14 April

St. Lawrence River Swells, Floods Montreal

This is the time of year when many parts of Canada are menaced by spring floods. Under normal conditions the floods are kept under control, but occasionally there will be a combination of unusual weather conditions and then the high spring waters run wild.

Even in recent years there have been desperate conditions in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia (1948) and the Red River, Manitoba (1950). Both situations were saved by thousands of citizens turning out to make restraining walls with sandbags. Even so, the Red River flood extended over 700 square miles and caused $27 million damage.

Until 1901, when a stone wall was built along the river banks, Montreal had often been damaged by spring floods. One of the first floods destroyed a cemetery established by Maisonneuve who founded Montreal in 1642.

The worst Montreal flood happened on the evening of Sunday, April 14, 1861. Almost without warning, the St. Lawrence River rose so suddenly that the water poured into the lower part of the city, stranding many people who were attending evening services in the churches. St. Stephen's Church on Dalhousie Street, and the Methodist Church on Ottawa Street were completely surrounded by water in a few minutes. The people had to stand on the pews as it poured in at the doors. Even then, with the water 6 feet deep, they could only keep their heads above it. Some people had to stay there all night in the freezing cold and darkness because the lights were extinguished. Others were rescued by small boats which were rowed into the churches.

By morning, there was an icy blizzard and one-quarter of Montreal was under water. Small boats served as taxis from St. James Street. to Beaver Hall Hill, at. a fare of five cents per passenger. The Grand Trunk railway was unable to operate as its lines were flooded as far as Lachine. Victoria Bridge, an important link in the Grand Trunk which spanned the St. Lawrence River, was also temporarily closed. Then considered one of the engineering wonders of the world, it had just been opened the previous year by Edward, Prince of Wales, representing his mother, Queen Victoria.


14 April

-1849    Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick received its charter.

-1851    Britain disallowed the currency regulations introduced by Sir Francis Hincks.

-1871    An act was passed, establishing the use of uniform currency throughout Canada.

-1892    Windsor, Ontario, received a city charter.

-1896    The House of Commons deadlocked on the Manitoba separate schools remedial bill.

-1918    General Foch was named Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in France. In practice, the national commanders (Haig, King Albert, and Pershing) retained extensive control.

-1919    President Wilson rejected the Italian claim to Fiume and the coast south of it, whereupon the Italians withdrew from the Paris Peace Conference.

-1928    The famous Russell House Hotel, Ottawa, was destroyed by fire.