Even The Salmon Were Terrified!

07 Oct

The great Miramichi fire, 1825; The polar hero...

The great Miramichi fire, 1825; The polar heroes, and fourteen other poems / Le grand incendie de Miramichi, 1825, les héros polaires et quatorze autres poèmes [traduction libre] (Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives)

One of the most famous fishing and hunting areas in Canada is the Miramichi Valley in New Brunswick.  Sportsmen from all parts of the continent fish the Miramichi River and its many tributaries every year for Atlantic salmon.

Among the keenest fishing fans was Ted Williams, one of the greatest batters in baseball for many years.  As soon as the baseball season finished at the end of September, Williams would be out of his Red Sox uniform and heading for the Miramichi.  It was just as well — for his fishing — that the Red Sox got into the World Series only once during his career, for his team’s absence from the championship enabled him to reach Miramichi before the season closed.

The entire Miramichi area was almost destroyed by one of the worst forest fires in Canadian history on October 7, 1825.  In the afternoon the wind was moderate and shifting.  A broad cloud of smoke was seen to rise vertically, Northwest of Newcastle.  At seven o’clock in the evening the breeze freshened, and the air suddenly darkened.  Ashes and cinders came down so heavily that people were blinded and could hardly breathe.  About an hour later a loud roaring noise was heard in the woods, and the wind began to blow with hurricane force.  Suddenly sky and earth were illuminated by a sheet of flame which enveloped Newcastle and Douglastown.  Houses were blazing within three minutes.

People in Newcastle ran into a marsh about half a mile away, and tried to escape from the flames and heat by burrowing into the mud and water.  Others rushed to the river and clambered into boats, or hung onto rafts and logs.  Many simply stood or swam in the river and tried to protect themselves from the scorching heat.

Cattle and other animals, wild and domestic, followed the people into the river.  At one place a bear was seen sheltering in the river with some cows, but did not try to harm them.  Even the salmon were terrified of the flames.  They rushed from pool to pool, and many were bruised to death on the rocks.

New Brunswick is famous for its folk songs, and the story of the great Miramichi fire is still told in songs and verse.

There are sites on the Internet that cover this terrible tragedy. I would suggest the Miramichi Landings, and the John Wood 1946 blog, as well as the Charlotte Taylor webpage, and finally a .pdf Lest We Forget (a very good article about Canada’s major wildland fire disasters of the past, 1825-1938).


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6 responses to “Even The Salmon Were Terrified!

  1. seeker

    October 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Wow such powerful writing, Tk. Thee salmons were terrified. That must have been such a fire Ola from Spain…

    • tkmorin

      October 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      Ola from rainy Ottawa!
      Thanks for the encouraging words. I’m happy I never have had to live through such an event!

  2. Amanda Wood

    October 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I know it probably was a typo…but it still almost works: “ashes and cinders came down so heavenly”..thanks for the great bit of history

    • tkmorin

      October 7, 2013 at 11:40 am

      LOL You are right: it made the post more poetic. I’ve certainly made worse mistakes in past posts. 🙂
      Thank you for visiting and taking the time to write!

  3. L. Marie

    October 7, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Wonderful post! And what an awful event! How long did it take to rebuild after that calamity?

    • tkmorin

      October 7, 2013 at 9:30 am

      By 1830, five years later, all businesses were booming again … Impressive as there was great damage.
      As awful as it was, I like haring about resilience! 🙂


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