Some Chiefs Long in the Service.
One of the principal things that has contributed to make the fire departments of American cities the best equipped and operated in the world, is the able chiefs that have been in command of most of them and the custom of many cities of keeping their chiefs in office for long periods.
Among these men is Chief J. R. Hopkins, of Somerville, Mass., who recently resigned, after being in command of that department for thirty-six consecutive years, and a fireman for fifty-six years. He is 74 years old.
The oldest chief in years of service as chief is Thomas J. Williams, of Charlottesville, Va., who has held that position continuously for fifty-five years, and has been a fireman for sixty years. No other chief in the history of the world’s fire service has held that position for so long a period. Chief Williams, who is now 77. is a native of Philadelphia. In 1849 he became a member of the Philadelphia volunteer fire department, resigning in 1854 to go to Michigan. In 1855 he went to Charlottesville, Va., where he constructed a gas plant, of which he has been superintendent since its completion. He was appointed chief of the fire department the year he went to Charlottesville, and has held that position continuously to the present time.
The second oldest chief in years of service is Thomas O’Connor, of New Orleans, La., one of the ablest fire chiefs the American fire service has produced, who has been chief of the volunteer and paid fire departments for forty-one consecutive years. Chief O’Connor, who is now 74 years old, entered the volunteer department in 1854, became its chief January 4, 1869, and when the paid department was established, in 1891, he was continued in that position.
Chief George O. Wilmarth, of Topeka, Kan., is the third oldest chief in years of service. He was appointed April 1, 1872. Chief George Fendrick, of Vincennes, is fourth, and was appointed in May, 1872. Chief W. C. Davol, of Fall River, Mass., received his first appointment as chief in 1876. Twice since then he has been out of office. Altogether he has served as chief twenty-eight years.
The other chiefs who have served for long periods, with date of their appointment, are as follows: T. W. Lane, Manchester, N. H., January, 1879; George Cushing, Hingham, Mass., May, 1879; T. C. Gleason, Ware, Mass., 1880; Henry Lemoin, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1880; E. J. Jewhurst, Auburn, N. Y., 1880; S. C. Snagg, Waterbury, Conn., February, 1882; J. T. Lynch, Holyoke, Mass., 1883; T. K. Harding, Bay City, Mich., 1883; M. E. Higgins, Albany, N. Y., 1885; G. W. Miller, Reading, Pa., 1886; A. M. Prescott, Waco, Tex., 1886, and John Stagg, Paterson, N. J., 1887.
Former chiefs who served as chiefs for the longest periods, with the number of years each served, are: Henry J. Eaton, Hartford, Conn., 35 years; James Battle, Detroit, Mich., 34; Wesley Dimbleby, Utica, N. Y., 33; L. K. Goodhue, Beverly, Mass., 32; Fred Macky, New Bedford, Mass., 28; A. C. Hendrick, New Haven, Conn., 27; D. C. Larkin, Dayton, Ohio, and Horace Rumsey, Seneca Falls, N. Y., 26 each; T. J. Casey, Cambridge, Mass., G. A. Steene, Providence, R. I., and Charles Gott, Arlington, Mass., 25 each; Robert Kiersted, Newark, N. J., 24; Thomas J. Nevins, Brooklyn, N. Y.; 23; J. Swenie, Chicago, Ill., and Edward Hughes, Louisville, Ky., 22 each; W. R. Joyner, Atlanta, Ga., and L. M. Jones, Macon, Ga., 21 each; James Foley, Milwaukee, Wis., Edward Mott and Abner Coleman, Taunton, Mass., 20 years each. A great many chiefs have served from 10 to 20 years each, including a large number now holding, that position.
There were thirteen chiefs of the New York volunteer fire department during its existence, from 1732 to 1865. Jacob Turk, who was chief from 1736 to 1761, held that position for the longest period, 25 years. Thomas Franklin, 1811 to 1834, came next, with 23 years, followed, by W. J. Ellsworth, 1791-1811, 20 years; Jacobus Stoutenburg, 1761-1776, 15 years, and C. V. Anderson, 1837-1848, 11 years. The shortest period of service as chief Was one year by John Riker, Jr., in 1836, and the next shortest, three years, by Harry Howard, 1857-1860. There have been six chiefs of the paid department since it was organized in 1865. Elisha Kingsland, 1865-1869, 4 years; Joseph L. Pearly, 1870-1873, 3 years; Eli Bates, 1873-1884, 11 years; Charles O. Shay, 1884-1889, 5 years; Hugh Bonner, 1889-1899, 10 years, and E. F. Croker, 1899, present incumbent.
Before retiring, Chief Nevins, of Brooklyn, N. Y. received the gold medal presented by this journal, to the chief longest in service in a paid department at that time.