THE OLDEST FIRE COMPANY.

THE OLDEST FIRE COMPANY.

In the parade of firemen to be held in Philadelphia, during the first week in next October, when the convention of the Pennsylvania Firemen’s association takes place, will be a fire company organized twentyfour years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Of course, there will be none of the organizers of this ancient body of firefighters in line; but the present members of the company will carry all that remains of the crude paraphernalia used by the organizers in subduing flames. The company, now known as Relief fire engine company No. 1, of Mount Holly, N. J„ was instituted on July 11, 1752, in the village of Bridgeton, Burlington county. It was named “Britannica,” and commenced sendee with leather buckets and ladders. The ladders long ago fell to decay, but many of the original buckets, which, filled with water, were passed along in line from watercourse or well to the blaze, have been preserved as relics of the early methods of extinguishing fire, and will be carried by present members of the company in the big parade of firemen from this and nearby States. In 1765 the company felt that its crude paraphernalia was not sufficient for coping with fire, so it voted to purchase a fire engine. This apparatus was purchased in London for $170,and after long delays it was finally dragged to the house of the company, and there was much rejoicing on the part of Bridgeton’s citizens. In 1787 the name of the company was changed to the Mount Holly fire company. In 1805, another company having been organized, the name was again changed to Relief fire company, of Mount Holly. This company is now undoubtedly the oldest fire company in active service in the United States today. It owns a handsome brick and stone enginehouse fully equipped, and will send sixty finely uniformed men, with modern apparatus, to participate in the parade in October.

The Oldest Fire Company.

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The Oldest Fire Company.

The following account of the oldest Fire Company in this country, we find in an old paper printed in Boston some twenty years ago:

“The oldest organized Company in the United States is the Union Naumkeag, No. 5, of Salem, Mass. This Company was organized in the year 1748, and from that time to the present the organization has never been broken—a period of 109 years. [If now continued, this Company is, in 1878, 130 years old.] In 1747, Richard Derby and eleven other men petitioned the Selectmen of Salem to be excused from certain duties. The Selectmen of the town were willing to grant their request, if they would procure an Engine for the extinguishment of fires. The town granted the prayer of the petitioners, and they, according to agreement, obtained from London, England, ‘ the Great Fire Engine.’ The dimensions of this wonderful machine were as follows : Length over all,3 feet 7% inches; width, 20 inches; depth from bottom to top, ao inches ; to the top of the deck, 30 inches; diameter of cylinders, 4% inches; length of stroke, 6% inches; extreme length of brakes, 54 inches. This remarkable Engine was easily carried around by four men. The Company was organized by the election of Richard Derby as Foreman—one of the four men, undoubtedly. After the Company had been organized, the Selectmen called a meeting of the Freeholders and other inhabitants who were legal voters of the town, to make by-laws for the Engine Company. After passing some resolutions, it was further voted by the town that in case of the removal of any of their petitioners who had no male heirs left to supply their places, such places should be filled by the major part of the Fire Company with the consent of the Selectmen.

“At a subsequent meeting of the freeholders— legal voters of the town—it was voted that the Company known as ‘ The Engine,’ be desired to take care of the ‘Great Fire Engine,’ and keep it fit for use, and to manage and improve the same in case of fire. At a later meeting of the Fire Company, it was voted that the fine for the present year for not appearing to work the Engine, and having no valid excuse for absence, should be twelve shillings. Further on it was voted by the Company that the fine for failing to take care of the Engine at a fire, or failing to return the Engine to the house, should be twenty-five shillings, with liberty to the Company to accept a proper excuse. In 1780 it was voted that the fine for not appearing to work the Engine be forty-eight shillings monthly, and no excuse allowed. In 1798, after the establishment of the Federal Government, when the money currency of the country had changed from pounds, shillings, and pence, to dollars and cents, it was voted that the fines for not attending fires be two dollars, and for not attending a monthly meeting, fifty cents. In this year (1798) the Company obtained a new Engine, which they named the ‘Essex.’ In 1808, one of the articles of the Company’s rules and regulations was as follows : ‘ That the directors be empowered to employ a man to oil the Engine and to remove the incumbrances from before the Enginehouse.’ In 1819, the following article was adopted by the Company : ‘ That the Company meet in their Engine-house on the first Monday of each month at 6 o’clock, P. M., during the months of October, November, December, January, February and March. During the other months of the year, at 7 P. M., for the purpose of working the Engine; and if any member be absent at roll-call (which shall be as soon as the town clock near the market strikes) he shall be fined fifty cents.’ ”

If this veteran Company is still in existence the NATIONAL FIREMAN’S JOURNAL would like to have more of its history.