Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 48, Part X

By Holice and Debbie

On the sixth of September, 1865, the organization of the New Department had so far progressed that the commissioners were able to dispense with the services of the assistant engineers of the Volunteer Department. They recognized their services in the following resolution:

Resolved, that the Metropolitan Fire commissioners are deeply impressed with the obligations they are under to those of the assistant engineers of the Old Volunteer Department, who have up to the present time rendered to them and to the city valuable services since the passage of the law creating a New Department, and they respectfully tender to those gentlemen their most sincere thanks for their aid.

The engineers thus retired were as follows. Several of these were already retired.

Timothy L. West

William Lamb

Joseph L. Perley

Eli Bates

James Long

Bernard Kenny

Bartley Donohue

John Hamill

Michael Shannessy

Alexander V. Davidson

Timothy Sullivan

Peter Weir

Gilbert J. Orr

Thomas Cleary

Michael Halloran

Abram Horn

George H. E. Lynch


The same day the commissioners elected eleven assistant engineers, whose pay was fixed at one thousand two hundred dollars per annum. The following of Chief Decker's staff:

Joseph L. Perley

Gilbert J. Orr

Eli Bates

Thomas Sullivan

Michael Shanessy


Additional assistant engineers:

William Banham, Jr.

W. W. Rhodes

John Conley

Joseph D. Costa

Bernard Sheridan

Peter Y. Everett

Joseph L. Perley was made first assistant engineer, at a salary of two thousand dollars per annum. Two days after, William Lamb, foreman of the Corporation Yard, and Alexander V. Davidson, chief clerk of the chief engineer, were retired. Garrett B. Tunison succeeded Mr. Davidson at a salary of one thousand dollars a year.

Several of the engineers resigned or in other ways left the Department, so that the first official list was as follows:

Engineer Eli Bates

Engine Companies Nos. 3, 14, 18, 33

Engineer Gilbert J. Orr

Engine Companies Nos. 1, 7, 9, 12, 31, and Hook and Ladder Company No. 1

Engineer Thomas Sullivan

Engine Companies Nos. 11, 15, and Hook and Ladder Companies Nos. 6, 11.

Engineer Michael Shannessy

Engine Companies Nos. 2, 19, 23, 34, Hook and Ladder Companies Nos. 4, 12.

Engineer John Conley

Engine Companies Nos. 4, 6, 10, 29, 32, Hook and Ladder Company No. 10.

Engineer B. Sheridan

Engine Companies Nos. 5, 25, 28, Hook and Ladder Companies Nos. 3, 9.

Engineer William W. Rhodes

Engine Companies Nos. 16, 21, 26, Hook and Ladder Company No. 7.

Engineer William Banham, Jr.

Engine Companies Nos. 8, 22, Hook and Ladder Company No. 2.

Engineer Robert V. Mackey

Engine Companies Nos. 17, 20, 24, Hook and Ladder Company No. 5

Engineer William Brandon

Engine Companies Nos. 13, 17, 30, and Hook and Ladder Company No. 8.

The pay of the force was fixed under a construction of the law which created the department as follows:

Chief Engineer--$3,000 per annum

Assistant to Chief--$2,000 per annum

District Engineers--$1,200 per annum

Foreman--$800 per annum

Assistant Foremen--$750 per annum

Engineers--$900 per annum

Ordinary Firemen--#700 per annum

Suburban Engineers--$00 per annum

Each Suburban Company--$1,000 per annum


The embarrassments of the commissioners was not confined to delay in procuring funds. The resigning of members of all grades when companies were thought to be on an active footing, and the active or passive opposition of the element that at last wrecked the Volunteer system. For many weeks the fire companies that were appointed under the act of the thirtieth of March, 1865, wore such uniforms as they chose. When regular uniforms were discusses in September, 1865, there was instantly opposition form some of the best men in the new Department and a number of like desirable members. At one time it appeared as if a majority of the force would resign rather than wear "livery." The commissioners set a good example by choosing for themselves and wearing the following uniform:

"A blue cloth cap (navy style) a frock-coat made of navy-blue cloth, double-breasted, made to button close to the neck, with seven department regulation buttons of bronze metal on each breast, three on each skirt behind, and four on each sleeve at he cuff. A single-breasted vest made of the same material as coat, without collar, and eight regulation buttons. Pantaloons made of the same material as coat. Surtout overcoats made of navy-blue pilot cloth, double-breasted, made to button up close to the neck, with seven regulation buttons on each breast, three on each skirt behind, and four on each sleeve at the cuff."

This had the best effect, but many resignations were sent in when the regulations prescribing a uniform for the firemen were promulgated.

The first regulations for the guidance of the Paid Firemen, gotten up in September, 1865, were as strict as the times permitted, The following were the general rules:

SECTION 13.--the members shall keep the houses and bedding clean and in good order. They shall accompany their apparatus going to or returning from a fire, and when on duty at a fire, when not otherwise directed by the officer in command, shall remain by their apparatus. The foreman shall cause to be kept by the officers and members of the force (serving in rotation as they stand on the roll) a proper and efficient watch day and night, so that at all times two men shall be on patrol in the neighborhood of the engine or hook and ladder house, and one on watch in the house. Members doing such patrol duty shall report at the house hourly until relieved.

SECTION 14.--Racing to or from fires is prohibited; and if the apparatus of the several companies proceed on the same street or avenue to or from a fire, they shall do so in single file.

SECTION 15.--Crossing a line of hose when in use by a steam fire engine is, unless in cases of the most absolute necessity, strictly prohibited.

SECTION 16.--Drivers will be held responsible for any damage caused by them or carelessness displayed in conveying their apparatus to or from a fire.

SECTION 17.--The officer in command shall precede his apparatus in going to or from a fire.

SECTION 18.--No officer or member of the force shall appear on duty except he be properly clothed in the uniform prescribed for the department; nor shall any officer or member of a fire company appear at a fire without his fire-cap.

SECTION 19.--No spirituous or intoxicating liquors shall be allowed on the premises of any Metropolitan Fire Company, nor shall any game of chance be permitted thereon

SECTION 20.--No officer or member shall use profane, immoral, or indecent language in or about any engine or hook and ladder house, or while at, going to, or returning from a fire; nor shall any officer or member visit places where intoxicating liquors are sold while in the uniform of the this department.

SECTION 21.-Officers of companies, after a fire, having hose which do not belong to them, shall return the same to the company to whom it belongs.

SECTION 22.--The driver, engineer, and stoker may ride on the engine, and the driver and one man on the tender, in going to or returning from fires, and no more; and the officer in command will be held responsible for a violation of this rule.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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