The Miramichi Fire of 1825.
A contributor to American Notes and Queries copies from Abraham Gesnor’s “ New Brunswick,” an account of the forest fires in Northumberland county, New Brunswick, which desolated the district of Miramichi, October 7, 1825. In only one hour, New Castle, the present capital; Douglaston, and all the villages along the north side of the river Miramichi were entirely destroyed ; 160 persons and 875 cattle are said to have perished, and nearly 600 buildings were destroyed.
The preceding summer had been excessively hot throughout North America, and there had been little rain to refresh the parched and withered vegetation ; violent forest fires had raged in Canada, Nova Scotia and Maine, and although New Brunswick had not escaped, the inhabitants of the province were not apprehensive, on account of their remoteness from the destructive element.
The intense heat of the season did not pass away with the summer, but was still unabated on the 7th of October. That day was perfectly calm, and peculiarly sultry, inducing a condition of lassitude. The heavens wore a purple tint, and clouds of black smoke hovered over Miramichi. Still none of these signs were ominous to her people, who might have taken warning from the cattle in the pastures, for they became terrified and gathered in groups, and even the wild animals of the wilderness rushed out and sought refuge among the tamer breeds.
“At seven o’clock P. M. a brisk gale sprung up, which by eight o’clock had increased to a swift hurricane from the west, and soon afterwards a loud and almost appalling roar was heard, with explosions and a crackling like that of discharges of musketry. The air was filled with burning pieces of wood and cinders, which were driven along by the gale, igniting everything upon which they fell. The roaring grew louder, and sheets of flame seemed to pierce the sky.” It is unnecessary to give any details of the terror, horror and despair which seized upon all living creatures. “ The whole surface of the earth was on fire, and everything of a combustible nature united in sending up the last broad flame, which laid the country, with its towns, villages and settlements, in heaps of smouldering ashes.” Fishes perished in the streams from the intense heat of the burning forests that chanced to overhang them ; nor did the swift wings of birds offer them a means of escape. The famous conflagration was not confined to the district of Miramichi, but overspread an area of 6000 square miles.