History of the Boonton Fire Department
By Peter C. Wendt, Jr.
(Extracted and reprinted from the BFD 75th Anniversary Program)
The Iron Works at Boonton had a large bell in the cupola above the entrance of the Works, and its normal function was to tell the men to start and stop their labors in the mill. Morning, noon and night the mill bell would ring, tolling out its message for all to hear. It was also used as an alarm signal for fires, accidents, etc., and if the bell sounded at a time other than usual, the cry of "there goes the mill bell!" would send townsfolk scurrying to the mill to find out the cause of the excitement. Down through the years of its existence, the mill bell had become a part of the people, with a nostalgic attachment that is difficult to explain. The last time the mill bell was heard was at a fire in the Iron Works, October 16, 1906. It rang to sound the alarm and it was kept ringing during the fire, until the men were driven from their post by the fire itself. The women, whose men labored in the mill, were standing along the railing in front of our house on Plane Street, watching the vain efforts to save the mill. And, finally, when the supports were weakened by the flames, the mill bell toppled and fell to the ground. The women wept.
Our fire department has come a long way since the days of the "mill bell". Today, with its efficient organization and competent supervision, the personnel have been trained and functions in a most proficient and businesslike manner, and the modern equipment furnished to the department by the Town of Boonton affords the opportunity to offer the very best in fire protection and firefighting methods.
Seventy five years is a short period of time, as history goes, only several years over three score and ten allotted to man, and there are persons still living today who can quote the experiences of the early days of the Fire Department. But what about the sixty year period prior to our organized fire department? What did our people do for fire protection? We can be certain that fire protection were a big problem in the early days of our growing village.
The early history of Boonton has been told many times, and I am sure a good number of you have heard it before, but for those who are not familiar with the story. I will give a few facts that are pertinent in Boonton's history, with the promise to be brief as possible.
Prior to 1820's the only mode of transportation in this area was horse and wagon. The charcoal and produce wagons, the stagecoach, the saddle and other forms of horse travel were the only means to cope with problems of transportation. This neighborhood, with its rugged hills and divided by the Rockaway River was not settled as early as most parts of Pequannock and Hanover Townships a hundred years before this period.
Shortly after the construction of William Scott's new road to Powerville, which later became our Plane and Main Sts., construction was started on the Morris Canal, and it is generally conceded that the building of the Canal was the greatest contributing factor in the establishment of Boonton, or Boonton Falls as it was first named.
Construction of the Canal started in 1825, and here at Boonton the obstacle of an eighty foot difference in elevation between the upper and lower levels of the canal necessitated the construction of a plane to raise or lower boats this eighty feet in height and eight hundred feet in length. With the plane a dam was constructed across the river, with a gate house, to replenish and control the water used by the turbine in the plane-house that supplied the means to pull the boats over the plane.
In his dealings with the Canal Company, William Scott was aware of the potential of the upper level of the canal and possibility of it being used as sluiceway for water power in the event mills were built in the valley below the canal. In 1829, a syndicate in New York City acquired the water rights from Mr. Scott, and also several tracts of land and immediately started construction of the New Jersey Iron Company. With this construction the village of Boonton Falls came into being. With the building of the iron works and the houses for the workmen the problem of fire was a natural consequence, and from hereon I will confine myself to that segment of our history.
Why our Town did not organize a fire department during the sixty years prior to 1891 is a question that has been asked many times, and any references to that subject are quite infrequent and far apart. There are, however, indications that a fire company did exist at the iron works in the notes of Charles F. Hopkins, a former Chief of our Department, when he delivered an address to the Department in 1897.
Chief Hopkins made reference to an old "goose-neck" engine and a hook and ladder wagon at the mills in 1860, and mentioned George W. Esten as foreman and James Mooney, assistant. George Esten came here in the early 1830's to take charge of the pattern work at the mill, and also to assist in establishing a Church and Sunday School at this place. These requirements were stipulated in the hiring of Mr. Esten by the Mill owners.
On February 2, 1881, an item appeared in the Boonton Weekly Bulletin which read as follows: "A Fire Company's Relic-Fifty or Sixty years ago Passaic Company No. 1 of Paterson, had a small hand engine. In the course of time it passed into the possession of the Boonton Iron Company, and has now been brought back by its original owners in Paterson for $25, to be persevered as a relic to be contrasted with their fine modern steamer." Several years ago I visited Captain Heitzman of 8 Engine in Paterson, and removed the tarpaulin and showed me the old engine. It had been restored by Mr. Haines of the Paterson Evening News, along with several other items of interest to the Paterson Fire Department. From information given by Captain Heitzman it was established that the old "Gooseneck Engine" was built and put in service in 1821. It did service in Paterson until it was replaced by a larger hand engine called the "Black Hawk" in 1835. Sometime after this date the little gooseneck engine was brought to the mills at Boonton, possibly shortly after 1835. A reference to a fire company at the mills was made in an item in the "Monthly Advertiser" dated September 30, 1843. Dr. John Grimes, a physician living at the corner of Main and Liberty Streets, was active in temperance and abolitionist work, and was credited with publishing Boonton's first newspaper, "The New Jersey Freeman", from 1841 to 1850. He was the leader in the anti-slavery movement and told of activities of the organization in his newspaper. A short time ago it was found that another publication of Dr. Grimes called the "Monthly Advertiser" preceded the "New Jersey Freeman." Dr. John Grimes, John Maxfield, George Esten, and others had organized the First Congressional Society at Boonton in 1840, and they met in a small building that was located on the site of the present Boonton-Mountain Lakes Savings and Loan Association. This small building was called the Free Church.
In the Monthly Advertiser, dated September 30, 1843, under the heading of Temperance, it stated that, "The concert in evening in the Free Church, which consisted of singing by the Temperance Choir, Messrs. Brown and Van Buskirk, and the Boonton Fire Company, with an address by Mr. Brown, went off well; and through out the day much good was accomplished. Twenty-three signed the pledge, and we greatly rejoice in the belief that the progress of the Temperance Cause is onward."
The first account of a mill fire was found in the true Democratic Banner, published in Morristown It read as follows: "May 21, 1851, About half past twelve o'clock on Monday night last, a fire was discovered breaking out of the main building (used as a rolling mill) of the Iron Works at Boonton. The whole eastern end of the Works as the water wheel, with the sheds on the south side, forming a continuation of the building, were destroyed. The fire is supposed to have originated in the spike machine department; but in what manner is not known. It is presumed to have been purely accidental, as there is a fire continually in that part of the works. The loss in damage to machinery, material and manufactured article is said to be heavy."
At this fire of 1851, about the only thing of value that was saved was the large water wheels. Captain Edwin Bishop, opened the gates and allowed the water to flow and rotate the wheels, thereby saving them from destruction. Later, in 1861, Captain Edwin Bishop headed the first two companies of 103 men each that enlisted and served the Union cause during the Civil War.
The Problem of a adequate supply of water at the mills for fire purposes was a major concern to the owners, and when the mills were rebuilt following the fire of 1851, a four inch pipe was placed to allow water to flow from the canal by gravity to the rear of the blast furnace, with several laterals leading to other parts of the works. But there were times when the canal was drained to make repairs to the gates and the wheels and also to the canal itself. This left the works vulnerable to fire for several days at a time and a constant supply of water was definitely needed.
In 1866, the Arch Bridge was constructed as a viaduct to carry a large pipe that was laid from the pond above the dam, down "Lover's Lane" and across the bridge, to supply the fire hydrants that were placed at various vantage points throughout the iron works. The arch Bridge was constructed by John Carson, Sr., a grandfather of William Carson. Mr. Carson died of injuries when the blast went off prematurely when the approach to the bridge on the mill end was being filled, the bridge itself had been completed.
The last hydrant to be fed by this system was at the mill office about where Bethel A.M.E. Church presently stands. In 1894, when Esli B. Dawson built his hardware store on the corner of Main and Mechanic Streets, he received permission from the mill owners to extend the main water to that corner; and that supplied the only fire hydrant on Main Street until the town water supply was installed in 1895.
Thirty years had passed by, and still our village was without an organized fire company. A census report given in The Jerseyman of Morristown, October 13, 1860, reports Boonton having a population of 2,230. Also a real estate value of $790,725, and a personal property value of $175,700, or a total of $966,425. Notice of house fires appeared in the papers but not a single instance was noted where the mill company assisted to fight the fire. On two occasions meetings were called at Washington Hall for the purpose of organizing a fire company, but nothing came of these meetings. Even with the prosperity of the war years not a single notice could be found where a dollar was spent for fire protection.
With the incorporation of the Town of Boonton on March 18, 1867, Section 17 of the Town Charter provided for the protection of property against loss or damage by fire. The first mention of any attempt to procure fire extinguishing equipment is noticed in the minutes of the Board of Trustees at a meeting held on May 1, 1868. The entry stated that, "On Motion, one hundred and seventy five dollars was appropriated to procure Fire Ladders and Fire Buckets, and that a committee consisting of Theodore Baldwin and William Davenport be appointed to procure same immediately. Motion carried". Across this motion was written diagonally in a strong hand and repeated three times, the word "Rescinded". This, I believe, was done because according to Section 17 of the Town Charter it was necessary to have a vote of the people at an annual election before any expenditures could be made for this purpose.
In 1869, a public cistern was built near the Presbyterian Church for fire purposes, and this was the first step toward fire protection in our town. I might add that the reason for building the cistern near the church was because of the large roof area of the church, and a greater amount of water could be caught there from.
The following year, 1870, two hundred dollars were appropriated by the Board of Trustees for the purpose of placing two iron pumps in the cistern in Church street, and purchase thirteen ladders, to be stationed around town. By the end of that year the ladders were in their places, the pumps were over the cistern, and an ordinance was passed regulating their use. How much they were used is a matter of conjecture for locks were placed on the pumps and eight extra keys were ordered for the same to make sure the pumps were used for fire purposes only.
A second big fire occurred at the Boonton Iron Works on August 24, 1873. This fire was discovered by a Mr. Wesley VanBuskirk, a watchman in the employ of the railroad, who was standing on the long bridge spanning the canal and the Rockaway river. He saw a puff of smoke, followed by a flame, burst forth from the southwest side of the large saw mill. The men were hampered in their efforts by the rusted hydrant tops which had to be knocked off before water could be turned on. In a short time the big saw-mill and lower nail factory was ablaze. A northeast wind was blowing, and this was augmented by the tremendous turbulence created by the fire itself, sucking in the cooler air at the base of the fire. Large embers were carried on the roof of the Reformed Church and several other places in South Boonton. The buildings burned were the large sawmill, nail factory, cooper shop, three drying sheds, the large store house, and a small hose house. Also 2,000,000 staves, 900,000 hoops, 700 kegs of nails, thirty-eight nail machines and an immense stock of lumber were destroyed to the extent of $100,000.
The number of fires rose with the increase in population, and several feeble attempts were made toward organization, but without results.
The year 1886, under Mayor James Holmes, was quite eventful in fire activities. Although no move was made to organize, Mayor Holmes and the Common Council made some progress in the way of fire protection. A committee was authorized to open the well on Birch and Liberty Streets and place a pump thereon strictly for fire use and one-hundred fire buckets were ordered and distributed around town. Also the Town marshal was ordered to look around town to see what happened to our fire ladders.
The year 1891 seems to be the outstanding year in regard to fire protection. John I. Kopp assumed his duties as Mayor of Boonton in May of that year, and in his address to the Common Council at his initial meeting Mayor Kopp made the following reference to fire protection:
"One need of this town to prevent a great calamity that may come to us at any time, is to arrange for a plan to extinguish fire. In looking around I find a number of decrepit, worn-out ladders, some in pieces and all out of order, and some buckets that few know where to find. If we can do no better, the Council should see that the Town is at once furnished with new ladders put in their proper places, and buckets in order and in conspicuous places, easily found in case of need. The large cistern near the Presbyterian Church is dry, because of several leaks. This should be repaired and placed in condition to receive the water from the church roof, that it may be kept full, ready for use when required."
The Council listened attentively to Mayor Kopp's recommendation but no action was taken.
While it was generally agreed that we were in dire need of an organized and equipped fire department, there were those who felt that a water supply consisting of a reservoir, water mains and hydrants, should take precedence. Editor Samuel L. Garrison, of Boonton Weekly Bulletin, always gave a very accurate account of the fires as they occurred, but his feelings were with those who favored procuring a water system, and used his paper to foster his views, which, most certainly, was his privilege.
We now come to the report of the fire that proved to be the turning point in our fire history. This fire occurred on July 2, 1891, and the location is the present 89 Grant Street address.
"On Thursday evening last, about quarter after nine, an alarm of fire startled the citizens of the town. The house of Mrs. James Demerest, on Grant Street, occupied by Mrs. Crevier, was discovered on fire. The flames were issuing from the attic window on the east side, and it was soon learned that the fire had started in the servant's quarters, probably from a lamp, which the girl had no doubt left burning when she left her room early in the evening. Soon there were a large number of men at the scene of the fire, but there were no buckets or apparatus of any kind to use to extinguish the flames. We understand that one man entered the room and thought that two or three buckets of water would have been sufficient to put the fire out. In a few minutes the smoke was so dense that no one could enter the room. It was plainly evident to all that a ladder or two on the outside of the house, with water handed in buckets would have sufficed to stop the fire. There were no ladders, and the only work to do was to remove the furniture from the house. A large force made quick work of removing the furniture, and almost every article of furniture, including beds and bedding, were removed with little damage. Finally, the silk mill hose was obtained, and being attached to the force pump at the mill, was used until the hose for some reason burst. The small amount of water had but little effect. The house was doomed from the beginning. Precautions were taken to save the property of Mr. E. B. Dawson, the nearest house to the burning building... The burned building had a mansard roof and a tower, and was one of the better class of homes...occupying an elevated site, being visible from all parts of the town."
The fire that destroyed the house of Mrs. Demerest had a marked effect on quite a number of our citizens. It made them realize that it was long past the time for organizing a fire department, and, with the picture of that fire fresh in their minds., they decided to do something about it. Word was passed around that a meeting was to be held in Hopkin's Hall, Tuesday evening, July 7, 1891. This was only five days from the date of the fire.
The meeting was held as planned, and its purpose stated; for the forming of some sort of a fire organization for the Town of Boonton. Robert Green was elected Chairmen, and Edmound P. Looker, Secretary, and thirty-five men signed the Roll. Remarks and suggestions were made by several of those present, and a committee was appointed to solicit signatures to a petition to the Common Council asking to have the necessary organization formed. It was agreed to form a temporary organization to act in the interim and Charles L. Swain was elected Chief, and Thomas Heagan and Andrew Neafie, Assistants. A committee was named to try and locate the town ladders and buckets, another committee was appointed to draw up the By-Laws, and a third committee was named to wait on the Common Council, and the meeting was adjourned to meet one week later on the 14th.
The idea of a fire department received the anticipated opposition from Mr. Garrison with a lengthy protest advocating that a water system be given priority over a fire department, but the men would not be deterred in their actions and the committees reported as planned. The committee on ladders and buckets reported four ladders and three buckets found, the committee to the Common Council reported progress, and the By-Laws committee read the By-Laws of Engine Co. No, 9 of Paterson, and after the reports they adjourned to meet at the Call of the Chair.
One has to marvel at the celerity and dispatch in which the multiple problems of organizing and equipping the fire department were disposed of. The Common Council and the temporary organization took immediate action action on every detail as it presented itself. In fact, if one tries to study the situation carefully, it is difficult not to believe that many of the details were decided from without the confines of an authorized meeting. The committees most certainly did not impede or obstruct the progress in any manner and their reports were speedily acted upon.
The committee appointed from the Common Council to investigate equipment and facilities reported at a Special Meeting held July 24th, as follows:
"(1st) A good, first class Hook and Ladder truck, with all the necessary equipments including two (2) six (6) gallon Babcock extinguishers and some extras deemed necessary and having a total weight of 1,200 pounds, could be delivered by the Rusmey & Co., at a cost of $495.00.
"(2nd) After conversing with Fire Chiefs of nearby towns and other accepted authorities, in regards to a chemical engine versus a steam fire engine, it was recommended that a chemical engine manufactured by the Hudson Company of Chicago be considered to answer our needs. This machine weighed fully loaded 1,250 pounds and cost $1,450.00.
"(3rd) If the foregoing equipment was purchased, a place to store it would be a necessity. The committee proposes accepting the offer of Mr. John Maxfield of a gift of sufficient property to allow the erecting of a building of two stories, 24 feet by 72 feet in the alleyway between Sarah Green and Mr. Maxfield's house on Main Street. This building to provide apparatus storage and a lock up or jail on the ground floor, and on the upper floor a Council Room and meeting rooms for the firemen, and also a Justice Court Room. A rough estimate of $3,000 to $4,500 was mentioned."
The forgoing report was received, and after remarks and varied opinions expressed by the Council and Citizens present, it was agreed by resolutions that, "We purchased on Hook and Ladder truck and four extinguishers;" that, "We procure plans and advertise for bids for and Engine House;" and that, "We accept the generous offer of Mr. Maxfield in regard to the property offered."
Also, at this Special Meeting, the Common Council selected and appointed Jacob L. Hutt, Chief; and Robert H. Wilson, Assistant Chief. Enoch G. Myers was appointed Second Assistant Chief at a later meeting on August 5th.
We now arrive at that momentous date and occasion, July 30, 1891, and the meeting that marks the transformation from the temporary organization to the permanent organization of the Boonton Fire Department. This meeting must have been well planned and conducted, because motions came thick and fast, but in an orderly manner, and each with a specific purpose and intent. The meeting was called to order by Chairman Robert Green. On motion, the By-Laws were taken up and adopted by sections. Also, the following items were passed upon resolution: Resolved, that the By-Laws be adopted as a whole; Resolved, that John Maxfield be placed on the Roll as the first honorary member; that the age limit be set at eighteen years; that the list of names as read be admitted to membership; and the officers as provided by the By-Laws, be elected.
The first officers elected were: Charles L. Swain, President; Edmund P. Looker, Clerk; and Thomas G. Boone, Treasurer. Also, Alonzo Steventon, Foreman, of Section No. 1, with Andrew Neafie, 1st Asst., Henry Myers, 2nd Asst., Robert Green, Foreman of Section No. 2, with William Foster, 1st Asst., and Frank Richards, 2nd Asst. There were sixty-eight names on the original lists that were admitted to membership in the Department.
It would be well to make clear the divisions of the Department when it was first organized. Article I, of the By-Laws of the Boonton Fire Department, adopted July 30, 1891, read as follows "This Association shall be known by the title of THE BOONTON FIRE DEPARTMENT. It shall be divided into two sections, Section One, to be called the Hook and Ladder section, and Section Two, to be called the Bucket Section, until such time as the Town or the Department shall purchase an engine; at which time the Bucket Section shall become the Engine Section, and the officers shall be transferred to the Engine Section. The business of the department shall be transacted under one head."
A Town ordinance, approved April 7, 1892, under Section 4, provided that, "The fireman shall be divided in Engine, Hook and Ladder, and Bucket Companies...and attend the fire engines or apparatus committed to their charge..."
Just when the several companies started to hold separate meetings and have their foremen represent their companies at a Boonton Fire Department meeting, I have not been able to ascertain, and it is assumed that the procedure started with Charles F. Hopkins, when her first took office in 1894.
Returning to the story of the Fire Department, the Common Council matched the swift action displayed by the fire Department, for at their meeting August 5, 1891, an ordinance for the issuance of construction bonds to pay for the new building was given its first reading; the Town Council, Joshua Salmon, was instructed to take care of the legal matters to acquire perfect title to the land to erect our new Engine House on; and a building committee was appointed to see the project through.
Work started immediately on the excavation and probably in their haste precautionary measures were not exercised, for several weeks later while digging out the bank for the foundation there was a cave-in, and a John Quick and Richard Roseberry were buried in a mass of sand and boulders that had broke over them. Fortunately they were quickly rescued and they suffered only from mild shock and bruises.
The new Hook and Ladder truck arrived early in November and a parade of the Boonton Fire Department, including invited guests, the newly appointed Fire Wardens and Mr. Hessey's Band, all celebrating the arrival of the new apparatus. After the parade they assembled at the Opera House where they were met by the Mayor and Common Council. Speeches and music were heard, followed by the serving of coffee and sandwiches to complete the evening. I might add that a new ladder truck was housed in a barn opposite the School Street School until the completion of the Main Street Fire Headquarters.
The problem of sounding an alarm was worked out by Chief Hutt and his Assistants, by laying out the town and the Mills in fire districts, and a designated number of taps on a bell would give the location. The only difficulty in was that we didn't have a fire bell, and someone would have to run to the mill or the Presbyterian Church to sound the alarm, and finding the sexton to open the church would cause of further delay.
The year of 1892 was not without its fires. In February, the Franklin House, a rooming house and saloon, located on the present site of the Boonton Avenue Parking lot, and the barns in the rear, was the scene of a large fire. As usual, Mr. Garrison, in commenting on the fire said, "We are more than ever convinced that the bucket brigade was more efficient than would have been the case if Boonton was the possessor of a steam fire engine. We need water works; then an engine will amount to something." What Mr. Garrison should have said was that, an engine, hand pumped or steamed pumped, with a dozen lengths of hose, could have brought water from the canal, and could give fire protection to a large portion of the Main Street area. This protection could have been used until a water system became a reality.
In March of 1892, John Charlton lost a barn in West Boonton and in April the Union Store, corner of Boonton Avenue and Birch street, suffered a fire. On August 20, 1892, Boonton experienced one of its larger fires. This fire consumed the United States Hotel and adjoining buildings. It repercussions affected the fire department in a favorable way, for it demonstrated the worth of the pumping engine, however small it may be.
To describe the fire I will first describe the location. On the corner of Division and Main Streets was the United States Hotel, built of masonry and frame, and large enough to accommodate fifty-three guests. Next to the hotel, on Main Street, was the Kunkele building, occupied by a Mrs. Lanahan, and was used as a dwelling and a laundry. Then came J. H. Brown's drug store and living quarters ; Mr. Eli Worman's shoe store and dwelling; and last, the shop and living quarters of David Dawson, a cabinet and casket maker, and father of the late Herbert Dawson, the Undertaker. The VanOrden building, now occupied by the Frankel store, was not involved in this fire.
The fire started in the drying room of the laundry operated by Mrs. Lanahan, and in a very short time the entire building was ablaze, spreading to the hotel on the lower side and the row of stores and dwelling places on the upper side of main street. Two streams of water were brought into service by using a mill hose and feeding them from the hydrant in Plane Street. A bucket brigade was formed from the canal, up over the bank to Main Street, the men passing the filled buckets and the return line was handled by women and children. Although there was little wind, the fire burned fiercely and unchecked. A small goose-neck type of hand pumping engine, built several years before, and owned by Simeon VanDuyne, was brought to the fire. Blankets and rugs were spread on the roof and exposed wall of the David Dawson building and a bucket line from the hydrant in front of E. B. Dawson's hardware store, supplied the water box of the little engine which was placed as close as possible to the building. With this pump the David Dawson building was saved, and the VanOrden building was prevented from taking fire. Everyone, including Mr. Garrison, had words of praise for the little engine and the men who stopped the fire at this point. Mr. Charles B. Norris, Mayor of Boonton at this time, had telegraphed to Morristown, Dover, and Paterson for assistance. The Washington Engine Company of Morristown with their steamer, in the charge of Chief Daniel Vorhees, arrived in Boonton via the railroad and a flat car about five o'clock in the morning, but the fire had spent itself and wetting down operations were in order. The losses were estimated at $30,000, which seems small considering the extent of the fire.
At the following Council meeting a communication from Mayor Norris was read, asking the Council to introduce a movement that would provide for the town, a fire apparatus and water system equal to cope with such a condition just experienced , and he recommended the purchase of a steam fire engine and at least three force pumps, similar to the one built by Mr. VanDuyne. Chief Hutt of the Fire Department in reporting on the fire concluded with a recommendation of a chemical engine for the use of the department.
The result of this meeting was the appointment of a committee to investigate the broad question of a water supply for the town, and at a following meeting a committee was named to get estimates on the cost of a fire engine.
The advocates of a water system for the town of Boonton were successful with their request for on October 5, 1892, an ordinance granting the privilege of laying pipes for carrying water and regulating the manner in which the privilege should be exercised, was read and passed at its first reading. The proposition suffered the usual difficulties due to varied opinions and it wasn't until January 4, 1893, that a resolution was finally adopted permitting a contact between the Town of Boonton and Mr. Lewis VanDuyne for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants of the town with "pure and wholesome water" for domestic use and the extinguishments of fires.
The persons advocating the purchase of pumping equipment were persistent in their demands, and on August 23, 1893, the Common Council passed a resolution that authorized the purchase of a hand-operated Pumping Engine from Gleason & Bailey, Seneca Falls, New York, for $642.00; a Hose Reel to cost $90.00; and 500 feet of hose to be purchased from the Eureka Manufacturing Company. Also, the resolution provided for the purchase of a pumping engine, to be manufactured by Simeon VanDuyne, to cost $200.00 and 300 feet of hose to be stored in a suitable place in West Boonton with a suitable alarm. These items were stored in a barn owned by Mr. Theodore Ringlieb on West Main Street. The Gleason & Bailey Engine and hose reel were assigned to Maxfield Engine House.
As previously mentioned, the exact date when the several sections of the Boonton Fire Department, later known as the Maxfield Hook & Ladder Company No. 1, the Maxfield Hose Company No. 1, the Maxfield Engine Company No. 1, held their own meetings, apart from the Boonton Fire Department Meetings, has not been definitely ascertained. The first bylaws of the Maxfield Hose Company and the Maxfield Engine Company both bear the date of September 21, 1894, and it is assumed the date for the Maxfield Hook and Ladder Company would be the same.
The organizations known as Harmony Engine and Hose Companies, No. 2, were first noticed at a meeting of the Common Council, August 2, 1894, when "A communication was received from residents on the "Hill" regarding the fire apparatus purchased by the Town for residents of West Boonton, and inasmuch as the West Boonton people have not availed themselves of the opportunity afforded them by the Town authorities, they would ask the Council to locate the apparatus on the hill, and they would organize a fire company and care for the apparatus." The communication was received and by motion it was ordered to transfer the apparatus to the "Hill" as soon as a suitable place was provided for it.
The Harmony Engine And Hose Companies, No. 2, were organized September 11, 1894, and became a part of the Boonton Fire Department when confirmed by the Common Council the following evening, September 12, 1894. In compliance with their request they were given the VanDuyne hand-pumper, a hose reel, and the hose that was stored in West Boonton. In the Bulletin of September 27th, it was noticed that "The Harmony Engine and Hose Companies No. 2, paraded the other evening, headed by Hessey's Cornet Band. They came from the Hill after their engine and hose carriage and housed it in convenient quarters on the hill for use at any time." The apparatus was first stored in Brown's barn opposite the School Street School, and later it was placed in the Norris barn, then located on the site of the present Delmhorst Instrument Company on Cedar Street between Church Street and Boonton Avenue.
The first regular engine house occupied by the Harmony Companies was located on the corner of Oak Street and Highland Avenue. A lot was offered to the Town by Mr. Lewis VanDuyne at a cost of $70.00 in the fall of 1894 and the following year a firehouse was erected thereon, for which was appropriated the sum of $560.00. This firehouse could not be classified as exactly permanent, for after several fires in 1900 and a final fire in 1902, the building was destroyed and a new fire house was built at the Boonton Avenue site to replace it. The pumping engine received considerable damage from the fire and this was repaired by Mr. Oscar Whitehead. The pumper was returned to service in excellent condition with improvements and changes and it saw extensive service prior to the advent of our motorized apparatus.
Our present Salvage & Rescue Company, as most of you know, emanated from the former Fire Wardens. The Fire Wardens were established by the general fire ordinance passed in April of 1892. Under its provisions the Fire Wardens were invested with all the powers of police officers for the duration of an alarm of fire; also they were charged with the duties of fire inspectors and were to inquire into all violations of the fire ordinance. Through the years the Fire Wardens experienced several reorganization periods, and in our department of today, the Salvage and Rescue Company perform a very important service, compatible with modern methods of combating fire and emergency requirements. In the early days, a badge and a club seemed to be the extent of their needs in terms of equipment, but with the acquisition of a small 1921 Reo Speed Wagon, that was rebuilt to their specifications, items of salvage and rescue were gradually incorporated into their domain, and today their modern truck with all of its accessories is an object of admiration and envy by other departments.
The South Boonton Hose and Engine Companies, No. 3, have a unique history, primarily due to their origin, which is somewhat different than the other companies that make up our department. No notice has been found that would indicate that the group of men who later became the South Boonton Volunteer Fire Company, participated in the organizing of the Boonton Fire Department, although there are indications that they existed as a group for several years prior to the organization date of July 30, 1891. The activity of this group seemed to center itself around the machine shop of Simeon VanDuyne on Homes Street, where Mr. VanDuyne kept a small "goose-neck" pumping engine that he had made. This was the small engine mentioned in account of the United States Hotel fire of August, 1892.
Following an organization meeting held November 14, 1892, at Simeon VanDuyne's machine shop, a communication was received by the Common Council that stated a group of citizens had organized a fire company to be known as the South Boonton Volunteer Fire Company, and that funds had been raised to purchase all necessary apparatus, and that they desired recognition as part of the Boonton Fire Department, if it met with the approval of the Council.
On December 1, 1892, a vote of thanks was extended to Mr. James Holmes for his gift of a plot of ground to the south Boonton Company, and on December 15th the request to become part of the Boonton Fire Department was withdrawn by the South Boonton Company as they wished to function as an independent organization.
The South Boonton Volunteer Fire Company operated as independent company for about fifteen years, owning their apparatus and equipment, and coming under the jurisdiction of the Chiefs of the Boonton Fire Department only for the duration of alarms.
In May of 1907 they requested to be taken into the regular department, and on July 1, 1907, by action of the Common Council, they became members of the Boonton Fire Department, to be known as the South Boonton Hook & Ladder Company No. 2, and the South Boonton Hose Company No. 3. A new fire house was built by the town for use of these companies, which was ready for use in January, 1913.
Later, the South Boonton Companies shared their house with the Fire Wardens, now the Salvage & Rescue Company. These companies now enjoy this combination in their new quarters in the Town Hall building.
Time does not permit me to describe all the interesting facets of our history, and I realize that the foregoing has been time consuming; but I beg your indulgence a few moments longer, that I may give a description of the Maxfield Engine House when it was completed early in 1894; also a few words to describe the first inspection of our Department.
From the Bulletin of January 11, 1894, the following:
"one would have to go a long distance to find a more substantial and beautiful fireman's headquarters than the one owned by the Town of Boonton, and known as the Maxfield Engine House. It attracts the attention of strangers, and no longer heard the remark, "Boonton is way behind other places in arrangements for extinguishing fires." Through the front can be seen the beautiful hand engine, hose carriage, hook and ladder and other apparatus ready for use if an alarm should be heard.
The other evening, with a number of friends, we were ushered into the beautiful meeting rooms of the fire department, on the second floor, in the rear of the Council Chamber. The electric lights were turned on and we were at once captivated with the taste displayed by our sturdy firemen and their committee in decorations and furnishings. The ceilings and walls are beautifully decorated in green draperies, and the furniture neat and substantial. The latter-officer's stands, desks and chairs-are oak. The carpet is rich and durable and attracts attention at once. The Boonton Firemen have been preserving in their efforts to furnish their room in a beautiful and substantial manner, and we congratulate them on the result.
From the Bulletin of March 1, 1894, the following was taken:
Inspection of the Boonton Fire Department
"The Boonton Fire Department, Maxfield Engine, Hose, and Hook & Ladder Companies, and the South Boonton Volunteer Fire Companies, turned out on Washington's Birthday and presented a fine appearance. Their engines, hose carriages, hook and ladder truck, etc., were in good condition. The Department was out in full force, thus showing a continued interest in their respective companies. Chief Hutt and his assistants, directed the testing of the new Gleason & Bailey Engine. The engine forced water from the Morris Canal almost to the top of the steeple of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on Main Street. There being no other holiday attraction, a large crowd of citizens witnessed the firemen during the use of the engine.
The testing of the new engine made for the Town by Mr. Simeon VanDuyne, by the South Boonton Volunteer Fire Company, was eminently successful, and showed the machine to be first class. It is powerful, is easily handled by a few firemen, and will serve a valuable part in the extinguishments of fire. This engine will have an advantage in use by its size...
The Boonton fire organizations are composed of able-bodied men, and men of judgment who would render excellent service in case of fire..."
In years to come, others will be called upon to give a continuance of our Fire Department history. Each and every one of us play a part in making that history. May we, by our conduct and service make their task a pleasant one, that those who come after us can enjoy the feeling of pride in the history of the Boonton Fire Department.
From the beginning , the evolution of equipment began from hand-drawn pumps and ladder wagons, to a horse drawn steam operated pumper, through a series of mechanized apparatus, to the present day of the highly sophisticated and technical equipment. Although the equipment has evolved from buckets to engines, the most important and consistent element in the longevity of the Boonton Fire Department is the men who volunteer, who give unselfishly of their time and efforts to carry out the initial charge to provide for the protection of life and property.