Fire at the Terrill Mansion: Excerpt #3 from the "Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin"

Edited by Matthew Farfan

The following is our third excerpt from the "Private Journal" of Henry Joseph Martin, a resident of Stanstead, Quebec.

Funding for transcription and research into this unique historical document has been provided in part by the Bélanger-Gardner Foundation of Bishop's University, Townshippers' Foundation, and through the Heritage Online Multimedia Enrichment Initiative of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN).

larger_martin_001.jpgHenry Joseph Martin (1828-1885):

Henry Joseph Martin (1828-1885) is an obscure man today. This is due in part to the fact that he was such a private, modest man. But in life, Martin was profoundly respected by his friends, colleagues and community, where he was heavily involved in numerous behind-the-scenes ways, giving freely of his time and energy, without expectation of reward.

Martin was remembered by historian Arthur Henry Moore (History of Golden Rule Lodge) as being "of a quiet, even temperament, born to win the hearts of his fellows and to lead them by the sheer force of his personality."

Born and raised in Stanstead, Quebec, Henry Joseph Martin studied to become a civil engineer and land surveyor. After working as a surveyor and draughtsman for several years in the Townships, Martin moved to Iowa in 1861, where he remained until 1864. He then returned to Stanstead for several years until he received an appointment to the U.S. Patents Office in Washington D.C.

After moving to the U.S., Martin maintained close ties to the place of his birth, returning frequently to Stanstead where, among other things, he was one of the leading lights (and several times master) of Golden Rule Masonic Lodge. Martin died of tuberculosis in Washington D.C. in 1885. He was much lamented by all who knew him.

In his lifetime, Martin was known as a meticulous record-keeper. The diary that has come down to us, from which the following is an excerpt, is remarkable in its detail. Within its pages may be found descriptions of everything from local disasters to political events of regional or international significance.

This third excerpt in this series covers a single day's entry in Martin's diary. It records the conflagration that took place on the night of Saturday, November 17, 1860, when the Honorable Timothy Lee Terrill's home went up in flames. The Terrill mansion, at the north end of Stanstead Plain, was a complete loss.

Sherbrooke native Timothy Lee Terrill (1815-1879) was a lawyer who moved to Stanstead Plain in 1844. Following the death from cholera of his elder brother, lawyer and Member of the Provincial Parliament Hazard Bailey Terrill (1811-1852), Timothy Lee Terrill was elected without opposition to the Parliament of the Province of Canada for Stanstead County. A moderate like his brother, he was re-elected in 1854 and 1857. From 1856 to 1857, Terrill served as Registrar of the Province, Provincial Secretary and Member of the Executive Council. In 1861, Terrill retired from provincial politics on account of ill health, but remained active in his community, becoming a leading agriculturalist, livestock breeder, and officer of the Stanstead County Agricultural Society.


Private Journal of Henry J. Martin

larger_img_8783.jpgSaturday. Nov 17th. Glorious day. In the Sugar place in the forenoon, getting up wood. In the afternoon I took Mother to the Line. In the evening I went up to J P Bachelders where I intended to spend the night. Had been in bed about an hour when I was startled by the cry of “Fire”! and on getting up found that the buildings of the Hon’ T Lee Terrill were all in one mass of flame.

Bachelder and I hurried to the Plain as fast as our legs could carry us. Nearly dead when we got there. There were some 14 buildings in the block, all consumed with a very large amount of Hay, Straw, Grane, Roots, farming tools, Harnesses and all their contense. Also 11 fat Hogs.

The furnature was all saved. It was the largest fire I ever witnessed. I spent the remainder of the night with H M’ Dugal, There was a heavy fall of Snow in the night, which added to the allumination of the fire the light from it being seen at Sherbrooke, 30 miles north.

Mr Terrill’s loss is estimated at Ten thousand dollars.

Click here for:
The Civil War Starts: Excerpt #4 from the "Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin."