Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 30, Part II

By Holice and Debbie

W. R. W. CHAMBERS is noted among firemen. Any of the old firemen who were in the habit of attending balls and soirees in the "forties" may remember a young, very young, man, who was a regular attendant at the best of those social gatherings. He was as light as a humming bird in his movements, and "such a love of a dancer!" He now weighs about two hundred and fifty pounds, is running over with good nature, fat and jovial, yet active. Mr. Chambers was born in New York City fifty-seven years ago, appointed recording clerk in the register's office January, 1855, by John Doane, register, and the same year elected delegate to the State Convention from the Seventeenth Ward. Appointed by George W. Morton, city inspector, as chief clerk and confirmed by the Common Council, January, 1856, he was reappointed by Daniel E. Develin, and again by F. I. A. Boole, serving in this very responsible position a period of eleven years. he was deputy sheriff under Sheriffs O'Brien and Davidson, sergeant -at-arms of the Board of Aldermen during the years 1882, 1883, and 1884, and is now recording clerk in the county clerk's office. His fire record is as weighty as his municipal cares. He joined Hose Company No. 22 in 1849, served nearly three years, and resigned; joined Hose company No. 36, served nearly seven years, and resigned; 29, rejoined Hose Company No. 22, and was elected foreman two months later, and re-elected five successive years; was secretary of board of engineers and foreman under Chiefs Howard and Decker; was elected member of Exempt Firemen's Association, January 10, 1858, and served nearly ten years upon the executive committee with Engs, Ockershausen, Mills, Watkins, and other bright lights of the Department. The colonel is now a member of the "Veteran" and "Volunteer" Fire Associations. At the time of serving as a fireman he was attached to the military of the city, served five years with the "Washington Continental Guard," Captain Darrow, and two years with the celebrated "State Guard" Captain Joseph H. Johnson. He attended the meeting of firemen at the Astor House in 1861, where it was decided to form a regiment of "Fire Zouaves," under Colonel E. E. Ellsworth. Within three hours after the meeting adjourned Mr. Chambers's books at the city inspector's office were closed, and he was enrolling men for company E, Captain John B. Leverich, at the Old "Gotham," in the Bowery, owned by the veteran Harry Venn. Mr. Chambers kept open house there free to all, he paying the entire bill. Within three days two hundred and forty-three men ha signed the roll. Only one hundred and five were chosen, of which number thirteen were from Hose Company No. 22. Thomas Chambers, a brother of the colonel, enlisted, and was one of the first killed at the first "Bull Run." Mr. Chambers was commissioned as first lieutenant of Company E, and was the only officer of that rank in the regiment chosen from the Fire Department, all others being chosen from the "Ellsworth Zouaves." Colonel Chambers came home seriously ill, and was confined to his bed three months. As soon as he was sufficiently recovered he decided to raise a regiment, and he at once commenced recruiting. By his personal exertions five hundred and seven men were inspected and mustered into the service without cost to the city, state, or general government, and W. R. W. Chambers received his commission as the colonel. A stand of colors was presented to the regiment by the city and another by the State. Colonel Chambers has four commissions--first lieutenant, captain, major, and colonel; and has two honorable discharges. As the colonel must have some military around him, he is a member of Kilpatrick post, No. 143, G. A. R.

JOHN GALVIN was born in Kings County, Ireland, and came to this country a a boy. He early ran with the engines, but had no direct connection with the Fire Department until 1863, when he enrolled in East River Engine Company No. 17, then lying in Goerck Street, near Grand. His service in the Department was of brief duration, but marked by efficiency and great personal popularity. During a residence of over forty year in the Seventh Ward, Mr. Galvin has been closely and honorably indemnified with politics. In 1868 he was elected a member of the legislature from the Fourth District, and was re-elected in the following year. He was again elected, and in the three succeeding years. In 1870 he was elected a member of the Board of Assistant Aldermen, and during the following year he was re-elected. During this time he was president of the Board for seventeen months. In 1855 Mr. Galvin received the County Democracy nomination for Congress, and made a gallant fight against Mr. Timothy J. Campbell, the nominee of the Republican and Tammany Hall, who was elected by a small majority. Mr. Galvin is a strict temperance man, never having tasted either liquor or tobacco in his life. He has been in business in Grand Street since 1860.

JAMES E. COLEGROVE was born in New York City in 1826, and began his fire experiences as a volunteer with North River Engine Company No. 27. He became a member of Hose company No. 33 December 11, 1845. The name was changed to Warren Hose in February, 1846, when he was elected assistant foreman, and in May following was made foreman. He continued in office during the years 1846, 1847, 1849, and 1850; and was an active and prominent member of the company thirteen years. He resigned in 1858. In 1856 he was elected councilman from the Eighth Ward, and is now surveyor of the Greenwich Insurance Company. He is a member of the Warren, the Exempts,' Volunteers,' and Veterans' Association of this city.

JOHN P. LACOUR, a prominent member of the old Department, joined Hook and Ladder No. 5 in 1835, and served in that company thirteen years, during eleven of which he was foreman and representative. The company lay at Attorney and Delancey Streets. Having served two terms, Mr. Lacour resigned and received his discharge papers, but remained an honorary member and representative of the company. In 1847 he was elected assistant engineer, a post that he held with great credit for seven years. He afterwards joined Engine Company No. 8, which was the first company to run a steamer. This important step was largely due to the influence of Mr. Lacour, who was one of the first firemen to recognize the fact that the steamer was bound to supersede the old manual engine. Engine No. 8 lay at No. 91 Crosby Street. Mr. Lacour ran with her until the disbandment of the Department. In the early days of the war Mr. Lacour joined the Twenty-second Regiment and remained an active member for thirteen years. He is now an honorary member of the regiment. Mr. Lacour bore the reputation of being a brave and scientific fireman. He is now surveyor for the Pacific Fire Insurance Company and resides in Brooklyn.

ALONZO BOESE, of whom it used to be said that he not an enemy in the world, was one of the most intrepid men who ever put his hand to a brake. He was born in the Fourteenth Ward in 1833, and attended old Public School no. 7, where he was known as an apt and industrious scholar. His father was a wealthy sugar refiner, but at the time of his death, which occurred when Alonzo was still a young man, his fortune had be so reduced by unfortunate ventures that his family were left in reduced circumstances. Finding that it was necessary for him to carve out his own fortune, Alonzo entered the law office of Burrell, Davison & Burrell. A few years of office work served to give him a distaste for the law, and he determined to enter the arena of politics. In this career his great personal popularity made itself felt, and led to his receiving the appointment from President Buchanan of clerk in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, a position which he filled with credit, and resigned at the beginning of Lincoln's administration. When Mt. Augustus Schell was Collector of the port of New York, Alonzo Boese held an important position in the United State Bonded Warehouse. While there, Mr. Nathaniel Jarvis, Clerk of the Court of Common Please in this city, appointed him assistant clerk, a post that he held up to the time of his death, a period of eighteen years.

He became connected with the Fire Department at an early age, when he joined engine Co. No. 9. He always bunked at the engine house, and by his genial disposition, no less then the enthusiasm with which he was always ready to respond to the cal of danger, earned the sincere affection of all his comrades. His name will always be remembered in connection with one of the most desperate deeds recorded in the annals of the Old Department.. A temporary hospital filled with small-pox patients, at the corner of the Bowery and bond Street, was found to be on fire one night. Little shame was it to the firemen, brave as they were, to shrink from facing the double danger of pestilence added to the flames. The fire was spreading rapidly, and the danger of the poor afflicted wretches in the pest house was imminent, and yet all hung back, when "Lon" Boese stepped forward and without a word began ascending the ladder. A storm of cheers arose as he began to descend a moment later, carrying a patient in his arms. He continued the ascent until the last poor wretch was in safety.

On the outbreak of the war "Lon" was foremost in organizing the famous Hawkins Zouaves. It was generally believed that his service would be rewarded with the colonelcy of the regiment, but nothing better then the command of a company was offered him. He felt the slight bitterly, and declined the proffered captaincy. Mr. Boese was almost as famous as a fisherman as he was as a fireman, and was known as one of the most scientific and enthusiastic disciples of Isaac Walton in New York. With "Larry" Kerr and "Brooks" De Garmo, both old fire laddies, Mr. Boese helped to organize the famous Excelsior Fishing Club of Staten Island, one of the most prominent organizations of the kind of this country. Mr. Boese died October 4, 1881, of cancer of the tongue, after a long and agonizing illness. His death was in keeping with his life, his last works being, "I'm not afraid to die."

JEREMIAH F. GILLIN was born in the city of New York, May 7, 1836. He joined Croton Hose company No. 6 July 10, 1857, and served his full time with that company. On January 3, 1860, the hose carriage had been laid up for repairs; it was a bitterly cold night, and Mr. Gillin had visited the house for the purpose of being ready to take charge of a party of workmen early in the morning. He was sleeping on a chair at 3 A. M. when there came a sharp knock at the door and then a cry of fire. The sleeper was at the door in an instant. "Fire in Division Street near Clinton!" was shouted. Mr. Gillin started, and was the first one at the scene. It was an old-fashioned dwelling with a camphene store on the ground floor. The flames spread with marvelous rapidity; the narrow staircase was ablaze. Fifteen human beings were in the upper part of the house. Mr. Gillin clambered over the top of the store window, and entered the second story. The smoke was dense and suffocating, and the heat overpowering. He stumbled against a woman with a child in her arms, both overcome by the smoke. He hurriedly, but carefully, carried the child to the window, and dropped it tenderly into the arms of those below, and returning to the mother performed the same act for her. Mr. Gillin then went to the rear of the building and rescued a boy thirteen years if age. When carrying the boy he heard cries from a rear room. He tried the door--it was locked-burst it open, and saved a family of four persons--grandmother, mother, and two children. It was now time for the rescuer to think of this own safety. He staggered toward the window, now a mass of flames. As he crossed the floor his foot struck against the body of an old man. He dragged him to the window where friendly hands wre ready to receive him. After this effort Mr. Gillin turned to look if there was any other inmates; not seeing any he prepared to descend, but the ladder had been removed. There was now only one way for him to escape, "leap of life." The flames were circling about him. Without hesitation he sprang from the window. His life was spared, but six weeks of medical treatment was necessary for him to recuperate. Eight lives had been saved by this courageous your man, but, sad to relate, seven others, residing on the upper story, were burnt to an indistinguishable crisp.

Mr. Gillin was appointed on the police force in the fall of 1863. While on post duty in the Twenty-first Precinct, December 13, 1865, during a fearful storm of snow and sleet, discovered a fire at the corner of Second Avenue and Thirty-third Street. The store, a liquor saloon, was owned by a man named Kane, and the upper part was occupied by a Mrs. Webb, and Mrs. Foster and child. The fire had commenced under the stairs, and the flames cut off all means of escape in that direction. Mr. Gillin used every effort to reach the sufferers, but in vain. Mrs. Webb, clothed with only a night dress in that awful storm, swung herself from the front window on the fourth floor, holding on by the strength of her hands alone, and, nerved by despair and terror, she retained her grasp until the skin peeled from the ends of her fingers, and she fell. Mr. Gillin had prepared a mattress, and, with three others, held it to receive the falling woman. The force was too great, and Mrs. Webb fell to the cellar. No bones were broken, but the exposure and shock were more than she could bear. On the following morning she died at the hospital where she had been conveyed. Every effort was made to rescue Mrs. foster and child, but without avail; they perished in the flames. On investigating the cause of the fire it was ascertained that it was a case of arson. The coroner's jury brought in a verdict of murder and arson against Kane. He was arrested, and tried three times, defended by James T. Brady. On each trial the jury disagreed; on each occasion they stood eleven for conviction and one for acquittal. Mr. Gillin was taken from this fire in Chief Perley's wagon. He was unable to move, being prostrated by the heat and over-exertion. The coroner's jury added to their verdict a recommendation that Mr. Gillin was well worthy of promotion for gallant service.

In April, 1861, Mr. Gillin enlisted in the First (Ellsworth) Fire Zouaves; was third sergeant of Company F, afterwards orderly sergeant of Company K; took an active part in the burning of Willard's Hotel, Washington D. C., where the Zouaves lent their valuable aid; was present at several skirmishes, and in charge of his company at "Bull Run" when the historic "Black Hose Cavalry" charge was made. When the regiment was mustered out of service Mr. Gillin was appointed chief detective to the Union Pacific Railroad, under direction of the United States. He was engaged in that service for over five years. His last public duty as a detective was under Colonel Whiteley, of the United States Secret Service Force. Mr. Gillin had charge of one of the most dangerous and delicate missions during his service--an investigation of the Ku Klux organization when his life was momentarily in danger. Mr. Gillin is a prominent member of the "Veteran Firemen's Association."

LOUIS J. BELLONI was an active fireman. In the year 1851 John T. Belloni, Jordan L. Mott, Franklin E. James, Louis J. Belloni, and other prominent residents of what was then the beautiful but sparsely settled village of Harlem, and the extreme linit of the city and County of New York, organized for the protection of that remote district a hose company, christened the newborn nymph "Undine" and Undine Hose Company No. 52 became a part and parcel of the N. Y. F. D. Mr. Belloni was very active in forming the company, and an energetic working member, elected as representative of 52 at Firemen's Hall for nine consecutive years, a member of the company for twelve years, and only retired when the younger members resolved to change the organization to an engine company (Undine engine Company No. 52). Mr. Belloni has been a member of the Exempt firemen's association for many years, was one of the Trustees of the Fire Department Fund, and is now the treasurer of the fund. Mr. Belloni is one of the old merchants of New York. The firm of Belloni & Company is a landmark among the large shipping houses of South Street.

JAMES HARRIS joined the Volunteer roll of Engine No. 1, then lying in Duane Street, in 1836. Mr. Harris was prominent among the organizers of National Hose No. 24 as a private company at the time of the "June Bug" excitement. He served his time with Hose 24, and then retired from the Department. He is a member of the Association of Exempt Firemen. While Mr. Harris was an enthusiastic fireman and one of the most popular members of his company, he resolutely declined to accept office, although frequently pressed to do so.

ANTHONY C. D'OZEVILLE performed his first fire service with Americus Hose company No. 19, lying in Greene Street, near Broome. His connection with that company was of brief duration, and in 1857 he enrolled in National Hose No. 24, lying in the house now occupied by engine No. 30 in Spring Street. During the first years of his membership he had the honor of being elected representative and then secretary. In the following year he was elected assistant foreman and shortly afterwards foreman. His efficiency as a commanding officer and his personal popularity are attested by the fact that during the three succeeding years he was re-elected by an almost unanimous vote. At the time when a strong effort was being made in the legislature to pass a bill reducing the number of men allowed to hose companies form thirty to twenty, with a proportionate reduction in engine and hook and ladder companies, Mr. D'Ozeville strenuously opposed the measure. It ws evident to him that a reduction on such a large scale would have the effect of completely crippling many organizations. With the assistance of Mr. Samuel Burhans, Jr., a former foreman of the company, he drew up a masterly memorial, conclusively showing the inadvisability of the proposed step, which was forwarded to Albany. The document attracted much attention and led to a modification of the proposed measure. The bill was passed reduced the force allowed to hose companies by only five men, instead of ten. Mr. D'Ozeville was one of the first officers to recognize the danger threatening the Volunteer organization by the introduction of steamers, and resolutely opposed their use. He resigned from the Department shortly before the disbandment of the Volunteers.

His father ws a native of France and a personal friend of Lafayette, by whose influence he was appointed to a responsible position in the New York Custom House. Mr. D'Ozeville is a life member of the Association of Exempt Firemen and one of the executive committee, a member of the Volunteer Firemen Association, and secretary of the New York County Democracy of the Fifth Assembly District.

OLIVER A. FARRIN joined National Hose No. 24, then lying in Spring Street, between Greenwich and Hudson Streets, in 1844, and served with that company for five yeas, when he received his discharge certificate. For several years before that Mr. Farrin was on the Volunteer roll of Engine No. 27. As a brave and popular fireman Mr. Farrin has a fine record. He is a member of the Association of Exempts, and resides at No. 159 West fifteenth Street.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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