Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 31, Part I

By Holice and Debbie

CHAPTER XXXI

SOME OLD TIME FIRE LADDIES

R. H. Ellis. -- W. C. Conner. -- S. Yates. -- J. H. Bartley. -- B. M. Sweeney. -- S. Townsend. -- M. Thompson. -- J. P. Prote. -- M. Fallon. -- S. Lichtenstein. -- J. A. Flack. -- P. B. Van Arsdale. -- J. W. Garside. -- J. J. Blair. -- J. M. Van Alst. -- F. J. Twomey. -- S. Waterbury. -- C. Place. -- Peter Vetter, Jr. -- Peter Vetter, Sr. -- J. H. Waydell. -- W. H. Van Sickels, Sr. -- W. H. Warner. -- T. E. Howe. -- G. H. Dunn. -- J. H. Hughes. -- Samuel Waddell. -- T. Leavy. -- W. Hitchman. -- J. L. Miller. -- A. B. Hauptman.

ROBERT H. ELLIS, ex-fire commissioner, was born in the Seventh Ward. The old Seventh in former days was, in point of intelligence, wealth, beauty, and Quakers, the peer of all wards in the city. East Broadway, as a street, was equal to what Fifth Avenue ws in after years, a continuos row of handsome private residences from Catharine to Grand Street. Millionaires were not as plentiful as they are now, and palatial dwellings were unknown, but the houses were large and substantial. Henry, Madison, Market, Pike, and Rutgers Streets were filled with the homes of solid business men, with a large sprinkling of the old school Quaker families. Mr. Ellis had a peculiar entry on fire duty. When about nineteen years of age he was troubled with palpitation of the heart. One hot July evening he visited the family physician, was given a dozen powders, and a strict injunction to keep perfectly quiet, no violent exercises, etc. he was wending his way homeward, had reached the corner of Grand and Essex Streets, when the Essex Market bell struck for the old Third district. A few moments after Hose Company No. 36 reached the corner; Mr. Ellis stood in the center of the street. "Major Wade" and "Dave Budd' had the head of 36's rope. They lifted it, Ellis slid under; he tried to escape, but without avail. Hose 6 was close behind 36, the pace was terrific, and was kept up until the fire was reached at Seventeenth Street and First Avenue. For eight years after that night Mr. Ellis was an active fireman. He has no knowledge what became of the powders or advice. For a year he was a volunteer with 36 (the only one they had, or would allow). In august, 1846, he joined Excelsior Engine company No. 2, called "Quaker Two," as a majority of her members were young Quakers. Mr. Ellis was a quiet duty-doing member, rarely missed a fire, served his full time with the ponderous old machine, was on three occasions in great jeopardy, but came out on good order and sound condition. In 1859 Mr. Ellis was elected commissioner, was twice elected president of the Board, was presiding officer when the case of engine companies 30 and 40 was tried, which resulted in the commissioner voting to disband No. 40. Mr. Ellis with three of his colleagues resigned. In 1861 Mr. Ellis was commissioned as first lieutenant in the Sixty-first Regiment N. Y. Volunteers. He was with the army of the Potomac under McClellan, and served with "Little Mac" from the commencement until the General was relieved of command at Bolivar Heights.

WILLIAM C. CONNER joined Fire Engine Company No. 5, May 26, 1845. The foreman of the company at the time was Charles A. Brown, carpenter, 103 Nassau Street, who resigned July 7, 1856. The assistant foreman was Joseph smith, florist, 383 Broadway, who resigned August 7, 1855. William C. Conner was appointed in turn representative and treasurer of the company and remained with it until it was disbanded on the establishment of the new Paid Fire Department in 1865. In 1874 he ran for sheriff against John McCool, the well-known contractor and quondam friend and champion of ex-Mayor and Ex-Congressman Fernando Wood. Conner was elected and made a creditable showing as sheriff for his term of three years, after which he retired from the active exercise of politics, and devoted himself to the more congenial and lucrative business of his type foundry.

SAMUEL YATES was born June 6, 1826. He joined Humane Hose Company No. 20, August 26, 1952, and was assistant foreman from 1852 to 1855. He ws presented with a silver medal for bravery. He joined Southwark Engine No. 38, July 20, 1854; subsequently was in Protection Engine No. 5, January 30, 1856, and served with them six years. He was appointed captain of Company No. 7 in the new Department by Commissioner Abby. He is now employed in the Sun office. He is a member of the Exempt, Veterans, and Volunteers.

JAMES H. BARTLEY WAS BORN October 5, 1857, in the Seventh Ward. Joined Eagle Hose Company No. 1, May 15, 1861, and served as assistant foreman in 1863 and 1865-1866. He was one of the first organizers of the Veterans' Association, and was secretary and now holds the office of financial secretary. Mr. Bartley's father, W. G. C. Bartley, was an old member of Mutual Hook and Ladder No. 1, and died March 15, 1856. James belongs to the Exempt and Veterans' Associations.

BERNARD M. SWEENEY was born September 8, 1827. He joined Franklin Engine No. 39 December 27, 1853, was foreman in 1855, 1859 and 1860; representative in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865, and treasurer in 1862. He was bell-ringer at Thirty-third Street tower, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, in 1861. He is now corresponding secretary of the Veterans, and is connected with the Manhattan Gas Company.

SAMUEL TOWNSEND was born November 4, 1815. He joined Engine No. 22 November 3, 1831, Engine No. 22, September 13, 1836, and Hose Company No. 22 June 13, 1842. He is connected with an insurance company.

MATTHEW THOMPSON was born June 19, 1835. He joined Neptune Hose No. 27 February 7, 1858, and was foreman in 1859. He did not like hose company duty, and joined Baxter Hook and Ladder No. 15, March 4, 1862, became treasurer and served his time in that company. He is a member of the Veterans and Exempt.

JOHN P. PROTE was born on Manhattan Island November 26, 1819. He joined Live Oak Engine Company No. 44, September 14, 1844, and served his tine in that company, after which he moved to Yonkers, and is now the engineer there.

MALACHI FALLON, the fearless foreman of Black Joke engine, the redoubtable politician and genial host of the famous "Ivy Green" tavern, will live in the recollection of the old-time firemen as long as memories of the Volunteer Fire Department last. He belongs to a type now ell-nigh extinct, which was the peculiar outgrowth of the days when men lived to run to fires.

Born in the Thirteenth Ward, he ran with the engines as soon as he could find his legs. His father, who was a deeply religious man--a trait for which young Malachi was not conspicuous--kept a harness store in Grand Street between Clinton and Attorney, and afterwards near Goerck Street. He used to attend St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, on the corner of Ridge and Grand Streets, in the basement of which was the parish school in which Malachi received a rudimentary education. Augustin Daly, the manager, and his brother Judge Joseph F. Daly, attended the same school for a short time.

Fallon joined Black Joke Engine Company No. 33, then the crack company in the department as soon as he was of age, and was soon elected treasurer, then assistant foreman, and finally foreman.

As foreman he began to take an active interest in politics in the Seventh and Thirteenth Wards, and soon made Black Joke Engine Company a power of no mean importance. Among Fallon's particular friends in the Board of Aldermen were Cornelius B. Timpson of the Thirteenth Ward, who had formerly been treasurer of Black Joke engine, and afterwards became police justice, and Alderman Abraham Hatfield of the Eleventh Ward, part proprietor of the Dry Dock line of stages, which ran through East Broadway and Grand Street to the South Ferry. Through their influence he received the appointment of assistant warden of the Tombs, under Warden James Hyde. Not long afterwards he was appointed warden, and held the position for several years. It was to him that John C. Colt, the murderer of Samuel Adams, made his celebrated confession. Fallon was also one of the one hundred marshal who succeeded the old "Leatherheads: as guardians of the peace, and made a number of clever arrests, which earned for him considerable fame as a detective.

While foreman of Black Joke he performed many acts of heroism at fires, notably the rescue of Mrs. Dyott, the celebrated actress, at the destruction of the Park Theater in 1848.

A writer of the time describes the famous fireman as being "a handsome fellow, weighing about one hundred and eighty pounds, athletic, wiry, fearless, and having the air of a man born to command."

The Black Joke Volunteers, parading one thousand men, armed and uniformed in red shirts, black trousers and leggings and glazed caps, were commanded by Fallon, who also led the "Baxter Blues," a crack independent military organization, which was named after Colonel Baxter, who fell at the head of his regiment during the Mexican War. Orange Street was re-named in honor of the gallant colonel.

When the great Polk and Dallas demonstration took place in 1844, Fallon, believing his power to be invincible, ordered Black Joke Engine Company to parade with their machine. She was brand new, and was considered the most magnificent specimen of the engine builder's art in existence, having just won the first prize at the American Institute Fair against several competitors. Glittering in all the bravery of burnished brass and bright varnish, she was paraded on a truck drawn by four milk-white horses, and escorted by the whole company in new uniforms, and formed one of the principal features of the procession. Fallon, however, had overstepped the bounds of discretion, for the next day Chief Engineer Cornelius V. Anderson reported what was considered a flagrant violation of the rules of the Department, and at the next meeting of the Common Council Black Joke engine was disbanded.

After resigning his position as Warden of the tombs, Fallon opened the celebrated "Ivy Green" in Elm Street, directly behind the tombs. Up to that time a saloon, on the northwest corner of Elm and Franklin Streets had been a favorite resort, but it soon succumbed to the popularity of Malachi Fallon, and the Ivy Green became the recognized rendezvous of politicians, firemen, and men about town.

Fallon's political influence became almost unbounded. In 1848, when the Democratic party was split into the two rival factions of "Old Hunkers" and "Barnburners," he was secretary of the Tammany Hall General Committee. He ran for sheriff, but suffered a defeat at the hands of John J. V. Westervelt. In 1849 he caught gold fever and sailed for California with a band of argonauts, among whom was the famous David C. Broderick, who subsequently became United States Senator, and fell in a duel with Judge Terry. In San Francisco Fallon ran for sheriff, but was defeated by jack hays, of Texas. He was one of the earliest chiefs of police in Sam Francisco, and with Broderick opposed the formation of the Vigilance Committee, but was forced to succumb tot he wave of popular sentiment. After retiring from office he opened a saloon, and through some fortunate speculations in real estate became very wealthy. He at present resides in Oakland.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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