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Oct4ThuWhen the fire overtook the district of Ontario's Temiskaming, The Salvation Army was there to offer hope and support. October 4, 2012 by Lt-Colonel Merv Leach
October 4, 2012, marks the 90th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1922, which occurred in the district of Temiskaming in Ontario's magnificent northland.
This Great Fire, as it was known, was an irresistible wall of flame becoming one of the worst disasters in Canadian history. The Salvation Army was there giving hope in the midst of the chaos.
The fire, affecting 18 townships in the district, covered 650 square miles and a half million acres of farms and woodlands from Charlton and Englehart in the north to Haileybury and Cobalt in the south and east to the Quebec border.
Pioneer settler farms, communities and homes were leveled and destroyed leaving 6,000 people homeless and 43 persons dead. Livestock perished by the thousands as well as untold numbers of wildlife. Property losses ran to over 6 million in 1922 dollars. Open fields were said to have exploded in spontaneous bursts of flames.
The Salvation Army citadel in Haileybury was also devastated and in ruins, depicted by the accompanying photograph provided courtesy of the Haileybury Heritage Museum. Shown in the picture was the then corps officer Captain Arthur Neville who was assisted by Lieutenant Charles Broughton.
Plans were immediately put in place to cover the basement of the destroyed hall in order to hold services as soon as possible.
While the captain and lieutenant were busy, night and day, serving meals out of a tent in North Cobalt, services and Sunday school classes were held in various homes which had survived the fire. The officers were doing their part in a massive emergency relief program which helped restore the economy of the area and the indomitable spirit of those early day pioneers.
The officers in Haileybury, Cobalt and New Liskeard joined forces to ensure that Christmas was not lost for the children, some of whom were injured, displaced and even orphaned in this great tragedy.
Captain Neville, born in 1898, became a cadet out of the Regent Hall corps in London, England and was commissioned in 1922, transferred to the Canadian Territory immediately and was appointed to Haileybury four months before the disaster. His last appointment was to Seaforth, Ontario, where, sadly, after two surgical operations was promoted to Glory at the young age of 27. Lieutenant Broughton, also appointed to Haileybury in 1922, resigned from Montreal Metropole in 1929.
Unquenchable hope rose from the ashes of that tragedy in 1922 and The Salvation Army is still giving hope to the Temiskaming district through its Tri-Town Community Church based in New Liskeard.
Photo: Haileybury Heritage Museum