Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 29, Part II

By Holice and Debbie

PETER N. CORNWELL was every inch a fireman. He knew how to obey and how to command and to see that his commands were obeyed; and to fight and conquer a fire, always having dye regard for the welfare of those who served under him, never ordering a man to take a risk that he would not readily take himself. In early life he joined Eagle hook and Ladder Company No. 4, and in time was elected assistant foreman, in which office he served two years and a half, when he was elected foreman, and also served two years and a half in that position, when he resigned and could no be prevailed upon to serve any longer, as he wished to give the boys a chance to go up ahead. After his resignation the company presented him with a silver trumpet as a token of their esteem, and also elected him representative. While a member and officer, he aided greatly to achieve and maintain for the company the reputation of being the quickest and hardest working truck in the city. In 1853 he was elected an assistant engineer, in which office he served many years. He was several times injured and had many hair-breadth escapes at fires. He as prominent as a Fire Insurance Surveyor and was General Surveyor of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters. He died August 7, 1875, at the age of forty-five years. Funeral services were held at his residence and also at the church in Second Avenue, corner One Hundred and Nineteenth Street, and were attended by the Masonic Fraternity, members of the Volunteer Fire Department, many gentlemen prominent in insurance circles, and a large number of the residents of Harlem.

JOHN M. BENNETT, one of the oldest living members of the Old Department, joined Protection Engine No. 5, of which Wilson Small was then foreman, in 1835, and served with her during the great fire of that year. Mr. Bennett remained with No. 5 until 1840, when he resigned, taking most of the company with him, and organized Protector Engine No. 22. She was the first piano engine ever built in New York. Samuel Waddell was foreman and Bennett assistant foremen. In the following year he was elected foreman. Mr. Bennett was at the big fire in Broad Street in 1845, when his engine was blown across the street by the explosion and burned up. Mr. Bennett remained with No. 22 until 1850, when he resigned and joined the Insurance Patrol. In 1857 he joined the Police force and is not attached to the Yorkville Police Court.

WILLIAM H. WILSON joined Engine No. 18 in 1837, and ran with it for twelve years. She used to lie in West third Street, where the repair shops of the present Department now are. Previous to joining No. 18 Mr. Wilson served for a short time with Engine No. 24, then in the house now occupied by Engine No. 3 in Seventeenth Street, near Ninth Avenue. On the disbandment in 1865 Mr. Wilson was appointed captain of Engine No. 14, a post which he held for six years, when he retired.

BERNARD KENNEY, a very popular member of the Old Department, was born in New York on February 2, 1830, and joined Tompkins Hose No. 16 on November 17, 1857. From 1859 to 1862 he was foreman of that company, and during the last two years of the existence of the Old Department he held the post of assistant engineer. At the time of his death, which occurred on March 27, 1886, Mr. Kenney was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Veteran Firemen's association. His funeral was largely attended by his old comrades.

EUGENE WARD was born in New York on February 22, 1826, and joined Guardian engine No. 29 in 1845. In 19849 he was elected assistant foreman, and during the next four succeeding years he was in command of the company. Mr. Ward was a trustee of the Exempt Firemen's Association, and is now a trustee of the Veteran Firemen's Association. When the members of this organization went to Washington to attend the inauguration of President Cleveland Mr. Ward acted as marshal. His portrait is on the next page.

ICHABOD WILLIAMS, one of the oldest surviving members of the Old Department, was born on December 6, 1807, and ran with Engine No. 9 long before he was old enough to be enrolled. The engine lay in Marketfield Street. As he worked at his trade of cabinet-maker during the day it was only at night that he could spare the time to run to fires. He says that Saturday night was a time he looked forward to, for it was generally marked by a fire among the lumber years in the "Hook." In 1829 Mr. Williams joined Hook and Ladder No. 1, of which William Disosway was foreman, then lying in Beaver near Broad. The first fire he went to was at the Lafayette Theatre in Laurens Street, now South fifth Avenue. He remained with Hook and Ladder No. 1 for a year, when a split occurred in the company, and he and many others seceded to Engine No. 9, of which eh became assistant foreman. In 1832 Mr. Williams joined engine no. 15, and served with her through the great fire of 1835. In 1837 Mr. Williams's term was up, and he resigned to make room for another man, and moved to Elizabeth, N. J. His last fire service in New York was during the great fire in Broad Street, in 1845, when he came over from Elizabeth with an engine and did good work in putting out the fire. Mr. Williams is a member of the Volunteer Firemen's Association. He is still hale and hearty, and keeps a hotel in Elizabeth.

WILLIAM M. MITCHELL joined Engine Company No. 24 on June 9, 1845, and in 1855 ws assistant foreman under T. L. West, when he was elected engineer; was then made foreman and served in that capacity until 1860 and held connection with the company until the Paid Department was organized, and was then made foreman of engine Company No. 26 and served three years; was then transferred to Engine 21 as foreman and served on year in that capacity.

THOMAS F. GOODWIN joined the Old Volunteer Fire Department May 25, 1849, and became a member of the Old Fifteenth Ward Hose company known as No. 35, and commonly spoken of as Curry's Hose Cart. Subsequently Mr. Goodwin was elected foreman of this company, in which position he served until the organization of Baxter Hook and Ladder Company No. 15, then lying in Frankfort Street. In the latter company he served as an assistant foreman, and finally was placed in the charge of that apparatus as foreman. During his many years of service Mr. Goodwin encountered his due share of hardship and danger incident to the fireman's life. As one of the organizers of the Old Volunteer Firemen's association, Mr. Goodwin came into prominence, being one of the board of directors during the first year of the existence of the organization. Mr. Goodwin is also a member of long standing of the Exempt Firemen's Association. Mr. Goodwin has shown latterly that there is yet some of the old-time vim left among the old fire "vamps," by his entering a foot race at the annual picnic and barbecue of the Volunteer Firemen's Association in September, 1886. He won the first prize--a handsome gold badge, Mr. Goodwin then being over fifty-five years old, and considerably over two hundred and twenty-five pounds avoirdupois. At the beginning of the civil war he enlisted as sergeant-major in Ellsworth's Zouaves, and was wounded at the first battle of Bull Run. He was mustered out in 1862 as adjutant and re-entered civil life for but a few weeks, when he enlisted as captain with a full company and was attached to the One Hundred and Thirty-second Regiment New York State Volunteers, Spinola's brigade, with which company he served until the surrender at Appomattox, Virginia.

Mr. Goodwin is one of the charter members of Noah L. Farnham Post 458, G. A. R., Department of New York, organized in April, 1884. He is its first Past Senior Vice -Commander. On Decoration Day, 1885, this Post visited New Haven to decorate the grave of Colonel Farnham. Mr. Goodwin is a sculptor by profession and has erected many monuments in memory of those who were formerly prominent firemen, notably Chief Anderson and Andrew Schenck. He has also executed many fine life size-portraits of distinguished firemen and citizens.

WILLIAM E. BISHOP assisted in the organization of Washington Irving Hose Company 44 in January, 1849, and was appointed one of the firemen of the city of New York February 1, 1849. He was a member of Laurel Company No. 30 about 1854, but resigned his membership and joined Jackson Engine Company No. 24 and served as its secretary until 1857. Business matters caused him to resign about that time; subsequently he joined the Exempt Engine Company and served until 1863. He was one of the Committee of Arrangements or the Centennial of 1883 when the call for the old Volunteers was made. Subsequently he was appointed one of the committee to organize the Volunteer Firemen's association of the City of New York. Mr. Bishop is a charter member of that organization, now numbering two thousand one hundred members, and has served as the Financial Secretary up to the present date. Mr. Bishop was Secretary of the Irving Guards, a notable organization of the period.

The Irving Guards were composed of a fine body of men, and annually used to make quite a presentable turnout. They were attached to Hose Company No. 44. They went on their first annual target excursion to Tarrytown, N. Y., on Thanksgiving Day. This was the place of abode of our country's gifted author Washington Irving, in who honor the company was named. He received them in a cordial manner, and in a short address returned his thanks to the company for the flattering compliment paid to him; he was then introduced to them all personally. The officers, May 6, 1850, elected for the ensuing hear wre: Leonard Myers, foreman; James R. Remsen, assistant; William E. Bishop, secretary; Alvah Spaulding, treasurer; William Simpson and John Maxwell, representatives.

The Guards, in 1850, gave their annual excursion and invited the celebrated Washington Irving to be present.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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