Finch, ON Fires, May 1907
Finch has had over the years many fires, but two of the most disastrous occurred on May 16th and 17th, 1907. A condensed account from the Chesterville Record follows:
On Monday afternoon a bonfire exceeded its bounds and ignited coal oil barrels behind A.F. Dey's store. Within a short period of time the whole of the east side of Main St. north to Church St. and east to the then Methodist Church (now Chalmers United) had been destroyed.
The block in which the Dey's store was located was owned by F.D. McNaughton and contained the Merchants' Bank, the Public Library, the armory with the equipment of No. 4 Company of the 59th Regiment and a complete issue of 42 uniforms and rifles, and the local headquarters of the Orange Lodge, all of which were destroyed.
To the east the blacksmith's shop of F.A. Dingwall was consumed, as well as the old St. Luke's Church, which had been moved back and was used for storage. Meanwhile volunteers had hastily removed the organ from the Methodist Church before it too was demolished.
The residents barely had time to take stock of the situation when another fire broke out in the storage area at the rear of Lowe's Store (later the Red & White) and quickly spread to the east where it consumed Arbuthnot's Drug Store, and Thos. Hamilton's Store which housed the telephone exchange and telegraph office.
The Gormley Hotel to the east was saved only through the heroic efforts of the volunteer bucket brigade, in particular, men from Chesterville under the leadership of F. McCloskey, J.T. Kearns and M.J. McEvoy.
The side next to the fire was covered with quilts and blankets which were kept wet. The east side of Hamilton's Store was iron-clad, so it burned from the inside. Props were placed against the walls so that it collapsed inward. All these exceptional efforts to save the hotel elicited many nasty remarks in the days following the fire, to the effect that the proprietor had supplied free refreshments(?) to make sure of enthusiastic help from the bucket brigade.
The fire spread westward across the street to Dan Nephew's Store, G.J. MacDonald's tailor shop (later Dr. MacLeod's) and on to the Presbyterian Church; then northwards to the Barringer house, Munroe house, and Munroe block containing the clerk's office, J. McCuaig's carriage shop and several small barns and carriage sheds.
Around 4:30 a.m. the valiant firefighters who had rallied from every neighbouring village and hamlet had quelled the blaze just short of J.M. Campbell's residence on the west side of Main St. and D.G. MacMillan's on the east side. On the south of Front St., A.
McDougall's General Store, which housed the Post Office, caught fire several times, but was saved.
The total two-day loss was nearly $100,000. From the March 26, 1909 issue of the Record, we read: "Phil Low, son of J.H. Low, confessed on Wednesday to Reeve McNaughton, guilty to two charges of arson in connection with the fire in 1907" (no record of punishment).
Again in 1919, fire destroyed a major portion of the east side of Main St. from Church St. North.