Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 58, Part III

By Holice and Debbie

MAJOR EDWARD HUGHES is Chief of the Louisville Fire Department. Nearly every one knows jolly Major Edward Hughes, the veteran Chief of the Department. He was born for his position which he held until 1858, when the pay department ws organized. Young Hughes joined the new organization as pipeman, but was soon promoted to captain for his many brave and daring acts. As there was but one position in the department the young had not filled--that of engineer--and being anxious to learn all about the department, he took charge of Engine No. 5, and was considered the best engineer in the department. He was afterwards elected assistant chief of the department. In 1879 Major Hughes was elected by a unanimous vote for the General Council to the position of chief, was re-elected four times successively, the last time in 1885. For four years he never had any opposition for the place, and it is presumed that he never will. He has been chief longer than any other man. The men under him are well treated, and take delight in showing the gallant chief that they appreciate him when duty calls.

A. P. LESHURE, Chief Engineer of the Springfield, Mass., Fire Department, was born on October 15, 1828, at Woodstock, Conn. In 1852 he went to Springfield, and two years later joined the fire department. He was foreman of Engine Company No. 2 in 1856, assistant engineer form 1862 to 1866, chief engineer in 1870, and re-elected in 1874. Chief Leshure is considered to be one of the most capable firemen in the country.

HENRY REILLY, Chief Engineer of Syracuse, N. Y., was born in Albany in 1845. In early life he came to Syracuse and joined the volunteer department. In 1871 he was appointed foreman of one of the companies, and when the department became a paid one continued in the service. In 1881, Mr. Reilly was promoted to be clerk in the board of fire commissioners. Chief Engineer Eckel was killed about this time, and two months after being appointed clerk, Mr. Reilly was appointed chief engineer. His excellent record, coolness in danger, and thorough acquaintance with the duties of a firemen, were his strongest recommendations. The office is held during the pleasure of the fire commissioners. The Syracuse Fire Department is a very excellent one, small as it its, but considering the increase in the population, at least two engines and one hook and ladder company additional are needed.

At present the department possesses four engine, one chemical engine, and one hook and ladder truck. The loss by fires average yearly from one hundred and twelve thousand to one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. In the first five and a half months of 1886 there were eighty-five calls. The fire department has no sort of control over the erection of houses, except within a very confined limit, and there it can forbid only the erection of wooden dwellings.

D. J. SWENIE, Fire marshal and Chief of Brigade of Chicago, Ill., has seen one of the biggest fires the worlds has ever witnessed. He was captain of 13 Engine Company, when the city was burned to the ground on the memorable year of 1871. He was born in 1834, in Glasgow, Scotland, When quite a youth he came to America, settled in Chicago, and joined the volunteers ( No. 3 Engine) in 1840. He was seen to be a clever and indefatigable fireman, and all through his connection with the department he proved to be full of resources, reliable in times of peril, alert, and thoroughly imbued with the spirit of a true fireman. Mr. Swenie has been chief and fire marshal since 8179, and was assistant chief seven years before that. There are no politics in the Chicago Department; the chief has full control, there being no commissioners to hamper him. His assistant passes on fires, and reports to him. There are ten chiefs of battalion. There are thirty-eight engines in commission, eleven hook and ladder trucks, eight chemical engines, and five hundred and eleven men. The department has been a paid one since 1858. In the year 1885 there were over one thousand seven hundred and seventy calls, and the losses amounted to two million seven hundred thousand dollars. There is now an ample water supply in Chicago, and it system of fire boxes is far ahead of anything of the kind elsewhere. A fire box is put into the house of any citizen who asks for it, and a record kept to it. Through this, the police, the fire patrol, and so on, can be called, according to the emergency. No finer department can be found anywhere than that which Chicago possesses under its zealous chief, D. J. Swenie.

THOMAS L. WORTHLEY, president of the National Association of Fire Engineers, was the first fireman of Long Branch, N. J. he organized that department in 1872. He left his home in Little Silver, Monmouth County, N. J., when he was sixteen years of age, to earn his own living. For eight years he was a carman. Twenty years ago Worthley left new York for Long Branch, where he established a sale and exchange stable, and soon had a flourishing business. Several times he held the office of street commissioner, and from foreman became chief of the Long Branch Fire Department. Mr. Worthley was born in 1837.

MAJOR HORACE N. RUMSEY is Chief of the Department at Seneca Falls, N. Y. In the empire State there are now few chief engineers more widely known than Chief Rumsey of Seneca Falls. During past year Chief Tom Scott, of Little Falls; Chief Edder, of Syracuse; and other brave firemen, have gone to their reward. Although younger in the calendar, major Rumsey was the compeer of them and their associates, and at the State conventions none were more genial than Tom Scott and Major Rumsey, who were the warmest of friends. Chief Rumsey comes from a family distinguished in fire annals. The name is synonymous with Fire Department work throughout the United States. Major Rumsey's father was for many years chief of the Seneca Falls Fire Department, until he was succeeded by the son four years ago. Chief Rumsey, excepting the time he was serving in the army, has been connected with the Seneca Falls Fire Brigade since he was fourteen years old, a period of more than thirty years. In his department he has two Silsby steamers, one Rumsey hook and ladder truck, a Silsby chemical extinguisher, a Rumsey protective wagon, and a hand engine, with a fire patrol. The chief has the credit of being a model fireman--always at the front when there is a necessity, equally as sure to be cool and collected in emergencies. His presence is familiar to firemen throughout the United States, as he is an extensive traveler in the interests of Rumsey & Company, limited, manufacturers of fire apparatus at Seneca Falls.

Chief Rumsey is a member of the national Association of Fire Engineers, and was elected to the Executive Board at Providence in August, 1886.

ALBERT C. HENDRICK joined Franklin Hose company No. 4, New haven Fire Department, on July, 1850, at the age of seventeen. He was elected treasurer January 15, 1851; secretary, September 8, 1852; assistant foreman, <arch 15, 1852; a member of Franklin Engine Company No. 4 same year, remaining a member until the company was disbanded in 1854. He was elected assistant foreman of Mutual Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 in 1857, foreman in 1858, serving until the war broke out in 1861, when, bring first sergeant of the New Haven Grays, he went with the company in the Second Regiment Connecticut Volunteers. He was wounded at Winchester, Va., September 19, 1864, and was honorably discharged at the termination of the war. On returning from the war he again joined Mutual Hook and Ladder company No. 1 as a private. He was appointed chief July 24, 1865, serving six terms of three years each, when the charter of the city was so altered as to make the position of the chief of the New Haven Fire Department a life position. He was president of the National Association of Fire engineers 1875 and 1876; elected treasurer of same in 1877; and still hold that responsible position.

W. EDWARD PLATT, Chief of Augusta Ga., Fire Department, was born in that city January 211, 1852. He was torch boy, and then tillerman, of the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company in 1867 and 1868; since then he has been foreman of the said company, and has been chief for several years. he is a cool and clear-headed, brave fireman. His grandfather, Charles Platt, was foreman of Company No. 9, in New York City, in 1826. His father, Charles A. Platt, has been an active foreman in Augusta for thirty-five years, and his uncle Jacob was chief for twelve years, both being son of Charles Platt, foreman No. 9.

HARRY C. MILLER, Chief of the Hudson (N. Y. ) Fire Department, was born in Hudson, September 25, 1856. He attended the public schools until 1871; then entered Williston Seminary at Easthampton, Mass., and finished the course with the class of '75. He returned to Hudson, June, 1875, and went into the hotel business which he still continues. He joined Evans Hook and Ladder Company, September, 1875; was elected second assistant in 1876, first assistant in 1877, and captain in 1879. Mr. Miller was elected chief of the department December 15, 1884, and took the office January 1, 1885, and was no doubt the youngest chief in New York State at that time. The Hudson Department is composed of six hose and one truck company, consisting of the hundred and sixty-five men. The chief is elected by the department for a term of two years, and appoints two assistants under him. The city has fine water works, and has from eighty to one hundred and twenty-three pounds pressure, according to location of hydrant.

CHIEF GEORGE W. TAYLOR, Richmond, Va., was born in Richmond, Va., in 1846; entered the Fire Department as runner in 1866; soon after was promoted to foreman, and afterwards promoted to first assistant chief, in 1878 elected chief; was president of the national Association of Fire Engineers in 1883, serving with credit to himself and the association.

THOMAS WILKINSON, born in Alexandria, Va., may 25, 1836, was a member of Independent No. 6, Volunteer Fire Department of Baltimore, Md., when Thomas Buckley was lost at the Lombard Street fire, and carried the last message to him he ever received. He was a member of No. 6 for two years, and had been a member of the Fire Department at Cumberland, Maryland, for twelve years.

Also a member of the Fire Department of Dallas, Texas, for seven year, four years of which time he served as foreman.

Since October, 1885 he has been assistant chief of the Dallas Paid Fire Department. he has also been president of the Firemen's Relief Associations of the Dallas Fire Department since its organization.

JAMES W. DICKINSON, Chief of Cleveland, Ohio, was born in Saxon River Village, Windsor County, in the State of Vermont, on December 25, 1836. In his youth he attended the common schools of his native town, of Lowell, Springfield, Mass., and wheeling, W. Va. At the age of eight years his attendance at the public school located on the Commons, in a building also occupied by Mazeppa Engine Company No. 10, in Lowell, awakened in him at that early age instincts and desires so strong as to shape and control his future course in life.

He removed to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1851, arriving there on the day of the memorable college riot. In 1853 he joined Cataract Engine Company No. 5 as a torch boy, and on September 5, 1855, he was elected a member of that company. In the following year he was made second assistant foreman, and in 1857 was advanced to the position of first assistant. When in 1859 he was elected foreman of that company he was the proudest men in the Volunteer Fire Department of that city.

Chief Dickinson is a born musician, and when in 1861 the war of the Rebellion broke out, he was among the first to respond to President Lincoln's call for three months' men, joining Leland's Band, which was attached tot he Nineteenth Ohio Volunteer Regiment, Colonel Samuel Beattie, commanding.

After his honorable discharge at the end of his enlistment, he re-enlisted and was assigned to the Forty-first Ohio Regiment, under the command of Colonel W. B. Hazen, and was present at, and witnessed, several of the historic battles of the late war. He remained with that regiment until all regimental bands were discharged in the fall of 1862. Upon his return to Cleveland he agitated the question of a Paid Fire Department,. And notwithstanding the strong opposition to the project on the part of the Volunteer forces, he succeeded in having it established, and tendered to the city the services of Cataract Company No. 5. The city authorities then gave him the privilege of selecting the men for his company for the Paid Fire Department, which he did form the members of the volunteer company, placing four stationary and two minute men to that company.

On January 23, 1863, Mr. Dickinson was placed in charge of Engine company No. 2, in which place he remained eleven years.

In May, 1864, the patriotic spirit of this veteran was again aroused, and again he re-enlisted, joining Company E, of Cleveland's local regiment, known as the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment, O. V. I., commanded by Colonel W. H. Haywood, and was subsequently detailed for service in the then famous Leland Band.

In 1873 he attended the World's Fair, Vienna, Austria, as engineer in charge of the American exhibit of rotary steam engines, and on his return, in February, 1874, succeeded John McMahon as second assistant chief. In 1875 he was advanced to the rank of first assistant chief, and, on December 22, 1880, reached the topmost rung in the fireman's ladder of promotion by his election as chief of the Cleveland Fire Department. During his career as a fireman he organized he Firemen's Relief Association, and was mainly instrumental in having the present comprehensive pension law passed for the benefit of firemen, their widows, orphan children, and dependent parents. The new fireboat exists only through his persistent efforts in its behalf. The chief is in the prime of life, of portly size, a big-hearted, good-natured man, with an inexhaustible find of anecdote, wit, and humor.

He has had several most miraculous escapes from death while in the performance of duty, but he never falters in the discharge of the obligations of his high calling.

He is kind toward every member of the force under him, watchful over their lives at fires, and has the unbounded confidence of Cleveland's best business men in his ability to handle and extinguish fire.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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