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Bobcaygeon’s Bolton Street Fire, September 14, 1913

April 15, 2024

The North End of Bolton Street Before the 1913

Originally Printed in the Lindsay Post, September 19, 1913

The late summer of 1913 was a difficult season in the Kawarthas. In rapid succession, terrible wildfires were raging north of the lakes, Peterborough’s J.C. Turnbull & Co. Department Store collapsed while it was open and the shops at the head of Bobcaygeon’s Bolton Street burned. These Bolton Street stores had a been a focal point of the village, located on the main street, right beside the canal. They were rebuilt, and the new block looked very different than its predecessor. The next summer brought the outbreak of the Great War.

Places Burned

Thurston’s Harness Shop

Bardeau’s barber shop and residence upstairs

E.J. Wollard, druggist

Bank of British North America

E.J. Broad, confectioner

A.F.& A.M. Lodge Room

Estimated Loss

The loss of buildings and stock is estimated at $15,000 or $20,000. Insurance $6,000 or $7.000. Mr. E.J. Wollard, druggist, saved about one-quarter of his stock. E.J. Broad saved nearly all his stock. A.F. & A.M. lost everything, as did Mr. Bordeau, barber. The Bank of British North America had its books, etc. in the vault.

Sunday morning about 6:30 o’clock, the village of Bobcaygeon was visited by another disastrous fire, and two hours after the alarm was sounded, seven stores and other buildings were a mass of ruins. The cause of the blaze is a mystery. It started in Thurston’s harness shop, and was first noticed, it said, by Mrs. Wm. Hall, who was on her way home from nursing a sick person on John Street.

Mr. Bordeau, who conducts a barber shop, and whose residence was over the shop, was awakened by the smell of smoke and the crackling of the flames. He arose from his bed and on investigating found that the block was in flames. He got his wife and three children safely out of the doomed building, and then ran back upstairs and grabbed and armful of clothes. This is all he saved from the upstairs apartments.

When the alarm sounded the villagers turned out and flocked to the scene of the conflagration. The fire was raging fiercely and was licking up everything like matchwood. As a result, there as very little opportunity to save some of the contents of the doomed sores. Consternation and excitement reigned on all sides as it was felt that the village was doomed to destruction. The brigade was on hand promptly with the engine, but it refused to work satisfactorily, and as a result valuable time was lost. A hose was attached to the pump in the flour mill and a good stream was secured. The villagers worked like Trojans in assisting the firemen and rendered valuable aid in preventing the flames from spreading to adjoining buildings. A slight breeze was blowing and the cinders were carried some distance. In fact, several places in the village took fire, and it was due alone to the plucky fight put up by the villagers that the fire did not spread and take in a wider area.

The scene during the fire beggars description. The village had been scourged with several serious fires of late, and when the citizens saw the business houses being swept before the merciless onslaught of the flames, they almost gave up in despair. A number of villagers had actually started to get their household effects in readiness to have them removed to the safety zone, but were assured by cooler heads that the fire would be confined to a certain area.

Everybody took a hand in fighting the flames, which sent up their forked tongues heavenwards and made an scene not soon to be forgotten. The burning area resembled a fiery furnace and the intense heat drove the fire-fighters back many times, but they fought on with the tenacity of drowning men, for several hours, when the fire king was at bay, but not before he had left a path of destruction in his wake.

During the progress of the conflagration, Taylor’s block took fire from the flying cinders. There were fully four inches of cinders on the roof of Warden Bottum’s store. The post office was on fire two or three times as well as Bottom’s gasoline house. Herb Mark’s stable some distance from the blaze, also took fire three or four times. The prompt work of the villagers prevented the destruction of these buildings.

All that is left of the business houses is a pile of brick and charred timbers. The fire cut a wide swath in the business section of the village, and the scene presented to a visitor on Sunday morning was one of destruction and waste. The fire is a bad blow to the village, and more especially to those who were burned out. With commendable enterprise the merchants affected by this fire are already seeking temporary quarters preparatory to starting in business again.

The Post extends its sympathy to the village and to those who suffered by the disastrous blaze. It is to be hoped that, Phoenix-like, the business houses will rise from their ashes, better and bigger than ever. There are rumours in circulation regarding the cause of the blaze, one of them being of a various serious character. The Post was informed today that an investigation will be held. The fire demoralized the Bell Telephone Co.’s service in the village, knocking out about 150 feet of cable. The company expects to have service restored by tomorrow night.

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