Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 25, Part III

By Holice and Debbie

WILLIAM BALLARD DUNLEY, was born in Madison Street, formerly Banker Street, in the Seventh Ward of New York city, on the 12th day of February, 1831. The Dunley family had for many years been engaged in the shipping interest of the city. William's father and grandfather, both on his father's and mother's side, were shipbuilders, and his maternal grandfather was one of the firm of Ballard & Hart, of Boston, Mass., who assisted in the building of the frigate, "Constitution." "Billy," as he is called by his numerous friends and acquaintances, followed in the footsteps of his ancestors, and has been engaged in the metal punching business for a long term of years, and has been in the Seventh Ward, of which he was a resident until about twenty years ago, when he removed to the Seventeenth Ward, where he now resides.

Mr. Dunley commenced running to fires at a very early age. When he was a boy living in Madison Street his whole interest was centered in old 26 Jefferson engine (then lying in the same street), and he was a volunteer of that company about the time that Ethan S. Blanck was the foreman and James (Kittens) Adams assistant foreman, when the Jefferson Blues target company was organized from 26 engine. Mr. Dunley joined them, and was the first lieutenant of the company on their last two parades. When 26 engine was disbanded for this constant troubles with Chatham Engine Company No. 2, who shared the same fate, Oceans Hose Company No. 36 took the house in Madison Street, and "Billy" transferred his affections to them. Francis B. O'Connor and Lawrence Turnure were the foremen in those days, and Wm. M. Tweed was a member, being secretary of the company in 1845. When Americus Engine Company No. 6 was organized and took the house of Old Black Joke Engine Company No. 33 Mr. Dunley attached himself to them as a volunteer, commencing with their first fire, June 11, 1849. He became a member of the company March 9m 1852, being proposed by Tweed. He was soon elected assistant secretary, then assistant foreman and foreman, serving as such until 1860, and from that time on as treasurer and representative; he resigned as an active member in 1863, but kept up his interest in the organization until the disbandment of the old Volunteer system. In 1850 the "Americus Pleasure Club" sprang from Engine Company No. 6. The father of the club was John Betts. While in Greenwich in 1858, Mr. Dunley being at the time treasurer, Tweed joined the club, and their name was shortened to the "Americus Club." Mr. Dunley held the position of treasurer until 1873, and the club disbanded in 1874. He was also first lieutenant of the Gouverneur Blues (Captain W. Gayte) and was an officer in the Americus guards, under Captain Joseph H. Johnson, both of these companies emanating from Engine Company No. 6. In 1854 Mr. Dunley, with Edward W. Jacobs, Richard Kimmons, John Buckbee and others, organized the famous City Club located at No. 253 Bowery, of which club he was the president for nine years, resigning the position in 1881, and afterwards accepting the position of secretary to further the interests of the club. This was a thoroughly social organization, keeping Liberty Hall on all holidays, free to their friends and visitors.

Mr. Dunley was one of the organizers and is also a member of the Volunteer and Exempt Associations. On Evacuation Day, 1883, Mr. Dunley, Ed. W. Jacobs, John Buckbee, David M. Smith, the first foremen of Americus Engine Company No. 6, he having held that office in 1849, took part in the procession. They procured the engine "Big Six" from Willett's Point, and paraded one hundred and ten men under Mr. Dunley as foreman and Mr. smith as assistant. Mr. Dunley's knowledge of the Old Department is vast, and he can place either from his vivid memory or his unerring records every person of prominence who had been connected with the organization.

JOHN McDERMOTT ("Old Time Enough") was born in Manchester, England, and was brought to this country by his parents in 1841. On august 4, 1852, he joined Excelsior Engine Company No. 2, which was then styled the Quaker Company because of the number of its members who belonged to that particular faith. In 1863 he was elected foreman and remained with it until it was disbanded. In 1854 Mr. McDermott was connected with the firm of Currier & Ives and it was his suggestion and under his personal direction that that house issued the well-remembered series of lithographs illustrative of a Volunteer fireman's life. They are known as "The Night Alarm" ("Start her lively, boys"); "The Race" ("Jump her, boys, jump her"); "The Fire" (Shake her up, boys). "The Ruins" ("Take up; man your rope"). The series, it is not generally known, contain many excellent portraits of prominent fire laddies, among those of Carson, Howard and Cregier. In "The Might Alarm" are pictures of Mr. McDermott and "his left-handed Mascot," Sloper, who are represented as having hold of the tongue of the machine. Mr. McDermott is engaged in the picture business, and is known to artists of New York and other cities as a connoisseur.

RICHARD EVANS was born in New York on May 12, 1834. In 1854 he joined Hose Company No. 26, serving six years, part of the time as assistant foreman and secretary. Subsequently he joined Americus Engine Company No. 6, with which he remained for three years. In 1867 he was elected a school trustee in the Thirteenth Ward, in which he had been a resident for fifty years, and served six years. In 1882, he was elected trustee of the Exempt Firemen's Benevolent Fund, and re-elected in 1886 for another term of four years.

MICHAEL EICHELL was born on august 24, 1820. At the age of sixteen, he began to run with an engine. On October 7, 1840, he joined Engine Company No. 19, served nine years, was elected assistant engineer, and twice re-elected, after having been successively foreman, treasurer and secretary of his company. He served six years as engineer and then re-entered his old company as a private. Altogether, he did twenty-four years' active duty in the Department, making an unusually good record. On October 1, 1849, at a large fire at Nos. 67 and 69 Forsyth Street, Assistant Engineer Eichell fell off a shed and was stumbled over by several firemen, who, in the dark, mistook him for a log, as he lay for some time unconscious. On picking him up, his head was found to be badly cut, and his knees severely injured, one of his knee pans being knocked out of place. He was disabled from fire duty for some time.

FRANCIS HAGADORN was born in New York City on January 1, 1820. He joined the volunteers in November, 1843, becoming a member of Hose Company No. 8, which he left to reorganize Hose Company No. 10. In the latter company (where he finished his term of service) he was successively private, assistant foreman and foreman, after which he served as fire warden under the law for four years. For twenty-six years he was surveyor of the Columbia Insurance Company of New York, and is till engaged successfully in the insurance business. He has been re-elected annually since January, 1854. Mr. Hagadorn has served as the financial secretary of the Exempt Firemen's Association from 1854 to the present time--a term of thirty-three years. In addition, he has filled other offices if trust and honor, outside as well as inside the Department. To-day he refers with great satisfaction to the enjoyment (notwithstanding that the enjoyments were sandwiched in with the necessary hardships and deprivations of a Volunteer Fireman) of his term of service. He says that if he had his life to live over again and under like circumstances he would most assuredly be in the active ranks, as he wa never happier than with his old associates and comrades in the discharge of their gratuitous and humane duty. His term of service commenced under Chief Anderson and closed under Chief Carson, both of whose funerals he attended. He speaks of the dead with the highest respect.

WILLIAM L. JENKINS, president of the Bank of America, became enamored of the fireman's life at an early age. He was enrolled in 1827 in Engine Company No. 13, then known as the "Eagle Company." Of the members of that period Mr. Jenkins believes that he is the only survivor. In 1833 he joined the Supply Engine, stationed in the Corporation Yard, which is the site of the Tombs Prison, and with the abandoning of the Supply he left the Department.

"The Volunteers, as a whole," says Mr. Jenkins, "were a fine set of fellows, spirited, manly, and self-sacrificing. I enjoyed the life hugely, but looking back from this age, nigh in eighty years, I cannot see where the fun came in; still the fun and excitement contributed not a little to keep very many in the ranks. When I remember that after returning from a fire, fatigued and wet, another call to duty had to be responded to with a brief interval, I cannot comprehend how it was so many survived the strain."

Mr. Jenkins was born in the Fourth Ward, and has been connected with the Bank of America, of which he is president, for the past forty years. Notwithstanding his great age he is wonderfully active, both mentally and physically.

MR. ABRAHAM B. PURDY is one of the oldest firemen living. He was born in 1808 at Kensico, Westchester County. He came to New York in 1815. His father was a member of a regiment raised in Westchester County in 1812, and which was stationed in Brooklyn. Young Purdy learned the baking trade in the establishment of Joseph Van Varick, of 19 William Street. Van Varick was a fireman, and his apprentice wanted to be the same. Purdy joined Engine Company No. 11, then stationed in Old Slip, in 1825, but did not get his certificate until the following year. He remained in the service until the disbandment of the Volunteers. Mr. Purdy was elected foreman in 1828, and held that position until 1835. Purdy wanted to resign the foremanship before the year ended, as he saw there was a strong party in the company in favor of making his assistant, Robert Walker, foreman. Walker was eventually elected, and on his speedy resignation, Mr. Purdy was again made foreman. In 1835 he had the engine removed from Old Slip to Wooster Street, near the barracks, next the station house. He remained there until he was made assistant engineer in 1836. After his term of service in 1839, Mr. Purdy went back to No. 11 a foreman again. In later years he served in the company as a private.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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