History of Somerville Engine Company
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.
No. 1 Today