Fire broke out in the early morning of October 3rd, 1908 and by the end of the day many buildings within village of Newburgh were destroyed. The Presbyterian Church located on Main Street was barely saved and it lost most of its steeple. The building is now the Newburgh Town Hall. Pictured below is the Finkle Shop the day after the fire and its present day condition after being rebuilt in 1908. Below is the article written by the Kingston paper.  Thanks to the Napanee Archives for searching down a date for me so I could find this article and supplying the photo of the Finkle ruins. Thanks to Digital Kingston for posting the Kingston paper online. It has made life so much easier.











A Complete Story of the Early Morning’s Events—The Napanee Fire Brigade Did Good Service


Newburgh, Oct. 3.

It was a rude awakening our village had, at four o'clock this morning. The dreaded cry of fire was the signal, and scores of citizens were soon rushing to Main Street, and right to the heart of the village, where flames were seen issuing from the upper windows of the Percy hall. The fire had first been seen by Vincent McNeill and Bernard Kennedy, on their return from a dance at Odessa, and these two gave the alarm. The rest of the story is a chapter of loss and disaster, constituting together the heaviest blow that the fiery element has inflicted upon Newburgh since the memorable conflagration of September 7th, 1887, which wiped out half the village and ruined for the time many of its citizens.


The fire of this morning made very rapid work of the building so long known as the Percy block, but now owned by George M. Walker, the upper floor being used as a public hall, and the lower floor occupied by the post office and the fine new grocery and meat-stall of Mr. Walker. This had just recently been fitted in modern style, with magnificent plate glass front. Mr. Walker, on entering, had but time to remove one show-case when the smoke and flames burst into it from an opening above, and in a few minutes it was a seething furnace. Not a breath of wind was stirring and it was thought quite possible to save C. H. Finkle’s building, adjoining Walker’s, and protected by a heavy fire-wall and with galvanized roof, occupied by M. Ryan & Son as a grocery and hardware store below, and used as a large public hall above. Men were soon on this high roof and using to best advantage the buckets of water passed up by the brigade that had been formed. In some way, however, the flames gained entrance under the roof and attacked the inside wall of the hall above. With smoke belching now from the farther side of the hall, all efforts to save the building were seen to be vain, and attention was turned to the Ryan stock, a part of which was successfully removed. Smoke soon put an end to these efforts and this building was in turn resigned to the flames.


Next to this is the residence and tin shop of Charles Welbanks, and no braver fight could have been imagined than the successful struggle made to save this home. Only twelve feet intervened between it and Ryan's. The windows and casings were protected by suspended pieces of tin and hundreds of pails of water used. Men with steaming clothes and well-nigh blistered faces watched every attack made by the fire while others removed the entire contents. There was great rejoicing at the event of fight as Mr. Welbanks carried no insurance.


In the meantime the Napanee fire brigade had been telegraphed for and after considerable delay, occasioned by the necessity of sending to Deseronto for a special train, the engine driver arrived about 7.30, too late to render any assistance. Further danger was now thought to be past, and the brigade returned to Napanee. The fire trouble, however, had but begun. At 8.30 a blaze was discovered in Finkle’s workshop, east of Main Street, south of the first fire. This was soon extinguished, but half an hour later from the basement of this building which was entirely of wood, and a very easy victim to a fire, arose fresh flames, and the Napanee brigade was recalled. This building which spanned the north branch of the river was completely gutted, and had it not been for the return of the fire-fighters from Napanee, the whole western and southern portions of the village would have been wiped out. Even as it was there were still others to suffer. Directly east of the Finkle shop were the paint shop, wood shop and black-smith shop of James Farley, and these could not be saved. Across the side street is the Presbyterian Church and it was only by almost superhuman efforts that this edifice was saved. The spire was badly damaged, and the interior also much injured by water in fighting flames which had pierced the roof. The plaster) over a large part of the church was destroyed, and probably a thousand dollars damage wrought. Beyond the church the residence of Mrs. Hugh Kelly, owned by Mrs. Gibson, was the next place for the attack of the fiery element, and it was soon in ruins despite the utmost efforts of volunteers, while the engine was playing on the church. By this time the wind had risen considerably and there were many incipient fires. Mrs. Lougheed’s house was twice on fire, and the Bay of Quinte lumber sheds twice.


The climax of the day's disaster was the burning of the beautiful home. of Rev. J. H. Chant, superannuated  Methodist minister, which stood far to the east somewhat to the north, and was not thought to be within the danger area. Mr. Chant was bravely assisting his neighbors down town, when news spread of his own danger. Flying cinders had ignited the roof and on discovering this, Mrs. Chant who was alone was powerless to stem it. This beautifully situated home was completely demolished, but most of the contents were saved by a number of workers. No other buildings were attacked, but the fire brigade spent the afternoon playing upon the embers and burning areas of the ground.


Too high commendation can scarcely be given the members of the Napanee fire brigade who, to the number of twenty-two, under the able command of Captain Vanalstine and Lieut. Vanalstine, heroically fought to conquer the constantly threatening fire fiend. Without any doubt, the presence of these faithful men saved Newburgh from irretrievable loss. Newburgh deeply appreciates her obligation to the brigade and will be glad to add to her gratitude a suitable honorarium. Mayor Ming accompanied the fire laddies, and throughout the day rendered valuable counsel and direction. Reeve Ryan of Newburgh, one of the first sufferers, and the other members of council were also active throughout the day.


From among so many noble workers in our own volunteer brigade, in the early stages of the fires it might be unfair of your correspondent to mention any for special merit, but exception must be made of Samuel Kellar who certainly distinguished himself in useful service. He was always on the spot of greatest danger and led the forces. Three or four others were also especially active.


The financial losses sustained will not be very heavy. Mr. Walker, with an insurance of $1,400, will lose over S500; Mrs. A. Madden, post-mistress, suffers little loss as all cash, stamps, etc., had as usual been removed at night and preparations had been completed for removal to the new office further up street next week. Uncalled for mail constitutes the greatest loss here. Mr. Ryan carried a $6,500 dollar stock of groceries, sugar, hardware, paints, oils and flour by the carload, and carried insurance of $4300, made up of $2,000 in the Merchants; $2,000 in the Anglo-American, and $300 in the Traders’ Insurance company. Mr. Finkle carried $1,500 on the stone building and $2,000 on the wood shop which will hardly cover his loss. Mr. Chant carried $700 on his house, which will not cover his loss, which includes a winter's supply of coal in the cellar. Mrs. Kelly loses part of the contents of her cellar, considerable clothing and some furniture, and the Presbyterian Church suffered, as stated above. Mr. Farley's loss is only partially covered by insurance.


The embers will not have ceased to smoke when on Monday morning Mr. Ryan will commence building operations to replace his loss. He purposes to enlarge and add a storey to the building he now uses as a feed storehouse on Main Street, and use it also for groceries and hardware. This action is characteristic of the keen business enterprise of Ryan & Son, and they will soon have again as formerly two completely furnished stores with even increased facilities for handling their large trade. Mr. Chant and Mr. Walker will likely rebuild at once. Mr. Finkle’s intentions are unknown.

Newburgh considers that she has now had her share of fire devastation and is at last aroused to the necessity for adequate fire protection of her own. The village council will be urged to provide proper facilities for such protection, to which it is believed the council are very favorable.


The origin of the day's fire is a complete mystery, but rumors of an incendiary origin are very persistent and doubtless an investigation will be made.