Etc. -- Wisson-Wark fire and inquest (2 articles)
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A lightly edited news report on page 1 of the 10 Apr 1919 Simcoe Reformer newspaper.

Small Fire Takes 
Lives of Three

A heap of charred debris marks the scene of a distressing tragedy that happened in Simcoe last Friday night, in which three people lost their lives.

The cause of the fatalities was the burning of the home of George Wisson, situated on Agricultural street. 

[Compiler's Comment: Agricultural Street is now called South Drive.]

The three victims were Wisson, his sister, Mrs. John Wark Jr., formerly Minnie Wisson, and the latter's two-year-old son, Arthur.

The alarm was given shortly before twelve, but the house was so small, only consisting of three or four rooms, and being built of wood, the blaze spread to every part very quickly.

Charles Racher, who gave the alarm, knocked on the doors of the house and tried to alarm the occupants, but to no purpose, and therefore it was at first thought that the place was empty.

The three bodies were found later in a badly burned condition.

Mrs. Wark, who lives in Brantford, had come over with her sister, Mrs. Brown, only that day. The latter had been in the house during the evening, but left some time before the fire broke out.

George Wisson went overseas with the First Simcoe contingent in 1914, and was wounded the next year, and after hospital treatment in England came back to Simcoe more than two years ago.

Mrs. Wark's husband enlisted in a Brant Battalion, and a son also has been in the army, recently coming back to Canada.

Military honors were paid to the body of George Wisson, the funeral being held at 
4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon to Oakwood cemetery, when a large concourse of people was present. Rev. Mr. Farney read the burial service.

Mrs. Wark and her son were buried an hour earlier, Rev. Mr. Newcombe being the officiating clergyman.

As soon as the bodies were discovered Coroner McGilvery was notified and a jury empanelled. An adjournment was made until 7.30 this (Thursday) evening, when evidence will be taken.


A lightly edited news report on page 1 of the 17 Apr 1919 Simcoe Reformer newspaper.

The Wisson Inquest

The inquest on the deaths of Geo. Wisson, his sister, Minnie Wisson Wark, and her child, who lost their lives on 4 Apr 1919 by the burning of Wisson's house, was held in two sessions on Thursday and Saturday evenings last.

Dr. McGilvery presided and H. P. Innes, K.C., represented the crown. Many witnesses were examined to piece out the sordid story of the tragedy in its unpleasant details. But nothing came to light to justify the widespread hints of foul play.

Partly consumed kegs of "hard' cider were found in the remains of the house. There was evidence that there had been a carousal. It was a fair inference that, in a more or less stupid condition, the adult victims had retired to beds on or near which they perished, when the fire, from causes unknown enveloped the cottage.

The jury returned the following verdict:

That George Wisson came to his death by suffocation on Friday, 4 Apr 1919, in the dormitory of his residence, at the intersection of Agricultural and Metcalfe Streets, in the town of Simcoe, Norfolk County, Ontario, and by the following method:

Fire from the stove in the dwelling escaping, set the building on fire, and the said George Wisson was unable to escape, not through having no means of exit, but through his being intoxicated through over-indulgence in hard cider, and doubtless in a heavy stupor of sleep till he was overcome by smoke.

We exonerate the fire brigade from any criticism, believing that they responded promptly to the call and arrived at the place too late to hazard an entrance into the room, and doubtless after life was extinct.

We do not find any evidence of foul play preceding the fire.

We would recommend that the crown pursue further an investigation with a view to placing the responsibility for the supplying of the hard cider, to the over-indulgence in which is to be attributed the fatal results.

Only one incident in connection with the enquiry could be stretched into a semblance of the unexpected. 

On Saturday evening a juryman announced to the coroner and the remainder of the jury that he had been visited by Thomas Coates, who keeps a grocery on Cedar Street. 

Coates had asked him what the jury thought of his (Coates') connection with the cider. Elliott, the juryman, answered that he had not heard anything about it at all. Whereupon Coates said: "Here, see I get fair play," or words to that effect, shoved a $5 bill into Elliott's hands, and then vanished.


Copyright 2016 John Cardiff