Friday, October 26, 2018

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.

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

It was  a 4 story building and 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 and 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 and the teachers herded the children back to the safety (?) of the upper room. 

Meanwhile there was an ice house almost directly across the street and the workers there saw the flames and ran to fire ladders - to reach the upper windows. 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 and 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) and almost saved Miss Maxwell..but an explosion prevented that. Another story says Miss Maxwell just collapsed from fatigue. 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 and the bodies had been taken to the morgue. The newspaper had full coverage of the anguish (and in some cases relief) of the parents who feared the worst and 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 "installments" so far and 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 (and 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." 

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

Spraggs, Myrtle aged 8 
dau/o A Spragge, builder,  
1726 St Catherine St East

Zimmerman, Wm John aged 7  
only child of W Zimmerman of 411 Alwin St
 - identified by father  

- courtesy Pennie Redmile

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