|In the beginning years, Piqua had few
fires, so primitive methods were used in the battle. When
an alarm was sounded, each and every citizen would respond
rushing to the scene with anything that would hold water, then
throw water on the flames until it was extinguished or the fire
had burnt itself out.
The first record of any organized effort
to fight fire was an ordinance passed by the Town Trustees in
May of 1836. This ordinance made it compulsory for every
owner of a building in Piqua to provide a ladder of sufficient
length to reach any part of the building, and every building
must have at least two leather buckets of three gallons
capacity. These leather buckets were made by Jacob Landes
for many of the owners.
This "Bucket Brigade" when
responding to an alarm, would form in lines to the nearest well
or stream and pass the filled buckets along one line to the fire
where the water was thrown on the fire, and the empty bucket
passed back along a second line for a refill. The line
passing empty buckets was frequently composed of women and
children. In those days, the excitement of a fire could
only be compared to the excitement of a circus.
In the first week of March, 1839, a team
was sent to Columbus to take delivery of a first rate fire
engine. This fire engine, costing $1075, was soon called
"Teakettle" because of its shape, although its
official name was Reliance No. 1. This engine was
purchased by public subscription and it came supplied with 250
feet of hose, suction hose, coupling boxes, wrenches and other
supplies. "Teakettle" was kept for a time in the
old frame market house, but in December of 1842, the engine was
moved to a room rented from Col. John Johnston just south of the
In 1845 hooks and ladders were ordered
from Caleb Jones & Sons for the use of the newly organized
Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1. Also in this year, three
firewells were dug. They were six feet in diameter and
placed near the curb line of the street. There was one at
the southwest corner of North and Downing streets, one at the
southwest corner of Ash and Downing, one at the southwest corner
of High and Downing. Each of these wells were supplied
with large wooden pumps installed by Jonathan Legg.
These wells were intended to supply water
to the bucket brigade, the fire engine, and also public drinking
places. At this time, wells were still on the north and
south sides of the public square about fifty feet from Main
Also in 1845, fire-wardens were
appointed in each ward. In 1st ward, then warden was Isaac
S. Clark. In the 2nd ward, Simeon French was appointed
warden. In the 3rd ward, David Jordan and in the 5th Ward,
In the fall of 1848, a committee of the
town council bought a Farnam & Swift hand fire-engine in
Cincinnati at a cost of $900. This engine was peculiar from the
fact that the men working the brakes were seated in two rows on
top of the machine, and pulled back and forth very much like
rowing a boat. Its seating capacity was 24 men. The engine
was originally named the “Ohio No. 2,” but was better known
as the “Old Row-boat.” It was taken in charge by
“Independent Co. No. 1.”
Jan. 2, 1855, new fire-wardens were
appointed as follows: 1st Ward, S. S. McKinney; 2nd Ward, W. N.
Foster; 3rd Ward, T. J. Lawton; 4th Ward, Henry Rouzer.
April 4, 1856, a new hand fire-engine
similar to but larger than' the Reliance. It was
named the “Washington No. 1,” and was kept temporarily in
the engine room of the town hall, while the Reliance was moved
to a building on River street between Main and Wayne, which was
rented from Mr. Humpreville at $50 per year.
In 1857, “Messengers” were appointed
for the different fire companies. Their duties were to call out
the firemen when needed, and take care of the engines and hose.
The following year F. D. Jordan was messenger for the Washington
company and B. F. Baily for the Reliance company.
In July, 1857, the first fire-cistern was
constructed at the intersection of Water and Downing streets.
Its capacity was 300 barrels. Later in the year another
was built at the intersection of North and Downing by Winans.
These cisterns were pumped full of water and used as a supply
for the fire-engines.
Jan. 1, 1858, a fire company was organized
in the 2nd ward and called the “German Fire Engine Company.”
They were given the “Ohio” engine, (Old Row-boat), which
they renamed “The Jefferson.”
Late in the year 1858, a new engine was bought from Huneman
& Co. $900. This engine had a six and one-half cylinder. It
was given to the Jefferson company in place of the Old Row-boat
which was nearly
useless. 200 feet of “Gumelastic” hose was also ordered for
this new engine, being the first rubber hose used by the fire
A new hand fire-engine was bought from Wm.
M. Jeffries & Co. for $1,400. It was delivered July 1, 1859,
and turned over to the Reliance company. Their old engine,
Reliance No. 1, was sold to New Carlisle, Ohio, for $225. In
1859, three more fire cistern were constructed for the city by
W. H. Hetherington. One at the intersection of Young and Downing
streets; one at the intersection of Main and North; and one at
Main and Water. In the following year, another fire cistern was
installed at the intersection of Boone and Broadway.
May 18, 1866. On this date the old
Piqua house at the corner of Main and Water streets was
partially burned, and the men of the different companies
indulged in a fist fight instead of fighting the fire. Council
soon passed a resolution ordering the different fire-companies
of the city to meet and select by vote some competent person to
act as “Chief Engineer” of the fire department, who would
have full and exclusive control of all questions of precedence
or positions of fire companies at fires, and who would direct
any fire company on what duty to perform, and whose decision in
all matters shall be final. Dick Manchester was selected for the
In September, 1870, Henry Rouzer, acting
as a committee from council, bought a lot from Mr. Butterfield
on the east side of north Wayne street. On this lot a brick
building, known as the 4th Ward Engine House, was built by A. A.
McCandliss . It was completed Nov. 9, 1871, and the Reliance
company, who had been in the Butterfield shop, took immediate
possession. A similar engine house was completed in Oct.,
1878, for the reorganized Jefferson company. It was on the east
side of south Wayne street, and was built by E. Brilmier &
After the completion of the Piqua
hydraulic, and when a part of the water mains of the city lied
been laid, the Reliance company made a test on one of the
hydrants. The natural fall of the water gave them more of a
supply than they could pump through the engine. This test was
made on Thanksgiving day, 1875.
At a meeting of the Reliance company on
July 14, 1870, it was determined to reorganize as a hose
company, and Stephen Genslinger was electing captain, with F. A.
Hardy as secretary.
On Aug. 21, 1876, council passed an
ordinance providing for the organization of a city fire
department. This was to consist of not less than 40 men,
to be divided into 4 divisions of 10 men each, and each division
to receive $100 per year for their services. Each division, in
addition to the city organization, was to form a separate
company, and to annually elect a captain, lieutenant, secretary
and treasurer. Thus the Reliance company became the 4th ward
hose company, and each of the other three wards organized in the
The first electrical fire-alarm system in
Piqua was ordered by council on Sept. 17, 1877. It was a single
line from the City hotel to the pump-house. It was constructed
by Lane & Machir.
Sept. 19, 1881, two one-horse hose reels
were ordered from the Central Carriage Co., of Cincinnati. These
carts arrived in December. Two horses were soon afterward
purchased, with Mont Hardy and Mike Firman being placed on duty
as drivers. Dave Reynolds became night man for the central
On May 4, 1882, a new organization of the
department was formed with Stephen Genslinger as chief,
and Richard Lee as assistant chief. Company No. 2
consisted of Henry Hasebrook, Wm. Schubert, Amos Abley, Wm.
White, and John Barr as call men. The call men for Company
No. 3 consisted of Willis Dial, Wm. Danford, Geo. Duncan, Thomas
Aspinall, and Perry Thompson. The call men for Company No.
4 were Frank Steiner, John Fessler, Jos. Glaser, Chas. White,
and Frank Hunter. These call-men received $25 each per year for
The new hook and ladder truck was
delivered July 1, 1882 then December 24, 1883 the old Spiker
carriage shop on the east side of Wayne, High and Ash, was
fitted up and the equipment moved in. The fire-bell was removed
from the city hall and hung in the new quarters on Oct. 20,
On Oct. 5, 1885, Frank Hunter was
appointed chief of the fire department. During the period
of Chief Hunter’s administration, more regular firemen were
added to the force, and the “call” men were gradually
The Gamewell Fire-Alarm System was
installed with 12 boxes in different parts of the city, all
connecting with the central station.
On June 20, 1892, a Champion chemical
engine was bought of the Fire extinguisher Co., of Chicago, for
September 6, 1892, an Ahrens No. 2 Steam
Fire Engine was ordered from the American Fire Engine Co.
It was named the D. S. Bates in honor of a councilman of that
name who was then serving on the fire department committee.
A substation was build on the north side of Garnsey Street
between Main and Wayne by H. Strohmeyer. Strohmeyer also
finished five rooms in the second story. The new Steamer
was placed in this building with team and men always on duty.
July 17, 1893, Frank Hunter resigned as
Chief of the department and was replaced by Frank R. Dye.
January 2, 1894, Adam Conover, John
Fessler, Peter Hileman, Louis Lobenstine, Geo. Conover, John
Gigandet, W'. H. Harrison, and Frank Hardy, the last of the
“Call Men” of the fire department, were paid off and
discharged from further duty. Hardy had been in continuous
service in some fire company for 57 years.
Jacob Shaub was appointed chief of the
department Feb. 8, 1890.
June 19, 1800, the Babcock Ariel
Truck was purchased from the Fire Extinguisher Co. of Chicago.
This machine was at once named “The Cherry Picker” by
The new municipal code, passed in the
winter of 1902-08, placed the fire department under the control
of a board of public safety. Dr. W. J. Prince and Chas.
Suessman were elected for four years and two years respectively.
On March 17, 1904, the Board of Safety
ordered a steam fire engine from the American Fire Engine Co.,
of Cincinnati with a capacity of 800 gallons of water per
minute. This fine steamer was named the L. C. Cron, who was at
that time Mayor of Piqua.
On Aug. 10th, 1804 $14,000 was voted
to the safety board for the purpose of erecting a new central
fire station on the former Frye property on Water Street between
Wayne and Downing. The contractor was Oscar Richardson,
and with C. A. Thompson as architect, this handsome new building
was complete and turned over to Chief Caulfield and his men on
Feb. 14, 1905. The historic old fire-bell (bought in 1853) was
placed in the tower of the new station.