FIRE AT HOCHELAGA SCHOOL

On February 26, 1907, fire broke out in the Hochelaga School on Prefontaine street. Sixteen young children perished in the fire, along with the school principal, Sarah Maxwell, who lost her life attempting to rescue many of the children. Names of the children are listed below.

BNQ collection

Pennie Redmile has VERY kindly photocopied reams of articles written about the fire from the Montreal newspapers of the day, all details from which, will be added to this page in October. Thanks also to Ada Clark, Karen Warmerdam and Arlene Zirkel, who have offered to help type many of the articles which Pennie has photocopied. 

After hours of photocopying and reading newspaper articles about the fire, Pennie posted this brief synopsis to the Montreal mailing list on August 31st.....
 

"This story about the fire in East End Montreal in 1907 was the worst known disaster  - to date - involving children.

The fire apparently broke out just before 2pm & by 3pm the bravery of some - had resulted in most of the children being saved.. but tragically - 16 children & their beloved principal Miss Sarah Maxwell - perished - leaving Montreal just reeling from shock.

It was  a 4 story building & the older children were on the bottom floors & the younger children were on the upper floors. The newspaper gives conflicting renditions... but it seems that there was smoke & that wasn't unusual as they had a faulty furnace. By the time anyone realized the danger, it was too late to get the children out.. as the stairwells were full of thick smoke. Miss Maxwell & the teachers herded the children  back to the safety (??) of the upper room. 

Meanwhile there was an ice house almost directly across the street..& the workers there saw the flames & ran to find ladders - to reach the upper window/s. Not enough ladders were found...but of the ones that were, the men were able to save many children, thanks to the fact that Miss Maxwell & the teachers..were lifting the children (6-8yrs olds) out the windows to the men. Though relatively young, this was an enormous feat on the part of these women as the children must have been heavy . One story says the fire dept only saved 2 children.. (didn't get there in time) & almost saved Miss Maxwell..but an explosion prevented that. Another story says Miss Maxwell just collapsed from fatique. At least 50 children were saved.  -- The confusion that followed was "unreal" - as desperate parents arrived on the scene searching for their loved ones. Many had been taken to homes nearby.. & the bodies had been taken to the morgue. The newspaper had full coverage of the anguish (& in some cases relief) of the parents who feared the worst...& later found their children alive. The inconsolation  of the parents who lost children is difficult to read.

Then followed a campaign (seems to have been the brainchild of the Montreal Star - but I've only looked at that newspaper.) They  asked children to send in their donations for a fitting "memorial" to Miss Maxwell.  I've found 13 "instalments" so far.. & this certainly will interest all of you who had family in Montreal at the time... but I can't possibly type up all these names. The idea was (& here's where we come in) to help future Montrealers know the bravery of this one lady by making a "memorial" to her memory that no one could forget." 

More information will be added in October. Pennie will also be contributing what she's learned, for an article about the fire, in the December issue of the QFHS publication "Connections". 
 

THOSE WHO DIED DETAILS RELATIVE
Maxwell, Sarah school principal
aged 31 (lived 479A St Urbain St with her mother)
 
Anderson, James Frederick aged 6½
94 St Germain St
only child of JF Anderson
 
Andrew, Annie Jackson aged 8 
dau/ Henry Jackson Andrew
63 Cuvillier St
 
Davey, Edna aged 5½ yrs, 
14 Marlborough St 
dau/ John Davey
 
Forbes, Cecilia aged 6 
59 Cuvillier St 
dau/ Thomas Forbes
 
Golson, Edith aged 6 yrs & 8 months 
311 Stradacona St, 
dau/o John Golson
 
Hingston, Gladys aged 6
dau/ Wm Hingston 
57a Rouville St
 
Jackson, Albert Edward aged 6 
of 22 Wurtele St 
son of John H Jackson
 
Johnson, Joseph aged 7
424 Cuvillier St 
younger s/o Thomas Johnson
 
Lampton, Ethel aged 5½ yrs
dau/ George Lambton
 
Lindley, James Pilkington aged 6 
119 Alwin St, identified by father James Pilkington Lindley
 
Lomas, John aged 6 
s/o George Lomas
111 Davidson St.
 
McPherson, James aged 7 
333 Prefontaine St.
son/ James McPherson (nb: the school was on Prefontaine St)
 
Rich, Lillian aged 5 
28 Marlborough St. 
dau/ Harrison Rich
identified by Thomas Williams
 
Spraggs, Mabel aged 3
dau/o A Spragge, builder, 
1726 St Catherine St East
Ada Clark
Spraggs, Myrtle aged 8
dau/o A Spragge, builder, 
1726 St Catherine St East
Ada Clark
Zimmerman, Wm John aged 7 
only child of W Zimmerman of 411 Alwin St - identified by father
 

The following was submitted by Ada Clark - niece of Myrtle & Mable Spraggs :

The story (that we have either tracked down or were told) is that my Dad, Arthur Spragg, must have been 9 years old at the time of the fire and my two aunts must have been 7 and 4 years old.  Apparently there was going to be a wedding in the family and the youngest girl was sent to school that day so the adults could prepare for the celebration. 

The young kids were in the upstairs of the school and couldn't get out.  I understand that it was in the winter and that when the fire department (horse-drawn in those days) finally reached the school, (they were slipping on the icy streets) that the fire hydrants were frozen and nothing could be done about the school. 

I have also heard that my father, having just got a new pea-hat, went back into the blazing school to get it because he thought he would have been in trouble for loosing it. I also think that my other aunt (Ethel) must have been at the school to as I believe she was older. 


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