Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments
Chapter 49, Part 5
By Holice and Debbie
The "Tweed Charter"--Chapter 137 of the Laws of 18780--was passed April 5, 1870. John T. Hoffman was governor ; Allen C. Beach, Lieutenant Governor, and William Hitchman, Speaker of the Assembly. In New York, A. Oakey Hall Was Mayor; Richard B. Connolly, Comptroller; William M. Tweed, Commissioner of Public Works; Alexander Frear, Commissioner of Charities and Correction; Peter B. Sweeny and Thomas C. Field, commissioners of Public Parks; when Mr. Hall appointed, as Fire Commissioners of the City of New York, General Shaler, Speaker William Hitchman, and Messrs. James S. Hennessy, James Galway and John J. Blair.
JAMES S. HENNESSY was born in London, England, in 1828. He came to this country with his parents when he was seven months' old. Until 1865 he resided in Philadelphia, and for several years was prominently connected with the Quaker City Fire Department, and in the Fire Association represented Vigilant Fire Company. For many years he was paying teller of the Bank of North America. Coming to New York, he engaged in the notion business with his brother. In April, 1870, he was appointed fire commissioner by Mayor Oakey Hall for a term of five years, but in 1873 was legislated out of office with the rest of the Board; while in office he was treasurer of the Board. Mr. Hennessey was trustee of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, and at the time of his death was chairman of the Finance Committee of the Irish Emigrant Society, he died on May 6, 1874.
New York was fortunate at this juncture that other men were not appointed. The new commissioners met at Firemen's Hall on April 11, and Mr. Hitchman was made president and Mr. Hennessey treasurer. All the rules, regulations, and general and special orders of the Metropolitan Fire Department were affirmed and continued in force. May 6 colonel T. Bailey Myers was appointed attorney and counsel to the Board, at a salary of five thousand dollars per annum. Two weeks later the Metropolitan sign at Firemen's Hall was taken down, and the sign "Headquarters Fire Department City of New York" was put up, and wherever, on apparatus, quarters, or insignia, "M. F. D." had been, "F. D. N. Y." was placed.
May 30, William Lamb, formerly assistant engineer under the volunteer system, was appointed inspector of fire apparatus; Joseph L. Perley was made chief of the bureau of chief engineers at a salary of four thousand five hundred dollars, and Robert V. Mackey was designated as assistant to him at a salary of two thousand four hundred dollars.; Henry Close was appointed superintendent of the repair yard, which was moved to Amity Street, now West Third Street, in the place of H. A. Gilbertson, at a salary of two thousand five hundred dollars. July 6, Foreman John L. Cregier, Engine Company no. 12, G. L. Tooker, Engine Company No. 34, A. C. Hull, Hook and Ladder Company No. 6, resigned to follow the fortunes of Commissioner Wilson, who had succeeded John Cornwell as superintendent of the fire insurance patrol. December 15, the committee on telegraph reported in favor of accepting C. T. & J. N. Chester's telegraph line above Fourteenth Street. On the first of January, 1871, alarm-signal boxes 351 to 919 went into service, as well as a complete system of "patrol beats," In March the bell at the Post-office tower ceased to strike, but the tower was used as a lookout station. Charles L. Chapin resigned as superintendent of telegraph, and C. Kinney Smith succeeded him. The office of assistant engineer of steamer, at eleven hundred dollars per annum, was created, and the complement of engine companies south of twenty-third Street was fixed at one foreman or captain, one assistant foremen or lieutenant, one engineer or sergeant, one assistant engineer or corporal, and eight firemen or privates. North of Twenty-third street each engine company had six firemen. In other respects the organization was the same. June 7, Charles E. Gildersleeve resigned as secretary, and was appointed chief clerk of the Bureau of Combustibles, at a salary of two thousand five hundred dollars, and W. B. White was appointed secretary at he same salary. Dr. Charles McMillan had tendered his resignation, and was succeeded by Dr. Christopher Prince, whose salary was fixed at five thousand dollars per annum. June 28 Foreman Benjamin A Gicquel, Engine company No. 5, James H. Monroe, Hook and Ladder Company No. 8, and Walter T. Furlong, Engine Company No. 6, were promoted to the rank of chief of battalion.
The fall of the year 1871 saw the commissioners much embarrassed for want of funds. They had to go around, hat in hand, to procure a loan to pay their men. November 2, the board met, to learn that the Boar of ?Fire Underwriters had set apart one hundred and eighty-seven thousand dollars to meet the pay-rolls. Andrew H. Green, Deputy Comptroller, had deposited in the department bank twenty-seven thousand one hundred and eighty-three dollars and thirty-four cents, the balance of the appropriation for 1871. Thomas F. Jeremiah was instrumental in getting the advance from the underwriters.
The firemen did full and satisfactory duty, nevertheless, and twenty-seven members of it, including Assistant Engineer Rhodes, were in the early morning of the eighth of November, injured to a greater or lesser degree, by the falling of a wall at No. 479 Sixth Avenue. November 22, at a suggestion of Chief Perley, a system of special telegraph calls and signals was adopted. His Imperial Highness, Alexis, Grand Duke of Russia, on the twenty-eighth of November, witnessed a parade of the department, composed of three battalions under Chiefs Orr, Shay and Sullivan and his praise at the appearance and organization of the apparatus and men was as warm as it was unstinted. When news of the condition of the firemen of Chicago, after the great fire there, was received, a subscription was raised for them by the department, and two thousand six hundred and thirty dollars were collected and sent to Mayor Mason.
On December 20 the title of superintendent of telegraph was changed to chief of telegraph bureau, and the salary was made three thousand five hundred dollars. A week later, on motion of Commissioner Hennessey, the number of assistant engineer was increased to twelve. Foreman William H. Nash, of Engine Company No. 8, and George A., Erlacher, of Engine Company No. 13, were promoted. Poor Erlacher was fatally injured at a fire at No. 183 Water Street on the seventeenth of January, 1873.
The first days of 1872 saw the Fire commissioners yet embarrassed for lack of funds to pay the members of the department and meet obligations. Comptroller Andrew H. Green announced three hundred and fifty-two thousand two hundred and sixty-six dollars and seventeen cents appropriated for the Fire Department from January 1m to April 30, 1872. June 5 Inspectors Moore, Cregier, Forman and Keeler, of the bureau of combustible were discontinued, and John A McCosker was appointed inspector at a salary of two thousand dollars per annum. June 22, by an explosion at No. 18 Liberty Street, twenty firemen were injured, and Edward Burke, of Engine Company No. 4, was Killed. James Sutton & co., of The Aldine, No. 23 Liberty Street, got up a subscription for the sufferers. The following is a report on the injured and the disposition of the fund:
The fund was distributed as follows, in check, to order of each: To the nine seriously injured, $70.44 each, $634.00; to the three severely injured, $56.67, $170.00; to the two slightly injured, $32.50 each, $65.00; to the seven triflingly injured, $20.00 each, $140.00. Total amount subscribed, $1,009.00
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie
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