Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 40, Part I

By Holice and Debbie



No. 1 (Mutual). -- No. 2 (Chelsea). -- No. 3 (Phoenix). -- No. 4 (Eagle). -- No. 5 (Union). -- No. 6 (Lafayette). -- No. 7 (Mechanics). -- No 8 (Empire). -- No. 9 (America, Washington). -- No. 10 (Narragansett). -- No. 11 (Knickerbocker, Harry Howard). -- No. 12 (Friendship). -- No. 13 (Marion). -- No. 14 (Columbian). -- No 15 (Baxter). -- No. 16 (Manhattan and Liberty). -- No 17 (John Decker). -- No. 18 (Hibernia). -- Hydrant Companies. -- The Hydrant Company that Never was Passed.

No. 1. -- Mutual. -- this company was organized in 1772, although there had been in existence two Hook and Ladder trucks, but bearing no name or number. In this year (July 10, 1772) a company was formed with George Brewerton, Jr., as overseer, Mr. Brewerton at that time being an alderman from the West Ward. They classed themselves as Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, and were located on Fair (Fulton Street) near Nassau. In the following year Jacob Stoutenburgh was elected the foreman, and in 1776 he was made chief of the department. In 1780 Jacob Montague, who was appointed one of the committee for the introduction of water into the city, was chosen foreman, and served till 1782. In 1784 the company was reorganized by Andrew Mather, grocer; E. T. Badeau, hatter; Frederick Pentz, shoemaker; James Sterling, merchant; William Gibbins, grocer; William Merrill, carpenter, and two others. On June 16 they met and elected Frederick Pentz foreman, and took the name of "Mutual." In 1791 David Contant was chosen foreman, and was one of the early advocates for a benevolent fund. In 1796 Garret De Bow assumed command, and remained at the head of the company till 1800. At this time they were located at the head of Whitehall Street, opposite the Bowling Green. The manuscript records of the company date from December 23, 1799, but the first minutes of proceedings held at Hodgkinson's Tavern, at which Thomas Shapter was elected foreman; Robert Spier, assistant; Hugh Aikman, Clerk; and Lawrence V. DeForest and William Scott, representatives. At an extra meeting held January 3, 1818, David Keyes, cooper, 20 Bancker Street, Duncan McKeckney, cooper, 14 Cliff Street, and Donald McLeod, grocer, corner of Wall Street and Broadway, were elected members. On May 13, 1819, Robert Spier, having served the time required by law as assistant foreman, resigned, and Hugh Aikman was elected in his place, and Wm. a. F. Pentz was elected secretary.

At the annual meeting held November 11, 189, Mr. Thomas Shapter, and Mr. Aikman were re-elected as foreman and assistant; James Patterson, cooper, 9 Front Street, was elected clerk; and William Smith, merchant, 7 Old Slip, and Alexander Wiley, cooper, 92 Greenwich Street, were elected representatives. Mr. Shapter resigned on May 11, 1820, having served his term, and Hugh Aikman succeeded him, with Alexander Wiley as assistant. About this time the question of forma new association of firemen was discussed at a meeting of delegates in Harmony Hall, who referred the matter to a committee which met in Firemen's Hall, and decided that it was inexpedient to form another association. In 1821 Wm. A. F. Pentz and William Van Antwerp were elected representatives. A circular letter from the representatives of the Fire Department was read at an extra meeting held at Hodgkinson's, on February 6, 1822, setting forth that the department was short of funds, and calling for aid. The sum of twenty dollars was immediately voted to the fund. Daniel Ayres, merchant, 94 John Street, was elected secretary on May 9, 1822. On May 13 of the same year the complete return of the members of the company was as follows: Hugh Aikman, foreman; Alexander Wiley, assistant foreman; William A. F. Pentz and Wm. Van Antwerp, merchant, representatives; Daniel Ayres, Allen McDougall, William Smith, John Heath, Hugh Spier, John Shay, James Patterson, Martin Reeder, Jesse McLaughlin, Ralph James Saddler, John Rossiter, John Davison. At the quarterly meeting held February 13, 1823, the representatives reported that their annual meeting was held in Firemen's Hall on December 9, 1822, and the following officers were elected for the year 1823: O. T. Hewlitt, president; J. M. Tuthill, vice-president; John P. Bailey, treasurer; J. A. Mitchell, secretary, and William Willis, collector. David Seaman, J. V. Varick, and B. M. Brown were elected trustees. The committee of five appointed to petition the corporation to admit young men at the age of eighteen as firemen, reported that their petition has met with disfavor, and that the State law prohibited such permission. At an extra meeting of the representatives, held on January 7, 1823, Jamieson Cox and Philip W. Engs were elected trustees in place of David Seaman and Cyrenius Beers.

The officers of the fire Department elected on December 8, 1823, for the year 1824, according to the report of the representatives of this company, made at the quarterly meeting held on February 12, 1824, were: J. W. Dominick, president; J. M. Tuthill, vice-president; John P. Bailey, treasurer; J. A. Mitchell, secretary, and W. Willis, collector. J. Quick, P. W. Engs, William Varick, and Edward Arrowsmith, were elected trustees. On May 13, 1824, Alexander Wiley was elected foreman, and Hugh Spier, assistant. Mr. Aikman declined to be a candidate. At an extra meeting held on December 6, 1824, the company gave expression to their choice for chief engineer to be recommended to the corporation to succeed Thomas Franklin, who had resigned. They cast ten votes for P. W. Engs, and three votes for Uzziah Wenman. Further, the sum of ten dollars was subscribed towards procuring a service of plate to be presented to Mr. Franklin. Jamieson Cox was appointed to succeed Mr. Franklin, and the "Mutuals" at a meeting held on December 16, petitioned the Common Council to rescind their action and appoint either Mr. Engs or Mr. Wenman. William P. Disosway, merchant, of 45 Pearl Street, joined the company on December 27, 1824, and was elected representative on August 11, 1825, in place of William A. F. Pentz, who had been appointed fire warden. On May 11, 1826, Alexander Wiley was elected foreman, and W. F. Disosway, assistant. Mr. Wiley resigned on October 9, and one month later, John Wright, Jr., was elected in his place. At a fire in Maiden Lane, on March 8, 1827, David W. Raynor, a member of the company, lost his life. On March 17 of that year, Gabriel P. Gratacap joined the company.

Messrs. Wright and Ayres being appointed fire wardens, Wm. P. Disosway was elected foreman at a meeting held on June 25, 1827; Richard F. Carman, assistant foreman; and James N. Van Antwerp, secretary. In the arrangements made for the celebration of the anniversary of the Fire Department on October 14, it was decided that Mr. De Anterisches take the tiller, Davison and Van Antwerp the tongue, and Gratacap the emblem. W. P. Disosway was elected foreman on May 8, 1828; C. T. Lindsley, assistant foreman; J. M. Van Antwerp, secretary; and G. De Angelis and J. M. Van Antwerp, representatives. Samuel C. Hawks was elected secretary on May 14, 1829; Thomas Williams and William Cook, representatives; and Jacob H. Dawson, steward. On May 13, 1830, Mr. Williams was made assistant, and James A. coffin, secretary. They resigned on February 10, 1831, and Thomas Schiefflin and Sylvester Philips were elected in their stead respectively. In October of this year several members sought to get Mr. Schiefflin to resign, alleging that he was becoming incapacitated through ill health. In a letter to Foreman Disosway, read at an extra meeting held on October 13, Mr. Schiefflin repudiates the innuendo that he is not fully as capable of duty as any member of the company, and he severely castigates the gentlemen who exhibited so much pretended solicitude for his welfare. On May 9, 1832, however, he having served his full term, resigned, and John W. Towt was elected in his place. A horse was purchased by the company for eighty-eight dollars, on November 8, 1832. Mr. Disosway resigned the foremanship and his membership on February 14, 1833, and John W. Towt succeeded him, with Samuel C. Titus as assistant. April 3, 1833, it was decided to sell the horse. At the annual meeting on May 9, 1833, Samuel Turner was made assistant foreman, and Edward Tunis secretary. Mr. turner resigned on November 14, and Warren Kimball was made his successor. Hook and Ladder Company No. 4, located in Eldridge Street, attended a fire in Mill Street on the evening of November 8, 1833. The "Mutuals" entertained their "up-town" friends after the extinguishment of the fire, and, besides, gave them the use of their horse to convey home their truck and implements, for all of which No. 4 passed through the usual resolutions. the horse was the occasion of much anxiety to the company, and a man was hired to take care of him. At the funeral obsequies in honor of General Lafayette, held in July, 1834, Smith Burtt carried the company's banner, and George McKenna bore the emblem. Mr. Kimball resigned the assistant foremanship on November 13, 1834, and Edward Tunis was elected thereto, Warren Slover becoming secretary.

The minutes regarding the great fire of 1835 read:

December 15, 10-1/2 P.M., fire in Water Street. Did duty and watch.

December 16, 3-1/2 A.M. Went to the old fire.

December 16, 9 P. M. the largest fire New York ever saw in Merchant, Pearl, Water , Front, South, William, Hanover, Exchange Place, Beaver Street, Coenties slip, Gouverneur Lane, Jones Lane, Stone Street, the Exchange, and the South Dutch Church. Absent, none.

May 11, 1836, the horse was reported as being unfit for duty, and a committee was appointed to dispose of the animal to the best advantage. An expression of opinion was evoked at this date on the subject of the reinstatement of James Gulick as chief engineer, and an affirmative resolution was defeated by a vote of Twelve to six. . The officers elected for the year 1836-'37 were: Edward Tunis, foreman; John S. Winthrop, Jr., assistant foreman; Alexander Morrison, secretary; Thomas Kennedy, steward; and George F. Randolph, representative. The committee on "horse" reported on august 12 that they had "traded" for another quadruped, giving sixty dollars to boot.

The trouble in the department in the fall of 1836, when breaches of discipline and disorganization seemed about to become general, caused the "Mutuals" to adopt a resolution that they would continue to discharge their duties as formerly, and on September 27 John Ryker, Jr., chief engineer sent them a complimentary letter therefor. It should be mentioned that the vote on the resolution was thirteen yeas to eleven nays. In April, 1837, it seemed to be the determination of the Common Council to remove John Ryker, Jr., from the office of chief engineer, whereupon the "Mutuals" passed a series of resolutions setting forth that such action was prompted by malicious persons who desired rather the ascendancy of political principles than the good of the Fire Department, and expressing the fullest confidence in Mr. Ryker's ability and honesty. At the annual meting in May of this year, Mr. Tunis was re-elected foreman, Thomas Kennedy was elected assistant, and Hopkins P. Hall was made a representatives; and a resolution was adopted stigmatizing the removal of Mr. Ryker as an outrage tending to the destruction of good order, efficiency, and harmony. Cornelius V. Anderson was appointed chief to succeed Mr. Ryker.

The business complexion of the company had by this time completed changed, for, whereas in years past, as may be seen by the roster, the majority--in fact, nearly all the members--were coopers, we now find not a single follower of that honorable occupation, the members being principally accountants and merchants. On June 13, 1837, John A. Hughes, accountant, was elected foreman, whereupon seven members resigned. On August 7, he was petitioned to resign in the interests of the harmony, efficiency and prosperity of the company, which Mr. Hughes did, and Smith Burtt, grocer, was elected foreman. At a special meeting held November 14, Thomas Kennedy was removed from the position of assistant foreman, and from membership. Warren Slover was elected to succeed him as assistant foreman. Mr. Edward Tunis was again elected foreman in 1838, and re-elected in 1839, with William, H. Tunis as assistant, Hopkins P. Hall as secretary, and Augustus Campbell as steward. The company consisted of only thirteen members at this time. On May 4, 1840, Hopkins P. Hall was elected foreman, Augustus Campbell, assistant, and William King secretary. In 1841 Mr. Hall was re-elected, Alexander Morrison made assistant, Oliver H. Hick, secretary, and J. L. Carew steward.

The following is a list of the members elected during the year from May 1, 1843, to May 6, 1844: George W. Phyfe, S. F. Jenkins, James Irwin, S. McCamley, J. S. Ayman, August Brown, Le Grand Lockwood, J. W. Bradley, H. Bradley, J. Corse, Jr., William Q. Clark. The following resigned during that year: A. M. Sayre, J. R. Whelpley, August 5, 1844, Mr. Hall resigned the foremanship which he had so long honorably held, and William H. Geib was elected as his successor. In May, 1845, the company consisted of twenty members, among whom were the Messrs. Charles W., Isaac E., Edward C., and Henry S. Cotheal. On the fifth of May, Mr. H. P. Hall resigned from the company. Mr. Geib resigned the foremanship in September, 1845, and S. F. Jenkins, merchant, 188 Front Street, succeeded him. May 3, 1847, G. R. Smith clerk, 18 Ferry Street, was elected foreman. He was re-elected in 1848, with T. Gentel as assistant and P. S. Hine as secretary, who resigned in October, and S. F. Jenkins was elected in his place. At this time the company had received a new truck, of which they felt very proud, considering it the "handsomest truck in the City of New York." On November 28 the company cast fifteen voles in favor of Alfred Carson for chief engineer, and on December 13 gave the same number of votes in favor of Clark Vanderbilt as assistant engineer, rendered vacant by Mr. Carson's election.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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