Family members come to tragic end in house fire

Jim Hornby
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The Islander, May 13

SHOCKING ACCIDENT. On Thursday morning, the 5th inst., the dwelling house of Edward Christopher, at Nail Pond, was destroyed by fire, and Christopher, his wife, two children, and an old man named Kelly, perished in the flames. The servant girl first discovered the fire, and gave the alarm by entering the bed-room and awakening the sleeping husband and wife. Christopher made the remark that “There is four hundred pounds in the Bar-room, and it is hard if I can’t save it.” He entered the Bar-room, and his wife proceeded upstairs for the children, but being suffocated they did not return. Christopher was a blacksmith, and in addition to that business kept a grog-shop.

He was known to have been drinking deeply for some time previous to the fire, and we understand that in consequence the priest at Tignish caused the remains of the whole family to be buried outside of the churchyard--not allowing them within consecrated ground. The shocking end of Christopher and his family is a sad comment on the evils of the liquor traffic.

Since the above was written, we received a letter concerning the above calamity. The cause of the fire is unknown. The three eldest children and the servant girl escaped without injury, and Christopher and his wife first got out of the house before going back for the children and the money.

Jim Hornby: When graveyards were consecrated, prayers were said to expel all evil from the site. Refusal of burial in consecrated ground was generally reserved for those whose presence was believed to desecrate it, such as murderers and suicides. How Christopher — and his wife and children even moreso — qualified for such exclusion seems only understandable as an over-zealous message about the evils of alcohol.

The Protestant, May 14

ANOTHER VICTIM TO RUM. An Inquest was held on Thursday last, before John McNeill, Esq., one of the Coroners for Queen’s County, on view of the body of a person known as Captain Dawson, or G. B. Dawson, who was found dead in a room in the tavern kept by one Michael Walsh on Queen Square. The following verdict was returned: “That the deceased, known as Captain Dawson or G. B. Dawson, came to his death from the effects of intoxicating drinks producing congestive apoplexy.”

The Protestant, May 14

POWDER MAGAZINE. It is requested in consequence of the intended sale of the lands heretofore known as the Barrack Ground, that all depositors of Gunpowder in the Magazine will remove their property within one month from this date.

May 3, 1864. Thomas Alley, Superintendent of Public Works.

J.H.: Thomas Alley was an architect whose design for the Wesleyan Chapel, now Trinity United Church, at 78 Prince St., was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1864. Later designs still adorning Charlottetown include the George Coles Building on Queen Square, the building at 94 Great George St., corner of Richmond, and what was originally his own home at 62 Prince St.

The Examiner, May 16

If they will spread their Tenant Leagues far and wide, and keep them in good working order for two or three years, they will do more towards abolishing the leasehold tenure than all the Royal Commissions, Resolutions, Delegations, or Acts of Parliament that were ever dreamt of or devised; let not the Tenantry be cowed or frightened in the least by the silly threat of a military force being sent into the Colony. When the brave soldiers come here--if ever they do come--to collect rents for the proprietors at the point of the bayonet--the people will respect their mission, and they will be glad to see British troops here, spending British gold amongst us; but as the Tenantry have committed no violence, it is very cowardly and contemptible to threaten them with legalized bloodshed and murder. They have an undoubted constitutional right to agitate for the redress of their grievances: they deserve to be slaves--they and their children and their children’s children after them--if they do not continue the agitation. Let them keep their shoulders to the wheel, and in time they will crumble the proprietary system into dust.

J.H.: Editor Edward Whelan, while never counselling law-breaking, was using strong language, including “slaves,” that seemed to support unspecified civil disobedience; but he would soon change his tune.

The Examiner, May 16

APPROPRIATIONS FOR ROADS, BRIDGES AND WHARFS. To John McNally, for bushing the ice from McConnell’s wharf to Apple-tree wharf, and for keeping a light to guide travellers on the ice. £5.

J.H.: “Bushing the ice” is the Island expression for planting branches in the ice to show a safe path for winter travel across frozen rivers, bays and other waterways. McNally had bushed the north side of the Hillsborough River from west of Scotchfort down to Frenchfort.

The Examiner, May 16

CATHOLIC YOUNG MEN’S LITERARY INSTITUTE. The winter Session was closed on Wednesday eve last by a Musical and Literary Entertainment, given by the members of the Institute for the benefit of the City Amateur Band. They played a variety of tunes, comprising Marches, Waltzes, Polkas, Quicksteps, &c., with admirable skills and a correctness of time which was highly creditable to the performers.

The Monitor, May 19

Mr. David Logan has been appointed Jailer at Georgetown in the room of Heggs, the late Jailer.

J.H.: James Heggs, late of the 57th Infantry and Charlottetown Police Force, may have been fired for the high-profile escape of the “Highway Robber” Hugh McGilvray from Georgetown Jail on May 3. Hugh Logan had been a previous Jailer. Widower Heggs soon remarried and opened a tavern in Georgetown.

Jim Hornby’s column, “1864: The Way We Were: gleanings from Charlottetown’s newspapers,” is in The Guardian every Monday in 2014 (on holiday Mondays when there is no paper, it will appear on Tuesdays). It contains excerpts from newspapers of that era, as well as Hornby’s comments on what he has found. It is presented in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference. Contact the author at

Organizations: Trinity United Church, Royal Commissions, Apple

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Richmond, Hillsborough River

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