On January 6th, 1898, the Weekly Intelligencer reported on a disaster which had taken place in the city of London, Ontario, three days earlier
DEATH FOLLOWS VICTORY
Awful Calamity at a Municipal Meeting in London.
23 CRUSHED TO DEATH
The Winners in the Municipal Battle Had Gathered in the City Hall to Listen to Speeches by the Successful Candidates – The Platform and Floor Gave Way and Twenty-Three Were Carried to Death – The Dead and Injured.
F. Heaman, C. Beckit, E. Luxton, N. Carrothers, R. Leigh, S. Harris, A. Phillips, L. W. Burk, W. J. Smith, W. C. Talbot, John Turner, Benjamin J. Nash, J. W. Borland, Frank Robinson, W. H. Dell, Stephen Williams, Ben Jacques, O. Bruce, James McLean, John Fellows, John Burridge, Allen Towe, Unknown Man.
Geo. Yates, Reporter, Joshua Darch, H. Passmore, Reporter, Thomas Blanch, Ald. Robt. Carrothers, Mayor Wilson, – Burges, W. Gray, leg broken, – Fleming, arm broken, Ald. Neil Cooper, internal injuries, H. Van Wyck, head cut.
London, Jan. 4.- During the height of a triumphal after-election meeting, 23 people were thrown to their death by the fiving way of a floor in the City Hall last night. Scores were injured, and the hospitals of the city are crowded with the dying and dead.
London, Ont., Jan. 5.- London’s pall of sorrow darkened and hung heavy over the city yesterday. From the masts of the city flags waved at half-mast in dolorous silence, and citizens spoke in whispers as they realized the magnitude of the disaster which had in a moment blotted out the lives of 23 people who the evening before were jubilant with life.
From all sections of the country came messages of sympathy, showing how deeply the calamity had touched the hearts of the people of Canada.
Upon the streets the disaster was the sole topic of conversation. The cause for it was earnestly discussed by the citizens…
[Drawing] Mayor-Elect J. D. Wilson, M. D., Whose election was being celebrated.
One of the people killed in this disaster had a Hastings County connection. Leander Ward Burke was born in Huntingdon Township in around 1859 and grew up with his parents, James Gilbert Burke and Charlotte Jane (Vandervoort) on their farm on lot 10 of the fifth concession. By 1888 both James and Charlotte had died and Leander was living in London in 1890, working as an agent for a life assurance company.
Burke’s death was registered with those of his fellow accident victims. Ironically, the ‘name of physician in attendance’ is Dr. John D. Wilson, the very man whose election everyone at the event had been celebrating, and who had himself been injured in the disaster.
After the disaster at City Hall, Leander’s body was returned to Hastings County and he was buried in the Moira Cemetery.
The Community Archives holds a tinted tintype photograph of Leander Burke, taken when he was conducting a group of girls near Maynooth, Ontario. This item was donated to the Hastings County Historical Society by Hazel Hutchinson of Stirling, Ontario, in September 1974.