Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments
Chapter 48, Part XII
By Holice and Debbie
Although the commissioners showed no favors to, and disciplined all, rebellious companies and members, both of the Volunteer and Paid Departments, whenever an opportunity occurred to oblige or advantage the retiring force, it was done. In this way the furniture and necessary outfits of many Volunteer Companies were purchased for the Paid force, which took possession of their quarters, and Volunteer companies were allowed to take away as relics portions of the apparatus. A pleasant feature of the period between the decision of the Court of Appeals on the constitutionality of the Metropolitan Act and the putting of the Paid force into active service, was the readiness which men like John J. Gorman, James Hayes, and many others, who fought the Paid system to the end, gave the benefit of their experience, aid and advice, to the New regime. As an illustration of this, take the meeting of engineers and foremen at Firemen's Hall on the first of July, 1865, when Martin J. Keese said in substance that he was going to do his duty as long as the new commissioners desired. He did not care if it was Thomas C. Acton's house that was on fire; he would be one of the first to go and put it out, and when certain organs shortly after announced a terrible riot in the Fifth District between certain companies, Hugh Bonner, W. F. Squires and W. H. Pierpoint lost no time in denouncing the statement as a falsehood gotten up to injure the Volunteers. The last meeting of the representatives was held in Firemen's Hall July 24, 1865, and they were addressed by Treasurer John S. Giles.
The appointment of employees on the clerical staff and in the fire telegraph bureau proceeded shortly. Charles L. Chapin was appointed superintendent of telegraph August 4, 1865, vice Charles Robinson, contractor; and John W. Smith, lineman, and S. S. Parker, battery boy, were appointed a few days later. Patrick Dailey, Isaac G. Seixas and Abraham D. Carlock were the first operators. The paid force was then below Eighty-seventh Street, and at first there was only sixty-three signal stations established, and district alarms were sent out above fourteenth Street. There was no shut boxes, and their establishment was retarded by patent right claims. At one of the first meetings of the Metropolitan Fire commissioners a plan to stop the ringing of the alarm bells was discussed, but the nuisance was not abated until many years later. August 30, the board received notice from Governor Fenton of the resignation of James W. Booth, and next day Mr. Joshua G. Abbe was appointed commissioner by Messrs. Pinckney, Engs, and Brown.
The committee as then appointed were: Appointments and Discipline--Commissioner Abbe. Buildings and Supplies--Commissioner Brown. Apparatus and Hose--Commissioner Engs. Finance and Telegraph--Commissioner Pinckney. Mr. Abbe was able and conscientious, and did his duty as a commissioner as well as circumstances permitted, but the composition of the board was such that the tie votes often thwarted measures of reform, discipline, and improvements and the result was a lack of efficiency, the rank and file not being slow to take sides indicated by the votes of the commissioners. In spite of this and an increase in the number of fires and losses--which was basely charged to the Volunteers--the Paid Department conspired favorably with the Old system. The records of the mustering out of the volunteers show the number returned as active firemen by the clerk of the Common Council as three thousand eight hundred and ten, but the records of the fire commissioners indicate a less number. These records are known as being far from complete. Several companies did not send in returns, and many firemen did not claim their discharge, while the resolution that no discharge should be granted unless the firemen had done fifty per cent of duty has since been upset by a decision of the courts. About one hundred and sixty firemen appointed by the Old commissioners in April, May, and June were not recognized by the Metropolitan commissioners. Such Volunteers as did the duty prescribed were recognized on the sixth of November, 1865, in the following resolution offered by Commissioner Engs:
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie
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