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Disasters

On Monday, March 12, 1906 the residents were startled by grinding and crashing as six of thewestward bound railroad cars plunged down the twenty-five foot gulley at the curve just east oftown. With hearts pounding they raced to the site to see the engine in solitary state on the railswhile all around the cries of the injured wailed.

 

The rescuers slid down the snow embankmentand carried the wounded to the Nelson House while others rushed east and west to get medicalaid. One man died at the scene. Among the passengers were J.J. McFadden of Blind River,Ralph Loveland of Cutler and J.L. Wells of Webbwood. The conductor was Thomas Dreany. Thecurve where the accident occurred has since been reduced.The year of 1906 started out with a train wreck and concluded later with a forest fire, whichapproached from east and west of the village.

 

The residents must have hoped that the followingyear would be quieter.During 1907, Nairn Centre approached the government about getting funds to help with buildinga bridge over the Spanish River. They cited the benefits that could be derived due to the amountof logging that was going on, but the government couldn't be convinced.And so in 1908, the Graves Bigwood Company decided to spend $3,000 to construct a woodenbridge at Headquarters. It was given this name because they had established large stables, acookhouse and quarters for teamsters. Another request was made to the government, this timefor a grant of $1,000 and again they were refused unless the Township established a roadallowance from Old Highway 17 to the river and some distance on the north side. The townfulfilled its part of the bargain and the grant was given to the town to turn over to the company.Unfortunately, the bridge was washed away many years later as a result of a big flood.

 

Mr. SanCartier believes the bridge washed away in 1931.Again, in 1909, forest fire threatened local people; from the north this time.The year, 1910, was still new on Friday, January 21st, when a horrendous train wreck happenedfour miles west of here at the Spanish River trestle crossing. The #7 train consisted of eightcars; an engine, a baggage car, a sleeper and three other cars, all of which didn't leave the rails.But the dining car and first class coach plunged down the embankment and through a foot of iceinto the frigid waters of the river. Some died of their injuries, but most drowned. Altogether, 43souls were lost, one of whom was Lomi Therrien of Nairn Centre.Those who survived were rescued by the conductor. Imagine the bravery of Tom Reynolds ofPembroke.

 

It was minus 40 degrees fahrenheit and yet he still dove into the freezing river tosave W.J. Bell, a millionaire lumberman, after whom Bell Park in Sudbury is named, by pullinghim through a vent in the roof. That wasn't enough, he went back in again and again to saveseveral others.For his efforts, Tom Reynolds was awarded the Albert Medal as well as a sum of money for hisheroism. The cause of the accident was never established.In 1914, after a huge forest fire swept through several townships north of what is now LakeAgnew and extending further north, almost to Cartier, the Graves Bigwood Companyopened up 14 camps with about 1,500 men and 200 teams of horses. Although this was thelargest operation in any one season, lumbering in this district had started to wane.

 

As folks were giving thanks for the end of the first world war in 1919, town people were fightinganother foe. A forest fire roared in from the west. Adults and older children finally put it out at theswamp on Spencer Lane North, within 200 yards of the school house!Sometime after the river washed away the bridge, a scow was built.

 

This primitive form of travelwas risky for the vehicles, horses and especially for the people but it was the only way ofcrossing the Spanish River at the time.Through the years many an enterprising young lad would make money by selling worms for baitto fishermen using the scow, or they would offer to pull the men with their equipment andvehicles across the river. Usually the men would pay them with pocket change. In 1938, anotherrequest to the government for a bridge was made. However, when the Minister found out thatonly one percent of the taxes came from north of the river, the request was denied. So the scowcontinued to be the primary method of crossing the Spanish River locally until the late sixties.