Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 34, Part I

By Holice and Debbie


More About Engine Companies.

Their History and Exploits. -- Fire Experiences in Company Quarters. -- The Brave Days of Old. -- Famous Fire Commandants. -- Organization and Development of Companies. -- Recalling Many Interesting Episodes. -- Scenes and Incidents in the Life of a Volunteer Fireman.

NO. 11. -- OCEANUS.--the original records of this company are now in the possession of ex-assistant Engineer A. B. Purdy. The company was organized on December 28, 1780, and located in Hanover Square (dock ward) with the following members; Daniel Ten Eyck foreman, Thomas Barrow, assistant, Charles Phillips, Evert Wessels, Jacobus Quick, Benj. McDowl, Andrew Meyer, Adam Keyser, Wm. Meyer, Emanuel Rhinedollar, John Haskin, Abraham Ten Eyck, Jr., Samuel Wessels, Wm. Hazelton, Barrant Evers, James Moore, John Townsend, Jacob Moore, Dennis Coyl, Israel Bedell, Benj. Shepherd, Wm. Brown, Augustus Sidell, Samuel Clap, and Joseph George.

At a meeting on November 9, 1784, at Doughty's tavern Haskin and Moore were struck off the list for non-attendance at washings, Bedell and Clap because they had moved out of the city, and Moses Smith, John Murray, Jas. McCullen, and John Devine, were appointed in their places. The fines that were collected and the new members' entrance money were handed over to mine host to pay for the "supper and liquors." No. 11 seems to have been a jolly and sociable company. On November 8, 1787, we find them paying to a tavern keeper 7 pounds 18 shillings for "supper and liquors," for which Nicholas Van Antwerp receipted. In November, 1789, Every Wessels was elected foreman and James Moore assistant, and on that occasion ten pounds and 6 shillings were paid "for supper and liquors." The company had a "moderator' to preside over its meetings, as we find Joseph Corre named in that capacity. The members solemnly signed their names on the book pledging themselves to conform to his rules. The following quaint extract will give an idea of the business:

That upon first call of silence by the Moderator the person refusing to silence, shall pay one shilling, and upon second call for silence by the Moderator the person refusing to keep silence shall be fined two shillings, or be expelled the company if the majority shall so determine.

In 1798 a penalty of eight shillings was ordered to be paid by every member who did not provide himself with a fire cap within a month.

In 1811 it was resolved that the initiation fee be $10. The by-laws were ordered to be printed, the bill being $8. On November 1, 1813, it was resolved "that the company accept of twelve young lads as volunteers, and that the company furnish them with suitable hats. A committee of three, consisting of Wm. Brown, Andrew Murray, and James Dunham, were appointed to carry the same into effect."

In 1816 the Corporation wanted to remove the company from Old Slip to Marketfield Street, and strong objections were made by the members and by the residents who petitioned the Common Council to suffer them to remain. The engine house had been begun by the Corporation, but was finished at the expense of the company. The following is a list of the members on November 6, 1818:

Abraham Van Nest  merchant
Andrew Murray  merchant
Robert L. Golby  hairdresser
Hugh McGinnis  cooper
Matthew Sharp  merchant
Benj. M. Brown  merchant
Francis T. Luqueer  saddler
Richard Duryea, Jr.  merchant
Wm. P. Harris  merchant
States M. Mead  cabinet maker
Isaac C. Holmes  merchant
John Watts  merchant
Wm. W. Lowere  carpenter
Horace S. Belden  merchant
John Miller  merchant
Charles Gregory  merchant
Hugh Munroe  merchant
Phineas B. Carman  accountant
Thomas B. Goelet  accountant
John D. Brown  chair maker
Charles Rosencrants  saddler
Peter Winants  block maker
John Van Nest  accountant
Daniel M. Lord  accountant
James Bloomer  merchant

About 1835 the company moved to 118 Wooster Street, adjoining station house, and after 1854 was located at 99 Wooster Street. It went out of service in 1865. Abraham B. Purdy joined in April, 1826, and for many years was foreman. James Gulick was also one of its foremen, and was appointed assistant engineer from the company in 1824. Nicholas Van Antwerp was appointed assistant engineer from 1800 to 1818. Other prominent members at various times were as follows:

States M. Mead  1820
Joseph Jamison  1820
Hugh W. Harrol  1825
Benjamin G. Miller  1825
Frederick Hadley  1826
John McCrea  1826
Aaron Hallock  1827
Laurence Vreeland  1827
Charles Stewart  1827
Abraham Van Duser  1828
Samuel Turner  1828
Jonas Colon  1828
John McDougall  1829
William McCrea  1829
James P. Thompson  1830
Henry R. Secor  1830
Daniel Kerrigan  1831
Christopher Johnson  was the last foreman of the company

This company was the first that had a carved back, the work being executed by John F. Miller.

No. 12. -- KNICKERBOCKER ("Old Nick").--TRADESMAN'S--KNICKERBOCKER,--This company dates back its organization before 1783. In 1796 it is recorded as being located at the junction of Cherry and Pearl Streets, now called Franklin Square, with Daniel Hopson as foreman and James Prankland, Jr., as assistant. James Hopson, a foreman, subsequently became president of the Department. In 1832 they removed to Rose Street, and in 1841 to William Street near Duane. Alfred Carson was appointed an assistant engineer in the year before the foremanship of this company. During the Gulick excitement the company, like many others, withdrew from duty, but on the appointment of Chief C. V. Anderson they resumed duty, taking the engine formerly used by Engine Company 25 and painting the number 12 on her sides. The first fire they ran to was in Greenwich Street, and when they returned to the house they called the roll on the panel of a door, not having any books ready. At the House of Refuge fire in 1838 the y took suction from a mud pond called the "Sunfish Pond," about opposite where the Fifth Avenue Hotel now stands, or perhaps a little more to the east, and played into 33 Engine, washing her on that occasion, 33's folks claiming that the mud from the pond choked the engine. About the latter part of 1843 the company were disbanded, and reorganized on February 22d, 1844 (under the name of "Tradesman's"), by some of the members of the old company and members of 37 engine who had also been disbanded; among them were John Gildersleeve, William Drew, George Harsen and John W. Garside. Harsen was elected foreman, and they located at 74 Delancey Street, in the house formerly used by 37 Engine Company. They succeeded in obtaining the engine used by the old company, No. 12, which was painted green and yellow, with the numerals "XII" on the leader jacket, carved dolphins on the sides and a picture of Knickerbocker smoking his pipe on the back. John Gildersleeve followed Harsen as foreman. During the great fire of 1845 they took suction from the fountain at Bowling Green and played on the cotton in Marketfield Street all next day. John W. Farmer, the Tenth ward philanthropist, was a member of this company at that time; he afterwards joined Manhattan Engine Company No. 8. Farmer opened a soup house on the west side of Ludlow Street, near Broome Street, where for many winters he furnished the poor of the ward with meals gratis. John W. Garside was the third and last foreman, the company being disbanded April 29,m 1847.

A new company was formed under the number of 12 on the twenty-eighth day of the same year and took up their location in Fiftieth Street, near Lexington Avenue, adopting the name of Knickerbocker and doing duty with a little old gooseneck engine built in 1824. Wm. B. Rockwell and James W. Lawrence were among the early foremen of the company. In 1855 they elected Jacob W. Cooper as foreman and obtained a new style piano engine, removing to Fortieth Street, near Third Avenue. James O'Brien, afterwards sheriff, the Biglan Brothers--Bernard, James H. and John A.--with Bernard O'Neil, afterwards alderman, and Dennis Leary were members of the company about that time. Thomas J. Coutant followed Cooper as foreman and held the office for several terms. When 6 Engine Company got their steamer, the members of 12 obtained the double deck engine belonging to that company, which they ran for a while. In 1859 they removed to 112 East Thirty-Third Street, near Third Avenue. In 1864 they received from the hands of James smith, the builder, a new steam engine, Bartley Donohoe being the foreman. There was a great deal of rivalry between 13 and 28 engine Companies, mostly on account of the political enmity between James O'Brien and Richard Croker, the engineer of 28.

No. 26 afterwards ran an old white piano hand engine, which was known as the "Arsenal," as it was supposed to be filled with revolvers. The Department being disbanded shortly thereafter, 28 was deprived of a chance to "get square." Bartley Donohoe was elected an assistant engineer in 1865, and Dennis Leary succeeded him as the last foreman of the company.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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