Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 36, Part I

By Holice and Debbie



The Last of the Volunteer Fire Companies. -- Dates of Organization and Ma,es of Foremen. -- Some Quaint New York History. -- Hand and Steam Engines. -- New York Grows Too Large for Old Time Appliances and Methods. -- The New Regime Takes Charge.

No. 45. -- Yorkville. -- Aurora. -- This company was organized on September 11, 1826, by Milne Parker, Samuel Parker, Alexander Parker, the coach builders, Edward Prince, Edward Wells, and Jefferson Brown, Milne Parker becoming the first foreman. On May 21, 1827, the company were reinforced by the following members: John G. Kip, Joseph Tricker, Robert Kilpatrick, Stephen Huestis, James Bell, Stephen Harris, Augustus J. Flanagan, and others. Their first location was on the northwest corner of Eighty-fourth Street and Fourth Avenue, and when the tunnel cut through Fourth Avenue, about 1836, they moved up to the old frame house of No. 16 Engine Company, and placed it on the lot on the northwest corner Eighty-fifth Street and Third Avenue. A two-story brick house was afterwards built for them and Hook and Ladder No. 10, the company doing duty from a shed in Eighty-fifth Street. The house was afterwards made three stories high. About 1845 the company had their engine painted white and gold with a picture of Aurora, the goddess of day, on the back of the condenser case. Shew was then christened "Aurora," which name she retained. Philip Grimm, Eli Budd, Alonzo A. Alvord, Rufus Prime, Wm. Fulmer, Frank B. Ball, William Mead, and Frank Bazzoni were the different foremen of the company, Bazzoni serving as such from 1853 until 1865, the longest continuous service any foreman in the Old Department. Joseph McDonald, the colonel of the Forty-seventh New York Volunteers during the late war, was a runner with this company, and John Shelly, brother of Assemblyman Edward J. Shelly, was at one time an assistant foreman and a prominent candidate for assistant engineer. Went out of service in 1865.

No. 46. -- Relief ("Bull's Head"). -- It was organized on October 8, 1827, by Lodowick Fick, Jacob smith, John K. Van Houton, Isaac Kenard, Isaac Van horn, Joseph Fick, Henry Townsend, Peter Allen, Robert Davidson, John F. Nunn (the pianoforte maker of that time), John Fick, and Henry Smith. The company was composed mostly of pianomakers. They located at Rose Hill (East Twenty-fifth Street), and had a new engine built for them, which they ran until 1835, when it was replaced by another New York style of engine which they used until they were disbanded, October 17, 1849. In 1840, under the foremanship of Charles H. Smith, they were located at 349 Third Avenue, near Twenty-sixth Street. After their disbandment the company were out of service until May 3, 1852, when they were reorganized by Wm. Haw, Jr., afterwards a member of the Board of Appeals of New York Fire Department), John Nesbit, the brick Maker (candidate against Florence Scannell for alderman the year that Scannell was shot and fatally wounded in Donohue's saloon), Oliver s. Hibbard, who used to keep the Mansion House on Fourth Avenue neat the tunnel, Maurice Daly, father of the celebrated billiard player, Robert Foster, Wm. Wines, John Kennedy, and others. They took the same location, and commenced doing duty with one of the goosenecks built in 1827. Wm. Haw, Jr., was the first foreman, and John Nesbit assistant. John Nesbit succeeded to the office of foreman, and during his term the company was disbanded, October 7, 1854, having been in existence a little over two years.

Valley Forge was organized April 21, 1860 from the company known as Valley Forge Hose Company No. 46. This company was one of the first to recognize the value of steam, and purchased one of Lee & Larned's steam engines. The company used the same location as the Hose Company, at 138 West thirty-seventh Street, and commenced doing duty under the foremanship of George A. Nurse. The first working fire the steamer ran to was in Thirty-fourth Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, at which fire she had two streams on the burning building. Wm. J. Peck, at that time president of the Board of Aldermen, was present at the fire, and was so pleased with the working and power of the engine that he offered a resolution in the board to purchase the machine, which was subsequently done. The company had up-hill work of it, however, for nearly a year; the opposition to steam engines in the upper districts was very great, and the company were notified by some of the ip-town companies that the engine would certainly be taken away from them, and dumped in the river. The good work of the company soon convinced the firemen; and it was but a short time before Engine Companies 33 and 48--their strongest opponents--applied for steamers themselves. Nurse held the foremanship for several years, during which time the company rapidly increased in membership. They did duty not alone in the First and Second Districts, but held themselves in readiness for special calls. At the fire at Pier 6 in 1860 the company were telegraphed for on a request from assistant Engineer John Baulch to James Millward, who was then assistant foreman of the Exempts, and in twenty-seven minutes afterwards the engine reached the dock from the house in Thirty-seventh Street. Baulch had bet Millward a bottle that they would not get down in half an hour. They got to work and stayed there ten hours. Frank E. Skelding, who was foreman of the company in 1864,m afterwards became chief engineer of the Stamford, Conn., Fire Department. James E. Dunn succeeded Skelding on the incoming of the Paid Department. Edward L. Cobb, Geo. W. Da Cunha, Samuel H. Tucker, Elias H. Platt, Alexander McFadden, and William A. Brickhill enlisted in the Union army from this company.

No. 47. -- Mechanics'. -- This company was organized March 10, 1828, about the time that Engine Company No. 24 moved from the Dry Dock over to Columbia Street. The first names on the old roll are: Jesse Woods, Jonathan H. Gedney, Jacob H. Strever, Jeremiah Jennings, Benj. R. McCrod, John Fallon, Benjamin Perry, James Weeks, Wm. Humes, Henry Worley, and Adam Atchison. These members were all master shipwrights or builders, and the company was specially organized for the protection of the shipyards. They located on the Dry Dock, and in March, 1829, took in the following well-known eastsiders as members: Jacob Bell, Isaac P. Smith, Stephen Smith, John English, and David Brown. Their duty was just about hard enough to clear the members from jury duty. Their house was a small one, which had a bell on it, and a hole cut in the front door through which the rope was attached to the bell could be reached, to summon the firemen in case of fire. It was said of the company that they used to "grease their wheels with butter," being too high-toned to use anything more common. They never ran a very large roll, and June 22, 1842, they were organized into Hose Company No. 34.

Aqueduct (the second No. 47) was organized March 6, 1854. It was located in Eighty-second Street, near Third Avenue. The company was disbanded in September 18, 1855. Matthew J. Shannon was of the organizers of Aqueduct with Captain Thomas Beatty, of Central Park Police, and Judge Thomas Pearson and others. Shannon afterwards joined Americus Hose Company 48, was elected assistant foreman, and then foreman.

New York (the third No. 47). -- was organized on June 4, 1860, the members of New York Hose company No. 5 having resolved to form themselves into an engine company, and on November 14 of the same year organized New York Engine Company No. 47. They remained in the same location, in Firemen's Hall, and their first officers were, Frank W. Raymond, foreman, and U. W. Wenman, assistant, with James F. Wenman, as representative. They commenced doing duty immediately with a new steamer, built in 1860 by Lee & Larned, and rapidly increased their number of members at the next election. Wenman was re-elected foreman, John A. Phillips taking the place of U. W. Wenman as assistant. In the following year Raymond and Phillips were again elected. After this time the company had mutual troubles, which ended in their abandoning their organization March 23, 1864.

Croton (the fourth No. 47). -- was organized on May 26, 1864, Philip Cosgriff, foreman, James L. Ewing, assistant, and John D. Smith, secretary. Among the organizers were James Harris, Benjamin C. Bogert, George A. Mott, Benjamin W. Palmer, and E. J. Montague. They were stationed at 165 West Twentieth Street, and did duty with the Shanghai engine of Marion Engine Company No. 9, which they had abandoned for a steamer. The company did duty in the third and fourth districts. In the election of May, 1865, Benjamin W. Palmer was elected foreman, and John Wilkinson assistant. These were the last officers of the company, which was mustered out by the Paid Department. They were in existence but little over a year.

No. 48. -- Mazeppa. -- Fire Engine Company 48 was organized and established at Fitzroy Road near Nineteenth Street, November 17, 1828, and had eighteen men. Robert Simpson, grocer, corner of Eight Avenue and Fourteenth Street, in the Ninth Ward, was foreman, and Stephen Merritt, dyer, Factory road, assistant foremen. Among its members at various times were Alfred Mead, John Mogier, James R. Howell, carman, henry May, foreman in 1837, William Lawrence, carpenter, Abram Van Orden, John Pennycock, Adam V. Varick. The other locations of the company were: Thirteenth Street and Sixth Avenue; after 1843, at 152 West Twentieth Street; after 1851 in Twenty-fourth Street near Seventh Avenue; after 1864, in Twenty-fifth Street near Ninth Avenue. Disbanded in 1865.

No. 49. -- The first company of his number was organized on April 4, 1832. Was located in Cherry Street near Walnut, and was disbanded about 1835.

Pocahontas (the second No. 49). -- After the great fire of 1835 the residents of Harlem, feeling themselves not fully protected by the one Engine Company--No. 35--stationed in their section of the city, set to work to organize another engine company, and 49 came into existence and located in One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues, under the old station house. This house had a fire bell on it, as had the next house to which they removed in 1857. This was a new brick building on the east side of Fourth Avenue, between one Hundred and Twenty-sixth and One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Streets, and is now used by Engine Company No. 36 of the Paid Department. At the time of their organization Gouverneur Morris ran a milk dairy in Harlem, which he called the "Pocahontas Dairy," and their old gooseneck engine, which was built in 1826, and was painted white, was christened "Pocahontas." They had the back painted with a representation of Pocahontas saving the life of Captain John Smith, and did duty with this engine until 1854, when they received a new Carson piano engine of third-class caliber. The old engine was laid aside, and now graces one of the upper floors of the repair shops of the present Fire Department in West Third Street. The back remains the same, but the box has been painted a dark color. John S. Kenyon was the first foreman, and was elected an assistant engineer in 1840; Warren Brady followed him as foreman. At a fire in Astoria at a tar factory in 1842, one of the former members of this company, William R. Kilpatrick contracted a severe cold, from which he lost his eyesight, and although alive, and well at this time, has never regained his sight. The trustees of the Benevolent Fund have for years stood by him. Wm. E. Pabor, Wm. Tabele, and Epenetus Doughty were among the early foremen of this company,, and Henry P. McGown, now civil justice, held the position of foreman for ten years, being succeeded in 1855 by E. W. Gardner, who had been assistant fireman. Wm. T. Mawbay, of this company, was elected an of No. 8 Engine, was also members for a number of years. The Harlem Base Ball Club (celebrated from 1857 to 1860) contained several members of this company. Michael Kennedy succeeded Gardner as foreman, with A. A. Liscomb as assistant. In 1861 the company discarded the Carson engine, and took in its place the engine that had been used by No. 26 Engine Company, and replaced by a steam engine. It was of the piano style, but of a much lighter build than their former engine. Wm. H. Waterson and A. J. Walsh were at that time elected as foreman and assistant of the company. Cuthbert W. Ridley followed in 1862 as foreman and was elected an assistant engineer in 1863. Thomas C. Kennedy, who was assistant foreman, was elected foreman, and held the office till the company went out of service in 1865.

No. 50. -- Mohegan. -- Was organized April 1, 1840, was located at Harsenville, and changed to Engine Company No. 36 on March 10, 1848.

Lone Star. -- Liberty (the second No. 50.). -- Was organized as an American Company, in the Ninth Ward, on September 1, 1854. The organizers were Ralph P. Barker, Alexander McCune, A. R. Whitney, John R. Harned, George Merritt, and some others. Mr. Barker was the first foreman, Mr. Whitney the first Assistant, and Mr. Harned the first secretary. In 1850 William P. Daniels was elected foreman, with R. Van Houten as assistant. In 1857 Mr. Van Houten became fireman and Mr. Harned assistant. The name of the company was changed to that of "Liberty Engine Company" in 1858, and Mr. Harned was elected foreman, and Jacob R. Riley assistant. A disagreement arose over the election of Mr. Harned, who was opposed by Mr. Van Houten, the outcome of which was that thirteen members resigned. John M. Harned served as foreman for four years, and was succeeded by Richard Dougherty, who, however, resigned before the expiration of one year, and was succeeded by P. Gibney in 1864. On the eleventh of February of that year, about three months after Mr. Gibney's election, the company was disbanded on account of a difficulty with the members of Engine Company No. 54 (previously known as Hose Company No. 57). The company was subsequently reorganized as Croton Engine Company No. 47.

Among the prominent members of the early days of No. 50 besides those already mentioned, were George C. Kibbe, Frank T. Baker, Gilbert G. butler, J. Hogencamp, James Lounsberry, Peter Vanderbilt, and John Frink. The social name of the company was at one "The Liberty Boys" and later "The Dashing Half Hundred," and a right lively lot they were. The company was largely composed of carmen and masons. During the war of the rebellion Thomas Hendricks, William H. Covert, John L. Conry, William A. Wood, and some fifteen other members of the company volunteered into the Union Army.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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