Our First Fire Company

History of Protection Engine Company Number 1

Protection Engine and Hose Company Number 1, was organized in the spring of 1859, with some forty or fifty of the most substantial property holders of the town, (four or five of its constitutional members are still in active service), as a stock and independent company, and remained as such for several years, when the Corporation bought us out, and a proper distribution of the proceeds was made to the company and stockholders. The following named persons are supposed to be the first officers elected:
Jos. A. Funk, Foreman.
J. A. Robbins, 1st Asst. Foreman.
Wm. Kirtley, 2d Asst. Foreman
Frank Marks, Sec'y
I. J. Morris, Treas.
H. Rouch, Comp'y Engineer.
P. G. Frary, Steward

Up to this time the town, now city, of Warsaw had no organized fire department, although it was incorporated and had its officers and councilmen. When the alarm of fire sounded, every man in town considered himself a fireman, and grabbing a bucket, rushed to the scene of action-everyone fighting the fire fiend in his own way, which was always attended with dissatisfaction and confusion. Hence, the absolute need of a well-organized fire department. This company has remained unbroken and up to its full number of members for nearly thirty-two years, and has been prompt, efficient and successful, and always reliable. The secret of our success as a company has been that our by-laws have been somewhat rigid, and have been promptly and faithfully enforced; for, without discipline, no company of any kind can long exist. At that time, having no facilities for fighting a fire beyond the common wooden bucket, this company resolved to purchase a hand engine, hose, and such apparatus as was necessary to be well-equipped and more efficient. Accordingly, in the fall of the same year, (1859), through the active agency of Peter Marvin, then our fellow townsman, the renowned hand-engine, known for years as the "Old Tub," was purchased from the city of Adrian, Michigan, for the sum of $300, and with it 500 feet of hose, which rendered good service for a time. Having no engine house, the company at once leased ground of Wm. Beatty, and build the first engine house, on the alley where now stands Dr. Foster's Drug Store. All the expenses were mostly borne by this company, for the safety of the town. Prior to this time the company met in Union block, southwest corner of the public square, known as the Chapman and Lightfoot block, which was destroyed by fire on Jan. 24, 1861, together with all the secretary's books. Hence all record of the company from its organization to Jan. 24, 1861, have been lost, and what we may say of it will be from our best recollection. This was the first great loss to our town as well as to the owners, who were C. W. Chapman, P. L. Runyan, Sr., W. Lightfoot, the Masonic and Good Templar orders and others. The loss was estimated at $35,000, at which fire the "Old Tub" was of untold value in saving the entire row of buildings east of it to the Boss corner. Another fire occurred in November of the same year, and was found to be in the boot and shoe store of Geo. F. Birt, the property belonging to Caleb Hendee, and which is now occupied by John Royston, as a cigar factory. One little incident occurred that is worthy of mention. It was a snapping cold November morn when the alarm was given. Promptly this company was on hand with the new fire engine, all seeming glad of the opportunity of testing the much-prized machine, and feeling a pride and security, hitherto unknown to the company. On double quick the engine was set, and the hose stretched to the scene of the conflagration, and the breaks fully manned. The boys were impatient to see her "squirt" and at the first word given by the engineer down went the breaks and the first touch of water on the valves, the engine being cold and frosty, it froze and the engine failed to work. At this juncture, our lamented fellow townsman, Col. C. W. Chapman, (he having taken no stock in the engine), appeared on the ground with hat in hand, and in his usual outspoken way, shouted, "I told you that town would burn down if you got that d__d old trap!" By this time the flames were leaping high above the roof, and every moment seemed an hour. But Firemen B. G Cosgrove and P. G. Frary, equal to the emergency-as firemen always are-stepped into the kitchen of the old Wright House, and taking a kettle of boiling water from the stove, poured it in the engine. In an instant the valves were loosed and "Down on the breaks" was given, and a full stream was thrown on the burning building. In an incredibly short time the flames were extinguished, after the east end of the south side had burned out and the roof fell in. Then went up a general shout of triumph over the easy victory won by the boys with the Tub. A meeting was called that night to which the Colonel came and made us a speech, took back all he had said, and then presented the company with the best box stove he had in his hardware store to keep the engine warm and from freezing. Also Mr. Metcalfe Beck, of Leesburg, then owning the adjoining building, known as the "Crystal Palace," gave the company $20 for the services rendered in saving his building. The boys all felt proud of the victory gained, though they were very doubtful at the start. The loss to Mr. Hendee was $400, but he was well insured.

Since the burning of Union Block there have been six or seven disastrous and costly fires in Warsaw, in which this company always took a conspicuous part, and is always proud of the record it made. The most notable of these fires were:
1. The Union Block, which occurred Jan. 24, 1861. Estimated loss, $35,000
2. The great fire of June 8, 1867, in the old Wright House Block, which destroyed the Wright house, the Kirtley House, and nearly all the buildings in that block east to the Baptist church. Estimated loss, $42,425.
3. The Empire Block, which occurred Jan. 14, 1871, about 11 p.m., and which fire originated in the hardware store of Card Brothers. It is impossible now to detail the many amusing things that occurred during that terrible night, while battling with the two elements, the fire, and mud and slush which was from four to six inches deep. The loss by this fire was, at the lowest estimate, $75,000.
4. The fire which commenced in O. P. Jaques' livery barn destroyed nearly the entire block, including the Baptist church, Wm. Conrad's fine residence, Jaques & Berst's livery stable, and other barns and houses. This fire occurred at about 12 o'clock p.m. on Aug. 19, 1871. Estimated loss, $35,000.

Other large fires were the Weirick House, Oct. 28, 1879, owned by the Thomases. In this fire the Thomases, Glessner, Hitzler and others lost property estimated at $2,500. On Feb. 12, 1882, occurred the burning of the city calaboose and the renowned "Old Tub," after it had been of vast value in fighting the devouring flames at numerous fires. Loss $9.25. The second burning of the Wright House Block caused a loss to the several occupants of over $20,000 on March 16, 1883. The burning of the G. B. Lesh & Co. Bending Factory on Nov. 14, 1885 caused a total loss of $50,000, while the Thomas and Frary fire in Thomas Woods' room in the Opera House Block on Sept. 3, 1883 destroyed property to the value of $2,500. At the fire of July 20, 1885-which was found to be in the finishing room of A. W. Thomas and Co.'s Furniture Factory, occurred the death of our honored brother S. B Clark, which was so sudden and sad. Mr. Clark had been Treasurer of this company for many years. The last, though not the least fire, was the one which destroyed the old Chapman corner, in which was Cisney's dry goods store, and the stores of Lyman Sapp, J. McCauley and others, causing a loss of $8,300, which was mostly covered by insurance. Besides these, there have been a score of other smaller fires in which this company has borne a prominent part.

For the want of the roll-calls I can not give the total number of members or their names, but since its organization there have been over 150 names up to the present time the largest number at any one time being 71. After the purchase of the steamer in 1863, our number was let down to 40 or 45 and since the water-works have been put in our number has decreased so that all present the company only numbers about 24 active members, there being three other companies in the department. Gladly I would like to give the number of deaths in the department. The first death was that of Wm. Cristwell in October, 1861. Others that I call to mind and whose memory we cherish, are David Neff, Julian Robbins, John Warren, B. G. Cosgrove, Charles Ketcham, Benj. Richhart, Harry Wright, Wm. Beatty, S. B. Clark, A. D. Pittenger and Wm. Boydston.

For want of time I cannot think of half of the pleasing incidents that have occurred with the "old reliable." A mere mention of some of the jolly times and hearty laughs we have had must suffice. We all remember with what ecstacies of joy we returned from the tournaments at Lima, Ohio, Peru, Laporte, Goshen, and at Elkhart, where we were presented with a fine game cock, the victor's prize, and we think of the fleet-footed George Garrison, who on starting to Goshen, waved the white flag and ran with pants in hand, not to be outdone by trifles. Also we note that for 20 years it has been our custom to have a merry good time at our annual election of officers, and have our banquets, sometimes at Firemen's Hall, feasting on crackers, bologna, and cheese, and other times with our wives and sweethearts (as to-night) at the hotels or restaurants, and still more notable, when a young fireman was born-male or female-we always looked for a good time coming, when the happy dad would come up smiling with joy, plead guilty and plunk down his dollar, which was always satisfaction for his good behavior. Among these were Dr. Goodwin, the Colemans, Alms, Holbrook, Winters, Sheffield, George Morris, and others, especially Bro. Conrad, with his keg of beer, at the birth of a boy in 1870, and a pleasant recollection in 1875. Soon after his marriage to his present wife, and at the close of a regular meeting at our Hall, the Foreman insisted that the company should go and take a view of the inside of his new residence. They consented, and he showed them all through the first and second stories, but when they reach the attic, which he said was a good place to hang coats, hats, etc., in bad weather, and to have a dance, the door was thrown open, and to our great surprise we were confronted with a splendid supper, prepared by his noble wife for the boys, to which ample justice was done, and after many congratulations were extended to our host we retired, hoping for the return of many such occasions, also of the beer and pretzels at the home of our honored fireman, Fred Gottsman. These were all happy remembrances.

I also wish to remind this company that on July 4, 1871, was held the only celebration in Warsaw that done the city credit, and it was gotten up by old No. 1. Firemen were here from Elkhart and Goshen, with three bands, and in the contests this company secured all the laurels. Two hundred and fifty guests partook of the banquet, the spread was grand, and was a great honor to the citizens of Warsaw in general who aided us cheerfully. Many successful festivals we have held and especially so was the one at the Opera House Feb. 22, 1881, when our net receipts were $233.88, and what is more, we have always had plenty of money, and have always been, and are today, on a sound financial basis. Bro. Conrad will excuse me when I say that we have an honored Foreman-one who has filled that office with credit and pride for twenty-one successive years. Few such instances are on record.

Since the organization of this company there have been three Chief Engineers, P. Marvin, Jos. A. Funk, and Perry Brown, who is Chief at present of the whole department and has been Foreman of the hose boys of the company for over twenty years. With reference to the three principal offices of the company I will say there have been seven Foremen. Of these, J. A. Funk has served six years, and Wm. Conrad twenty-one. There have been fourteen Secretaries, as which C. H. Ketcham and W. Vanator each served six years. There have been eight Treasurers, S. B. Clark holding the office eight years and E. A Sheffield the present Treasurer, ten years. The next longest term of office is that of P. Winters, who has been Foreman two years and First Assistant ten years. The present Steward, I. J. Morris, has served over twenty years, of which he is proud.

Now Mr. Foreman and brethren, in closing this imperfect sketch, I can say with truth that this company has always been united in everything it has undertaken and has stood shoulder to shoulder, keeping in mind the old maxim, "United we stand, divided we fall."
Respectfully submitted,
I. J. Morris

Warsaw Daily Times, January 24, 1891

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