Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 33, Part III

By Holice and Debbie

NO. 5. -- PROTECTION (HONEY BEE).--this company was undoubtedly one of the oldest in the Volunteer Fire Department. The old "North Dutch Church" was founded in the latter part of the year 1761, and in 1762, No. 5 Engine was located on Smith Valley, hear Pearl Street, between Wall and Beekman Streets, the locality being then a fashionable place of residence. It afterwards became Queen Street and was improved by handsome brick edifices. Here was found, identified with No. 5, Jonathan Black, who was a lieutenant in the second battalion of the Firemen's Military Organization. Associated with Black was John Somerendyck, Gerit Peterson and Henry Shut. For many years No. 5 did duty as a bucket company, carrying a number of the buckets in use in those days, which were filled at the nearest water supply, and passed from hand to hand in a line to the fire. The earlier minutes of the company have been lost or destroyed, making it impossible to obtain correct data of its younger days. It is on record, however, that Francis Arden, John Cole, and Abram and Frederick Easthart were members in 1786. The records of 1793 show that Frederick Acker was foreman, Garret Vandewater assistant, James Aymar secretary, and as privates Wm. McKenny, Peter Thompson, John Cole, Caleb Pell, A. Acker, and Wm. Pinckney. They did not increase their membership for some years afterwards. John Leonard, Joel Sagers, and H. W. Rosenbaum joined about the year 1812, and later on Adam W. Spies, Thomas P. Geolet, and David M. Prall became connected with the company.

Samuel J. Willis resigned the foremanship in 1824 to become an assistant engineer, and served until 1829. In 1829 the company received a new gooseneck engine which they were very proud of. The engine was in use continuously until 1856, when they procured a piano engine. A fire broke out on the early morning of December 29, 1858, and five's company had both their engines to work on the fire, which was in Ann Street, near William. The wall of the building fell into the street, burying the engine and injuring some of the members. The engine was found to be almost a total wreck when dug out.

Wilson Small was one of the prominent members of this company; he left it when appointed as assistant engineer in 1837. Frederick D. Kohler succeeded Wilson Small as foreman of the company, and he too became an engineer in 1838, serving until 1841. Henry Heamstead, Bob Thompson and Harry Young were also members from 1835 to 1838.

In the year 1840 Ed. Floyd and his brother, Ira Floyd, the former then proprietor of a hotel at No. 58 Beekman Street, joined. At this time the company began to muster quite a crowd of runners, at the head of which was Chaff Storms. He was a son of old General Storms. The boys used to congregate at Leggett's in Chatham Street. Frank Leggett and Alfred Storms were heavy weights among the firemen informer days, and served up many a good hot cup of coffee to the men on a cold night. In 1842 we find Sheriff Wm. C. Conner on the rolls, and a quicker fireman never manned a rope. In 1845 nothing but printers were found on the roll. Among them were: Charles Bonnard, David Young, Thomas R. Morrison, M. C. Gray, Joseph H. Mink, Thomas L. Maxwell, and David Demerest. In 1850 Chauncey M. Leonard, subsequently mayor of the City of Newburg, N. Y., and who was buried on the same day as Mayor Havemeyer of this city, united his fortune with the "Honey Bees." He rose to be foreman, and finally left the company, having returned to Newburg, where he went into business. Here he was chief engineer of the Fire Department for over ten years, was then elected member of assembly, and finally mayor. He died while in office.

In 1851 Wm. H. Griffiths, the celebrated billiard manufacturer, and ex-fire commissioner Joshua G. Abbe, were added to the roll. During this year the company went to Bridgeport, and on their return John J. Mahoney (afterwards foreman) and Tobias C. Connor, Jr., billiard maker, were found in the ranks. In 1859 Captain J. Murray Ditchett, who for several years was captain of he Fourth Ward Police, and until his death held a position in the Register's office, became a member. He was soon elevated to the foremanship. A better fireman never donned a red shirt.

At his side at many a fire, as a member of No. 5, stood Amor J. Williamson, editor and proprietor of The Sunday Dispatch; Thomas Campbell, the well-known lithographer; Fred. Collier, of late years one of the chief engineers of the San Francisco Fire Department; smith, the clothier, of Fulton Street; Hiram Arentz, who once ran for chief engineer, and was defeated by Carson. Wm. H. Maloney, who was assistant clerk of the board of aldermen, was likewise a member. Toward the last days of the Volunteer Department but few of the old stock remained, Joseph F. Sartin and Wm. McAnneny being the last to join the organization. N. McCauley was he last foreman. He afterwards became foreman of No. 4 in the Metropolitan Paid Department.

Many of the old vamps of "Protection" will remember the playing match at Reilly's Liberty Pole in 1862, when Engine companies Nos. 5, 6 9, 26, 30, 38, 40, and 50 took part, with No. 12 of Williamsburg, No. 7 of Brooklyn, and No. 4 of Newburg; also the Centennial Ball given at the old Apollo Rooms in the same year; and the Rainbow Hotel fire in Beekman Street. Foreman John J. Maloney was buried in the ruins at the Ann Street fire, and after two hours' hard work was dug out with several ribs and his left arm broken. When the thirty dollar prize was in vogue for the first company at a fire, the "Honey Bees" won twenty of the thirty dollar prizes in five years. The back of the old gooseneck engine of No. 5 now adorns the rooms of the Firemen's Association.

The company petitioned for and received an Amoskeag steam engine in 1861, and, being located in the midst of the paper warehouses, were greatly relied on during the extensive fires that occurred in that section. Charles A. Brown was elected an assistant engineer from his company in 1853. During the war of the rebellion more than fifteen of their members enlisted in the Union Army. The company continued in service until the last, giving up their organization on the beginning of the Paid Department.

NO. 6. -- NEPTUNE (BEAN SOUP).--No. 6 was organized in 1765, and was stationed on Crown Street, (now Liberty) near King (now Nassau). It was established by the East Warders, and among the members were John C. Prentiss and John Barrow. In 1778 they moved around on King Street, Peter Wilse being Overseer of the company. They first did duty with buckets, until an engine could be built for them. Among the most noted members of No. 6 during the war was Jonas Addoms, who was born on March 26, 1753. He ws one of the first five months men who enlisted whose term expired when the British army cross from Long Island and took possession of the city. When New York was evacuated by the British in 1783 his regiment was the first to march in and take possession. Addoms fired the first salute of thirteen guns at fort George at the Battery, and helped to reorganize his company in 1783, when it had twenty-one men on the rolls. Joseph Smith was foreman in 1783, and his son was the assistant foreman, and these two held their respective offices for several years. They were located at the college yard in Murray Street until 1832. While in Murray Street their prominent members were Moses Moore, John Shotwell, W. Civil, John Schenck, Edward M. Hoffmire, Joseph Gouge, and Benjamin Brower, the last four being all carpenters. Hoffmire was elected foreman of the company in 1828, and advanced to the position of assistant engineer in 1831, serving until 1837. When he organized thirty-three Hose company he was afterwards elected Alderman of the Fifth Ward. In 1826 John Coddington and Wm. and James Hoffmire became members of the company, and were followed by Robert Barr, Thomas Baker, Henry Gaines, Joseph Moon, Richard McCottrick, and Joseph Debaum, the company using at that time an engine built in 1805. From 1820 until they moved to Reade Street the following names appear on the company rolls: Wm. Baker, John Miles, Daniel E. Ruckle, Charles Hoffmire, Samuel Bennett and Robert Sanderson.

This company and Engine Company No. 1 were always bitter rivals, and their rivalry did not cease when the company moved to Reade Street. John Lyng, the old time short, who is still living, and who has had an eventful an existence as it is possible for any one man to have, was a member of the company in Reade Street.

On May 26, 1836, the company lost one of their members, who was killed at a fire on that date. The company continued to get into hot water and finally were disbanded on august 5, 1846, with engine Companies 21, 23, and 36, for fighting.

AMERICUS (BIG SIX-TIGER) was started at a meeting of citizens of the east side held at Mather's printing ink establishment in Front Street near Gouverneur, December 11, 1848. Wm. A. Freeborn, an old member of Hook and Ladder 4, and an assistant engineer from 1839 to 1842,m aided the movement by his presence and advice. The next meeting was held at the Vivaramba, No. 3 Hester Street. At this second meeting it was formally announced that the city authorities had resolved to locate the company when organized in the house of old Black Joke Engine Company No. 33, in Gouverneur Street near Henry. On December 30, 1848, the following gentlemen organized the company; David M. Smith, carpenter; George D. Demilt, painter; Wm. M. Tweed, chair manufacturer; John B. Golder, accountant; W. H. Brown, accountant; David C. Smith, plumber; Ed. Phillips, Jr., plumber; Robert C. Brown, plumber; James H. Sturges, broker; Joseph H. Johnson, artist; Robert Darrow, carman; Isaac Bachman, hotel; John T. Clapp, calker; H. C. McDonald, joiner; Henry A. Burr, cooper; George Backus, clerk; Alfred Palmer, coachmaker; Lawrence Pridham, painter; W. H. Pratt, calker; Matthew Bradley, brush manufacturer; Chas. Schriver, oysters; Benj. G. Brown, merchant; Isaac Jenkins, accountant; W. H. Wilson, fire cap manufacturer; John T. Harding, carver; Edward S. Baker, merchant; Edward D. Moore, merchant; John Anderson, druggist; Jeremiah Morris, calker; Julius Frazier, calker; R. S. Jones, accountant; John Stratton, merchant; William Freshwater, merchant.

They adopted the name and number of "Americus Six," this name having received the approval of fourteen members, while that of Fredonia received four votes, and Franklin, Eureka, and Black Joke one each. David M. Smith was elected foreman and Geo. G. Demilt assistant; Robert C. and Wm. H. Brown were selected as representatives. On May 14, 1849, the first regular annual election was held, and Smith and Demilt were re-elected. On the ninth of July Smith resigned, and Demilt was made foreman, and Wm. M. Tweed assistant. On the evening of December 9, their first annual ball was given at the Apollo Hall, a favorite assembly room with the firemen in those and later days. On May 23, 1850, Demilt resigned and Wm. M. Tweed was elected foreman, with Joseph H. Johnson, the famous artist, as assistant. Tweed was re-elected May 12, 1853, but, Johnson declining. Alfred Palmer was chosen assistant. On July 14, the same year, Tweed resigned and Palmer was elected his successor, with Edward Phillips, Jr., as his assistant. On august 1 a banquet was given to Wm. M. Tweed, at which he was presented with a magnificent watch and chain. On October 13 the new apparatus secured by the company was received from the hands of the painter, Joseph H. Johnson, and having been placed on exhibition at the Fair of the American Institute in Castle Garden gained the diploma. The engine was a "double-decker," giving accommodation to firemen on the box to work the brakes, and being of unusual size--the other companies running the gooseneck pattern she soon received the soubriquet of "Big Six." February 9, 1852, Edward Phillips, Jr., resigned as assistant foreman, and Henry Close was chosen in his stead. On May 10 Alfred Palmer was re-elected foreman and Close his asssitant.

On November 8 Frederick Best, one of the member, died, and Tweed presented the company with a lot in Greenwood, where their comrade was buried. On May 10, 1853, Palmer and Close were re-elected, and on January 28, 1854, the company took possession of their new brown stone front house on Henry Street, near Gouverneur Street. This house was really a beautiful one, and acknowledged to be the most sumptuously furnished engine house in the city. On May 8, 1854, henry Close was chosen foreman, and Richard Kimmens assistant. May 14, 1855, Close and Kimmens wre re-elected. May 12, 1856, Kimmens was elected foreman and William Anspake assistant. Thomas J. Shandley was also elected secretary. October 18, 1858, Anspake resigned and William B. Dunley was promoted to fill the vacancy, but no one was placed in the office made vacant by Dunley's advance. May 9, 1859, Dunley was re-elected, with John L. Blair assistant. May 14, 1860, John McGarrigle was elected foreman, John Buckbee assistant, and William B. Dunley treasurer and representative, who were all re-elected on May, 1861. On October 11, 1860, the company participated in the torchlight parade in honor of the Prince of Wales, and on Novemnber 20 received the Hibernia Company of Philadelphia, commanded by Col. James Page, since deceased. May 14, 1861, "Big Six" sent large supplies of good, clothing, and delicacies to the First Regiment of Fire Zouaves, then stationed in the defenses of Washington. While William B, Dunley was foreman the company made an extended excursion trip, visiting Niagara Falls, the British dominions, etc., being received wherever they went with marked respect and enthusiasm, the gallant "Tigers" being cheered to the echo, while the ladies filled the windows and waved their handkerchief in token of admiration. In the Canadas they were feted everywhere. On their return home they were received by Hook and Ladder (Marion) 13, and a number of other companies.

The famous Americus Club was originated in 6 Engine Company. It has been the custom of some of the members for years to make a Fourth of July excursion up the sound in a yacht, often going as far as South Norwalk, Conn. On one of these excursions they stopped at the beautiful grounds at Indian Harbor, at Greenwich, and when the Americus Club was founded they leased the ground from Augustus Mean and erected a building. William M. Tweed was the president of the club, Edward W. Jacobs vice- president; Charles H. Hall secretary, and William B. Dunley was treasurer.

In May, 1862, John Buckbee was elected foreman, and Christian Van Blarcom assistant. In May, 1863, Anthony Burke and John Whalen were chosen as foreman and assistant, and were re-elected in 1864. In May, 1865, Anthony Burke was elected the last foreman of the company, and John Sigerson was the assistant. The company had continued the use of the double deck engine until 1861, when they obtained a steamer of Silsby's build which they ran until disbanded in 1865.

Thomas Sweeney and John Cary of this company were severely injured at the fire at Goodwin's cracker bakery in Cherry Street, February 3, 1863, at which John Slowey, of Engine Company 19m was killed, and George W. Badger of the same company, fatally injured. Edward W. Jacobs was elected an assistant engineer from the ranks of this company, the only man ever advanced to that position who had not previously served as foreman or assistant. In 1853 the company, under Henry Close as foreman, went to Albany, Saratoga, and West Troy, where they visited the arsenal, and in 1865, on the disbandment of the Volunteer Department, Anthony Burke took the company to Philadelphia, the company expending the proceeds of the sale of their effects for that purpose. They took with them the double deck engine the original "Big Six." This engine is now stationed at Willett's Point, and on Evacuation Day, 1884, the Americus Association and their old firemen friends including ex-Chief Harry Howard, and ex-Assistant Engineers G. Joseph Ruch, Edward W. Jacobs, and Bernard Kenney, and numbering one hundred and ten men, under command of William B. Dunley as foreman, and David M. Smith (the first foreman of Americus Engine Company No. 6) as assistant foreman, obtained the engine and took part in the parade, the engine being drawn by eight large horses, and the members forming a square around it.

During the existence of Americus engine company No. 6 three hundred and eighty-nine members signed the roll. Of these, one hundred and sixty-one are known to be living and are members of the Americus Association, who each year celebrate the eleventh of June as the anniversary of the first fire the company ever ran to.

When 6 Engine Company was first organized they did duty in the Fifth and Sixth Districts. About 1855 they commenced to run down-town in the Seven and Eighth districts. Engine Companies 8 and 19 had begun to run down-town a short time previously, and No. 19 Engine was transferred to the Fifth and Sixth Districts, and 6 engine took their place down-town. Then commenced the famous races between Big Six and the Elephant, when printers, binders, and in fact all classes would drop work to go and see or help "Six and eight raise the hill." No. 6 and No. 41 were also great rivals, so much so that No. 41 had to be transferred to the upper districts, and in 1864, when they returned to duty in the down-town districts, the rivalry was so great, and led to such serious troubles, that 41 engine was disbanded. 6 and 41 Engine Companies, and 6 and 44 Engine Companies, had several serious encounters during their existence.

Engine Company No. 6, like their confreres, had several target companies, among which were the "Cudney Guards" under Captain Ed. Johnson, and the "Wm. M. Tweed Guards," under the command of Captain Ed. Jos. H. Johnson, and the "Young Americus Guard," for five years John G. McGee, and next under John J. Blair as captains, Gouverneur Blues under John Casilear and William Gayte as captains. When the war broke out in 1861 many of the men who had shouldered muskets to shoot at wooden targets started off in defense of their country and went south to shoot in deadly earnest.

On September 8, 1855, the double deck engine, which weighed forty-two hundred pounds, ran over Elihu B. Campbell and Charles B. Elliott in front of Lord and Taylor's store in Grand Street. They had attended a fire at Hester and Allen Streets, and were going home with a full rope, when the bell struck for the Fifth and they started off, and in going through Grand Street the men fell. Campbell was very severely wounded. The engine passed over the middle of his body, crushing him fearfully. He lay eight months in bad, but finally recovered, and is an active man at this time.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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