Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 32, Part VII

By Holice and Debbie

JOHN M. HARNED was born in new York City in 1833, and was elected a member of Fifteenth Ward Hose Company No. 35 in 1851. Young Harned had a very trying initiation. The night of his election there was a big fire at Erban's organ factory, in Centre Street, directly opposite Canal Street. This was before Canal Street was cut through; it was a fine opportunity for a new man to display his aptitude for fire duty. Later on, the same night, a fire broke out at the New York Hotel. No. 35 was quickly on hand; the new member had the pipe; he clung to it manfully; it could well be said that he received a "baptism by fire." No. 35 claimed the honor of saving the hotel. In 1854 he and a part of your men, all members, decided to organize an engine company. The result was the organization of "Lone Star Engine Company No. 50." Ralph Barker was elected foreman, A. R. Whitney assistant foreman, and John M. Harned secretary. In 1857 Mr. Harned was elected assistant foreman; in 1858 made foreman; was in command during the years 1858, 1860, and 1861. Mr. Harned served over ten years with the company. He was also a member of the Exempt Engine Company under Zophar Mills. At present he is a member of the Association of Exempt Firemen, the Volunteer Firemen's Association, and the Veteran Firemen's Association.

THOMAS FLENDER, one of the last volunteer fire commissioners, known as "the lame man of 6 Engine" (house in Reade Street), for all his lameness, had the reputation of being the fleetest and "most long-winded runner in the department." He asked no odds of anyone, and when inside the ropes of the engine, his crutch seemed to be a living part of himself.

JULIAN BOTTS was connected with 38 Hose in 1849 with all the privileges of a member except having a vote, as the company was full; went to Engine 4 as one of its organizers from 58 Hose, and, after serving about a year, left with several others, and went back to 38 Hose, as above mentioned, the company being full. Left 38 Hose in 1850, and joined 38 Engine; was elected assistant foreman, and served in that capacity eight months and was elected foreman.

During his connection with old Southwark 38 as its chief officer, he discovered the disastrous Jennings' fire at 231 Broadway, at which the lamented Andrew Schenck, foreman of Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, lost his life, as well as several others. On discovering the fire, while on the corner of Broadway and Ann Street, by seeing a flash of light, he started by engine and consequently they were at the scene in a very few minutes. He sent the pipe down in the rear, through the first or store floor, as the fire seemed to be located chiefly at that point, although it had worked up through the rear, as it was found on closed examination, and if Chief Carson had not arrived during Foreman Botts' temporary absence, and ordering 38's pipe up into the American Hotel, he would have shared the fate of the others.

C. GODFREY GUNTHER was born in Maiden Lane, New York City, in 1844. He joined Eagle Hose company No. 1, was a very active, efficient fireman and a working member, who rarely missed a fire. He served his full time with No. 1.

In 1863 Mr. Gunther was elected mayor of New York City. His official acts will be remembered by old citizens as being always business-like, honest, prompt, and actuated by a sincere desire to forward the interests of the city of his birth. It was while Mr. Gunther was mayor that the city was under martial law, General Benj. F. Butler in command. The General sent a message to Mayor Gunther that he desired to see him at his headquarters at the Fifth Avenue hotel. The mayor's reply was characteristic of the man: "Tell General butler that if he has any business to transact with me, that I can be found in my official office at the City Hall."

Mr. Gunther was a member of the Firemen's Ball Committee for many years prior and up to the time of his death, and was chairman of the committee for two years.

ALFRED CHANCELLOR was born on July 15, 1815. He joined Columbian Engine Company No. 14 on February 21, 1831, and served in that company for twenty years. Mr. Chancellor has been the master baker on Blackwell's Island for a number of years.

JAMES J. BEVINS was born in Baltimore, Md., in 1814; came to New York when very young; was a Volunteer with Oceanus engine Company No. 11 for three or four years when the machine laid in Old Slip, and became a member of No. 11 in 1834. George Brown was the secretary at the time; he was not attentive to his duties, neglected to send in the names of several parties who were elected members of he company, and in consequence, Mr. Bevins lost three years of his service. About this time an exciting election took place for foreman, Robert Walker defeated "Abe Purdy." A split was the consequence; at the same time a severe break occurred in the ranks of Eagle Engine Company No. 13. In both companies a number of the best men withdrew from their respective companies and mutually agreed to join Fulton Engine Company No. 21. Upon being received in No. 21 an election was held. Robert Walker, seceder from No. 11, was elected foreman, and Peter F. Knapp, seceder from No. 13, assistant foreman. He remained with the company for an umber of years. In 1835 Mr. Bevins received an order from James Gulick, chief engineer, to being the old engine from the corporation yard. He obeyed the order, conveyed the machine to a stable in New Street, neat Wall Street. The engine was put in good working order. A few nights afterwards the weather was fearfully cold; an alarm was given; No. 21 was rolled from the stable; went down New to Beaver Street, through Beaver to William, up William to Merchant Street; on turning the corner of Merchant Street (now Exchange Place) the fire was reached; it was apparently an insignificant affair, but from hat little commencement sprang the great fire of December 16, 1835, which swept away nearly the entire business portion of the city. Mr. Bevins claims that No. 21 was first at the fire, notwithstanding what others have asserted to the contrary. No. 21 tried two hydrants, but both were frozen; net proceeded to the river, where a line was formed, but before ten minutes had elapsed the hose was frozen as rigid as bars of iron, rending the firemen powerless. The flames spread with fearful rapidity, and for nearly twenty-four hours he fire held complete sway over the city. After completing his long term of duty, Mr. Bevins opened the Fulton House, No. 23 Nassau Street, which became a great resort of the down-town merchants, leading politicians and veteran firemen. Hose Company No. 8 laid around the corner, on Cedar Street. One night the company elected Mr. Bevins a member, and proffered him the command of the company, but he declined. He was also urged to accept the position of assistant engineer, but his business would not permit him to accept. Mr. Bevins has held many position of honor and trust, among which may be mentioned harbor master, deputy sheriff, boarding officer under the administration of Presidents Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, Fillmore, and Lincoln; also chief keeper of the old Eldridge Street jail. Mr. Bevins has lived in New York City nearly seventy years. In his earlier days he was a complete master of the "manly art of self-defense." It would take a very able young man to cope with him to-day. He was regarded as invincible as the redoubtable John L. Sullivan is to-day, having polished off such bruisers as Bill Poole and others of that school.

JAMES I. MURRAY was born in 1827; was a Volunteer with Oceanus Engine Company No. 11, when she was located in Wooster Street, near Prince Street, next door to the old "Watch House"; served several years' was elected foreman, and remained in command until William W. Williams succeeded him. His brother, David Murray, had also been an officer in the company, having served for four years as assistant foreman, and foreman. Few companies can boast of as many veteran ex-foremen as old Oceanus; at least six living one can be mentioned, viz.: Abe Purdy, David Murray, James I. Murray, William W. Williams, John Wildey, and Christopher Johnson.

GEORGE EVANS, No. 1 Jacob Street, joined Engine Company No. 13 in 1844, when it was stationed at Duane Street, between Rose and William Streets, adjoining the Shakespeare Hotel. The engine house is now used as a fuel depot for one fire engine company and two hose companies of the present department. Mr. Evans was elected representative of the company, and held the position for five years. He was a member at that time that Zophar Mills was foreman. The company organized on April 10, 1826, with James J. M. Valentine, clerk, 223 Fulton Street, as foreman, and George Timson, accountant, 18 Cherry Street, assistant foreman. Among the members were Sidney S. Franklin, who resigned September 22, 1828; Robert H. Haydock, resigned January 5, 1829; Peter Gordon, resigned November 13, 1829; Washington Van Wyck, John W. Shipley, William L. Jennings, William Jagger, Henry Dunham, William Gilder, Walter Titus, Jr.

William Adams.--Born in Greenwich Village (Ninth Ward), new York City; joined guardian Engine Company No. 29 in 1824; served as foreman for two years; remained with the company until his removal to the lower part of the city. Was elected alderman of the Fifth Ward. As alderman he was placed as chairman of the Fire and Water Committee. This committee had the entire charge of all Fire Department matters. "Boss Adams" performed his duties with such tact and discrimination that the firemen united in praising his careful and unbiased actions toward them.

SERGEANT JOSEPH DOUGLASS, of the Fifteenth Precinct, is an old volunteer fireman. He joined "Nassau," (America) Hose Company No. 46 on October 20, 1853, then located in Nassau Street, neat Fulton Street, in the house formerly occupied by Engine Company No. 42. He joined Fulton Engine Company No. 21, December 7, 1856, located in Worth Street, near Broadway. Sergeant Douglass was the first driver of the Metropolitan Fire Department, and was appointed by commissioner booth, and served in that position for about ten days. At a fire in a frame tenement house in Mulberry Street, in 1866, Roundsman Douglass saved the lives of two children. he was honorably mentioned by the Board of Police Commissioners for his devotion to the work of searching for bodies of victims of the Centre Street explosion, December 31, 1872.

JAMES YOUNG, deputy sheriff, joined Engine Company No. 38 in June, 1854. It was stationed at 28 Ann Street, and had seventy members on its roll at the time. The foreman was Julian T. Botts, an insurance agent, and the assistant foreman was James Taylor, a photographic artist; George Bevins was the representative. He was the bell-ringer of the Old City hall bell, which used to ring for fires in the Seventh and Eighth Districts, to which Company No. 38 attended. It also rang elsewhere throughout the city. According to Mr. Young, 38 Engine was called "Southwick," from being built at Southwick, Philadelphia, and was the heaviest engine in the city. It had double brakes, and took more men to man her than any other engine. She was purchased by a party of gentlemen of this city, among whom were Matt Green, Dave Pollock, John T. Schenck, and others, and became the private property of the company. It was purchased in 1840, and remained the remained the property of the company until 1853, when it was sold to the city. The money received from the city remained in the old members' hands, and a quarrel arose between the old and the new members in regard to the disposition of the money, the new members claiming that they had as good a right to it as the old ones, because that when they joined the company, they were entitled to a joint share in the property and the proceeds of the sale of the property. The old members claimed an old oil pointing of Harry Farges, their own assistant foreman, who was killed at a fire in Duane Street, about the year 1852, but the family of Farges finally got the picture on the breaking up of the old Department. The young members of the company succeeding in finding out that old Joe, the colored man who used to clean the engine, got four hundred dollars of the money that was given in the purchase of the engine, but they never discovered where the balance went.

WILLIAM CAMPBELL, a prominent fireman, served with Engine Company 50 from 1861 to the end of 1863, and subsequently with engine 24. Here he remained until the Old Department disappeared from official view.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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