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Family History Through The Alphabet Challenge: The Letter F

June 16, 2012

The lovely folk at   Gould Genealogy  have  issued a challenge to genealogists and family historians. Their idea is The ‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ Challenge   We will work our way through the alphabet, using one letter each week  and discuss anything relating to our family history starting with that letter. This week, being Week 6, is the letter F.

F is for Fire: My Great Great Grandfather THOMAS WATERS and his wife ELIZABETH COX were living in Kyneton in 1865 with their 5 children, when unfortunately their house was burned to the ground during the night.

from THE OBSERVER, TUESDAY JUNE 13 1865 

“DESTRUCTIVE FIRE:  The town was startled between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday evening last, by the cry of fire resounding through the streets, and it was discovered that the row of wooden premises in Hutton street facing the Independent chapel were on fire. The smoke was first seen issuing from a two storey wooden building occupied by a person named Waters, and before any attempt could be made to save the building it was in full flames. Simultaneously with the flames bursting for the from this house, they were also seen issuing from the house adjoining, an empty one, and which was part of the same building but divided by a stone party wall.  The wind was blowing strong at the time and it soon became evident that it would be a matter of impossibility to save any of the wooden buildings, adjacent to those on fire.  By the time the two houses were on fir, a large crowd had assembled and every effort was made to save the furniture and other effects in the blazing houses.  A right of way divided the two houses now on fire from another row of wooden cottages occupied by Miss Moresby, as a ladies seminary, and these very soon fell victims to the devouring element, while on the other side of the buildings where the fire originated the house and shop of Mr. Humphries quickly shared the same fate.  All being of wood it was impossible to save them, and the wind which was very strong during the whole time the fire was burning, blew the flakes of fire fiercely about and rendered it a difficult matter for those around to attempt to save the furniture within the burning buildings.  By considerable perseverance, however, nearly the whole of the furniture and other effects in Miss Moreseby’s place were saved and were taken over to the Catholic schoolroom opposite, but very little, if any of the other sufferers – Mr. Waters – were rescued from the place.  At one time, wt was feared that human life had fallen a sacrifice to the devouring element, some one shouting out that Mrs. Waters’ children were still in the burning house, but it appeared that Constable McBride had rescued one child from the house before it was altogether enveloped in flames.  The poor little thing was standing in the front room naked and too frightened to make any movement for its own safety.    Besides the cottages which were destroyed – five in number – there were several others at the rear thereof mostly occupied by poor people, and fortunately the wind changed in sufficient time to prevent their taking fire.  It was also fortunate that no wooden buildings immediately faced the burning pile, as had there been any they must not only have been destroyed  but formed a connecting link to have carried the fire further on.  One house on the opposite side of the way but at a considerable angle with the houses on fire caught several times, and it was only by the continued application of wet blankets it was saved from destruction.  From the time the fire first broke out to the destruction of the entire group of buildings, scarcely an hour elapsed, but during the time it lasted, the heat was most intense, and the entire town was lighted up.  The actual origin of the fire appears at present to be involved in mystery though there is but little doubt in was in the rear of the empty house referred to that it originated, and it is supposed that the workmen who were at work therein carelessly left a light burning.  There were altogether five houses totally destroyed, and of course, a considerable quantity of both Mr. Humphries and Mr. Waters’ furniture, etc.  We understand that Mr. Humphries, the owner of the two houses where the fire first broke out, as well as the one adjoining was insured for the first  85/- and for the latter 50/-.  The others which belonged to Mr. Ellis, were uninsured.  But little, if any, water was obtainable during the whole time the fire was raging, nor was there any attempt beyond individual effort at saving property.  Several townspeople, as well as the Rev. Father Geoghegan, Mr. Stiles, of the Bank of new South Wales, and other gentlemen did good service, and materially aided in the removal of such things as were saved.  Miss Moresby had recently taken the Crown Hotel as an academy, so that, fortunately, beyond the unavoidable loss, by the removal of her furniture, she suffers no material inconvenience.”

a further article on the next page:

“The fire of Saturday night, again recalls our attention to the miserable plight Kyneton is in when such calamities occur.  Without a fire engine, a brigade, or a supply of water, once a fire breaks out, the block of buildings in which it occurs is literally at its mercy.  We are delaying on that account.  Nor need we add that a Fire Brigade would be useful at a fire, even though it were without  a regular water supply or an engine.  A well disciplined body acting with authority at a fire, although able to do perhaps but little towards putting it out, can materially assist in staying its progress and saving valuables.   As all are equally interested in this matter, then, we again urge on our fellow townspeople to take action therein and not allow apathy any longer to characterize their movements”.

4 Comments
  1. What amazing articles, sad as they are, but certainly a great record of the happenings. I do hope your great great grandfather’s family were able to pick up their lives and restart again.

  2. A very dramatic F tale. Hope that the community got a reliable fire service as a result of this tragedy.

  3. Isn’t it amazing that the writers in the 19th century could write an article where a clear picture was formed of a time gone by. I don’t feel that the newspaper writers these days don’t do the same thing!

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