Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments


By Holice and Debbie

CARROLL CUNNEEN was born in the City of New York in the year 1837, and joined Mohawk Engine Company No. 16, located in West Broadway, in 1860. He was noted as one who always on duty, fearless, and hard working. No. 16 had several difficulties with other companies during Mr. Cuneen's membership, but his record stands clean and unspotted. He remained with No. 16 until the Old Department gave place to the new. He is a member of the Volunteer and Veteran Firemen's Associations. Mr. Cunneen's family was fire all through. His father, Timothy, was member of the old Neptune engine Company No. 6, located in Reade Street, for over twenty years, and his uncles, John and Michael Cunneen, were also members of the same company. All three were well known and appreciated in fire circles, when only "gooseneck" engines were used, and all night working fires were the rule and not the exception.

THOMAS D. HOWE was a picturesque figure at a fire. More than six feet tall, he was broad of shoulders and deep of chest in proportion. With his hat on, he looked like giant. He was as famous for his physical strength as for the gentleness and good nature which endeared him to hundreds. But the gentleness was not weakness, as Tom Howe proved many a time. Being a man of peaceful instinct, he was equal to a whole squad of police. His only weapon was a massive copped speaking trumpet nearly a yard long. When it hit a man's head he dropped as if a steam hammer had fallen on him. Few men cared to tackle Tom Howe for the first time, and it is not known that any one braved him twice. His words were few, but he meant every one of them. Tom was satisfied with the post of first assistant (Engine 37), and served several terms as alderman from the Eighth and Fourteenth Wards. He died eleven years ago, aged eighty-five years, and retained much of his surprising bodily strength to the last. The big trumpet, his helmet and his numerous medals, badges, etc., are treasured by his heirs.

ROBERT McWINNIE was born October 8, 1828. He joined Jackson Engine Company No. 24 January 10, 1850. He is now in charge of the High Bridge aqueduct.

DAVID McLEOD was born September 14, 1834. He joined Harry Howard Hose No. 55 on November 1, 1853, and was foreman in 1861 and 1862.

JOSEPH McCURDY was born April 14, 1830. He joined Washington Engine No. 20 February 12, 1851, Eagle Hood and Ladder No. 4, April 19, 1852, and Lexington Engine No. 7, February 9, 1855.

LOUIS F. HALLEN, a retired merchant, was born August 9, 1830. On July 1, 1853, he joined Howard Engine No. 34. Mr. Hallen was treasurer for one year of the Volunteer Firemen's Association. He was the treasurer of the Veteran Firemen's Association when they went to Washington in 1885.

JACOB A. FORSHAY was born January 12, 1828. He joined Oceana Engine Company No. 11 June 28, 1853, and National Hose Company No. 24 February 4, 1859.

THOMAS JUDGE was born July 6, 1832. He joined Niagara Engine Company No. 4 on February 20, 1850. He is captain of Engine Company No. 15 in the present department.

JOHN C. PERRINE was born July 28, 1837. He joined Friendship Hook and Ladder Company No. 12 august 3, 1858, and on April 3, 1860, he became a member of the Ringgold Hose company No. 7. He is a member of the Veteran Firemen's Association.

CYRILLUS L. ROBINSON was born November 14, 1833. On October 15, 1852, he became a member of City Hose Company No. 8, and on November 6, 1836, he joined National Hose Company No. 24, and was foreman for the years 1854-'5.

HENRY WEBB was born April 3, 1838. He joined Mohawk Engine Company No. 16 March 8, 1858. He was foreman in 1860 and 1861. He went to Fortress Monroe with Chief John Baulch during the war.

ABRAM SLAIGHT was born October 15, 1857, in the old Ninth Ward. He joined Empire Hose Company No. 40 August 12, 1861, and served until the old Department went out of existence. He is a trustee of the Veteran Firemen's Association.

WILLIAM H. PEREGO was born November 28, 1814. He joined Equitable Engine Company No. 36 October 5, 1839, and Clinton Engine No. 31 March 7, 1838. He is a member of the Veteran Firemen's Association.

DAVID PROTHERO was born May 3, 1839. He joined Excelsior Engine Company No. 2 May 8, 1860, and afterwards became its secretary.

CHARLES J. SIMMONS was born December 17, 1827. He joined Empire Hose Company No. 40 April 17, 1854, and American Hose No. 19 July 22, 1859. He was the "boss" runner of both companies, a bunker, and full of information about fire matters. He is now in charge of the Essex Market Police Court.

EDWARD A. SMITH was born March 28, 1828, and joined Relief Hose September 1, 1851, being one of its organizers. He is a member of the Exempt and Veteran Firemen's associations. His two sons are members of Tiger Hose of Long Island City. Mr. Smith always visits the "Vets" house every night on his way home to Long Island City.

JOHN MOLLER now vice-president of the Veteran Firemen's association, in Tenth Street, was born in the Seventh Ward in November, 1838. He joined the famous "Big Six" on December 14, 1859. From that day up his record is one of the best. Indefatigable, courageous, always on the alert, he was a model fireman. Notwithstanding all the hard work he has done he looks hardly more than thirty now. His father was in the sugar business in the old Seventh Ward, and his sons, when they grew up, joined him. The firm, which many still remember, remained in existence at Montgomery Street and South Street from 1849 to 1868. Young John Moller, when only twelve years old, was always to be found around the engine house of "Big Six." He was born to be a fireman, and when he arrived at man's estate a fireman he became. He served with No. 6 Engine Company for three years, and left to join Harry Howard Engine Company No. 11. With the latter he served only five or six months, and then went back to his "old Love," with which he remained until the department was disbanded. Mr. Moller has been vice-president of the Tenth Street Association from its organization, and is also a member of the Old Volunteer Association of Eighth Street. The big double-deck engine, built in 1838, that belonged to Hope engine Company, of Philadelphia, and now in the possession of the Tenth Street organization, was purchased by Mr. Moller, repainted, and put in perfect order, at an expense to him of one thousand dollars, and was presented by him to his association. When the old firemen went to Washington on the occasion of President Cleveland's inauguration, they took this engine with them, Mr. Moller being one of the marshals. He was also prominent in the parades at Bayonne, Jamaica, and Poughkeepsie. At the burning of the ship 'John J. Boyd,' in the North river at the Ledger Building and Goodwin Cracker Bakery fires, Mr. Moller did good service.

AARON BURR HAYS was born in October 31, 1802. He served for eight years in Engine Company No. 25. He was also a fire warden. Mr. Hays was instrumental in making his company strictly temperate. He also introduced the novelty of making the men on one side of the engine to pump up and those on the other to pump down, thus saving the expenditure of much muscular energy. By this skillful way of working, his company on not a few occasions were able to remain a great deal longer at the brakes than companies composed exclusively of laboring men. Mr. Abraham B. Purdy was one of the first to introduce the same system. Mr. Hays was for a long time cashier of the North River Bank. He died in 1882.

THOMAS BYRNES, Inspector and Chief Detective, joined Hose Company No. 21 in 1862, and was one of its most active members under foreman Arnot Spence. When the company became, in 1863, Engine Company No. 53, under Terence Duffy, Private Byrnes went with the other members and left it December 10, 1863, when appointed as a policeman. Fireman Byrnes was imbued with the espirit de corps common in those days, and was as lively as his comrades in a scrimmage. Once chatting with Cornelius Van Cott, president of the Paid Fire Department, about old "vamp' times, Van Cott related how in a little difficulty between two companies a scrimmage ensued and he, Van Cott, was laid out by "a lanky, black muzzled fellow" of the rival company. Byrnes was intensely interested, and when notes were compared it was discovered that Van Cott was placed hors du combat by the present head of the Detective bureau.

J. WELL SANFORD was born August 9, 1825. He joined R. M. Johnson Hose Company No. 32 April 22, 1844, and Pacific Engine Company No. 28 September 15, 1850. He is now connected with the Fire Patrol.

THADDEUS SCOTT was born August 13, 1839. He joined Mohawk Engine Company No. 16, which lay at No. 7 North Moore Street. He made an excellent record as a fireman.

DAVID GRAHAM an active and intelligent member of the Volunteer and Paid Department, was born in this city January 25,1841. When twenty-one years old he joined Hose company No. 7 and was legislated out of service by the Act of the Thirtieth of March, 1865. He was appointed a member of the Paid Department August 1, 1866, and became a clerk in the secretary's department July 20, 1870.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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