Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 35, Part I

By Holice and Debbie

CHAPTER XXXV

FIREMEN OF THE BRAVE DAYS OF OLD.

Who The Men Were Who Ran With the Machines. -- Life That Was Exciting and Eventful. -- Famous Volunteer Engine Companies. -- Their Methods of Fire Extinguishing. -- Vivid Descriptions of Stirring Scenes and Incidents of New York Life.

No. 26. - -Jefferson.--("Blue Boys"). -- The company was organized in 1803. The first record of its location is when she lay in Henry Street near the Presbyterian Church, in Rutgers Street in 1813. During the year 1832 No. 26 moved to Madison Street, near Rutgers, in a frame building on the side of the brick building afterwards used by the company, and after 1845 by Oceana Hose Company No. 36. When the brick house at 205 Madison Street was finished, the company commenced to run the Blue Box Engine, calling themselves the "Blue Boys," with the rallying cry of "True Blue Never Fades." This engine was one of the handsomest, and at the same time the best geared, the lightest running and fastest engine of its day. Joseph Perkins, Elijah King (who afterwards kept the St. mark's Place Hotel, and, later on, the Fire island House) and Ethan L. Blanck were the foremen in those days, and in their little disputes with the "skivers" crowd (No. 39 Engine Company) Dave Phillips, and Jim or Puss Adams, were among the foremost in delivering striking arguments to their opponents. Jamieson Cox, chief engineer of the Department in 1824-28, was appointed an assistant engineer from this company. At the time of the Lorillard fire in Chatham Street, about where Leggett's Hotel now stands, Cox, then a member of 26 Engine, was on a three story ladder that was resting on the front of the building having 26's pipe. Some of the members noticed that the wall was shaking and called to Cox to come down. He had himself recognized the danger of his situation, and by a sudden and powerful effort jumped the ladder from the front of the building over to the front of the next on just as the wall fell in with a crash. Had he not moved the ladder over as he did, nothing could have saved him.

About May, 1836, the men were having some repairs done to their house in Madison Street, and ran from a little wooden shanty on the north side of Rutgers Street, one door from Madison Street. While in this temporary location the building was discovered to be on fire one day, and on Mr. Charles J. Harris, one of the members, and Thomas Coger, a volunteer, arriving at the house and opening the doors, they were unable to draw the engine from the house, the machine having either been fastened to the floor, or the wheels so chocked that the engine could not be moved. The engine, which was a very handsome one with polished iron work, and a great deal of elaborate carving on it, was partially destroyed. It was a comparatively new machine, having been in use but about three years. this did not prevent the company from continuing their fire duty. They immediately applied for and obtained the engine that had been turned in by Hudson Engine Company No. 1, and commenced to run from their house in Madison Street.

At the fire in the Tribune building which occurred February 5, 1845, during a heavy snow storm which had lasted twenty-four hours, the streets being impassable for their engine, the members of 26 Engine Company put their hose on a wood sled belonging to Hecker, the flour merchant, and drew it to the fire, Zophar Mills and Charles Forrester being on the rope going down. The members then went and helped Engine Company No. 23 across the City Hall Park, they not having yet reached the fire from Anthony Street.

On the occasion of the obsequies of ex-President Andrew Jackson in New York, June 24, 1845, a great many of the New York fire companies turned out without their apparatus, and among others were Engine Companies Nos. 2 and 26. They had just reached the City Hall, where they were to be dismissed, then the Hall bell struck for the fifth district. Both companies started after their engines, and on reaching Chatham Square No. 26 Engine could be seen coming down East Broadway, and No. 2 Engine coming down Division Street. After a little parley about "going out first," No. 2 engine started over toward Oliver Street, and John Harden, foreman of No. 26 Engine, headed his company over to Mott Street. This "skinned" No. 2 engine's rope, and the fun began. Both companies were halted at Chatham and Chambers Streets, where some lively hitting out was indulged in until stopped by Chief Anderson, and both companies sent home. They went back side by side, stopping a few moments before the Chatham Theater to exchange compliments, and as No. 2 engine men hooted at No. 26. As they separated at Chatham Square, they were obliged to continue hostilities in front of old Johnny Pease's candy store in Division Street, which ended in No. 2 engine being tied up to a lamp post, corner of Rutgers and Henry Streets.

On the night of July 161845, there were several alarms struck and one of them was for the fire in the old Dispensary, corner of White and Centre Streets. On their way home, when in Walker Street near Eldridge Street, and about opposite the old Sawdust House, kept by "Yankee" Sullivan, No. 2 Engine ran into No. 26 Engine and they struck out right and left. The companies were ordered out run in "tongue first," and the next night their houses were locked up, neither company being present at the great fire which took place down town shortly afterwards. The Blue Engine which No. 26 ran was taken away, but is said to still be in existence. It had a plate on the back of it of Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence. The company was disbanded on September 22, 1845. A company bearing the same number and name, organized on December 2, 1851, by the company formerly known as Hose Company No. 32, was stationed at No. 6 third Street, and later in Fifth Street near First Avenue. It went out of service in 1865.

No. 27. -- North River. -- this company was organized in 1803, with twenty-four men, was located at Watts and Greenwich Street, and disbanded March 1, 1843. Among the early members were Abraham Bogert, carpenter, Hudson Street. He resigned November 24, 1823; Assistant Foreman Henry Howard, formerly known as

"Harry"; Frederick C. Havemeyer, sugar refiner, 16 Van Dam Street, elected to the company November 24, 1813, resigned June 9, 1823, his time having expired; Wm. Havemeyer, sugar refiner, 14 Van Dam Street, resigned May 22, 1815, after two years' service; and John McClave, father of Police commissioner McClave, who joined November 20, 1815 (lived at 17 Desbrosses Street), resigned December 18, 1826, as his time had expired.

Fort Washington was organized November 18, 1852, and was located at Carmansville. Disbanded in 1865.

No. 28. -- Mechanics'. -- It was organized in 1805, and was located at One Mile stone in the Bowery, and had twenty-two members. Thomas McGuier, carman; 336 Bowery, was foreman, and resigned in august, 1817; john A ten Broeck, butcher, was assistant foreman, resigned in May 10, 1819; John Delamater, carpenter, Grand Street, expelled September 6, 1830, for not reporting himself to the Common Council; Wm. A. dodge, tavern keeper, 592 Broadway, resigned September 6, 1830, by order of the Common Council. Other members were John Frost, butcher, Spring Street, foreman; John Vanderhoof, shoemaker, Elizabeth Street; Henry Jerolomon, butcher, Spring Street; Zebulon Brundage, grocer, Pike Street corner Henry, and Stephen Cleveland, carpenter, 25 Leonard Street, resigned June 5, 1815.

Pacific was organized January 27, 1852, located at 377 Fourth Avenue, and went out of service in 1865.

No. 29. -- Constitution. -- Trident. -- Guardian ("Rooster"), No. 29, was organized in 1803 and located on the west side of a hill on Washington Street, near Perry. When Washington Street was graded it left the house ten feet high on an embankment. The adjoining grounds were used by the old State Prison. Jesse M. Chaple, Jas. Van Norden, Joseph N. Blamm, and Garrett Tinkey were among the organizers of this company. In 1816 they moved to the northwest corner of Hudson and Christopher Streets, Engine 34 and Hook and Ladder 3 being located in the same building, the upper part being used as a school and watchhouse. A liberty pole stood on this corner, which the members utilized to ascertain the location of fires. David Darrow, Matthew Armstrong and John Van Houten were among the members at this time. Among the runners was Armstrong's horse "Skinny," who did good service when the members were scarce or the mud very deep. In 1827 Allen R. Jollie joined the company, becoming its foreman in 1829, and after serving as such for several years was made an assistant engineer. It was claimed that he was one of the best runners in the Department in his day, and had the record of not missing a fire in seven years. In 1836 Thomas Lawrence and Martin Okie, well known Ninth Warders, were made members. About that time the establishing of a Paid Department was agitated, and Allen R. Jollie was the first man to submit a plan for the paid system, but it met with no favor.

Engine 29 was first known by the name of "Constitution," afterwards as "Trident," and in 1836 they changed their name, after some opposition from some of the members to "Guardian." which they retained until the end. In 1838 the company visited Patterson, N. J., where they had a pleasant sojourn of three days. In 1841 they removed to Horatio Street near Hudson with Hook and Ladder 3. In 1845 Abraham D. Carlock, Jas. W. Booth, (afterwards State senator), and Eugene Ward (afterwards alderman of the Ninth Ward) were members, and in 1846 John H. Brady (afterwards alderman) became connected with the company. In 1843 the company took up their quarters in Amos, now West Tenth Street. On 1846 Eli Bates joined the company, and Jas. W. Booth was elected foreman, and De Witt Forshay assistant foreman. In 1847 Forshay became foreman and Booth assistant foreman. In 1849 Stephen Messereau was elected foreman, but only served a short time. Eugene Ward took George C. Brown assistant. They were received by Neptune Engine Company 10, while Chief Engineer Gould turned out the whole Department in their honor, the Governor, Hamilton Fish, delivering the address of welcome. Captain De Groot's steamer "Reindeer," one of the finest and fastest boats on the river, conveyed them to and from Albany. Harry Bridgeman was the leader of 29's volunteer roll, which numbered over seventy young men, and Dave Broderick, afterwards of 34 Engine, was also a runner with 29 Engine. In 1857 the company made an excursion to Boston and Providence, receiving an ovation at each place. The company carried with them as fine a looking body of men as ever manned an engine rope. In 1858 Eli Bates was elected foreman, and in 1863 the company removed to their new house, 26 West Tenth Street. On the early days of the company they received the nickname of "Rooster Boys," but in later days this was changed to "Old Jeff" and "Iron Horse." The history of this company from 1803 to 1865 is a creditable and honorable one.

No. 30. -- Tompkins. -- This, the first company of that name and number, was organized in 1804, and in 1813 was located in Rivington Street, between Forsyth (then Second) and Eldridge (then Third) Streets, and in 1830 moved to 199 Chrystie Street near Stanton, the same location that Lafayette engine Company 19 used in later years. The greatest rivals of 30 Engine Company were Engine Companies 15, 40 and 37. No. 44 Engine Company was also a rival of 30 Engine, and during a race in 1841 the companies became seriously engaged, and charges were preferred against both companies. John P. Teale, a ship carpenter, was foreman and he called the company together, and tendered his resignation as an officer and also as a member of the company. The members were taken by surprise and asked the reason why. Teale said the company could not bear the blame of all the disasters, and the members thereupon sustained their foreman and resigned as a body with the exception of Mr. John Boyd. He was for retaining the organization and fighting down all opposition. He was, however, prevailed on to go with the rest, and the engine was left without members. The trial went on before the Fire and Water Committee, and Frederick R. lee, alderman of the Seventeenth Ward, well known as the foreman of old No. 3 Engine, was the chairman of the committee. No. 30 Engine Company was exonerated, and the blame placed principally on 44 Engine Company. Alderman Lee waited on Mr. Teale, and endeavored to get the company to resume duty but in vain. The engine was taken out of the house and given to Engine Company 20, and the doors of the house locked up on October 6, 1841. William Rainier, afterwards of Engine Company 40 and Engine Company 31, and William lamb, afterwards of Engine Company 25 and an assistant engineer from 1862 to 1865, were members at the time of disbandment, as was James R. Mount, afterwards of Atlantic Hose company 14.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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