Sutton’s Great Fire of 1898

By Taylor McClure, Special to The Record
Sutton’s Great Fire of 1898
(Photo : Record Archives)

This month marked the 122nd anniversary of what has become known as the Great Fire of 1898 that nearly destroyed the entire village of Sutton.
As the village was opened up to the rest of Quebec and Canada through the railroad in the 1860s, it experienced rapid development. Its economy expanded quickly, especially in terms of exports. Industries and businesses were established.
As Sutton was beginning to grow, tragedy struck in the early morning of April 15, 1898.
At around 3 a.m. on Friday, April 15, 1898, residents of Sutton were awakened by the ringing of the bell belonging to the Methodist Church.
The village had gone without rain for weeks, it was very dry and warm, and a fire broke out at Sutton’s lumber mill located on Maple Street.
The fire burned the mill to the ground, along with 25,000 feet of lumber, but those fighting the fire were confident they had stopped the blaze from spreading.
By 6 a.m., the fire seemed under control but only an hour-and-a-half later the bell was ringing again.
Due to high winds, sparks from the first fire spread and another fire broke out in a barn belonging to Dr. McDonald. It quickly spread to his residence and then to Dr. Cutters building (pharmacist), the Sweet’s Store, Olmstead’s store, Curley’s Hotel, LeBeau’s Hotel, and the CPR station.
While Sutton residents did their best to try and get the fire under control, residents of Knowlton and firefighters from Richford and Saint-Jean were called in for assistance.
By the time the firefighters from Saint-Jean arrived, the centre of the village was razed. The fire destroyed 36 businesses and houses and left around 20 families homeless.
The Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, and the Boright & Safford store were amongst the few buildings that survived the ordeal. The Town Hall escaped the fire with just a part of its cornice burned away.

See full story in the April 24 edition of The Outlet.

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