Longue Pointe Asylum Fire; Montreal, Quebec, May 1890
THE MONTREAL DAILY STAR, WEDNESDAY MAY, 7, 1890 - DOUBLE SHEET
AFTER THE BURNING
Heart Rending Scenes at the Longue
SOME OF THE DEAD AND MISSING
How the Unfortunate Imbeciles Comported Themselves,
Narratives of Eye Witnesses.
Under the most favorable circumstances, when everything is in its normal condition of safety and order, a mad house is a sad and distressing sight, but when seen in the midst of a great calamity like that which swept away the Longue Pointe Asylum yesterday afternoon, the unfortunates' home was being hopelessly destroyed and their fellows perishing in the flames, and the helpless demented were wandering aimlessly about their grounds in the wet and cold, or being hurried off to the nearest available places of shelter, it supplied one of the saddest and most striking spectacles ever witnessed by the throng that lined the Longue Pointe road all yesterday afternoon. The stone convent by the river, the asylum annex, was thrown open at once for the reception of female patients and within a few minutes every room, passage and nook was crowded with bewildered lunatics and their grief-stricken guardians. At first the patients, and even those with evidently the least reason, seemed to be quieted and subdued by the calamity and the sudden change in their surroundings. But with many the transitory calm soon passed away and the grimaces of lunacy and the crazy chatter succeeded the expressions of thoughtfulness that many of the
PITIFUL FACES BORE.
Entering by the side door, the first room one came to was filled with sick and helpless reclining on mud bespattered mattresses and covered with blankets singed by the flames from which all had so recently escaped. One old woman, seated on the floor, with her gray hair streaming over her wrinkled face, was moaning piteously and repeating between her sobs, "All is lost, all is lost."
"How do you do?" said an old woman to the writer as he edged his way up the crowded hall. "I am glad to see you, and thought you would come. We are all safe and I want you to tell my brother-in-law and Mrs. McCarty who keeps the grocery in Griffintown. Here is a paper," said the poor old woman, picking up a torn sheet from the floor, "that tells all about the fire; take it home and read it;" and she insisted on the reporter putting the bit of newspaper in his pocket. One strange and prominent figure in the hall was that of a middle-aged woman, whose short hair just hung to her neck, and was from time to time brushed back from her forehead by her ever busy hands. She unceasingly walked back and forth in the hall, taking advantage of every open space and working her way through the crowded groups. Her diseased mind was evidently of a happy turn, for she smiled on all, and every moment or two put her thumb and finger to her nose as if taking snuff. There were some meetings between patients and their relatives in which
SADNESS AND JOY
were strangely mingled; joy at finding them alive and sadness at meeting them under such painful circumstances. A young man and woman, evidently brother and sister, drove up in a cab and hurried down the hall. They were unnerved from excitement and fear, and hardly dared to ask for the safety of their demented sister, for whom they sought. One of the nuns was spoken to and together they worked their way through the crowd, intently gazing into every vacant face. At each door they paused and the Sister called out the name of the missing girl, but from room to room they received no reply. At length, at the far end of the hall, groping in a corner and wrapped in a blanket, they found her, and in an instant the two sisters, the sane and the insane, were clasped in each other's arms, the tears streaming down their cheeks. Reason for the time at least seemed to have regained its sway, and the poor girl as fully realized the danger from which she had escaped and the pleasure of the meeting, as did the searching brother and sister. The Sisters, exhausted with fatigue and the fright and excitement of the awful half day's work, moved about among the crowd and busied themselves everywhere, quieting the patients and attending to their wants. There were no attempts at violence, and the disorder was of a peacable kind. The patients frequently asked for water, and several of the nuns were kept busy with cup and pitcher distributing drinks.
AT THE CONVENT DOOR
opening into the yard by the river, carriages were constantly driving up, filled with patients and driven off to the city. Chief Hughes stood by the steps, superintending the departures and assisting as best he could in expediting matters. While these departures were going on, a female patient, whose gray hair and worn face showed more of the effects of disease than of age, stood on the gallery haranguing the crowd. She had been a handsome woman in her days of sanity, and her speech indicated that she was a person of education. She waved her bony hands in a most impassioned manner as she poured forth her invectives upon the burning asylum.
"This institution," she kept repeating, "was kept by a lot of helpless, crazy women, in charge of a lot of people not (have) as crazy as themselves. I am not surprised at the fire and in fact I expected to burned in my bed any night. As soon as I get back to Halifax, and I expect to leave shortly, I shall report this matter to Sir John Macdonald.--I beg your pardon, I mean Sir Charles Tupper. I am well acquainted at the Government House and shall take steps to have this matter investigated and exposed in the newspapers.
AT THE ASYLUM OF ST. BENOIT-ST. JOSEPH over two hundred of the male patients were housed, the Brothers having thrown open their house for the accommodation of the homeless men, irrespective of race or religion. The Brothers were among the first to arrive at the fire, and bravely assisted in the difficult work of rescue, in which several of them were severely burned. They were among the last who ventured upon the third flat, where the female patients were confined who perished in the flames. While endeavoring to bring out these women the unfortunate and doomed creatures would cry out from the flames, "It is our house and we will not leave it," and the leaping flames drove back the would-be rescuers, who left the victims to their fate. As the afternoon wore away the groups of patients distributed about the grounds in charge of Sisters and keepers were collected and removed to their sheltering homes. Here in the centre of a group was an old man, with his high hat decked with streamers of colored paper, chatting merrily with those around as if it was the gala day of Longue Pointe. One old woman sat in a large chair in the garden at the back of the Asylum, bareheaded, and with her blanket thrown back upon the chair, looking at the flames leap from wall to wall as complacently as Nero is said to have watched the burning of Rome.
SCATTERED OVER THE GROUNDS
were heaps of bedding and stray pieces of furniture, and seated on and around these were the poor helpless creatures. One group presented a sight that almost provoked a smile, though a tear would perhaps be more appropriate, for this hollow gaiety seemed terribly grim under the circumstances. Here was a woman about forty, with some traces of good looks in her careworn face. She had a bed quilt with a pillow stuffed in it, and was dancing it about seemingly with great delight, and talking with vigor to those around her. A man with a frizzled beard approached the writer, and taking him by the arm in a confidential way, said: "Are you a reporter?" Receiving a reply in the affirmative, he produced from his pocket a very dirty, dilapidated little note book, the pages covered
WITH GEOMETRICAL FIGURES.
"Well, never mind that little fire," he said in a low tone, "I want to explain to you my principle of perpetual motion, of which I am the inventor." He paused in an impressive manner, and when the writer passed on the inventor was still gazing intently at the dirty little diagrams in his hand. Here comes another woman, who, poor thing, is almost denuded of her garments, but she had got possession of a sheet, a corner of which she holds to each shoulder, while she struts over the grass with uplifted head fancying herself to be some great one, it floats behind her as a regal train. "Hell," "Hell," "Hell," shouts a pale man with long black hair and black piercing eyes, as with his fingers in his ears he stalks, hurriedly to and fro, but nobody heeds him. Many of the patients, whoever, watched with interest the progress of the fire. "It's been burning for years and I knew it," said one man. "It was burning right under my bed every night." It was touching to notice the tender manner in which the more lucid of the inmates assisted those less able to help themselves. They took them by the arm to aid them in walking; they got seats for them, and generally ministered as far as possible to their comfort.
As soon as Premier Mercier received news of the dreadful disaster he wired the following despatch to Rev. Sister Therese:
"Please accept my sincere regrets on the calamity which has befallen you and your institution, and be sure that the Government will do all in their power to help you generously and practically. I have sent my two colleagues, Hon. Mr. Duhamel and Mr. Robidoux to the spot at once and instructed them to do everything to help the poor people. I have given them carte blanche. Have also sent twenty double expresses to bring the people here. You need not feel anxious. Take every farmer around and hire his rig to take the people to the city. Distribute the unfortunates as you may think proper. But I would advise you to lodge as many as you can in farmers' houses at Longue Pointe. I intended to go to Quebec to-morrow morning on important business, but I have postponed my trip to go to the scene of the disaster and offer you my assistance on the spot.
AT FULLUM STREET.
"Sister, for God's sake, tell us, is Miss--- here?"
"Please, Sister, let me see my poor old mother. Is she safe?"
"Oh, are you sure my poor girl is not here? She is not in Fullum street, and --and I am afraid she is a victim!"
"Where is Miss--: Is she here; is she safe?" Such appeals met the good nuns at the two Providence asylums last evening from the hundreds who hurried towards them from the time that the news spread of the arrival of the poor, houseless, homeless ones, who espaced the flames that consumed so many of their unfortunate fellows at the terrible Longue Pointe fire yesterday. The parlor and adjoining rooms of the two institutions were crowded with anxious faces, until late at night when the last batch of unfortunates brought with them word that no more were coming. One hundred were housed by the nuns in the city, sixty at Fullum street and forty at Lavallee street. The nuns received everybody kindly and tried to answer all questions, but it was difficult to learn the names of all the unfortunates that came in. Some were not able to speak, others did not remember their names and "then,: said one of the nuns, "the relatives bear it so hard when they are told that their beloved ones are here that I do not wish to take away their hopes until there is no longer hope."
What an excitement! what a rush! another batch arrives. Two nuns with eyes
RED AND SWOLLEN
from crying lead in four or five figures with blankets over their heads. Never did they pass so close and scrutinizing an inspection as they did at that moment. All the anxious faces moved toward the door to catch a glimpse of the new-comers. and what joy for those who found their missing ones. They forced their way through the throng and hugged and kissed them, whilst tears of anguish gathered in the eyes of many of the disappointed ones who shrank back to their seats, anxiously waiting for the sound of wheels at the door. What a sight these unfortunates were with the blankets over their heads. Hardly had the door closed behind one of them when, noticing the rush of the people in the parlor, she screamed at the top of her voice, an unearthly voice. "Fire! Fire!: and broke loose from the little girl who had walked hand in hand with her, rushed towards the window and then towards the door. The nuns were obliged to bid the visitors stand aside, and then they hurried her kindly, but forcibly, to a quiet room upstairs, where her shrieks gradually became weaker and finally died away. Another unfortunate was babbling away to herself and all at once stared around her as if awakening and then fled to a corner, covered her face with her hands, and wept so bitterly that those present sobbed with her. As an explanation she muttered from time to time: "I saw her burn." Who it was she saw burn no one could learn; but she was
ONE OF THE UNFORTUNATES
from the poor ward and she evidently referred to a friend to whom she had become attached in that ward. Nearly all of the unfortunates on their arrival seemed cold in spite of their covering, and the nuns led them to the warm dining-room and gave them something to eat and made them as comfortable as possible. When the last load arrived in Fullum street, many of the relatives turned away heartsore. Meanwhile Mrs. S. C. Stevenson made preparations at the Exhibition grounds to receive as many of the unfortunates as possible, and by nine o'clock he was ready to accommodate from three to four hundred in the "Grain and Root" house, the "Carriage" house and the "Manitoba," but it appears that the nuns did not wish to send them during the night.
SOME OF THE DEAD
So far it has been ascertained that the following Sisters have perished: Sisters Marie Gravel, Louise Gravel, Denerise Gilbert, Lumina Bouthillier, Victoria McNichols, and Mother Labia of the Sacred Heart Convent, an inmate of the furious ward.
The following inmates of the women's furious ward were seen at the barred windows, with flames around them, and are known to have perished: Mrs. Kelly, of Montreal, wife of a carter; Mrs. Williams, of Halifax; a Montreal woman known to the attendants as Bridget, whose surname is either Malone or Maloney, and a Miss Letournay, of Maisonneuve or Hochelaga. Mrs. Conroy, who was supposed to have perished, has turned up. Enquiries have been made as to the whereabouts of two inmates of the boys' ward, one an epileptic, the other an idiot. Neither can be found. The disaster has thrown several patients into a very critical condition. One named Quinn, died yesterday, while the fire was raging. Another, Duquette, died in the evening. The last rites of the church were to-day administered to a man name Labreque and another. Archbishop Fabre arrived here at half-past ten and is, now in consultation with Sister Therese.
Miss Theriault, sister of Mr. Tessier, of Notre Dame street west, and Mrs. Scullen, wife of a Griffintown grocer, are now conceded to be dead. The nuns notified the friends of these two women to this effect this afternoon. Among other inmates of the furious and infirm wards missing are: Victorine Beaudry, Augustine Lacrois, Camille Lachance, Eusebe Marchmont, Delphine Archambault, Marie St. Denis, Elle St. Louis, Christine Demers.
LIST OF INMATES WANTED
Dr. Duquette, the Government Inspector, has asked the sisters for a list of the inmates of the asylum before the conflagration, and also a roll showing the present disosition of them. The doctor is satisfied, from enquiries made by friends and the large number of male patients missing, that some of the inmates of the men's wards perished. Among other men whose disappearance has caused grievous anxiety is Walter Robinson, whose friends live at 24 Cadieux street, and two brothers Gauthier, of St. Lin. The Sisters have been hard at work all day endeavoring to make a list of the patients now in their hands, but Sister Therese says the work is not yet half done, and she doubts whether they will be able to give Dr. Duquet the return he has asked for until to-morrow.
This morning nothing remains of the St. Jean de Dieu Asylum but the bare walls. The firemen were on duty all through the night until five o'clock, when their task was at an end. They had saved an important part of the institution, that large building in the rear known as the laundry and electric appliance quarters, the whole valued at $100,000, and the stables, perhaps the finest in the Province,with their two hundred horses. Those who remained on duty around the doomed buildings witnessed some strange sights. The fire smouldered away in the basement and ever and anon a wall would crumble, or a chimney topple over,some smoke and sparks and a flash of flames and another part of Sister Therese's wonderful creation was gone. The Superioress stood at a window of the St. Isidore asylum this morning opposite the ruins, to which she pointed when saying; "Ah, how well I remember the eventful morning when sixteen years ago I came on those grounds for the first time to start the erection of that building; see what remains of it now," and the devoted woman
CLASPED HER HANDS.
But," she remarked almost instantly, "we shall rebuild again and it will not be long before we begin. Yes, I have often thought of building on the detached system plan, but you see it was difficult here owing to our severe winter climate. We will have to face it, however, and the next buildings will be erected on that plan."
"Do I know the number of those lost? No, indeed, my poor children are scattered all over, but I am doing all I can now to have a complete list made of all who are missing. Besides our poor five young tertiary nuns I cannot give you a single name, but may be able during the day. Yes, I am afraid that perhaps twenty-five have perished. It is frightful, frightful. But you must remember there were sixteen hundred people and more in the buildings. Had the catastrophe happened at night I shudder at the thought of the result. But our people had the greatest difficulty in saving some of the women. One woman, a furious one, nearly strangled one of our nuns who was trying to save her, and
RUSHED BACK INTO THE ROOM
from which she was taken three times. We have been able to lodge our people temporarily during the evening at the Fullum Street convent of our Order, at the Deaf Mutes on St. Denis street, at the Jesuits; Scholasticate in this and the St. Benoit asylum, and nearly every house in the village took some in. We have accepted the Government's offer of the Exhibition Buildings, and some nuns are now leaving to have the place put into order. We received a very kind offer of hospitality from the Board of the Protestant Hospital for the Insane, for which we feel very grateful, but we were not under the necessity of accepting it. We feel most grateful for all the assistance which has been given us. As to the origin of the fire it has not been positively ascertained , but I am afraid that it was set by one of the patients, as there was no fire of any kind there. We are not yet positive, however," and as she said these words Sister Therese proceeded along the corridors in which the unfortunate people were seated on the floor huddled together or roaming aimlessly about with the blank expression of despair on their faces.
Dr. Duquet, the Government physician in charge of the asylum, was next seen and remarked: "For my part I place the number of the burned at over fifty. I was present on the spot and saw the poor people destroyed. They were mostly in the aged and infirm ward, though some also perished in the furious ward of the female department. The exact number of course will be known for some time. I wish to state that this is a unique occasion for the Government to make
A RADICAL REFORM
in the lunatic asylum system in this province. The Government should itself build a small Insane Hospital for the cure of insane people. It should be an hospital and not an asylum. The incurables and idiots might be farmed out to just such an institution as that which has been destroyed. The press should insist upon this system, as it is the only one in keeping with the scientific standard of the age."
Dr. Bourque, Dr. Prieur and Dr. Barolet, the other physicians, after working all day were up a greater part of the night and early this morning, trying to get the patients together and attending to wants.
Great credit is universally accorded to the two O'Rourke brothers and William Higgins of the asylum staff for their energy and heroism in saving the lives of many of the patients of the women's infirm ward. John O'Rourke, the younger brother, is engineer of the asylum, his brother James mechanical superintendent. "I never experienced such a horrible time in my life," remarked John, last night. "I was attending to some slight repairs to the heating apparatus in the middle wing, when about half-past eleven, I should think, when one of the sisters came to me in breathless excitement to tell me that a fire had broken out in the chapel wing. I immediately went there and found the bathroom at the end of a private ward, just in front of the chapel,
There was a hose and nozzle on each flat of every wing and in a few minutes I had water on. the flames, however, had got such a firm hold that the water had very little effect. I, however, kept on the stream, hoping to do some good, and told the nuns to send to the city for assistance. The fire was gradually driving me out of the wing, when Doctor Bourque came in and said: "For God's sake run and give them assistance in clearing the women's infirm ward. The flames have got a hold there and the Sisters can't get the patients out. I, at once dropped the branch and made a dash for the infirm ward in the adjoining wing. When I arrived at the bottom of the stairs I found that the landing and end of the furious ward against it was a mass of flames, rendering it an absolute impossibility to get into the ward by the usual way. The sisters and attendants had stuck to the work of rescuing the poor women as long as they could but had had to retreat before the flames. Immediately went out to the back yard, seeing that the only way to get at the patients was by the outside. When I got to the ground my brother James and Higgins, who had been helping the Sisters to clear the ward, joined me. I had an axe and my brother brought a rope. The wing in which was the furious ward had five verandahs, one on each flat, all barred with strong iron bars, making
A SERIES OF CASES
one above the other. We at once began to climb the bars and somehow or another managed to reach the verandah, on the fifth flat, on which was the infirm ward. The bars on the two upper verandahs were sunk in wooden frames, and it appears to me now as if I barely took two seconds in knocking out two bard, giving us admission to the verandah. I also knocked away two of the bars from one of the windows and we soon got into the ward. There our difficulties really began. the patients absolutely refused to move, and fought us like wildcats. We of course, devoted our attention to the more tractable ones, and after great struggling got a woman on to the verandah, tied the rope around waist and lowered her to the ground. We soon saw that this operation was going to take us too long and cut holes through the verandahs to pass the patients through. I dropped the patients to the verandah below, and he passed them through the hole on his flat to Higgins, who handed them over to the Sisters. Nearly every patient struggled and fought and the job was much more difficult than it seems. There were one or two exceptions, one old Irish woman as I dropped her through the verandah saying fervently "God bless you, John." We had perhaps got ten or a dozen through when we saw we had about done all we could for the heat was almost unbearable and the flames
WERE SCORCHING US.
Just as we thought we had done our utmost I noticed an old woman lying on the floor apparently dead. Thinking it a pity to leave the body to be burned I grabbed it and dropped it down to Jim, saying: Pass it down, but never mind catching it for she's dead. My brother, however, caught it and together they rolled on the ground, for she was a terribly heavy woman. Some time afterwards on enquiring as to what had become of the body I learned that the woman was alive and doing well. She had an apoplectic fit the time we threw her down. As we were about beat a retreat I chanced to look at one of the windows and saw six or eight women with their faces pressed between the bars crying out to me for God's sake to save them. They had been amongst the most violet of the lot in fighting us previously, but when too late appear to have realized their positions. They tore at one another frantically and held out their hands towards me. I could not stand it and made another run for the broken window, but fainted dead away in the flame. The next I knew I was on the ground, but the faces had disappeared from the window, the women having been suffocated.
Mr. O'Rourke remarked that there was only one fire door in the building, and that it was the best thing in it. It shut the cook house off from the laundry and engine house and saved the latter buildings.
LONGUE POINTE, QUE, May 7, 11.30...Fire was just been discovered in the laundry, in which are over one hundred inmates. They have been removed. The Montreal brigade has been sent for.
Later--The smoke in the laundry proved to be from the furnace, where a fire was lighted this morning, and the patients were taken back. thee reels, a steamer and a chemical engine were sent from the city, and will be kept here as a precaution for the afternoon,as likely to give confidence to the patients, some of whom are still considerably excited.
Sister Etienne, who was in charge of the women's furious ward, and, who, it was first feared had fallen a victim to her devotion to her patients, states that when she last left the ward every inmate had been removed. She intercepted several while madly endeavoring to rush back to the building, and could hardly believe her senses when told that several of her patients had been seen at the windows burning to death. John O'Rourke says that he saw the bodies of two women who had been burned to death on the verandah of the infirm ward.
DIFFICULTY IN MAINTAINING ORDER.
The nuns and police are having great difficulty in maintaining order among the hundred odd male patients temporarily housed in the stable of the asylum. A number of them have been greatly excited ever since the fire, and the police have had to interfere time and time again to prevent violence. The unfortunates slept last night among the hay and straw or lay down, for there was very little sleep. A large proportion of these are hopeless cases, and appear to have been the most wretched looking creatures about the place. Thousands upon thousands of sightseers have been coming down from Montreal all day and hundreds of country people have driven in to enquire about friends among the patients. The doctors report that Miss Hannah Hickson, of Brooklyn, about whose safety several enquiries from prominent clergymen of the city of churches have been received by Sister Therese, is dying. She was in a very weak state of health, and the events of yesterday appear to have been too much for her. It appears that this young woman was visiting in Montreal when taken sick, as a result of which she lost her reason.
Doctor Bourque, the medical superintendent of the Asylum, who was asphyxiated yesterday while endeavoring to rescue some of the patients from the infirm wards is very unwell to-day, and was unable to leave the house. Sister Vitaline, who was rescued by a fireman while lying on the floor just outside the furious ward yesterday, is also in a very bad state to-day. Sister Charles, assistant superioress, states that Miss Bouthillier, the young tertiary nun who perished is the daughter of a wealthy merchant of St. Ours. The two Misses Gravel belonged to Chicoutimi, and Miss Gilbert to Malbale, being a descendant of one of Wolfe's Highland officers who settled on the St. Lawrence after the conquest and married a French wife. Miss MacNichols has similar ancestry, and belongs to a settlement on the Saguenay. The tertiary nuns are lay sisters, who take vows of chastity and celibacy as do the other nuns of the Order, but have no voice in the management of the community.
Chief Benoit, and Mr. E. O. Champagne, the boiler inspector seem to have had some thrilling adventures. They heard there were a number of women up-stairs, and looking up they saw a lot of poor women clinging to the bars on the fourth story. They went round to the front and up the stairs, a sister going with them and opening the doors which were all locked. On the second floor however, where the smoke was very dense, they lost their guide, and found their way blocked, by the doors all locked the tops being iron bars and the lower part wood. They kicked away the bottoms of several of these doors and eventually reached the fourth story. Here they found the flames coming along licking the floor. Mr. Champagne says he pushed against a door and found something resisting him. He pushed harder and the door yielded and they found themselves in the midst of a gibbering crowd of women in canvas suits, "or," said Mr. Champagne "they may have been straight jackets." "They were huddling together like a flock of sheep," says Chief Benoit. Meanwhile the smoke had become overpowering, and the crackling flames were quite close. These two heroic men pushed the poor creatures but move they would not. At last Mr. Champagne, who is a powerful man, caught hold of one woman in his arms. She was a cripple, but never, he says, did he have such a job. She grabbed hold of everything she could to arrest her progress. However, Mr. Champagne fought his way with his struggling burden and at last landed it safely outside, but it was too late for him to attempt further rescues. Chief Benoit, meanwhile, was driving, pushing and forcing others out. He says he thinks he got out six, but he saw a sight he will never forget. As he was on the fourth floor he saw a ward with twenty or more women huddled in it up in a corner. The flames were between him and them. He tried to get in but could not. The flames rushed up to the women and caught their dresses. They put up their hands to their faces and cowered down. They must all have perished.
A CABMAN'S ADVENTURE.
A cabman named Corbeille, who drove down Mr. Lavallee, of the Road Department, had an adventure he won't forget in a hurry. A sister was trying to remove a little women who was very violent, and she asked Corbeille to assist her. He took hold of her to put her in his cab, when she bit him right through the palm of his hand. He at last pushed her into the cab, when to his horror he saw her pitch head first out of the opposite window. She fell to the g round, and her face was covered with blood. Eventually the poor maniac was got into the cab by the sister and an attendant, and driven to St. Isidore Hospital, but Corbeille will bear the marks on his hand for many a day. One man was so violent it took six men to hold him and then his strength seemed superhuman. At last when exhausted his face was as black as jet with his struggles. Deputy City Surveyor Mr. Lavallee, who was going round, axe in hand, to break down the doors to get the hose through, came across a room in the fourth story where two women were clinging to the bars, the flames fairly licking their faces. There was nothing to prevent them from effecting their escape, and he had to strike their arms to make them leave hold of the bars and push them violently to make them go down stairs. He says he subsequently, when outside, saw four women clinging to the bars of upper windows. As soon as the flames reached them they seemed to raise themselves as far as possible, and then sink back into the fire.
The Governors of the new Protestant Hospital for Insane held a meeting this morning at which some builders' contracts and other matters connected with their laundry now in process of construction were considered. The action of the board in placing their asylum at the disposal of the Government for the accommodation of the Longue Pointe patients was confirmed and the board is now awaiting a reply. they can accommodate two hundred patients. Of course these insane are still in the charge of the Sisters and carrying out of this plan is conditional up the ability of the nuns to find homes for their patients in their own institutions and it is thought that outside aid will not be needed. However, if the offer be accepted the board will proceed at once to carry it out.
FITTING UP THE EXHIBITION GROUNDS
This forenoon Mr. S.C. Stevenson of the Government office, met the Mother Superior of the Fullum Street House, and Sister Madeline, at the Exhibition Building, and arranged upon the fitting them up for the reception of a large number of the Longue Pointe patients. The whole premises were inspected and the buildings found to be very suitable for the purpose to which it proposed to devote them, being spacious, airy, and well lighted. The grounds would afford space in which the patients could take their exercise, and the fact of their being enclosed was a most admirable feature. For a few weeks, they would probably require to be heated, but this could be provided for by stoves which could be set up within a few hours. Bedding would be the article most required, but it was thought that a sufficient number of camp beds could be procured from furniture dealers and volunteer stores. Very likely a number of patients will be taken to their homes by relatives and friends. The Sisters left for Longue Pointe, where a conference is being held as to the steps to be taken. Premier Mercier and Mr. J.E. Robidoux, M.P.P. drove down at two o'clock, where they met Sister Therese and her assistants. One of the points to be determined upon is whether the nuns are in a position to carry out their contract, or whether the Government will have to take it off their hands. If they did Mr. Robidoux thought the kind offer of the governors of the Protestant Hospital would be accepted.
AFTER FIFTEEN YEARS
James D'Arcy, the son of the venerable messenger at the City Hall, who is crazy and has been confined for many years at Longue Pointe, was brought home in a cab last night, his father having sent down to search for him. He saw Fitzpatrick, the sweeper, this morning, who he has not seen for over fifteen years, when the latter, as a sergeant in the Prince of Wales Rifles, used to drill him. He knew him directly. "Hallo, Sergeant Fitzpatrick," said he; "It's hard for us fellows to go down there again; the place is all burned down and I don't see how we fellows are going to get in again."
DISGRACEFUL FIRE APPLIANCES
The arrangements in case of fire were simply disgraceful, says Chief Benoit. There was only a 35 pound pressure on the lower flat when there should be 175 pounds. There was no pressure at the top. When we got there the little hand engine was working like a syringe. The cistern held only 62,000 gallons, not the amount the Craig street pumps discharge in a minute. In fact the tank was very soon exhausted after the Sllsby got to work, and the only water then to be obtained was by damming a little brook.
The building was insured for a sum of $300,000 in the Royal Insurance Company. This sum was re-insured in the following companies: Atlas, $15,00; British America, $10,000; Connecticut, $5000; Caledonian, $10,000; Citizens, $20,000; City of London, $5000; Commercial Union, $10,000; Fire Association, $10,000; Guardian, $20,000; Hartford, $10,000; Imperial, $10,000; Lancashire, $10,000; Liverpool and London and Globe, $20,000; London and Lancashire Co., $10,00; London Assurance, $5000; North British and Mercantile, $20,000; Northern, $10,000; Phoenix, $20,000; Queen, $10,000; Royal Canadian, $20,000; Royal, $50,000; Western, $20,000. Total $300,000.
Coroner Jones and High Constable Bissonnette leave for Longue Pointe this afternoon, to make arrangements for an inquest. The inquest will likely be held in the Court House here, as the Coroner wishes to have the best class of jury that he can get from the city. They will visit the ruins, and inspect the remains of the victims there and return to the city to hear the evidence at leisure.
THE MONTREAL DAILY STAR, WEDNESDAY MAY, 7, 1890 - page 4
THE LONGUE POINTE FIRE
Although the precise extent of yesterday's disaster at Longue Pointe is and must remain for some time uncertain, enough is known to justify us in characterizing the event as one of the most deplorable that has occurred for many years in Canada. Perhaps the worst feature of the affair is that there is really no occasion for surprise at a large number of unfortunate people being burnt to death in this manner. Given a building as large as Longue Pointe Asylum and as densely populated and by the law of chances it can only be a question of time when it will at least be exposed to immediate danger of fire. Even if all the people residing in such a building are sane, experience shows that the breaking out of a fire sooner or later in some part of the building is far from being a remote contingency. The chances of a fire being started in such a place are greatly increased if over a thousand people living in it are lunatics. Yesterday's calamity is proof sufficient that the arrangements for fighting or restricting the ravages of a fire or for rescuing the inmates in case of fire were lamentably deficient at Longue Pointe Asylum. It is evident that for years, the safety of the unfortunate patients has been chiefly dependent upon the chance that a fire would never break out in the building. The first and most natural impulse after such an event as that of yesterday is to look for somebody to whom to attach the responsibility for the "accident" which, under the existing conditions, would seem to have been almost inevitable. A more profitable subject for immediate investigation would be the quest, How many other large buildings are there in and around Montreal in which similar conditions prevail? Suppose a fire were to break out in any of the great charitable institutions of this city, in one of the hospitals or one of the gaols, would the results be less appalling than the results of the fire at the asylum? Does not such an event indicate that the whole system of Government inspection of asylums is for all practical purposes worthless? The safety of Longue Pointe seems to have depended to a great extent upon the improbability of anybody ever being careless with matches, or of any lunatic ever taking a fancy to set fire to the building. Had the fire broken out at midnight instead of noon, or in mid-winter, or when the roads were impassable for the Montreal engines, the results must have been even worse. We do not believe that the Longue Pointe authorities are exceptionally blameworthy in the matter, they have simply been exceptionally unfortunate, and we are satisfied will get public sympathy and not censure.
The Provincial Government should take the opportunity which the disaster has so unhappily given them to build a model lunatic asylum for the province, with every possible provision for the health of the inmates, for the prevention of fire, for restricting the spread of fire, and for the absolute safety of the inmates generally in any possible circumstances.
Note: If any of you have access to a final list of names for the individuals that perished in this asylum fire, I would appreciate receiving the information in order to post it to this page to assist others that may be searching for 'lost' ancestors. Margaret Clarke, the first wife of my grandfather William F. Kelly; a victim of the fire in May was apparently not buried until 23 Sep 1890.
Back to my home page?
Kelly Kanadian Kin... created by Mary A. Kelly, firstname.lastname@example.org
This Longue Pointe Asylum webpage
created 11 Sep 2001