A COMPTON second cousin of mine (twice removed) was seriously injured during the Halifax explosion, but was lucky enough to survive. The transcript of a brief news article from the PEI Summerside Journal, Wed. Jan 16, 1918, published about five weeks after the explosion, says:
"Mr. & Mrs. H.A. Compton, Summerside have received word that their daughter, Mrs. George B. Hillis, who was severely injured in the Halifax disaster, will soon be sufficiently recovered to be removed to Summerside.”
At the time of the explosion, Clara Duchemin COMPTON was living with her husband George Beaman HILLIS in his native Halifax along with their two sons Benjamin Franklin “Frank” (born 1904) and James “Gordon” HILLIS (born 1905). Clara and George HILLIS also brought up Eva MACPHAIL from an early age, a step-daughter of Clara's sister Alfreda Compton MacPhail. Eva was born about 1912, and was no longer living with the HILLIS family in 1921.
Clara was born on 2 Feb 1882 in Summerside PEI, the daughter of a prosperous merchant Harry Alfred COMPTON and his wife Sophia Eleanor CLARK. She was one of ten siblings, although three died very young; Clara was the oldest surviving daughter and grew up in Summerside. I cannot locate her in the 1900 or 1901 census, so don't know how she met her future husband. Less than two years later on 14 Jan 1903, Clara and George were married in Summerside PEI. They lived in Halifax were both sons were born.
Looking further in old PEI newspapers, I have located a few articles covering this historic tragedy and its affect on the HILLIS family. On Dec 22, a visitor from Halifax told of attending a large public funeral for about 250 unidentified dead before traveling to PEI on business. Efforts were still underway to excavate dead bodies in cordoned off Richmond, but reconstruction work had already begun in southern Halifax. A death notice was published for a Mr Clement Fraser, a previous resident of PEI who worked as a molder in the Hillis Foundry in Halifax. He died in the disaster. Another brief article was republished from the Halifax Chronicle on 22 Dec 1917:
"Frank Hillis’ Body Found — Yesterday morning at twelve o’clock the bodies of Frank Hillis and Harry Saunders were discovered buried in the fallen cement at Hillis’ Foundry. Though partially crushed they were easily recognized, the faces being only slightly injured. It is supposed that Mr. Hillis, who was early at work that morning, had seen the fire and watched it from across the road. He and Mr. Saunders were just entering the office door when the explosion occurred, which instantly killed them. Mr Hillis had on his office coat. Besides the bodies of Hillis and Saunders those of three other men were found but these were so covered with debris as to be unrecognizable.”
The support of Clara's COMPTON family in PEI likely aided her recovery from this frightening ordeal. Clara and George continued to live in the Halifax area for the rest of their lives. Their final residence was in Birch Cove to the north west on Bedford Basin. Clara died at the age of 63 in hospital in Halifax from a stroke on 12 Sep 1945. George died a widower six years later on 29 Jun 1951. The were both buried at Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax, not far from Dalhousie University and well within the 1917 debris zone from the explosion that changed their lives so many years before.
Clara Eleanor MacPhail (Clara’s niece and namesake, born 1922) - "Following Their Footsteps" blog
PEI Historic Newspapers - islandnewspapers.ca
All about the Halifax Explosion of 1917 - cbc site
Halifax Explosion, 1917 - 25 photos by Library Archives - flickr.com