Go to the Charleston Fire Department Chronological History by
page 18 and
By 1874, the new Charleston Fire Department was official (passed
by a resolution of the City Council). The "Hook and Ladder
Company was soon organized with Joseph Gage as the first president.
If the volunteer department was run as the later 1915 department,
the men) had monthly meetings where various topic$ were voted on.
They would elect a president, secretary and treasurer. The
association would vote on various items of interest tc them, appoint
committees to do "checking ir and plan events," and to provide the
eats and smokes for the meeting. Sometime very early in the history
of the department an annual oyster supper was planned. The men would
form a committee to select a new fire-truck (would be pulled by
horses or men). Frederick Frommel, George Hill and H.E. Adams were
appointed to this committee. After checking into various fire-truck
companies they chose the Babcock Hook and Ladder truck for
recommendation to the City Council. This truck would have 6 Babcock
extinguishers, as well as a pressure soda/acid tank (located under
the driver's seat). Sometime during the early days of the
department, perhaps when the city water system was installed and
working, two hose carts were acquired. No history of these two
pieces of equipment is available.
Along about 1874, the City Council authorized the purchase of
rubber and leather buckets. Later the men would be provided caps and
belts. They looked like real up-to-date firemen. The largest item
for purchase, besides hand-pulled hose carts was a large alarm bell
(now located in front of Station #1, located at Tenth and Madison.
The fire department started out sharing a rented building with the
Council to hold meetings.
1876-WATER SYSTEM BUILT
The 1874-78 history of the department is a bit fuzzy. James R.
Cunningham was appointed the Chief Engineer of the Hook and Ladder
Company. With the new water system, the city fire fighters would
have a little additional help, in a reliable steady water supply.
I'm not sure how the carts, which were pulled by men were located.
The location of the Babcock Hook and Ladder fire wagon is confusing
because no mention of it occurs. The Department was organized into
the Tom Dean Hose Company. Exactly when the fire wagon was purchased
is hard to pin-point, but a news item in the Courier of Dec., 1898,
mentions the "antiquated condition" of Charleston's equipment.
According to the article, Charleston did not have a horse drawn fire
vehicle to use with the High School fire of 1898. History is very
fuzzy in the last twenty years of Charleston's 19th Century.
THE ALARM BELL RINGS
Old Bell installed in 1874 at the 500 Jackson Fire House.
The bell would serve the City of Charleston until the old Fire
House would be torn down in 1959
I can remember
modern uses in the 1960's were to call in firemen (professional and
volunteers); to announce a police call to the Charleston Police
Department; to announce that Charleston's curfew was in effect.
The bell was salvaged and mounted in front of the 1960's 10th and
Madison Fire House #1. It no longer rings, of course.
Using the new alarm bell, a fire would be announced at the station
by a witness who would have run into the station or rode a horse,
depending on what was available to get there. The bell would be
wrung by that person or a fireman, if at the bell. The mayor,
aldermen, street superintendent, and city marshal were required to
report to the Chief Engineer or his assistant. If a city official
did not report he was subject to a fine of five to twenty-five
dollars. During fires firemen were subject to the orders of the
Chief Engineer or First or Second Assistant Engineers. All firemen
were initially volunteers. All bystanders were subject to fire duty
when order by a city official. In addition to the bell alarm, the
fire would be reported by telegraph message to the City Water.
The bell would
serve the City of Charleston until the old Fire House would be torn
down in 1959.
I can remember modern uses in the 1960's were to call in firemen
(professional and volunteers); to announce a police call to the
Charleston Police Department; to announce that Charleston's curfew
was in effect. The bell was salvaged and mounted in front of the
1960's 10th and Madison Fire House #1. It no longer rings, of
course. Also inside the station, in the Chief's office, is the brass
gong, to which this website and my book are named after. In recent
years, the bell still stands, and a memorial brick court has been
added with names of many old officers and firemen.