Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 48, Part I

By Holice and Debbie



Enforcing Order and Discipline. -- The Metropolitan Getting Into Harness. -- Active Co-Operation

Of the Old companies. -- Chief Decker Required top Continue in the Performance of his

Duty. -- The Chief Relieved at His own Request from Further Service. -- Volunteer Companies

Mustered Out. -- Retirement of Engineers. -- Introduction of a Uniform. -- Regulations

For The Guidance of Fireman. -- The Board Acknowledges the Services of the

Volunteers. -- Fire, Academy of Music; Tragic Death of Two Brave Firemen.

The new commissioners, after securing counsel, decided to go on arranging for the organization of the department,. but to keep their proceedings secret. The committee appointed to see Comptroller Brennan reported that he "wanted time for reflection." Street Commissioners Cornell could not comply because of the injunction. Chief Decker, to check an ugly spirit that had manifested itelf, issued a circular, in which he said tht in his opinion the bill for a Paid Department was unconstitutional, but if the courts decided otherwise the volunteers should and would acquiesce quietly, and surrender their quarters and apparatus. He ordered the force to continue to perform duty under the ordinance of December 31, 1864, and threatened to disband any company guilty of a breach of peace, disobedience of orders, or neglect of duty. The new commissioners requested the clerk of the Common Council, David T. Valentine, to comply with Section 21 of the Metropolitan Act, requiring him to register and return all firemen. Chief Decker was requested to make legal returns to Mr. Valentine. The engineers in charge in Brooklyn reported their force organized and ready for instruction and communication. May 10, at a meeting of Volunteer delegates at Firemen's Hall, Engine Companies Nos. 10, 15, 35, 38, 42, and 53; Hose companies Nos. 21, 25, 36; and 39; and Hook and Ladder companies Nos. 7 and 8 were recorded as in favor of the New Department. the new commissioners met the same day. there were six or seven hundred application for appointment as paid firemen, many of them from volunteers, and the following blank was issued:


To the Board of Commissioners of the metropolitan Fire Department:

The undersigned respectfully solicits an appointment as______________ in the 
Metropolitan Fire Department. Has served as a fireman in the city of ______________for the
period of_________ years in Company No.______
Married or Single______________________


This settled all doubt of the intention of the new board to appoint Volunteers, and had a good effect. The new commissioners were desirous of having the best advice obtainable, and they invited the following gentlemen, who were regarded as thoroughly au fait in fire matters, to meet them:

Zophar Mills James M. McLean
Thomas Boese Peter N. Cornwell
George T. Hope John A. Cregier
Carlisle Norwood James M. McGregor

Messrs. McLean, Hope, Cregier and McGregor, and J. B. Leverich and James Pinckney met the commissioners a couple of days later and gave their views, and on the nineteenth of May the following estimate of the expenses of the Department for 1865 was prepared, and Mayor Gunther and Comptroller Brennan were invited to met the board as a Board of Estimate.

Basis.--30 steamers with tenders attached, 17 hook and ladder trucks with appurtenances complete, 2 hand engines and tenders.

5 new first-class steamers with tenders complete


Repairing and altering apparatus, viz.: hook and ladder trucks, engines, and furnishing tenders


Building stables and altering houses




Feed for horses




New Hose


Fuel, oil and other supplies


Repairing apparatus


Gas and Gas fixtures


Contingencies-Office furniture, stationery, etc.


Telegraph Supplies




Secretary, clerks, messengers, and yard men


Telegraph Operators




Chief engineer


12 assistant engineers


30 engineers for steamers


40 foremen of companies


40 assistant foremen


40 drivers


30 stokers


10 tiller men


280 hose and truck men


100 men for hand apparatus




May 22, Messrs. Engs, and booth were appointed a committee "to examine reports of operations of fire department of other cities, and collect therefrom such items as may be of interest to the Board, and present a report, with such rules and regulation for the Department as may be necessary," and Commissioner Engs moved "that the subject of communication by telegraph for fires be referred to a special committee of two to report what will be required to be done in addition to the present arrangements in order to secure its entire advantages, and enable the city to dispense with bellringing." The motion was carried, and Messrs. Pinckney and Brown were appointed. Badges, a seal, and uniforms were discussed at this meeting. On the twenty-seventh of May, Edwin Estes, foreman of Hook and Ladder Company No 7, tendered the services of his company to the new commissioners. June 20 the Court of appeals reversed the decision of the General Term of the Supreme Court. The opinion was given by Judge Henry E. Davis, and was concurred in by all except Judge John W. Brown.

The commissioners met next day at No. 156 Broadway, and Treasurer Engs presented the draft of an address to the firemen of the City of new York which was adopted, and ordered to be published, as follows:


The Act entitled "An Act of create a metropolitan Fire Department and establish a Fire Department therein," having been decided by the Court of appeals to be constitutional, the commissioners under said Act deem it to be their duty to apprise you of the fact, and to declare their purpose of organizing, without unnecessary delay, the metropolitan Fire Department.

This incipient step in our official capacity is in advance of all other action tht your attention maybe called to the following extracts from the law under which we act.

Section. 5. -- The said "metropolitan Fire Department" is hereby empowered and directed to possess and exercise fully and exclusively all the powers and perform all the duties for the government, management, maintenance, and direction of the Fire Department of the City of New York.

Section 19. -- All members of the present fire Department, regularly enrolled at the time of the passage of this Act, shall be retained by the present Chief Engineer under oath to the Clerk of the Common Council of said City of New York, who shall faithfully perform their duties until regularly discharged by said Commissioners, and not otherwise; shall be entitled to all the privileges and exemptions to which exempt firemen are entitled by the laws of this State.

Section 20. -- Immediately on the organization of said Department, all persons who shall be firemen in the City of new York shall be under the control and government of said Metropolitan Fire Department, and if the shall so remain until they are discharged by said Department, shall be entitled to all the privileges and exemptions allowed by the State of New York, the same as if they served the full term as prescribed by the laws of the State of New York, and the said Department shall have full power to discharge by resolution said firemen or any portion of them whenever they may deem proper.

The Act requires that in selecting the appointees of the Metropolitan Fire Department preference shall be given to those applicants who have served in the Volunteer Department, and this shall be most cheerfully complied with, the board being now ready to receive applications from such of them as may feed disposed to serve in the new organization.

The expressed determination of many of the officers and members of the volunteer Department top continue their aid until the New Department is on operation demands from us an acknowledgment of this manifestation of public spirit and regard for law and order, and assures our fellow-citizens tht the changes which are to take place will be made in a manner to secure public safety.

The commissioners enter upon their duties with some practical knowledge of the various labors which are imposed upon them, but encouraged on their way by the belief that the entire success which has attended the establishment of a Paid Department in other cities cannot fail to be realized here, and that our brother firemen, with whom it has been our happiness to act in the Volunteer Department will, in the end, agree with us that the system, now about to be introduced, is adapted to the best interests of our fellow-citizens. In relation to the Charity Fund of our old volunteer Department, it will be both our duty and our pleasure to sustain it by every means in our power, and to give any support to the Trustees of that Fund in continuance of its noble benefits.

C. C. Pinckney, P. W. Engs, James W. Brown, M. B. Booth

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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