Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 35, Part IV

By Holice and Debbie

No. 40. -- Lady Washington ("White Ghost," "White Gal"). -- this company was organized in 1812, and was located at 174 Mulberry Street, near Broome, in the same house that Columbian Hose Company, No. 9, shared with them in later years. They were known as the "Ghosts," and were a lively crowd, being composed mostly of Centre Market boys. They had many enemies, the principal ones being Peterson Engine company, No. 15, Black Joke Engine Company, No. 33, Forrest Engine Company, No. 3 (which lay in Marion Street at that time, and Tompkins Engine Company, No. 30. But they had some good friends, among whom were Clinton Engine Company, No. 41, and Live Oak Engine Company, No. 44. 30 and 40 never came together without having a fight, and some of them were very severe ones. The most famous we have already described.

Fire Engine 40 was organized at Mulberry Street, between Broome and Grand Streets, June 5, 1822, with twenty-six men, and John M. Sands, grocer, corner Spring and Crosby, was foreman, and Absalom Traver, grocer, 225 Mulberry Street, assistant. The company was located at 174 Mulberry street and later at 173 Elm Street. It was disbanded on December 6, 1843, reorganized on December 19m 1853, went out of service in 1865.

No. 41. -- Clinton ("Old Stag"). -- Clinton was organized March 8, 1813, and had its quarters at the corner of Rivington and Arundel (now Clinton) Streets. The membership included sturdy mechanics and a few clerks, etc. Here is the original roll:

John Bayley William Brown Chauncey Carter
Joseph Collins Casper Corley John Garrett
John Grantz Edward Grimes Wm. Haley
John Hallock Abraham Halsey M. Hamstead
Samuel Hoping William Horsely C. Hoyt
B. Hoyt Walter Hyde Samuel James
George Kirk James T. Palmer Joseph Parker
Robert Parker William Place Peter Marks
William Sherwood James Stackburn Henry T. Stiles
John Vincent Solomon Williams John D. Webster

After a few years in the Rivington house, the company moved into a one-story building erected for them on the rear of the lot at Attorney and Delancey Streets, where the thirteenth Precinct Police Station is to-day. In those times the city was not liberal in its treatment of the fire companies. It would furnish them with one-story houses only, and those of the plainest sort. If the boys wanted a fancy window over the front door, or any other ornament, they paid for it themselves. In 1852 Drake B. Palmer was foreman,. Henry Bowran and Benjamin Defries, his assistants, Gilbert Lewis, secretary, James Sands, treasurer. There were fourteen other members. Palmer was promoted to be assistant engineer in 1829. He served in that capacity until 1834. Later, he became successively president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer of the Department. Other foreman, in the order given below, succeeded Palmer at the hear of No. 41:

Edward Underhill Henry C. Bowran Randolph C. Laing
Andrew Craft Benjamin C. Whitmore Philip B. White.
John Brown John D. Halsted Alonzo Hawley
Henry Lewis Anthony L. Allaire James Little
Thomas Cheevers Joseph Swinerton William Hennessey

A new engine, purchased in 1829, was long the pride of the company, and had the honor of washing half the engines in the department. During the Gulick trouble in 1836 the company voted to resign ina body. They appointed a committee to strip the engine of ornaments belonging to them. During the brief rule of Ryker, a company of "citizen firemen," as they were called, used the engine. Thomas Connor, afterwards alderman of the Seventh Ward, was foreman.

The old hands returned to the brakes when Cornelius V. Anderson became chief and continued to perform duty until 1852, when they were disbanded for fighting. Reorganized soon after this episode, No. 41 got a new piano engine with an eight-inch cylinder and nine-inch stroke. In 1859 they moved into a house in Clinton Street, near Grand, now used by the Fifth District civic Court. Six years more of faithful service passed, and their career ended.

Mr. G. W. Wheeler, formerly secretary of the company, has some of its old records. One, containing the earlier minutes, is a ponderous volume with a leather binding almost thick enough to be bullet-proof. In this yellow, musty tome are accounts of fires where 41 covered herself with glory, and her rivals with confusion and water. Very seldom is an attempt made to estimate the actual damage by the fire, but the engine's place in the line, her hours of service, and the machines she washed, are all carefully noted. It was an era of wooden buildings, and a fire which destroyed two Tenth Ward blocks is succinctly described in half a page. No. 41 was late because the hose had been hung on the fence to dry. Afterwards the generous aldermen gave two sets of hose to each company. December 15, 1825, there was a fire in Thompson Street near Broome. Fourteen engines in line brought water from the North River. "We sucked on 25," says the minute-book. This is, they pumped so fast that 25, just behind them, could not keep them supplied with water. The company worked from five in the afternoon until 12:30A. M. Mr. Wm. Underhill and Mrs. Mason , of Spring Street, furnished refreshments to the boys, and were officially thanked. A fire on October 3, 1830, destroyed seven building on the Bowery, between Spring Street and Prince Street, and four on Elizabeth Street. The minutes show that 41 washed 18 and 31 successively.

During the great fire of 1835 the cold was awful. Beside the engine stood a keg of brandy with the head broken in, and a copper kettle. Old firemen's eyes sparkle as they declare that the liquor was poured into the engine to keep her from freezing. It must have been poor brandy, for she froze in spite of it. The next morning she was on duty again. The company disbanded in 1865.

No. 42. -- East River. -- Formerly Floating Engine, had its headquarters at Roosevelt Street, between Cherry and Water Streets, and was organized June 21, 1824, with thirty men:

William Hawk boatbuilder, Water Street, Foreman
William Johnson assistant Foreman
Thomas Vredenbergh -
Philip Snyder -
Levi B. Devoe -
Benjamin H. Chapman Foreman
Anthony Klopper assistant Foreman (resigned)
Paschall Michaletta -
John Van Horne -

On June 20, 1835, Anthony Klopper and other members of the company memorialized the Common council for permission to remove from the foot of Roosevelt Street to Vandewater Street. The company was disbanded on July 9, 1838.

Northern Liberty. -- Empire (Hay-wagon," "Mankiller"). -- A new No. 42 was organized on March 5, 1840. First it was located in Beaver Street, near Broad, next at 45 John Street, then at 88 Nassau Street, afterwards at 2-1/2 Murray Street, and after 1860 at No. 4 Centre Street. It went out of service in 1865. On July 18, 1850, a grand entertainment was given to the company in its engine house, the occasion being to celebrate the elaborate painting of its machine. Among the ladies present were Madame Antoinette Otto (an "honorary member"), Miss Mary Taylor and Mrs. D. Traphagen. On the next evening the gentlemen friends of the company were exclusively entertained, and about on thousand partook of the hospitality proffered. The engine house had been superbly decorated.

No. 43. -- Manhatta. -- Engine Company No. 43 was organized October 29, 1821, and located first on Lawrence Street west of Broadway, Manhattanville, in a shanty which is still standing. They had a bell on the building which they took with them to their new house, a two-story frame building, which was built for them in 1843, on the same street, but nearer Tenth Avenue. The quarters of Engine 37 of the Paid Department are on the same site today. This company ran an old New York style gooseneck engine painted red; after this an old engine formerly used by 40 Engine, and in 1853 received a Carson style piano engine which they ran until the Department was mustered out. No. 43 ran several months longer than the down-town companies at the request of the Commissioners, as the organization for the upper part of the city was no perfected as early as the down-town portion. Abe Horn, who was foreman from 1851 to 1860, was elected assistant engineer in 1865, and continued under the New Department until January 1, 1868. Ex-Mayor Daniel F. Tiemann joined this company in 1839, and was afterwards elected as foreman, and served as such for eight years. James Pettit, who was assistant foreman under Mr. Tiemann, succeeded him as foreman. In those days they did duty all over the ward, and that extended from Kingsbridge to Fourteenth Street. Other members at various times were William Crawford, blacksmith, foreman, died June 15, 1831, after ten years' service; Peter Myers, Sr., and John Myers, Jr., both famous (1823).

No. 44. -- Live Oak ("Old Turk"). -- This company was organized August 2, 1824, by the master shipbuilders of the Dry Dock for the protection of the shipyards in that vicinity. Jacob Bell, Isaac Webb, John Demon, Edward Merritt, and Foster Rhodes were the organizers and Isaac Webb, the first foreman. They located in a small frame house, built by themselves, in Columbia Street, near Houston, the river at that time coming almost to Goerck Street. They were not attached to the Fire Department for some years, but about 1828 they received the number 44, and had a brick house, one story with peaked roof, built for them in Houston Street, between Lewis and Manhattan Streets, about one hundred feet west of Lewis Street. In 1830 Henry Eckford, the shipbuilder, took a gang of ship carpenters with him to Constantinople to work on a contract he had over there, several of the men being members of No. 44. Eckford died ina very short time after reaching Turkey, and the men were called Turks on their return. One of them, named Russell, had let his beard and hair grow long, and was dubbed by his companions as the "Old Turk." The name afterwards extended to the company and remained with them ever afterwards. On their gooseneck engine they had two Turks carved standing upright and full dressed in their costumes and wearing sabres. On the back of the box they had a painting of a female figure with outstretched arms. Edward Penny, Jr., was foreman of the company in 1836 and was elected an assistant engineer in 1837, Nicholas fisher being elected foreman in his place. Isaac Selleck, Enoch J. Radley, and Frank Clark came afterwards as foremen of the company.

The company was always composed of active, tough men, abundantly able to take care of themselves, and at the same time full of animal spirits. They had many enemies, 41, 33, 15, 30 and 18 being at different times the principal rivals. In 1851, under Frank Clark as foreman, this company got their double deck engine, and in connection with this engine the following story is told of the efforts of the company to ger her painted.

In 1852, the "Quills" were in a majority in the company, but one night at a special meeting they were short-handed, and Frank Clark and his party passed a resolution to have the engine painted. She was sent to Van Ness to have the works taken out first, and while there the "Quills" send a communication to Chief Alfred Carson saying that a majority of the company did not want her painted, and the chief ordered the engine back to the house. When she got there some of the members found that the end brake straps were missing, and concluded that it was not safe to run her over the large butters in the streets at that time, and turned her in tongue first. A day or two afterwards Bill Landers, Jack Murdock, and Charlie (Bangs) Ludlam happened to meet in the house and concluded that the engine ought to be painted anyhow. They got a painter, and he began painting one side a pure white, with bolts and bolt heads touched up a bright red, leaving the other half a Quaker brown color. The "Quills" were furious, and Mr. Carson was again appealed to. This time he took the engine over to his office in Elizabeth Street, and preferred charges before the Fire and Water Committee, who summoned Messrs. Ludlam, Landers, and Murdock before them. Landers was the only witness called. The complaint was dismissed, and the engine sent to the company, who next has her painted all over. Afterwards one of the members, Charles Wykoff, carved a very handsome box out of solid mahogany for the condenser, the corners surmounted by Turks heads, and live oak trees with the branches running over and intertwining with each other, with squirrels perched on the branches. On the panels were two pilot boats, one outgoing and the other incoming, which, like the trees, were carved out of solid wood. The engine the company afterwards owned. The box of the engine was painted a blue color about a shade lighter than ultramarine, and on the front panels was a picture of the Woolsey sugar house fire at Montgomery and Front Streets in November, 1849, and on the back panel a portrait of Lake Jane Grey.

John s. Green, one of their members, was run over in 1851 while going to a fire in Houston Street, near Ridge, and killed. The company gave a ball fro the benefit of his family. Wm. H. Van Ness, the engine builder, was a member of the company, and nelson Sampson, who afterwards helped to organize 13 Hook and Ladder, also belonged here. Wm. H. Landers, now foreman of Engine Company No. 42, of the Paid Department, and stationed in Morrisania, followed Clark as foreman, being succeeded by Julien C. Harrison, James Garry, Jeremiah Keeler, and John Murdock, and the company laid aside their double-decker for a new piano style of engine build by Van Ness.

In 1851 the company moved to Houston Street, near Columbia, which quarters they retained until they went out of service. Joseph L. Perley, formerly assistant foreman of this company , was elected as assistant engineer in 1862, while a private, and re-elected in 1865. He was appointed an assistant engineer in the Paid Department, afterwards made chief, and finally one of the fire commissioners. James M. Flynn followed as foreman of the company, then Charles L. Miller and William F. Squires, as last foreman. The company were always bitterly opposed to steam engines in the Fire Department, and fought hard against their introduction. Five of their members went to the war with Ellsworth's Zouaves.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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