Easton and Its Fire Department.
EASTON, although not distinguished for the rapidity of its growth, is nevertheless a thriving municipality. One hundred and fifty-four years ago the first house was built on the point where the waters of the Lehigh and the Delaware meet, and today on the same spot is a prosperous progressive city capable of holding its own with any city of its class in the Union. Easton has steadily maintained her place in the chronicles of her country, and has won through her sons the distinction of being always ready to respond to the call of pafiotism. In the war of the Revolution they led off in the preparation for war. Easton’s Committee of Safety was formed six months before that of Newark, N. J., and in advance of Philadelphia. In the warof 1812 they were ready for the fray and enlisted promptly. In the civil war, the music of fife and drum was constantly heard in the streets.
Governor Wolf, the originator of the common school system in Pennsylvania, was a citizen of Easton, and gave all the enthusiasm of his nature to this question. Easton’s school buildings are among the finest in the state.
The progress of Easton has not been marked by the characteristics of a mushroom growth, but has been steady and gradual, not the least striking feature being its commercial growth. In the matter of industries Easton has many advantages. The coai fields and the metropolitan cities are within easy reach either by rail, water, mail, telegraph or telephone. The surroundings are beautiful, the water is puie and abundant, taxes are low and protection against fire is the very best.
B. Rush Field, M. D., who is the present mayor of the city of Easton, was born November 3, t86i, in the city which now honors him as her chief magistrate. He was educated in the public schools, at Lafayette College and at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his medical degree from
the last named institution. In 1890 Dr. Field was elected to the common council and was chosen president for two years. After his re-election to the council in 1892, he was again made president of that body by a unanimous vote. He had served only one-half of his second term when his party nominated him for the office of mayor, his election following in the spring of 1893.
For two years, 1886 and 1887, Dr. Field was official physician of the Northampton County prison. In 1890 he founded the Easton Medical Society and he has been one of the coroner’s physicians since 1890. He has also been connected as either physician or expert with a number of public cases. With all his professional, political and social diversions and duties, Dr. Field has found time for literary work. He is well known as a Shakespearean scholar and is the author of several books on the work of the bard of Avon. Dr. Field’s term expires April, 1896.
Tlie Fire Department.
In no other department of the municipal government of Easton is there more interest manifested than in the Bureau of Fire, which dates back to 1797. In the early times all classes of citizens considered it an honor to have their names enrolled in the fire records, many of whom still look back with pride to those heroic days. In 1869, the first chief engineer of the fire department was appointed. Captain Charles H. Vard held that office, and was succeeded by Colonel Chas. Glantz. James Ward succeeded him in 1870. James Muckier followed in 1871. George Finley was the last chief of the volunteer fire department.
The city, feeling the pressing need of a paid department in 1879, determined at once to organize. Many of the citizens at first feared tht inability of a small force to cope with serious tire. But this apprehension was soon overcome, and at midnight, October 30, 1879, the volunteer fire department ceased to exist and the paid system went into force. All business matters having been arranged, the companies were formed and located as follows: Engine Company, No. 1, at the old Phoenix Engine House at Eerry and Sitgreaves streets; Engine Company No. 2 at the Washington Engine House on South Sixth street; and Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1, at the old truck house on Lehigh street—the whole officered by J. J. Smith as chief, and Thomas P. Ricker as assistant chief.
In 1882 these properties were sold by act of council and the commodious fire station on North Sixth street was built and occupied by the companies above named. In 1880, the Gamewell fire alarm telegraph system was introduced, with only six boxes, and the Hale swinging harness, for rapidly hitching up, was purchased in 1881. The Gamewell electric striker was attached to the general fire station in 1882. A permanent tillerman was elected in 1883, the permanent chief in 1885 and the steamer engineer in 1887. Engine No. I was rebuilt in 1887, at the same time the patrol wagon and an extra horse was introduced. 1 he portable Holloway hand fire extinguishers were placed there in 1887, and thesixty-five foot Hayes patent extension truck in 1888. The Holloway chemical engine, which was received May 12, 1894, entered in the service May 17th, of the same year. It is a first-class double thirty-five gallon tank machine. The central fire house contains twelve hand extinguishers. There are eight horses in the central station, three in the second and one in the third.
In 1888 the department was divided into four companies— three engine companies and one hook aud ladder company, and were officered and manned by Chief Engineer J. f. Smith, Assistant Chief Engineer Thomas P. Ricket, and thirty-eight men.
Thomas P. Ricker the present chief of the Fire Department is a native of Easton, and was born in 1857. He has been connected with fire department since boyhood, and was appointed a hoseman November 1, 1879, and was assigned to Engine No. 2. He was appointed assistant chief November 1, 1884, and six years latter succeeded John J. Smith as chief.
D. T. I.erch, assistant chief, was born in Easton in 1847, He was a member of the old Washington Steam Fire Engine Company, and when the present department was established he was appointed foreman of Engine Company No. 2. He was reappointed November 1, 1885, and was promoted to his present position November 1, 1891.
Easton’s Water Department.
Very few cities can boast as good a water supply as Easton enjoys. The pressure is so great in most places in the lower section of the city that steamers are not needed at fires.
The first organization to supply the citizens with water was the Easton Water Company. The first board of directors of that company consisted of George Wolf, president, Nathaniel Michler, John Herster, John Green, James Hayes, William Barnet and Phillip II. Mattes.
The company then carried its water in wooden p’pes from springs on Chestnut Hill to several deep cisterns on North Sixth street used as a reservoir. From that point the water was led to hydrants located along the streets in various sections of the borough. The supply soon became inadequate and the inhabitants were compelled to rely to a very great extent on wells and pumps.
In 1840 the Easton Water Company built a small reservoir along Sullivan street on College Hill, into which it pumped water from a station along the Delaware river near the mouth of the Bushkill creek. The pumping station and reservoir was transferred to the West Ward Water Company in 1856, and subsequently to the Lehigh Water Company. The reservoir is still standing.
On May 4, 1854, the West Ward Water Company was incorporated and furnished water to that portion of Easton lying west of Sixth street. The company had its works along the Lehigh river about a mile above Third street bridge. Its first president was Henry Keller.
The Lehigh Water Company, now furnishing the city with a first-class service, came into existence in i860. During that year it purchased the rights and franchises of the West Ward Water Company. The first officers of the Lehigh Valley Company were Charles Rodenbough, president and Henry Green, secretary. The new company pumped its water from the Lehigh river to a reservoir constructed and still standing at Fifteenth and Northampton streets. It has a capacity of 2,500,000 gallons.
In 1881 the company built a pumping station along the Delaware river, a short distance above the city that has a capacity for pumping 4,000,000 gallons in twenty-four hours. This station is equipped with a Worthington and a Corliss engine.
In 1890-91 the company built a large new reservoir on Chestnut Hill, where the water is now pumped from the Delaware. It has the capacity for holding 8.000,000 gallons and its elevation has greatly increased the pressure in the pipes.
The company has now about twenty-two miles of pipe in service and supplies nearly 1,200 subscribers. Joseph S. Rodenbough, son of the first president, is now president of the company; Jacob Rader, treasurer; John Maxwell, secretary, and R. P. Rader, superintendent. Mr. Rader entered the service of the company in 1875 and has been superintendent since 1885. The company furnishes water free for fire purposes. As fast as the city grows or new streets are opened the water mains are extended and fire plugs erected. Every part of the city is thus well supplied.
From a sanitary point of view Easton’s water supply challenges comparison. The Delaware river, from which drinking water is drawn, is an unusually clear stream. For a hundred miles, almost, it comes down either through mountains or through an agricultural country. There are only a few towns on its banks, and those are small. A combination of these fortuitous circumstances practically insures wholesome water.
Philadelphia has for years envied Easton its fresh water supply, and at various times has discussed the feasibility Of building a viaduct to cost many milliors and draw its water from the Delaware a short distance above Easton.