Fire Department History

(From Delaware County History {Perrin Battles} 1880)

During the early history of Delaware as a village every citizen was a member of the fire department. At the first alarm everyone rushed out with pail in hand to the scene of action, and so effective did they prove that but two or three fires of any importance occurred during the first 25 years of the town’s existence.

As the town became more thickly settled, there was a growing apprehension, on the part of the citizens, that these primitive measures would, sooner or later, prove an insufficient protection, and the Council through the columns of the Patron, called a meeting of the citizens at the court house, to consider the question of purchasing a fire engine. This meeting was called June 17,1831, but the village, with its proverbial deliberation, did not secure these safeguards until 1834. The engines procured were small, rectangular boxes with a pump worked by levers, at which four men, by crowding, could find room to work. They were mounted on very small wheels, but in case of necessity, two men could lift them by the handles provided for the purpose, and place them where they chose.

It is related that Thespian Hall once took fire, and the flames, breaking through the roof, were rapidly getting beyond control, when one of the engines was quickly unshipped and carried up the stairs, which were built outside the building, within easy reach of the flames, which were quickly subdued. The department was well supplied with pails, and two lines of men were formed from the water supply to the engine, and thus passed along the water and returned the empty pails. In October of this year, the Council devised a plan for the organization of a fire department, which for years operated these hand engines. The town was divided by Winter Street into two districts; the north one was known as No. 1, and the south one as No.2. In each of these districts a company, consisting of a Captain, one or two subordinate officers, and twenty-five men, was organized; Henry Moore being Captain in District No. I, and Edward Potter, a tailor, Captain in the other district. The Captain of the first engine on the ground, at any fire, took command of the whole department, a regulation which added a strong incentive to prompt action on the occasion of an alarm. Four wells were constructed for the use of the department, and supplied with pumps; one at the junction of North and Sandusky Streets, one at the junction of Winter and Sandusky Streets, another at the junction of Williams and Sandusky Streets, and the fourth at the junction of Winter and Washington Streets. In the meanwhile, it was made the duty of the Captains of the respective companies to house and take care of the engines belonging to their company.

 In 1838, the Council decided to build two engine-houses, and secured a site on William Mansen’s lot, on the southwest comer of Williams and Sandusky Streets, for one, and on the courthouse lot for the other. It was late in 1839, however, before they were completed, and they cost the corporation exclusive of painting, $57.45. The town soon outgrew the capacity of these small engines and, in 1846, the Council purchased a larger hand-engine, selling afterward these smaller ones; one of which is yet to be seen in Mr. Anthoni’s brewery .The engine purchased was one of Hunneman ‘ s patent, for which they paid $675. In the bill we find enumerated in addition, one long and two short pipes, six torches, with handles, one signal lantern, one bell and irons to engine, 300 feet of leading hose, twelve pairs of brass coupling and two boxes of packing, bringing the whole amount up to the sum of $978.50.

Insubmitting this statement, the committee of the Council add, “One-half of the amount we paid out of the engine-fund, the balance we gave a town order for due six months from the 23rd of last October payable at the Delaware Bank with the current rate of exchange. The transportation from Boston here on the engine, hose, etc., amounted to $86.01 a pan of the amount was paid out of the engine fund, the balance was advanced by Mr. Latimer for the same he has received an order on the Treasurer. We also got the engine insured in Columbus for which we paid $9.12; the same was included in Mr. Latimer’s account.” At the same time the Council provided a hose-reel and a hook and ladder truck, with ladders, pikes, hooks and spanners at a cost of $147.58. So large an addition to the department necessitated the providing of new accommodations, and the west end of the Williams Street market-house was fitted up for that purpose.

A re-organization of the companies took place and a Fire Association was formed, consisting of the company organized to take charge of the new engine called the “Olentangy Engine Company, the Neptune Hose company, the Rough and Ready Hook and Ladder Company, and the Protection Company, which still worked one of the smaller hand engines. Besides the company officers, there was a Chief Engineer and two Assistant Engineers. The Protection Company soon gave up its organization. Later, the different companies joined together for a festival to raise funds for uniforms, with what result the following report of the committee having the matter in charge will show. They say, “the engine Olentangy and hose cart Neptune were taken to Templar hall, and by the ladies beautifully decorated with evergreens and flowers. The tables were most bountifully spread with ‘good things,’ and, with the aid of the Delaware String Band and vocal performers who kindly volunteered their services, the occasion passed off pleasantly and satisfactorily to the citizens and firemen.” The net receipts of the entertainment were $199, which was divided among the various companies for the purpose for which it was raised. These festivals were of frequent occurrence afterward, and were equally pleasant and profitable.

Early in 1856, the Fire Association expressed their opinion through a committee, that the safety of the town required the addition of another engine to their force. At this suggestion, another company was formed called the Washington Fire Company No.2, which was supplied with an engine and hose- reel in the October following. This machine was bought from Hunneman & Co., of Boston, and was designated on the bill as a fire engine with five-inch cylinders, vacuum chambers to the suction part, with four sections of suction-hose, copper strainer, wood-saddle, torches, axes, etc., costing $1,184.88, with the freight, $136.58 additional.

In the meanwhile, the Council had been considering the question of building two engine-houses to accommodate the two machines. B y March, 1857, there were two substantial brick structures, one on the corner of the parade ground (present Fire Station Location), still standing, and one on the corner of Franklin and North Streets (Central Avenue), which has since been torn down, built at a cost of some fifteen hundred dollars. This sufficed for the needs of the city for seven years, when the east part of the town put in a claim for an engine company. In response to this call, the Council in 1864 bought of the city of Cleveland, a second-hand engine at a cost of $800, and a company was formed to man it. This was but part of the work to be done, and the company began to talk seriously of disbanding before the Council got ready to build a house for their accommodation. They began to erect an engine-house early in 1868, and by the 1st of August it was ready for the company, costing the village the sum of $3,294.76.

 The town had thus three serviceable engines, three hose-reels, a hook and ladder wagon, and companies to operate them. But there was something more needed to make them effective, which we gather from a report of the Chief Engineer on February 1, 1869. There was but 1,700 feet of hose, 400 feet of which had become unreliable on account of its long use, and 500 feet was rubber. There was a scarcity of water available for the use of engines, a large part of the town being dependent upon private wells and cisterns, a very poor reliance in time of fire. There were but nine public cisterns, and they were many of them in poor condition. The engineer asked for a new wagon for the hooks and ladders, and a bell for the engine-house east of the river. In the following year, a new element was introduced in the fire department, which has worked a wonderful change. On December 15, 1870, the city bought a brass- plated Silsby Rotary Engine of the third size, and the old market-house was fitted up for its reception. A team was bought, and George H. Aigin appointed engineer. In 1874, another Silsby Rotary Engine was bought, a nickel-plated machine of the second size. Aigin was transferred to the new engine, which was named the W. E. Moore, No.2, and W. E. Kruck was appointed engineer of the first engine bought, the Delaware No.1. Hitherto the hose reels had been managed by volunteer companies, but in this year, a horse hose- reel was bought which displaced the old force. In 1876, the hook and ladder wagon was fitted for horsepower, and the whole fire department was put on a first-class basis. The old shed on the east side of the market-house was enclosed for the hook and ladder, the engines were put in front part of the main building, while the horses were comfortably housed in the rear of the machines. The department is composed of seventeen men, six with the hose-reels, six with the hook and ladder truck, and the rest with the engines, saves the Chief who manages the whole. The annual appropriation is $3,500, out of which, besides the expenses of teams, etc., are paid yearly salaries to two engineers and two drivers, the others receiving 50 cents per hour of service. This small complement of men is made to serve the apparatus by the engineer of the Delaware No.1, acting as the driver of one of the reels. There are but four horses, two for the engine, one for the hose reel, and one for the ladder wagon. The whole apparatus is in one building, and, in case of necessity, the team is sent back for the second engine, and the ladder team goes after the other hose-reel, and the second engineer takes charge of his engine. There is no code of signals, and the alarm is given by the usual outcry when the bells tap the number of the ward. The department has two engines, two hose- reels, a hook and ladder wagon, one hand engine in good repair, and 4,000 feet of fabric hose. Four men are constantly on duty, and the department is furnished with all the conveniences of such establishments in cities. The teams are well trained, the engines are supplied with the Dayton Champion swinging harness, fire torches, etc. The water facilities seem to be unexcelled for a place where the only dependence is upon local reservoirs.

There are fourteen cisterns, with a capacity of from 250 to 1,200 barrels each. There are two reservoirs made by damming Delaware Run; one on Washington Street, 25×60 feet by 3 feet deep, the other on Main street, 25×3 feet and 18 inches deep, which may be re-enforced from that on Washington Street, if desired. Near the dam are two large stone reservoirs, fed by the river, which are practically inexhaustible. Since the re-organization of the department, in 1874, there has been an average of a little over eleven fires per year, with an average of about three false alarms. The department, by its promptness and efficiency, has now the respect of insurance men, and, during the six years of its present efficiency, there have been no serious losses which better management of the department could have saved. In 1871, at the burning of the flax-mill, east of the river, the engines were on the ground ready for work in thirteen minutes, which speaks well for their drill. Their present officers are: Chief Engineer, William J. Davis; Captain of the Hose, Daniel Jones; Captain of the Hooks, C. V. Owston; Engineer of the W. E. Moore, No.2, George II. Aigin; Engineer of the Delaware No.1, W. E. Kruck; Driver of Engine, Jackson Cunningham; Driver of Hose, Walter F. Watson.


(Taken from James R. Lytle’s History of Delaware County)

No department of the City is characterized by greater efficiency than that of the fire department, evolved from the self -constituted organization of pioneer days. In the infantile days of Delaware, the fire alarm was a signal for every able-bodied citizen to rush forth, bucket in hand, and do his utmost to put out the fire, and this continued to be the method of fighting fires until the middle thirties (1830’s).

In 1834 two engines were purchased by the Council, small affairs described as “small rectangular boxes with a pump worked by levers at which four men, by crowding could find room to work.” In October 1834 the Council took the first steps in the organization of a fire department, laying out the City in two districts. No.1 including all that part north of Winter St. with Captain Henry Moore in charge, and No. 2 captained by Edward Potter, all south of Winter St.1n each a company was organized to include a captain, one or two subordinate officers and twenty five men, the director of operations at the fires being the captain whose engine first arrived at the scene.

In 1838 two small engine houses were erected, one on the south west corner of William and Sandusky Streets, and the other on the Court House lot. In 1846 a large hand engine of the Hunneman pattern was purchased for $675.00, and other necessary apparatus was purchased for $303.50. The Council also purchased a hose reel and hook and ladder truck for $147.58 and these additions to the departmental equipment necessitating more room, the west end of the William Street market house was fitted up as a fire station.

A fire association was next formed consisting of a company organized to take charge of the new engine house, known as the Olentangy Engine Co., the Neptune Hose Co., the Rough and Ready Hook and Ladder Co. and the Protection Co., which worked one of the smaller hand engines. It was officered by a chief engineer and two assistants. The Protection Co. disbanded after a brief existence. Another company was organized in 1856 Washington Fire Co. No.2, for which a new engine and hose reel was purchased at a cost of$1,184.88.

In 1857 two substantial brick structures were completed at a cost of $1,500.00, one on the corner of the parade grounds, and the other at the corner of Franklin and North Sts. (Central). The east part of the City made a demand for better fire protection and in 1864 a second hand engine was bought of the City of Cleveland for $800.00. A company was organized and a station was erected for the sum of $3,294.76 but was not completed unti11868. December 15, 1870 the City bought a brass plated Silsby Rotary engine of the third size, for which the old market house was fitted up. The first fire team was then purchased and George H. Aigin appointed engineer. This was an important step in advancement and was followed in 1874 by the purchase of another Silsby rotary of the second size. Mr. Aigin was transferred to the new engine known as W. E. Moore No.2 and w. E. Kruck became engineer of the old engine Delaware No.1. The hose-reels, until this time manned by volunteer companies, were next replaced by a horse hose-reel, and in 1876 the hook and ladder wagon was fitted for horsepower.

All of the apparatus was housed in one building, and the company consisted of seventeen men and the chief. The city fixed the annual appropriation at $3,500 out of which came the expense of keeping the teams and the yearly salaries of two engineers and two drivers, the others receiving fifty cents per hour for service.

The engine house at City Hall had, when it was installed, at the time of the building’s erection, two steam fire-engines, a hook and ladder wagon and horse-cart, with four horses. In 1895 a new hose- wagon was purchased. One of the steam engines was replaced with a chemical in 1885. January 1,1908, Station No.2, on Potter St., was completed and occupied. It is a two-story brick building and was erected at a cost of $3,767. When the city purchased the lot on which Station No.2 was built, there was a two- story brick house there which cost $1,500, in which two men belonging to the station reside. The water pressure being 65 pounds, it is not necessary under ordinary circumstances to use the steamer, which is kept in reserve.

The last hose-wagon purchased was re-modeled into a combination hose and chemical, and a new combination hose and chemical was purchased for Station No.1 at a cost of $l, 650. The department now has six head of horses and 4,500 feet of hose. There are six permanent men in the department and ten minutemen. C. W. Keiser has been chief since October 15,1906, succeeding C. 0. Jones’ who had been chief for two or three years previously. Chief Jones’ predecessor was Mont Battenfield, who succeeded E. M. Heller, whose predecessor was W. E. Moore.

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