Brewer to honor fallen firefighter from 1911 Great Fire

The brick that honors Brewer Firefighter George Abbott, who died during the Great Fire of 1911. The brick will be laid in a walkway at the Brewer Public Safety Building at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 20, to honor Abbott's sacrifice.
Photo courtesy of Brewer Fire Chief Gary Parent
The brick that honors Brewer Firefighter George Abbott, who died during the Great Fire of 1911. The brick will be laid in a walkway at the Brewer Public Safety Building at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 20, to honor Abbott's sacrifice.
Posted April 19, 2011, at 4:11 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — A Brewer man who crossed the river in 1911 to fight the massive fire that consumed the Queen City’s downtown was the lone firefighter to die in the line of duty that fateful day in what is now known as Bangor’s Great Fire.

The Brewer Fire Department will lay a memorial brick on Wednesday morning to honor Brewer Firefighter George Abbott, 41, who died May 30, 1911, when a chimney fell on him as he was trying to save a house on Penobscot Street in Bangor, Fire Chief Gary Parent said Tuesday.

“He was immediately hurried to the Eastern Maine General Hospital, where he died as the result of his injuries and shock,” a May 2, 1911, Bangor Daily News article states.

The brick-laying in his honor is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Public Safety Building on Parkway South and the public is invited to attend.

“Mr. Abbott was a great favorite with the members of the Brewer department and was a tireless worker,” the 1911 newspaper article states. “He performed several deeds of valor in Sunday’s terrible fire and his death will be profoundly and sincerely mourned by a great many people. Killed while in the performance of his duty he will be mourned by all.”

The city currently has nothing to honor Abbott, the lone firefighter killed in the line of duty in the Brewer Fire Department’s 143-year history, “which is sad,” Parent said. “That is why we got the idea to purchase a brick in his honor.

“When we have the museum opened up, it will certainly have something for him,” he said.

Bangor’s Great Fire destroyed 267 buildings, burned 55 acres, mostly on the north side of Kenduskeag Stream, and caused millions of dollars in damage throughout the Queen City’s downtown. While fighting the inferno, the heat was so intense that “wet blankets, with eyes cut out, were thrown over the firefighters,” Parent said.

In the 1910 U.S. Census, George Abbott is listed as a house carpenter who lived on Fling Street in Brewer with his wife, Emeline H., 38, and his 15-year-old daughter, Gertrude M.

Gertrude Abbott married a Fred Avery of Bangor in July 1916, and the couple later moved into the Abbott family homestead on Fling Street.

Fred Avery became Brewer’s deputy fire chief in the mid-1940s and later earned the rank of fire chief, Parent said.

“It honors him that people in his family continued to do the job,” he said.

Brewer Fire Lt. Jason Gross, one of the event organizers, said that since Abbott died a century ago, it has been tough finding information about him.

“I’ve dug for photos and we’ve dug for family and we’re striking out on both,” he said.

Even so, it’s still important to honor the department’s fallen comrade, said Gross, who has been a firefighter for a decade. All firefighters know the dangers that come with the job, he said.

“He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Gross said of Abbott.

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