Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 54, Part XI

By Holice and Debbie

DANIEL A. HEALD, Vice-President of the Home Insurance company, of New York, is the leading fire underwriters of the United States. Mr. Heald's services to the profession, gratuitously rendered and not properly appreciated, have justified the assertion that has been made that no other fire underwriter of late years has done so much to uplift the profession or advance the real interests of fire insurance as he. His position as President of the national board of fire Underwriters has given Mr. Heald prominence and influence. But this official prominence came to him unsought and naturally and of right. He was a central figure in the Convention which, in 1866, created the National Board of Fire Underwriters, and ever since he has been an important factor in sustaining that organization. His consistent action and his energetic and eloquent arguments have greatly tended too keep that body in existence. Mr. Heald was born at Chester, Vermont, on the 4th day of May, 1818. He lived on a farm in that vicinity until he was sixteen years old. But he had aspirations beyond mere farm life, and cultivating his mind and talents, with such meager opportunities as were within his reach, he fitted himself for college, and entering Yale, he pursued the regular course of study, and was graduated, with honor, from that venerable seat of learning in the 1841, at the age of twenty-three. Thereafter he read law in the office of Judge Daggett, of New Haven, and subsequently, in May, 1843, was admitted to the bar in Vermont, where he practiced successfully until 1856. In connection with his law practice in Vermont he served as agent for the Aetna and other Hartford insurance companies for thirteen years, and in 1856 he accepted the position of General Agent of the Home Insurance Company, of New York, and removed to that city. In April, 1868, after twelve years o service, equally useful to his company and to insurance interests generally, he was elected Second Vice-President of the Home Insurance company, and in January, 1883, was made Vice-President of the company--the position he now occupies. Meanwhile Mr. Heald has filled an important position at all times in both the new York Board of Fire Underwriters and the National Board of Fire Underwriters. Of both these organizations he has been a prominent member during the past twenty-five years or more. Of the National Board he was not only a constituent member, but on of the organizing factors. He had more to do, possibly, than any other single individual in making it evident to insurance men in 1866 that something must be done to save companies from ruin, and thereby conserve the true interests of property owners, by a common union. The creature of the National Board of Fire Underwriters was the result: and Mr. Heald's active endeavors and his impressive presentation of acts and figures were largely instrumental in bringing about this result. This was as long ago as July, 1866. And, ever since, Mr. Heald has stood squarely by the doctrines he then laid down. From that time until now he has continuously labored for the building up of fire insurance interests, and has represented in his own person and as an insurance officer, as well as President of the National Board whatever was sound and safe and of good report in fire underwriting.

His addresses as president of the national Board and before other insurance conventions, have become standard authorities in fire insurance circles, and have been so quoted al lover the world. The address delivered at Chicago several years ago on "Fire Underwriting as a Profession," has never been equalled. And his speech at the twentieth anniversary of the organization of the national Board of Fire Underwriters, in July, 1886, at New York, is confessed to be one of the best presentations of fire insurance history and suggestions in all the records of fire insurance.

As an insurance expert he is facile princeps the leading mind of the profession. Among underwriters he is known as "Judge Heald," so clear-headed and judicial are his opinions held to be upon subjects connected with fire insurance in all its ramifications. Had he not chosen the profession if fire underwriting, he would have made an equally prominent mark as a lawyer or a judge.

MARTIN L. CROWELL was well known among insurance men, more especially for his labors in fire protection. He was appointed on the Patrol Committee to fill a vacancy in the Fall of 1867, and in the Spring of 1868 was elected Chairman of the Committee, retaining that position by subsequent elections until the Spring of 1882, when he was elected treasurer of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters, and by virtue thereof as ex-officio member of the Committee. The honored trust of Treasurership ws held by him until his removal by death on April 1, 1884. Mr. Crowell held the position of chief executive officer of the Fire Patrol for fifteen consecutive years. This is an eventful length of time devoted to active service in a common interest without compensation, especially as this burden of responsibility was increased at times by murmurings of complaint from associates in the business, when well-ordered plans of protection failed to accomplish the good intended. The Fire Patrol Committee said of him; "Mr. Crowell was a man endowed by nature with a character to win the respect of the brotherhood of man , quiet, unobtrusive, honest, faithful, firm in his convictions of right and wrong, with great respect for the opinion of others; honest to a fault, and faithful in the discharge of every duty."

GEO. T. PATTERSON, JR., was born in New York city September 15, 1850. Entered the office of the Pacific Insurance Company in march, 1865. In June, 1869, he transferred his business talents to the North British and Mercantile Insurance company. In June, 1874, he elected Secretary of the Clinton Fire Insurance Company, and was elected president of the Clinton in February, 1881, when he was thirty-one years of age, the youngest man that was ever chosen to fill such a position. Mr. Patterson is alert on fire department matters, is a stirring member of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters and Chairman of the Fire Patrol Committee.

NICHOLAS C. MILLER was connected with the Star Fire Insurance company in 1864; was made the Secretary of the company, and held the position until 1868, when he was chosen as its President; remained at the head of affairs until 1886, when the company decided to relinquish business. He is now engaged in settling up the affairs of the company. Mr. Miller has been a member of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters for twenty-three years; was chairman of the Committee of Surveys during 1880-1882; chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board for two years; was the vice-president, and had been president of the Board during the past year.

WILLIAM P. HENSHAW was born in Brooklyn, N. Y. His first appearance in fire insurance methods was in 1853, a clerk with the Long Island Insurance Company, in 1857; the company recognizing his valuable services, promoted him to the responsible position of secretary, which office he held until 1879, when he became connected wit the Royal Insurance Company, of Liverpool, as one of its mangers, and is still actively engaged in furthering the interests of his extensive corporation. Mr. Henshaw is closely identified with the New York Board of Fire Underwriters, and has been the secretary of the Board for twenty consecutive years.

WILLIAM M. RANDELL.---In a handsomely furnished office adjoining the meeting room of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters, no one is more readily or frequently found than a genial, quick-witted, well-informed gentlemen. The gentleman is Mr. William M. Randell, and e is best known as the secretary of the Committee on Fire Patrol of the new York Board of Fire underwriters. His history and tht of his ancestors is interesting.

The Randell family on the paternal side traces its origin back to Adolph Myer, who settled in Harlem in 1661, and was one of the original patentees under the Dongan Patent in 1667. The grandfather of the subject of his sketch married in the Myer family in 1770, and at the close of the Revolutionary War purchased the island since known as Randell's Island, where he lived for a period of fifty years. His son, David, the father of William M. Randell, was a lawyer by profession and a veteran of the war of 1812. In 1836 and 1837 he was an alderman of the city, at a time when city officials possessed judicial powers and were associated judges in trials for criminal offenses. Several years after he was appointed by Governor William H. Seward a judge of the Marine Court. Judges in those days were appointed, not elected.

The Randell family have been more or less identified with fire history for many years. An uncle, three cousins and two brothers served their time as members of the Volunteer Fire Department. William M. Randell joined the Department in 1847; he was then under age. The formula of swearing to the application for appointment and performed duty in the lower portion of the city, in which was then known as the seventh and eighth fire districts. The company was under the command of George A. Buckingham, who was an importer and jobber of woolens. After a service of five years, one as private, three as secretary, and one as assistant foreman, he resigned and joined some acquaintances in the formation of Hose Company No. 53, which secured a location in Church near Franklin Street. This was also a down-town company. He remained here as an active and honorary member until the company threw up he organization, owing to its inability to increase or retain the roll of membership to the proper standard.

The organization of Hose company 53 was the beginning of a new order of things in Fire Department circles. The house was expensively furnished--paintings, pianoforte, library, and in fact, all the luxuries and comforts of a home, with kitchen and dining-room, where they received their friends and associates, and many were the entertainments given. This outlay was at the expense of the individual members, and the example thus set was followed by other companies,. And a moral influence was thrown around the life of a fireman who before this had experienced but hard work by day and by night, in the discharge of his duty. Mr. Randell subsequently became a member of the Exempt Engine Company.

In 1855 he was appointed chief clerk of the Board of Fire Commissioners , a commission which had been created by the legislature for the purpose of correcting many evils and abuses which had crept into the fire Department. the power of appointing and dismissing, the investigation of complaints against companies and individuals, the formation and disbandment of companies, were among the duties assigned the commissioners by the law. The office was not a sinecure; many evils existed, and the time of the Board, and consequently that of the clerk, was occupied night after night in carrying out the law. Several years were devoted to this service, when he resigned, owing to other business engagements.

A few years later, Mr. Randell was elected a member of the Firemen's Ball Committee, an organization of many years' standing, whose object was to aid in increasing the Benevolent Fund of the Department. What that committee has done in the cause of charity is best shown in the statement that during a part of its existence, say from 1848 to 1873, it placed in the coffers of the fund the sum of one hundred thousand dollars. One of the most interesting events connected with tht committee was on the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary, when a concert, vocal and instrumental, was gotten up and held at Madison Square Garden for the benefit of the yellow fever sufferers at New Orleans, from which was realized the sum of five thousand four hundred dollars. The committee still retains its organization, and Mr. Randell his membership. In 1864 he was on of the committee chosen to represent the Fire Department at the Metropolitan Fair given in aid of the United States Sanitary Commission. The amount realized from the Fire Department donations and sales exceeded the sum of thirty thousand dollars. In 1870 he became a member of the Exempt Fireman's Association, and us now a life member of the organization. In 1880 he was elected a trustee of the Benevolent Fund of the Department, from which he resigned after some two years of service.

Mr. Randell's business as a fire underwriter and an officer of the Fire patrol has given him much experience and knowledge respecting fire matters. Entering the insurance business is 1852, as senior clerk in the Lorillard Fire Insurance Company, which had just been organized under the management of two prominent ex-fire officials, Cornelius V. Anderson and Carlisle Norwood, he remained until appointed, in 1857, secretary of the Resolute Fire Insurance Company, and was its secretary twenty-one years, or until it retired from business. In 1865 he was elected one of the Committee on fire Patrol of the Board of Fire Underwriters, and at the same time appointed its secretary, which latter position he still retains, attending to its increasing labors and responsibilities with the same earnestness that he gave to it in years gone by. The annual reports of the Fire Patrol, which have been compiled by him since 1866, will show the great changes and improvements in the fire service, especially in the Fire Patrol. Not only has Mr. Randell been identified with legislative, administrative and benevolent objects in fire matters, but he was up to quite a recent period an attendant at all fires of magnitude which occurred in this city.

Many interesting books and papers relative to fire and individuals can be found in Mr. Randell's library, and he is in himself a walking directory of facts and figures, and is often appealed to for information, and is quoted a authority on matters connected with fires and losses. He is also secretary of the Committee on Arbitration, Finance, Laws and Legislation, Police, and Origins of Fires, and Patents and Useful Devices of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters.

ELDRIDGE G. SNOW, JR., was born in Waterbury, Conn., in January, 1841. His early education fitted him to follow the profession of his father, who was a physician. But the young man, not finding it congenial, entered the office of the Home Insurance Company, of New York, 1863, and in 1873 was appointed by the company State agent for Massachusetts, and in consequence took up his residence in Boston. There he remained until July, 1885, when he was called to the office of the company in New York, having been elected assistant secretary, and in this capacity is now more immediately connected with the extended agency department of the company. Mr. snow was also an honorary member of the Veteran Firemen's Association of New York.

JOHN H. WASHBURN, vice-president and secretary of the Home Insurance Company, of New York, the largest company in the State of New York, was born in Massachusetts in 1828, and graduated from Amherst College. He entered he office of the Home Insurance Company in 1859, was appointed assistant secretary in 1865, and elected secretary in 1867. In 1884 he was elected vice-president. His rapid promotion speaks loudly for his business qualifications and general ability. Mr. Washburn is also a member of the Tariff Association of the new York Board of Fire Underwriters, and is an honorary member of the Veteran Firemen's Association of this city.

THE FIRE PATROL may be said to have originated at the fire at Smith's tea warehouse in Water Street, between Dover and Roosevelt Streets, in 1839. In February, 1853, the first superintendent was appointed, namely, S. J. Willis. His salary was one hundred and twenty-five dollars per annum. Alfred Carson was the first superintendent of salvage under the charter of 1867. He was succeeded, in November, 1867, by John Cornwell. In May, 1883, the rules and regulations governing the Patrol were revised and promulgated in general orders. The Patrols were designated 1, 2, 3, and 4, instead of Lower, Central, upper, and Eastside, and captains were dubbed lieutenants.

The Patrol committee for 1884-85 were: James A. Silvey, chairman; R. S. P. Alliger, vice-chairman; C. M. Peck, S. P. Blagden, G. M. Coit, W. A. Burtis and W. M. St. John. Mr. W. A. Burtis died in January, 1885, and he was succeeded by Mr. George T. Patterson, Jr.

ABRAM C. HULL, the Superintendent of the Fire Patrol of New York City, was born in the Seventh Ward of this city in the year 1835. His father, John G. Hull, was many years in the hardware business on the east side of the city and sent the lad to the old Henry and Fifth Street Grammar Schools. He began work at the shop carpenter business, and built one or two famous yachts. His love of adventure took him to the pacific coast in the employ of the Peruvian Steamship Company, and upon his return he remained a short time at hoe, then went to new Orleans, for the Star navigation Company, and upon returning home again, began running to fires, and at the age of twenty-one joined Mechanics' Hose Company No. 47, and twelve months later became a member of Marion Hook and Ladder Company No. 13. He was soon elected assistant foreman and foreman of his company, and continued as such until the organization of the Paid Department. He was appointed foreman of Hook and Ladder Company No. 6, September 27, 1865--one of the most popular truck companies in the Department under his administration. Many times he was detailed by Chief Kingsland as acting district engineer. He remained with Hook and Ladder Company No. 6 until July, 18709, when he was appointed by the Fire underwriters a captain of No. 1 Fire Insurance Patrol; remained until March,. 1886, when he ws promoted to his present position of superintendent. He has now performed nearly thirty years' continuous fire service in this city. Superintendent Hull has an aversion for idle words; a conviction that a man never arrives at an age when he has no need of adding to his knowledge; a fine sympathy for subordinates, coupled with the strictest discipline, and a perfect knowledge of matters pertaining to his office.

F. S. Groves, John Kimmens, John Rafferty and J. M. Sandford, captains. The following resolution marked the adoption of a life-saving medal by the committee:

The new York Board of Fire Underwriters enter upon their record, their approbation of the self-sacrificing services of Insurance Patrolman Thomas McCann, of the Lower Patrol, who, at the risk of his own life, rescued five children form the third floor of a burning tenement building, No. 103 Washington Street, on the afternoon of July 31, 1882, and in consideration of which the Board authorizes the Fire patrol committee to have prepared a gold medal of honor, the same to be presented to Patrolman McCann, as a token of the appreciation of this Board for his heroic services in the cause of humanity.

The committee are constantly in receipt of communications praising the members of the Patrol for good and gallant services.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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