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Children of the Halifax Protestant Orphanage Who Died in the Halifax Explosion

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

This week I began researching to learn more about the people who were lost in the Halifax Explosion. I am going to blog about my journey as it happens, updating and correcting where and when need be. It has been 103 years since this terrible event which killed close to 2000 people in our province and I want people to get to know the fellow Bluenosers we lost that day.

I begin with the children lost at the Halifax Protestant Orphanage. Ranging in age between 2 and 13 years old (most of the children were under 10), we lost 26 tiny souls on December 6, 1917. 24 of them are buried together in plots belonging to the orphanage at St. John's Cemetery in Halifax. Marked with a 7' tall obelisk, 3 staff members that were lost with them on that day are also buried there.

Close up of part of the inscription on the obelisk in St. John's Cemetery

From various resources I have compliled a list of the 26 children lost at the orphanage that day:

Agnes Abraham, age 8 (last name may be Abrahams, I cannot find birth of Agnes Abraham, sister of the next victim listed, but I can find a Mary Jeannette, age 5)

Ivy B Abraham, age 7 (last name may be Abrahams, birth register lists her as Ivy May)

Gerald Stanfield Ainsworth, age 7 (last name sometimes listed as Armsworth)

May Covey, age 7

Melvin Covey, age 7 (birth register has him being 5)

Victor Covey, age 3

William Roy DeWolfe, age 8

Aubrey Fish, age 7

Harold Fenwick Hencher, age 7

George Ernest Hencher, age 5

John Reuben Howard, age 11

Mary Isnor, age 13

Robert Jackson, age unknown

Thomas Lancaster, age 7

Gordon Frederick Lewis Lancaster, age 5

William Miles McIntosh, age 5

Roland McNeil, age unknown

Earl or Carl Morley, age 5

Lina Parslow, age 10

Samuel Raymond Reid, age 2

Elizabeth Robertson (sometimes listed as Robinson), age 7

John Ross, age unknown

George Russell, age 4

William Sturmey, age 5

Gladys Taylor, age unknown

James Wood, age 5

Also lost were Mary C. Knaut, the Matron of the orphanage, Ethel May Melvin, age 36, the Assistant Matron and Lena Marr (sometimes listed as Meagher), the housemaid. According to a newspaper article I came across, fearing a bomb had been dropped on the city, Mary Knaught ushered all of the children to the basement of the building. Only one child survived. I hope to discover in my research who that child was.

In another newspaper article it states that a Mr. Howard had five of his children in the orphanage on day of the explosion, which happened on a Thursday. By Saturday he had found three of his children - Austin, Katie and Stella - but two children were still missing and they were named as Jackie (who I am assuming is John Reuben who was killed) and Raymond (I am hoping to find out what happened to him - more on this family to come). In his search, Mr. Howard apparently found some other children from the orphanage in hospitals - Gertie Reid (perhaps the sister of Samuel Raymond Reid), Clarence Ross (brother of John Ross?), Laura Parslow (sister of Lina?), Annie Wexlie and Teresa Lancaster (sister of Thomas and Gordon?). The article does not specify whether or not the children were in the orphanage at the time of the explosion or not. More to come on the survivors as well!

As you can see there is a lot to be learned about the children of the Halifax Protestant Orphanage. Through my research I hope to fill in the unknowns and the inconsistencies. I will start with the story as I know it so far of the Covey family, who lost May, Melvin and Victor that day. Stay tuned!


Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics

Nova Scotia Archives: A List of People That Died (there is a searchable database that has access to the death registry and is updated as new information comes along as well as a link to a Book of Remembrance completed in 1918)

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