Profile: Toussaint’s Fire, 1858


On April 12, 1858, a fire broke out in Harbour Grace, often considered the second “great fire” in the town. The principal downtown trading quarter, between LeMarchant St and Victoria St, was reduced to ashes, and some 50 families were deprived of their trade or business, most of them being shopkeepers, tradesmen, or planters. Several persons had some small portion of their stock insured, but many were not able to pay their debts. 

The fire started at Toussaint’s Hotel about 9 p.m. The fire burned both sides of the street, ending at Punton & Munn’s at midnight. Only three houses survived on the north side of the street: Pike’s, Lynch’s and Jillard’s. One of the three that survived was occupied by Captain Neddy Pike. The house belonged to Sandy Campbell, one time foreman of the firm Danson. Situated at the east corner of Victoria St and Water St, the property outlived the three “great fires” fires of 1832, 1858 and 1944. Later, in the second half of the twentieth century, the old building was taken down to build Sinyard’s Drug Store. In the early twentieth century, the house was known as Dinn Shea’s.

Dinn Shea's

Sandy Campbell’s house (left), which survived the three “great fires” of Harbour Grace. The house was later torn down to build Sinyard’s Pharmacy.

Among the premises notably destroyed in 1858 were Walker’s, Rutherford’s, Ridley’s, Green’s, Allan’s and Drysdale’s. The following list of victims appeared in the press of St. John’s:

South Side of Water Street: Dr. [William] Allan; N. & J. Jillard; Punton & Munn; John Fisher; Captain Munn; Capt. Taylor; James Hippesley; Capt. Drysdale; Rachael Green; Doyle & Hunt; Ridley & Sons; Rutherford Brothers; Capt. John Stevenson; Charles Walker.

North Side of Water Street: Thomas Wolfrey; Richard Lahey; Patrick French; Robert Walsh; James Drysdale ; Mrs. Dixon; Garrett Condon; Matthias O’Neill; Mrs. Gushue; Mrs. Maddox ; Thomas Walsh; Patrick Strapp; John Mullaly; Mrs. Mulloy; John Byrne; T.C. Toussaint; The Misses Prendergast; William Burke; Pierce Maher; Catherine Degan; William Fitzgerald; Mrs. Cooney; Peter Murphy; Mr. Dillon; Mrs. Ronan; Mrs. Finn.

Rear of Water Street: Michael Power; Thomas Candler; William Grubert; Mrs. Brien; Patrick Scanlan ; Mr. Green; Thomas Griffin; Peter Murphy; Mrs. Lahey.

The next day, April 13, at the Temperance Hall, a group assembled to petition the House of Asssembly to aid the sufferers. Names on the roll included William H. Ridley, Henry T. Moores, W. Donnelly, Thomas Higgins, John Richards, Patrick Devereux [sic], James Hippesley [sic], William Grubert, W. Howlett, Joseph Godden, and J.L. Pendergast, the local MHA.  


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