Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 40, Part III

By Holice and Debbie

In the years 1848, 1849, and 1850, there were among the members David Underhill, Silas Brower, and Ellis N. Crow, the well-known stableman, one of the best supporters the company ever had. Then, in '52, were James P. Decker, John J. Ferris, James Kellock, George W. Williams, and Charles H. Egbert. At the laying of the corner-stone of the Firemen's Hall many will remember the grand reception No. 6 gave. A large platform was erected over the sidewalk, and here the ceremonies took place. When the building was completed, hook and Ladder No. 6 took the north side of the first floor for their location, and Hose Company No. 5 the south side. About this time Gus. Hamilton, Jacob Larrick, and William J. Harkins joined. Then came the organization of the celebrated "Knights of the Round Table," composed of all the members of Hook and Ladder No. 6, and many of the leading members of the Fire Department and theatrical profession, among whom were Lester Wallack, Dolly Davenport, Blake, Nelse Seymour, Harry Bryant, Ed. Lamb, Harry Benson, the Buckley Brothers, Bob Hart, Tom Pendegrast, Charles Parsloe, together with Inspector Daniel Carpenter, Capt. Turnbull, of the Eight Ward police, Sandy Spencer, Campbell N. Gole, Thomas Parker, and Charles Dobbs. They held an annual feast every Christmas Eve at the truck house, which commenced after all the theaters were closed at night.

In 1859 the company visited Albany in a splendid new yacht, and had a most delightful visit. They were gone about a week, but took no apparatus with them. During the breaking out of the war there were added to the roll James Tominy of Wallack's Theater, Harry W. Peck, George W. Wilson of Winter Garden, Howard O'Hara, Joseph R. Wheeler, F. W. Melvin, James Moffatt, C. K. Bills, Henry O. Baker, Asssitant Fire Marshal Charles H. Nesbitt, and toward the closing up of the organization, Jacob Zimmerman of Niblo's Garden, Fernando Wood, Jr., and John Reilly, who was the last man. About 1862 they brought home one of the handsomest trucks ever connected with the old Department. It was gold plated from tongue to tiller, while the signal was of a new style, bearing a shield on four sides--two with the stars and stripes on glass plates, and the other two with the figure and name of the company. The following gentlemen commanded the company as foremen from its organization: David G. Van Winkle, Lawrence Crumb, Jacob Lozaba, James N. Murray, John Lightbody, John Creighton, George Boyd, S. F. E. Kirby, John K. Evans, Washington E. Barton, James K. Kellogg, Augustus Hamilton, and Frederick Melvin. Among the assistants were: George W. Williams, James timothy, and C. A. W. Ryerson; while among the most efficient secretaries and treasurers were Charles H. Egbert, Mortimer Marsh, John Underhill, and George W. Blanchard.

In 1861 this company gave an exhibition in the park of the first extension ladder and truck ever brought out. It was patented by Mickle & Carville, Mickle being an exempt member of Hook and Ladder 1, and son of ex-Mayor Andrew H. Mickle. At the Prince of Wales' review, they paraded the two trucks, decorated with over one thousand dollars' worth of new flags. The company sent ten members to the war, most of whom were killed on the battlefield. In 1864 Augustus Hamilton, of Wallack's theater, was chosen foreman, he having also served as assistant the year previous. During the riots this company did most efficient duty, and when a band of conspirators attempted to destroy the principal hotels, Mr. Hamilton stationed his men in the Metropolitan, St. Nicholas, Revere, commercial, and St. Clair Hotels, and kept them there for several nights. George Wilson, head carpenter at the Winter Garden, walked off the three-story frame building at a fire on the southwest corner of Broadway and Bleecker Street in 1863, falling in the yard, but, strange to say, none of his bones were broken, and in ten days he was up again and reported for duty. Edward Deacon was injured at a fire in Wooster Street in 1854. In 1865 Frederick W., Melvin was elected foreman, who remained until the company was disbanded. This company was noted for their chowder parties and suppers. Every Saturday night they would give an entertainment, and received a great many visiting firemen. Among the many companies they welcomed to their house were Hose Company No. 7, 24; Engine 21, 34; Engine Company No. 13 of Williamsburg; and Hook and Ladder 1 of Hoboken.

No. 7. -- Mechanics. -- Was organized September 7, 1837; located at One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Street and Third Avenue; removed in 1861 to One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street and Third Avenue, and remained there until the camp fires of the Old Department were extinguished. About the time of the organization of No. 7, there was a "road house" at the northwest corner of One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street and Third Avenue, known as "Bradshaw's," a favorite stopping place for fast trotters. Bradshaw was one of the early foreman of No. 7. John Kenyon, postmaster of Harlem for sixteen years, was foreman for a long time, also John Prophet, Samuel Christie, and Henry A. Southerton. Many of the best citizens of Harlem were members. Colwell, the lumber merchant; George W. Thompson, an old settler and businessman, and Frederick Goll, who was the last foreman. When the Metropolitan Department took control, No. 7 was invited to remain; they accepted, and each received at the rate of one thousand dollars per year; served with the New Department about fourteen months, and then passed away. Afterwards the remaining members claimed full pay, and put their claims in the hands of "Tom Fields." He collected the money, and, it is alleged, reimbursed himself the like generous soul he was.

No. 8. -- Empire.-- Organized September 6, 1848; located at Eighth Avenue and Forty-eighth Street; and went out of service in 1865. Among the members were Nicholas Seagrist, a prominent character uptown, and known as the "Sage of Bloomingdale"; Lewis P. Guther, foreman; Peter Fleck, assistant foreman, (the foreman resigned August 6, 1862, and the assistant February 6, 1861); Henry Leber Mason, John Butcher, Peter Hudson, and Havier Hartwick.

No. 9. -- America. -- This company was organized on Tuesday evening, October 7, 1851. The following were elected officers,: Alexander W. Murray, foreman; George h. Tinsdale, assistant; Edward Stevenson, secretary; James Thompson, treasurer; James E. Watson and Jacob Smith, representatives. The company was located in the house occupied by No. 7 Engine in Third Avenue, and proved a great benefit to the up-town portion of the Fire Department. At the annual meeting held at the Bull's Head Hotel, May 11, 1852, the following were elected officers for the ensuing year: Robert V. Davis, foreman; James province, assistant; William C. Tallmadge, secretary; James H. Thompson, treasurer; James E. Watson and Jacob Smith, representatives. The company was disbanded on December 28, 1855.

Washington (the second No. 9). -- Was organized July 19, 1856, by William Tapper, Anthony A. Oliver, John H. Forman, John D. Ottiwell, John L. Tapper, John McCann, John B. Young, P. Henry Brady, Charles F. Lovejoy, Charles Norman, Samuel Oscar, Robinson W. Smith, and Abraham L. Dixon. They located at 337 Fourth Avenue, and William Tapper was elected the first foreman, and John H. Forman subsequently held this office. Their next location was at 132 East Twenty-sixth Street; after 1859 in Twenty-eighth Street, near Third Avenue; and went out of service in 1865. Among other members were Robert Amos, John K. Finck, Valentine Heiner, George B. Nicholson, Ferdinand Heigmann, Francis Dinsmore and Isaac H. Archer.

No. 10. -- Narragansett. -- Cornelius V. Anderson. -- This company was organized on July 1, 1839. For a number of years previous to 1857 old Narragansett lay in Yorkville--at that time hardly more than a suburban village, although within the corporate limits of the city--at the corner of Eighty-fifth Street and Third Avenue. In the year mentioned, the company was by no means and alert or active one, its list of membership being made up very largely of those who enrolled as firemen in order to have a plausible excuse whereby to escape jury duty. Many of the members lived miles from the company's headquarters, and were never seen except when an election for officers was being held, or on some other special occasion. A majority of them would have been puzzled to identify the truck, and so seldom was it used that a rumor to the effect that a hen had hatched a brood of chickens under it entirely undisturbed, gained general credence in Yorkville about this time. In the spring of 1858, a number of members of Water witch engine Company No. 10, also stationed in Yorkville, joined the Narragansett Company for the avowed purpose of instituting a reform, Yorkville, with its many frame buildings, being greatly in need of a reliable company. Among these new members were A. O. Allcock, and G. C. Hebberd, Jr., soon afterwards elected respectively foreman and assistant foreman of the company by the efforts of the reform element, and greatly to the discomfiture of the "dead heads." The infusion of new blood produced good results, the discipline of the company was greatly improved, and the truck was always out at the clang of the bell, doing duty in the First and Second Districts. During the year which ensued until the next election, the "dead heads" in the spring of 1859, at the annual election, mustered in full force, and being numerically stronger than the opposition, elected their own officers, and took control of the company again. Complaint was made to the Fire commissioners, Wm. M. Tweed being president at the time. Both sides were heard, and after considering the matter for some weeks, the commissioners decided to disband the company, it being impossible to reconcile the conflicting elements. The organization of a new company was thereupon recommended by the Board. Two petitions were presented to the Board, one headed by John B. Miller, ex-assistant engineer of the Department, new to Yorkville at that time, but old in experience relating to fire matters. The other was headed by William H. Johnson. The petition headed by Mr. Miller was granted, and a company of thirty-six active firemen was organized, including many from the Narragansett Company. Mr. Miller was elected foreman, and William Hunt, better known in Yorkville as "Daddy Hunt," and who, though very active, was, according to his own account of the time he had spent in various localities, nearly two hundred and seventy-two years old was elected assistant foreman. The foreman only accepted the office after much persuasion, with the understanding that he would only continue to fill the office until the company was thoroughly organized. In June, 1859, the company chose the name of Cornelius v. Anderson No. 10, and took possession of the truck and hose vacated by the Narragansetts. It continued to grow in numbers until the full complement of sixty men was reached, and the service of the company became so much improved as to win praise from the officers of the department. In recognition of the zeal of the company, the Common council, in January, 1860, gave to it a new and handsome truck built by William Williams. After the truck was received it was felt that a new truck house would be in order, the old one being entirely too small. A petition was presented to the common council in February, 1860, asking that a new house be erected in Eighty-seventh Street, on a lot belonging to the city. The request was granted, and the building was ordered erected as soon as an appropriation could be procured for it. The house was finished, and the company occupied it for the first time December 13, 1862. On this occasion a grand ball and entertainment was given. The parlors and gymnasium were crowded with representative citizens of Yorkville and their families, and delegations were present from nearly all the fire companies of the city. A fine supper was supplied by a popular caterer of the time, and dancing was kept up until the morning. In the midst of the dancing the old tower bell in Eighty-fifth Street sounded the alarm for the Harlem District and the fire laddies left in their swallow-tails for the scene of the fire, telling the guests to go on and enjoy themselves until their return. It proved to be a false alarm, and the members were soon back enjoying the festivities. During an intermission, the secretary of the company, R. N. Hebbard, arose, and in a neat speech, on behalf of the company, presented the foreman, Mr. Miller, with a solid silver trumpet, elegantly engraved, and a full-sized oil portrait of himself in uniform. It was a complete surprise to the foreman, who, as soon as he could recover his speech, thanked the company most heartily. At the next meeting of the company Mr. Miller insisted upon the acceptance of his resignation as foreman, to the regret of all. He still continued as a member, never losing his interest. G. C. Hebberd, Jr., was then chosen as foreman, and continued to hold the position until the disbandment of the Old Department in 1865. During the "draft riots," this company alone, of all those up-town, did continuos duty from Monday, July 13, 1863, to the following Saturday, when order was again restored. Patrol duty was continued for several days thereafter, and many expressions of thanks were received from the citizens up-town who had property at stake. The headquarters in Eighty-seventh Street is still used by the new Department.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

You are the Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site´┐Ż Since March 9, 2001.

March 2001

[Firefighters Index][NY AHGP][NY ALHN]