Turning Back the Pages: Donald was a happening place before the fire

By Colleen Palumbo

Recently, the Golden Museum came into possession of a glass negative with an accompanying photograph.

The photograph is a picture of early Donald, buildings on the right side of the tracks. On the back is a list of the names of the businesses from left to right. The picture was obviously taken before the story that appeared in the Golden Era, November 4, 1893.

Devastation at Donald – At 3:30 o’clock Tuesday fire was discovered in the cellar of the Selkirk House by Sim Palmer who at once set to work to rouse the inmates of the hotel. For a few minutes desperate efforts were made to confine the flames to the cellar and stamp out the fire there, but the effort proved futile and soon those so engaged were obliged to retire. Meantime the alarm had been given by T. Coughlin who was on the switching engine and the town re-echoed the shrill shriek of the locomotive whistle as the fire signal was given.

When the townspeople began to arrive on the scene they found the kitchen in flames and the proximity of the Forrest House aroused many anxious fears for its safety.

Directly between the Selkirk and the Forrest House stood an old building used as a storehouse and to this attention was at once turned, but all efforts to pull it to pieces with a rope proved useless and it was taken down piecemeal in the face of the tremendous heat.

On the other side stood Patmore’s store and dwelling which it was useless to attempt to save, so willing hands carried the contents of store and house to places of safety.

The boarders of the Selkirk and Forrest Houses were busily engaged in securing their efforts, but in the rush many things were forgotten and some of the boys are losers to the extent of two or three suits of clothes. The usual plan of salvage was adopted, viz., throwing glasses, etc., out of windows and carrying down blankets and mattresses.

The efforts to save the Forrest House proved successful in the end and in a short time the under story of the doomed building gave way allowing the upper story and roof to settle down, this at once made a change in the scene and all breathed more freely at the sight. But now a new danger threatened, cinders were flying thick and fast and the freight sheds were being deluged with a fiery hail. The hose from the shops was sent for and attached to the locomotive in the yard and soon showed that it was no mean protection and bystanders and those more actively engaged wondered why it had not been brought into use before. By daybreak the fire had wholly subsided leaving heaps of red hot coals where the two white buildings had stood.

Mr. Patmore at once arranged to move in to the old drug store, one door west of the Woodbine Hotel, and his effects were moved at once. Much sympathy is felt for him at the total destruction of his home, but Dick will not be squashed.

We learn that the insurance was as follows: Miss Steene on Selkirk House and furniture, $5,000. Patmore on stock, $500; household effects, none.

There were very few accidents incident to the large fire, the only one at all serious being to Mr. Coughlin, who cut his hand severely with glass. The cut will lay him up for a time.

The efforts put forth to save the Forrest House were watched with great interest, as on its fate depended that of the whole business portion of the town.

One gentleman was observed rushing out of the building with one show, an alarm clock and a photograph of Geo. Sutherland, which, with the clothes he had on, were what he saved.

At the manse and surrounding houses the cinders fell fast and furious and had the ground not been wet by our rainy weather we cold have to chronicle much greater damaged.

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