Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 28, Part III

By Holice and Debbie

WILLIAM H. PHILP, a well known portrait painter and quartermaster of the First New York Mounted rifles during the rebellion, joined the Fire Department in 1850, becoming a member of No. 3 Hose. Mr. Philp decorated the panels of the hose carriage, painting "The Battle of Bunker Hill" on one side and "Washington At the Battle of Monmouth" on the other. This handsome carriage was different in its construction from any other in the Department at that time. By means of ingeniously contrived cog-wheels, it could be turned completely around within its own length. It was placed on exhibition in one of the American Institute Fairs, held in Castle Gardens, and attracted great attention.

Some of the best American artists of that period did not consider it beneath their dignity to decorate the panels of the fire engines and hose carriages. The celebrated artist Henry Inman painted a beautiful allegorical design on the banner used at the general parade of the Department, and their design was engraved on steel and embellished the certificates of membership issued to firemen. Jos. H. Johnson and T. Pine painted many panels in elaborate style for various engine companies, and their work will compare favorably with more modern and renowned decorators.

Mr. Philp was born in 1828, and his recollection of the Department date back to the great fire of 1835, when he was but eight years old. He distinctly remembers accompanying his guardian to the scene of the disaster a day or two afterward when the smoke was still rising from the ruins. His guardian, Cornelius Cadle, was a fire warden, and three brothers of Cadle--Joseph, James and Richard--were all prominent firemen.

PAUL J. CHAPPELL, first joined the Fire Department in 1856, going on the roll of Americus Hose Company No. 48, and served some two years, when he left the above company and joined Marion Hose Company No. 4, and was elected as a representative from that company to the Board of representatives. He served in the company until the disbandment of the old Fire Department. In April, 1869, he joined the Exempt Firemen's Association; he is a life member. He was one of the organizers of he Veteran Firemen's Association on their return from Washington, and accompanied the association to Poughkeepsie. At a fire on October 7, 1886, at Nos. 63, 65, and 67 Bayard Street he saved the lives of eight persons by climbing out of an attic window of No. 69 Bayard Street, and climbing up a peak slate roof at the risk of losing his own life, for which act of gallantry he received great praise.

The members of the City Club and their friends gathered in their rooms at 253 Bowery on Saturday evening, November 11, 1886, to witness the presentation to Mr. Paul J. Chappell of an emblem of the club's admiration of his pluck and bravery. The gift was gold bar and badge, to which was attached a tiger's head in gold, with diamond eyes. On the face of the bade was: "Presented to Paul J. Chappell by his friends of the City Club for his bravery in saving lives at the fire in Bayard Street., October 7, 1886." The venerable John Buckbee made the presentation speech, and Mr. Chappell made a hearty response. Among those present at the reception were William B. Dunley Richard Evans, Frank Pendergrast, James J. Donavon, John Rudman, Daniel Garvey, William Dunne, the Poet Geoghegan, W. P. Wall, John Dawson, and Ed. W. Jacobs.

ALEX. V. DAVISON was assistant foreman of Hose Company No. 53 in 1857 when it was established in Horatio Street near Hudson. It organized with twenty men, but by order of the Common Council the number was subsequently increased to twenty-five. In 1858 Mr. Davidson was appointed foreman, and remained Forman until the Volunteer Department broke up. He was also one of the assistant engineers, and under Chief Decker he was chief clerk of the Department. "Aleck" Davidson was a popular member of Engine Company 23. He took the full share of the work and the hard knocks, and always kept up a buoyant fund of spirits. He was the life of the company when they were off duty and passing the time in their own quarters. There were in the same company with ex-Sheriff Davidson Police Justice Gorman, peter Bowe, and Ex-Fire Commissioner Vincent C. King. Mr. Davidson was elected sheriff, his successor being the present popular incumbent, Hugh J. Grant.

JOSEPH H. JOHNSON, of No. 1 Great Jones Street, is one of the veteran firemen. He joined Engine Company 15 in 1841 in Christie Street near Bayard. He served a full term with her, consisting of seven years. in 1849 he became one of the organizers of Engine Company No. 6, called Americus or more commonly known as "Big Six." He served three years wit her as assistant foreman under Wm. M. Tweed. For a great number of years Mr. Johnson did painting for the Fire Department, decorating engine backs, carriage reels, etc., and he also painted the big banner, ten feet by twelve, that was presented by the city of New York to the Fire Department January 20, 1858. It cost fifteen hundred dollars. It had a blue silk front, scarlet back, with heavy gold mountings, a massive eagle on top and flambeaux on either side. The design in front represented Protection and Benevolence surrounded by emblems of the Fire Department. The latest thing he has done in painting is the picture panels on the Veteran association's engine. Mr. Johnson, before he became a member of Company 15, was a volunteer in that company for six or seven years, doing active duty previous to his being elected a member, as he was too young to be eligible.

NELSON D. THAYER was born on November 6, 1818. He joined Union Engine Company No. 18 on January 18, 1838, located in Amity Street near Sixth Avenue. This company was disbanded in 1846, and together with a number of old 18 Engine Company Mr. Thayer organized in 1849 Niagara engine Company No. 4. It was located in Great Jones Street. Mr. Thayer was assistant foremen of 18 Engine two years, secretary four years, and treasurer three years. He was elected Fire Commissioner in1858, serving until 1860, when he resigned. In 1862 he was elected representative by Engine Company No. 18. He served until the Department was disbanded in 1865. He took an active part in the demonstration made by the Old Volunteer Department on Evacuation Day, the twenty-sixth of November, 1883. He was elected vice-president of the Volunteers February 22, 1884. He is also an active member of the Veteran firemen's Association, in East Tenth Street. He was chairman of the Ball Committee of the "Vets" Ball which was held at the Metropolitan Opera House on Janaury 12, 1886. He is an active working member of the above association; also was chairman of the ball Committee of the Volunteers' held at the same house in 1885.

JOHN P. TEALE, one of the oldest living Volunteer Firemen, was born November, 1812, in the Fifth Ward of New York. He was bound an apprentice to John G. Tibbets, in Grand Street near the Bowery, to learn the housesmith and ornamental iron work. In 1826 he became a runner or volunteer to Tradesman engine No. 37, better known as "Old Sall." At that time Thomas Howe was foreman, and the engine house was a one-story brick building situated in Christie Street near Stanton Street. At the age of twenty-one he attached himself to the above company, serving three years, after which he took out a certificate dated January 8m 1833, and was elected steward of the company. He was one of the most persevering of firemen. He was the first man to enter the ruins of the fire at Haddock's drug store in Pearl Street in 1834, and the first to discover Eugene Underhill beneath the ruins. By his exertion the body was taken out and several lives were saved. Mr. Teale resigned from Engine Company No. 37, and joined Hope Engine Company No. 31, known as "Frogtown," located in old Chapel Street, now West Broadway. A strife soon arose between him and the foreman, Wm. Laurence, and Teale resigned and joined Hudson engine Company No.1. Cornelius V. Anderson was foreman, and they both roomed together. Mr. Teale was married December 6, 1835. On the sixteenth the great fire occurred, at which he held the pipe, the post of honor that put the first stream of water on that conflagration, No. 1 being at the head of the line. In May, 1836, he removed to Twenty-first Street, and was made a member of Jackson Engine Company No. 24, then located in Eighteenth Street near Ninth Avenue, Stephen Mead, foreman. Mr. Teale resigned from Nos. 1 and 24, and organized Engine Company No. 16, as Croton, and was its foremen. The company presented him with a splendid silver mounted trumpet in 1838. In the fall of that year he resigned from 16, and he became sexton of the church corner of Prince and Thompson Streets, and, after serving three years with 29, resigned to organize in 1841 Hose company No. 35 as City Hose, and was made its foreman. In 1842 the company presented him with a silver mounted trumpet. In April, 1843, the Common Council presented the company with a handsome trumpet; afterwards the company presented it to Mr. Teale. About the same time Liberty Fire Engine Company, of Baltimore, Md., presented No. 33 with a handsome banner and Mr. Teale with a handsome burnished axe with a suitable inscription thereon. Mr. Teale removed to Williamsburg, L. I., in the spring of 1849, and on September 3, 1849, took up a certificate as a member of Good Intent Engine Company no. 3. On February 4, 1850, at The Hague Street explosion, he took a very active part, and soon after was elected foreman of his new company. He also assisted in organizing Putnam Hook and Ladder No. 1. Mr. Teale is now in the seventy-fifth year of his age, and is as active and in good health as though he were but twenty-five. He has received many testimonials for his valor and courtesy. One is a splendid mounted cane with calendar of 1842 and other devices thereon. He is the oldest Odd Fellow in Kings County, having joined April 12, 1836, and is now the standard bearer of the Veteran Firemen's Association and an energetic member of the Volunteers.

FRANK R. MOTT, a son of Dr. Valentine Mott, the eminent surgeon, served his time in the old Volunteer Department. He was at one time assistant foreman of harry Howard Hose Co. 55. Mr. Mott died in Paris on April 24, 1885.

MATTHEW D. GREEN, at one time a prominent Whig politician and well known hotel keeper and sporting man, was born on July 9, 1815. His first service was performed with old Peterson Engine No. 15. Subsequently he joined Southwark engine No. 36 and ran with her for several years. Mr. Green was at one time wealthy, but died on January 9, 1870, in reduced circumstances.

JOHN J. REILLY was born in the Seventh Ward on July 2, 1829. He was secretary and representative of Americus engine No. 6. Mr. Reilly was for many years a primmest politician in the Seventh Ward, and served several terms in the Assembly. At the time of his death, June 14, 1886, he held a position in Father Drumgoole's Home at Lafayette Place and Great Jones Street.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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