History of West Hoboken N.J./Chapter 12
Latter Municipal Affairs.
|History of West Hoboken N.J. (1903) by
The Fire Department.
Previous to the year 1858 this town was without any protection for fire at all, and on October 28 of that year a party of citizens and property holders of the place, seeing the urgent necessity for the establishment
At this meeting Mr. John G. Syms was elected chairman and Mr. J. G. Gordon secretary, and various ways and means were discussed to procure the necessary apparatus with which to fight the fire demon. Nothing definite was done at this meeting beyond appointing a committee, consisting of Messrs. Nafey, Crawbuck and Laune, to draft a set of by-laws. The meeting then adjourned to meet at the call of the chair.
The next meeting the committee on by-laws reported on same, and after some discussion they were adopted, and the following citizens were added to the roll as members: Mr. Chas. Yates, Garret Van Vorst, A. Grandjean, Chas. Savoye, Henry Sinclair, John Sinclair, J. H. Spadone, John Baptist, John Van Skiver, John H. Myers and John Dawse.Several names were now submitted for the new company, and after a vote on same it was decided to call it Neptune Fire Companv No. 1. The Company now being organized the next procedure was the election of permanent officer, which resulted as follows: Foreman, A. B. Ryerson; assistant foreman, W. H. Laune; secretary, J. G. Gordon; treasurer, John Hague; investigating committee, J. Crawbuck, A. K. Nafey and W. H. Alcorn.
It was decided at this meeting to appoint a committee of three to solicit subscriptions from the Insurance Companies and citizens to purchase an apparatus. The committee consisted of Messrs. A. B. Ryerson, A. K. Nafey and W. E. Wells.
After meeting at Peibe's hotel a number of times, the meeting place was changed to the basement of the Presbyterian Church. The Company met here until their house was erected on Paterson avenue, on land leased from John Everson, Jr., on September 12, 1859.
The committee on subscription having procured funds enough to purchase an apparatus, a committee consisting of Messrs. Piebes, Hague and Crawbuck was appointed to purchase same. The engine was purchased in New York City, and it at one time did duty in the department of the latter city. It was purchased on September 5, 1859, at a cost of $210. It was used here but a short time, for, on November 22, 1861, the old hand engine (which was sold by Neptune Co. last summer) was purchased for $235, and the first engine in exchange. This engine also came from the New York department, and it is claimed by many that it at one time belonged to the famous Black Joke Company 33, of the New York Department.
A motion in reference to this engine made on November 22, 1861, which appears on the minutes of Neptune Company, is given as follows:—
"John Lane moved that John Van Skivers mules be engaged to take down old Neptune to the engine builder and bring up the new engine." This was amended, and Van Skivers mules brought the engine down as far as the ferry, and the company, in full uniform, then brought it home.
Neptune Company did duty alone in our town until 1865, when Dexter Hook & Ladder Co. 1 was organized with A. Fillipetti, as foreman.On September 18, 1865, a new company was organized in the Bonnsville district of the town. A citizen by the name of Heinlein kept a florist establishment about where Jane and West streets now meet, and in one of his greenhouses Eagle Engine Co. was organized. This part of the town, with the building of the car stables, had began to grow considerably, and it was seen that Neptune Engine Company could not well take care of the entire town, and that a company in Bonnsville would be a very useful adjunct to the department, and on the date last above mentioned, Messrs. Ludlow. W. H. Drescher, J. England, Adam Stieger, W. Muller, Ernest Asmus, Wm. Stanford and M. Goelze, met in the greenhouse aforesaid and organized Eagle Hose Co. No. 1, and elected the following officers:—Foreman, Wm. Ludlow; assistant foreman, M. Goelz. Owing to the fact that the first minute books of this old company have been lost, and as nobody living can recollect much about its early history, we will simply say that their first headquarters was situated on the Hackensack Plankroad in a shed owned by a man named Stucke. The members raised sufficient funds in a short time to purchase a hose carriage, and a committee consisting of Messrs. W. H. Drescher, Gus. Gondran and H. Ludlow was appointed to purchase same at a price of $75.
They purchased the carriage from Eagle Hose Co. of Hudson City, and this old carriage is still in the possession of Eagle Engine Co., and it is the oldest fire apparatus in this town. Previous to its career in Hudson City it did duty in New York, and considering the fact that it has been in this town 38 years, and that its stay in Hudson City was about 15 years, and that it was used in New York in the beginning, its age must be nearly three quarters of a century.
This old carriage is now kept as a relic of by-gone days by Eagle Company, the town having recently purchased a new carriage for them.
These three companies did duty in the town for a number of years, and we find in the report of Joseph E. Taylor, chief engineer for 1869-70, a recommendation that the town build a house for Eagle Hose Co., and that the board of fire trustees had that year erected two brick fire houses, one for Neptune, on Clinton avenue, near Charles street, and the other for Dexter Hook & Ladder Co. on Charles street, this latter house still stands to-day in the rear of the town hall, having been recently remodeled, and is now used as the jail.
A comparison might be made in regards the amount of hose which the companies had at that time and the amount in use to-day. Mr. Taylor, in the aforementioned report, stated that Neptune had four length of hose and Eagle also had four lengths. Each company now has about 25 lengths, a difference of 925 feet, and we now have four companies carrying hose instead of two.
Mr. Taylor further states that in the year we had three fires, of which two were out of town. The one fire in town was a stack of hay on the pasturage of the car company, and the two out of town fires were as follows:—July 30, 1869, Bunavista Hotel, North Bergen, and September 10, 1869, oil tanks on Erie Railroad, Penn. Horn Creek.
Chief Chas. Gravatt, on April 1, 1873, mentions the name of Naiad House. This company had a short existence. Is officers were as follows:— W. H. Casey, foreman; B. F. Corsen, assistant foreman; Fred Wells, secretary. Its career was stormy, and on account of the actions of some of its members, which were, to say the least, scandalous, was disbanded when about one year old.
Mr. Gravatt also states that "the Exempt Engine Company is fully organized and invites the action of the township committee to purchase a suitable apparatus for them." This company latter became Empire Engine Company.
The first mention of Empire as a company is made by Chief John Rumer in his report for 1877-78. He says that "Empire Engine Co. 2 has 22 members, an Engine and Jumper in first-class condition, and 13 lengths of hose in fair order."
This company was formed by the Exempt members of Neptune Engine Co. It will be remembered that Neptune's first house was situated on Paterson avenue, and that later the town built them a house on Clinton avenue, near Charles street. This left the lower part of the town without proper fire protection, and I suppose it was to furnish the necessary and proper protection to this part of the town that the Exempt Engine Company was organized, and on April 14, 1876, the following citizens organized the Exempt Engine Co.:— W. H. Laune, E. N. Little,H. Leary, J. A. Alcorn, Geo. Cox, John D. Meredith, Chas. A. Yates, Albert Grandjean, D. Sence, J. D. Van Skiver, Chas. Tanner, Stoltz, C. Van Vorst, Geo. Bove, Jos. E. Taylor, C. Lever, Luke Ames, M. Browne and J. G. Syms.
The company's headquarters were in Francisco's barn on Demott street.
The company was reorganized on September 6, 1877, as an active company, and was named Empire Engine Co. 2. Its first officers were: Robert E. Leary, foreman; Chas. A. Yates, assistant foreman: Jos. A. Alcorn,; Albert Grandjean, treasurer. Its headquarters was in a house owned by Jos. Taylor, on Spring street, near Hague, and its present house on Hoboken street, was erected in 1883.
During the year 1878, Dexter Hook & Ladder Co. 1 was disbanded, and Columbia Hook & Ladder Co. 1 was organized, with Charles J. Chandless foreman; J. Hecht, assistant foreman; M. Ford, secretary, and John Rumer, treasurer. The old truck was sold and was sent down south, and a new truck (the one now in use), was purchased for Columbia.
The same year an engine was purchased for Eagle Hose Co., and the company changed its name from "Hose" to "Engine" Company.
In those days the fire department had toon wells and cisterns for its water supply, and upon reaching the scene of the fire the first thing done by the firemen would be to get their engine to work. To do this a well would have to be located, and many times the yard of the burning building would not boast of such a luxury as a well. In that case the nearest neighbor would suffer.
As the well could not be brought to the engine, the engine must be brought to the well. Now, wells as a rule are placed in the rear of the yard, and to get a ponderous hand engine near enough to the well to work it, a part of the fence would come down, and woe to the householder if his well was surrounded by a garden (which was generally the case.) When the well was pumped dry it was "dollars to doughnuts" that the garden would have vanished. If the fire was a bad one it would necessarily take a large amount of water to subdue it, and while the engines would be doing good work, the cry would go up that the well was dry, which would mean the moving of the engine to another well, and in nine cases out of ten when the engines could again be worked the fire would be beyond control.
Another drawback to that primitive mode of fire fighting was that the men were compelled to draw these heavy engines to a fire, and after reaching it, would have to set to work to man the pumps, and to let any other engine throw a better stream would mean disgrace to the company that was beaten. The present generation of firemen who do the work to-day know very little of the hardships gone through by their fathers in the old fire department.
In the majority of cases to-day, when the volunteers return from a fire, they do so to enter well-heated and up-to-date houses; but not so with the old times. Their fire houses generally consisted of an old barn or an unused shed; and still with all those draw-backs, nobody can say that the old timers did not do good work, and they seldom let a fire get such headway that it resulted very seriously.
The town in those days also had several large cisterns for the use of the firemen, one of which was situated on Ann street, near the gate of the public school, and another in the extreme lower end of the town. It is not recorded that these cisterns were of any material benefit to the department, because unless a fire happened near them they could not be used on account of
not having enough hose, but they came in handy for the "boys" to use when they had a "wash."
The hand engines were used until the water pipes were laid in the streets in 1883, when it was seen that the pressure from the fire hydrants equalled, if it did notthat from the engines, and also with far less exertion on the part of the firemen. After a short time the engines belonging to Eagle and Empire Companies were sold. Neptune Company retained their engine as a relic. They owned it until last year, when they disposed of it to a junkman for $25. In my estimation this was a very foolish thing for them to do, as its age and the memories connected with it would have made it an excellent apparatus for our Exempt Association to have owned, to use it for parade purposes; and it seems strange that so many old timers who ran with this old machine would have stood idly by and seen it disposed of for a few paltry dollars.
Before the town built the old wooden bell tower in the rear of the town hall, the only method of giving an alarm of fire was by ringing the church bells, and the old St. John's and Presbyterian church bells were used for this purpose.
After Empire Engine Company wasthere were then three engine companies and one Hook & Ladder Co. doing duty in the town, and they constituted the fire department until June 3, 1887, when a new company was organized in the first ward. This part of the town had grown considerably in a few years and the citizens came to the conclusion that a Hook & Ladder Company in that locality was an absolute necessity. Accordingly, on the date above mentioned, the following citizens met in Mr. Siler's hotel, corner Clinton avenue and John street and organized Americus Hook & Ladder Co. 2. and elected the following officers:—Foreman, George Fink; assistant foreman, E. J. Tournade; recording secretary, H. Fisk; financial secretary, P. Fisk; treasurer, W. E. Gill, and G. Bene, H. Schneider, W. P. Sturgis, L. Alces, S. Fisk as charter members. The members of this company have always been hustlers, and from the very beginning would leave no stone unturned to make a success of anything they undertook; and in a short time they raised sufficient funds to purchase a truck and house themselves in a little house on Syms street, near West street. They were the first company in the department to adopt the regulation blue cloth uniform. They immediately entered the social world, and some of their entertainments and receptions equalled, if they did not surpass anything in their line ever attempted in the town.
They have repeatedly given affairs, the proceeds of which have been divided among needed charity organizations, and at
one time there was connected with the company an athletic association, who were invincible in baseball, football and other athletic sports. It is on account of their hustling proclivities that Americus has attained and kept its high place in the social and firemen's circle of our town. The company continued in its old home until 1895, when the town built for them their present handsome quarters on Syms street, at a cost of $6,000. The company again showed its hand in the hustling line, because, before the new house was finished they held a Fair in it, which netted them about $3,000, and with this money they fitted up their house in handsome style. To-day they are one of our best companies.
Chief Louis Haag, in his annual report for 1890, recommended the establishment of a Hose Company in the middle western section of the town. It needed only this recommendation "to start the ball rolling," for in September, 1890, Friendship Hose Co. No. 1 was organized, with the following officers: Foreman, W. H. Laune; assistant foreman, John Glace; recording secretary, E. Burckhart; financial secretary, G. Rohrback; treasurer, P. Sabatine; chairman, John Roden, and its first headquarters was located on Savoye street, near Summit avenue. The old house has since been torn down and a factory erected in its place. At first the company was supplied with a hose jumper by the town, and a few years after its organization they were furnished with their present hose carriage, which was purchased from Lady Washington Hose Co. 1, of the Yonkers Fire Department.
The present house on Central avenue was erected in 1897. It is an up-to-date building of its kind and is fitted up with all modern improvements. The cellar contains a complete kitchen, where "the boys" prepare the various viands that are served up by them to their guests on all festive occasions. The Company always has a full roll of 65 members, and on parade this long line of blue shirted men is the pride of the whole department.
The annual masquerade ball given by this Company is one of the social features of the town. It is yearly the largest ball given by any organization in North Hudson.
There was yet another company to be added to the department. The Third Ward had grown from a small village to a section of a large town, where a few years previously there were fields and woods with a small house here and there. There were now row after row of brick and frame houses, and for some time the citizens of this section had been discussing the advisability of organizing a Hook & Ladder Company. Various attempts to establish a Truck Company here (among which was
the attempt of some members of Eagle Engine Co. 3 to organize what they choose to call Washington Hook & Latter C. 3, with P. J. Van Skiver as foreman), had failed, and on June 20, 1894, a meeting was held at the "Capitol" Hotel, corner Spring and Dodd streets, and Protection Hook & Ladder Co. 3 was organized with the following officers and members:—Foreman, W. H. Drescher, Jr.; assistant foreman, Chas. Kremm; recording secretary, C. H. Kleene; financial secretary, Albert Laessig; treasurer, Henry Leuly and J. T. Boman, C. E. Boman, John Mahan, J. W. Smith, C. Kammeral, W. Stagen, R. J. Heuston and Frech, charter members.
The Company met weekly and appointed a committee consisting of W. H. Drescher, Jr., E. C. Schede and G. H. Kleene to solicit subscriptions to purchase a truck.
In the meantime they petitioned the town council to purchase a truck for them, and the petition was acted upon favorably by the authorities, and on February 19, 1895, they furnished the Company with their present handsome apparatus, which was built by the firm of Gleason & Bailey, of Seneca Falls, N. Y.
The event was celebrated by a grand parade and jollification at the Company's house on Dodd street, which was erected on a lot leased to the Company by W. H. Drescher, Sr., and the house was erected with the funds raised by the aforesaid committee appointed to raise funds to purchase an apparatus.
On July 2, 1897, the Company's house burned down. It is not known what caused the fire, but it is believed that a kerosene lamp must have exploded, which was used to light the house. The truck was damaged to the extent of $300, and the members stood all loss and in three months time had built another house and had the truck repaired and repainted.
In 1894 the Company moved into its present house, which was erected by the town at a cost of $6,000. It is fitted up with all modern improvements, such as steam heat, bath and shower bathrooms, etc., and the Company has spared neither time nor expense in furnishing it with the best and handsomest furniture that could be procured, two chandeliers in the meeting room costing $100.
The Company maintains a library which at present contains 296 volumes.
It appears that each of the last three Companies in the department has a special offering for those socially inclined, with Americus their "trump card" in minstrel shows; with Friendship it is masquerade balls, and with Protection it is smokers and house parties. The smokers given by Protection
are not equalled by any other town organization, and are looked forward to with eager delight by a host of Protection's friends.
Under the old system of answering alarms rung from the bell towers by hand, much valuable time was lost in locating the fire, and the chiefs, among whom were ex-Chiefs Haag McCourt and Tournade, would, in their annual reports, recommend the installation of an electric alarm system, and in the year 1894 the present electric fire alarm was installed at a cost of $6,000.
With the growing population of the town the demands made on the water system had a tendency to weaken the pressure considerably, especially was this the case in the high part of the town, in the vicinity of Central avenue and Malone street, and during the incumbency of Chief Geo. T. Johnson, he let no opportunity escape him in bringing forth the fact that it was time the town provided itself with a steam fire engine. By some citizens and officials he was laughed at, and his remarks were taken as the result of over-zealousness in fire department affairs, but the wisdom of his words soon became apparent, for in February, 1902. Helffs factory, in Lossburg, took fire and burned to the ground, and the pressure from the hydrants at this fire was miserable, and to cap the climax, a week later Givernaud's stable took fire and also burnt to the ground. It was at this fire that a stream could not be thrown ten feet, and if their had been any houses near this stable there is no telling where the fire would have ended.
The following spring, 1902, the council seeing they could no longer delay it, purchased the present steam fire engine, which is a new engine built by the American Fire Engine Co., and with its advent our department is second to none in the State.
From an insignificant village fire department, which, in 1861, fought fire with a hand engine and four lengths of hose, it has grown to a department which at present numbers about 375 men, divided into 7 companies, with 13 apparatuses, as follows:—
Neptune Engine Co. 1.—1 steamer, 1 hose carriage and 1 jumper.
Columbia Hook & Ladder Co. 1.—1 hook and ladder truck.
Empire Engine Co. 2.—1 hose carriage and 1 jumper.
Eagle Engine Co. 3.—2 hose carriages and 1 jumper.
Americus Hook & Ladder Co. 1.—1 hook and ladder truck.
Friendship Hose Co. 1.—1 hose carriage and 1 jumper.
Protection Hook & Ladder Co. 3.—1 hook and ladder truck.