Early Fire Companies

The Early Fire Companies

There is a question as to the first recorded fire - - was it Samuel Lesson’s blacksmith shop on Church Street or Joseph White’s home on Front Street – Both fires occurred in 1823.  Whichever it was the whole population responded to cries of “fire” and formed two lines running to the village brook.  One lined passed filled buckets of water hand to hand to the fire while the other returned the empties.  Nathaniel Waterbury and ten volunteers directed operations at the site.

Shortly after the village was incorporated in 1826, a volunteer fire department was formed.  Two companies were organized.  The first fire wardens were William A. Langworthy, Captain of #1 company, Mile Beach, Joseph White, Rockwell Putnam, Chief Engineer, Ransom Cook, Assistant Engineer, and Nathaniel Waterbury, Captain of #2 company.

1827    The first engine was purchased for $400, and a house built to protect it.

1830    A second engine was purchased for $500.

1836    A hook and ladder company was formed.

1844    A reservoir was built on Franklin Square to aid in fire fighting.  Prior to this the Village Brook was the main source of water used in fighting fires.

1845    A third engine was purchased for $650.

1855    Company #4 organized.

1858    Company #5 organized.

1863    A law was passed authorizing the village to impose a tax to maintain the fire department.   $800 a year was to be levied until 1867.  Firemen of regular companies were exempt for 2 days of the highway tax.

1866    First steam engine purchased for $3,000.

1871    A new village water system installed which lessened fire losses.

1877    Fire alarm telegraph system installed.

1882    New bell placed in Town Hall used for the first time to sound fire alarm.

The volunteer system continued with slight changes until the establishment of the paid department in1883.  At the time of the centralization in 1883 there were 6 hose companies, 3 steamer companies, and 1 protective company and 1 hook and ladder company.


12/4/1882        Elias J. Shadwick, then Chief Engineer of te fire department, reported that the department was inefficient, there was lack of interest and dissatisfaction with the present methods of management.             Apparatus was drawn to the fires by hand; 15 minutes to 20 minutes elapsed between the alarm and the commencement of work.  He, therefore, recommended to the Village Board the adoption of a centralized house system.  Among specific recommendations he urged the purchase of a hose carriage and a horse to draw it.  Additional horses to draw the hook and ladder should be purchased and kept at the central house.  Three men at a monthly salary of $50 each should be employed who should sleep in the central house.  A Chief Engineer, an Assistant Engineer and a superintendent of the fire alarm telegraph be employed.

12/23/1882      The village attorney was authorized to prepare a suitable bill to effect the changes.

1/4/1883          A petition was presented by over 100 asking passage of the law organizing the fire department.  The Village Board voted 3 ayes, 2 nos; measure was passed.

4/2/1883          Elias J. Shadwick was appointed Chief Engineer; John Dillon was appointed his assistant.

4/12/1883        Charles W. Benedict was appointed Superintendent of the Fire Alarm Telegraph.  A committee was appointed to find a lot for the new fire house.  A committee was appointed to ascertain what horses, hose, carriages and apparatus should be purchased.

4/13/1883        The salary of the Chief Engineer was set at $250 a year; Assistant Engineer $125; Superintendent of Fire Alarm $30 a month.

5/14/1883        The Board voted to purchase the lot on Broadway from W. C. Barrett.

5/18/1883        A meeting of the Board was held to act upon plans and specifications for a firehouse of brick and stone prepared by G. Slocum.

5/24/1883        A contract for the brick and mason wor was awarded to Patrick Gaffney.

(Work on the building began on May 28, 1883)

6/12/1883        A committee was appointed to employ men to do the carpenter, plumbing and all necessary work to complete the firehouse.

6/19/1883        1 pair of horses was purchased for $600.

7/2/1883          The sale of the property of the volunteer companies realized $6,256.18.  Applications for membership in the fire department were received.

7/10/1883        The following were appointed as members of the Hose Company and the Hook and Ladder Company for the paid fire department.

Hose Company

Charles Plowman

Davis Coleman

John Bertrand

George Lamb

Charles E. Gibbs

Collins Barber

S. L. Gosbeck

Wm. Connolly

John Welsh

F. C. Mallery

E.M. Dillon

W.A. McIlwain

A.W. Brown

Edward Smith

L. LeClaire

E.A. Welcome

Chief  Elias J. Shadwick

Asst. John Dillon

Elec. C. W. Benedict

Permanent Members of the Fire Co.

John McCabe

Jeremiah Quinn

Byron Davis

Hook and Ladder Company

C.M Avery

John Betts

R. Grauley

J. Ayen

Wm. Wilcox

D. Delaney

8/16/1883        The new fire department took possession of the “nearly finished” centralized firehouse.

9/3/1883          The Village Board resolved that the volunteer departments be disbanded without prejudice to any company wishing to keep its organization alive…

10/10/1883      Chief Shadwick presented rules and regulations for the government of the fire department.

1/7/1884          Fire bells were placed in each members home.

8/25/1983         B. Sweeney
                                       (information above from the Village Minutes)