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Ethel & Marcella KELLY
Ethel & Marcella KELLY

    Brechin Fire –1914–Four Perish

    Orillia Times March 19, 1914



    Dr.  Gilipin’s Residence Also Burned – Inquest Being Held

    One of the most shocking casualties ever recorded in this district occurred at Brechin early Tuesday morning, by which four persons lost their lives.  The victims are: Mrs. Thomas McCauley, her two children John and Dennis, one six years of age and the other an infant under a year, and Miss Josie Callaghan, a maid in the hotel.

    The hotel burned is the Brechin House and was owned and occupied by Mr. Thomas McCauley.  The fire originated in the basement about 1:30 am and was caused by a defective furnace.  Charles McNarney, the bar tender, was awakened by smoke and gave the alarm.  The building then was rapidly burning and the occupants had to make a hasty exit, some having to jump from the window.  Three maids were sleeping in a room on the third floor. Miss Maggie McNarney, Miss Etta Crosby and Miss Josie Callaghan.  The two former jumped from the window and were more of less injured by the fall.  Miss Callaghan seemed to lack the nerve to follow their example and while she hesitated  it is supposed she was overcome by smoke and fell back into the burning building. Mrs. McCauley was carried out of the building but had died from suffocation. Her two eldest children were rescued, one a lad of eight and his sister a year younger.

    The rescue was effected by Victor Adair, Charles McNarney and Patrick McLean, boarders in the  the hotel.  Mr. McCauley was seriously injured and it was several hours before he recovered consciousness and learned of the death of his wife and two children.

    The fire spread across the street and burned to the ground the office and residence of Dr. Gilpin.  A bucket brigade did heroic service in preventing other properties from falling prey of disaster,

    The three members of the McCauley family will be buried at one time Thursday morning.  Miss Callaghan was buried yesterday.

    Coroner Grant of Beaverton, opened an inquest Tuesday afternoon into the death of Mrs. McCauley and adjourned until March 25 when the fire will be thoroughly investigated.  The loss of the hotel is $10,000, half covered by insurance.  Dr. Gilpin’s loss to house and contents is $5,000, fully covered by insurance.

    Orillia Times  March 20, 1914  Rathburn

    Death took a bright young life on Tuesday, March 17, when Miss Ellen Josephine Callaghan was burned to death in the disastrous fire at Thomas McCauley’s hotel, Brechin.  Miss Callaghan was loved and esteemed by all who knew her.  She was a dress maker by trade and well know in Orillia and Mara.  She was a good Catholic and received the blessed sacrament the Sunday before her death.  The funeral took place from Brechin to St.  Columbkill’s Church, Uptergrove, on Wednesday,  March 18, where requiem high mass was sung by Rev.  Father Trayling of Orillia.  Interment was made in the family plot.  Miss Callaghan leaves to mourn her loss, her father and mother and six brothers, all of whom are at home.  They are Leo, James, John, Edward Clement and Thomas.  The pallbearers were John and Charles McNarney, Thomas Fyke, John Acton, Patrick Maloney and James McDonnell.

    Orillia  Times  March 25, 1914


    Brechin March 25.  Expressions of Sympathy are heard on all sides for the victims of last week’s terrible fire.  The remains of Miss Josephine Callaghan, which were first taken from the ruins, were burr in Uptergrove on Wednesday.  The bodies of the two McCauley children were found later in a large cistern below their sleeping quarters where they had fallen when the upper floor collapsed.  The burial of Mrs. McCauley and her two children took place on Thursday from W. J. Barker’s residents and was largely attended.  Mr. McCauley was unable to attend the funeral, he being confined to his bed since the fire. At. St Andrew’s Church Requiem High Mass was sung by Rev. Father Hayes, P.P., assisted by Fathers Redmond, Beaverton and Sullivan, Victoria Road.  A short but touching sermon was preached by Father Sullivan after which the three victims of Monday’s tragic fire were laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery.  The two young ladies who jumped from an upper story window to save their lives, Miss Etta Crosby and Miss Maggie McNarney, are still confined to their beds and are suffering a lot from their injuries. Mr. McCauley was taken to Orillia Hospital on Friday.  We hope for a speedy recovery of all the injured.  Too much credit cannot be given the young men who risked their lives to save there.  The volunteer fire brigade also deserve  praise for the manner in which they worked and kept the fire from spreading to other buildings.

    Lindsay Post March 29, 1914



    Three persons are dead with a possibility of a fourth being added to that number as a result of a fire which completely destroyed the hotel at Brechin at two o’clock in the morning. The known dead are Mrs. T. McCauley, wife of the proprietor, her six year old son John, and Miss Josephine Callaghan, a servant in the hotel. It is thought that another child was burned but that could not be confirmed. About two o’clock this morning, Thomas McCauley, proprietor of the Brechin Hotel was awakened by the smell of smoke, rushing out he discovered the entire lower part of the building was in flames, which in a few minutes engulfed the entire structure, the wooden framework making excellent fuel for the blaze. He made a desperate attempt to rescue his wife and the other occupants of the building but was cut off by the flames.  In the meantime the bucket brigade was called out and the work of combating the fire began. Carried by a stiff breeze, the flames shot across the street and set fire to the residence of Dr. Gilpin and it too was burned to the ground. The doctor and his wife awakened by the light from the fire in the hotel, had already left the building and were out of danger.

    Later – A later report from Brechin states that a little baby also perished in the flames and that three other residents were badly injured.  The McCauley family formerly lived in Victoria Road.

    McCauley family buried in Brechin Roman Catholic Cemetery.

    Another bit of information   Josephine Callaghan was from a Callaghan family in Rathburn and sister of Edward.

    Another woman, Etta Crosby jumped out the window who married Bill McNarney from East Carden.  Both are buried in Victoria Road.  The hotel was on the west side of the highway between O’Neil Street and the mill.

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