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August 6, 1886 - Tilsonburg Observer  -  Page One


Shortly after two o'clock on Wednesday morning Ed Nicholson, Hogan Bros' head baker, saw the reflection of a big fire shining through the window of the bakeshop, where he was setting hid bread for that day.  He ran out and soon ascertained that the Pottery was in a blaze.  There wasn't a soul to be seen on the streets, so he ran to the bell ringer, aroused him, got the key of the bell tower and quickly rang out an alarm.  It was some little time, however before man people turned out, and before the firemen got to work the wooden buildings surrounding the kilns were nearly destroyed and the fire had got into the lower and second stories of the main building.  The fire had probably been going for half and hour before Mr. Nicholson discovered it.  The building being in a narrow valley, the fire would have to have attained considerable proportions before it lighted up the high ground so as to be plainly seen at such a distance from it as the bake shop, with so many high building intervening.  It was impossible for the firemen to save anything but the brick walls of the main building; the brick making machinery on the east, and the long shelter sheds in the brick yard.  The men had drawn two kilns of ware on Tuesday and there had been no fires in the kilns since then; so the origin of the fire is as yet incomprehensible except on the theory that there was a smouldering spark left in the flooring after the fire early Monday morning that was put out by the men.  This fire was discovered about 6 o'clock by the men who came to look after the kilns and they had a hard fight to subdue it, a large portion of the flooring near the door of the kiln having been burnt through.  It was caused by a portion of the lining of the kiln fallen in, bursting open the iron doors and forcing the fire out of the furnace on to the floor.  Mr. Glass had the place thoroughly soaked with water after the fire had been put out, but it is possible the fire lingered somewhere and smouldered until it got a draft to fan it into a flame.  Messrs. Gray & Glass had 5 kilns of biscuit ware ready for the last glaze; large quantities of green ware (that is ware just manufactured from the clay); a heavy stock of Rockingham ware ready to crate, and 5 crates of ware all ready to be carted to the station, in the building.  In fact the place was plugged full of ware, finished and in different stages of manufacture.  There were also 50 cords of wood and about $110 worth of baled straw in the buildings, besides a large and valuable stock of moulds, and the machinery.  Everything was totally destroyed and the firm lose is about $8000; which is lightened by $4000, of insurance.  The owner of the buildings E.D.Tillson Esq. Carried an insurance of $3000, which will cover his lose if the brick walls of the main building do not have to be taken down.  Messrs. Gray & Glass saved nothing but their books and the build of the papers in their office in the top story of the building, but lost some accepted notes, their order book, and all papers that had arrived the day before, and  which had been left in a desk that could not be got out.  Mr. Gray nearly lost his life in trying to save the papers and books.  A most risky exploit of his was the opening of the  safe next morning, taking out the books  and closing and locking it again with the floor burning away beneath him.  He had a rope around his waist which was held by men at the window, but if he had fallen the rope would not have saved him from being hurt seriously.




Copy of a clipping found in the Tillson Family Scrapbook – believed to be from the Tilsonburg Liberal on or around August 6, 1886

About 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday the alarm bell rang out on the early morning air and the cry of fire resounded through the streets, awakening the slumbering citizens who sprang from their comfortable beds, instinctively looked to see if it was their own property that was becoming a prey to the greedy and destructive element, hastily donned whatever habiliments were nearest at hand and bent their footsteps toward the scene of conflagration.  As the flames and smoke shot upwards and a lurid glare overspread the sky, the location was quickly discovered to be at the pottery, operated by Messrs. Gray & Glass.  The hose company and the "hooks" were speedily on the spot and in an incredibly short space had two streams playing on the burning building.  When first discovered the flames were issuing from that part of the building inclosing the kilns, which, being of frame and exceedingly dry, burned with a fierceness impossible to check and was soon reduced to a smoking mass of debris.  The water was turned on to the main building and hopes were entertained that it might be saved; but hopes were vain, the fire had apparently gained control and meant to keep it.  After the fire had gained the main building and was threatening the contents with rapid destruction, Mr. Gray, with a rope around his waist, entered a window amid flames and smoke and made his way to the office and extracted the money and valuable papers from the safe, escaping again without injury.  It was a perilous undertaking and those of the spectators who witnessed the act of daring trembled for the safety of the venturesome man who risked his life to save his property.  The plucky firemen worked with a will and heroically facing the intense heat poured the  opposing element first on one spot and then on another, wherever the tongues of steadily advancing flames burst forth.  One branch did excellent and effective work, but the other appeared to be of little service, except to drown some smouldering embers a few feet from the nozzle.  Owing to this the flames gradually crept onward and soon gained the interior of the main brick structure, while the roof was already ignited from flying sparks.  Volumes of water were poured through the windows with but little effect, and no abatement was perceptible until sometime after the floor had given way and the contents, consisting of tools, patterns, finished and unfinished goods, were precipitated into a heterogeneous mass of ruins from which nothing of any value was cold be saved.  After this occurred the flames were got under control but nothing was left but the bare brick walls and charred timers.  The building on the west containing brick making machinery was saved intact, but the brick sheds were partly consumed, and their contents destroyed.  The building was erected by Mr. E. D. Tillson a number of years ago.  About six years since Mr. Fred Tillson leased it for the pottery business, and afterwards disposed of the plant and good will to Messrs. Gray & Betts who operated the establishment until this spring when Mr. Betts retired and his place was taken by Mr. Glass.  Mr. Tillson has been singularly unfortunate this season.  Wednesday morning fire being the third from which he has suffered within three months.  His loss on Wednesday morning amounts to about $5,000, $3,000 of which is covered by insurance.  The loss of Messrs. Gray & Glass is estimated at between $8,000 and $9,000 and their insurance amounts to $4,000. The firm have apparently been doing a good business, but intended moving to London in September.  The origin of the fire is somewhat obscured, but is attributed to different causes by different people.

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