Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 37, Part III

By Holice and Debbie

The company was composed of the best material, most the members being merchants, and all of them men of high character. They located in Firemen's Hall, then a frame building on the site of the present hall on Mercer Street, and commenced their career with a two-wheeled jumper. Their fist duty was on the night of October 16, the fire being on the corner of Christopher and Washington Streets, where they took the water of 8 Engine and had a pipe on the fire. On May 1, 1837, the first regular meeting of the company was held at Constitution Hall on Broadway, and the officers were re-elected. In the following month Mr. Norwood, the foreman called a special meeting and tendered his resignation, feeling that much of the hostility that had been shown to the company on the part of some members of the Common Council had been directed towards him personally, and he did not care to embarrass the company. The company, however, refused to accept the resignation, and passed resolutions sustaining Mr. Norwood. In the following year Carlisle Norwood was again elected foreman, R. K. Anthony being chosen assistant. On May 6, 1839, Mr. Norwood was unanimously re-elected foreman, making the fourth time, and Mr. Anthony re-elected assistant. At a special meeting held June 18, to discuss the Gulick trouble, the company resolved to continue to do duty, while deprecating political strife.

In October, 1839, the company ha the carriage with which they had been doing duty rebuilt and painted. The cost was two hundred and twenty-five dollars. It was a very elaborate affair for those times. The design on the front box represented the city coat of arms, while to the left were seen snow-capped mountains, forest trees, streams leaping over rocks, etc., descriptive of the rude state of the our county when in possession of the Indians. On the right was a view of New York City, its bay and harbor, emblematic of the improvements of civilization. The rear box had a view of Neptune and Amphitrite riding over the sea, drawn by sea horses, in the distance a fire which Amphitrite is seemingly imploring Neptune to extinguish. The paintings were executed in the finest manner by Joseph H. Johnson. In may, 1840, Mr. Norwood was again re-elected foreman, with J. S. Winthrop, Jr., as assistant, and on September 21, Messes Norwood and Winthrop and eight others resigned from the company, which thereupon, after passing a vote of thanks to the officers for the faithful discharge of their duties, elected Mr. Reuben B. Mount as foreman, and John Orde Creighton assistant, to fill the vacancies. In May, 1841 and 1842, Mount and Creighton were re-elected. The winter of 1842-'43 was a particularly severe one, and in February, the snow being almost impassable, the company bought a sleigh, to which they attached their hose reel, and with it did duty. In 1844 the same officers were continued in their respective positions, and the carriage that the company had been running broke down. It had been repaired and rebuilt so often that, like the boys' pocket-knife, only about a spring remained of the original, and the company went back to their two-wheeled carriage. The company considered themselves favored in their choice of officers, retained Messrs. Mount and Creighton at their election in 1845, and on Christmas Eve Mr. Howard Havens, on behalf of the company, presented Mr. Mount with a silver trumpet, as a mark of their regard and esteem. In 1846 Mount and Creighton were again chosen as officers, Creighton resigning in October, and J. C. Ayers taking his place. The election in 1847 resulted in Mount and Ayers being again selected, and in November the company housed a new carriage built by Pine. This was considered one of the finest carriages in the Department, and the company went to considerable expense in embellishing it. The running gear was painted a lake colored striped with gold, the hose reel was elegantly carved, the iron work entirely silver-plated, and the side shields with the city coat of arms of solid silver.

In May, 1848, Mr. Mount declined re-election and Mr. A. C. Ayers was promoted, and Mr. H. L. Butler advanced to the position of assistant. Ayers resigned the following month, and Mr. Butler was elected foreman, and H. W. Banks made assistant, they being re-elected in 1849 and 1850. In the latter year Mr. James F. Wenman was elected secretary. During this year the company took charge of the reception of Phenix Hook and Ladder Company No. 3, which returned from a visit to Baltimore, and also took part in the parade in honor of diligent Hose Company of Philadelphia, Messrs. Butler and Gowers of the company entertaining them with a collation. Mr. Banks resigned hi position a assistant foreman on September 4, and Mr. J. F. Wenman was elected to fill the vacancy, holding the office until December, 1850, when, on Mr. Butler resigning, he was elected foreman. In May 1851, Mr. Wenman was re-elected foreman, Mr. S. J. Sullivan made assistant. On august 9, of his year, he company received an accession of twelve new members from Engine Company No. 4, and in November the company abandoned the gilded cap fronts they had worn and adopted a stitch front style with golden figures stitched on. Messrs. Wenman and Sullivan were re-elected in 1852 and 1853, and on July 22 of the latter year the company attended the annual parade of the New Haven Fire Department. They also took part in the reception of Engine Company No. 10 of Albany on September 1. While Fireman's Hall was being built the company did duty from the old house of No. 11 Engine Company, 118 Wooster Street. In May, 1854, Messrs. Wenman and Sullivan were re-elected, but Mr. Sullivan resigned in June and John H. Lyons was elected in his place. At the election of 1855 Mr. Wenman again received the vote of his company, W. H. Colwell being elected assistant. In May, 1856, the company accepted the resignation of Mr. Wenman, he having been elected an assistant engineer, and passed the following resolution:

Resolved, That in accepting the resignation of Mr. James F. Wenman, we take occasion to express to him our unanimous appreciation and approval of the prompt, efficient, and fearless manner in which he has discharged the duties of chief officer of this company for the past six years.

They elected him an honorary member of the company, and Mr. Sullivan, on behalf of the company, presented Mr. Wenman with an elegant silver trumpet as a token of their respect and esteem. At the election held that month, W. H. Colwell was made foreman and Geo. A. Harriott assistant. The resolutions passed by the company were handsomely engrossed and presented to Mr. Wenman. In May 1857, Mr. Harriott was elected foreman and E. Yerks assistant; in 1858 Frank W. Raymond and W. H. Lamb; in 1859 Raymond and U. W. Wenman; in 1860 Raymond and James Murray. Henry Wilson, who, from his long connection with the Department, and especially with west side companies, is good authority, says of them: "5 Hose was as fine a company as belonged to the Department. There were no better duty doing company than they were, and they were all a fine class of men."

On June 4, 1860, the company resolved to organize themselves as an Engine Company, selecting the number 47, and succeeding 5 Hose in location, etc. This was consummated in the fall of the year. In the meantime they continued to do duty, and on November 16, 1860, they ran to their last fire as new York Hose company No. 5, which was in Grand Street, near elm Street, when they stretched hose, and gave their water to 9 Engine.

Edwin Forrest (the third No. 5) Was organized on December 19, 1860, having been changed from Hose No. 58. It was located at 18 Burling Slip, and went out of service in 1865.

No. 6. -- Croton. -- Was organized July 6, 1837, located at Gouverneur Street, near East Broadway, and went out of service in 1865. Among its members were David Kelton, foreman; John Smith, assistant foreman; Wilson H. Hendershot, Francis J. Kearns, John Brophy, Philip Reilly, Wilson Small, Jr., Charles Fostick; John B. Parker, foreman; Wm. A. Walker, David Van Buren, and Wm. E. Dusenbury.

No. 7. -- Wave. -- Organized December 5, 1836, located at 199 Christie Street, disbanded April 2, 1845. Among its members were William K. Tattersal, foreman (resigned 1837); Joseph Hendrick (resigned 1837); William h. Van Wagener, Abraham Van nest, W. H. B. Van Nortunck and John L. Vandewater.

Ringgold (second No. 7). -- Was organized September 22, 1845, located in thirteenth Street, near fourth Avenue; went out of service in 1865. Among its members were Ely A. Horton, foreman; Edwin W. Ryerson, assistant; John C. Perrin, Edwin A. Lopez, Charles S. Hunt, Samuel B. Seaman, James S. Kent.

No. 8. -- First Ward. -- City. -- Organized October 15, 1836, located at 74 Cedar Street, and after 1859 at 39 Liberty Street; went out of service in 1865. Among its members were Abel Foster, foreman (1837); Augustus Brett, assistant foreman (1837); John D. Ammerman, George R, Rollins, R. M. Folger (subsequently chief engineer of the Fire Department of Sacramento); and Charles H. Cornell, fireman, (1853). The company changed its name to "City" on October 15, 1852. In the next year they put a fine new engine on exhibition at the Crystal Palace, the old one (a heavy machine) having been in use for eight years. The new apparatus was designed expressly for the company by Mr. Joseph Pine, hose carriage builder, and built by Pine & Hartshorn. The carriage was extremely light, and presented a frail appearance, but was substantially constructed. The company tried her for two months before she was sent to be ornamented, and they tested her in every manner, but were well satisfied with the result. The carriage was quite a triumph for Messrs. Pine & Hartshorn, and other companies were anxious to obtain one like her. She was painted a light tan color, handsomely striped with gilt. The painting was done by A. P. Moriarty. The springs and fifth wheel were polished. The reel was open with silver-plated work. On the front box was a large silver plate with the word "City." On the side panels a silver figure 8. On the back was a figure 8 in a sun, struck out of solid silver, and "Organized October 15, 1836"; on the end panels was the city coat of arms in silver. The lifters were eagles with a figure 8 in their bills. The lamps were probably the most beautiful ones ever made in the country. The glass was stained red, and upon it was engraved the city coat of arms. On the top of the lamps was a silver cedar tree (Cedar was the soubriquet bestowed upon the company of being located in Cedar Street). The lamps were manufactured by Parker, De Voursey & Tucker. The designs on the ends of the boxes and engravings were made by Jamison and Guyer, and the lifters by James McKenna, the silver plates by James Collard. The committee on building the carriage consisted of John Black, Charles H. Cornell, J. S. Hallenbeck, Joseph Black, and James F. Halsey.

John A. Keyser of this company was the first man known to be killed after the falling of the walls at the Jennings fir on Broadway. Nicholas W. Mooney, foreman of the 3 Hose, had gone into the cellar, and, in groping around, had fund the body with the fire cap lying near it. On bringing the cap out, it was found to bear the front of City Hose No. 8 with the initials J. A. K.

On Tuesday evening, December 9, 1851, the members of First Ward Hose presented their late worthy foreman, Joseph Black, with a massive and elegantly wrought gold chain, as a slight testimonial of their regard. The presentation took place at Mr. Black's residence, and the company partook of a splendid entertainment. Attached to the chain was a plate in the shape of a frontispiece of a fire cap. On the reverse side are the names of the committee: Chas. H. Cornell, Chas. Smith, Jr., E. T. Proudhomme. Mr. Black was for a long time secretary of the Board of Engineers. At the annual meeting held on Monday evening, May 10, 1852, the following were elected officers for the ensuing year: John Black, Jr., unanimously re-elected foreman; Chas. H. Cornell, re-elected assistant; Benjamin White, secretary, vice James W. White, resigned; George W. Lowerre, re-elected steward; Isaac S. Hallenbeck, vice Charles Smith, Jr., resigned, and Joseph Black, representative.

At the annual meeting of City Hose Company No. 8 held on Monday evening, May 9, 1853, the following were elected offices for the ensuing year: Chas. H. Cornell, foreman; vice John Black, who declined re-election; Chas. A. L. Mignard, assistant; Isaac S. Hallenbeck, secretary; re-elected; George W. Lowerre, steward, re-elected; Joseph Black, re-elected, and John Black, representatives. At the annual meeting of City Hose No. 8 held Monday evening, May 8, 1854, the following officers were elected: Chas. H. Cornell, re-elected foreman; Theron Kidd, asssitant; vice Chas. A. L. Mignard; James W. White, secretary, vice C. l. Robinson; John Leston, steward, vice James White; John Black, Jr., representative, vice Charles Smith, Jr.

No. -- Columbian. -- This company was one of the most active in the central portion of the city, doing duty in the Fifth and Sixth Districts. It was organized January 17, 1837, by Edgar Brown, Eugene Thompson, and Jefferson Brown. Other early members were James M. Clark, assistant foreman (1939); Wm. H. Mosher (1838); Nehemiah S. Zimmerman and Nicholas Groesbeck (1838). They located at 174 Mulberry Street, adjoining Engine 40, where they remained until mustered out of service in 1865. Shortly after they were organized they purchased at their own expense a new carriage, but, finding it too heavy, they finally sold it to a company in Newbury, N. Y. In 1849 they received the new carriage they had ordered built, one of the most attractive in the Department. It was silver mounted--the signal and lamps being of a novel pattern, and plated tongue. The company was immediately dubbed "Silver Nine," which mane they carried until they passed out of existence. At a fire one could always tell when she was coming, as the old cry of "Come, Ye old Silver Nines!" could be heard blocks away. In the days when the new silver carriages were housed for the first time, Harry Mansfield and Thomas Boese were members, and a more downhearted set could not have been found in the City of New York than the Columbian boys on the first alarm they turned out to. It seems that some two or three companies had conspired together to give the new carriage the "go by," and a false alarm was sounded for an up-town fire. The story is related in detail in an earlier chapter. No. 9 was called the "Quill" and "Silk Stocking" company of the Fourteenth Ward, but there was no silk stocking work about them when on duty. Many had narrow escapes at fires. At a fire on Broadway, Tom Boese and Harry Mansfield had a narrow escape by the falling of a wall. Thomas Cochran fell of a roof corner of Broadway and Broome Street in 1848, and was seriously injured. In 1849 George T. Hopper and Joseph M. Harper were added to the roll, and during the fall of this year they went on the excursion to Albany, Utica, Auburn, Rochester, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Canada. They were absent thirteen days, parading twenty-six men and accompanied by Dodworth's Band. Their reception at these places was one of continuos ovation along the route, and on their return some twenty companies turned out to bid them welcome home. Early in 1850 some dissatisfaction arose, when all but six members resigned and reorganized Engine Company No. 9, which had been disbanded. During the year John W. Garside, better known as "Johnny Garside" and "Dandy Gig," was elected foreman, and he succeeded in working the company up to its former standing.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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