Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 24, Part III

By Holice and Debbie


JACOB TURK was a gunsmith. He held the office of Overseer for twenty-five years. Among other things he introduced the well-known leather cap worn by the firemen to the present day.

JACOBUS STOUTENBURGH, who was, like Turk, a gunsmith, held the office of Overseer from 1762 to 1776. He was one of the thirty firemen originally appointed in 1738. In 1762 he received the title of Chief Engineer. His salary was thirty pounds a year. He continued to be Chief Engineer down to the time of the Revolution. When he was appointed in 1761 the city had largely increased in area and population, and in consequence the force in the following year (1762) was augmented to two assistants and sixty men.

WILLIAM J. ELSWORTH was one of the fire firemen. In 1971 he was Chief Engineer, and in 1792, when the constitution of the Department was drafted, we find him elected treasurer.

THOMAS BROWN was a fireman in 1738m having been appointed from the First Ward. In 1798 Mr. Brown was chosen one of the Trustees of the newly incorporated Department.

THOMAS FRANKLIN, "Uncle Tommy," as he was affectionately styled by the boys, was the first of the old-time chiefs to attain high distinction. His first service was performed with Engine No. 12, which he joined in 1783, and of which he became foreman in 1791. In the year 1799 he was made assistant engineer, and in 1811 Chief Engineer of the Department. He had scarcely be appointed to the latter post when, in attempting to run the gauntlet of blazing buildings on both sides of Chatham Street, he was overcome by the heat, and narrowly escaped being roasted to death in the middle of the street. He was rescued with his clothing in flames, and was carried home in an exhausted condition.

At a great fire in a rope-walk in Orchard Street in July, 1824, the thermometer at the time registering one hundred degrees, Chief Franklin was again overcome, and narrowly escaped with his life. He was elected register, during the war of 1812 affixed his signature to fractional currency issued by the city to the amount of many millions of dollars. On the occasion of Lafayette's visit to New York Chief Franklin led the parade of the Fire Department.

Mr. Franklin held the post of Chief Engineer from 1811 to 1824, and was an active member of the Fire Department for forty-one years. In 1824 he resigned from active service, to the great regret of the boys, in whose affections "Uncle Tommy Franklin" held a foremost place. It is related of him that he never failed to treat his boys with an almost exaggerated consideration. Even at moments of the wildest excitement, in the thickest danger, he would cheerily shout, "Now, my dear boys, do this, or do that, my dear boys."

On the occasion of each firemen's parade after his retirement the old gentleman would stand on the stoop of his house in Broome Street, between Broadway and the Bowery, in full uniform, hat on head and trumpet in hand, and review the procession, receiving the plaudits of "his dear boys" as company after company went by. He passed away in 1830, and was accorded one of the largest funerals ever seen in New York up to that time.

JAMIESON COX was a baker, of Pike Street. He joined Engine Company No. 26 I 1813. In 1822 he was appointed assistant engineer, and chief in 1824. He was an alderman of the Seventh Ward and urged the formation of an alarm company, as the sextons could not be depended upon to give notice of a fire.

UZZIAH WENMAN was born January 22, 1791, in Fulton Street, and died in 1866, having lived just long enough to see the introduction of a new system. He belonged to engine Company No. 39, and in 1815, was elected its foreman. In 1822 he was appointed assistant engineer and in 1828 Chief Engineer. He was elected to the Legislature, and while there had the firemen's term of service reduced from seven to five years. he was member of the Croton Aqueduct Commission. He was a brave man, honest in the performance of his duties, and was removed from office (to his credit) because he would not lend himself to the plots of the politicians. One of his most noticeable acts of coolness and daring was at the burning of the City Hotel on Broadway near Wall Street in 1829. The chief was left alone on the roof, which was half burnt through and was ready to go down at any moment. His escape was entirely cut off, and there seemed to be not the slightest hope of saving him. The fireman, it was aid, lost their heads completely, a;; sorts of contradictory orders were being shouted, and all was in confusion. Suddenly Wenman stepped to the edge of the roof, and raising his trumpet, shouted, "Silence below there!" and in an instant you could have heard a pin drop. Then, through the trumpet, he calmly gave orders to raise a ladder, which only reached half way to the roof, and then lash some poles together and pass him up a light line. It was done, and he tied it round a chimney and came down hand over hand. He had barely touched the street when the roof went in.

JAMES GULICK, one of the most intrepid chiefs who ever directed the destiny of the old Department, served with Engine Company No. 11 until he was appointed assistant engineer in 1824. Standing six foot two in his socks and of superb physique, Gulick was one of the handsomest as well as the most popular firemen of his day. In 1831 he was made Chief Engineer of the Department. At a meeting of active and exempt firemen, held at the Shakespeare Hotel, at the corner of Nassau and Fulton Streets, on the night of September 10, 1831, shortly after he assumed command it was resolved: "That in consideration of the respect we entertain for the character of James Gulick, our newly appointed chief engineer, as well as for the high estimation in which we hold his official capacities as a fireman, a committee be appointed to procure a silver trumpet, to be presented to him in behalf of the firemen of New York." In the following year another testimonial of his worth in the shape of a magnificent silver urn, suitably inscribed, was presented by the representatives of the Department. At a fire in Park Place Chief Gulick bravely rescued, at the risk of his own life, Mr. Morris Franklin, who, while holding the pipe in the attic of the burning building, had been pinned down by the falling timbers of the roof. In 1835 the Common Council, in which a strong opposition to Gulick had been gradually organized, determined to supersede him. The story of his dismissal is told elsewhere, and it will illustrate the popularity of the chief among his men. The self-denial, the suppression of private feeling, and the patriotism of Gulick were conspicuous on this occasion, when, after the firemen had rebelled at his treatment, he flung himself into the breach and restored order and discipline. Immediately after his supersession became generally known eight hundred firemen marched in a body to the City hall and passed in their resignations. Out of fifteen hundred men scarce seven hundred remained on duty. The safety of the city was seriously imperilled. Engines were stripped of their ornaments, engine houses wre cleared of furniture and decorations, and whole companies disbanded rather then serve under the new chief. Gulick was the idol of the boys, and they would obey none but him. Tremendous efforts were in vain made to secure Gulick's restoration. Finding that nothing could be done with the existing common Council, the firemen nominated their darling for Register at the election in that year, and all parties carried him to victory. Among other devices displayed on placards during the campaign was--

Who saved the Cathedral?


Vote for him for Register.

In honor of their victory the firemen held a grand torchlight procession, over a mile long, on the night of November 17. The vote on the thirteenth assemblyman being a tie, another election was held, and the Whigs nominated another brave fireman, Morris Franklin, who was elected by a handsome majority by the votes of his comrades.

From 1842 to 1847 Mr. Gulick was vice-president of the Association of Exempt Firemen. He died in 1861, aged sixty-three years. At the time he held an office in the Corporation Pipe Yard, at the foot of East Twenty-third Street. His generous disposition caused him to neglect making any provision for his declining years, and he died in comparative poverty. His funeral took place at Cranberry, N. J., and was attended by Chief Decker, ex-Chief Wenman, George W. Wheeler, John S. Giles, W. W. Wilson, and a host of other sorrowing comrades. No more eloquent tribute to the worth of the departed chief could have been rendered than the following resolutions passed on the announcement of his death by the Board of Engineers:

Whereas, the melancholy announcement being made to this Board that another honored, valuable and tried public servant, and for years distinguished as the pride and ornament of the New York Fire Department, has fallen asleep in death, and there be it

Resolved, That, in our official capacity as Engineers of the New York Fire Department, we learn with sincere sorrow of the decease of James Gulick, ex-Chief Engineer, who departed this life on the evening of Monday, Sept. 16, 1861; and that we unite in honoring his remains in such a manner as may best accord with the virtues and character of that great leader in the cause of voluntary aid.

Resolved, That in the death of ex-Chief Engineer James Gulick the New York Fire Department has lost one of its most honorable, fearless, and devoted exemplars, the community at large one of its most spirited and respected citizens, and his relatives and friends one ever found faithful in all the duties and obligations of social life.

Resolved, That no eulogium we can pass in memory of James Gulick can enhance his claims, either as a citizen or fireman--for he was, in the full stature of manhood, "often tried, but never found wanting." The record of his fame can never pass away, nor the brightness of his example be obscured by time's hand. Hedied full of years and honors, and is now gathered to a glorious reward.

JOHN RYKER, JR., was born in Vesey Street November 25, 1802, and died April 11, 1851. He joined United State Engine Company No. 23, and was appointed assistant engineer in 1829 and Chief in 1836, when Gulick was removed. After his term of Chief engineer he joined United States Hose Company No. 25. John Ryker was a man of handsome appearance; in character he was generous almost to a fault. It was his misfortune to have been appointed to the most prominent off ice in the Department in troublous times when dissension reigned. In calmer days his services would have been better appreciated.

CORNELIUS V. ANDERSON was born April 10, 1818, and died November 22, 1858. In 1830 he joined Hudson Company No. 1. He was a mason and bricklayer by trade, and when he heard that he had been appointed Chief Engineer he was at work laying bricks on a building on the corner of Leonard Street and Broadway. He was a most economical officer, and in consequence antagonized the reckless Board of Aldermen who, at a meeting in 1839, created twenty-four hose companies to bring about his removal. But Anderson was strong in the affection of his men. He was only twenty-eight years old when he became Chief engineer of the New York Fire Department, a time at when everything was in disorder, consequent upon the appointment of Mr. Hoffmire, and the sudden retirement of James Gulick. During the twelve years he occupied this honorable position he gradually won his way into the favor of the firemen, who re-elected him again and again. In the fall of 1848 he was elected Register. While occupying this position (as while chief engineer he doubled the force of the Department, and yet reduced its expenses from seventy-two thousand dollars to thirty thousand dollars) he gave renewed evidence of his sterling honesty by paying into the city treasury forty thousand dollars of surplus fees, while his predecessors had never paid in more then fifteen thousand dollars during a like period of time. In 1851 Mr. Anderson took an active interest in creating the Lorillard Fire Insurance Company, and he was chosen as its president, and continued to act as such until the day of his death. He was also chairman of the Fire Insurance Patrol. In 1856 he was appointed one of the Ten Governors of the Almshouse, in place of William S. Dirk, who resigned. For this office he had again been nominated by the Republican Party, but declined in consequence of his health. He was mourned everywhere by all. Not alone the firemen who looked up to him with veneration inspired by time-hallowed associations, but citizens of all classes and conditions joined in sorrowful regrets at the loss of one so useful and so just. The civil authorities, his associates of the Board of Governors of the Almshouse, the Lorillard Fire Insurance Company, the Board of Trustees of the Fire Department, the Board of Fire Commissioners, the Board of Engineers and Foremen, the Board of Representatives, Fire Insurance Patrol, Exempt Engine Company, Hudson Hose Company, and others, all testified, through the public press, their deep sorrow in the loss of Cornelius V. Anderson.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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