Bonus Content: Mrs. McSheen’s Letter to the Editor
The Vancouver World – Letters to the Editor — July 31st, 1910
To the Editors,
On behalf of the town of Fraser Springs, I would like to thank your fine publication for the story about our community. We are confident that Fraser Springs will emerge from this incident stronger than ever.
I would like, however, to establish one vital piece of information. In his article, Mr. Ross Wister describes the efforts to save Doctor Stryker and Mrs. Albert Wilson thusly: “Luckily for the terrified pair, a citizen ran into the burning building and bodily carried them to safety one at a time.”
To those of us who witnessed the rescue, the reason for article’s omission is clear: the hero was none other than Ross Wister himself. Mr. Wister came to our town to report on its spas and ended up being the main character in a compelling testament to human bravery and civic duty.
After Mr. Wister returned to Vancouver, we attempted to locate him in order to bestow upon him a token of our heartfelt thanks. Our inquiries turned up nothing. It is clear that “Ross Wister” is a pen-name and that he has downplayed his heroic actions out of modesty and humility.
We, the citizens of Fraser Springs, call upon The Vancouver World to reveal “Ross Wister’s” true identity so that he may receive the approbation he so richly deserves.
Mrs. Robert McSheen
Madame President of the Society for the Advancement of Moral Temperance
Fraser Springs, BC
Bonus Content: Owen’s Article About Fraser Springs
The Vancouver World, Sunday Edition, Front Page – June 28th, 1910.
Act of Madness Ignites Spa Town in Fiery Inferno – Raises Concerns Over Fire Safety
Those among us who were present for the Great Fire of 1886 remember the terror of that day: the way the wind whipped the flames and sent them blasting in all directions, sparing some houses and consuming others whole; the choking smoke; the wretched masses huddling on rooftops waiting to be saved. Though Vancouver has healed from that dreadful occasion and now boasts the most modern fire-fighting equipment, there are still communities where a single spark can consume the fruits of a lifetime of hard work in the blink of an eye. Case in point: the little spa town of Fraser Springs. This reporter headed to Fraser Springs hoping for a respite from fast-paced modern life, but instead found a scene of arson and terror.
A town of great beauty and healing waters
Fraser Springs is located only five hours by train and steamboat from Vancouver, but one feels as if one has been transplanted to a land thousands of miles from civilization. The air is fresh with the odours of sun-warmed pine and the famed hot springs. Since the hot springs were discovered in 1874, citizens from all walks of life have flocked to them to be cured of ailments ranging from miner’s lung to bad knees to rheumatic fever. Indeed, the finest physicians attest that hot springs have medicinal properties, especially when paired with the ministrations of a trained masseuse. In addition to a thriving mining and forestry business, the town now does a brisk tourist trade that has only increased since a rose-marble confection of a building called the St. Alice Hotel opened along the waterfront.
For the first week of my stay, I enjoyed the sumptuous hospitality of the St. Alice Hotel. How thrilling to sit in a room finely done up in velvet and dark wood and yet still hear the yips of coyotes and the howling of wolves! Truly, it is the best of both worlds! While the spa at the St. Alice has an excellent reputation, I took my treatments and meals at a quaint old-style spa named Wilson’s Bathhouse, which has been ably run by Mrs. Albert Wilson after the untimely death of her husband. Though some are titillated by the fact that Wilson’s employs only female masseuses, this reporter did not find even a breath of scandal about the practice, and in fact agrees with the assessment of one noted physician who said that a woman’s more intuitive and caring nature lends her special talents in the art of tending to the body’s ills. All masseuses at Wilson’s have been thoroughly trained by Mrs. Wilson herself and all are expert in their craft.
Yes, this reporter could devote a whole article waxing poetic about how the cares of his demanding Vancouver lifestyle melted away thanks to the peaceful atmosphere, the healing waters and the first-rate hospitality. Unfortunately, however, a tragedy was brewing.
A Fiery Inferno Threatens Life and Limb!
On the evening of June 10th, I was walking along the boardwalk, taking in the fresh air when I smelled smoke. The cause of the odour soon became clear when I encountered a demented figure dancing in front of Wilson’s and sweet shop run by one Doctor Stryker. I soon learned that a miner had succumbed to a terrible madness. In his delusions, he believed that the devil had inhabited the environs and had taken it upon himself to “cleanse the town with fire” and “send the harlots down to hell to dance with the devil.”
In his mania, the man had pitched molotov cocktail through the window of Doctor Stryker’s place of business and set the building ablaze. Now, he stood screaming and dancing in a most hideous display that would shock even the sensibilities of an asylum warden. A local trapped tackled the madman to the ground, though he reared up like a demented beast and shook off myriad strong men before they were finally able to hog-tie him.
Aided by a fast wind and the old, dried wood of the structure, the facade of Doc Stryker’s soon dissolved into a fiery conflagration. The blaze was so hot that the paint on the nearby buildings bubbled. Just then, a scream came from inside Doctor Stryker’s establishment. Both Mrs. Wilson and Doctor Stryker were trapped inside!
The town sprung into action to aid their fallen neighbours and to contain the damage caused by the fire. As the cries of the two trapped souls rang out across the water, the townspeople assembled a bucket brigade. Unfortunately, the blaze was so hot that it burned faster than their buckets could douse. More able men joined the fight, and the good ladies of Wilson’s brought water to the makeshift firefighters to aid them in their battle. Truly, the way the town pitched in combat the blaze was inspirational, and greatly touched this reporter.
Luckily for the terrified pair, a citizen ran into the burning building and bodily carried them to safety one at a time. In another stroke of luck, the steamboat the S.S. Minto was in the area, and delivered aid by pulling up to the back of the burning structure and providing a getaway for both the rescued and the rescuer. Just as the S.S. Minto pulled away from the burning building with its human cargo in tow, Doctor Stryker’s sweet shop collapsed into the water. The rescue had come not a moment too soon.
In the end, resuscitation was applied to the unconscious Doctor Stryker and Mrs. Wilson was also revived. Two lives were saved, but only thanks to what could only have been divine intervention. As if God Himself was refuting the demented miner’s libelous claims, Wilson’s Bathhouse was happily spared from the blaze. As the smoke hung thickly on the horizon, blotting out the mountains, the town of Fraser Springs doused the last of the embers and reflected upon how closely they all came to ruin.
Incident Highlights The Need for Modern Fire-Fighting Equipment Across the Province
The Fire of Fraser Springs demonstrates that in communities without proper fire protection, even the greatest bravery is not a safeguard against the threat of conflagration. For the citizens of Fraser Springs and other small towns like it, only modern fire-fighting equipment will ensure safety.
Unfortunately, equipment such as firetrucks, fire boats, hoses, chemical extinguishing tanks, and even fireproof asbestos paint and treatments such as tungsgate of soda are difficult to acquire in such far-flung communities. The expense of such equipment also puts it out of reach of towns with still-developing tax bases.This reporter believes that the provincial government has a duty to create a fire-fighting strategy for small communities and provide them with appropriate equipment and training. Even a volunteer fire brigade well-trained by those versed in the lessons of the Great Vancouver Fire would ameliorate many of the current challenges. It is clear that the good people of Fraser Springs have the will and bravery to fight fires. They need only the proper training and equipment.
This reporter urges you to call upon your local representative and speak to him at once about fire safety. The era of rugged and self-sufficient men decamping off to the deep, secret wilderness to look for gold is ending. A new era has begun: one of families, of women and children, of tourism and trade. If this new economic era is to be fully realized, it requires a foundation of safety for all people of this land. The government must do right by these brave citizens who are committed to bringing civilization to the far reaches of our beautiful province.
For now, however, the town of Fraser Springs relies on its own abilities to rebuild. An enthusiastic fundraising campaign to repair the damaged buildings and invest in modern firefighting equipment has been formed thanks to the First United Church Ladies’ Auxiliary helmed by the able Mrs. Robert McSheen. Any interested parties who would like to contribute to the cause should please send their donations to a fund set up by this newspaper. The address is listed below. Concerned citizens can also contribute to Fraser Springs’ prosperity by voting with their tourism dollars. While Doctor Stryker’s establishment is temporarily out of commission, all other buildings are open for guests and provide the highest standards of service. To book a room, please follow the listings below.