Tuesday, August 14, 2007

1805: Second Charter, Larger Fire Department

In 1805, a second charter was issued to the village of Utica, greatly enlarging its boundaries but keeping it still in the township of Whitestown. Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, Jr. was elected president.

The fire department, provided for in the first charter of 1798, was greatly enlarged by the new charter of 1805. The trustees of the village appointed twenty-five firemen. To be appointed a member of the fire departement was a mark of distinguished honor which every able-bodied citizen desired. Firemen were exempted from military training.

In case of a fire, however, every citizen was expected to do his part. Each residence was required to be supplied with leather fire buckets, one for each fireplace or stove in the house. These must always be hung near the front door. When the watchmen discovered a fire, the bell in the Presbyterian Church was to be rung. First the firement, then all other citizens were to be awakened. Everybody was to go immediately to the fire carrying their buckets. Since there were no street lights, if the fire occurred at night, a lighted candle was placed in one front window of each house to enable the firemen and citizens to find their way in the dark. On reaching the fire, the citizens formed bucket lines to the pump or the river, the women and children passing the empty buckets and the men returning the full ones. In 1805, one hand-pump was purchased. The officers of this first company were Gordon Burchard, captain, John Hooker, first lieutenant, and Moses Bagg, Jr., second lieutenant; E. B. Sherman was the clerk.

As the village grew, more fire companies were formed and more engines purchased. These companies soon became the most important social institutions in the village. The Firemen's Ball was the most important society event of the year.

Instead of receiving a salary, each fireman had to pay dues of five dollars a year to his company. If these were not paid, the fireman's name was promptly dropped from the roster.

In 1864, the first horse-drawn steam fire engine was procured, and soon all the hand-pumpers were replaced by steam engines. In 1913, the first motorized fire engine was purchased, and by 1917 the entire department was motorized.

No comments: