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History of Somerville Engine Company No. 1 


Engine Company No. 1 was organized in October 1878 with a membership of 65. The membership was comprised of some of the most noted men in Somerville. Their equipment consisted of an Amoskeag Steam Fire Engine, and was housed in the Engine Co. building on Maple Street. This building, which had been handsomely fitted with parlors, served as the Engine House from 1873 until 1961, when the new house was built on East Main Street. The Maple St. Firehouse was razed to make way for the Somerset Trust Co. parking lot. Two new hand-pulled apparatus were purchased then. This was followed by the formation of two companies; the Union No. 1, and the Jersey Blue No. 2. The Union No. 1 was first located on land donated by J. Lindsley. Later Joshua Doughty presented the Union No. 1 with land on Doughty Ave. and a building to house the apparatus, as the people in the west end of town felt they were not being protected. The building was demolished before 1900, when the West End Hose Co. acquired the property and erected their Firehouse.

The Jersey Blue No. 2 housed its engine in a building erected for that purpose on the Hedges property in back of the grocery store on the corner of Warren and Main Streets. There was good-natured rivalry between these two companies to be first at the scene of the fire and extinguish same. 

When these two engines were bought, they were tested in front of the Court House with water being pumped from the well at the old County Hotel. After the Union Engine had served its purpose and was taken out of service, it was stored for years in the barn of Joshua Doughty, Jr. It is still treasured and on display in the Firemen?s Museum on Doughty Ave.

In 1873, the Board of Commissioners purchased the Amoskeag Steam Fire Engine at a cost of $5,000.00, and the Somerville Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1 was organized. Among its members were:Dr. S. H. Craig, Foreman; John Barkalow, Assistant Foreman; William S. Potter, Harry P. Craig, Jacques Vanderbeek, and Dr. W. W. Dorland. This company was disbanded and the present Somerville Engine Co. No. 1 was organized October 8, 1878.

In 1881, George Abbott was elected first Fire Chief of the Somerville Fire Department, which by then included the Central Hook and Ladder Co. formed the previous year. He served for four years. L M. Coddington served for 10 years, and George W. Schenk and W. H. Howell also served.

In 1888, H. F. Galpin reported favoring incorporation of the Company under the name of Somerville Engine Company No. 1, for the purpose of protecting properties and lives from fire. This was done April 2, 1888. By 1893 there were eight locations of Fire Boxes, including one in Raritan.

The Ahrens-Fox originally fitted with hard rubber tires, but later converted to pneumatics, was the backbone of the department during the 1920s and 1930s. It had a four-cylinder piston pump rated at 1,000 gallons per minute, and it never failed at any fire. The cooling system was connected to the pump and when the engine was pumping water there was always plenty of coolant to keep the engine cool. When this engine was retired in 1942 it was sold to the Johns Manville Corp. where it served for many years.

As equipment has steadily improved, fire engines have grown larger. By 1960 when the Mack was purchased, the Firehouse on Maple St. was too small, and the one-way street too narrow. The Borough Council, looking to the future, authorized a new Engine house on East Main St. and Vanderveer Parkway. The new Firehouse was designed to house two apparatus with large meeting rooms and a kitchen upstairs. It was dedicated November 18, 1961. Currently a 1980 Mack 1250 GPM Pumper is in service and is scheduled for replacement in the year 2000. 

Engine Company No. 1 Today

 
 
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