Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 45, Part V

By Holice and Debbie


While it must be admitted that the old Volunteer firemen are rapidly passing away, a visit to the Veterans firemen's association headquarters, No 53 East Tenth Street, indicates that they maintain the remembrances of the days when they were the young and active protectors of the lives and property of the people of the great metropolis. Just previous to the presidential election in 1884, a number of the old veterans decided to visit Washington and attend the inauguration of President Cleveland. During the latter part of September, just previous to the election, they organized as the Veteran Firemen's Association, with the following officers: Foreman, Geo. T. Patterson; first assistant, William B. Dunley; second assistant, Peter P. Pullis; grand marshal, George B. Conner. On the third of March, 1885, they left the Grand Central hotel, one hundred and sixty-eight men, equipped in full fire-rig, and taking with them an old Philadelphia style of engine built in the year 1838. On their arrival at Baltimore they were the guests of the firemen of that city, and were presented by the mayor, the Hon. F. C. Latrobe, with a full set of twelve keys to the public buildings and parks of the city neatly arranged on a solid shield of copper, and also tendered a banquet. The shield consists of highly burnished copper, 2 X 15 inches, in the center of which is another shield, silver-plated, with the following inscription:

Presented by the Hon. F. C. Latrobe, Mayor,
On their visit to Baltimore and Washington.
March 3d, 4th and 5th, 1885.

Surrounding this was twelve keys, fac-similes of those of the public institutions of Baltimore, viz.: City Hall, engine houses, station houses, parks, theaters, monuments, churches, penitentiary, jail Bay View, night key and the key to the buildings of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, to which is attached a five-cent picket piece. At each corner of the main shield is a model of the Baltimore Monument, and at the top is a pair of clasped hands. A silver-plated American eagle, perched on a globe, with red, white, and blue streamers floating from its beak, surmounts the brass standard to which the shield is attached.

After the presentation by Mayor F. C. Latrobe, ex-fire Chief Harry Howard responded, and said:

"Mr. Mayor, it is my happy privilege to respond in behalf of the Veteran Volunteer Firemen of new York, to your very flattering address of welcome, accompanying it with these ancient and beautiful symbols, the keys to your old and magnificent monumental city. We have command of words but they are inadequate to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude; our hearts are filled with what the clergyman terms a halo of rapture in listening to your grand oration and witnessing this enormous gathering of your citizens, who have waited patiently for five hours after the time set for our arrival, to cheer us on our way to Washington to take part in the inauguration of the new government. We have always heard that Baltimore was more like New York than any other place on earth, and top-night proves the assertion to be true. Your Honor says you are proud to have been a Volunteer Fireman, but steam fire engines have superseded them. Sir, we admit that it is partially true, but everything that is now accomplished by steam fire engines, horse power, and paid firemen, was all cheerfully done by the Volunteers with a scant water supply, cumbrous fire apparatus, limited supplies, and the want of nearly all necessary implements for extinguishing fires. The Volunteer rendered all this vast service without pay and without complaint. Imagine the present fireman without steam fire engines, and horses, and you have our case. It is wonderful how we so successfully extinguished fires under all these disadvantages. There was great prejudice in the New York Fire Department to any change. I was one of only a few who favored paying the officers and men and declaring for steam fire brigades in large cities. I knew the people were as favorable to paying the firemen as they were to paying the military and police. I believe tht firemen should have always been paid. When there is no active duty, they have to remain in quarters, which is more confining and tiresome than doing hard work. We hope your firemen will visit New York. Then we will try to reciprocate all your kindness and generosity. Your beautiful symbols we will treasure while life lasts."

On their homeward trip they became guests of the Veteran Firemen's Association of Philadelphia, where they remained for two days. On their return home they reorganized, the following gentlemen being selected as officers:

President--Geo. W. Anderson
Vice-president--John Moller
Secretary--Bernard M. Sweeny
Treasurer--James F. Wenman
Financial Secretary-- J. H. Bartley
Trustees--Frederick A. Ridabock, Eugene Ward,
John Twomey, George T. Patterson, Sr.,
Thomas Barrett, Richard Evans,
Thomas Cleary, Abram C. Hull,
Abram Slaight, Henry Gunther,
Daniel Quinn, Patrick Daily,
William Oxford, Daniel Garvin,
and Henry Jones, Sergeant-at-Arms.

They leased the old Lorillard Mansion, No. 53 East Tenth Street, and fitted it up in a most expensive manner. The basement was turned into one grand meeting room, at the rear of which is as private wine chamber. The walls of the main room are covered with old fire certificates, resolutions, models, trumpets, and emblems of the Old Volunteers.

The first floor or parlors are richly furnished with French Brussel and velvet furniture, while the walls are hung with oil paintings of ex-Chief engineers Harry Howard, James Gulick, Ex-Comptroller Matthew T. Brennan, Harry Mansfield, and W. A. Woodhull. A fine painting of President George W. Anderson and Vice-President John Moller, and a life-size crayon of Alderman Eugene Ward; and an oil painting of ex-Assistant Engineer James F. Wenman were also added to the rooms by their personal friends. The second floor is set apart as a billiard room, containing two tables, the walls being encircled with the fire hats of the members. Projecting from the folding doors are the hose-jackets of Engine 24 and 28, while the walls contain the panels of several engine and hose carriages, the backs of the old gooseneck engines, and the likeness of David C. Broderick of Engine 34, at one time United States Senator from California. The rear extension contains a fine picture of old Firemen's Hall, an old painting of Engine 34, and a model of Putnam Engine 21. On this floor is also a bath-room and closets. The front room, however, is used more readily as a reading room, as it contains a fine library, a large writing desk, and tables for that purpose. In the library, in a large case, encircled in crape, is the fire-cap of Thomas I. Banks, of Hook and Ladder 11, killed July 1, 1862, at a fire in Mott Street. There are also several private rooms in the building, used by the single members, who make this their home.

On the twelfth of September, 1885, the association visited Jamaica, L. I., to attend the agricultural fair, and were received by the firemen of that city, delegates from Greenpoint, Flushing, Hempstead, Riverside, and Long Island City. During the month of October, 1885, they visited Bayonne, N. J., where they were received by the Common Council and the Fire Department, John Wildey, an old New York fireman, acting as grand marshal. During their stay they were the recipients of no less then four presents; of a splendid silk banner from the "Argonauta" Boat Club, one from the Bergen Point Athletic Club, a handsome banner form the ladies of Bayonne, and a set of colors from the Fire Department. On Thursday, October 15, 1885, they received Phoenix Hose Company No. 1, of Poughkeepsie, while en route home after a most delightful visit to Albany, Boston, and Salem, Mayor Ezra White and Chief Engineer William Kaess, of Poughkeepsie, accompanying them. On the twelfth of January, 1886, they gave their first annual ball at the Metropolitan Opera House, delegates from all the leading Fire Departments this die of the Alleghenies being present. The double deck engine that they took to Washington, and the silver carriage of Phoenix Hose No. 1, of Poughkeepsie, that cost about four thousand dollars, were conspicuous at one end of the ball-room. On the twenty-fourth of June, 1886, they visited Iona Island, and on the fourth of October, 1886, they went to Poughkeepsie to take part in the annual parade of the Fire Department of that city. President George W. Anderson was, as usual, in command, ex-assistant engineer James F. Wenman acting as grand marshal. They were received on the evening of their arrival by the whole Fire Department, under Chief engineer W. Kaess, but were the special guests of Phoenix Hose No. 1. They were escorted through the leading streets of the city, amid a blaze of fireworks, six blazing barrels lining both sides of the streets for over two miles, while the people turned out in a mass to bid them welcome. A banquet was given them at Armory Hall, and after the parade on the following day, they were again entertained, the Phoenix boys doing special honors at their carriage house before their departure home. On the twenty-eight of October, 1886, they took part in the unveiling and dedicating of Bartholdi's Statute of Liberty, turning out over two hundred and fifty men. The following are some of the leading members of the association:

Ex-Superintendent of Police James J. Kelso

Nelson D. Thayer

Joseph H. Johnson, the artist

Ex-Chief Engineer Harry Howard

Ex-Chief Engineer Elisha Kingsland

Chief of Battalion Benjamin J. Gicquel

Hon. Jordan L. Mott

Ex-Fire Commissioner Martin B. Brown

Commissioner of Parks Thomas E. Crimmins

Captain of Police Anthony J. Allaire

Colonel W. R. W. Chambers

Ex-Assistant Engineer E. W. Jacobs

Alderman Thomas Cleary

Thomas E. Tripler

John Buckbee

Denis Leary

Christopher Johnson

Anthony Yeomans

And four hundred and eighty more.

Under the auspices of the Veteran's Association a home for the poor and distressed Volunteer Firemen has been chartered, to be known and designated as the "Veteran Firemen's Home Association of the City of New York."

The incorporators are:

George W. Anderson

John Moller

Bernard M. Sweeny

James H. Bartley

James F. Wenman

Frederick A. Ridabock

Eugene Ward

Abraham Slaight

Abram C. Hull

Richard Evans

Daniel Garvey

Thomas Cleary

Henry Gunther

William Oxford

Thomas Barrett

John McCauley

Peter P. Pullis

Timothy Donovan

Robert McWinne

Richard H. Nugent

George T. Patterson

William H. Boyd

William Brandon

Daniel D. Conover

Henry Jones


The management of the institution, by the charter, is vested in seven gentlemen, to wit: George W. Anderson, John Moller, James F. Wenman, Henry Gunther, George T. Patterson, Daniel D. Conover, and William H. Boyd.

MAJOR GEORGE W. McLEAN.--Not long ago the major stated that when he was young he had a leaning toward fire duty, and loved to follow the machine, but an early experience in the financial world obliterated all tendencies of such youthful fancies. He became a power in Wall Street; his name represented vast amounts, and his word was as good as his bond. By an almost unanimous vote, he was elected President of the Stock Exchange, the greatest financial position on this continent. Upon retiring from the street, he was proffered, and accepted the position of Street Commissioners of this city. Although occupying the office at a time of great peril and general distrust, yet on his retirement he was congratulated by our best citizens for the faithful and honest discharge of his duty. The major now fills the very important position of Receiver of Taxes.


The corporate existence of this association dates from August 1, 1886, when the charter received the signature of the Governor.

Its objects were declared to be "the promotion of friendly feelings and social intercourse, to provide a headquarters for the transaction of business connected with the association, together with a reading room where members can meet and extend the friendship now existing among their fathers, to take proper care of the members when sick, and in case of death, as provided in the by-laws of the association, and to allow members of the association, under proper restrictions, to provide a uniform to represent the association in all public parades, etc.; such parades to be made only after obtaining permission of the association.

The first regular meeting was held at Runk's Assembly room, No. 73 Ludlow Street, on Sunday, August 9, 1885, when several members were initiated. Since then, the association has grown rapidly and prospered greatly. It now numbers 150 members. For the past year meetings have been held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month ina commodious hall at No. 295 Bowery.

The present officers of the association are:
C. H. Throckmorton, President
W. H. Pardee, first Vice-President
E. J. Blair, Second Vice-President
James J. Pardee, Treasurer
J. E. Purdy, Financial Secretary
P. E. Ward, Recording Secretary
W. E. Gage, Sergeant-at-Arms.

The association owns a handsome hose carriage, with which it turns out on parades.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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