Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 40, Part V

By Holice and Debbie

No. 14. -- Columbian ("Wide Awake"). -- this company was organized May 11, 1854, with Robert S. Dixon as foreman, Kinloch S. Derickson as assistant, Robert Wright as secretary, William Hutchings as treasurer, and ten others as members. They commenced doing duty from a temporary location, erected at their own expense, in Greenwich Street, near Amos Street, June 3, 1854. In July, 1854, the assistant foreman resigned, and Edward La Bas was elected and served until October , 1854, when he retired from the position, and Robert Wright was elected assistant, and served until May, 1856, when he was elected foreman in place of Robert S. Dixon, who died February 5, 1855, from injuries sustained while going to an alarm of fire December 25, 1855. Dixon had been struck in the back by the tongue of Engine No. 29. In May, 1855, Howell Vail was elected assistant foreman, and continued until May, 1858, when John L. Gulick was elected. He continued in office up to May, 1860, when Abraham H. Brown was elected. On October, 1855, the company removed to an old building, 96 Charles Street, on the site of the new building afterwards erected for them, and performed duty from there until May, 1856, when they were compelled to retire from active service until their new house was completed, which was in January, 1857, when they took possession, housing a new truck just finished by Pine & Hartshorn. The house and apparatus were among the best in the city, and the former was thoroughly furnished in the finest style. It contained a splendid meeting room and parlor, a neat and well-appointed bunk room and truck room. There was a beautiful little garden attached to the house, where on summer evenings the members would while away their leisure time; and if the duties of a fireman had difficulties it also had charms in an evening spent at such a resort of the truck house of Hook and Ladder Company No. 14. There was a large and excellent library in the truck house, the contribution of friends of the company. Robert Wright, and Abraham H. Brown were re-elected foreman and assistant for several years, when Brown was promoted to the foremanship, and Charles O. shay, the present Chief of the Paid Department, was made assistant foreman. The last foreman of the company was James C. Gregory. John Kennard was a representative for many years, as were also Charles F. M. Church, and Robert Wright, after his retirement form the foremanship. Also on the tolls were Hugh Curry (the champion pipe holder), David M. Cooper, Kenneth McKenzie, John T. Hall, Wm. E. Laurence, John T. Rogers, Stewart Pierson, John H. F. C. Hamilton, Wm. H. Ingraham, William Paulscraft, and Philip Vores; and among the many who served their time out were: Charles E. Clearman, George S. Brant, Jacob Van Orden (a model fireman), E. G. Newman, James Wright, George C. Goeller, Daniel A. Anderson, John Fulton, Amzie L. Camp, Oscar Lyon, Lewis Mason, Jesse W. Ramsey, and James H. Mabie. During the war of the rebellion the records of the company show that fourteen active members enlisted in the various volunteer regiments of the city; five went with the First Regiment Fire Zouaves, one of whom, James R. Tappan, was instantly killed at the first battle of Bull Run.

No. 15. -- Baxter. -- This company was organized August, 1855, by Benjamin F. Brady, Samuel A. Besson, Isaac M. Moore, J. B. Zimmerman, J. H. Whitmore, and about fifteen others. They located at 153 Franklin Street, and the following were elected as their first officers: John H. Steele, foreman; Wm. P. Steele, assistant; Daniel P. Steele, secretary; and Samuel Archer and Thos. F. Goodwin representatives. At the following election Wickham was made foreman, with Goodwin assistant, both being old expert firemen. At the next election Wickham was re-elected foreman, and John Andrews elected assistant. The company has been using a truck that had been built for No. 11 in 1853, which fell to the lot of No. 15 when No. 11 was disbanded in December, 1855, and this truck the company had rebuilt in 1856. At the election of 1858 John Andrews was elected foreman and a. a. Jones assistant, and in 1859 the company had their truck again rebuilt. In 1861 a. A. Jones was elected foreman and Wm. H. Runnett assistant, and they were re-elected in the two following years. In 1863 the company housed a new truck, built by Charles E. Hartschorn. In 1864 they elected John Andrews (who had held the position in 1859) as third foreman. From their first organization this company was in cramped quarters, and, although they petitioned for a new house and tried hard to obtain one, they were not as successful as some companies who did far less duty than they did. Andrews was re-elected foreman, and R. H. Murray was re-elected assistant, and were the last officers of the company which was mustered out by the Metropolitan Fire Department. Wm. H. Wickham, after leaving the foremanship, was elected a representative of the company, his colleague being Charles F. Allen, both of whom served for many years, and until the last. During the war of the rebellion Messrs. Allen, Ames, Parks, Belknap, Vigar, the two Whitings, Barnes, Crolius, Chamberlain, Neale, Colburn, Hogan, Goodwin, and Connolly volunteered in the Union army from this company. Joseph Skillman, who was killed in 1861 at a fire in Fulton Street, near Greenwich Street, belonged to this company. The company was assigned to duty in the Seventh and Eighth Districts, and were located in the old house of Hook and Ladder company No. 11, at 153 Franklin Street, which was disbanded in 1853. Mr. Wickham was elected secretary of the New York fire Department in 1862; and president in 1863

No. 16. -- Manhattan. -- Liberty. -- this company was organized on Monday, October 10, 1859, by a number of old fire vamps of the department, among them James M. Macgregor, superintendent of buildings, coroner and health warden, Robert Gamble, Geo. Mountjoy, sergeant-at-arms of the Board of Aldermen, Isaac Keyser, George Whitfield, S. McBride, Patrick Russell, Wm. H. Rich, and half-a-dozen others. They secured a location on the corner of Lexington Avenue and Forty-ninth Street, and obtaining a second-hand truck, elected the following officers: foreman, Robert Gamble; assistant foreman, James M. Macgregor; secretary, George Winfield; representatives, George Mountjoy and S. McBride. They took the name of "Manhattan," and on going into their new quarters they held a regular old-fashioned reunion, inviting all members of the department to call. It was a great night for "Bob" Gamble, for such he was called among all the boys; he never felt so proud as he did on this occasion; George Mountjoy and Gamble were the life of the crowd. James A. Macgregor presided over the viands, surrounded by Chief Howard, Assistants Brice, Decker, McGrath, Tim West, any numbers of officers and members of the various companies, not forgetting old Davy Theall. In 1860 Gamble was re-elected foreman, but some little dissatisfaction arose over the name "Manhattan," and finally, on a close vote, it was changed to "Liberty." In 1861 they moved into their new house, corner Lexington Avenue and Fiftieth Street, and in 1862 brought home their new truck, built by Charles E. Hartshorn. This was an occasion for another grand festival, and none forgot the night the new truck was housed. The following year Gamble was again elected as leader of the company. Among its members at this time were John Rourke, Henry Murphy, Matthew Dale, William Ellicott, John Hogan, James Talilu and James Garry. During this year Macgregor resigned, and John H. Noakes was elected assistant. He was soon followed by John Rourke. M. D. Tompkins, the first recipient of the "Bennett Medal" given for bravery at fires, was a member. He finally moved to Connecticut, where he was elected to the Legislature. At the breaking out of the war several of the members joined the army. In 1863 Michael and James Garry, Ed. J. Hackett, John H. Pentz, Wm. Moss, John Conarton, James Halpin and Thomas Hart were on the active roll. The "Liberty" boys had but one foreman from its organization down to the time it was mustered out of service in 1865, and Robert Gamble was beloved by all. Another great feature about this company was that they never had a split; they were always harmonious, and continued in active service down to the last day of the Old Volunteers.

No. 17. -- John Decker. -- Organized March 5, 1860, located at Tenth Avenue and one Hundred and Fifty-ninth Street, and went out of service in 1865. Among the members were Patrick McDade, foreman; Wm. P. Smith, assistant; Samuel King, Peter Golden, John Conway, Peter Brady, Charles E. Carman, and Bernard Reilly.

No. 18. -- Hibernian. -- The Hibernians were the last truck company organized in the Old Department. It originated in the Fourteenth Ward, a large number of the members being butchers in Centre Market. No. 18 dates from August 8, 1860. Alderman Peter Moneghan, James Barry, Sr., Thomas McCauley, Cornelius Desmond, John F. Dowling, James Barry, Jr., James Carty, Francis C. Gilmore, Daniel Keeley, John Clancy, Thomas Doyle, and William Morris were among the first to sign the roll. In two days over fifty names were handed in, asking to be elected members of the company. They secured a temporary location at 270 Mott Street, near Prince opposite St. Patrick's church, and her they elected the first officers, viz.: James Carty, foreman; James Barry, Jr., assistant foreman; F. C. Gilmore, secretary; and alderman Peter Moneghan and Cornelius Desmond representatives. An old rebuilt truck was furnished them from the corporation yard, which was painted green and mounted with a double deck signal, they started out with a full compliment of forty men; and were assigned to the Fifth and Sixth Districts. The first night the truck was housed a grand reception was given by their friends, Foreman Carty, with Desmond, Barry, Clancy, and Condon acting as the committee. Chief Decker, Assistants Kingsland, Perley, McGrath, Lewis, Commissioner Henry Wilson, Hon. John Morrissey, Alderman Moneghan, Alderman Twomey, and others being among the visitors. The following year Carty was re-elected foreman. John Hoare, David Callaghan, P. M. White, P. M. Reilly, Wm. Casey, Patrick Scott, John Feeley, Hugh Carey and Owen Kehoe were among its members. In 1862 they brought home their new truck, built by Van Ness, and, it is needless to add, that she was the finest hook and ladder truck on the east side. They had a grand reception the day they brought it home, especially by the citizens of the Fourteenth Ward. Every man, woman and child in the old fourteenth seemed to be a member of Hook and Ladder 18 that night. About 1863 were found as members Peter Ryan, C. M. Clancy, Wm. Heaney, Thos. McGinness, Richard Condon, Francis Margin, Robert Elf, John McCauley and Timothy Donavon. The company bunked over twenty men, and was never known to get a block away form the house before their rope was lined, and with never less than thirty caps. In 1863 James Barry, Jr., was elected foreman and Thomas McCauley assistant. Barry was re-elected the following year, and Cornelius Desmond assistant, both serving until the close of the Department. In 1864 they moved into their new house, 185 Elizabeth Street, at which a regular old-fashioned housewarming took place. Here were found as members John Creegan, James Dowling, William McNalley, Thomas Burcell, John Cull, and John Barry. No company could show a better roll then the Hibernians.


No. 1. -- Was organized in 1832. Among the members were: Charles A. Macy, foreman, resigned February 26, 1841; George S. Cook, Eagle Insurance Company, assistant, resigned February 26, 1841; Edmund Penfold, Henry Stanton, Walter Titus, Jr., Wm. C. Taylor, Wm. Marshall, Sila R. Bebee, S. J. Leggett, Silas Lord, and J. H. Voorhees, merchant.

No. 2. -- Was organized on June 1, 1839. Among the members were: Henry W. Belcher, foreman, resigned September 18, 1854; John S. Belcher, assistant foreman, resigned November 7, 1854; Herman Van Rensselaer, David M. Turnure, John R. White, Jordan Woodruff and George W. Elder.

No. 3. -- Was organized on June 1, 1839, with Alexander Makin, foreman; John Thompson, assistant; Stephen Pell, Howard R. martin, Francis P. Freeman, B. Strang, Samuel Saunders, and John D. Robbins.

No. 4. -- Was organized April 18, 1853. Among the members were : Hiram Engle, foreman; James W. Smith, assistant foreman; Garret L. Schuyler, Bernard Kelly, Wm. H. Taylor, and Edwin A. Gregory.

On March 19, 1855, the Board of Aldermen adopted the following resolution which was approved by the Mayor on April 21, 1855:

Resolved, That the chief engineer of the Fire Department be, and he is hereby directed, not to receive the returns of any members of the Hydrant Companies who may join after the passage of this resolution.

Consequently this order terminated the existence of the Hydrant companies.

Mr. E. B. Child, old-time editor of the Firemen's Journal, has penned the following graphic and humorous sketch of


The writer regrets that all the histories treating of fire matters are deficient, for they do not tell the present generation about "the hydrant company that never was passed." To remedy in a great measure the injustice of this omission, the writer jots down form memory his recollections of a famous race of that same hydrant company. It was a race that stirred the heart, and the remembrance of it causes the blood to tingle in the veins of even such an old fogy as the writer.

It was night in October; 40 turned from Mulberry Street into Grand, Old new Yorkers remember 40--Lady Washington Engine Company No. 40--a solid company of solid citizens who knew how to do fire duty. They were

Firemen with pleasure,
Soldiers at leisure,

and the Gulick guards were celebrated not only for their fine appearance, but for the way they went through the manual of arms, and the writer is doubtful whether any of the crack military companies of the present day could excel them.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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