enter name and hit return
Find in Page
- WASHINGTON NO. 1, THE FIRST COMPANY THE accessible records of the companies in the Volunteer Department are far from completely covering the list of the companies. Washington No. I, the first company, organized April 30, 1785, has already been chronicled. - NEPTUNE NO. 2 AND THE " LITTLE ROOSTERS " Neptune No. 2, came into existence in 1797, and was formally organized under Chief Doughty in 1817, when the Department was enlarged by the act incorporating the Village of Brooklyn. This company has left ample evidence of its departed glory. The most commodious, and in some respects the finest " house " occupied by the Fire Department to-day, is the three-story, brown-stone front, on Hicks near Sackett Street, occupied by Engine Company, No. 3. It was the last home of " Neptune" Company. A block below, near Degraw Street, is a small building, modest in appearance, which was also the home of the "Neptunes," before it grew to three-story magnificence. Upon the same thoroughfare (Hicks Street), near Atlantic Avenue, once stood an old stable. Here, too, Neptune Engine once made its home. There are two separate chapters in the history of " Neptune " Engine Company. The first begins with the organization of the company in 1797, extending up to 1855, when it was summarily disbanded by the Common Council. In 1826 the "Neptunes" made their first appearance in a parade, upon the occasion of the presentation of a banner to the Firemen. It was a few years after this that the "Little Roosters" became attached to No. 2, and then the sensational history of the company began. Located in the First Ward, within easy distance of Firemen's Hall, were four engines and two hose-companies, which went to every fire. Intense rivalries sprang up, leading to racing, and quarrels which sometimes led to bloodshed and the wreckage of property. The police, too, came in for a share of hard knocks at the hands of the members of No. 2, for the latter were prompt to resent any interference - with what they considered were their inalienable rights in connection with the extinguishment of fires. Nor as regards their conduct in the engine-house would they brook any dictation. And so we find that a special meeting was held in Firemen's Hall on April 1, 1845, "to take into consideration the outrage committed on the members of the company on the evening of March 20, by the Mayor." The resolutions drawn up and signed at the meeting set forth that the conduct of his Honor the Mayor in ejecting from the engine-house several of the members without just cause was " worthy of the time, the place and the man," and that while the members appreciated the Mayor's amiability, displayed upon his frequent visits to the engine-house just previous to his re-election, they could not fail to see through his motive in selecting the members of the company as the recipients of his indignation when on the eve of making himself invisible, and retiring from an office, " the dignity of which he had proved himself unfit to maintain." The company also extended its sincerest sympathies to the Mayor for expressing a determination to "lose every drop of blood in his body in the effort to reorganize the Fire Department." In view of all this the company elected the Mayor an honorary member "so long as the engine-house remains under padlock and key - and no longer." This unique document was signed by Joseph COLES, Burdett RANDOLPH, Joseph MONTROSS and R. A. VAN BRUNT. In 1853, a great "washing-match" took place at Fulton Ferry between Engines 2 and 7, in which the latter came off victorious, after an exciting contest. Subsequent investigation, however, disclosed the fact that the valve of No. 2 had been "hung up." This led to a great deal of enmity between the two companies, which resulted in many encounters at fires, in which one or the other of the engines was generally sure to be prevented from throwing a stream. As, for instance, on the night of June 20, 1852, when a triangular fight took place between Companies 2, 7 and 9, stones, bricks and other missiles being freely used to enforce both sides of the argument. Several other encounters, of a more or less serious character, occurring about this time a special meeting of the Common council was called, at which it was ordered that "The Chief Engineer lock up and take possession of Engine Companies Nos. 2 and 5 until the further direction of the Board." Another very serious row occurred on April 4, l8S3, this time between Engines 2 and 7, in which John Cunningham, afterwards Chief Engineer of the Department, was quite seriously injured. On the evening of Monday, June 13, 1853, the members of No. 2 appeared at the Kingston House fire with their engine. They wore their hats reversed, and declined to render any assistance in the work of extinguishing the fire. Just previous to leaving their house on that occasion the members of the company had sent to the Common Council the following communication: " Resolved, That we cease doing duty unless means are taken by the Common Council to find us in decent quarters with ample accommodations. [signed] Engine 2." The action taken by the Common Council on receiving this resolution somewhat surprised the members. The Council merely ordered that the Chief Engineer should discipline the company by locking up the house, stating that it was not convenient for them to find a new house for the company. Upon promising good behavior in the future, the members of the company were reinstated, and with the exception of one or two fights in which they were conspicuous - a fireman, named MCQUEEN being knocked down and dragged to the police station by officer REGAN on one occasion - the men kept their word. The house on Hicks Street was completed in the month of January, 1854. and the new quarters were dedicated in an appropriate manner. The following year Brooklyn was almost too small to hold the " Neptunes," and fights and squabbles followed thick and fast. In January, 1855, the common counci1 held a specia1 meeting at which all the members of No. 2 were expelled from the Department, and the company was declared disbanded. Nine years later the company was reorganized, and the second chapter of its history began. William VANDEVEER became Foreman, with Pat MURPHY as his assistant. They were now quartered in a house built for them on Hicks Street, near Degraw Street, and took high rank in the Department on account their good behavior. Their house, however, was found to be too small, and before the Volunteer Department was legislated out of existence, the company moved into its last house, now occupied by Engine No. 3. - FRANKLIN No. 3 AND EAGLE No. 4 Franklin No. 3 was organized in 1817, and Eagle No. 4 about 1812, with FRICKE as Foreman. Lafayette No. 5 was organized June 28, 1825, a meeting being called for the purpose at the residence of John F. L. DUFLON, (afterwards Chief Engineer of the Department,) near 'the Military Garden, the popular pleasure-resort of which he was the popular proprietor. Ralph MALBONE was made chairman of the meeting, and John B. JOHNSON secretary. Those who had been invited to be present organized themselves into a fire-company, adopting a code of by-laws and choosing the following officers: Foreman, John F. L. DUFLON Assistant Foreman, Ralph MALBONE Treasurer, John B. JOHNSON Secretary, Thomas TAYLOR Assistant Secretary, Jasper DUFLON and John PEASE Steward. The subsequent ratification by the Village Trustees of the action taken at this meeting completed the organization of the company. - PROTECTOR No. 6, "OLD BEAN SOUP" Protector No. 6 was organized September 2, 1825, in conformity with action taken by the Village Trustees when they held their annual meeting on June 25 previous, at the house of Inn-keeper STEPHENSON, who was one of the Trustees. At this meeting they passed resolutions to establish a new engine-house in the vicinity of the Catholic Church - St. James's, at Jay and Chapel Streets, which became the cathedral of Bishop LOUGHLIN on his accession in 1853 - and for the house and engine the Trustees appropriated the sum of $1400. Upon application of Sylvanus WHITE and others, Protector Engine Company No. 6 was organized on the date mentioned above, with the following members: Sylvanus WHITE Lewis APPLEGATE James DEZENDORF Jefferson T. LONG Samuel J. VALENTINE Henry DEZENDORF Abraham MORRELL Thomas ROGERS Samuel P. S. VALCOTT Stephen S. POINDETT George HANDFORD Henry GIDNEY Ryke REID William R. WILSON Charles F. ROGERS Peter S. VALENTINE William BENNETT Clarke H. SILVERS Moses H. DECAMP John S. WILLING William SOUTHARD John BALDWIN Roswell LEWIS Pheneous TUTHILL William SPAULDING and Jacob DRAKE Sylvanus WHITE was made Foreman of the company. The house was located on the south side of Concord Street, between Adams and Pearl. It was fitted out with a small engine of the " goose-neck" pattern, purchased with the appropriation of the Village Trustees. For thirteen years the company occupied these quarters, and it was an experience during this period that gave their engine the name by which it was popularly known in the Department, "Old Bean Soup." After a fire in the neighborhood the members of the company were regaled with supper by a Mrs. Boyd, who had several sons among the members, of which the piece de resistance was a most savory bean soup, the repute of which soon spread, with the result of fixing the appellation for good. In 1838, the engine was newly housed by the city at Pearl Street and Nutria Alley, and in the following year a new engine was furnished to the company, built on the lines of the old one. Another new engine followed in 1847, this time one of the "piano-box" style, a pattern which No. 6 had the felicity of first introducing in the streets of Brooklyn. All three engines were from the shops of James SMITH. In 1850 a new house was built on the site of the old one, and in this, although it was the smallest of all the engine-houses - only twelve feet wide and thirty-five feet deep - the company remained until it moved to the last house built for it across the street, now occupied by Engine Company No. 7, of the present Department. In 1856, the piano-box engine was rebuilt by builder SMITH, who transformed it into the crane-neck pattern, altering its stroke to obtain greater power for pipe service in contemplation of the introduction of the Ridgewood water into the city. This was so thoroughly well done by the builder as to meet the highest expectations formed by the company in anticipation of the change. No. 6 always took and kept the lead in nozzle work, and came out victorious in all the friendly contests with the other companies- though the friendly character of the contests was so modified by the spirit of fierce rivalry that it became necessary for the authorities to forbid the continuance of them. After some of the other companies were fitted out with piano-box engines, they thought they would like to take the starch out of No. 6, which had the eclat of having been first in the field with this pattern, and were more or less inclined to pride themselves on their skill. The disputes as to superiority finally resulted in a challenge from No. 1, which was accepted by No. 6, to play a match for $500 a side, give and take water for five minutes through two hundred feet of hose. This was to test the question as to which company could " wash " the other, by giving it water faster than it could pump it out of the receiving engine. At the foot of Bridge Street the contestants met on the appointed day. and the match resulted in favor of No. 6, to whose Foreman, James H. CORNWELL, the money was paid over. There was considerable jealousy resulting from this match and the successful company was plied with challenges, all of which it was ready to accept; but in view of the strong feeling existing over the rivalry, the authorities decided for the good of the Department not to permit the further matches to take place. Nothing was left them but to test their relative skill at fires, and this was regularly done, the victory uniformly remaining with invincible No. 6, which never was washed. The service of the company at fires was admirably performed. Only one member was sacrificed to duty, the death of Richard NOLAN, as the result of a collision with No. 7, on the way to a fire, being the only loss recorded for the company, though at different times several were injured. The following were the Foremen of the company in the order of their service: Sylvanus WHITE Abraham WRIGHT Thomas CUMBERSON Thomas WATSON Peter R. VANDEVEER David COCHRAN John TASSIE William DRAPER William ELLMORE William H. POWELL Smith WOOD Thomas WRIGHT Thomas LOCKWOOD James H. CORNWELL William L. BOYD John G. STAFF Peter R. VANDEVEER Richard F. COLE William BROWN The following members of the company were elected to the Board of Engineers; William H. POWELL Thomas WATSON William L. BOYD Richard F. COLE William TAYLOR - CONSTITUTION NO. 7, AND BROOKLYN'S FIRST " PIANO BOX " "The Constitution and Union Forever" was the motto adopted by Constitution Engine Co. No. 7, when it was organized on October 24, 1828- and the company made a record worthy of their high-sounding motto, not only by gallant service in the Fire Department, but also by contributing of its members to the armies of the United States during the late war, twelve of them having sprung to arms among the first volunteers when the three months' men were called out, and nineteen among these who volunteered for three years. One was killed at the first battle of Bull Run, and one at the battle of Williamsburgh, one died from disease contracted in camp, and one was wounded at Bull Run. The company, at its organization and for many years afterwards, was located near the Navy Yard gate in the Fifth Ward, and moved later to Front Street, near Bridge. The quality of its membership was always high, and the company was well known throughout the country for its hospitality to visiting firemen and for making visits to other cities. In 1854 they went, ninety-eight strong, on a visit to Relief Engine Co. No. 11, of Albany, N. Y. In 1858 they received and entertained their Albany friends of No. 11, in connection with Howard Engine, No. 34; and in the same year they received a visit from Hibernia Engine No. 1, of Philadelphia, in company with Americus No. 6 (Tweed's "Big Six") of New York. In 1859 they returned the visit of Hibernia No. 1. taking full one hundred men to Philadelphia, and when the introduction of the Ridgewood water into Brooklyn was celebrated on April 27th and 28th of that year, this company entertained Columbian No. 6, of Newark, N. J., and Washington No. 3 and Red Jacket No. 4, of Elizabeth. On this occasion the celebration originally set for the 27th had to be postponed to the 28th, a heavy rain satisfying the authorities that, although they were rejoicing over the introduction of water, it was a good thing they could get too much of. The military were dismissed for the day, and the firemen were left to entertain their guests from abroad, who had expressed their willingness to remain over for the postponed parade, the Common Council generously providing that all extra expenses incurred by the men should be paid by the city. The firemen, however, were not to be daunted by a little water, more or less, and nine Brooklyn companies, escorting ten visiting companies, made a very creditable improvised parade through the rain, even on the first day; while in the Eastern District, where the information of the postponement came only after the parade had been formed and was ready to start, the firemen resolved after consultation that they would carry out the programme for the day in its entirety. Twenty-eight local companies, together with the visiting companies, traversed a long route, encouraged and cheered by the demonstrations of the throngs of spectators that lined the sidewalks and filled the windows along the route. On the following day, the whole procession as originally arranged contributed to the demonstrations of the day, which was a memorable one in the annals of Brooklyn pageantry. The first " piano " engine made for this company was the most gorgeous piece of apparatus ever introduced into the city. It was delivered to the company on October 16, 1852, and its advent created considerable jealousy among the members of other companies. The box of this engine was of mahogany, with panels of rosewood, ornamented with carvings and gilt work. The arms were of polished steel, and the wheels blue, striped with gilt. There were paintings on three sides of the condenser-case, in oval panels, 22x20 inches. Attached to the engine was a neat tender, carrying eight lengths of hose; she was named "Independent." Afterward the company had a double-decked engine, built by Jeffers & Co., of Pawtucket, R. I., which was quite celebrated for its effectiveness. At a trial on Christmas-day, 1859, held at Laird's pole in New York, they played 208 feet- which was literally "high-water mark " for this kind of proficiency. - COLUMBIA NO. 10, THE LIFE-SAVERS Columbia Engine Company No. 10, was organized in 1839, and was reorganized in 1854. It was at first located on Bedford Avenue, near Myrtle, and removed later to Kent Avenue, near Myrtle. The machine it worked in the later days was a double-decker, which had been used previously by No, 7 and No. 8. This company greatly distinguished itself on the occasion of two great calamities: the explosion, February 3, 1860, of the hat factory of Ames & Molten, on Nostrand Avenue, between Myrtle and Park, at which nine persons were killed and eighteen injured- the loss of life being most fortunately kept at this number by the fact of the explosion occurring so early in the morning that only thirty-five out of the two hundred employees had arrived at the factory- and the burning of the Catholic Orphan Asylum, November 9, 1862. On both these occasions the members of No. 10 were conspicuously brave and successful in their efforts to save the imperilled lives of the unfortunate inmates of the buildings. - PACIFIC NO. 14, THE "DUDE" COMPANY OF THE HEIGHTS Pacific Engine Company No. 14, was organized September 19, 1846, at which time a few gentlemen got together and constituted themselves the nucleus of a new company to be located on the Heights. These were Henry B. WILLIAMS, who was made Foreman William WRIGHT Edward MERRITT F. H. MACY John W. MASON George C. BAKER H. H. COX Clinton ODELL Henry HAVILAND and George E. BROWN At a special meeting in November following they resolved to purchase an engine of H. WATERMAN, the builder, of Hudson, N. Y., and the sum of $600 was subscribed immediately. When the machine was ready for them in June, 1847, the company rolled it into their quarters which the Common Council had erected for them in Love Lane, near Henry Street. This engine, which cost them $1,000, they used for three years only, and then they resolved to have a new one, which they ordered of John AGNEW, of Philadelphia- a double-decker of the most approved pattern with the latest improvements. This cost them another $1,000, which was subscribed at the meeting at which they resolved to have the new machine, but $800 of the amount required they procured by selling their old machine to Engine Co. No. 8, of Williamsburgh. The new engine, when fully equipped, weighed 4,800 pounds. It was completed and delivered August 21, 1851, and its reception by the company was made the occasion of a general entertainment of the friends of the members, and a social reunion of the Fire Department, for which purpose the company engaged the old riding-school in College Place- just around the corner from the engine-house, and there they spread a collation for their numerous guests. The accession of the new engine, which was something very fine when it was purchased, led to a considerable increase in the membership of the company, which was of such an extent as to crowd them very much in their quarters. Their petition to the Common Council for a new engine-house large enough to accommodate their increased membership was granted, and the commodious house on Pierrepont Street was erected for them. The rules of the Department at that time did not permit of their sleeping in the engine-house; so they hired accommodations next door to it, and there they bunked, in readiness for the first alarm. The company prospered so well that by 1862 they wanted still more room and better surroundings, so they got up a subscription among themselves for the enlargement of their house, which was accomplished by a committee consisting of J. Pryor RORKE, William A. FOWLER and D. B. PHILLIPS, who turned over to the company one of the most convenient houses in the city at that time. Foreman WILLIAMS, who was the first incumbent of the office, was succeeded in October 1849, by William WRIGHT, who resigned the following May, giving place to Edward MERRITT, who served out the unexpired portion of his term. John W. MASON was Foreman for one year from October, 1850, and in 1851 H. B. WILLIAMS was reelected for his second term ; but his departure for California after six months of his term had passed led to the choice of James K. LEGGETT as his successor, in April, 1852. Ill-health caused Mr. LEGGETT's withdrawal in March, 1853, when John A. WEED was temporarily put in charge, and in October, 1853. Mr. LEGGETT was again elected Foreman, as which he served for three very prosperous years in the history of the company. In 1856, H. R. HAYDOCK was chosen, and he also served three years, at the end of which term Joseph B. LEGGETT was elected. But his service was only for one month, and he was followed by Isaac G. LEGGETT, who was Foreman three years. After him came, in 1862. J. Pryor RORKE; in 1865, F. S. MASSEY. As a volunteer company, owning their own apparatus, and having an excellent grade of membership, Pacific 14 was one of the conspicuous companies of the old Department; and both in fire duty and in personal influence, it was a force in the affairs of the Department to the end. - BROOKLYN, NO. 17, THE "HAY WAGON" AND THE "HOPPERS " Brooklyn No. 17 was a company well known in the Department for its large proportion of prominent Brooklynites in its membership, its adherence to Department discipline when other companies allowed their disaffection to manifest itself in insubordination, and for its forwardness in matters of Department duty which resulted in their taking the lead in the development of improved methods and apparatus. The company was organized on September 28, 1848, just after the great fire of that year, with a membership of sixty-four men, and the following company officers: William S. WRIGHT, Foreman Henry A. MOORE, First Assistant R. VAN BRUNT, Second Assistant J. M. CORNELL, Secretary and Alexander CASHOW, Treasurer. Foreman WRIGHT resigned in 1851, and his three years of efficient service were so highly appreciated that the members of the company presented him with a handsome watch, having engraved on its two sides a portrait of himself and a representation of the double-decker engine then in the custody of the company. He was succeeded by Henry A. MOORE, the then First Assistant, but after a brief service of two months his elevation to the bench as County Judge made his resignation necessary. Judge MOORE's continuous service on the bench has reflected honor on all his associates of the early days, in which the members of Brooklyn No. 17 have shared. His successor, on December 4, 1851, was I. V. SILLECK, who served until October 9, 1852, when he was compelled to resign on account of ill-health. It was during his administration that the company made a trip to Poughkeepsie in September, 1852, which was celebrated in the annals of fire-company excursions. One hundred and three men with a full band of music made the trip, and the entire Poughkeepsie Fire Department turned out to receive them, in recognition of which the company got up an impromptu ball, at which the beauty and chivalry of the city were present. On the resignation of Foreman SILLECK, J. H. RHOEDES was chosen in his place, and he in turn was succeeded, July 6, 1853, by F. W. Webb. During the term of the latter the Catherine Street ferry-house was burned, and at this fire the double-decker engine of No. 17 carried off the palm for efficiency at suction. William S. WRIGHT returned to office for his second term October 6, 1853, Foreman WEBB's term expiring with the company year. He came in good time to guide the company through an important crisis, occasioned by the "Know-Nothing" troubles of that year, in consequence of which none of the up-town companies would respond to fire alarms from the second district, although fires were very frequent there. No. 17 was solicited to join in the general opposition to the authorities, or at least to await the other companies at the City Hall and proceed to the fires in a body. But the company declined to do this, or in any way to fall short of its duty to respond to the call of the bell, wherever it might summon them, and their courage commanded such respect that, although the times were such that physical as well as moral suasion was sometimes employed to enforce the views of the majority, they were permitted to do their duty unmolested. From October, 1854, to October, 1855, the Foreman was Sidney LARREMORE, who gave place in 1855 to William BURRELL, who remained in command of the company until the formation of the paid Department. In 1859 the action of the Fire Commissioners reducing the limit of membership in companies to sixty-five men rendered a reduction of the company necessary, and this was done by forming, on April 25, a separate organization of the active exempt members, under the title of the "Old Guard Association." When the company was first organized, in 1848, it was temporarily located in the old frame house of the disbanded No. 8, on Washington Street, between Myrtle Avenue and Johnson Street, while its meetings were held in the house of Truck No. 2, on Pearl Street, near Concord. The first engine was No. 8's "goose-neck," the Water Witch, which was afterwards replaced by a Waterman piano-box, formerly used by No. 34 of New York. The following summer the company moved into a new brick house on Lawrence Street, between Myrtle Avenue and Johnson Street, and there they received their new engine, June 28, 1849, a Philadelphia pattern double-decker, built by James SMITH, of New York, at a cost of $1,195, which was the first engine of this style brought into Brooklyn. The peculiar appearance of this machine caused it to be dubbed the " Haywagon," and the spectacle of the men climbing up to man the upper brakes earned for them the sobriquet of " Hoppers," from their resemblance to the lively grasshopper. These terms, borrowed perhaps from a similar equipment of a New York company. No. 42, were both so descriptive and so euphonious that they stuck during the entire existence of the company. The price paid for the machine did not include its decoration, and it was most fortunate for the fate of the new pet that the company resolved to expend $150 on paint, and sent her off to the shop of Mr. MORIARITY, of New York, just when they did; for during its absence for this purpose there occurred a fire at Thorne's stores, on Furman Street, on July 6, 1850, and the old goose-neck which the company was using in the interim met with a serious accident from which the new engine was fortunately spared. An explosion of saltpetre during the fire lifted the old goose-neck over the string-piece of the dock, and she hung by one wheel over the water until she took fire, and then was dumped into the East River to save her from total destruction. She was afterwards towed around to Fulton Ferry and fished out, and a few repairs made her serviceable until the new engine came back from the paint-shop. None of the members were injured by the explosion, though several of them had to jump overboard to save their lives. Not so lucky were some of the brave men who attended the burning of the Duffield Mansion, at Fulton Avenue and Duffield Street, on the morning of April 14, 1857. The falling of a wall there seriously injured Charles H. ROGERS and Thomas P. HOPKINS, and in consequence it was necessary to amputate the leg of Mr. HOPKINS, totally incapacitating him from further duty. A few years later, in 1862, he was made bell-ringer on the City Hall tower. In 1856, $900 were spent in having the double-decker rebuilt by Smith of New York, the painting being again done by MORIARITY. The increasing membership of the company necessitated larger quarters in 1859, when it moved into the house then vacated by No. 8, which had been reorganized and again disbanded. This house was on Jay Street, between Myrtle Avenue and Willoughby Street, and even this required enlargement for the accommodation of the company, the members of which expended $700 in extending its proportions, including in the added part the first bunk-room attached to any engine-house in the city. The double-decker by 1860 had outlived its perfection, and its defects caused the company to determine to have an entirely new machine; and by this time the vogue of steam fire-engines, which had been introduced in the New York Department three years before, led them to resolve on one of these new and wonderful machines. For its purchase the company petitioned the Common Council on July 30, 1860, and after spending three months in testing the various makes and styles, they decided on an Amoskeag engine, for which the makers contracted at $3,650, and delivered it to the company on June 11, 1861. This was the first steam fire-engine ever used in Brooklyn. A relic of the ways of the old volunteer days appeared on this harbinger of a new order of things in the decorations, which included the legend, engraved on a large silver plate let into the side of the engine: "Brooklyn, Engine 17, William H. FUREY, Chief Engineer; William BURRELL, Foreman," and on the front of the engine a silver fire-cap, a copy of the cap worn by the company's first Foreman, WRIGHT, whose initials, W. S. W., were engraved on the front. A hose-tender being necessary for this engine, the Commissioners by a special dispensation increased the membership of the company to seventy-five men, the extra ten being designated to run the hose-carriage. Constant improvements beautified the company's house, which became one of the handsomest in the country. - THE FIRST HOOK AND LADDER COMPANY The first Hook and Ladder Company did not take definite form till 1817, though there was formed, in 1812, a sort of mutual protection association, consisting of twenty-four members, independent of the Fire Department, and bound only to assist one another in case the property of a member was endangered. Perhaps it was the success of this mutual arrangement, and perhaps only the dangers resulting from the walls left standing after a fire, that produced an agitation in the public mind which, in 1817, led to more definite steps toward the formation of a permanent Truck Company. The experience of the Department had shown that in many cases, even before the day of high buildings, there was difficulty in reaching the fires for lack of ladders'on which to carry the hose to any considerable distance from the engine not otherwise accessible, and besides, it was impossible to properly finish up a fire when there were walls that should be pulled down or in default of facilities for that left standing. On several occasions the danger from these walls had been pretty closely brought home to the citizens by instances where they were a constant menace to the safety of pedestrians - in one case especially, when a large chimney fell to the ground after the firemen had left the scene, endangering the lives of a large number of spectators, but fortunately injuring no one. Clever people at once began to explain how by having ropes to level standing walls and chimneys such dangers could be avoided in the future; but the general voice was in favor of a regularly organized Hook and Ladder Company, such as New York had had for many years, even before the beginnings of the Brooklyn Department Recognizing that the condition of the public mind called on them to do something, the existing mutual Hook and Ladder Association held a meeting at the house of Mr. LANGDON, on September 24, 1817, to canvass the general subject; but all that is recorded of their action was the adoption of the following rules and regulations : 1. The members renounce all claims to any privileges or exemption in consequence of their services. 2. The number of members shall not exceed twenty-four. 3. All new members shall be elected by ballot. 4. The members shall wear a black hat, with the representation in white of a hook and ladder. 5. The officers of this association shall consist of a Foreman, Assistant Foreman and a Steward. 6. The members meet the first Wednesday evening after any fire at which the hooks and ladders have been used, at the house of Mr. LANGDON. 7. When the house and property of a member is in danger, the association is considered as pledged to give their assistance to such member as a brother. 8. Any member refusing to obey the proper order or orders of the Foreman or Assistant Foreman, or who shall be found neglecting his duty twice in succession, shall be considered to have abandoned the association. 9. Any member wishing to leave the association is at liberty to do so at any time. This was very comfortable for the "brothers" who were going to stand by each other in time of danger; but what the villagers wanted was a Hook and Ladder Company, regularly organized and equipped by the Trustees of the village pro bono publico, and not merely for mutual protection. Consequently they called a meeting to devise means for securing from the authorities suitable apparatus, with a carriage for conveying the hooks and ladders to the scene of action. The firemen were invited to participate in the deliberations of the meeting. The result of it was that the proposition for a Hook and ladder Company was unanimously endorsed, and a petition to the Trustees was resolved on, the firemen uniting with the citizens in this request. The Trustees received the proposition favorably and passed resolutions which, however, did not practically provide for any action, until, under public pressure, they distinctly resolved, October 13, 1817: That a Hook and Ladder Company of Firemen be established, to consist of fifteen persons, including the Captain, to be appointed by the Trustees. In consonance with this resolution the following names were sent in at the next meeting of the Board, and those named were confirmed as firemen: Samuel BIRDSALL, Foreman Cornelius VAN CLIEF John S. DOUGHTY Egbert K. VAN BEUREN William R. DEAN Robert W. DOUGHTY Stephen SCHENCK Elias DOUGHTY Erastus WORTHINGTON Isaac DENYSE Walter NICHOLS William PHILLIPS Samuel WATTS Robert B. DYKEMAN and Elias M. STILWELL These men promptly equipped themselves for service, but the Trustees were slow in providing them with apparatus. It was two months before they got even hooks and ladders, and then they got no carriage, but had themselves to lug their implements to every fire, dividing them up in the most convenient way for transportation. In December following, the Trustees increased the limit of membership by passing this resolution: Resolved, That the Hook and Ladder Company of Firemen be increased to twenty-five men, and that the Captain report the names of such persons as may be elected by the Company and recommended by him to complete the number. The work devolving on the company soon demonstrated this number to be insufficient, and the Trustees increased it again to thirty members. It was the summer 1818 before the company finally got a carriage, for which at last the Trustees appropriated the sum of $125, June 27. At the same meeting the Trustees resolved: That $200 be raised, by tax. to pay the rent of a lot and erect a temporary building thereon, for the implements of the Hook and Ladder Company. It was high time that this action was taken; for the implements had had to be stored in a vacant open lot, and were not in a way to remain serviceable very long with such exposure to the elements. This first Truck Company became the Lafayette, and for many years was housed on Henry Street, near Cranberry. - TRUCK 2 AND ITS PRIZES No second Truck Company was organized for another twenty-two years, when, on January 30, 1840, Clinton Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 came into existence. It was at a meeting held in the house of Engine Company No. 3, on Middagh Street, that the name was adopted and officers were elected as follows; James P. SPIES, Foreman; John W. FAWBLE, Assistant Foreman E. B. MORRELL, Secretary Benjamin HANDLEY, Treasurer. The membership at the beginning consisted of the following persons: John B. EMMONS, Joseph L. CARLL, David REEVES, Benjamin HANDLEY, Hamilton REEVES, Abraham BARKALOO, Daniel T. WELLS, E. C. MOREHOUSE, John K. FOSTER, Homer WILTSE, Richard SECKENSON. The company was located at No. 206 Pearl Street, near Concord, where they remained uninterruptedly during their entire career. They were furnished with a new Franklin truck in October of the year of their organization, built to order for the Common Council. To encourage promptness in their duty the members of the company established prizes for those who should arrive first at fires. At the end of the first year Edward WHITE received the prize for the year, a fire coat; and E. C. MOREHOUSE received a fire-cap and Benjamin HANDLEY and Mr. BEERS each a fire-shirt, for similar efficiency. - THE HOSE COMPANIES Few of the Hose Companies have a history that can be recorded, the records of some of them being inaccessible and most of them having been organized so late as the introduction of the Ridgewood water into the city, which necessitated, or rendered available, so much hose that carriages were necessary for its transportation. Atlantic Hose and Relief Company No. 1 was organized November 27, 1835, with the following officers: W. W. PETTIT, Foreman J. M. VAN COTT, Assistant Foreman Jeremiah MUNDELL, Secretary; Alfred CARPENTER, Treasurer; J. M. VAN COTT, Alfred CARPENTER and George R. RHODES, Representatives. The word "Relief" was omitted from the title of the company during its second year. It was at first housed in a shed in High Street and used an old painter's cart for a hose-carriage; but it removed in 1863 to Fireman's Hall, in Henry Street, where it remained ever after. Hose Company No. 6 (Washington) was organized in 1853, under the auspices of Sheriff CAMPBELL, William VAN BRUNT, David THOMAS, Robert MCCALL, L. ARCHER, and others, and this company, too, first occupied a shed on Adelphi Street. They received a handsome Pine & Hartshorne carriage, in 1855, and were moved into a house at No. 85 Carlton Avenue. A new carriage was given to the company during its later years of service. The first officers were: Anthony F. CAMPBELL, Foreman; Richard SMITH, Assistant Foreman; William VAN BRUNT, Secretary; David THOMAS, Treasurer; Robert MCCALL, Trustee; Richard SMITH and William VAN BRUNT, Representatives. Foreman CAMPBELL was followed in his office by Richard DEGROOT, Richard SMITH, James KENMORE, R. LAMB, John CAMBELL, and the following gentlemen were at different times Assistant Foremen: Richard SMITH, Richard LAMB, Edward HUDSON, Joseph FRIGANZA, Andrew DOUGLASS. Richard LAMB afterwards became Assistant Engineer of the Department, being chosen to that office while he was Foreman of the Company. THE EASTERN DISTRICT FIRE DEPARTMENT. Williamsburgh began to take form as a growing settlement about the beginning of this century, when certain far-seeing speculators broke up large farms into city lots and offered inducements to attract the overflow population from New York to this locality. But the rapidly extending nucleus of the future city of Williamsburgh was for more than thirty years without protection from fire, except in the incidental, improvised fashion common to all who live under contiguous roofs. The lack of an organized force of firemen, who should be prepared in advance for an emergency, was keenly felt by the community; and as the absurdity of a town that was growing to such proportions being so far behind the rest of the world forced itself on their attention, absorbed as they were in the phenomenal growth of their settlement, the more public-spirited among the leaders got together and decided to do something about it. In January, 1834, the Board of Trustees of the village were petitioned by John Luther and others to purchase two engines and organize two companies to work them. So obviously sensible and proper a petition was, of course, promptly and favorably acted on. Before the end of the month the engines had been ordered, the lots for the houses purchased, and the erection of the houses authorized. A committee was appointed to locate the houses, one of which was put in North Second Street and the other in South Second Street, the two thus placed covering adequately the needs of what the settlement then consisted of, most of it centering at that time about the Grand Street Ferry. During the same period of time steps were taken for the proper organization of the Department, and in March following the firemen were appointed and the two companies contemplated were gotten into shape at about the same time. No. 1 was organized under the name of Washington, (afterwards changed to Lady Washington) and No. 2 as Protection Engine Company. The number of men assigned to each company was probably twenty-five and a few years later this was increased to forty. The office of Chief Engineer was created in 1835, and John LUTHER, to whose efforts the establishment of the Department was largely due, was made the first incumbent of the office. He served for about one year, when his removal from Williamsburgh rendered another choice necessary. During his term, the Trustees, in September, 1836, authorized the construction of a public cistern in'front of the Reformed Dutch Church, at South Second and Fourth Streets, at a cost of $500. In June of that year Mutual Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized, with thirteen men, thus increasing the total force of firemen to sixty-three. - THE WASHINGTON "ROOSTERS" OF THE NORTH SIDE - PROTECTION NO. 2 AND THE SOUTH-SIDERS The truck was housed on North Second Street, in the building next to that of Washington No. 1. The Department relied at that time somewhat on the volunteer aid of the citizens, and the young men of the village were divided (geographically, by Grand Street,) into two parties, the ("north-siders" running with No. 1, (known throughout the country as the "Roosters," from the emblem they chose,) and the "south-siders" with No. 2, the local rivalries thus introduced into the service of the Fire Department lending to the attendance of the companies at fires all the spice to be derived from frequent brushes and occasional pitched battles, excitements without which the life of the village fireman of sixty years ago would have been spiritless and dull. The departure of Chief LUTHER in 1836 precipitated, earlier than was usual in the history of organized Fire Departments, a contest between the firemen and the Trustees as to which should effectively control the appointment of a Chief Engineer. The temper of the time, however, gave the victory as a matter of course to the firemen, who in those days were coddled to their hearts' content by virtue of their voluntary, self-sacrificing service, as well as by virtue of their standing in the communiy, which was generally high. The next election, therefore, in October, 1836, was settled by the nomination by the firemen and confirmation by the Trustees, the choice falling on Peter POWELL. This mode of selection became the rule thereafter, which was followed in all cases except one, in which the indifference of the firemen threw on the Trustees the duty of nomination as well as of confirmation. In February, 1836, the office of Fire Warden was created, Henry COOK being the first appointee; but the office does not seem to have been continued with any regularity, for several years later the Chief Engineer reported to the Trustees that the hose had been cut during several fires, and recommended the appointment of wardens to protect the hose, see to there being a sufficient water supply, and look after property at fires. The Trustees accordingly authorized the nomination of wardens by the companies, and they were appointed on this basis for some time thereafter. The third chief of the Williamsburgh Department was David GARRITT, who was chosen in 1838, and again in 1839, and was succeeded in 1840, when he declined a third term, by A. B. HODGES, who served for five successive years. He was an Assemblyman in 1869, and introduced the bill creating the Paid Department, of which he was proud to be known as the father. - THE SHERIFF AND THE ENGINES A very curious state of things arose in 1839, when Abram MESEROLE, having purchased at public sale the fire-engines which were sold to satisfy a judgment against the village, levied on the engines and took them into his possession. This was not an easy feat to accomplish; for the firemen snapped their fingers at the sheriff, and so efficiently guarded their machines that he could not get near them to lay upon them the awful hand of the law. But that official was patient as well as they, and in good time his opportunity came. Resting in the confidence that they would be unmolested in the discharge of their duty, the firemen unhesitatingly started to drag their engines to the next fire for which they got the alarm, but the sheriff was on hand for one purpose only if the village authorities could not pay his bill they could not put out their fires, so he levied on the engines, and thus constructively obtained possession of them. It was six years before this matter was settled, and during that interval Mr. MESEROLE rented the engines to the village at $150 per annum. In 1841 the charitable fund of the Department was organized, with its Board of Representatives, its Trustees and its officers. In 1842 the complement of members of the Hook and Ladder Company was increased to twenty-three ; the office of Assistant Engineer was established with Barnet B. BOERUM as the first incumbent, and a revision of the state laws affecting Williamsburgh, as recommended by the Fire Department and approved by the Trustees, was enacted at Albany, modifying the conditions of service in the Department in so favorable a manner as to greatly increase the membership and the organization of new companies. Appropriations for reservoirs to insure an adequate supply of water, and for a fire-bell, were among the important improvements of 1842. Both were carried through, against strong opposition, the establishment of a fire bell, especially, being one of those institutions unquestionably for the public good which endanger the comfort of some few, who do not willingly sacrifice themselves pro bono publico. But the bell was an imperative necessity, when the town had spread out so much and had reached the extent that it had so late as only twelve years previous to the final consolidation with the city of Brooklyn ; and it was no longer possible to give efficient fire service, while relying on getting fire-alarms by word of mouth passed along till it reached the engine-house as had been the custom before the bell gave its immediate universal warning In 1843 for the first time, the Assistant Engineers were chosen at the same time with the Chief, and the following were elected Assistants at that time: B. B BOERUM, William H. GUISCHARD and A. L. REMSEN. The next Chief was William H. GUISCHARD and he was followed in turn by Andrew MARSHALL, Benjamin DUBOIS, R. H. HARDING (for the unexpired term of Chief DUBOIS, who died in office, Mr. HARDING giving the salary to his widow), Charles C. TALBOT, Hamilton ALLEN, F. W. JENNINGS, Thomas M. DOYLE and John W. SMITH. The original two engine-companies, with the truck company afterward organized constituted the entire Department up to 1844, when Good Interest Company No 3 was organized under the impulse given by the recent legislation. The late police captain Cornelius WOGLOM, was for many years its Foreman. After that the formation of new companies was rapid, keeping pace with the growth of the town, until, at the time of the consolidation with Brooklyn, in 1855, the Williamsbuigh Department was quite on a par with that of any city of its size in the countiy, and it contributed as its share of the combined force of fire organizations, ten engine-companies, four hose-companies and three truck companies - seventeen companies in all. - THE DEPARTMENT INCORPORATED, 1857 - COMMISSIONERS APPOINTED- OTHER COMPANIES. At this time, the act of consolidation changed the Williamsburgh Fire Department to the Fire Department of the Eastern District, and on April 7, 1857, an act was passed incorporating the Eastern District Department in the form which it maintained until it was, with that of the Western District merged into the paid Department. The act of 1857 also provided for the management of the affairs of the Department by a Board of Commissioners, the first of whom were to be chosen on the first Tuesday in May of that year, to serve for one to five years one going out each year, the terms to be settled by lot. The Commissioners chosen at this time were: Richard H. HARDING, James RODWELL, William V. HANSON, Alfred WALLETT and Demas STRONG. Mr. HARDING was the first president of the board in which capacity he served for ten years, being succeeded by R. VAN VOLKENBURGH and Daniel DONEVAN, the latter being in office when the paid Department was instituted in 1869, and his associates at that time being Robert MURPHY, George W WILLIAMS, William JOHNSON, and Patrick F. MORRIS. Other members of this Board were James RODWELL, Garrett HANSON, Thomas EAMES, James GREENE, Charles C. TALBOT, William H. MERSHON, and John H. PERRY (the recently appointed Assistant Chief). Other companies in the Eastern District Volunteer Department were: United States No. 4, David LINDSAY, Foreman; Eagle No. 6, the late ex-Postmaster TALBOT, Foreman; Neptune No. 7; Pacific No. 8; Continental No. 9; Red Jacket No. 10; Putman Hook and Ladder No. 2; Young America Hook and Ladder No. 3; Marion Hose No. 1; Atlantic Hose No. 2, and Friendship Hose No. 3. A Look at the first Fire Engines Transcribed for the Brooklyn Pages by Mimi Stevens BROOKLYN FIRE DEPT. Chapter 3 Back To HISTORY of the BROOKLYN FIRE DEPT. Index Back To FIRE Index Back To CIVIL Index Back To BROOKLYN Main