instant.

The fire broke out at half past nine o'clock in the workshop of Mr. Hamlin, cabinet-maker, *Chuttleworth-street, and in a short time spread in all directions with frightful rapidity. It soon embraced both sides of Queen-street, and came raging towards Water-street in a fiery torrent. It now became apparent, from the increased force of the fire and wind, that nothing could save Water-street, the fire engines not having the least effect. The stone premises of Messr. James and W. Steward, being well built and protected with iron shutters, it was thought might stay its progress for a time; but being surrounded on three sides by wooden buildings, viz.:-- J. Rogerson and Son, Victoria Hotel, and Messrs. C.F. Bennett & Co., as well as their own wooden stores in the rear, they were in a very short time surrounded by fire, and the inmates were cut off from their retreat, and had to escape from the wharfs in boats and vessels, after having rolled into the water about 100 tuns of Seal oil from the wharfs and stores. The fire now became awfully intense and terrific; the oil vats of Messrs. C.F. Bennett & Co., and Messrs. Stewart, with their contents, together with many other combustible materials, and about 150 punchsons molasses, being all on fire at once, the effect may be conceived but not described, and to add to the danger, at this moment three vessels were discovered to be on fire, viz. --the Rozelle, Elizabeth Margaret, and Royal William, which, with exertion, was got under before the flames arrived at any height.

Sir John Harvey and the military were on the ground very early and did all in his power,with his staff and military,, to arrest the flames; but it was soon apparent that all human efforts were vain, and that the fire would only cease from a change of wind, or want of materials to set upon. The rapidity with which events occurred makes it difficult to speak as to time; but perhaps an hour and a have or two hours after its comencement an attempt was made to blow up the premises of Messrs. E. and N. Stabb, which fortunately did not succeed and only resulted in the death of one and the mutilation of another of the Royal artillery. The military and town engines kept in front of the fire, taking up positions where they thought a stand might be made, but it was all in vain – nothing could withstand its awful advances; stone stores, wooden stores slated and covered with sheet iron, seemed not to make the least difference, and apparently did not a moment stay its progress; and at six o'clock the whole of the town, with the exception of the lanes and parts of Gower-street, were prostrate in ashes.

What amount of property lost, or number of houses consumed, may be, it is difficult at once to estimate; but taking the one at a million sterling (including the value of the houses), and the latter at 1500 or 2000, may not be much out of the way. The number of inhabitants at once rendered house-less and totally destitute cannot be much under 6000 to 7000, a great portion of whom are women and children, the male part of the population being at present absent at the fishing; and how they are to subsist, or be lodged and clothed, for the present. God only knows. Unless the powerful arm of the parent Government is mercifully and bountifully stretched forth to support her eldest born colonial offspring, its fate will be deplorable, but we will not despond; the claims are great, and necessities urgent. Generous England, who succours foreigners, and even enemies, will not suffer her loyal and dutiful children to perish from neglect.

Sir John Harvey called a council on the morning of the 10th, and also summoned a public meeting, when a committee of relief was appointed for the daily consideration of urgent claims. He has also convened the House of Assembly on the 16th instant, to take into consideration the state of the country and to place such a portion of the revenue as it might see fit at his disposal.

Note: *Chuttleworth-street, likely meaning Duckworth Street, however, history tells us the shop was on George Street.

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St. John's