Warsaw's First Fire Company

Denver, Col., Feb. 5, 1891
Messers. Williams & Hossler:

Anything relating to Warsaw's first fire company is deeply interesting to me, as I claim the honor of having taken the first practical step toward forming and probably did more work in completing the organization than any man connected with it. Twenty-two years of service in its ranks have served to strengthen the fraternal feeling toward its members, especially those who were, as they say in this State, "59ers." The history of the company, as written by Brother Morris, and published in your papers, was therefore very interesting to me, but I was sorry to see that it contained several errors. This is not to be wondered at, as Bro. Morris states that he writes from memory, and it would be a remarkable memory indeed that would enable a man, after a lapse of thirty-two years to state facts just as they occurred.

In correcting some of Bro. Morris' statements I do not write from memory, but from a private record made at the time the events occurred. I think it would be interesting to the present and future members of the Warsaw Fire Department to have an accurate history of its first organization. To furnish this, I have no doubt, was Bro. Morris' object; so, instead of looking upon what I may write as a criticism, he will kindly accept it as a few missing links in the record.

Warsaw had several small fires, some of them entailing considerable loss, fully one-half of which was caused by misdirected efforts to subdue the flames or save moveable property. For instance, at the fire in Bro. Morris' residence, on Indiana street, every man worked with a will but fully one-half of the water was thrown aimlessly and did no good, and after the pails were emptied they were thrown from the roof by the excited men, nearly braining some of those below, while one, still more excited, seized an axe, rushed into a bed room, and began chopping up a fine bedstead to save it.

The Indianian
had, on several occasions, urged the necessity of some organization for the protection of the town against fire; but no person seemed disposed to take the lead. After each fire the Trustees would be consulted, but they had "no funds," for an answer. Then the people would talk about it for a few days, and then the subject would be dropped. Marx Frank, who is mentioned by Bro. Morris, having a fine stock of goods at stake, was not satisfied with talk without action. He argued that under the circumstances the citizens should advance the money necessary to equip a company and let the corporation pay it back when able. He was willing to do his share and believed that there would be no trouble in raising the funds if some person would take the responsibility of calling a meeting for that purpose. Peter Marvin stated the object of the meeting, and after considerable discussion of ways and means it was decided to organize a stock company. This stock was placed at $5 per share, and every member of the company was requested to take at least one share, the Trustees agreeing to redeem the certificates as soon as they could raise funds for that purpose. Fifty shares of stock were taken on the spot and a committee appointed to solicit subscriptions. Mr. Marvin was appointed to purchase the engine that was offered for sale at Adrian Mich., if he found it serviceable and terms satisfactory.

Independent Protection Engine Company No. 1 was fully organized at this meeting, which was held February 16, 1859, with 38 charters. The officers elected for the first year were:
Joseph A. Funk, Chief Engineer
Peter Marvin, Foreman
Wm. B. Boyston, 1st Ass't Foreman
A. T. S. Kist, 2d Ass't Foreman
B. G. Cosgrove, Company Engineer
W. S. Hemphill, Secretary
Dr. J. P. Leslie, Treasurer
I. J. Morris, Steward
The other charter members were Samuel Laufferty, P. G. Frary, Harry Cosgrove, William Beatty, Jos. Silvers, W. B. Funk, Frank Nutt, Reub. Williams, Wm. Hazzard, J. A. Robbins, Marx Frank, Jos. Kegg, Benj. P. Wright, Jas. Milice, Caleb Hendee, John Evers, John Hipp, Phil. Winters, E. O. Milice, R. S. Richhart, Thomas Woods, Eb. Hazzard, Wm. Criswell, A. J. Power, Wm. Williams, Wm Kirtley, Lewis Trish, David Neff, Geo. W. Scott, and J. H. Carpenter.

The engine named "Protection No. 1," and nicknamed by the late Col. Chapman the "old Tub," was received March 9, 1859, and was tested by the company on the 10th, at a pond which was situated on the corner of Washington and Water streets, just back of the Christian church lot. The constitution and By-Laws were adopted at the meeting held on the 9th of March. The company having procured uniforms, came out on parade for the first time April 19, 1859. The engine was housed and the meetings held in the north end of the old foundry building, corner of Lake and Main streets, the entrance being the double door opening on Lake street. This was occupied until the engine house erected by the company on Mr. Beatty's lot was enclosed. One or two business meetings were held in Union Block. Meetings for drill were held weekly during the summer, and false alarms were frequent. A cistern was put in at the corner of Center and Buffalo streets, the well put in good order, and by an assessment levied on the members, money was raised to buy some new hose, as only 200 feet of old leather hose had been received with the engine. The ground was leased, the engine house erected, and every preparation made, so far as possible, to meet the call to active duty. Col. Chapman had predicted that "the town would burn up while we were fooling with that ____ Old Tub," and the boys were anxious to show "the croakers" what they could do. The new engine house not been plastered, it was rather a cool place to meet without fire when the weather became cold, but the boys had gone down into their pockets so deep during the year that further assessment seemed like extortion, as very few of them had property to be protected by the engine in case of fire, while a majority of the owners of business rooms and other property that could be protected refused to "throw money away by encouraging such foolishness." So we had to grin and bear it and keep warm the best way we could.

The test which was to prove the many predictions of failure for the "Old Tub" true or false was not long delayed. It came on that bitter cold morning of which Bro. Morris speaks, but he is mistaken as to date. The first fire was at the Hendee building Nov. 14, 1859. The Company engineer and monthly committee had just given the "Old Tub" a thorough overhauling, and when she refused to work, Mr. Cosgrove thought something had been misplaced. When hot water was called for, P. G. Frary rushed into the kitchen of the Wright House, and seized the first thing he could find on the range, in the shape of water. It was quickly poured down the "goose-neck," but about the time the last drop disappeared, Uncle Ben Wright's face was a study. Frowns and smiles chased each other over his features, while his lips assumed that peculiar pucker that always appeared when he was excited. Uncle Ben said nothing, and came down on the breaks with a will, but his cook had to prepare another boiler of coffee for breakfast that morning. Old Protection scored his first victory in Warsaw at that fire, and it was a complete victory, not only over the fire-fiend, but over the prejudices of the people. But few first class hand engines could have surpassed her work. The stream was steady, and that it was strong enough the chief engineer could testify after it came near lifting him off the ladder. The boys were ready to swear by the "Old Tub," and to all comers point to the motto, "Try Us." This victory is more than surprising when it is remembered that the old leather hose, procured with the engine, burst in more than a score of places, and in order to keep up a stream it was necessary to wrap it about every 5 or 10 feet along the entire length. To do this some fine calfskins and a lot of sheepskin and some fine moroco linings were taken from the shoe shop, and nearly every fireman and a number of citizens contributed silk and linen handkerchiefs to tie the wrappings.

On the 30th of the same month some miscreant set fire to the old house that stood on the corner of Center and Lake streets, opposite the old jail, and the "Old Tub" scored her second victory. At the election of officers in January, 1860, but few changes were made: J. A. Robbins was elected 1st Asst. Foreman, I. J. Morris Treasurer, and P. G. Frary Steward. The only fire that occured in 1860 was on the 5th of September at S. H. Chipman's stable on Ft. Wayne street. The night was dark and the streets, which had been graded were covered with sticky mud. It was a long hard pull, and when the company arrived the fire in the stable was beyond control. Mr. J. S. Hetfield's barn just across the alley was beginning to burn. Water was procured from wells in the vicinity, carried in pails, and poured into the box of the "Old Tub." The fire in Hetfield's barn was extinguished, but just at that critical moment it was discovered that Mr. Chipman's residence was on fire, and the wells had all been exhausted. It was discouraging, for if Chapman's house burned Hetfield's house and barn were doomed. But old Protection was there to win. Detaching the hose the boys grabbed the ropes and ran to Dr. Davenport's residence, which was at that time on Detroit street, near Main, where they filled the "old Tub" with water from his well and cistern, dragged it back to the fire, and by repeating the trip two or three times put out the fire. Mr. Chipman's stable was burned, his house but slightly damaged, and Mr. Hetfield's barn scorched some. It took about three hours of the hardest kind of work, but considering the circumstances, the work was well done. The fourth fire to which the company was called was the one of which Bro. Morris speaks in which the records of the company were lost. It broke out in the Union Block about 3 a.m., Jan. 24, 1861. As Bro. Morris says "the 'Old Tub' was of untold value" at that fire. Although the fire had gained considerable headway when first discovered, there was a fair prospect of saving a good portion of the block, till the flames reached some powder in one of the back rooms. When that exploded it scattered the fire throughout the building. Then everything was against us. The streets were a glare of ice, rendering it very difficult to move rapidly without falling; the occupants of the buildings from the alley to the Book Store corner began moving their goods across the street to the public square, thus interfering with the movements of the firemen; the Thomas building and the old jail were both on fire, while the heat from the burning building was blistering the paint on the "Old Tub." The boys were almost exhausted, but they still kept the old engine thumping away, scarcely losing a stroke for nearly three hours, when it was announced that the danger was passed and they were permitted to pause for breath. Then they went at it again and continued to throw water at intervals till nearly noon, when the flames were completely subdued. The loss of the company records was to be regretted. They had been left at Mr. Runyan's store, where the Committee on Finance was to meet to audit the books and prepare their report. From that date I presume the records are complete, so I will only correct one or two more statements made by Bro. Morris. It may be that when the Company sold the engine to the corporation a proper distribution of the proceeds was made to the company and stockholders. If it was, I was counted out by the returning board. The next is, he speaks of the purchase of the steamer as being in 1863. This may be a typographical error. The company moved into the new engine house, on Center street, on Dec. 1, 1866; the steamer was received and tested by the Corporation Board June 29, 1868. Protection Company No. 1 was bluffed off by the Trustees, who wanted to organize a new company to take charge of the steamer. They were notified that if they did they would have to organize a new company to run the hand engine also. The steamer was turned over to Protection Co. No. 1, Sept. 17, 1868. The "Old Tub" did good service in the hands of the old company for over nine years, and should be held in grateful remembrance by the people of Warsaw, for whom she saved many thousands of dollars. As for Protection Company No. 1, I will only say: the best investment the City of Warsaw ever made is the money expended in its equipment, and whenever the people neglect or refuse to recognize the claims of the company or their gratitude, they are no longer worthy of protection.

Long may the old company continued to be as in the past, "Protection No. 1," or as I interpret it, "First Class Protection" to the people and property of the City of Warsaw against the ravages of the fire-fiend.
Respectfully, W. S. H.
"One of the Old Uns."

Warsaw Daily Times Thursday Feb. 12, 1891

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