Ticonderoga Fire Department, Its History
Do you remember when the Ticonderoga Fire Department and its associated fire companies combined to make our earlier 4th of Julys? The fun of attending the street dance on Champlain Avenue, and watching the members of the different departments perform hose drills as they raced to see who could run out and hook up the hoses and “hit the mark” at the selected target in the most efficient manner and with precision and accuracy.
For many years the 4th of July parade began around the old Central School, proceeded down Champlain Avenue, up Montcalm Street to Wicker and St. Clair and turned up Third Avenue and finally ended at the Fireman’s Field. Here the carnival atmosphere abounded and the “look-for” events such as the musical performances could be watched from the large bleacher stand. Or one could go to the northern side of the field to watch Norm Nadeau’s horse show or laugh at all the antics while watching those volunteers playing “donkey-ball.” As today, the fireworks display were always anxiously waited for and they were the crowning event to end the day’s activities. It was a day for the the fireman to showcase their members, their equipment and have some “fun” while thanking the community for their support throughout the year.. It was a time for remembrance, ceremony and celebration.
As we commemorate the Town of Ticonderoga’s -” Ticonderoga, the First 250 Years, , let us reflect back in time and learn a bit of the early history of the Ticonderoga Fire Department. The “Great Fire” of March 31, 1875 that reduced a large portion of the old Lower Village to ashes, ushered in the need for an organized fire service. Two of the earliest companies formed were the S. W. Clark Hose Company and the H.G. Burleigh Hose Company*. The Defiance Hose Company was organized on June 25th, 1880, as the two earlier Hose companies disbanded. The first elected officers of this company were: T.A. Riley – Forman; Lyman Malcolm – lst Ass’t Foreman, John McViegh – 2nd Ass’t Foreman.
*Members of the S.W. Clark Hose Co. : T. A. Riley, D. J. Gilligan, M. Gilligan, H.D.Spicer, J. M. Riley, G. S. Clark, P. C. Arthur, C. B. Hall, F.E. McCormick, W. H. Lamson, James O’Brien, M. C. Bugbee, John Malaney, J. W. H. Tefft, R. J. Bryan, and W. E. Fleming. Members of H. G. Burleigh Hose Company: C. E. Bennett, R. McCambridge, Frank Wilcox, Alex H. Weed, John McViegh, C.E. Pond, A. S. Nickerson, L. Malcolm, F. J. Arthur II and John S. Lewis.
In the re-organization of Defiance Hose Co. No 1 on January 1st, 1891, the Preamble to its Constitution and By-Laws, pronounce a “fireman’s creed” of the day, which we believe that still holds true to this day:
“We the members of the Defiance Hose Company No. 1, of Ticonderoga, NY, having united for commendable purpose of assisting others in the protection of their lives and property in the case of accident by fire or other calamity, and bring desirous of placing ourselves high in the estimation of all citizens, the preservation of good order the defining of duties, and also for the purpose of effecting uniformity in the administration of the duties, privileges and honors of the Company, cheerfully adopt the following constitution and By-Laws hoping and expecting that every person who shall become a member will by a strict regard for the requirements endeavor to maintain a high reputation for promptness and efficiency in duty.”
Other fire companies were organized. In 1887, with 65 men, the Defiance Hook and Ladder Co. began, with an incorporated date of 1892. Their original equipment consisted of a hand drawn ladder truck. Their first motorized vehicle was a 1925 GMC Truck with a chemical tank and ladders. The 2nd, acquired in 1948, was an American-LaFrance 65 Aerial Ladder with a booster pump that was held only for one year. In 1950, a GMC Combination Pumper and Ladder truck was acquired.
The Jeffers Hose Company #2 was organized in 1890 and incorporated in 1892. These three companies continued as separate fire companies until 1990, when they disbanded and a fire district was formed and all became Ticonderoga Fire Company No. 1.
In May of 1961, the Ticonderoga Fire Department Women’s Auxiliary was organized for the purpose of assisting the firemen in their work as fireman and aiding them in social activities.
Newton Brown (1927-2001), a long serving Ticonderoga Volunteer Fireman and its Historian wrote about the fire department’s early history. We would like to share some of his notes:
“In the early days fire fighting was a dangerous job and a hard one. Fire alarms were sounded by the cry of “fire” the ringing of the church bells and the ringing of the bell on top of the fire house. These men fought fire with very little personal protective equipment.
“Equipment in the early times was never really recorded in the books until the early 1900’s. We know that the first fire fighting was done with bucket brigades. Firemen organized the people to assist them in putting out the fires. Water was taken from the creek, (LaChute River) hourse troughs and any other place water was available. After this came the large carts with hand operated pumps which took four to eight me to operate. Along with the pumps came hose carts pulled by fireman.
“When a fire alarm was sounded people with a team of horses would respond to the fire house. The first team of horses would get to pull the fire wagon to the scene of the fire. For this they would be paid One Dollar. The hose carts were hand drawn to the fire. It was the responsibility of the firemen to draw these carts to the fire. The officers did not pull the carts. It was their job to organize and command at the scene. After the fire was out every one returned to the fire house for a roll muster. If they did not stand muster, they wer not credited with attending the fire. The man with the team of horses also attended muster or he did not get paid. Fireman not attending muster were fined or dismissed from the company.
“When the fire alarm was sounded many of the fireman responded to the fire house by horse or by running to the fire house, some had cars. Many lived a long way from the fire house. If they were late they would run to the scene to help out the fireman already there. (I often wondered how they could run so far to the fire house and then to the scene and have enough energy left to fight the fire. Today when a fire alarm sounds there are cars with their blue lights flashing and officers with red lights and sirens going every which way to get to the fire house to respond to the fire. )
“The fire house consisted of a small wooden building located on Champlain Avenue (later, in the early 1900s a the three storied brick building was built – today located across from the Post Office.) (Of this newer building)..fire equipment was stored down stairs, the Defiance Hose Co. was housed on the second floor and Defiance Hook and Ladder Co. was on the third floor. The Jeffers Hose Company purchased land and built a two story building (circa 1911) housing fire equipment on the first floor and a meeting room on the second floor. (Currently a apartment building, located directly across from the High School on Calkins Place.)
“Big changes were made in the alarm system. First, the call of “fire,” to church bellas and fire bells ringing. Then International Paper Company would blow their whistle to alert the firemen to a fire. They would call the telephone operator, tell them who they were and they would tell the fireman the location of the fire. This procedure went on for several years. After that the Village contracted with Moses Ludington Hospital to handle fire calls. Men were using CB radios to call for the fire on Channel 9. This procedure was dropped and volunteers had fire phones put into their homes and broadcast the location of the fire. (Later) the Town of Ticonderoga had a dispatching system and men received calls on portable scanners and officers on their radios. Fire sirens were set up on the fire house, the (old) village shed (currently Police Department Building) and on Benjamin’s old coat shed (located off Newton Street) This enabled almost all fireman to hear the fire alarm when sounded.
To be continued.
We dedicate this article to Newton Brown, a very good friend to the Ticonderoga Historical Society over the years.
If you have a story to tell, or items to share we would like to hear from you. In the meantime, if in town please stop by the Hancock House and visit our Firemen’s Room Exhibit and many new exhibits and displays as we commemorate ” Ticonderoga, the First 250 Years..”
The Ticonderoga Fire Company has an excellent Exhibit Hall, filled with fire memorabilia A must see when open.
TFD’s 1921 American La France from W.W. Jeffers Hose Co.
in front of the Hancock House