Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 32, Part VIII

By Holice and Debbie

JOHN S. CRAIG AND CORNELIUS V. ANDERSON were boys together, and played their juvenile games in Provost (Franklin) Street. They both learned trades connected with the building business, Anderson became a mason, and Craig a carpenter. They both became members of the Volunteer fire Department. Anderson joined Hudson Engine Company No. 1, became foreman, and afterwards chief engineer of the Fire Department. Craig became a member of Independence Hose Company No 3 when James Elkins was foreman, and was afterwards chosen assistant foreman. He was for a short time a member of Friendship Hook and Ladder No. 12, and later joined Empire Engine Company No. 42. Anderson and Craig both became identified with the fire insurance interest. After Anderson retired from the office of register, he, together with a number of old firemen, organized the Lorillard Fire Insurance Company February 3, 1852, and was elected president of the company, which position he held until his death. Washington Smith was chosen vice-president, Carlisle Norwood secretary, and John Coger, Jr., surveyor. After Anderson's death, Carlisle Norwood was elected president. Zophar Mills succeeded Washington Smith, and Theodore Keller became surveyor. When Coger retired, Craig was appointed surveyor of the National Insurance Company, and was also selected as captain of the Fire Patrol, and served on alternate nights with Captain Samuel Smith. This was in the era before horses, wagons, and automatic valves, when the men pulled a cart containing the covers, etc., and rolled her on many a still alarm, and had lively races with the fire companies. There was no electricity in those days, but the men went as if they had it in their boots. They were quick, hard-working fellows, without discount. Smith was a member of the volunteer Fire department, an active, energetic worker, and was the surveyor of the Niagara Fire Insurance Company, and also of the Empire City Fire Insurance Company. Craig was also appointed surveyor of the Citizens' Fire Insurance Company, and, although he now carries a cane in his daily business walks, he was a lively and hardworking man in the Fire Department and on the Fire Patrol, and always had a respect for a true firemen, without discrimination as to the color of his hair or the cut of his coat, or whether he had a coat; if he was a good fireman, Craig was ready to give him due credit. John s. Craig is no longer a young man, but he is still active, and has the respect of those who know him. He has long been a prominent figure in the fire insurance interest. Anderson, Smith, Coger, and Keeler have gone from among us, but Norwood, Mills, and Craig remain. They have witnessed many remarkable changes in New York City, the city they loved and served so well. In memory of Auld Lang Syne, happy be their declining years.

DANIEL F. TIEMANN, ex-mayor of he City of New York, had his first experience as a fireman when he joined Engine company No. 43. Later on he was elected assistant foreman, John McArthur foreman. That was in 1836. Two years later, Mr. Tiemann became the company's foreman, and remained as such for eight years. Mr. Tiemann held many offices as a fireman and citizen. He never, in fact, ran for a public office that he was not elected to. He was alternately representative in Firemen's Hall, alderman, State Senator, and mayor of New York City.

THOMAS LAWRENCE.--Born in Haverstraw, Rockland County, N. Y.; joined Guardian Engine Company No. 29 in 1836; remained with No. 29 one year, resigned, and joined Columbian Engine Company No. 14; remained with No. 14 about one year, and returned to his old "Guardian" for ten years. During those years he was elected foreman three times, first in 1840, and subsequently in 1844 and 1845. After having entirely retired from active duty, he was elected fire commissioner; served the full term, five years. "Tom" Lawrence was an old resident of the Ninth Ward, a free-hearted, jovial man; was very highly esteemed by all classes, rich and poor, high and low, was liberal to a fault, and gathered around him hosts of friends.

SHEPHERD F. KNAPP, one of New York's most respected and successful merchants, and well known citizens, was an enthusiastic fireman. He was one r of the old "Vets" who ran with the "machine," and in his day was the popular and efficient fireman of Engine No. 37. That was some thirty years ago, when "Shep." Knapp was a hardy, strapping young fellow, full of adventure and grit, like most of the manly fellows who were associated with him as firemen. He was born in Beekman Street, August 29, 1832, his father being one of the leather merchants of the Swamp, and also many years president of the Mechanics' Bank of this city. Shepherd F. as appointed street commissioner by Mayor Wood, and was also receiver of the Bowling Green Savings Bank. He died at his home in Audubon Park, Carmansville, December 25, 1886.

MATTHEW J. SHANNON was born in 1831. On March 16, 1854 M. J. Read, Owen j. Kelly, Francis J. Twomey (clerk of the Common Council), ex-Alderman Thomas NcSpedon, Matthew J. Shannon, and a number of citizens, organized Aqueduct Engine Company No. 47. M. J. Read was elected foreman, and Owen J. Kelly assistant foreman. The company was located in Eighty-second Street east of Fourth Avenue. The life of the organization was brief. For some cause the company was disbanded September 18, 1855. In 1861 Mr. Shannon joined Americus Hose Company No. 48, located in eighty-fifth Street west of Third Avenue. After a short service Mr. Shannon was elected assistant foreman. At the next annual election he was made foreman, and remained in command until the dissolution of the Old Department.

JOSEPH H. TOOKER, who is more generally known by his popular title of "Commodore," acquired by his position of manager of the Mammoth Rockaway steamboats 'Grand Republic' and 'Columbia,' and previously as commander of the renowned Long Branch steamer 'Plymouth Rock,' is an old-time fireman. He was once, in 1852, assistant foreman of Rutgers Hose company No. 26, and afterwards joined Victory Hose Company No. 15, when they occupied the house in Eldridge Street, by Division. In those days Mr. Tooker was frequently called upon to write obituary and complimentary resolutions for various fire engines and target companies, and his pen is kept busy even in these later days upon local reminiscences, which for the past year he has contributed to the columns of the New York Times. He wrote humorous letters over the non de plume of "John Bolivar," for the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette, originated, "Shipping Notes" in the New York Herald, and contributed semi-political articles over the signatures of "The Widow Rogers," and "Walton" for the old Sunday Atlas. He was first marshal under Mayor A. Oakley Hall, and for five years a school trustee in and for the Thirteenth Ward, where he was born, becoming the chairman of the board. He was a member of the cooper firm of Jones, Tooker & co., 244 South Street, agents of the Revere company of Boston, the silent company being the celebrated comedian, W. J. Florence, a brother-in-law of the commodore. Mr. Tooker was managing man for Col. James Fisk, Jr., at the Grand Opera House, Eighth Avenue and Twenty-third Street, and also for Baker and Cole and Augustin Daly, when they were lessees of the theater. He was with Mr. Daly at the Fifth Avenue theater, Twenty-fourth Street, next adjoining the Fifth Avenue Hotel, and at the later Fifth Avenue theater, Broadway, opposite the New York Hotel, which was leased after the destruction by fire of the Twenty-fourth Street building. He afterwards was Mr. Daly's business man at Daly's theater, and managed the Bijou Opera House during the lesseeship of Harry M. Pitt. He was for on season of the management of Niblo's Garden, Edward G. Gilmore, lessee. His most prominent theatrical career, however, was his five years' service as business manager of booth's theater, under the lesseeship of Jarrett & Palmer, and for one season subsequently during that of Henry E. Abbey. For the three or four years last past he has been president of the Metropolitan Printing Company, of No. 38 Vesey Street, which was formerly the new York Herald job office, theatrical printers. He served his time at the case in the office of the Literary American corner of Ann Street and Nassau. Mr. Tooker, in his Times reminiscences, frequently refers to his career as a Volunteer fireman, and is apparently proud of the association. He is, in this year of our Lord, 1887, in the fifty-sixth year of his age.

BENJAMIN EVANS commenced running with the machine when a boy in 1843, when he lived in Walker Street, near West Broadway. He ran with Hope 31, located in West Broadway, near Beach Street. Neptune 6 laid in Reade Street, Equitable 36 in Varick, neat Vandam; Hudson 1 at the foot of Duane Street, where the Erie building now stands; 23 in Anthony Street, near Broadway. There was great rivalry between those companies. On the twenty-sixth of July, 1846, they all met in Broadway, near the Ascot House, and had a great fight, for which they were all disbanded, August 5, 1846. Mr. Evans joined 5 Hose in 1850, under Henry Butler, foreman, and J. F. Wenman, assistant. 3 Engine was organized in 1847. She ran until 1852, when they got the old number, 31, back. Then he joined 31. In 1853 he was elected assistant foreman. The company ran until September, 1854, when she was disbanded again. He next joined 14 Hose, under James R. Mount, and ran with her until February 24, 1852, when Adriatic 31 was organized. He joined her and was a member until the Paid Department went into effect. Mr. Evans was one of the first to go to the war under the president's first call. He enlisted in the New York State Militia, Company I, Captain Raynor. He is at present connected with the Jersey City Fire Department, Engine No. 9.

WILLIAM RAINIER was born September, 1817. At a early age he became a "runner" with Daniel D. Tompkins Engine Company No. 30. When he was sufficiently advanced, his name was placed on the Volunteer roll. Served six years with the junior firemen, wore a fire-cap at the great fire of 1835, and was elected a member of the company in 1837. William Van Sickel, of Washington Market, was a foreman. Nearly all the officers and many of the members of No. 30 were the leading butchers at the period mentioned. Mr. Rainier had a weakness for salt water, and after serving three years with the engine, he embarked upon the briny deep, and was away from the city for a long time. In 1850 he again appeared upon the fire record as one of the reorganizers of Lady Washington Engine Company No. 40, with Alderman James Bard as foreman, and William Mehan assistant. He served two years with No. 40, resigned, became on of the principal and most influential organizers of Adriatic Engine Company No. 31, with John B. Miller (brother of James L. Miller) as foreman. In 1855 a great "Firemen's Tournament" was to be held at Albany, New York. A prize of five hundred dollars was offered for the highest and best stream of water. No. 31 determined to join the contestants. Mr. Rainier was elected foreman. Adriatic took part in the struggle; the engine was in perfect order, but the hose could not stand the strain that the muscle of the New York men brought to bear upon it; five times the hose burst, and no new lengths could be obtained, bought or borrowed. Sorrowfully No. 31 was forced to retire from the arena when they felt that victory was within their grasp. Mr. Rainier was a prominent member of the "Independent Tompkins Blues," one of the leading military companies of the city in bygone days. At the breaking out of the rebellion, Mr. Rainier was commissioned as captain of Company F, First Regiment Marine Artillery; was detailed on recruiting service for seamen, and stationed at Buffalo, and subsequently was placed in command of the post at Camp Arthur on Staten Island. In 1862 he was ordered to Newbern, N. C.; was captain of the United States gunboat 'Vidette'; from Newbern was ordered to the Roanoke River, N. C.; to act in concert with the fleet to intercept the Southern swamps, he contracted sickness that thoroughly disabled him, and he was reluctantly forced to resign. Mr. Rainier is a member of the Volunteer and Veteran Firemen's Associations.

CHARLES F. ALLEN, soldier and fireman, who has well-deserved distinction in both arms of the service, is at present connected with the Great Western Insurance Company in Wall Street. Mr. Allen served as secretary and representative of Baxter Hook and Ladder Company No. 15 for about seven years. Among his colleagues were ex-Mayor William H. Wickham, Daniel P. Steele, Samuel Archer, Thomas F. Goodwin, A. A. Jones, and R. H. Murray. Mr. Allen was always found at the front. Whether as fireman or soldier, whether holding the pipe or shouldering a musket, whether fighting fire or the enemies of the Union, Mr. Allen always acted the part of a brave man and a good citizen.

WILLIAM A. DOOLEY has been a resident of New York City for many scores of years. He was very successful engaged in business in Fifty-seventh Street about half a century ago. He was a prominent politician when the Nineteenth Ward was made in 1851. Mr. Dooley was elected to represent the new addition to the city map in the Board of Aldermen. For five years previous he had served as a fireman with Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 12. In 1856 and 1857 he was a member of the Board of Assessment. Mr. Dooley is reputed to be one of the best judges of real estate in this city, and his knowledge has been the means of adding material aid to his coffers. He is the same unassuming gentleman now as he was while he ran with the "machine." He was a fireman in the Old Department, and a good one. He takes honest pride in the role he played as a member of the Volunteer Department.

DAVID M. SMITH was born in Cliff Street, New York City in 1818. In 1840 he was one of the original members of the Southwark Engine Company No. 38; served four years with the big machine, No. 38 being the first double-deck engine used in the city. At the time Mr. Smith thought of resigning from Southwark he held a dual position. Lafayette Hose Company No. 4 laid in Attorney Street; the company was in a very weak condition, only two members remaining; those two had decided to dissolve the organization. David M. Smith came to the rescue; he, with a dozen more, joined the company, infused new life into it, and changed the name to Marion Hose. During this time Mr. Smith was a member of two companies, doing duty with the Hose Company in the Third and Fourth Districts, and with No. 38 in the Fifth and Sixth Districts; finally he resigned from No. 38, devoting all his energies to the upbuilding of No. 4. He succeeded so well that the chief engineer, C. V. Anderson, stated that No. 4 had become one of the best and most reliable companies in the department. In 1844 Mr. smith was elected assistant fireman, and was foreman in 1845. The roll being full, he resigned to make room for new members; but remained an active member on the honorary roll.

JOHN W. TIMSON.--the new York Volunteer Fire Department had many members who endeavored to discharge their duties in a quiet, unostentatious manner, without being anxious to attain office or notoriety, but were ambitious to do good duty and promote the welfare of their company and the department. Such a member was John W. Timson. He belonged to Manhattan Engine Company No. 8, in which he served his time. 8 was a strong company, noted for activity in hard work at fires and the respectable standing of its members in the community and for running the first fire steam engine, when Robert C. Brown was foreman. 8's members were men of nerve and character, and were not to be frightened from doing their duty when running a steam fire engine was not popular in this city. John W. Timson is a good type of the New York Volunteer fireman. He has been for many years a member of the Fire Insurance Patrol, and was assigned as clerk to the superintendent, and he has filled that position for a number of years. He is respected for his industry, integrity and manhood. Like most New York boys, John feels a pride in the city and her institutions, and he does not forget the days when "the Elephants" were on deck every time.

JOHN C. DENHAM was born in Newark, H. J., September 15, 1836. As a boy he ran with Hose Company No. 14. In 1859 he joined Hose Company No. 15, and did duty in the Fifth District, and was with his company in the draft riots of 1863. In 1861 he went to the war with the Eighth Regiment, N. Y. N. G. When the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter and the declaration of war was made, Mr. Denham raised the Union flag on his engine house. At the burning of Barnum's Museum in the Chinese Assembly Rooms in Broadway, in March, 1868, Denham distinguished himself. At the time he was master stage carpenter at Booth's Theater. Barnum's animals broke loose, and among them was the tiger which appeared threateningly on the sidewalk, to the terror of everybody. Policemen banged away with their pistols at the brute, but without effect. Denham seized an axe, boldly confronted the beast, and struck him a terrific blow on the head. The tiger dropped dead. Denham then went into the burning building, carried out the fat lady, and afterwards two children to a restaurant, making his way through water almost knee-deep. He returned and carried out the woolly-headed woman. The spectators cried to the red-shirted braves: :Good for the old fire laddies!"

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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