Sapper

Henry Bruce

Sapper Bruce was born in 1832 in England.

Joining the Royal Sappers and Miners, Bruce's trade was listed as carpenter. In 1854, he found himself in the Crimea during the siege work at the Russian fortress of Sebastopol.

Henry Bruce's Crimea War Medal

Volunteering for service in British Columbia, Bruce traveled with Captain Grant's party, arriving in the Colony November 8th of 1858.

Bruce remained in the Colony when the Detachment was disbanded in November of 1863.

During the dry Spring of 1864, disaster struck Bruce.

Wednesday 1st June 1864 - The British Columbian

A Conflagration - Owing to the extreme dryness of the weather and the high winds which prevailed during yesterday the fire spread at a fearful rate amongst the lying timber in the rear of this city, and the town was at one period considered in imminent danger.  Several unimportant buildings in the suburban plot, together with fences and gardenstuffs, were destroyed, and the two mills immediately below the city were saved with much difficulty.  But the chief damage was done at Sapperton, the north-eastern suburbs, where, we regret to say, four dwellings were consumed, viz., Mr. Bruce's, Mr. Franklin's, Mr. Gilchrist's and Mr. Edwards'.  Many other buildings in that locality were in great danger, but were saved through the most praiseworthy exertions of the redoubtable Hyacks, assisted by valuable volunteer aid.  This fire must have destroyed a considerable amount of property and shows the necessity of having all the lying timber adjacent to the city burned off as soon as possible.  The Hyacks had a hard day of it.  They were at work at Webster and Co.'s mill when the summons came for them to go to the Camp.  We have, unhappily, of late had two striking illustrations of the efficiency and value of the Fire Department, and we trust that in future every reasonable facility will afforded them in order to keep up an organization so indispensable to the safety of property.

Saturday 4th June 1864 - The British Colonist

Having been personally engaged up to a late hour on Tuesday in repelling the advance of the flames upon the property in the rear of the city, we were unable to give anything beyond the very meagre notice which appeared in our last issue of Wednesday.  In that notice we gave the names of four who were burned out at Sapperton.  We are happy to learn subsequently that only three of the four were really victims, viz., Franklin, who lost his house and a great part of his effects; Bruce, who lost every article he possessed in the world; Gilchrist, who lost his house and a portion of his effects.  This last case was rendered perhaps more distressing from the circumstances of Gilchrist having been absent upon the Bute Inlet Expedition, from which he only returned to find a heap of smouldering ashes where he left a comfortable house and happy family.  There were instances of heroic bravery, too, which ought to be noticed in connection with the Sapperton fire.  We learn that almost superhuman exertions were made in order to check the fire, and no better evidence of this is needed than the fact that Colston's house is now standing.  The Hon. Colonial Secretary, Mr. J.T. Scott, Mr. C. Good, Mr. Howse, Mr. Deasy, Mr. Argyle, Mr. Green and Mr. Ede, have all been mentioned to us as having exerted themselves in the most praiseworthy and sometimes daring manner in order to save both life and property.  The damage done to fences and garden stuffs must be very considerable, as we are informed that every piece of fencing in Sapperton was either burned or torn down to save it from being burned.  The roads in that neighbourhood also suffered more or less injury.  On the Pitt river road 234 feet of the roadway which was constructed of cedar logs covered with earth and gravel, was burned, while on the North or Burrard road, three of the bridges are more or less injured.  In the rear of the city the house of Mr. Benney was destroyed, and back about 2 miles on the Douglas street road Mr. Bennet was burned out, while some three miles down the river Mr. Martin's buildings were destroyed together with most of the household stuff.

    In the north-western suburbs considerable damage has been done in the destruction of fencing and garden stuff.  There is an old saying that nothing is so bad but it might be worse; and notwithstanding all these losses and misfortunes a general feeling of thankfulness ought to pervade the community on account of the smallness of the aggregate loss; and that feeling should find practical expression in assisting as far as our circumstances will allow, the few who have lost their all.

According to Frances Woodward, Bruce received Crown Grant, 29th April 1870, for Lot 49, Group 2, New Westminster District, 150 acres.

Bruce died the 28 January 1910.