Barcaldine alight in 1909

This week marks 110 years since a disastrous fire destroyed twelve businesses and stores and four hotels in Oak Street in the central business district on Oak Street, Barcaldine, Queensland during the night on 10 August 1909.

Blackened tree stumps and the remnants of timber buildings strewn along Oak Street. Acc: 84-10-3, Negative 46712, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The fire started in the unoccupied business of Mr Otto Joseph Dias in the small hours of the morning, the flames spreading quickly through the other wooden building until a gap was created in the line. The alarm was raised by nearby railway workers.

Newspapers reported the fire appliances possessed by the Barcaldine Fire Brigade were primitive and could not stay the ‘conflagration’. “Bucket brigades were formed, and water was used copiously, but without material effect…”
The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 – 1929) Sat 14 Aug 1909 Page 18

Children in the main street after the fire, Barcaldine, Queensland, 1909. Acc: 83-10-3, Negative 46722, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

The following week the Capricornian reported…

Messrs. Storie, Short and Noble are busy adjusting the losses in connection with the recent fire. Messrs. Wah Sung and Co. purchased a building at Ilfracombe which they have removed here and are erecting on the site of their former premises. Messrs. J. Arthur, R. Park, and O. Devery are also expediting the matter of rebuilding. Mr. J. Tomi, who was probably the heaviest loser by the fire picked up from the debris several pieces of silver and gold and a shapeless mass weighing nearly 3 oz., which was probably his watch, chain, and pendant. Hotel business is being conducted in the stables of Devery’s Hotel and in Kemp’s Hall at the back of the recent Welcome Home Hotel. Mr. Park occupies a portion of Mr Graham’s chemist shop, Mr. C. B. Plumb has taken one of Mr. Hoskins’s shops, Mr. Colman carries on his business in O’Regan’s butcher shop, Mr. Hudson is tailoring in Mesrs. T. E. O’Brien and Co.’s shop, and Mrs. McLoughlin has the shop next to the West End Hotel. Messrs. Vesper, McBride, Tomi and Fong Sang are not quite prepared to resume business”. The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 – 1929)  Sat 21 Aug 1909

Eleven years earlier in 1898, John Tomi’s general store in Oak Street was photographed. John Tomi was a draper, clothier and importer, establishing the business in 1884.

John Tomi’s outfitting emporium, Oak Street, Barcaldine, Queensland, 1898, photograph courtesy of Barcaldine Historical Society, image number: bar00031

Situated between the Carriers Arms Hotel and J. R. Humphrey’s saddlery the fire destroyed the building.

Barcaldine Fire Brigade, Queensland, ca. 1910 Acc: 83-5-5, Negative 40669, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Anne Scheu | Collections Engagement | Queensland Memory