Skip navigation links (access key: Z)Library and Archives Canada - Bibliothèque et Archives Canada Canada
Home > Browse Selected Topics > SOS! Canadian Disasters Français

Archived Content

This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.

Banner: SOS! Canadian Disasters
IntroductionDisaster Media ReportsSearchHelpWaterEarthAirFireIce


Fall of Rock Last Evening in Champlain Street.


Seventeen Dwellings Crushed – Result of Late Heavy Rainfalls.


At 7.20 last evening, Sergeant Rigby of No. 5 Police Station, was an eye-witness of one of the terrible disasters that have already on [illegible] caused so much loss of life and property in Champlain Street.

A large portion of the face of the cliff fronting beneath the summer residence of the Governor General and Officers’ quarters on the Citadel, fell right across the roadway immediately east of Allan’s wharf, filling the street for ninety yards and crushing beneath it and overwhelming all the stone and brick houses on the river side from No. 133 to No. 155, and without a moment’s warning burying the occupants in ruins.

The alarm was at once telephoned to the Central Station, when Colonel Vohl, chief of the City Police, called in all the police, as well as summoning the fire brigade and military, which demand was promptly responded to from all quarters.


Two days of heavy rain succeeding a month of dry weather, filled the crevices of the parched and thirsty soil immediately below and beyond the southern extremity of Dufferin Terrace, and at 7 20 p.m. an enormous mass was detached from the cliff and hurled with the noise of thunder, slowly at first, but rapidly increasing in momentum through its slide of a couple of hundred feet, over the retaining wall, pushing half a dozen houses out of its way and crushing most of them beneath its weight as though they had been so many paper boxes. Some of those who saw the slide were standing at the doors of their houses and were too much paralysed to move out of its way. Others ran to a place of safety, and amongst them John Berrigan, Pat Meehan, Pat O’Neill, three young men who furnish the above description of how the fatal rock fell.

The debris of rock filled up the narrow street to the depth of some thirty five feet, and cut off all communication between the portions of the city north and south of it. On the wharves behind where the houses had stood, scattered timbers and the earth and rock that partially covered them were mingled with huge piles of coal that left little passage way between them and the river.

The river police men, whose stating is close by, and the city police from Champlain Market, were amongst the fist to rush to the relief of the imprisoned, the wounded and dying sufferers.

Col. Vohl, Deputy Chief Walsh, Chief Dorval of the Fire Brigade, Deputy Chief Coleman, Major Wilson, Captain Rutherford, Captain Fages, J.U. Gregory, Esq., and the different men under their command all did yeomen’s service.

The medical men who were early on the scene and did all that they possibly could to relieve the sufferers were Dr. Lemieux, sr., Dr. Lemieux, jr., Dr. Parke, Dr. Ahern, Dr. Verge, Dr. Venner, Dr. Gosselin, Dr. Delaney and Dr. Howe.

Of course all the neighbors turned out to do what was possible and so did several members of the City Council, notably Ald. Chouinard, Ald. L.J. Demers, Councillor Kaine, Councillor McLaughlin.

Napoleon Desbecquet, boatman, saved a little 7 year old son of Mr. Stevens, engineer at the Examining Warehouse, from the ruins of their building. He was found in the debris, but by the use of a plank he was able to extricate the little fellow.


Mr. George Hayden was standing near Mr. Berrigan’s door for some time before the fatal rock descended. “It is useless for us to deny,” said he last night, “that we had not ample warning given us of a disaster. I was standing talking with poor Nolan and Farrell, who are now dead, and with Perry, when portions of the rock fell at intervals of about five minutes, first in small quantities, then more profusely. After the second slide occurred, I said it was time for us to move, and managed to get away. Nolan might have done the same, but ran into his house to call his wife.”


No. 133.  Ratchford, Mrs. Widow S.
  Ready, John, laborer.
  Knox, Mrs Widow John.
No. 135  O’Neill, John, laborer.
  Mulholland, Thos. wharfinger.
No. 137.  Kerwin, Luke, tobacconist.
No. 139.  Berrigan, Tim, carter.
No. 141.   -----------------
No. 143.  Allan, Charles, laborer.
  Bracken, Mrs. Widow W.   Stephens, Wm., laborer.
No. 145-1451/2  Black, Henry, founder and [grocer.
  Maybury, Richard, laborer.
No. 147.  Burke, Stephen, laborer.
No. 147½  Black’s grocery
No. 149.  [illegible] Richard, laborer.
  [illegible], Mrs. Widow A. nurse.
No. 151.  Lawson, Robert, laborer.
No. 153.  Lawson, Henry, laborer.
  O’Dowd, Mrs. Widow John.
No. 155.  Berrigan, Thomas, carter.
  Fitzgerald, Patrick, laborer
  Farrell, Thomas, laborer.
  Hayden, James, laborer.
  Power, William, laborer.
  Bradley, James, laborer.
  Kemp, Joseph, laborer.


The 24 bodies now on view in the Water Police Station are:--
  1. Thomas Farrel, father, shiplaborer ;
  2. Lawrence Farrel, 6 years ;
  3. Stella Farrel, 4 years ;
  4. Agnes Farrel, 1 year ;
  5. Mrs. Stephen Burke (née Allen) ;
  6. and 7. Two children (supposed hers); Husband injured in Hotel Dieu Hospital ;
  8. Miss Allen (sister of Mrs. Burke) ;
  9. Willie Black ;
  10. Widow Bracken ;
  11. Alicia Bradley, 4 years, daughter of James Bradley ;
  12. Esther Mary Fitzgerald, 4 years ;
  13. Patrick Fitzgerald, 1 year ;
  14. Michael Deehy ;
  15. James Black ;
  16. Chas. Allen and wife ;
  17. Richard Leahey and wife ;
  18. Nora Kennedy, adopted child ;
  19. Mrs. McKinnon, charwoman ;
  20. Miss Lane ;
  21. Mrs. Reddy ;
  22. Mrs. James Bradley ;
  23. And others not recognized.

(about thirty six in number) are :--
  John Henry and wife ;
  Richard Maybury and family of five ;
  T. Nolan and wife ;
  Robert Lawson, wife and child ;
  Mrs. O’Dowd.
  Mr. James Bradley’s four children ;
  James Kemp and wife.
  Several bodies have since been recovered. Of course there is a bare possibility of some of the missing parties being taken out alive.

  T. Berrigan, sr., seriously ;
  Nellie Deehy, seriously ;
  Mullins family ;
  William Stephens family ;
  Mrs Black, slightly ;
  Ida Black; thigh broken ;
  Stephen Burke and mother ;
  A. Burke ;
  P. Fitzgerald ;
  James Hayden ;
  Wm. Power, wife and two children.


There are six men and women in the Hotel Dieu, one of the latter, a little girl, is thought in danger.

3 p.m.—Wm, Power has just been sent to the hospital with both legs broken.


The great avalanche of rock runs for a space of about one hundred yards “(says the City Engineer)” commencing at the east end of the last Kiosk of Dufferin Terrace and running in a direct line westward as far as the Officers Quarters on the Citadel. The face of the now standing cliff forms a smooth perpendicular wall along the whole line, with one or two cracks that indicate the unsolid nature of the whole mass, which may soon follow, now that its base and outer supports are gone or exposed to the wearing influence of the elements.


The nearest house left on the east side of the gap is owned and occupied by Mr. Power, stevedore, and Mr. Jalbert ship smith. The first house left standing on the west side a three story fire brick building, was known of old as the property of Yankee Jones, and was used many years ago by the Nickinson family as the Pres de Ville Theatre, but is now occupied as a tenement house with a foundry and coal wharf in rear. The eastern corner of this building on the street was carried away by the rushing debris of stone.


The general appearance of the mass of displaced rock is that of a lot of great regular squares about eight or ten feet in diameter resting one beside and upon the other like a collection of massive dice, the displacement of the lower ones of which threatens to send down the entire mass above.

The fine new fortification wall supporting the last of the Terrace kiosks rests but three or four feet from the brink of this now perpendicular wall about one hundred and fifty feet above Champlain street, and ready at any moment to fall over. In fact the stair way leading to the Citadel bastion, which starts about fifty feet in rear of the kiosk, has been broken asunder by the partial sliding of the upper cliff above the Terrace. The authorities have, therefore, forbidden people from walking on the Terrance beyond the line of the end of DesCarrieres street.


At ten p.m. Aldermen Chouinard and Demers sent the following telegram to Sir H. L. Langevin, Minister of Public Works, and Sir A. P. Caron, Minister of Militia, Ottawa:

“Terrible accident. Part of the rock below the Citadel west of Dufferin Terrace fallen. Ten houses destroyed and a great number of person buried in the ruins. Champlain street completely obstructed. Over forty persons buried in the ruins. Please order immediate clearing of the street. Many persons dead. Mayor absent. Please reply at once.”

Ald. Demers also telegraphed to the mayor at Lake St. John, advising him of the catastrophe and that fire had begun to envelope the ruins.


There was another avalanche shortly after five o’clock yesterday afternoon, from the cliff some 75 yards higher up the street than the scene of the more disastrous landslide. At this place it is estimated that some ten to fifteen tons of debris were precipitated into the street.

At this very spot where last night’s disaster occurred, the Dominion Government, warned by the representations of the Hon. Thos. McGreevy, M.P. for the Division of Quebec West, expended a large sum of money in 1881, purchasing and removing several houses on the cliff side of the street and in building a high retaining wall several feet thick to prevent disaster from falling rock to the dwellers across the street. Those portions of rock which protruded in the most dangerous manner were also removed.

Last night’s experience proves that the danger had by no means disappeared.


On the 17th May, 1841, at 11 a.m, the lofty cliffs gave way opposite the old Custom House, now occupied by the Marine Department and Water police. Eight buildings were crushed and thirty two persons killed.

By the landslide of July, 1852, seven people were killed in the same street.


The officers and men of the Cavalry School and B Battery returned to work at 2 p.m. to aid in clearing the rubbish and extricate the sufferers.

Fire declared itself almost immediately in some of the ruins, but the brigade, soon extinguished the flames and set to work to assist in the search for the dead and dying.

The injured have been nearly all removed to the Hotel Dieu Hospital.

Father Neville, formerly of this city now of St. Sylvestre, was early on the scene, as also Fathers Miller and Walsh, of St. Patrick’s Church, and assisted materially to soothe the sick and suffering by their ministrations.

Voices were heard in the ruins of Mr. Black’s house, and, after great difficulty Mrs. Black and her niece were recovered and carried into the police station. They report Mr. Black dead, also his son Willie.

A heart rending spectacle was today witnessed in the front room of the water police station where, stretched out on a table side by side, lay the dead bodies of six innocent little children, from two to ten years of age, wearing upon their features as calm and peaceful an expression as if sleeping.

The clearing of the ruins to get at the survivors—if any—proceeds very slowly not enough men being at the work.