THE LIFE OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN.
HOW HE WORKS AT NEW YORK FIRES.
(Specially written for FIRE AND WATER.)
In the spring of 1898, former Chief Bonner asked for the appointment of two clergymen of New York city to act as chaplains to the fire department. The request was granted,and the appointments were made by the fire commissioners. The clergymen named were the Rev. William St. Elmo Smith, of the Ord of Mercy, one of the priests attached to the Roman Catholic church of St. Vincent de Paul, in West Twenty-fourth street, Manhattan, and the Rev. F. Le Baron Johnson, curate of Grace Episcopal church. Mr. Johnson was succeeded by the Rev. Charles Thomas Walkley, also a curate of Grace Each chaplain ranks as a battalion chief, and is entitled to wear the uniform and insignia of that rank. Each has a fire alarm telegraph apparatus fixed up in his room, and each turns out for a second alarm fire in his own neighborhood and every third alarm fire. To these he is driven by a fireman in a chief’s buggy, which, with the horse, is always kept ready for use nearby.
The newly appointed chaplains made their official debuts at a $20,000 fire in the University Storage warehouse, 202-208 East Eighty-fourth street, Maphattan, on the night of March 28. Their services, however, were not required on that occasion; but they have been since at many other fires. Whenever they are called upon to do any work for the men of the department, whether spiritual, or in the way of rescue work, or attending to the injured, they are always on hand and as ready to expose their lives as the firemen themselves. Night and day they turn out, whatever the hour,or whatever the weather. It is no uncommon sight to see them ministering spiritually to the injured, perhaps, the dying firemen and others who have fallen at the post of duty or have been dragged out (as Mr. Walkley at the risk of his own life dragged out two firemen at the Morton house fire one by one) quite unconscious from the lowest depths of a dark and noisome cellar —just such another cellar as that underneath a Park place rubber store, in which had fallen unconscious amid the stiflingsmoke a battalion chief and several of his men. At such times Chaplain Smith maybe seen giving Extreme Unction to the apparently dying, or Chaplain Walkley, saving the Commendatory Prayer of his Church over the shattered and disfigured form of someone, on whom, perchance, a wall has crashed down, or whose skull has been fractured by a fall from a high place to the ground. It matters not to what danger they are exposed ; if the officers and men are compelled by their duty to stay where they are in some dangerous situation, the chaplains will be found alongside of them.
Nor does their work end there. That is its scenic, almost its theatrical side. Every day sees them emphasising the pastoral side of their office: going from fire station to fire station, giving the men (not obtrusively, but as one man to his brother man) good advice and wise, Christian counsel
So it is that they are welcomed everywhere by those whom they come to visit, no matter what the creed or nationality of the men in the fire houses. 11 may also be added that these devoted men receive no pay : their work is a labor of love, and performed by each as conscientiously as if they were paid the highest salaries. And if proof were wanted, the signal services they rendered to the dying and the wounded in the awful Central railway tunnel accident were surely evidence enough, and witness sufficient to a reason for their being what and where they are. Chaplain Walkley, was born at Newport, Ky., on August 2, 1869, was educated at Kenyon, Ohio, Military Academy and Kenyon college, from which he graduated in 1892. After graduating with honors from Bexlev Hall in Bexley Hall in 1894, ne was ordained deacon by Bishop Vincent at Xenia, Ohio, where He served the mission station of Christ church till in 1885, he,after being ordained priest by the same bishop, became rector of Palmyra, N. Y., where he remained till January 21, 1901, when he was appointed a curate at Grace church, Manhattan, and chaplain in the New York fire department, assuming the duties of that post in May of that same year.
FIRE AND WATER made the accompanying cuts of Fire Department Chaplain W. St. Elmo Smith, in his study and on duty from photographs kindly lent by the New York Tribune. They represent him as pterrupted in his study by the ringing of the fire alarm bell : as stepping into his wagon which is kept half a mile away from his residence, but is on the spot ready for him by the time he has donned his uniform ; and as just in time to minister to a fatally injured fireman.