Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 33, Part V

By Holice and Debbie

NO. 8,--MANHATTAN -- ESSEX -- MANHATTAN ("ELEPHANT"), -- Engine Company No. 8 may be said to be the last company established before the Revolutionary War in 1776. We find the eighth company lying near the Tan Pits, at the foot of what is now Maiden Lane, at one time known as Shoemakers' Pasture. It was used in those days by one John Harpendinck. Little was known of the company till 1783, when they were re-organized with Herbert L. Proudfoot as Treasurer. Other foremen were Henry Riker (1783), John Post, David Morris (1783) and Thomas Browne (1796). In 1783 the company consisted of twenty-three men.

In 1793 Abraham Brevoort was assistant foreman, and on Morris' retirement Brevoort assumed the foremanship. Their early location was at the jail yard in Chatham Street, with Joseph G. Dunell, David Note, Thomas Hunt, Otis Harrington, Washington Ryder, John McBlair, John Welch, John Phillips, and George Enny as members. On April 4, 1831, Robert W. Piggott, Dennis Cornell, John F. Butts, and fifteen others joined the company, and had the location moved to Essex Street, where the name was changed to "Essex" and Piggott was chosen the first foreman, and from there moved to Ludlow Street. He was succeeded by Daniel Coger, who was elected an assistant engineer in 1835, serving until 1837, being followed by his brother, John Coger, Jr., who was foreman at the time of the Gulick troubles. At the fire where the trouble occurred Coger wished his company to continue at work, but they were driven from the brakes by the other firemen, and Coger was assaulted. After their hose was cut the company discontinued their endeavors to extinguish the fire. John Coger, Jr., also became an assistant engineer, serving from 1838 to 1841. Dewitt C. Mott was the next foreman of the company, and when he also became assistant engineer, which he did in 1842, he was succeeded by Charles J. Harris, who held the office for three years, and was succeeded in turn by Lewis d. Walters and James Tyler. Seth C. Douglass, afterwards deputy sheriff, Samuel Betts, John Boyle, Jesse Chase, Robert C. Brown, John C. Hooper, Charles Nicolls, and George T. Patterson, who remained until the disbandment of the Fire Department. Of this company, Jacob smith served as assistant engineer from 1803 to 1808; Edward Arrowsmith from 1825 to 1830; Richard Kelly from 1851 to 1853; and Joseph G. Ruch from 1856 to 1862.

At a fire in Florentine's undertaking establishment on Mulberry Street this company took the water of Twenty Engine, who took suction from the gas house cistern and was washed. The chief engineer sent the company's engine to the corporation yard on June 21, 1824, because the members permitted boys in the regular uniforms to run with them, contrary to law. The company made an excursion to Washington at the inauguration of President Pierce in March, 1853, and received quite an ovation from the citizens of that city. They were the first to run a steam engine, of which Edgar Laing was the engineer. This steamer the company owned themselves, and encountered much opposition from the other companies in the Department. They had a track of flag-stones built from their house in Ludlow Street to Grand Street, where they could strike the Belgian pavement.

At a fire in Rivington Street, June 10, 1850, the new steamer, under the management of this company, was given its first test in actual service. In seven minuets she had steam up and was ready to play. There was some little difficulty in supplying the engine with water, but when this was remedied she rendered great assistance, and, by the steady streams directed against the buildings, prevented the flames from spreading to the cabinet shop, 105 Norfolk Street, thus checking what threatened to be a vast conflagration. Mr. Wm. P. Allen, now chief clerk to the chief engineer, Charles O. Shay, was badly crushed by a collision between their large steamer and a wagon, August 11, 1864, on the Bowery, near Pell Street. He had the tongue at the time, and was thought to be fatally injured, but after four months of suffering was able to leave the house, although he did not recover his strength for over a year.

NO. 9. -- BOLIVAR.--Engine No. 9 was the first additional company organized after the evacuation of the city by the British. The whole Department was, in 1783, re-organized, five additional engine companies being established, making thirteen engine companies, all told, and two hook and ladder trucks. Among No. 9's early members were Theophilius Beekman, alderman of Montgomerie Ward, Wm. T. Ellsworth, and Samuel Johnson, both assistant aldermen. They were located in the Swamp, in Leisler Street. John Clark was the foreman from 1793 to 1796, when the company was located in Whitehall Street, near the Government House. From 1832 to 1834 the engine lay in Beaver Street, near Broad Street. In 1830 there was some dissatisfaction in the company, and the following members tendered their resignations on September 6: Caleb F. Lindsly, foreman; E. B. Hart, Ichabod Williams, Archibald Reed, John S. Smith, Samuel Riddell, A. W. Hardee, George Robertson, Wm. Dodson, Edward Watson, Wm. Webber, Isaac H. Cogswell, George Dawson, Joseph R. Young.

The company was disbanded on March 1, 1843.

FIFTEENTH WARD was organized on October 27, 1840, and was located in Mercer Street, near Bleecker Street. In 1841 it ran a hose cart, and on June 22, 142, was organized as Hose Company No. 35.

DOLPHIN. -- Organized February 1, 1843, at Forty-eighth Street and eighth Avenue; changed to Engine Company No. 1 on December 26, 1846.

UNITED STATES MARION (ROCK) was organized under peculiar circumstances. The first attempt at organization was an effort on the part of certain members, a majority of Hose Company No. 9, to change their title to Engine Company No. 9, which failed from the continued efforts of a few members who were unwilling to give up the Hose Company. Thereupon, a majority succeeded on the fourteenth of August, 1849, in obtaining a separate organization under the title of United States Engine Company No. 9, and located at 47 Marion Street, near Prince, in old Third Engine House, leaving but five or six men in possession of the hose house and carriage. A very bitter feeling existed for a considerable time between the members of the two companies, which extended itself to those who afterwards joined either of them. The first officers of the company were Daniel W. Talcot, foreman, (first and second) districts. Being located in a populous portion of the city, and in the same house formerly occupied by Engine Company No. 3, they soon had a great number of runners, who, under the title of "Rock Boys," kept the company in a continual excitement. At nearly every fire the runners would get the company into some difficulty, and one evening the company was twice attacked by the "Bowery Boys," most of whom were the runners of Hose Company No. 14. Mr. Talcot resigning his foremanship April 12, 1852, Charles F. Myers was elected in his stead, and Rudolph E. Abbey elected assistant in place of Archy McNaughton, also resigned. Mr. Myers had served some time in Engine Company No. 48, and was considered a good officer. Ex-chief Carson had great influence with the company, and induced them to accept one of his patent engines. After some years of hard work and the expenditure of a large amount of money, besides the two thousand eight hundred dollars of their original estimate, the engine was completed and became the wonder of the Department, but not from her extraordinary performance as a fire engine. The wonder ws how such an enormous weight could be compressed in so small a compass, and how any body of men could drag her through the streets. After a short service and the expenditure of a great deal of money in continual repairs and alterations, she ws laid aside in the corporation yard and afterwards sold for old iron. While the engine was building, the company, being unable to keep away their "help," were in continuos quarrels.

The foreman, Charles Myers, resigned in February, 1854, and James R. Tate was elected in his place. Mr. Tate's foremanship lasted but a few months as Mr. R. E. Abbey was elected at the next May meeting. The new foreman had a stormy time of it. The company was incessantly in trouble, which only ended in December, 1854, by their disbandment, a number of the members being expelled at the same time.

Harry Mansfield, a fine fellow and excellent officer, who came from Hose company No. 9, then took charge of the disbanded crown, and by strenuous exertions and pledges that a different state of affairs should exist if they were again permitted to do duty, the company was re-organized as Marion engine company No. 9. The list of members ws quite small at the beginning, and they did duty with a hose carriage. It was after this organization that the mammoth engine was first brought into use, and with this terrible load to start with they again went to work. They elected Harry Mansfield foreman and James McCully assistant foreman. After serving about a year, Mr. Mansfield resigned on account of ill health, and the assistant was promoted. In May, 1855, Patrick Cunningham was elected foreman. In 1856 William Gorman was chosen foreman at the annual election and served until February, 1857, when he was superseded by James A. Duncan. On May 12, 1857, Mr. James Hayes was elected foreman, and from that time until the Department was disbanded the fortunes of the company seemed to change, their roll numbers increased until it was seldom that there was a vacancy, and they became one of the quickest and hardest working companies in their district. In 1859 they received a new first-class Shanghai style of engine, and in 1861 did duty from a temporary location, No. 52 Marion Street, while their new house was building at No. 47 Marion Street. They now had members enough of their own, and being independent of any "help" they kept free from any trouble or entangling alliances with any other company. In 1862 this company procured a steam engine with which they did duty until mustered out. Mr. James Hayes continued to be the foreman of the company until the end, serving as such for nearly eight years and having none different assistant foremen under him. During this foremanship he was elected a councilman, supervisor, and assemblyman from the city.

At the Cable Celebration 9 Engine had made up their mind not to parade, as they said they had no suitable engine. Chief Howard, however, overcame their scruples, and gave them the right of the line and placed them in charge of the banner.

NO. 10. -- NIAGARA.--this was one of five companies organized about 1783 and until 1796 stationed at the top of Catharine Street, Chatham Square. The leader was Benjamin Blagge. In 1793 Robert Furman was foreman, in 1796 Leonard Fisher. In 1804 the engine was in Centre Street; in 1813 at the Bowery and Great Jones Street; from 1832 to 1834 at Fifth Street and Second Avenue; was disbanded on February 4, 1836. Among its earlier members were the following--all mechanics:

Moses C. Palmer (1820); Daniel H. Covert (1822); Daniel Horton (1822); Jacob M. Luff (1825); Stephen Jobs (1825); Peter Brown (1826); Thomas Lawrence (1826); Joseph Applebee (1826); Robert Patterson (1827); Daniel Morton (1828); Samuel B. Good (1829); William A. Good (1829); Thomas Good (1829); George S. Kip (1830).

Niagara ran an old style New York engine built in 1824.

WATER WITCH was organized on Janaury 4, 1837, and was located at 6 third Street. Disbanded March 1, 1843.

WATER WITCH (WREN), organized March 24, 1843. Located Ninth Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street, and later in Twenty-seventh Street, west of Ninth Avenue. Kipp & Brown, stage proprietors, famous in their day, were members when the company was in West Twenty-seventh Street. Disbanded, August 7, 1855.

UNITED WATER WITCH--The last engine company with the number "Ten," was organized in Yorkville, September 28, 1855, and located in eighty-second Street between Third and Fourth Avenue. Their first officers were John H. Hoffman, foreman; A. O. Alcock, assistant; Cyrus T. Frost, secretary; and George J. Gregory, treasurer. They first ran a double-end brake engine, built for them by the Burnhams of Yorkville. The name of the company was changed the following year to Water Witch, and in that year John Warne was made foreman and Thomas E. Dey assistant. Warne was re-elected the two succeeding years, Wm. Banham, Jr., becoming assistant in 1859, in which year the company discarded their first engine as being too heavy, and took charge of a new piano engine just finished for them by Van Ness. At the next election of the company, John R. Higbie was chosen foreman, with William Hay as assistant and William J. Kelly, whom many may remember as the famous catcher of the base-ball team of the Yorkville "Champion" Club. Secretary Higbie was continued in office during the following year. When William Banham, jr., was chosen foreman the company filled up rapidly. D applied for, and in 1864 obtained, a steam engine, which, after the reorganization, was transferred to the use of Engine Company No. 32 of the Metropolitan Fire Department. Banham was continued in the office of foreman until the disbanding of the company in 1865.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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