The devastation of Trois-Rivières in 1908

The Maison du roi (governor’s house), built in 1723, and the Immaculée-Conception church, built in 1710, were completely destroyed. At least 800 homes were nothing but rubble when it was over. This was the result of the great fire that ravaged a third of the city of Trois-Rivières on June 22, 1908 and devastated the population of 10,000.

Aftermath of the fire in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, June 22, 1908. Photographer: Pierre-Fortunat Pinsonneault. Library and Archives Canada, PA-029267.

Aftermath of the fire in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, June 22, 1908. Photographer: Pierre-Fortunat Pinsonneault. Library and Archives Canada, PA-029267.

The website, Passionnés d’histoire trifluvienne (Fans of the History of Trois-Rivières), has devoted a web page to the fire. Maps and photos illustrate the devastation. Do not be daunted by the language in the French-only website. Look at the maps and you will easily see the area that was affected by the fire and you will have no problem understanding what the photos are about.

Trois-Rivières is one of the oldest cities in North America. It has had a small English-speaking population for more than 250 years. Today, only one percent of the population claims English as its mother tongue, but the city still maintains an English elementary school and an English high school.

In the 1840s, British and American wood merchants started to establish sawmills in the heavily forested region. Each year, hundreds of ships sailed from the city’s busy port for England and the US. At the turn of the 20th century, Montreal and Boston-based companies set up large pulp and paper mills to supply newsprint for American newspapers. According to Wikipedia, “the city was known as the pulp and paper industry capital of the world from the late 1920s until the early 1960s.”

While on this website, take a look at the dozens of names and a few short biographies in the Personnes section. If you have difficulty reading French, copy the text and put it in Google Translate. Unfortunately, this section is not complete. The bios end at the letter B and the list of names end at L. I expect this is a work in progress.

For those who own family portraits taken by Trois-Rivières photographers, the Répertoire des photographes de Trois-Rivières (1851-1950) may help you narrow down the date they were taken. The repertoire lists photographers’ names, studio addresses, and the dates when they worked at these addresses.

The website was created by historian René Beaudoin. Because plans are underway to create a new version of the website, few additions have been made since March of this year. All in all, this is an interesting website, chock full of location information, with the promise of even more in the future.

Bon travail, Monsieur Beaudoin.


About Gail Dever

Gail Dever is a Montreal-based genealogist and blogger and a webmaster for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.
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One Response to The devastation of Trois-Rivières in 1908

  1. Celia Lewis says:

    All those photos were incredible! So many of our early cities had large fires like this – I’m in Vancouver BC and the downtown area by the river was demolished by fire. So much history lost. Thanks for writing about this important history, and the links.

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